SR20: Failing Gyros

My brand new SR20 (#311) was being delivered to me today by a very experienced Cirrus flight instructor when the gyro for the Sendel failed. I think that this occurred on the first level off just after a climb to 7000 and within 25 miles of Duluth. Fortunately this happened just after breaking out on top of a solid cloud / fog layer.

In 8 years of flying our 26 year old Piper Cherokee 140 we have experienced zero gyro failures. My wife and I have flown many, many abused rentals. In all that time, I did have one gyro failure on an old AI in the clouds. The gyro that failed today was of course brand spanking new. I have to wonder if this is the first of multiple failures as I’ve seen discussed here. I would surmise that this is a mechanical failure. If so, one must wonder if there is either a problem with vibration or if the placement of the gyro in the aircraft is subjecting it to unusual stresses. The instructor thought that it was under the back seat.

Are there any avionics experts out there? There must be some pretty sophisticated options for troubleshooting these problems. One way of doing it would be to install a gyro with accelerometers to detect vibration, torques and acclerations in x,y and z. These have gotten so cheap and small that it should be easy to interface several to a laptop for later download of the data. These are just the thoughts of a non-engineer.

I now have to defer delivery for 3 weeks due to scheduling, so Cirrus will have the plane. What should I ask them to do? I am very leery of just replacing it without some sort of diagnostics. This problem is costly in terms of time, labor, parts and inconvenience. Even if it’s less severe in many planes, I wonder how many gyros will fail prematurely and how good we will be at partial panel for the ones that fail in the clouds.

<<Fortunately this happened just after breaking out on top of a solid cloud / fog layer.>>

I sure hope loss of the HSI in actual IMC would not cause much of a problem for any IFR pilot, let alone an experienced Cirrus Design instructor. We have at least three other CDI’s in the plane and a wet compass and 2 GPS’s and three moving maps to give us directional guidance.

Tucker: I have been reading posts on this site for quite a while and I don’t recall anyone reporting a problem with the gyro. There may have been a problem, but I don’t recall reading about it.

I think the factory pilot is right about the location.
I can’t see that there would be much vibration back there. It’s a long way from the engine and behind the main spar and surrounded by the largest portion of the airframe there. I don’t think you would want it any further aft as accelerations there would be greater in turbulence.

So far as partial panel is concerned, my CFII delights in turning off both the Sandel and the Avidyne so I am used to getting along without the gyro heading information. The best option is to turn the GNS 430 to Nav 3 page and you will have a “tape” display of GPS derived heading. Of course you also have the compass, the turn and bank and the clock. So far as partial panel is concerned, you will only be as good as your training.

This also brings up my preference as to training. If you go to Duluth and spend as much time as necessary in training there (I took my CFII with me to also take the factory course) you will give the plane a good “shakedown” while you are at the best service center of all.

I haven’t had a single avionics problem since leaving Duluth in the 130 hours that my SR22 has accumulated.

You are lucky the problem occurred early on in the delivery trip. If the problem occurred during your training or after then you would have to get the aircraft to a Cirrus Service Center for the repair. The best place for repairs during the “shakedown” period is at the factory. They have spares for everything on the shelf. In fact, the pitch servo in my SR22 was replaced on a Sunday afternoon just before we left Duluth.

Without wanting to minimize the annoyance and frustration you are undoubtedly feeling, I think you’re worrying unnecessarily. A failure of the type you’ve described falls into what the electronics industry calls “infant mortality” - the failure rate of any technical device peaks shortly after being put into service, as this is when most manufacturing defects become apparent. This does not mean that there is anything wrong with the design of the aircraft, the location of the gyro, or even the design of the gyro itself. A large number of failures of a particular item, as has been seen with the Century HSI, suggests a common cause, but I don’t recall hearing about many failures of the remote gyro as used with the Sandel, so it’s unlikely that you will have another.

Surmising that it was a mechanical failure is not much use unless there is some evidence to point to that, and remember that these things have electronics in them too. A failure due to e.g. vibration is actually most unlikely given the low time on the plane and gyro - vibration takes time to do its damage.

There would be absolutely no point in “troubleshooting” this particular failure - the overwhelming likelihood is that the gyro failed because of something that happened at the factory, or the factory that made one of the parts that went into it, etc. Now perhaps if the replacement failed, and certainly if its replacement failed, you would want to investigate further, but not now.

Just relax, try to be patient (hard, I know!) and rest assured you will love your plane when you get it.

I agree with you Clyde.
I prefer to talk on things I like (why loose time for things I do not like?).
Basically people habits is to talk of some of bad and show to all others they’re poor and need attention.
Why do not use all this energy for improve what we like (like Cirrus…)?
Due to this human habit, these forum collected and will collect more negative posts than positive but, please,
do not talk of non-existent thunderstorm (when it is a light rain) fixing trouble…
Nobody needs more trouble… and nobody needs to feel “panic” when there isn’t any reason of panics.
Honestly (I repeat me) I never should buy a plane different than a Cirrus; it has a lot of new things never saw in G.A. before and this is what I like… Of course sometime this will take some “day” before everything work always well but this is (low?) price we have to pay.
Anyway, I really happy to read of many Cirruses owner that post their fully happiness for the aircraft, his handling and avionics and etc.
And this is a nice prize-giving back!

Maybe “mikerad” is much better than me in one of his last post to talk on this matter.

Excuse me for my poor english but I hope my message will be clearly understood from all you.

Suggestion for C.O.&P.A. members: Please when you post, to specify if you are talking of SR20 or 22. Most omited and this could create confusion (22’s vibration that now someone transport to the 20 also…). Thank.

I want to thank everyone for their replies, positive and negative. This forum is a great part of buying a Cirrus. After reading your replies I put our gyro problem in perspective.

To counterbalance my complaint, I should mention that I am 100% sold on Cirrus - the people, the airplane and the company. I have left a secure path for the sake of innovation and found that it’s a very rocky road. I admire Cirrus for what they have done. There will be glitches.


…and don’t forget the compass rose on the MFD (IF you turn it on, you get a GPS-driven DG-like heading presentation); for those of you who get confused by the compass tape display on the garmins…

I have a 22 and experienced 3 intermittent “invalid gyro” messages in my Sandel. There have been several posts on the issue and a service advisory regarding a remote gyro problem. After sending the unit back to Sandel, they tell me there is nothing wrong with the unit but that it must be a wiring problem.

I am in my second week of diagnostic searching with no solution yet. My bird has been in the hanger for most of my first month of ownership. Please don’t preach about being patient.


Just so readers don’t get the wrong impression about the SR20: Unlike the SR22, we have not seen many (I actually can’t recall ANY) complaints on the forums about undue vibration in the SR20. When Alan Klapmeier was discussing the vibration problem some '22s have, he mentioned flying in an SR20 (he usually flies a '22) and being pleasantly surprised that he had forgotten how smooth the SR20 is.


In reply to:

Maybe “mikerad” is much better than me in one of his last post to talk on this matter.

Hi Maurizio,
Your post is most eloquent – as someone else noted, your English is much better than my Italian, and your meaning comes through loud and clear.
Still, I understand the frustration that Joe (and almost everyone at some point) feels when things are broken, and then take seemingly forever to get fixed. It’s little comfort to hear that others have great airplanes with no problems… they quite rightly want THEIR airplanes to work.
Maurizio, your comment made me realize that my previous post was on the Members forum, so I’m reproducing it here, too. Joe, and everyone with persistent teething troubles, I understand your frustration VERY well, having suffered my own set of problems. I truly empathize.
The comments below have less to do with the airplane itself, and more to do with Cirrus Design as a company. That said, I really feel that SR20s and SR22s are among the very BEST that the general aviation industry has to offer today. Unfortunately, a combination of legacy and complex, often short-sighted, regulatory requirements forces conditions that result in airplanes costing too much and having reliability problems that stem from the required use of too-old technology.
This is not to say that we shouldn’t want the airplanes to work perfectly when delivered… we should. In many conversations with a number of key individuals at Cirrus, I’ve come to understand that they’d like nothing less then perfection, too, but I also understand the many obstacles that must be surmounted before airplanes can be made (by any company) with the delivery-reliability of today’s cars. In this regard, my admiration of Cirrus as a company has more to do with their goals than the present status.
The post below was in response to a comment that another COPA member “sees only the good” when he posts.

Why I like Cirrus

I suspect that you and others might regard me as one who also sees only the good; so I’d like to tell you a little about my views.
I am a demanding consumer, especially of service. If I buy something from CompUSA and it doesn’t work, I take it back with no hesitation, but also no anger (the first time). However, when service is involved, I am truly picky. Ask anyone who’s had the misfortune to be with me in a restaurant where it took too long to get a menu, or where the food was cold, or not cooked properly. My attitude is that I’m paying primarily for the service, and I expect it to be good. Also, it takes MY time to experience the service… and I can’t “exchange” it if it turns out to be bad. At a restaurant, I can show my displeasure and leave, and not return.
Things are a little different with a major purchase like a car, and VERY different with something like an airplane. The similarities are more like the relationship in a marriage than in a restaurant. Sure, I can leave… but as long as I own this airplane, I can’t get support just anywhere. I can, of course, “divorce” myself from this airplane entirely if things get really ugly, but as long as the equation benefits me on balance, I’ll stay in the relationship.
I’m embarrassed to admit that I was very hard on Cirrus over a number of issues, even before I took delivery of N84MR. (“My useful load will be WHAT?”). After I took delivery, I suffered a couple of failures almost immediately (flaps, landing light), and I fired off an angry letter. Who, I wanted to know, would be responsible if I was landing at night and my landing light failed on final approach… and then, because of the failure, I noticed a deer on the runway very late… and then, because of a failed flap relay, found I couldn’t climb?
The company responded to me quietly, smoothly and even-handedly… taking care of the actual problems I had, giving me straight answers to the questions I asked, and being so calm in their own right that my anger soon dissipated. Over the next few hundred hours, other squawks manifested themselves, and that was most frustrating; but in EACH case, the support response was excellent any way I could measure it. I firmly believed that eventually, all the kinks would be ironed out.
It took too long, but I did get there. I now have almost 150 squawk free hours behind me, a longer “streak” than I’ve ever known in an airplane. Yes, that’s the way it should have been from the beginning, because it’s a new airplane. I guess that at my attitude has changed in that I’ve lowered my expectations of a trouble-free new airplane, but I’m VERY comfortable with the company’s attitude, responsiveness and overall integrity.

I should add that while their attitude has been across-the-board great, they have stumbled on occasion with service. When that has happened, I’ve complained privately (i.e. I haven’t posted it here), and they’ve corrected the issues. When they’ve exceeded my expectations, I’ve posted on these forums. I believe that this approach is fair and beneficial to all parties. Overall, there is no question that my good experiences FAR outweigh the bad ones, which in any event are quickly corrected. Cirrus bends over backwards to make sure I’m treated fairly because I’m a customer, and I hope in part because they know I do the same for them. Just like a marriage.

So I make no apology for liking to deal with Cirrus and virtually every person in that fine company. It’s their integrity and reputation (the one they earned with me) that has made me decide to buy an SR22 to replace N84MR. I fully expect to go through a period of debugging my new airplane, but I know that the company will be there for me 100%.

  • Mike.

PS - When N84MR comes up for sale in the Marketplace forum, someone will be buying a truly outstanding, FULLY DEBUGGED sweetheart of an airplane! [;)]

Joe, nobody’s preaching to you about being patient - I know only well how difficult it is to look at a plane in the hangar and wish it were flyable - after our SR20 arrived here in Australia in June 2000, we had to wait over a month before the Australian CofA was issued - the plane was perfectly flyable, but couldn’t legally be flown until the weight of paperwork exceeded the gross weight of the plane :slight_smile:

But the bottom line is that the only thing you CAN do is be patient - basically your choices are to worry yourself silly about something over which you have little control, or accept it in a philosophical way. The first course won’t speed the process, but will do your mental and physical health no good, the second way won’t speed the process either, but will make it much more bearable.

Hang in there.