Turbo - worth it?

  • total newbie, non-pilot still but thinking about getting pp license, researched and researched and seems that cirrus sr22(?) is the one i’d go with, would first train in one too

my question is is the T (turbo) version worth the extra expense? purchase, fuel, performance, maintenance, resale?

my mission would pretty much be personal trips up and down the US east coast, two to four adults, leaving from the philadelphia area, going to small airports, small towns, some fishing and golf, long weekends

safety of course is number one, the descrip of the sr22t on the cirrus site says that it is rated for 25,000 ft but that the sr22 is rated for 17,500 ft (except if you add the oxygen option, that apparently allows a higher ceiling, but didn’t say what it was)

from what i’ve read, it seems that in general a non-turbo, regular piston version has fewer maintenance issues, uses less fuel, and i’m all for good, longterm use, albeit at a slower speed, but what else (besides some speed) would i be losing? for example, does the non-turbo not perform well at higher altitudes (allowed apparently by the optional oxygen system)? or what if i got the sr22 with all the options, just no turbo, would this be taxing the plane lots more than if it were an sr22t with all the options?

thanks so much

I rarely fly above 10K so a NA is perfect for my needs, if I were regularly flying above 10K then I would definately want either a Turbo or a Pressurised, think there is a saying which I read on here which goes “Purchase the plane that you require for 90% of your usage” or something like that ! There are loads of experts and really good posts on here regarding NA vs Turbo, just search “NA vs Turbo” - The SR22 is a great plane

The T will cost a bit more. If you plan on year round dispatch in the winter, it’ll help with icing. The NA is a slug when loaded up with ice, and PA is an ice generator with lake effect.

As for maintenance, it’ll cost more. Have a T in the shop now getting 6 cylinders at 500 hours. Normally they will go 1000 before that, but tops will usually be 1000 hours on a boosted engine. .

The NA, there’s simply less to break. So define yr mission and choose the tool for the job. Give me a call with questions

On the member side of COPA there are long debates over the value of NA vs Turbo. You really should join and have a look. Personally, except for winter ice you mission suggests NA to me. It will have a higher useful load. Most turbos cannot haul 4 adults with any appreciable fuel aboard. The NA’s may also have to go less than ful fuel but they always have a fair bit more useful load. You don’t have mountains. Beyond that you have much to learn about both flying and aircraft ownership. It will be like drinking from a fire hose. Welcome.

As Roger said, JOIN COPA! If you search NA vs Turbo, you will be up all night for weeks reading all the pros and cons. Lot’s of good opinions on both sides of the debate.

What matters is your mission. Oxygen has nothing to do with the altitude capability. The FARs mandate oxygen usage once you are above 12,500 feet for 30 minutes, over 14,000 feet for one second, and above 15,000 you must have oxygen available for all occupants. That is the same for the NA and the T or TN versions.

17,500 is the max operating altitude for the NA and 25,000 for the T or TN. That said, flying at 25,000 in an unpressurized plane is not a good idea. Lose the oxygen and your time of useful consciousness is measured in minutes.

If you fly in the west or use high density airports regularly, the turbo is invaluable. For trips such as you describe along the east coast the NA is quite sufficient.

The oxygen requirement is important. To get the real benefits of turbocharging (altitude capability with increased speed) you will need to fly at oxygen requiring altitudes so be sure you don’t mind using supplemental oxygen.

As others have said, this issue has been discussed at length on the regular forums. Sign up and a wealth of information awaits you.

BTW, this site requires you to use your real name. Please use that rather than phillyflyer. Thanks.

What Doctor Seckler said!

I am a Turbo advocate in most cases. However, your first line tells me what I need to know.

For the first time airplane owner and new pilot, NA airplanes are a good entry into airplane ownership.

In order to go higher, faster and climb better, turbos are awesome. The life cycle costs are higher but not impossibly so. At issue is that boosting an engine with forced induction is a complicated process that introduces many subtle differences. On one hand they are simple to operate. On the other hand, they are much more difficult to understand, set up correctly and diagnose when issues arise. Hence, the advice is to cut your teeth on an NA airplane.

Short answer - First plane, go NA. Second plane, consider a Turbo.

What I never understood (and what is the reason for my decision for an NA) is why anbody would want to fly in FL250 in an unpressurized spam can.

The only scenario that will make you fly that high are high reaching clouds/IMC below. On the other hand the Time of useful consciousnee in FL250 is only 3-6 minutes. And that is from the moment you discovered the oxygen bottle is broken, the valve or the O2D2 is defective …

So, the only thing you can do is to descend to FL180-150 - and you will have to do it very quickly with a very high descent rate. TUC in FL180 is 20-30 min, 30+ minutes in FL150, but of course depending on factors like health etc. And of course you can be over the Rockies, Alps (you name it) and there might be very nasty weather below you.

I don’t see how taking these risks can make sense for a private pilot. But I do know it does not make sense to me. But maybe I’m just not bold enough!

In the NA i can fly up to FL175 (or 17.500 ft in the US), and if that is not enough I’ll stay home - or wherever I am.


Just because the POH says you can go to 17,500 feet doesn’t mean the airplane can perform well getting to or at that altitude and certainly not set to economy power settings.

I have no issue with one’s choice of NA over Turbo but I take exception to referencing POH numbers that flat out make pilots believe the airplane is capable of much beyond floundering at very high angels of attack. At 17K manifold pressure is 13 inches. That is the power setting most pilots are using for approach to landing.

The value of the turbo - as Trip points out - is flexibility and performance when needed. One certainly pays for that but it’s not just about climbing above weather or catching big tailwinds. It sure is nice when ATC asks you expedite a climb or you have a full load on a hot day, something most pilots don’t talk about, even in G5’s.


manifold pressure is one thing. Much less drag is another. I routinely fly at 16.000 ft and I see no problem with that. The perfomance is okay. I checked: the MP at FL160 was 15.8 inches, true airspeed was 165 KTAS LOP. Good enough for me.

Even on normal summer days you only have an advantage above 10.000 feet with the turbo. Sure, if I lived in Arizona or in a place with hot&high conditions all the time, I’d think about the turbo.

I do live in Arizona and don’t feel a turbo meets my mission profile most of the time.

I don’t often fly that high. When I do the NA Cirrus does better than you think. Book says it climbs 446 FPM at gross weight at 17K and mine does.

However, there is no question the turbo is a much better plane at those altitudes. And that if you want to do that often a turbo is a better choice. The air is smoother up there and the performance is better. The costs and maintenance are more. You get what you pay for.

Really, I feel blessed to have the performance I do. And as a mechanic I see the downside of a turbo even though I would be able to care for it better than most.

wow, i’m so grateful for all the thoughful replies

you really have me thinking

  1. as a newbie, wannabee pilot, i’m getting ready for the onslaught of info, all for it

  2. i know i’ll be a 3-season flyer, nothing in the winter except to take it out once in a while to keep the seals wet, etc

  3. i see that oxygen needs could kick in way before 17,500, very interesting

  4. i guess what i’m noticing at this wannabee stage from this discussion is that the longer my trips, the more weather variables i’d have to consider, the weather could be acceptable at both end points but the intervening weather could be problematic, which means i have tons and tons to learn first before making a decision on T or no-T, at this point I’m only envisioning the need for the higher ceilings would be to get over weather on longer trips, like Philly to far into Maine, for example

Can’t thank all of you enough, I feel very lucky that you’ve all jumped in, as I get closer to starting training, I’ll then join the forum

Thanks, thanks everyone :slight_smile:

I see your already learning [:O] Good for you. Welcome to the club of flying. There is a lifetime of things to learn.


My suggestion is don’t buy a plane now. Start your pilot training now in a rental SR-20 with a CSIP instructor. In about 20-30 hours of flying you will have a better idea of what you need in an airplane and what flying is all about. Then you can transition easily from the SR 20 to the plane you decide to buy.

At this stage you don’t know what you don’t know about flying. Get your feet wet slowly and then make your decision about what plane to fly and buy.


I would say no turbo. I agree with everyone above. Given your location, most likely you will not be flying to/from mountain airports or mountainous terrain where climb performance into the teens is essential. If you are a new pilot you won’t be flying in icing and inclement weather anyway unless you have an instructor on board and IFR rating. Having a turbo may substantially increase your maintenance costs, I know it did for me by thousands of dollars.

If you plan on routinely having four passengers, I would focus closely on useful load which is easy to overlook if you are new to airplanes. The more features you add, the less likely it is you can safely carry four passengers, unless they are very small children. If possible, I would suggest an airplane with Garmin Perspective. I would also strongly suggest reading a lot of posts that already exist in this forum for several weeks and pre-by inspection if buying used before making any decisions.

I also agree if you have access to good rental airplanes, almost regardless of what they are charging per hour, most likely financially it will be cheaper in the end than owning your own airplane unless you are really flying a ton (3x per week). However, airplane ownership is a unique privilege and forces you to know the airplane much more intimately since it is your baby.

I thought the same, didn’t want to buy a turbo, couldn’t find what I liked on the market NA and ended up buying TN.

My first flight at 17,500 at 200 TAS with 50 knots tailwind changed my thinking. I haven’t yet gone to flight levels, but if the winds and weather favor it, I’ll go there, with required preparation and equipment.

We all want to rationalize choices we do as the best and it is next to impossible to be objective with respect to airplane choice, so I understand your comment in that context.

I am sure it’s nice to fly with 200 KTAS at 17.500 ft (wjich is FL175 here in Germany) … but the dangers of the higher flight levels (like FL250) have nothing to with “rationalizing”, they are real. I could have bought both, NA or T, but I have no interest in flying FL250 in such a plane without pressurization.

But of course I can, easily, accept if others like to do that!

I have owned 3 NA SR22’s, and now a TN. The 2007 G3 TN has been, by far, the most reliable and least expensive aircraft of the 4. I have never missed a trip, and never had a single issue related to the turbo systems. I wanted a more capable cross country airplane, which is what most of my trips are. Mountains and terrain are but 1 reason to have a TN/T. Much more significant to me is the ability to easily climb to 18k feet and cruise at 190 kts +.

But there is no logical reason why a TN or T should be cheaper to maintain than an NA. Both have many more parts than an NA and both are under greater thermal stress. It is great that yours is so reliable, but that makes it hardly a rule (which you maybe even didn’t want to imply).