"Yeah! Better lower the nose, you're already at 2000 feet"
After flying the SR20 for around a year, in recent weeks I have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to step up to the Cirrus SR22.
An untrained observer can be forgiven for not being able to pick a '20 from a '22. On the outside, they look quite similar - in fact, the fuselage, tail and wing are the same. It's when you look a little closer that the differences can be noticed. Details like the fuel filler caps are much further out on the wing (because of the much larger fuel tanks), plus there may be extra features like anti-icing equipment or a large composite propeller. Even the interiors are similar.
The biggest difference by far is under the engine cowl. The model moves up from a 200 horsepower engine in the '20 to a 310 horsepower beast in the '22, and it takes some getting used to!
The flying component I completed over two separate flights due to time constraints on my instructor Darren (yes, the same Darren that trained me for my PPL!). For the first flight, we departed busy Moorabbin to head down to Latrobe Valley. The climb rate was fantastic! Only two people, with a little over tabs fuel - the aircraft wanted to climb!
|First SR22 flight. Upper line is to YLTV, lower is return.|
On the way we practiced some basic handling, like steep turns. This particular aircraft has some new parts in the engine that needs to be run in, so we needed to run the engine at around 85% (normally around 65-70%), which meant that we got to the circuit at Latrobe Valley FAST! Normally, I'd give my 10 mile inbound call, then have a couple of minutes to gather my thoughts and prepare for entering the circuit. Not with this aircraft. No sooner had I completed my inbound call, that it felt like only seconds before I was joining the circuit.
My first landing was ok, however I was still surprised by the climb ability on the second circuit, so it was a little less tidy. The resulting landing was not as pretty as I'd like. It was probably perfectly ok, but I'm used to landing fairly nicely in the Cirrus now. The lightweight and very wide chord propeller acts as a massive speed break if you pull the power off too early when approaching the runway.
|Circuits at Latrobe Valley (YLTV). The close circuit cutting the last corner was a practice forced landing glide approach.|
When staying in the circuit, I took some getting used to the power reduction from 100% down to 30% when 1000 feet AGL is reached. The SR20 is much less of a reduction down to only 50%. The physical difference on the power lever is marked!
We stayed for a couple more circuits, including some flapless and glide approaches. There is a lot of emphasis on going around in this type of aircraft, because with so much power up front it's easy to undercook things (especially the right rudder) and get into trouble. Each time around the landings were getting much better and consistent. On the last time around, Darren wanted me to do a maximum angle climb on departure, which involves raising the nose and climbing out at a lower airspeed but with an incredibly high angle. It's ALL sky out the front windows, and it doesn't take long to get up to a cruising height. It's not something you'd do on every departure, but it's nice to know what the aircraft can do.
On the way back, Darren got me to complete a practice forced landing, which I am happy to report that I nailed! Very proud of that one. That's the squiggly bit over Drouin airfield. We also completed a practice emergency descent, which is designed to get you down quickly in the event you're up high and your oxygen system fails for some reason. The descent is completed at a little below the Never Exceed speed for the aircraft. At one point, we were descending at around 5000 feet per minute!
|Practice emergency descent - as viewed in Google Earth. The colours relate to the descent rate. Red is ≥5000 fpm.|
For a short field takeoff, you line up on the runway, apply full power whilst holding the brakes, then when all is stabilised, release the brakes and zoom off. This is kind of what it feels like:
There was a significant crosswind component that day, and we were sequenced in the circuit behind a student pilot who was most likely on their first crosswind lesson. Their circuits were reeeeeeally big, with a long and meandering final leg. Thankfully, you can still comfortably fly the '22 at 'normal' circuit speeds if necessary - it just requires very little power. My circuits this day were much more ordered and smooth - the time in between flights allowing my brain to catch up with the necessary changes.
After one final short field landing, the course was complete! Just in time, too - as we were departing in the '22 for Airventure Australia in Cessnock that day. Edgar flew the aircraft up, and I flew it back at the end of the airshow.
|Edgar and I on the way back from Airventure Australia in Cessnock.|
The weather at the Kilmore Gap (a natural area of low ground below controlled airspace used by VFR pilots to cross the Great Dividing Range back into the Melbourne Basin) was a little sketchy through the morning, so we hadn't been in a hurry to leave. All signs pointed to 'The Gap' weather improving as the afternoon arrived, so we were keeping a close eye on the weather reports.
|Fields of flowering canola make for a beautiful patchwork.|
|Higher than normal fuel flow for the run-in period. Normally it's around 13.5 GPH.|
|Sugarloaf Reservoir, on the Melbourne Inland VFR Route. Nearly home!|
After the flight when I was sitting down putting the hours into my logbook, I discovered a nice surprise to cap off the experience:
|More than 50 hours total time piloting Cirrus aircraft!|