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Fri, Aug 22, 2003

Cirrus Expands Offerings

Pushing Both 'Top' and 'Bottom' of Line

Cirrus Design, as we noted on these pages, has expanded its line in both directions -- up and down -- and ANN got a good look at the expanded line, at a preview at their Duluth (MN) headquarters.

The SRV [that's all letters; not "SR-five" --ed.] is a VFR-only machine (above), built to meet the $189,900 price tag. It's basically an SR20, but without some of the snazzy touches or significant avionics expense. Nevertheless, it's a very nice package.

The glass cockpit, now standard across Cirrus's line, continues to offer a lot of clearly-presented information to the pilot. Some redundancies have been eliminated, though; and of course some equipment isn't there at all. As CEO Alan Klapmeier told us, it offers, "performance, comfort, ease of operation, and safety" to the pilot who doesn't fly instruments.

Cirrus believes there are a lot of reasons to buy a VFR-only Cirrus. Alan reminded us that aviation has long considered itself an industry unlike any other. On so many fronts, he says, that's rubbish, and a partial explanation why light GA has had such tough times in the past couple decades. "This is a consumer-driven industry," he said. For too long, he said, GA has considered itself technology-driven. "We have to act like a consumer-driven industry... Focus on the consumer: that's where technology can make a more user-friendly airplane -- we don't use technology for its own sake." He sees a near future where "...people all over the economy will be using aviation as a part of their daily lives."

Ian Bentley at Cirrus told our reporter that there are several markets that should appreciate the SRV's philosophy.

  • There are significant portions of the world where, because of weather patterns, IFR flight is a relative rarity.
  • A lot of US pilots aren't rated for instrument flight, but they would appreciate having a modern airplane to fly.
  • Particularly in Europe, there are a lot of GA pilots who are stopped from getting instrument tickets by the number and expense of obstacles to that rating.
  • Lastly, there are a number of flying clubs, FBOs, and flight schools who can just as easily use a VFR aircraft as an IFR aircraft -- a large proportion of their users/students/pilots are flying VFR only, anyway, so there's no reason to wear out the more-expensive airplanes on those flights.

The SRV is the second-lowest-priced certified 4-place airplane available, with a PFD. [The Diamond DA-40, in base VFR trim, is $1000 less --ed.] "It makes it easier to fly precision approaches in VFR," said Alan, "and there's enough information there to tell you when you're upright."

The low price is achieved by making surprisingly few changes to the SR20. On the SRV, you'll note:

  • the 2-blade prop (the base SR20 has a 2-blade, but it's rarely ordered that way);
  • no nosewheel fairing
  • attenuated trim-color striping
  • no trim on the (main) wheel pants, or the wings; and
  • a more-basic cargo door treatment.

The avionics differences should also be obvious: not included are an autopilot, a backup ADI, an extra radio -- and some other IFR-only magic boxes. What is there, for $189,900, is a VFR near-performance-equivalent SR20 without some of the trim: a modern airplane for the VFR pilot.

Like all its Cirrus brethren, the SRV incorporates the life-saving BRS ("CAPS") ballistic parachute system.

That Centennial Edition SR22

The first non-white Cirrus is a gorgeous machine, pushing the 'appearance and amenities' envelope, while maintaining performance identical to the standard, 310hp SR22. That paint, a special PPG mix officially called, "Linen White," accented with "Coco Brown and Beige" [we all thought "cream and caramel" was closer, but we didn't hold the focus groups --ed] inside, is a delicious-looking treatment. As the Centennial Edition sat on the ramp next to the standard white SR22, we figured the looks alone would sell out the planned production run of 100 airplanes, in record time. In fact, Ian Bentley told us this week, "We're nearly half sold out already. I'd expect
to sell out of the Centennial Edition within the next 6 weeks or so."

Starting indoors, it's hard not to notice the leather-wrapped everything (sticks, flap handle, chewing-gum dispenser -- OK, we made that one up), and the yummy French-stitched leather seats, accented by beautifully-complementary brown touches and carpet. The Wright Flyer is embroidered into the front-seat backs, as well. Even the cargo-door splash plate has some classy etching, to remind your valet that he's putting bags into a Cirrus.

Outside, the special treatment continues, with a Wright Flyer painted on the tail, special metallic trim, and chrome in a number of places: the step stem, the exhaust tips, handles...

Performance parts:

One big difference you'll notice is the color-matched prop. It's a 3-blade unit, similar to what the SR20 and SR22 wear, but it's the first McCauley prop certified on a Cirrus. Behind that prop is a TCM 'Platinum' Series engine, and it's mounted on a new-design, 6-point motor mount (right) that's unique to the Centennial Edition. [No one at Cirrus would say how long that new engine mount system would continue to be Centennial-only --ed.]

Recently added to the option list on SR22s, an ice-fighting TKS system 'weeping wing' option will be available on the Centennial Edition. Some 90% of current-build SR22s are ordered with that system, Jerry Heizer, Cirrus's Director of Assembly, told us. One hundred of these special machines will be produced, and that's it.

One of the "stories behind the story" was the change in paint color.

Cirrus and PPG worked nearly a year to ensure that the new color wouldn't cause any troubles for the composite structure. Anyone who thinks that paint is just a matter of taste hasn't tried to change paint, or color, on a certified composite aircraft!

If you're still waiting:

Cirrus will begin flight testing their SR21 TDI (diesel) in 2004. That machine will feature an all-new-interior design and some next-generation avionics, among other things.

One of those "other things" will likely be a redesigned fuselage.

It won't look a whole lot different, but it will allow further cost savings, without compromising strength. For instance, it will incorporate a 1-piece cargo door. [The current design has four panels --ed.]

There are now, counting option packages, eleven ways to have your Cirrus. There are four models (SRV, SR20, SR22, and SR22 Centennial Edition), three engines, and two wings (with and without ice protection) -- so if you don't want to wait, you can get what you want.

[We met a lady pilot from California who resumed her flight training after years of inactivity, and passed her check ride a month later. Then she ordered her SR22... and was getting trained in it, while we were there. Just one month since that checkride, and she was picking up her new Cirrus. Quick delivery, eh? --ed.]



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