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First Two Avidyne-Equipped Cirrus SR22s Delivered... As Promised

Cirrus Scores A History-Making "First" ...Again

Despite temps that hovered between "Oh My God" and "Close The Damned Door!" (in other words, about 10 degrees below zero), Cirrus has delivered the first two Avidyne Entegra equipped SR22s to two very lucky new owners (both of whom are destined to become our new best friends...).

Fully certified and ready for action, the first two production Cirrus SR22’s, featuring Avidyne FlightMax Entegra, 10.4 inch horizontal Primary Flight Displays were delivered to David Bushman (second photo, below) of Crownsville, MD and Greg Waits (third photo, below) of Suwanne, GA. Bushman remarked, “It is a dream come true just to get the SR22, but then Cirrus phoned to say we are one of the first to receive the Entegra as well. My wife and I are excited beyond belief.”

The decision to only offer a large, horizontal display was determined even before the development of the SR20. Intro'd at Oshkosh 2002, and carrying an added price of only $24,500, the new option rapidly became popular with SR22 customers, with some customers delaying delivery so as to incorporate the PFD into their configurations.

According to Greg Waits, the decision to purchase the aircraft incorporating the new option before certification was an easy decision, “It is essential for me to know that my plane has the latest in technology, and the Entegra PFD provides additional redundancy, which for me is also important.”

The FAA Aircraft Certification Office (ACO) in Chicago imposed a rigorous certification program on Avidyne and Cirrus, however were supportive of their efforts in principle. Patrick Waddick, VP Engineering for Cirrus stated, “This was an excellent example of a successful, cooperative endeavor between a government agency and private enterprise. They were methodical but helpful throughout development and certification. We appreciate their efforts.”

So... What's The Fuss?

The Cirrus decision process to make airplanes equipped with a “glass cockpit” began long before any of the Cirrus airplanes were certified. Introducing that reality to general aviation today raises some questions that Cirrus people seem to have have thought about extensively.

Why haven’t General Aviation aircraft had glass cockpits before?

Cost has been the big driver. Originally developed for military and commercial aviation applications, unit costs measured in hundreds of thousands of dollars prohibited general aviation manufacturers from incorporating them into their airplanes.

In recent years low cost “solid state gyros,” commercially available “glass,” modern software development tools and an enlightened certification environment have made the cost more realistic. At this point they’re not cheap (at $48,000 for a screen and associated sensors) but it’s do-able. It’s interesting that, in a new airplane, Cirrus can offer this item for under $25,000 – indicating how many earlier generation electro-mechanical instruments are replaced.

What are the advantages of the “screens” over the tried and true instruments?

First, those “tried and true” instruments fail a lot (just check the stats on vacuum pump failures, alone... it's scary). In the airline and business jet arenas, where this technology originated, the primary reason for introducing these types of cockpits was reliability – giving better dispatch rates and customer satisfaction. Benefits such as ease of use and quicker learning were secondary at best. Experienced, ATP licensed crews, flying almost daily and having regular (company or FAA) flight checks probably meant that safe operations could be carried out regardless.

In the smaller, owner flown, personal transportation arena, pilots rarely amass the flight time and achieve the currency experienced by professional pilots. The “glass cockpit” plays a different role here – easy to fly and hard to misinterpret. In fact, the idea was to avoid interpretation at all and simply make the “view” through the “glass window” analogous to the view out of the aircraft windshield. It only requires flying with a new pilot to see how they take to this new way of “instrument flying,” to truly appreciate just how much easier it is.

Combine this with the MFD (multi-function display) showing you where you are on your flight and, perhaps, relevant weather and traffic information, and you get the best-informed pilot in the business. Better informed, means better decisions. Better decisions mean safer flights. And it also means that it’s MUCH easier to learn the intricacies of instrument flight.

Why does Cirrus use the landscape (or horizontal) layout for the screens when most airline and business jet installations use portrait (or vertical) screens?

It all has to do with the horizon and the inexperienced and/or less current (at least in airline terms) pilots flying (or learning to fly) general aviation airplanes. It is rare for a pilot to lose control of an airplane flying VFR on a nice day. The visual horizon line is infinitely wide and perfectly clear. But pilots, particularly those with little instrument experience, do lose control in the clouds with the classical 3-inch attitude instrument. With tragic regularity...

The idea then becomes to present the widest horizon possible and create a compelling display that simply can’t be ignored no matter what else you may be doing in the cockpit (with the exception of Mile-High Club applicants...).

You can easily see the smallest attitude change. In fact, you can’t miss changes in attitude, if you try!

That’s also why Cirrus chose to only use the widest possible display (the landscape format) and to portary the horizon line through all the other displays.

So... is the width of a 10-inch screen as good as the natural, VFR horizon?

Maybe, maybe not – but it seems a lot better than the couple of scant inches offered up on a classical general aviation attitude indicator. By far...



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