Why the CIRRUS SR22 is the Best Four Seat Plane?
The top general aviation success stories of the 2000s must be Cirrus aircraft in general and the SR22 specifically.
Fast, comfortable, and well-equipped, the SR22 is one of the defining aircraft of modern GA. Since the company first morphed from a quirky kit supplier to a full-blown aircraft manufacturer in 1998, it has consistently redefined not only aviation safety but also efficiency and innovation and these objectives have been the core values of the Cirrus aircraft.
After the success of the company’s first aircraft; the SR20, Cirrus knew what Cessna, Piper, Beech, and others have always known: If you don’t have a follow-on model, your success will be short-lived.
In 2001, the SR22 was announced as a step-up model, and it immediately became successful.
The Cirrus SR22 is a single-engine, four or five-seat, low-wing, cantilever composite aircraft featuring a fixed tricycle landing gear and is a development of the Cirrus SR20, with a larger wing, higher fuel capacity, and a more powerful, 310 hp Continental engine.
The SR22 series has been the world’s best-selling general aviation airplane every year since 2003. With 8,149 units delivered between 2001 and 2022, and in combination with the SR20, a total of 7,645, it is the most-produced GA aircraft of the 21st century.
Not only that, but it is also the most-produced GA aircraft made from composite material, accounting for over 30% of the entire piston aircraft market.
The SR22 is the most beautiful four-seater on the market right now. It might be easy to argue that the Pipistrel Panthera is more appealing, and the designs from Diamond Aircraft are great too.
But then, the SR22’s appeal has beaten the test of time. The Lamborghini-style doors are one of my favourite things about this airplane.
They are not trouble-free, and closing them is not particularly the easiest thing to do, especially in the early models, but they are certainly the coolest.
It’s fixed landing gear, as you can see. Sometimes I wish there was a retractable gear version. Not because of the extra performance numbers as a result of lower drag, I just love seeing gears retracted.
And who else loves the sound some planes make as they retract or extend the landing gear? I love it. Moving on to the nose gear and main gear system, it has a castering nose wheel and steering is via differential braking, which is the weight-saving design philosophy that every major manufacturer is following these days.
This works well enough in the real world but has the downside of chewing up brake pads.
The wing section and planform are uniquely composed of varying sections; thus, the leading edge has the characteristic split on the outer panels. Because the outer panels have a lower angle of incidence, they remain flying while the inner sections have stalled, improving control through the stall and theoretically adding spin resistance.
The airframe is the same as the SR20, but with little changes here and there, like a larger wing, higher fuel capacity, and a more powerful engine.
The wingtips are 18 inches long, the rear elevator is larger, and the landing gear has been moved inboard to give more ground clearance for the propeller.
The cabin is accessed through doors on both sides of the fuselage.
The SR22’s cabin seamlessly integrates luxury, style, technology, and comfort with automobile-inspired ergonomics, performance seats, and lifestyle conveniences throughout.
Premium leather seats are handcrafted to perfection and added details like the integrated headset strap minimize clutter and maximize accessibility.
The cabin is equipped with innovative safety systems that provide a wide array of protective layers to protect the pilot and passengers.
These include electronic stability and protection and the Cirrus airframe parachuting system. Visibility is great in this plane, and you are not getting ordinary windows because the windows are UV protected, which has the advantage of protecting the interior while on-ramp and regulating the cabin temperature while in flight.
Loading is even easier with the new remote-unlock keyless baggage door. At the touch of a button, the door smoothly lifts past 90 degrees and stays open while you load it.
The SR22 is powered by a six-cylinder, 310-HP Continental IO-500 engine, which is one of Continental’s best power plants.
The IO-550 engine is durable and highly economical only when compared to its fellow dinosaurs because when compared to newer engines, especially ones in Diamond airplanes, your guess is as good as mine.
Engine management is simpler. It features a two-lever control; throttle and mixture lever. The prop is taken care of automatically. Most owners seem to like this arrangement, but for those accustomed to three levers, it takes some getting used to.
To fly the maximum range at 75% power, you cannot fill up the seats. The SR22 will blister along at 170 to 180 knots on about 18 GPH rich of peak.
However, given the reality of avgas prices, not many owners will run the airplanes that way. Throttling back to 65% on the lean side gives about 15 GPH and 172 knots.
You can easily push that up to 80 percent power at 17 GPH and recover some of the lost speed.
This appears to be where most owners operate the SR22, as the IO-550 is smooth and perfectly happy in this regime and will run even leaner for max-range cruises.
The service ceiling is 17,500 feet, with a rate of climb of 1,270 feet/min and a maximum range of 1,169 nautical miles at 55% power. Speaking of avionics, the SR22 is one of the most equipped planes out there.
Models built in 2003 were equipped with traditional analog instruments. Later models were equipped with the Avidyne Entegra primary flight display, making the plane the first of its kind to come with a glass cockpit. It was a stepping stone to what I consider the “Cirrus advancement of technological advancement” (I know this grammar doesn’t make sense, but you understand what I mean haha).”
The SR22’s had the Avidyne Entegra primary flight display till 2009, when Cirrus introduced the Cirrus Perspective” glass cockpit by Garmin.
Speaking of safety systems, the Cirrus SR22 is equipped with a whole-plane emergency recovery parachute system: the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System, which you already know about.
This has contributed to its market success and has given it the nickname “the plane with the parachute.” For an owner stepping up from a Cherokee or Skyhawk to an SR22, it will be a major leap ahead in speed, technology, and mission capability.
After the original SR22, the SR22-G2 emerged in 2004, which featured a redesigned cowl, a new prop, a spiffed-up interior, an improved door latch design, and a six-point engine mount that addressed vibration issues in the first SR22s.
The SR22 Turbo was introduced in 2006, with a Tornado Alley turbo-normalizing upgrade kit added to the Continental IO-550-N engine, producing 310 hp. It included twin turbo-normalizers and twin intercoolers.
The conversion includes built-in oxygen and a Hartzell three-blade lightweight composite propeller, which ultimately reduces the SR22’s useful load.
Air conditioning is available with the SR22 Turbo, but this further reduces the useful load. The turbo version has a certified ceiling of 25,000 feet, a maximum cruise speed of 211 knots, and a top speed of 219 knots.
Moving on to the G3 model, which was introduced in 2007 with several improvements, including a redesigned wing with 92-gallon fuel capacity, a carbon fiber spar, and an improved interior.
There is no G4 model. What Cirrus built next was the SR22T in 2010, which features a 315-hp Continental TSIO-550 turbocharged engine.
The engine has low-compression pistons, producing a 7.5 to 1 compression ratio to allow the engine to run on lower octane fuel.
The SR22T has a maximum cruise speed of 214 knots and a maximum operating altitude of 25,000 ft. The tradeoff is that it has a decreased useful load of 1,052 lbs, and a reduced range of 1,046 nautical miles.
The next model was the G5 in 2013, which brought a variety of improvements, including optional tri-color paintwork, a new 3600-pound gross weight, plus a welcomed 50-percent initial flap extension speed of 150 knots, up from 119 knots on older SR22s.
With an additional 3.5 degrees of extension, this makes the aircraft much easier to slow on the descent.
To accommodate the new gross weight increase, Cirrus beefed up the main spar, strengthened the landing gear, and added extra layers of composite to the airframe.
Next was the SR22 G6, which came with Bluetooth wireless connectivity, a remote keyless entry, a convenience lighting system, an easy-access door latch and avionics that have a 10-times faster instrument processing speed.
The last update was the TRAC, a training-oriented version with a simplified interior, more durable seat material, a backseat radio transmits switch to allow an observer to communicate with air traffic control, integrated engine indication and crew alerting/warning systems, and simulated retractable landing gear controls and position lights to allow cadets and instructors to feign landing gear operation and failures during instructional flights.
The SR20 and SR22, in their various iterations, are hot sellers and good performers. They perform well and generally deliver on the claim of being easy to fly for low-time pilots.
The best thing is that they offer the right combination of cutting-edge equipment and construction methods without becoming quirky.
But for some people, lots of automation makes pilots lose stick-and-rudder flying skills, because automation is not a silver bullet for increasing safety, and it may be working in opposition as pilots over-rely on it or get confused by its complexity.
If you are in the market for the SR22, the good news for buyers who can’t afford the eye-popping price of a brand-new Cirrus is that for as little as $250,000, you can get one of the early models.
And the best thing is that buying a used SR22 is not like buying an older Cessna 182 or a Saratoga, mainly because you won’t see much post-factory equipment variation on Cirrus aircraft.
They emerge from the factory fully formed, and the panels don’t allow many options to mix and match.
The best buys are the 2002 to 2004 models with Avidyne avionics, particularly an early G2 model for well under $300,000. The 2001 to 2003 SR22s are even cheaper.
These likely won’t be all-glass models, as many have steam gauges with an Avidyne MFD. The interiors of these first-generation SR22s were never a high point, and many of these older models have tired seats and carpets. In conclusion, Cirrus has changed the nature of
light general aviation over the past decade with a host of innovative features and other approaches.
Over time, it became the best-selling single-engine airplane in the world, largely because of its innovative blend of excellent features, including a remarkably roomy cockpit, advanced avionics for its time, and its impressive performance.