Back in July 2005 (updated in September), Philip Greenspun published a detailed owner’s review of his factory-new Cirrus SR20, the 200 hp (cheaper) sibling of the Cirrus SR22. Philip has flown his plane pretty seriously around a huge part of the continent (including the Canadian arctic), and has a long list of both the good and bad aspects of it. There are dozens of annoyances — large and small — that you’d never know about after reading a glossy magazine review written on the basis of a single test flight.
Philip also speculates about the actual safety value of the chute. In his opinion, most or all of the cases where people have pulled the chute and survived would have been survivable in a non-chute equipped Piper or Cessna, while in the cases where the chute really was necessary, it failed and resulted in a fatal accident. I don’t know how accurate this analysis is, but it’s an interesting perspective, especially coming from a Cirrus owner.
This page is highly-recommended reading, even if (like me) you cannot imagine ever being able to afford a factory-new plane. The 6-8 week, USD 10,000/year annuals — while still under warranty — are certainly an eye-opener. I wonder how much he’ll pay for maintenance when the plane is a little older and the warranty has expired. It sounds like a pretty nice plane, though, on balance, and I certainly wouldn’t turn one down.
We’ve got three Cirrus aircraft where I work; we have them available for solo rental after completing the factory checkout with our instructors. I’ve definitely noticed that they require more maintenance than your average spam can.
But then, I expect them to. They are, quite simply, complex aircraft. Complex electrical systems, lots of probes, and so on. Even the interior is complex. Look at all the trim pieces around the cockpit, on the doors, etc. That’s a lot of expensive stuff to replace. I’m a big fan of the Cirus, but there’s definitely a market for less complex airplanes. In some ways, they are far more desirable. Less expense, downtime, and hassle. That means you spend more time in the air.
I’ve never understood the desire for bleeding edge technology. The average GA pilot spends maybe 1% of their flight time in IMC. The rest of the time, you can just look outside. And let’s face it, isn’t that why we got into flying in the first place?
Thanks for the comment, Ron — you make some excellent points.
I spent over 20% of my air time in actual IMC this year, but it was a bit of a strange year with the lightning strike and all the downtime. I don’t think I need a glass cockpit, but maybe I will think about a simple autopilot and IFR GPS some day.
Thanks for the link, the SR-22 has always been my ‘dream plane’ come winning the lottery but that review makes some interesting points about what the ‘hobbyist’ pilot needs in a plane.
I have owned a Diamond DA40 for a year now. G1000 is going through some teething problems,
with some software updates and “infant failures.” I fly in the Southeast where IFR
capability is required if going on a schedule. I fly for business, so this is required.
The Technologically Advanced Aircraft (TAA) are amazing – I wouldn’t go back. I find the maint. cost on the
Diamond is lower than a spam can, but it is in different areas: avionics versus airframe
(but still under warranty right now). Annuals are running $1100, pretty reasonable.
I think people have to take what Greenspun says with some skepticism. I don’t know where on the planet he gets his annuals, but here in Hawaii (one of the most expensive places to do anything) Cirrus annuals run between $900-$1,000. In CA users report as high as $1,500 for annuals. I think there is some other motivation for his blatant misrepresentations which leads one to question some of the other gripes as well. I am not suggesting that everything he says is false, as there are certainly some truths related to Cirrus planes that he points out- especially the high cost of insurance. As for the parachute, tell the people who just crashed in Alabama (Jan 2006) due to and ice encounter how extraneous it is. Whether the decision to fly in that weather was wise or not, the fact that all three walked away without a scratch makes a pretty compelling argument. They would simply be dead without it. I have a SR20 and the Avidyne glass is just fantastic. I don’t understand how people can claim that they are way too expensive. Thats a very relative statement. The cost of a new 172 with G100 runs $210,000 and has half the features of a SR20 costing $250,000 or a DA40 costing $240,000. And while a 172 is a nice little plane, its still a 120 knot 172. $40K more for 160 knots, huge comfortable cabin, parachute and many more features is well worth it to some people. Flying is a very subjective experience tempered by what people are willing to pay, that is why other companies besides Cirrus are still in the single engine piston business.
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