It’s time to write about me flying her airplane. Our relationship is progressing! But she has six kids now… .
Tioman island was hot, sultry and steamy. The Cirrus, with its cool all-singing, all-dancing glass cockpit, beckoned seductively.
Angelina’s airplane. For those of you who live in a cave on Mars, Angelina (yes, that Angelina) learned to fly years ago, with the aspiration of flying aid and relief missions in third-world countries.
(Of course, this is exactly why I, too, learned to fly. Right. )
She changed flight instructors. The first was too star-struck to teach. In other words, he was a normal male human. When she ‘soloed’ — flew alone for the first time without an instructor in the airplane — instead of allowing her shirt tail to be cut off*, she took off her bra, signed it, and gave it to her instructor. 😯
Anyway, I call the Cirrus SR22 ‘Angelina’s Airplane’ because she so famously owns one. Arnold Schwarzenegger could fly a Cirrus and it would still be Angelina’s Airplane.
Back to Tioman island. The owner of this Cirrus, John, is a soft-spoken Brit based in Singapore. His is an SR22 G3 model, the third-generation of Cirrus magic.
There were oodles of room. Here, strapped in the back seat, was the prettiest sight for pilots like us flying over the tropical waters of the Java Sea.
Yes, the sight of that life raft was truly reassuring, comforting. We made sure it was strapped securely. We were a long way off the Malaysian coast.
(The passenger was also important.)
Up front, the first thing you notice is that there is no yoke — no ‘steering wheel’. Instead, there is a sidestick, perched above an ergonomic arm rest.
It took about 20 seconds to get used to that vs. the between-the-legs joystick of the aerobatic Decathlon I fly. That Cirrus sidestick came to hand so naturally that working it back and forth and side to side was both intuitive and instinctive. (Yes, Virginia, we are still talking about airplanes.)
I glanced at the parachute handle above us. Yup, the Cirrus has a parachute. Not for the pilots, no. But for the entire airplane. Why jump out of a $300,000 airplane, just because the engine died, right? Take the entire thing with you!
I thought it’s interesting that step 2 is to jettison the protective cover … on which steps 3 to 6 are printed.
John pulled up electronic checklists on the displays and began setting up his multifunction display as the nav systems came on line in the glass cockpit.
I need to explain ‘glass’. We’re not talking about wrap-around glass windows or a glass skylight in the roof. ‘Glass cockpits’ have none of the traditional round gauges, paper charts or printed checklists. Instead, flat TV panels show computer-rendered images of instruments, maps and charts. Airliner style.
This instrument panel is dominated by the Avidyne primary flight display and the multifunction display. Attitude, airspeed, altitude, heading, vertical speed, engine parameters, navigational and terrain charts and checklists were all rendered well on flat screen displays.
A brace of Garmin 430s navcoms also sent GPS inputs to the Avidyne displays. A portable Garmin GPS backup unit provides redundancy. Man, if you ever got lost in a Cirrus, you deserve to be never found.
And if you did get lost, you would get lost very quickly. This airplane is fast!
185 knots, over 340 kilometers per hour, max cruise. That’s a piston/single-engine airplane with propeller and fixed gear, and it flies faster than a World War II 4-engine bomber.
The airplane was pure joy to fly. It’s a big airplane, more than twice as heavy as the one I fly. But with 310 horsepower on tap under the power lever, it was quick and responsive.
With a high wing loading, the Cirrus also felt very stable. I was keenly aware of the placard that said spins were prohibited, and I gingerly babied the controls as I flew 360-degree turns for traffic near Singapore.
I knew that the cuffed wing with the split leading edge and differential angle of attack gives lots of warning of an impending stall and preserves aileron authority to the bitter end.
But the overall sophistication of the airplane and its glass cockpit impart an airliner feel. And one simply doesn’t fly snap rolls or hammerheads in someone else’s airliner. Not on the first date, anyway. So, small corrections, small corrections.
The coolie hat on top of the stick is the trim switch. I had to get used to that. The switch modulates springs that center the stick in the trimmed position, so I never really knew if I was feeling the slipstream’s aerodynamic load or the springs. Sort of like flying an airplane with a keyboard.
John was clearly a conservative and safe pilot, but when he took the airplane back he maneuvered more vigorously than I did, as if to make the airplane laugh after my timid handling of it. His approach to Seletar was impeccable, and we touched down with the most delicious squeak.
In the video, listen to the engine change its note as John pulls the power lever. The Cirrus combines prop control and throttle in a single intelligent power lever, and to me that is one of the neatest things about this airplane.
So would I marry Angelina for her airplane? If I were shopping for a piston single airplane as transportation, this Cirrus SR22 G3 would top my list. High-end sophistication, a built-in parachute, fast and slick. Angelina.
I don’t fly for to transport myself, though, so I would probably spend the $300,000 on something silly like Svetlana Kapanina’s Sukhoi Su-31.
Now there’s a woman I’d marry for her airplane. And she has only three kids.
Posted from Bangkok, June 14, 2010.
* Traditionally, after her first solo, a student pilot has her shirt tail cut off. In the days before intercoms, the instructor sat in the back of tandem-seat training airplanes and pulled on the student’s shirt tails if he wanted her to turn left or right, etc. After her solo, she no longer needs the instructor, or her shirt tail, in the airplane.
More neat references for Cirrus SR22 aircraft and its glass cockpit, for pilot readers or serious airplane shoppers:
Owner’s review by Philip Greenspun, with equal space for what’s good, and not so good, about the Cirrus, that only an owner can write.
Another article, also by Philip Greenspun, on the Avidyne system, as compared to the Garmin 1000 (also an option on the Cirrus SR22). Again, nuggets and warts, as only an owner with lots of experience and frustrations can write.
John Giddens is interviewed in Singapore, a month after I flew with him.