When you ask someone from an Aircraft manufacturer how their product stands out from their competition you expect to hear something technical. “Our airplanes are 0.03% more efficient” or “Our plane can climb 2% faster than our competition”. Ask someone at Cirrus Aircraft the same question and you’ll get a much different answer- “Our company is lifestyle and relationship-driven. We like to focus on how our airplanes can change your lifestyle.”
Cirrus customers tend to be highly active, driven, and adventurous individuals. Usually business owners who travel to multiple locations throughout the week and love to explore and seek new experience on the weekend. Cirrus sees its airplanes, the SR series or the Cirrus Vision Jet as instruments of their clients' lifestyles. There are 5000 airports throughout the US but only 500 commercial airports. Depending on where you’re traveling there could be a 3 hour car journey waiting for you once you land but in a Cirrus you may have the luxury of landing at a small airport across the street from your destination. Not only does this speed up the process but it also relieves the stress of commercial travel.
Cirrus Airplanes are built in Duluth Minnesota but the HQ, delivery and training center is in Knoxville. They also have service and training centers in Dallas, Scottsdale, and Orlando. When taking delivery of a Cirrus airplane you receive 3 days of hands-on flight training with a Cirrus flight instructor, an added bonus to ensure your ownership experience is as safe as possible. Safety is something Cirrus takes very seriously. Aviation can be unforgiving but all Cirrus airplanes are built with a unique feature- a parachute. No, not one you sit on or have strapped to your back, a parachute for the plane itself. Enter an unrecoverable situation or an emergency and all you have to do is reach over your head and pull on the handle between the two pilots' seats and a rocket fires a parachute from the top of the plane allowing it, and its passengers to float gently down to safety. This system has proven to be highly effective and at the time of this writing has saved more than 200 lives. In fact, Cirrus has an overall safety rating that is twice as good as the average rating in their segment. Cirrus is the only aviation company in the world to have such a feature but they haven’t stopped there- they’ve developed software and avionics systems that make flying incredibly easy. You can fly one of their aircraft using no paper, and no mental math. 39% of Cirrus buyers last year were completely new to aviation so the company does all it can to ensure everyone flying in one of its planes comes home safe.
The flight experience.
I’ve been around aviation in one form or another my whole life but I’m not a pilot. I was excited to experience the Cirrus SR22T GTS but I thought I should probably get some insight from someone with decades of flying experience who is also new to Cirrus. Bruce Langer is a retired pilot and one of those immediately likable guys who you can tell has a great story to tell. He exudes that calm reassuring competence and confidence that only experienced pilots have. Bruce has been flying airplanes since he was 17 years old and throughout a 29 year career at UPS, nearly 3 years of that time were spent in the air crisscrossing the globe. He’s flown everything from small taildraggers up to the Boeing 747 and lots of planes in between so I was surprised to learn that despite the huge experience gap between the two of us, we both had the same outstanding impression- this airplane feels really safe. Bruce especially liked the non-retractable landing gear “safer that way, one less thing to go wrong”. He actually said it flies just like a 747, just a little smaller. I suspect he was being a little snarky but he emphasized that if someone new to aviation asked him which path to take, “this(SR22T) is the route to go.”
Nick Elenz is the sales director for Tennessee, Kentucky and Indiana. As we walked out onto the flight line towards his red and black SR22T GTS I thought, “what a good looking airplane.” As a photographer I pay special attention to these sorts of things. The airplane's proportions, lines and the overall build just look stunning. There’s an old saying, “if it looks right it flies right” and I was about to find out. The Cirrus SR22T is very easy to get into, even the backseat of the plane (If you’re new to the world of aviation- this is not common). The vertical hinge doors are very similar to new McLaren supercars and leave a huge amount of space to slide into your seat with ease. Once I was comfortably seated I started to admire all the attention to detail in the interior.
With leather stitched doors and control panels the interior looks more like a luxury car than a light aircraft. Once the engine burst to life I was surprised at how quiet the engine and composite prop were, even without the headset it’s not difficult to talk inside the plane.
The Cirrus SR22 leaps off the runway thanks to its turbocharged 315 horsepower engine and soars like a dream. Once we rapidly climbed to 5,000ft I took the controls and spent a few minutes banking and slicing around puffy cloud formations. The view provided by the massive side windows is spectacular, the best I’ve ever experienced in a private plane. The controls are reassuringly firm and responsive giving the SR22 a very sporty feel. Speaking of controls, they're quite different from your granddad's taildragger. In the left seat you have a left hand joystick and in the right seat you have a right hand joystick. The absence of a traditional control yoke protruding from the control panel just adds to the feel of spaciousness in the cabin. I completely enjoyed every minute flying the SR22, the last time I had that much fun flying I was sitting on an ejection seat that was not plush nor did it have stitched leather.
Nick took over as we banked back toward BNA for landing. As we lined up with the runway I studied the control screens, everything was there in brilliant, easy to see graphics and it took very little time to grow accustomed to finding the right information. In the very little time I’d spent flying in the SR22 I’d grown very confident in the airplane's capabilities. I never once thought about the parachute stored just over my right shoulder but I think that’s that’s the idea. Build the safest plane in the entire general aviation world so that the only time you have to think about that parachute is when it has just saved your life.
The aviation world is full of compromise. Speed at the cost of efficiency or maneuverability at the cost of stability- but for the doers, the fast-paced and adventure-seeking pilots who fly a Cirrus they don’t have to compromise. Imagine the ability to park your car and walk to your airplane, be airborne in a matter of minutes cruising at over 200 mph at 25,000 in your own airplane. This incredible freedom could change everything about your lifestyle, and that is exactly what Cirrus is waiting to do.