The purchase process of my SR22 was painless. Financing was done in one day, insurance took another day and getting all the paperwork done was another couple of days. In all, after 4 days, I had a plane in my name. The only problem? It was sitting in Duluth, MN at the Cirrus factory. So it was time to make a trip and pickup my new plane. This was the most exciting trip I had planned for a long time. The nicest part was that it was a one-way airline purchase.
First Impressions of Cirrus Design Corporation
When I arrived at the Cirrus Design headquarters, I was greeted by Lori the receptionist, and Judy a customer service coordinator. They welcomed me and provided me with a pre-printed badge with my name and the tail number of my plane. I was really impressed by how nice and prepared they were. In fact, during my entire stay in Duluth, I was quite impressed by every Cirrus employee that I met. One after another, they were eager to listen and even more eager to solve any problems. In the Cirrus customer reception lounge, I met with two Cirrus executives who were waiting to talk to owners who were receiving their planes that day. They chatted, told stories, asked questions and offered their business cards in case an owner wanted to follow-up. I felt adequately pampered, but in a sincere way. Lunch and drinks were provided during my stay compliments of Cirrus. Cirrus definitely has their sales process and customer reception down.
The Cirrus Factory Tour
One of the first things on my agenda was to get a Cirrus factory tour. I wanted to see how these planes were made. Our tour guide was extremely knowledgeable and again, super nice. She took us through the entire facility, showing everything from the preparation of the composite materials to the creation of the wing, the fuselage, the assemby of the parts, gluing and fusing the various components together and even to the installation and debugging of the avionics. It was really amazing to see how they build these planes. One of the statistics that sticks out in my mind is that from the raw parts delivery to a completed airplane takes Cirrus 18 days. Just 18 days to make an airplane. That’s pretty cool.
Unfortunately, photography of the manufacturing areas was not allowed. So I was only able to sneak a picture of the final preparations room from the customer lounge window and the Cirrus SRS mockup (a light sports aircraft they are working on):
The Final Preparation Stage
The Cirrus SRS Sport Mockup
Cirrus Transition Training
After receiving my plane, my Cirrus Transition Training was scheduled to begin. With exactly 0 hours of PIC time in an SR22 I met with my assigned instructor to get started. I should mention that prior to my trip to Duluth, Cirrus had sent me a training packet which included a generic POH and documentation on all the avionics. Additionally, Cirrus has partnered with Jeppeson for a flash-based online training class that you are encouraged to finish prior to your arrival. I highly recommend it. Although the Jeppeson flash-based training web site is clugy to navigate, a pain in the ass to use and about twice as long and slow than it needs to be, the videos are helpful and the materials do help you become familiar. But guys, if you’re listening, you need to clean it up and make it available offline.
My instructor started us out with a slidedeck of powerpoint slides that I thought would never end. For about an hour we covered what we were going to cover in the next 3 days. Very helpful. Not! Then finally, we went into the SR22 cockpit and cabin simulator. This part was super helpful. This was the first time I was actually using the avionics, learning the buttons, the function of each knob and navigating through the screens. There’s a lot to learn and I have to say, most of it is not very intuitive. Especially the Garmin 430s. Lets just say they’re not going to win any design awards. Seriously guys, does the FAA prohibit good UI design in avionics certifications?
The Simulator also has the CAPS handle and part of the training is to go ahead and pull the CAPS handle in the simulator several times so you can see how its supposed to feel in case of an emergency. It might not seem like a big deal, but I feel much better knowing that I have pulled that handle several times and I know how its suppose to feel in my hand when its pulled. That level of confidence alone was worth the entire price of the simulator. The simulator time was definitely well spent.
We then had lunch and finally headed out to the plane for our first day of flying. Wow, this plane is even smoother than I remember it from the demo flight. On-board checklists make sure you don’t forget anything. Takeoff couldn’t be easier and the visibility as the plane lifts from the ground is amazing when compared to a Cessna 172. Maneuvering is extremely responsive in a very good, controllable way. It was a great feeling to be the PIC of this aircraft.
To make things easier, my instructor was doing all the radio communication. That was a lot of help. There’s a lot to learn and having someone else worry about communication allows students to stay focused on the new material. As we gained altitude I was also starting to enjoy the view. Minnesota has a lot of lakes. No, no, let me say that again. Minnesota has an INSANE number of lakes. Most are the size of a small pond, but they’re often surrounded by 20 more ponds. If you were to throw a stone you’d have an equal chance of hitting water or land. I have never seen anything like it. The scenery was beautiful.
After about 30 minutes or so of flying, it was time for the first landing. I had to be reminded several times to slow down to the appropriate speed for the different legs of the pattern. Apparently, that’s pretty normal for first-timers in a high performance airplane. As we made the final approach, my very first landing was probably the smoothest landing I had ever had in any aircraft up to that point. This plane is incredibly easy to land. When compared to a Cessna, which has extremely poor visibility, in the SR22 you can see the runway in front of you allowing you to maneuver much easier. It felt very natural to me. Over the next 5 hours of flying, we practiced Touch-and-Gos at a bunch of different airports, Steep Turns, Stalls and various emergency procedures. It was all uneventful.
On the second day of training, Duluth weather was no longer VFR, so we decided to fly back to my home town. My instructor filed an IFR flight plan and we were on our way. The ride home was smooth and allowed me to become familiar with more of the avionics and auto-pilot. When we got to my home-town, we simply continued the training, hopping from one airport to another.
The Cirrus Transition Training was awesome. Don’t buy a Cirrus without it. You can purchase it even if you buy a used plane and the entire 3-day course costs around $2,000. I highly recommend it.
My first few days with the plane were not without problems, but I’ll leave that for another post.