During my research of the SR22, one of the recurring complaints I had read about is that the doors are hard to close. In fact, if you do any level of research, you’ll find that the SR22 door latches have been a common complaint since the first generation of the SR22. With the SR22 Generation 3 having just been released in May of ’07, I was confident that I wouldn’t have to worry about this 6-year old problem. After all, the G3 contains “over 700 improvements” and one of the 700 improvements is about the door!
To my surprise, doors are still a problem in the G3. A very serious problem! From the first day I started my training, the passenger door latches gave us problems, often requiring 3 or 4 attempts for them to latch properly. I know many SR22 owners who are reading this will dismiss this complaint as “lack of experience with the SR22 doors,” but keep in mind, during my training, a Cirrus Certified instructor was sitting in the passenger seat and he has over 400 hours of instruction in the Cirrus, probably in 30 different SR22s! Plus, how much experience should be required to simply close a door? My own door was not nearly as problematic, usually closing on the first try, but still requiring a second attempt to close every 4th or 5th time I flew. Even that is unacceptable if you ask me (I know, I know – nobody asked me).
One of the biggest problems with the doors is that there is no easy way to tell if the door is properly shut until the engine is revving > 1500 RPM. At that point, you hear an obvious whistling sound from the wind generated by the propeller. This sound is the alarm bell that the door was not shut properly. Unfortunately, often times at 1500 RPM, you hear this sound during takeoff while you’re on the runway. It happened to us three times during training. We had to abort the takeoff, shut the door then continue. For readers who are thinking you should have caught the door issue during runup, I have this to add: a) during training, runup was usually done once in a 3 or 4 hour session, but we’d often open the door after landing for some fresh air and b) we caught the door issue nearly a half dozen times during runup.
It gets worse. Even when the door is shut and appears to be latched properly, the door can still unlatch during flight. That too happened to us twice during training! Both times with the passenger door and the transition trainer seated in the passenger seat. The first time it happened during climb. We were 10 minutes into a 2-hour trip when all of a sudden there was a loud bang and you could hear the gushing air coming in. We had to to immediately slow down (the Emergency procedures call for a speed under 90 knots), then scramble to find a nearby airport to land. The diversion easily cost us 30 minutes and almost a heart attack for a rear-seat passenger. The second time, it happened on descend, in the last 10 miles of another two hour trip. It doesn’t make much sense for the door to unlatch during descend since the outside pressure becomes higher than inside pressure, so if anything, it should shut the doors more tightly. But there we were, 10 miles from our destination, flying smoothly for nearly two hours when both the trainer and I jumped out of our seats from the loud sound.
So what’s the deal? With more than 3,000 aircraft built and being on the 3rd generation of the SR22 with over 700 improvements, why does this problem still persist? It’s a lawsuit waiting to happen. How hard could it be to get the doors right? I’ve never heard of a car door that doesn’t shut right (unless it’s been in an accident). Even Columbia seems to have figured out how to close a door properly on the first try and they’ve built fewer than 600 planes and are still in their “first generation.” With the average new SR22 costing nearly a half million dollars, you’d think there’s enough money in there to build doors that shut on the first try.
I should add that even with all the door problems, I never felt in any kind of danger. The doors never sprung completely open. Mostly, the bottom latch would come undone, which caused a half-inch gap to open at the bottom of the door. But when it did happen, it was extremely annoying and it could be very traumatizing to any passengers. I’ve decided to modify my passenger briefing to include the following additional statement: if the doors unlatch during flight, don’t panic, that’s part of an advanced new system design by Cirrus Research to demonstrate the plane’s ability to function with open doors. It’s part of the CRAPS system (as in “craps! my door just popped open”).