Debrief from a Cirrus SR22 Instrument Proficiency Check

In case this is helpful to other flight instructors, my email to a renter at our flight school. He has thousands of hours of flight experience, mostly in light aircraft, but some that are quite a bit more complex than the (mercifully and wonderfully air-conditioned) Cirrus SR22 that we flew.

Thanks for inviting me up into the sky today. Here’s a debrief…

Consider flying with the FPL [flight plan] block on the PFD [primary flight display; shows if airplane is upside down or not] up all the time as a reminder of which flight plan leg is active. This is especially important on approaches.

Remember to use the PFD soft key at the bottom of the PFD and then the BRG1 key to give yourself a GPS pointer to the FAF [final approach fix; a point in space] whenever you’re on vectors to final (LOC or GPS).

Consider whether you want to start flying the SR22 just like a jet. Given the capable autopilot, I think it is possible to fly single-pilot in the SR22 the way a two-pilot crew would have in an old King Air or early jet.

What would that mean?

1) have the flight director up all the time, at a minimum. So you’re flying the flight director or, if you can’t program it to give you helpful guidance, clear it with the red A/P disconnect button on the yoke (this also makes engaging the autopilot less risky because you always know what the A/P would be doing)

2) pay careful attention to the autopilot mode displays at the top of the PFD so you know what the autopilot thinks it is trying to do, e.g., HDG, and what it is planning to do next, e.g., LOC [localizer, a ground-based radio navigation signal] or GPS.

3) run all of the checklists on every flight. So if you’re going to the Midwest with a non-rated passenger, have the passenger run the checklists. Maybe there is a way to make peace with that horrific G1000 checklist system on the MFD (experiment on next enroute leg). Otherwise, paper! (remember that an airline crew will run every checklist even on a single trip around the pattern) Being disciplined about running a go-around checklist or a climb checklist means you’ll never forget to retract flaps or turn off fuel pump or whatever.

4) brief every instrument approach, even if just to yourself

This is how the airlines keep everything safe even when both pilots are exhausted toward the end of a 5-day trip so why not adapt it for GA? I’m not going to be at my best on Sunday evening returning from the beach in the SR20 so I will use the climb, cruise, and descent checklists to correct any mistakes (fortunately I will be using the Avidyne MFD so I won’t have to stretch my brain out to full power just to bring up said checklists!).

A few more small points…

a) consider not touching anything after landing until across the hold short line. Wait for 50 knots, then start applying the Cirrus’s feeble brakes, then wait until stopped to touch the flaps, lean the mixture, turn off fuel pump, switch to Ground, etc.

b) Cirruses up until -G5 (?) have pathetically wimpy brakes that are prone to overheating. You can taxi all the way from the Old-Ts to Rwy 29 runup area with maybe two touches of the brakes (once turning out of Old Ts and once turning Sierra to Echo). It may require full rudder deflection but the plane will respond any time power is above 1000 RPM

c) move heels back a touch for landing and takeoff so that you can’t hit the brakes accidentally. This is a bitter lesson learned by PC-12 owners (flat-spotted tire is $2,500; brakes on the PC-12 are not anti-lock, unlike any other airplane in the price category).

Something else I learned, from the Department of Complete User Interface Failure: this guy has about 75 hours of SR22/G1000 time, a Ph.D. in engineering, and thousands of hours of flying experience yet is not proficient with the G1000. If he cannot reasonably maintain G1000 proficiency should we ask “For whom was this G1000 designed then?” (I myself have a type rating in a twin-engine business jet that relies on the G1000 and fly the G1000 with customers periodically. I never feel truly at home with the system. I wonder if the latest G1000 NXi version is better.) See “Avidyne versus Garmin G1000 glass cockpits” for more on this issue. As I have gotten more experience with both systems I have come to appreciate the Avidyne more and the G1000 less. The Avidyne PFD has not failed in any way for years (since a software upgrade). The G1000 still has more redundancy but it is clumsy for a mostly-VFR airplane.

4 Comments

  1. Bill C.

    July 8, 2018 @ 1:07 pm

    1

    Even for a genius, you have an amazing range of knowledge and expertise!

  2. Mememe

    July 9, 2018 @ 4:56 pm

    2

    Are different models of aircraft more idiosyncratic in operation than different models of cars?

  3. philg

    July 10, 2018 @ 12:09 am

    3

    Mememe: The golden age of standardization was probably 1950-1990. Before 1950, engineers didn’t agree on flap levers, gear handles, and other fundamentals. World War II was huge for both advancing and standardizing avionics and instruments. The industry took microprocessors, GPS, and bitmap displays (CRTs then LCD screens) and created an explosion of complex and incompatible interfaces starting in the 1990s.

    In defense of the engineers behind all of this, aircraft aren’t usually all that difficult to fly visually (“VFR”). That’s the fair comparison to automobiles, which can’t be driven except by visual reference to the road. If you want to take off and fly to California following roads and railroad tracks the way that Rinker Buck and his brother did in 1966 in a Piper Cub (see http://blogs.harvard.edu/philg/2015/10/18/book-review-rinker-bucks-flight-of-passage/ ), it isn’t really any tougher in a G1000-equipped plane.

  4. PaulS

    July 12, 2018 @ 6:22 pm

    4

    Checklists on Perspective, I like the checklist function on the Cirrus perspective. Phil, you’ve forgotten more than I know about these, but I find checklists quite easy to use.

    The key for me is once I get to the checklist I want, I run through it then go to next checklist at that point, before I need it. ( So when done with the “cruise” checklist, you press enter for go to next checklist and the “descent” checklist comes up.) The key to the perspective system is to not press the map button or any other button to get out of checklists, only press the exit button, this keeps your place in the checklists. When you need the next checklist, you press the “checklist” button and it’s right there for you (in my example, the “descent” checklist.)

    I’m training in 2016 sr 20 now and I’m loving it. Thanks for these writeups, I learn something every time you do it.

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