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The favorite GA aircraft of pilots the world over (including famed businessman Alan Sugar), the Cirrus SR22 has quite a reputation in the aviation industry.
Wouldn’t it be reassuring if you were to board an airplane, and at the back of your mind, you knew that no matter what happened mid-flight, the chances of you getting back safely were almost guaranteed? Well, this is exactly what this aircraft is aiming to achieve.
The Cirrus SR22 is a very executive and capable aircraft. Boasting a 310 horsepower Continental piston engine, with cruising speeds of up to 183 KTAS, an approximate fuel burn rate of about 14 gallons per hour, and depending on the model, an average price of about $300,000 (used) and $900,000 (new).
While the price may be higher than the average for aircraft in its class, there is a good reason why the Cirrus SR22 series is among the most popular in the general aviation market. This aircraft is considered one of the best-selling piston engine aircraft.
This article will provide you with a more informed perspective before you make that all-important decision, as it takes a comprehensive look at the Cirrus SR22.
Cirrus SR22 Overview
With its relatively high price, what makes this aircraft so popular? Before we get into the finer details, let's first get a sense of the aircraft's overall make.
Manufactured by Cirrus Aircraft since 2001, this series has had several models produced over the years, with over 6,149 units built (a very successful number in the aviation industry), making up approximately 30% of the piston aircraft market.
Increased demand in recent years has propelled Cirrus to the top spot in the general aviation market, unseating the Cessna 172 from its long-held position with the number of units sold per year.
The Cirrus SR22 is a fixed-wing, single piston engine aircraft. It has a passenger capacity of four to five people and is ideally made for personal and business use.
It features a cantilever low-wing design and fixed landing gear. With a more powerful engine, a larger wing size, and higher fuel carrying capacity compared to its predecessor.
A unique feature of the Cirrus that drew it into the limelight is its emergency parachute system (something that we will look into later). Its advanced technology and the fact that it is the only aircraft within its class that features side yoke flight controls.
With the target market in mind, this aircraft is more centered on comfort and safety. But as you will see from the figures, its performance is not at all disappointing, and its sleek design is quite noticeable on the ramp.
Now that we have a feel of what this piece of beauty has to offer. Let us now get into the specifics and look at the numbers.
Cirrus SR22 Specifications
The Cirrus SR22, like other aircraft, comes in various variants. This distinction is either occasioned by advancement in its features or simply tailored to cater to a different audience.
For consistency purposes in this segment, we shall focus on the standard variant of the SR22.
The SR22 also features a turbocharged version on some of its models. So if you want to fly higher and faster (advantages of the increased engine power), the turbocharged version could be something to consider.
Now that we’ve looked at the numbers. Let’s pause and go back for a minute to understand how this aircraft has become so successful.
The History and Success of The Cirrus SR22
Success of the prior Cirrus SR20 did not stop the aircraft manufacturer from producing a more powerful, refined, and capable aircraft.
The first Cirrus debuted with the Continental IO-550-N, 310 hp, nose-mounted piston engine. Featuring an Avidyne Entegra flight display instead of the traditional flight instruments, made the Cirrus SR22 achieved a milestone of having a fully integrated glass cockpit for avionics. The first aircraft in this class to feature a glass cockpit.
The second generation of the SR22 (Cirrus SR22 G2), was later introduced in 2014, it featured a series of improvements. Among these upgrades, the fuselage was redesigned to have better access points for maintenance.
The engine mountings were increased from the four-point mounts it initially had to a six-point mount. This improved the engine’s stability resulting in reduced engine vibrations.
The interior also had an upgrade where the shoulder harnesses on the front seats were fitted with airbags as an increased safety feature.
In 2006, the Cirrus further underwent an upgrade with the introduction of a turbocharged model into the market, the Cirrus SR22 G2 Turbo. It featured twin turbo normalizers, twin intercoolers, and an in-built oxygen system.
This upgrade meant an increase in the overall aircraft weight, reducing the aircraft’s useful load. On the flip side, this meant an increase in cruising speeds, raising it to 211 knots and a top speed of 219 knots. The service ceiling was also raised to 25,000 feet (7,600 m).
2017 marked the introduction of the third generation series, the Cirrus SR22 G3, which came with a series of changes and upgrades. The most noticeable improvements were on the wing section.
A longer, lighter, and stronger internal spar built from carbon fiber, allowed more room for larger fuel tanks to be fitted, increasing the fuel carrying capacity from 81 gallons (310 L) to 92 gallons (350 L). This had a resulting longer range for the aircraft.
Also, as a result of the lighter materials used for the spars brought about an interesting improvement.
The wing’s overall weight was able to be reduced by 66 pounds (30 kg), which meant that the increase in fuel carrying capacity and the resulting improved range never came at the compromise of increasing the overall weight.
The wing’s structure was also redesigned to feature an increased dihedral angle, greatly improving the aircraft’s stability and its quality of flying. This improvement was so great that it allowed the manufacturer to eliminate the interconnect between the rudder and aileron.
The landing gears were also redesigned and made taller to improve prop clearance. And in the interior section, additional airbags were added to all the seat shoulder harnesses.
In 2010, the turbocharged version was upgraded and named the SR22T. Featuring improvements such as a more powerful Continental TSIO-550-K piston engine, with a 315 horsepower output, low compression pistons (7.5:1 compression ratio), and the capability of using lower octane fuel.
The cruising speed in this upgrade was also increased to 214 knots. Though the service ceiling was maintained at 25,000 feet.
2013 saw the debut of the fourth generation model, dubbed the Cirrus SR22 G5, and its turbo version, Cirrus SR22T G5.
This generation saw a 200 pound (91 kg) increase in its maximum takeoff weight. And an increased limit on the speeds at which the flaps could be deployed. The CAPS (Cirrus Airframe Parachute System) was also improved to cater to the increase in weight.
The company later introduced its latest variant of the SR22, the Cirrus SR22 G6 in 2017 with major improvements in its technology and avionics.
Further upgrades to this generation saw it installed with a new mobile app called the Cirrus IQ that gives remote aircraft data. The airframe has also been improved to reduce the overall drag, leading to an increase in fuel efficiency and an increase in the maximum cruising speeds by 9 knots.
The Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS)
The CAPS is the most notable feature of the Cirrus aircraft. It was designed to be the first of its kind whole aircraft parachute system, installed in an aircraft as an extra safety feature.
Its idea came about after the co-founder of Cirrus Aircraft Alan Klapmeier, after surviving a mid-air aircraft collision that ripped off most of his airplane’s wing, including part of the aileron, claiming the life of the other aircraft’s pilot.
This incident inspired the implementation of a safety device that could give pilots and everyone on board a way out of bad situations with minimum casualties.
The engineering team began work on developing CAPS in the mid-90s, and by 1998, the first test of this system was underway.
It was rolled out in the Cirrus SR20 as a standard feature, making it the first ever general aviation aircraft to be fitted with a parachute system.
The Cirrus parachute system was put into real-life action for the first time in 2002 during an emergency situation at Lewisville, Texas, where it resulted in the pilot who was operating a Cirrus SR22 at the time surviving without any major injuries.
So how does the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System work?
Housed in the aft section of the aircraft, the parachute system is packed together with a small rocket. By pulling on a lever inside the cockpit, the pilot activates the rocket, launching it behind the aircraft and with it pulling the parachute system out of its housing.
The canopy is deployed within seconds and the aircraft floats to the ground.
The CAPS was later upgraded from the pyrotechnic-based rocket ignition to electronic ignition, and the parachute canopy was made wider, with a more powerful rocket to cater to the increased takeoff weight that later upgrades of the SR22 featured.
Enabling the parachute to be deployed at an increased aircraft speed of 140 knots, up from the previous 133 knots.
Now that we have a deeper understanding let us see the amount you’ll need to part with for you to own this aircraft.
What Is the Cost of the Cirrus SR22?
Let's be honest. I could go on and on about the specifications of this airplane (not that they aren't significant), but in the end, it all comes down to one thing that’s of major concern. Price!
Everyone knows that the price of something doesn't just depend on how much it costs to buy. Additional expenses will always be incurred, such as operational and maintenance costs, insurance, etc.
But it's interesting that even though most people know this, they overlook the other factors and mostly consider the buying price to determine their budgets when the important part is what happens after the buy.
The cost of an airplane is split into two categories: fixed costs and variable costs. And this is what will decide how much your budget will be.
Fixed costs will remain the same as long as you have ownership of the airplane. It doesn’t matter if you have it parked or putting in a few flight hours daily.
While, variable costs will fluctuate depending on use, repairs, maintenance, or personal upgrades and alterations.
So how much does it cost to own an SR22?
Cost of Buying a Cirrus SR22
Going into the figures, the buying price of the Cirrus SR22 will depend on your preference. Either if you are in the market for a used one or want it delivered brand new from the dealership.
Also, additional features such as air conditioning, ice protection, technological features, and other aesthetics will increase the price.
A new Cirrus SR22 straight from the manufacturer will average a base price of $722,900 to $827,900, depending on the model. With the extra features included, the purchasing price can go upwards of $900,000, if you add all the bells and whistles so to speak to their most expensive model, it can even set you back more than $1 million.
It's up to the buyer to decide if they want to enjoy the premium feel of this aircraft or have it delivered in its stock version. But if you have that extra money, there's no reason not to spend it. These aren't just extras for your comfort, as some of these features will change your flying experience.
Another extra advantage of digging deeper into your pockets is the fact that you can take advantage of the warranty and, in some cases, a paid maintenance package, which would greatly reduce your annual maintenance costs.
The price of the Cirrus SR22 is a bit on the higher side. If these prices are out of your budget, there is always the option to go for a pre-owned model.
With the large number of units produced by Cirrus and its popularity in the industry. The used market for the Cirrus SR22 series is big.
You can easily get great deals out there, with prices as low as $229,900 to $491,158 or higher, depending on the model, age, extra features, and flight hours that the aircraft has.
As much as you will have to compromise on the feeling of owning a brand new aircraft. Getting a pre-owned Cirrus is still a viable option, with some out there in very good condition that you might not be able to tell the difference.
And with the option of financing available, you can ease the burden of payment by spreading it over a period, but you will have to consider the interest which will count into your annual budget.
The Cost of Maintaining a Cirrus SR22
As stated earlier, ownership of an aircraft doesn’t stop at the purchase price. Your choice to own one should depend on your ability to maintain it.
Costs such as fuel, annual inspections, insurance, hangar space, repairs, and maintenance will always be there as long as you own an airplane.
It is only sensible to consider your budget.
Who would want to spend all that money on such an investment only to keep it on the ground?
The cost of maintaining a Cirrus SR22 (depending on the model and use) averages at approximately $71,849 per year.
Breaking this figure down to get a deeper understanding. We’ll divide the costs into fixed and variable costs.
These costs have to be covered whether you fly or not.
Considering if you don’t own a hanger, the cost of renting one will depend on the type of hanger, and the area that you are in. The renting costs will average about $4,500 per year.
Owner insurance costs will also come to around $4,000 per year depending on the type of cover.
An annual inspection fee which will cover the basic inspections for the engine, airframe, and propeller, plus labor and cost of parts used for corrective maintenance will average at around $5,000 per year.
The CAPS also has to undergo maintenance. Parachute repacking and rotor motor maintenance need to be done after every 10 years. In addition to this, the line cutters need to be replaced after every six years. If we break down these costs and convert them to an annual rate, the figure will come to about $1,800 per year.
Summarizing our fixed costs:
These figures vary depending on several factors.
Taking the popular variable costs into account. The biggest expense will be fuel.
Considering the average fuel price for AvGas to be around $7.25 per gallon (though prices will vary) this aircraft will have a burn rate of approximately 14 gallons per liter. The total fuel cost will translate to $45,675 per year based on an annual flight time of 450 hours.
An oil change will be at about $6 per liter which will bring our annual expense to about $1,080 per year.
The Cirrus SR22 requires an engine overhaul to be done after every 2,000 flight hours. Expenses for engine overhaul, if considered on an annual basis, will come to about $4,090 per year.
Depending on the pilot, there are subscriptions useful during flying, though not a standard requirement. They assist in accessing various flying information that helps in making decisions. These subscriptions are either made monthly or yearly.
Accounting for the popular basic subscriptions, the total costs will come to about $1,704 per year.
Unexpected repairs, unscheduled maintenance, cost of parts to be replaced, and aircraft cleaning will also contribute to the annual budget. Though, these costs are very difficult to determine, as they will vary for the same aircraft from year to year. But taking an average figure we can set the cost at an average of $4,000 per year.
Summarizing our variable costs:
These figures are not standard for every owner. The cost for different items varies depending on a lot of factors. The figures are just to give us a rough idea of what to expect in terms of owning and operating the Cirrus SR22.
For example, the cost of fuel is different depending on the region that you are in. Also in that line, depending on how and where you fly (at high or low altitude, in different temperatures, and depending on the power setting) will determine your rate of fuel consumption.
Insurance charges, hanger expenses, and spare part prices, to name but a few, will also vary on the amount you can negotiate, these fluctuating costs should be considered on an individual basis.
Owning and operating this aircraft is generally on the higher side compared to its peers. But if you can spend this much, the performance and features are worth every dime.