Last month I accepted the opportunity to attend an event at Seattle's museum of flight with the CEO of Cirrus.
From a business perspective this was a fascinating story of two brothers fresh out of college that decided to build a better plane. CEO Dale Klapmeier took us from their first headquarters to the their current project, the single engine jet. But while I listened, I gained some great insight and realized that the Cirrus is not the plane for me.
Let's back up a bit. I wanted a Cirrus because I wasn't flying my A330 enough and thought what better way than to fly a glass plane with a stick. When I looked at the price I had a bit of sticker shock with a $700,000 price tag. However, the dream did not diminish. Until I experienced an epiphany.
This plane was designed for passengers, and not for pilots. Dale said his wife was concerned because she didn't know where she was going, so they installed instruments with a map. A time to destination message and how many hours of fuel on board. Great idea. Then also they installed a rocket with a parachute. The numbers were 54 shoot deployments and 94 lives saved, to date. But the reason the Cirrus has a parachute is that it's not fully spin certified.
While we don't train spins today, I still believe that a plane should have performance to get out of one. And then there was the pride and joy button. The blue button that says: LVL. They call this the timeout switch and recommend before you deploy the parachute, press the button, give the plane to the autopilot and see it the automation can regain control (because the pilot lost it).
Well... here's the deal. I think that we need to teach pilots to fly their planes, not have a timeout bailout option. I have to ask why are pilots losing control of their plane creating a need to bail? Well... I didn't ask because I did not want to turn the questions into a challenging debate. But when I spoke to Dale afterward, he was a bit touchy about the automation issue. "Why would anyone want to fly a plane without out it?"
And then there was their jet, the Vision, that I fell in love with for a price of $2 million. Unfortunately that V-tail has a wobble. But... if you turn on the autopilot there is a dampener to minimize it. Yet another plane you must fly with the automation.
A Chinese company purchased Cirrus two years ago and they are looking forward to sales oversea that will justify building a factory in China. For now, Cirrus owned by China is built in Duluth.
During the discussion someone asked how we were going to increase the number of pilots. Dale responded without answering the question, because I don't think a $700,000 automated plane is something that will inspire a passion for aviation. For a beginning trainer, this is not it. One day I may own a Cirrus, but it will not be to fly and increase my skills. It will be for a mission of destination.
With all this said, Cirrus has a market.
This is the plane that every doctor, attorney, or CEO who have a pilots license should own, with a purpose to get from point A to B, and do not spend a lot of time focusing on flying as they are focusing on the rest of their life. The automation creates great situational awareness, and if you get in trouble, you fire your rocket and deploy the chute.
The inspiration, dedication and commitment the two young men that set out to create a plane is amazing. They proved that anything is possible. They built it, held together when times were tough and the sold the company. What greater success is that? The presentation was fascinating and I'm very glad I attended.
Is a Cirrus the plane for you?
Enjoy the Journey!
This makes me go bipolar... Happy and sad.ReplyDelete
I'm in accordance to what you said.
Happy and Sad... I get that. For me too. I was thinking it might be the best plane if I'm not flying... but for my needs and desires to keep my flying skills up, it's not the plane for me.Delete
I disagree as this is the safest aircraft at the moment.ReplyDelete
The chute is equivelent to the ejector seat in militery jets.
I have flown this aircraft and only wish I had the money to buy one.
Unless one is into aerobatics fighting a spin is not that important when there is a safety component there. A lot of militery pilots eject when they find themselves in a flat spin.
I hope one day they could figure out how to fix chutes to commercial aircraft.
Although it may not be the best trainer, it still takes a lot skill to fly it.
Besides the automation can be turned off, although I don't see why
Thank you so much for the comment Kevin. I know how much you love the chute. I'm not sold on buying from a Chinese corporation. But the design "to" fly with the automation is an interesting concept that the airlines are trying to move away from as we have seen the results.Delete
The real question is what is your mission when you fly. This is absolutely the safest plane for those who don't fly often. May be the safest for me because I don't due to the nature of the job.
But I guess the question is what we do with our flying. To me, small planes are to have fun, learn how to fly and gain skills. I'm looking at this from a perspective of we are losing flying skills as a collective group. We need to do something to change that.
But, this is a great plane that can save someone who gets into trouble. Do you know why 54 chutes have blown? The accidents behind them? I would love to read why this needed to happen.
Thanks again for your comment! If you want to write a post on behalf of the Cirrus I will post. :)
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Lol. Clayton, this is what is happening in our industry. We need to move away from the autopilot issue. And I too would love to fly the Cirrus... but not for the reason I originally thought I was going to.. increase skills. It's just not there.Delete
Very interesting, Karlene... I hadn't thought about all of this. I was in the same boat as you, seeing a Cirrus as my dream plane. I'm starting to re-think that out of a purely piloting mindset. It is a great plane, but is it great for aviators? Hmm.. not so sure.ReplyDelete
Thanks for the comment Swayne, It's always good to figure out the essence of our dreams before we make them a reality!Delete
I completely agree with your assessment Karlene, I'd want to fly a pilot's airplane. You are right, the Cirrus would be great for people who would love automation or low timers or those with less skills but have the money for toys. Some of those like you've mentioned would be safer losing control and deploying the chute than pranging Bonanzas and Mooneys, like in the past.ReplyDelete
I have also been asked this question about having a parachute as to why anyone would want to fly without one. My answer is stock: "Because I am a trained professional pilot, not a parachutist". I'd rather fly the airplane all the way down in full control.
The Aircraft is so beautiful, it is like a luxury car that can fly but if someone wants to train, I'd still want to stick the student in a C172 or better still, a stick and rudder tail dragger like a Super Cub. Way more fun for a pilot who wants to fly and not looking to bail out.
It's nice to have luxury and beauty, but those stick and rudder skills are the most important. I'm with you... we need to fly our planes. Thank you so much for the great comment.Delete
It's a great airplane for traveling, but I don't think it's a great trainer for student pilots because it's way too easy to fly. Student won't learn the basic stick and rudder skills well in a Cirrus.ReplyDelete
Yes, I agree for sure. I'm hearing they are buying them at flight schools... not sure if this is a good idea. Thanks so much for your comment Kai!Delete
It's one of those planes that I think is absolutely gorgeous and (when you are actually doing the flying) is a joy to fly. But if I owned one I think I would get tired of its little quirks fairly quickly, like all the automation - you know how I feel about that! It's basically a Porsche. All the bells and whistles are great for some people, but I don't want to take a backseat to the plane's computer.ReplyDelete
Hi Christine, I agree... no backseat pilots. It would be great for cross country on a mission. But... for learning, and playing and having fun... I'm on board with you.Delete
Ouch! You have found the heart of this ongoing debate. I've been flamed in other forums for my thoughts, but I must agree with your central point, read be me as: '...if one is going to fly, then FLY.' Don't rely on automation or GPS glass for navigation, but learn how to do it yourself. Automation and GPS navigation are fine, but have and maintain the skills necessary to it yourself, when necessary; eventually, something will fail. Punching the timer and then pulling the rip-cord is not flying. Airplanes will continue to kill wealthy surgeons and lawyers. (Is this bad?) They give 110% when practicing on behalf of their clients, but cannot manage that degree of effort/skill when flying themselves from A to B? Nuts! If one is going to fly, do so with a professional level of skill and attention, every time! I apologize for the rant, Karlene, but safety is a bit more than an academic theory. And yes, I have ongoing concerns (empathy?) for the many professionals in shoes like yours; well trained and experienced professionals, but who, for a variety of reasons to not achieve enough stick time to maintain basic skills at a professional level. We have to do a better job or, sooner or later we will pay a price that no one really understands. -CReplyDelete
C, you can rant at any time. I think the problem is the Cirrus issue at the airline level... even those professionals who do have stick time, really have autopilot time. We're trying to change this and encourage more hand flying. But the opportunities to do so are few. I had to smile at the ... is it bad that airplanes kill doctors and attorneys? Yes, that's bad! They're crashing a perfectly good airplane.Delete
Hopefully we'll find the answer soon.
Thank you so much for your comment!
The hoary OWT about spins needs to be put to rest decisively. Cirrus is fully spinnable and is in fact certified for it in locales where it's required, such as European Union.ReplyDelete
But it wasn't fully certified in the US, and that's a bit of a concern. But there is a parachute, so nobody should die if they fire the rocket. Thank you for the added information!Delete
Sorry but I prefer a Beech Bonanza G36 or a Baron G58 for the twin, but for good old stick and rudder, I will take a tail dragger like a Champ, without the glass. As for the Cirrus, I have to agree with Kai, its way too easy to fly.ReplyDelete
I'm thinking about a Bonanza. But an A36. And thus it's a good plane for those who might need a bit of easy. Thanks for the comment!Delete
The A36 is a sweet airplane but the factory air is a bit to be desired in a hot climate, for a 100 dollar burger, its really not a toy but then again for comfort and being quick, it's really great.Delete
Ahh... thanks! I have family in Bend... 1 mile from the airport so I could fly down there with ease. And... want to fly it for Angel Flight West. And... fly to airshows. So I think it will fit my needs. But first need to find a hangar for it.Delete
Not sure if your your readers have come across this article, but this same debate happened about ejector seats, now its a standard as are seat belts. Its all about preserving life.ReplyDelete
Flying at any level is dangerous, why not minimize the risk and if automation is not your thing turn it off, but at least the safety factor is still there. Its your life guys. Safe flying
Sorry if I doubled up on previous.
Thanks Kevin for this comment and link. Cirrus wrote a great article on behalf of their product. And preserving life is a good thing. When the pilot is unable to fly, and they get in trouble they fire the chute. No worries on doubling up. I appreciate the feedback!ReplyDelete