Flight Test

First flight in a £1m+ G7 Cirrus SR22

Pay something north of $1,000,000 and you’ll get yourself the very latest Generation 7 Cirrus SR22. There’s been a significant change to the avionics, a whole new interior and some great additional upgrades…

The very first Cirrus delivery, a 200hp SR20, took place in 1999. And now, 25 years and nearly 10,000 aircraft later, Cirrus has announced its latest and greatest. The G7 (Generation 7). The big change that justifies the new ‘Generation’ moniker is the touch screen avionics, but there’s plenty more… 

We were lucky enough to get an early (but remote) peek when Ivy McIver, director of the SR product line, showed us around the new features during a video call from the company’s secret hangar in Knoxville Tennessee.

But It wasn’t long before Ivy made it to the UK with a shiny G7 and a couple of free days so that we could experience the upgrades for ourselves.

The plan had been to get together with Thomas Borchert from Germany’s fliegermagazin, and head off for a couple of days on a short European flying adventure with Ivy and her shiny G7. What could possibly go wrong? Storm Isha and her closely related weather mate storm Jocelyn. That’s what. 

To cut the long story of this adventure’s difficult birth short, Thomas’ flight to the UK went around as Storm Isha met R27 at Heathrow.

Rather than make another approach, the aircraft took Thomas all the way back to Hamburg. Ivy and I jumped in an Uber and fought our way through, under and around fallen trees held up by snagged power lines, arriving at the recently opened Landing hotel at Biggin Hill, 10 minutes before last food orders in the restaurant.

As an aside, it’s a great airport hotel, although I might not have said that when the extra loud (with real) bells and whistles fire alarm went off in the middle of the night thanks to a local power outage (yup, thanks again, Isha). 

Somehow, the following morning Thomas turned up at the hotel just in time to order the Full English. We sat pondering the challenge of getting to Europe while being chased through the remnants of Storm Isha by her pal Jocelyn. Eventually we settled on our first landing being in Le Touquet, thanks to easy customs requirements and the fact that we could get there in one of the short weather windows…

The various flight plan and paperwork delays gave us a chance to take a closer look at the new G7.

‘Our’ aircraft was a normally aspirated SR22 GTS complete with Air Conditioning (not needed in January!) Cirrus Global Connect,

Features include built in oxygen, a Hartzell three-bladed composite prop and Flight Into Known Icing (FIKI) equipped as flown, you’d have to write a cheque for $1,125,000 excluding taxes and delivery, so not quite twice the price of the entry level SR20, which lists at $621,900.

SR22 G7 exterior
'Our' aeroplane, but definitely not our weather

From the outside it looks pretty much identical to the SR22 G6, and although there are some small changes to things like door handles, you’d be hard pushed to spot them.

Garmin’s Perspective Touch + dominates

They may have had to change something like 4,000 engineering drawings to go from G6 to G7, but pretty much all of the changes you are going to see, touch or use are on the inside, and the biggest and most obvious of these is the replacement of the Garmin Perspective avionics with a two screen installation of Garmin’s Perspective Touch+ and their two landscape controllers, the same system that you’ll find in the SF50 Vision Jet, except its two screens have three controllers rather than the two in the SRs.

Sitting in the aircraft, it’s immediately obvious that the whole interior has had a makeover. Although the screens are larger (they’re available in 12in or 14in versions), they seem to take up less space with not only a better view over the top of them, but seemingly more room underneath them too.

Incidentally, that’s where you will find the new and much-improved cup holders. I know that’s a small thing on a million dollar-plus aeroplane, but we’d definitely be poking fun at Cirrus had it not taken the opportunity to make them more robust.

There’s now a thin surfboard-like feature running along the ceiling – it’s where you’ll find the built in O2 ports, lights and the CAPS handle which is now coverless. 

The centre arm rest / console has been redesigned with cable management in mind, and rear seat passengers now get their own place to plug in and charge phones rather than sharing with those upfront.

Just ahead of the arm rest thingamajig, right where the fuel cock used to be, you’ll find… the fuel cock! Except now, it’s hidden under a cover, with the aeroplane and a small motor changing tanks for you every five gallons.

You can of course lift the lid and change it manually, but what you can’t do is watch the system do its stuff. Think fuel management with a hint of Schrödinger. Low-wing pilots will marvel at the fact that you don’t have to change tanks, while us high-wing pilots will wonder what all the fuss is about.

The side stick, or side yoke if you prefer, has had a bit of a makeover to make it more Vision Jet like, but apart from the aesthetics, it now has haptic feedback as part of the stall warning system, one more clue to the fact that things are about to go in an unintended direction if you don’t take any corrective action (the haptic system is disabled under 200ft). There are a few other changes, but with the wind howling it’s time to drag the aeroplane out of the hangar and get going. 

Damn, just when I thought I’d be writing about the flight there’s another change that I need to tell you about. There is a key with the aircraft, but you only use it if you need to disable the starter (there’s a selector down by your right ankle).

The rest of the time you just use the key fob to lock and unlock the aeroplane, just the same as cars started doing in 1982 (fun fact – first to market with the innovation was the Renault Fuego!). Right, now that’s underway let’s get the engine started and the flight underway. 

Power on and engine primed, there’s a circular dial that sets mags to both and a push button in the middle that starts the engine. The new lithium battery supplies more cranking power for less weight, and we’re soon ticking off items and working our way through the checklists with the helpful control wheel-come-click-to-accept button. 

The screens are large, sharp and bright and mostly controlled via the two touchscreen controllers.

This is more intuitive than the previous avionics, particularly if you have experience with Garmin’s GTN series, but make no mistake if you want to get the best from the avionics and the aeroplane, time invested in training and practice will reward you generously. Skip that step and there’s a good chance that the aeroplane will arrive before you do, and nobody wants that. 

Ivy loaded the route, including the taxi clearance and we made our way to the runway. Had we opened both of the doors and cut the engine, I’m pretty sure we would have got to Vne before arriving at the holding point. It was a bit breezy. 

This was my leg, and as you will have guessed thanks to 310hp and Isha, it didn’t take long to get into the air, and not much longer to start to get thrown around in turbulence.

Things were busy for a minute. It had been a while since I’d flown a Cirrus, a while since I’d used the same avionics in the SF50, and a long, long time since I’d ‘enjoyed’ similar turbulence. Despite all of that, and the relatively rapid frequency changes, the touchscreen controllers gave no issues whatsoever.

I’m used to using the GTN750 in turbulence, and found that resting my fingers on the bezel while dialling up various frequencies, codes and changes of waypoints was genuinely trouble free. 

At altitude it was still turbulent, but the high-wing loading helped a lot, and before long we were watching the waves break off Boulogne and talking to Le Touquet where we’d be their only aeroplane customer of the day.

Things got a bit sporting as we descended into the circuit, the wind was 20kt something or other straight across and I was very happy to let Ivy have the landing. I’d have been happy to have a go, but who wants to run the risk of brisling the only example of a new $1m aeroplane in Europe, never mind the fact that it had a diary full of sales demos once we’d had our more adventurous than initially planned adventure?

Studying aviation weather

Like all good pilots we then spent hours at the airport studying European weather, freezing levels and possible destinations that fitted with our need to be back at Hamburg the following day to catch various commercial flights. 

Our desire to explore, our sense of adventure and our need to discover almost regardless of the conditions lead us to conclude that a local flight for Thomas and a night in Le Touquet was the right answer.

I jumped in the back, Thomas fired up and we left a blustery Le Touquet for a mooch around the tumble dryer that was the north of France. We dodged heavy showers, we changed levels looking for smoother air and we patrolled the coastline.

Apart from a French Customs helicopter nobody else was out and about, and when we’d had enough we called Le Touquet only to be told that its runway was out of crosswind limits. I’ve never heard that before, and as another wall of water was making its way to the airfield we decided that some more patrolling was in order while we wondered how easy it would be to get a taxi back to Le Touquet.

Actually looks quite calm. It wasn't…

The wind subsided enough for Le Touquet ATCO not to say the ‘out of limit’ words again. Ivy took the controls, pulled off a cracking landing and we all agreed that it was time to put the aircraft to bed and seek out a bar. 

I’ve been to Le Touquet countless times and figured that some cheap rooms in the newly renovated Westminster were on the cards. However, it, along with many of the restaurants, were closed for the winter period.

Happily there’s a new Ibis, Mercure and Tribe complex within easy walking distance of the airport. Great convenient value and surprisingly busy for reasons that we never figured out. Thomas played a blinder and found both a restaurant in town that was open on a Monday night – and a taxi! The three of us had a great meal at Les Petites Cocottes, which is now on my highly recommended Le Touquet list. 

Tuesday’s breakfast was once again punctuated by weather discussions. The wind had dropped significantly but so had the cloud base. Had you climbed up a short ladder you might have called it fog, but it was due to clear.

Thanks to some stuff that had cropped up back in the UK I was keen to try to get to Hamburg in time to change my flight for the earlier BA departure (jeez, BA’s IT tech is awful), so we planned and fuelled for an IFR flight to Hamburg with Thomas and Ivy up front. 

The flight was gloriously uneventful. We were in cloud at about 600ft and popped out at about FL070. There was a little light icing in the forecast, so we ran the TKS and had no issues. It was a flight that allowed the SR22 to shine, we were in smooth air, between cloud layers and making good progress travelling across Europe.

This is the kind of flying that the SR series takes in its stride. It’s what it excels at (the turbocharged version would have been even better with options for a much higher cruise). 

No twisted knickers

Before long we were talking to Hamburg and being vectored for the ILS with a request to keep up speed for the following Airbus or Boeing.

After guiding us to GA parking the follow-me-driver dropped me at the passenger terminal, while Thomas and Ivy cleared up the bottle of sparkling wine that fell out when we opened the baggage door (it was part of the Sunday night deal at Biggin’s Landing Hotel!).

Hamburg’s a great example of a commercial airport that mixes commercial traffic with GA traffic without getting its knickers in a twist. 

fuel selector
Fuel selector by Schrödinger (OK, it's Andair really)

On paper the G7 changes are worthy but perhaps not too exciting. Three dimensional taxi maps on the screen – well yeah, but most of us don’t fly to airports that are too complex, and looking out of the window usually works.

A side stick with haptic feedback – OK, maybe. Automatic fuel management – not that novel to a high-wing flyer. Better cable management front and rear, a nice storage area under the autopilot controller, that push button start thing and of course the improved cup holders… nice, but enough to justify a new generation rather than a new year model?

After a couple of days in some pretty interesting conditions it’s a resounding ‘yes’ from me. The overall change is significantly greater than the sum of the parts. The previous model, the G6, was and is a great aeroplane, but the G7 takes it up a significant notch. 

Back in Hamburg I checked-in and spent the rest of the afternoon and the entire flight wishing that I was returning in a Cirrus rather than an A320. 

Les Petites Cocottes. is well worth a visit if you’re looking for good food in Le Touquet

• The Landing hotel at Biggin Hill is a pretty good airport hotel



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