Photos Courtesy of Cirrus Aircraft
When you are the only company to offer a single-engine jet in the general aviation industry, what do you do for an encore? You make it go higher, fly farther, be quieter and instill the latest and greatest technology. Cirrus Aircraft achieved each of these in the release of its second-generation Vision Jet known as the “G2.” The latest model comes two years after the first Vision Jet deliveries began in December 2016. With 100 jets now delivered, Cirrus is poised to produce more than 250 in its first five years of production.
As a follow-up to Dianne White’s review of the first-generation Vision Jet (“The Cirrus Vision Jet,” Twin & Turbine, February 2018), we arranged a visit to Knoxville to experience the upgrades specific to the G2. Leading up to the trip, I corresponded with Matt Bergwall, director of the Vision Jet product line. We mapped out two days chockfull of the Cirrus experience including a facility tour, training sessions, in-depth discussions and, of course, an extensive flight.
Matt and I met in Knoxville at the McGhee Tyson Airport (KTYS), which is where Cirrus recently relocated and expanded their customer-facing facilities with an aircraft delivery center, service center and Vision Jet training center (a sensible location as it is within a two flight-hour range of over 1,000 SR aircraft owners). To start things off, we spent two hours giving the Vision Jet a thorough pre-flight as well as discussing the core differences between the G1 and G2 versions.
The Vision Jet exhibits a tall presence and large cabin for its weight class, with a cabin width of 61 inches at its widest section, then tapering to 44 inches aft. But despite its size, the jet was designed to fit in hangars that typically fit the Cirrus SR series – an intentional decision since existing Cirrus owners constitute the majority of the Vision Jet position holders and owners.
Overall, the differences during the exterior portion of the preflight are minimal. Cirrus removed the small vortex generators (Boundary Layer Enhancers) and aileron fence from the wing and lengthened the T-strip on the aft edge of the aileron. If conducting a preflight at night, underwing LED lighting adds a nice ambiance. The extended baggage area is now standard with the G2 providing a total of 27.4 cubic feet of storage with a capacity of 300 pounds. The engine preflight is simple with ease of access to the engine oil level sight glass. The pilot steps up on the left wing to remove or install the engine inlet cover.
The cabin door opens to a wide 2 feet by 4 feet opening with lighted steps. Cirrus has made it easy to move the seats with seat adjustment levers both fore and aft. Any cabin seat can be easily moved or removed without an A&P signing off the change. Simply note the presence or absence for each one when doing weight and balance calculations. With all seats installed, our airplane had a full fuel (296 gallons/2,001 pounds) payload of 394 pounds. Remove the aft child seats and that number increases to 431 pounds.
With the rear seats included, the jet offers a total capacity of five adults and two children. Though the two 90-pound rated child seats are an option, they are almost always selected by buyers. It is obvious Cirrus kept families in mind with their inclusion of latch support for child seats. The seats also now come with bottom cushion storage areas and kangaroo pouches capable of storing small items such as phones.
The G2 has a center console option with tables that fits between the middle row seats. In each seating position, both crew and passengers have convenient storage nooks with intercom, music and USB power ports. The cabin features an optional overhead 22-inch Inflight Entertainment (IFE) display with an HDMI video port on the cabin sidewall. This option could be great for a moving map or entertainment for the passengers.
Up front, the G2 incorporates Mid Continent Instruments and Avionics’ True Blue lithium-ion emergency and main batteries, which offer less weight, integrated heaters and extended service intervals. The heaters virtually eliminate low temperature start limitations. During the cockpit preflight, the operation of the master switches initiates a four-minute activation of the battery heaters, lowering the low temperature battery-only start limitation from 0C to – 40C. Having frequently dealt with cold weather starts with jets in the mountains, I especially appreciate this feature. Between the new batteries and other improvements, the useful load has increased by 50 pounds compared to the G1 Vision Jet (and this is despite adding structures to increase the pressurization differential to 7.1 PSI).
Perhaps one of the most noticeable changes in the cockpit is the incorporation of autothrottle switches on the thrust level console (more on that later). Cirrus also removed the emergency battery switch from the overhead console in the G2 due to updates of the electrical systems.
When the Garmin G3000 avionics powers up, you immediately notice the improved screen resolution – high-quality enough to display sectional, enroute and procedure charts in amazing clarity. The pan and zoom capabilities are also beneficiaries of the new higher speed processors. Cirrus has aptly named the new system “Cirrus Perspective Touch+ by Garmin.” All of the checklists are easily accessible through a control wheel on the switch panel. Acknowledgment of tasks is accomplished by pressing the control wheel.
To start the G2, you simply turn the start knob to run and push the button. While the Williams FJ33-5A has a robust FADEC that protects against hot starts, the pilot still monitors the start process for abnormal conditions. The lithium-ion batteries spin up the engine quickly with a fast charging recovery.
With just a quick check of the systems, we taxied out to the runway. I found the castering nose wheel made steering easy, and the Beringer brakes were smooth.
Our flight plan was to fly from Knoxville (KTYS) to New Orleans Lakefront (KNEW) for lunch, then fly to Tuscaloosa (KTCL) for approaches before heading back to KTYS. The first flight was just under 500 nm, and it was expected we would consume 120 gallons of fuel with a flight time of 1:42 (no wind). By adding 50 gallons for a reserve, this would allow a payload of 1,213 pounds with a Zero Fuel Weight of 4,900 pounds. A two-hour flight would accommodate a 1,010 pound payload.
Once we were cleared for departure, I triggered the TOGA button and set the thrust lever to takeoff position. After a takeoff roll of less than 2,000 feet, I rotated at a Vr of 90 KIAS with an initial climb rate of more than 3,000 fpm. The Vision Jet has two yaw stability systems, Stability Augmentation System (SAS) and the yaw damper. The SAS is active until the yaw damper automatically engages at 400 AGL.
Positive rate of climb, gear up, 115 KIAS, and it was time to retract the flaps. Since this is the first Cirrus with retractable gear, they smartly placed the handle far away from the flaps. I hand flew the jet as we approached our cruise altitude of FL280, with it still climbing close to 1,000 fpm. The Vision Jet is more pitch sensitive than some jets with good feedback. The placement of the side control stick is familiar to SR pilots, however, as expected, it has a higher control force.
The view from the cockpit is outstanding. The slight nose down attitude offers pilots an expansive view. And the laminated windshield design by Lee Aerospace is constructed with a thin gold film between the layers, which reflects 92 percent of UV radiation and 63 percent of solar energy. The impact of this design dramatically improves cockpit comfort.
Leaving Matt in charge, I explored the aft cabin. I found the seats to be comfortable with high-quality craftsmanship evident throughout the cabin. The oversized windows offer an equally impressive panoramic view for passengers. The cabin of the G2 is 3 to 4 dB quieter than the G1. My decibel measurements indicated a noise level around 88 dB, which is 4 to 6 dB less than a Piper Meridian, and up to 10 dB quieter than a TBM 850 at the same altitude. Other jets such as the Eclipse, Citation Mustang and Citation Jet series come in at around 80 dB while the Canadair CRJ regional jet is 85 to 94 dB (depending on seat location). During our flight, I used the Bose ProFlight headset which worked well. G2 passengers would also likely want to use headsets.
Back in the Cockpit
Leveling off at FL280, it was time to check our performance numbers (we opted for FL280 for a higher airspeed on this leg).
Our airspeed showed 314 KTAS/0.528M burning 70 GPH (493 PPH at -41oC). In comparison, a TBM 930 would fly at 315 KTAS and burn 61 GPH. If we flew the G2 at the new FL310 service ceiling, it would provide five percent more range with a slightly lower true airspeed of 309 knots and a fuel burn of 64 GPH.
In the Vision Jet, Cirrus opted for horizontal controllers for the G3000 which makes sense for its design. Modern avionics are extremely reliable, but failures can still occur. I progressively turned off displays and observed the reversionary modes which are automatic. The remaining display reverts to a composite view and Cirrus utilizes one of the controllers for reversionary display of an integrated ADI and HSI.
The visual descent into New Orleans Lakefront (KNEW) was easy, especially with the impressive forward visibility. Despite our high-speed descent, the maximum for the airspace, the jet slowed down easily to approach flap extension speed of 190 KIAS. My rule of thumb in all aircraft is to be at flap speed no later than 10 nm from the FAF.
With the initial flaps extended, it was time to lower the gear which slowed us down to the landing flaps speed of 150 KIAS. The winds were a direct crosswind to Runway 36L, gusting to 25 knots – a perfect test for my first landing in the Vision Jet. Despite turbulence, slight wind shear and strong crosswinds, the jet was easy to land, even above its demonstrated crosswind capability of 16 knots with 100 percent flaps.
After lunch at the airport restaurant, we departed the ramp of Flightline First and headed to Tuscaloosa (KTCL). On this leg, I wanted to evaluate the Vision Jet’s new autothrottle system from departure through an approach (and missed approach) at KTCL.
You have to experience the autothrottle to appreciate how well this feature is integrated into the aircraft. Rotating at a Vr of 90 KIAS, the jet quickly climbed to the 400 AGL altitude for engagement of the autopilot and autothrottle. The autothrottle has two modes: manual and FMS. FMS is the more intelligent mode and will adjust speed for airspace restrictions as well as sophisticated control for holding patterns and approaches. I selected FMS and let it fly our entire profile. Upon reaching KTCL, ATC gave us hold at Brookwood (OKW) for the RNAV RWY 22 approach. Entering the hold and approach was easy with the G3000.
Once entered, the autothrottle adjusted and when we were within three minutes of our hold, slowed the Vision Jet to holding speed. When cleared for the approach, all I needed to do was activate the approach and the autothrottle did the rest. After gear and approach flap extension, the jet slowed down to landing flap speed then Vref. At the Decision Altitude, I pushed the TOGA button and the autothrottle and the autopilot did the rest – setting takeoff thrust and progressing on the missed approach procedure. It could not be simpler.
For 45-degree steep turns, I adjusted the power to 24 percent thrust (N1 70%) which gave me an IAS of 155 knots. With Garmin’s implementation of Electronic Stability Protection (ESP), when you exceed 45 degrees of bank, the autopilot provides a gentle nudge to reduce the bank.
The stall series was a non-event. The jet incorporates an effective stick shaker and pusher, and I was able to recover from a stall in less than 100 feet. Throughout all maneuvers, the jet was easy to handle and not significantly different than other turbines I fly.
To gain a better perspective of the company’s training philosophy and programs, I spent some time reviewing their extensive ground training, including time in the simulator with Cirrus Training Center instructor and TCE, Joe Peterson. Cirrus is dedicated to training pilots to the highest standards in the industry, with over 200 type ratings issued so far.
The simulators offer a realistic deployment of the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS). I had so much fun testing the capability that I actually practiced it four times at various airspeeds. If flying above the 145 KIAS deployment speed, the autopilot pitches the nose up and slows the jet to the target speed.
Following a type rating, Cirrus also offers pilots a comprehensive mentor pilot program to enhance continued training.
In addition to a standard two-year warranty, Cirrus offers the optional Jetstream Plus and Concierge programs with varying terms of coverage. Both include the Williams International Tap Blue engine program, scheduled maintenance and recurrent training. “Plus” owners basically have tip-to-tail coverage, receiving all unscheduled maintenance, normal wear items, database subscriptions, AOG support, weather data (Sirius and Iridium) and enhanced training. Owners can expect to pay $343-$410 per hour depending on the selected program and time period.
How the Jet Compares
Seeing as there are no other single-engine jets in production for direct performance comparison, comparable aircraft (currently in production) based upon weight or speed are the Piper M600 and the TBM 930 turboprops. In general, when comparing aircraft, many factors come into play – operators need to evaluate based upon their specific missions.
On a mission basis alone, the Vision Jet G2 can fly up to 1,200 nm with a 395 pound payload. Or in the case of our 460 nm flight from TYS to NEW – 1,213 pounds. The closest current production competitor, by weight and price, is the Piper M600.
Based on my calculations, on our 460 nm mission, the M600 would burn 30 gallons less fuel, take 12 minutes longer and carry 1,010 pounds. If you extended your budget significantly to include the TBM 930, you would arrive five minutes earlier, burn 100 gallons of Jet-A and carry approximately 190 additional pounds.
But while Cirrus could have very well designed a turboprop, they smartly chose to meet the market’s demand for a single-engine jet – and their sales clearly show it was a good move. They are in a class of their own and judging by their record, we can expect Cirrus to continue evolving their latest aircraft.