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Mon, Jun 11, 2007

Gee... The G3 Is Another Step In The Right Direction (Part Three)

Another Step In A Very Evolutionary Program

Flight Test Report and Analysis by ANN Editor-In-Chief Jim Campbell

Part of the true difficulty I'm having these days in publishing a flight test analysis is distinguishing those properties and capabilities that are (in large part) hard to  quantify without a great deal of subjectivity. It's not enough to conclude that an aircraft exhibits a good or bad characteristic... it has to be distinguished in terms of mission requirements, pilot experience, real-world needs, and (finally) compared to other aircraft competing for a pilot's attention in this overly talented GA market.

This is not like the good days... in which there were a number of good and not-so-good characteristics to describe the popular aircraft of the time... no, in this day and age, the aircraft offered to the flying public are such a cut above what we saw a few years ago, that had one had a time machine able to look forward, one could not be trusted to believe what was coming. Today's GA birds are that GOOD... and consistently so.

So... in evaluating the newest breed of Cirrus against its competition (and itself), we can't help but be impressed and thankful that the industry has progressed this far. Not only that, it has done well in an ever-evolving market that is finally giving the GA pilot unheard-of capabilities and performance -- in terms of what they used to have to settle for. These are good times for GA aircraft buyers. 

So... in evaluating the Cirrus G3, we've decided to offer a direct comparison in order to get to the bottom of what this aircraft represents -- and we've decided to compare it to the toughest competition it may face... the Cirrus G2 series.

From the terrestrial standpoint, there is little to distinguish the G3 from its forebears, in terms of overall differences. I did appreciate the fact that the tiedown points have moved toward the tips a bit more, making it easier to access them and that much easier for the average tie-down ropes to reach them, to boot. All normal cockpit chores share similarities with those used in the past, though the constant evolution in cockpit decor and layout continues to be appreciated and impressive to those who get to travel inside. Despite the taller, narrower gear, there is no downside to the new gear geometry. While the turning radius, physically, is a mite tighter than the old one, the free-castering nose allowed for aggressively tight turns to start with and excellent ramp maneuverability -- so no major issues there. The slightly higher stance seems to ride just a tad more solidly when dealing with less than even surfaces, and the additional prop clearance has to be a reassurance when dealing with some of this country's declining airport infrastructure.

Lining up on the active runway at Duluth, I deliberately ignored the numbers for a bit in order to simply feel out the aircraft's inherent abilities. While the G3 offers excellent pitch authority early in the takeoff roll (about the time the airspeed gets active, the tail makes itself known), there is little question that a little more pitch persuasion is required for the slightly more nose-heavy G3.... especially the Turbo. It's not obnoxious or difficult, just a tad more demanding in that department, to the tune of a few more pounds of aft pitch pressures to achieve the desired results at liftoff and in initial climb.

Performance in the takeoff profile remains outstanding... with the G3 proving that it can meet or exceed the POH 's promises. With two aboard, over 70 degrees on the deck and nearly full fuel, the G3 had no problem exceeding the published 1400 fpm climb rate by several hundred feet through the first few thousand feet of our climb profile when I kept to best climb numbers.

Initial control investigations revealed that this bird has definitely been the recipient of some TLC... while the Cirri that preceded the G3 were no slouches on the stability and control department, the enhanced dihedral of the wing and the lack of the mechanical interconnect has freed up roll control in some delightful ways. The affect is slightly less demanding, somewhat more responsive, and presents an even more balanced feel than its forebears. In other words... it's just more fun to fly. I truly enjoyed the enhanced rolling authority and the balanced feel presented by an even more effortless coordinated turn. I'm not knocking the old system, I'm simply expressing a preference for this one... it's a little bit more lively and when dove-tailed with the new wing (especially the enhanced dihedral effect), the overall profile is both agile, as well as quite stable.

Pitch presents itself as slightly heavier in overall tone as well as slightly nose-heavier throughout the envelope... particularly at approach speeds. The G3 version of the SR22, like those before it, boasts an excellent stability profile for a cross-country airplane. Pitch is typified by a very well defined static profile with an attendant dynamic pattern that damps out quickly after 10 and 20 degree, stick-free, displacements from cruise configuration. Short period excitations produce nearly deadbeat corrections and the G3 seems even a little more obedient than previous generations. In other words, pitch stability (once again, like before) seems much like riding a rail. Approach modes are nearly as well-behaved, are slightly better defined than previous generations (especially in terms of dynamic behavior), and demonstrate excellent speed stability throughout normal approach ranges.

Overall control pressures (like before) vary from somewhat light to the high side of moderate, but never quite 'heavy' until you have to wrestle it around at the limits of the control envelope--then it gets a bit laborious. Lateral stability is very well-defined (and boy, can you pick up a wingtip with a rudder, now -- even more acutely than before), spiral properties are surprisingly mild-mannered, and the dutch roll properties damp out even quicker than before. As a result, this bird rides "the bumps" quite solidly and with little attitude displacement throughout a wide range of sloppy air. Roll pressures are slightly lighter and continue to lighten up perceptibly (but in proper proportion) in slow flight mode. The now unencumbered rudder continues to meld well with this airframe…especially when it slows down… small (and very lightly pressured) boots of rudder produce excellent and agile response in approach ranges that will be just about perfect for modest corrections in holding to a localizer.

The lack of mechanical coupling doesn't create a whole lot of changes in overall handling, but the feel is lighter, somewhat more agile and even more obedient, due to the fact that yaw/roll is now a mix fully designated by the P.I.C. Like before, when flying in the 80/85-110/115 kt range (just a mite faster than the older birds due to the new pitch profile)… it makes easy work of wind corrections and the occasional brain fades that occur when fixating on the glideslope instead of the localizer. I must note that the Turbo birds, with a slightly more nose-heavy propensity, will be a bit more easily maneuvered if the pilots tack on about 5 knots, and a little more power, to all their former bug speeds... this gives the elevator a little more oomph in the low range and decreases aft stick pressures just enough to ease the chore of approaching at low speed.

To Be Continued...


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