By Reggie Paulk
As a major sponsor of Patty Wagstaff, Cirrus Design has the privilege of having her as a guest of honor at their events. Such was the case on June 6, as Wagstaff was present for the “See It” tour unveiling the new Cirrus Perspective avionics package by Garmin.
Cirrus Design is an airplane company on a different mission than most other aircraft companies before it. From day one, occupant safety has been the main priority of the company, and its innovations reflect that purpose. It has pioneered the use of a whole airframe parachute system called the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System, or CAPS. An easily accessible handle over the passenger compartment allows anyone in the aircraft to deploy the parachute. A recent incident involving the incapacitation of the pilot proved the parachute’s value as the pilot’s son pulled the handle and saved the rest of the occupants from certain peril.
Parachutes are avenues of last resort, and Cirrus is equipping its pilots with tools to help make those deployments a much less likely occurrence. The Cirrus Perspective avionics package offered on new SR22 aircraft brings capabilities into the cockpit that seemed unimaginable just a few short years ago. The Perspective has “The Little Blue Button.” Cirrus Design has revolutionized the industry once again with something so profound it deserves special mention. Located in the center console is a blue button with the letters LVL printed on it: Level. If a pilot of a Perspective-equipped aircraft gets disoriented for any reason, a simple press of the button will automatically level the wings, and bring the nose to a level attitude. All the pilot has to do is pull the power to a normal setting and the airplane will do the rest. Only pilots of multimillion-dollar military aircraft enjoyed that luxury before today.
Ian Bentley is Cirrus Design’s vice president of customer relations. His company recognizes that a very large number of people are capable of owning a Cirrus airplane, but choose not to do so because of the long training period required of new pilots. Cirrus is changing that perception.
“The Cirrus Perspective isn’t for the experienced pilot who’s quite capable of flying an ILS on old-fashioned ‘steam gauges,'” Bentley said. “It’s for the people who, if we’re going to grow this industry, we have to bring in.”
Cirrus is giving new pilots the tools to learn to fly quickly without the apprenticeship once required.
“The SR22 gives you Beech Baron level performance in an airplane equipped so it’s easy to fly,” Bentley continued. “You get virtually instant utility out of it.”
Patty Wagstaff is a National Aviation Hall of Fame inductee as well as a three-time National Aerobatic Champion. She was also the first female pilot to win the National Aerobatic Championship, and one of her aircraft now resides at the National Air and Space Museum.
As part of her sponsorship, Wagstaff gets to use a Cirrus SR22 GTS airplane equipped with the Avidyne Entegra avionics panel. What did she think of the Perspective?
“I’ve flown it once, and I’m just getting a feel for it,” Wagstaff said. “But its capabilities are pretty amazing. I think the best thing about instrumentation is that it keeps getting better. It lowers the workload for the pilot and reduces fatigue, which is the best thing for me, because I fly so much.”
Many Cirrus owners fly for business; so, like Wagstaff, who puts more than 300 hours on her airplane every year, they put a lot of hours on their airplanes.
“When you get to your destination, you’re not as tired as you use to be,” Wagstaff said. “It makes a big difference.”
The Cirrus is a lot different from the airplane Wagstaff began flying around the country.
“I used to fly a Pitts S1-S,” Wagstaff said. “I’d have to land every hour for fuel. I had no radio, no compass. I used charts and sometimes, roadmaps. I’d read a lot of water towers. I went all over the country in it. I’m very lucky; a lot of pilots won’t ever have that experience.”
For people who want an airplane that gives them situational omniscience, the Perspective panel offered in new SR22 airplanes is definitely a must-have option.
To learn more about the Cirrus Perspective panel, visit www.cirrusdesign.com/perspective. To see the interview with Patty Wagstaff, visit [http://www.reggiepaulk.com/2008/06/video-patty-wagstaff-discusses.html].