1,000 hours in an SR22 in the past 17 months

 

 

My SR22 (tail number N3452L) clocked its 1,000th hour yesterday, September 29, 2004, at 5:02 pm while flying past Rutland, Vermont during an Angel Flight from East Hampton, NY (HTO) to Highgate, VT (FSO).

I took delivery of my plane in Duluth on April 28, 2003 (serial #530): it was the 60th all-glass SR22 made by Cirrus. Iím guessing that with 1,003 hours total time it now has the distinction of being the highest-hour PFD-equipped plane in the fleet, as well as one of the highest-hour SR22s in general.

This SR22 is the first airplane that Iíve owned, and I hope to have many more years of flying pleasure in it. My previous flying experience was in Cessna Skyhawks and Skylanes. I got my private pilot license in 1975, but gave up flying within a year because I just didnít feel safe with the equipment and my capabilities at the time. After a 27-year hiatus, I went flying again in September 2002 (with an instructor, of course), passed my BFR in October 2002 and got my instrument rating in February 2003 at the age of 48. I had 250 hours of total time when I flew my SR22 home from Duluth on May 1, 2003, which was also my first solo flight in a Cirrus. At the time I must admit that I was rather intimidated by the speed and complexity of the airplane. But after a few months and roughly 150-200 hours I became quite comfortable with both the planeís and my capabilities. So much so, I must admit, that my personal minimums are now invariably as published, and I routinely fly approaches at much higher speeds than the average piston plane (especially when at big city airports and ATC is happy to see 160 KIAS through the outer marker).

Iíve spent the last seventeen months flying to over 150 airports in 44 states plus two foreign countries (Canada and the Bahamas). Because I am retired, I am pleased to say that virtually none of my SR22 flying time was spent on business; 642 hours were for pleasure; 312 hours were for Angel Flights (79 missions in the past nine months); 26 hours were spent flying to and from the nearby service center for maintenance visits; and 22 hours were for training (both initial and recurrent).

Some highlights from my logbook over the last seventeen months:

∑ 513 flights: this equates to an average flight time of two hours (excluding training flights).

∑ 95% of my flights are daytime under an IFR flight plan. I fly at night when necessary (including when its IMC), but never night VFR.

∑ 317 hours in actual IMC.

∑ 139 instrument approaches in actual IMC.

∑ 60 of those instrument approaches in actual IMC were at minimums or in low IFR; in all but 5 I was able to see the runway environment and land.

∑ In 4 of the approaches down to minimums where I couldnít see the runway environment and went missed, I waited in the holding pattern and was able to land at the original destination airport within 15-30 minutes. Only once did I go missed (it was a non-precision approach with high minimums) and proceed right away to my alternate 35 miles away (which had an ILS).

∑ 7 flights where the crosswind at landing was 30 knots or greater (the highest was 50 knots, in Norfolk, Virginia). But no go-arounds due to high crosswinds.

∑ 8 flights where I executed a go-around because I felt the approach speed was too high; most were in the first two months of flying the SR22.

∑ 4 flights where I diverted to an unplanned airport (one due to stronger headwinds than forecast; one due to thunderstorms which shut down all Chicago airports; and two due to a passengerís request).

∑ 2 flights where I diverted to an unplanned airport due to equipment issues (once because of a failed autopilot and once because of the static system problem noted below).

∑ 3 flights with serious equipment issues: one was a failed HSI as I was entering IMC (I continued to climb through the clouds for 5,000 feet and the problem corrected itself shortly after I reached VFR on top); the other two were very erratic airspeed and altitude information caused by water in the static system (one was night IMC but I was able to complete an ILS approach near minimums; the other was the next day, after the static system was supposedly fixedóit was VFR but I declared an emergency and flew back to the service center).

∑ 3 very long flights of 5.5 hours: Wichita, Kansas to Scottsdale, Arizona; Yellowstone, Montana to Duluth; and Boston to Chicago. After each of these flights I still had 1.5 hours of fuel left, since I practice WOTLOPSOP (wide open throttle, lean of peak, standard operating procedure).

∑ 11 long distance, multi-day journeys: 6 across the continent from NY to the West Coast, mostly to visit the national parks (8-15 daysí duration), one trip to Alaska (16 days), and four trips to Florida, including one to the Bahamas (2-7 days). Pictures from many of these flights can be found at http:// http://www.reichhouse.com/~ilan/

From a mechanical standpoint my SR22 has performed virtually flawlessly. I had only two AOG incidents, and both of those were due to avionics not the engine: the static system problem noted above and an inoperative transponder. Each was fixed the next day. Thus far Iíve had none of the MCU, cylinder and starter adapter issues that have caused problems for other Cirrus pilots (although recently the starter adapter was beginning to fail and was promptly replaced).

My maintenance schedule is quite rigorous: a 50 hour inspection every 45-55 hours; and an annual every 250 hours. The spark plugs are replaced every 250 hours and the brake pads are replaced every 150 hours or after 80 landings, whichever comes first. I do an in-flight high power mag check virtually every flight.

Ever since I took the Advanced Pilot Seminar course in Ada, Oklahoma, back when I had only 250 hours or so, Iíve been a card-carrying member of the church of LOP. So far the engine is aging very gracefully, and so the results of that philosophy speak for themselves.

The biggest gripe I have about my plane is that certain items require maintenance, or wear out, with alarming frequency. For example:

∑ Six engine dipsticks have broken and required replacement

∑ Throttle and prop control cables get sticky and need lubrication every 50-100 hours

∑ Flap hinge fairings crack every 250 hours or so

∑ Leading edge of wing roots needs to be repainted every 100-200 hours, due to extensive chipping

∑ Prop deicer boots wear out and require replacement every 200 hours

∑ Anti-skid pads on steps fly away every 100 hours or so

∑ Wing root fairings need to be rebonded in various spots every 100-150 hours

Here is a review of the performance of each avionics component during the past 1,000 hours:

∑ PFD had three minor issues, but I still have the original unit. My big wish is the latest software version so that I can do backcourse approaches.

∑ MFD has been replaced twice: once for a bad video card and once for blown side lights, which made two-thirds of the screen unreadable.

∑ Audio panel and Garmin 430s are still original; virtually no complaints or issues with these units.

∑ Transponder became inoperative was replaced after 700 hours due to a blown transmitter (on a day with heavy IMC, of course).

∑ Autopilot was replaced four times: two units had poor gain calibration, which led to very bad turn anticipation, and were replaced; one unit totally failed an hour after installation; and one stopped annunciating ALT properly.

∑ The autopilot/PFD interface is sometimes squirrelly, which leads to the failure to capture altitude. I learned to deal with this by testing the autopilot on the ground before every flight and resetting the PFD if necessary before takeoff.

∑ Stormscope, Trafficwatch and the SIU would periodically fail, especially during IMC. This was most likely due to static buildup problems, and was solved earlier this year by implementation of the SB and a thorough test and repair of the ground wires.

In retrospect, I wasted money on two things:

∑ Trying to fix the oil-on-the-belly problem. I installed an air/oil separator early on, and then later did the breather tube SB. Neither has worked, and Iíve resisted doing the Garfinkle extension because Iím pretty sure there will be extra oil use due to a pressure differential.

∑ Trying to get weather and electronic approach plates in the cockpit. I installed the Control Vision system (an HP Pocket PC, a standalone GPS and a satellite phone) but sadly it has been a total waste of money. The Pocket PC technology, in my opinion, is still a toy and is not ready for prime time; the satellite phone does not work well at northern latitudes. Plus the interface between the three units is not seamless, and itís very difficult to correct seemingly easy problems. Finally, the Pocket Plates card that is also sold by Control Vision is also a toy: the screen is too small and the memory cannot hold all of the approach plates I need and the backup information for the Pocket PC.

Finally, some of the wisest money I spent was on:

∑ A Rieff engine heater and a cowl cover from Bruceís Covers, which are essential for cold weather operation.

∑ The Advanced Pilot Seminar engine management course

∑ The Weather or Not seminar given by Scott D.

∑ Having my plane inspected every 50 hours: issues with brake pads, brake fluid, nosewheel, engine bushings, wheelpants, sparkplugs, etc. were detected by the A&P early before they could become significant issues in-flight.

All in all, Iíve had 1,000 fantastic hours flying my SR22. Its an excellent long-distance, IFR flying machine that has more than lived up to my expectations.