You know you’ve Cirrus Sr22 AirCraft touched down someplace worth visiting when the tropical breezes moving through the palm trees instantly make you forget all about the ice and snow back home, the emerald-green waters are dotted with sailboats headed for their next island anchorage, and the refrigerator in the pilot supply shop is stacked high with silken Key lime pies for sale. My kind of place.
I began unloading gear from the baggage compartment of N833JR as the friendly customer service representative who greeted us with a golf cart on the ramp at Florida Keys Marathon Airport remarked that ours was the nicest Cirrus SR22 she’d ever seen. As I swung my bags onto the golf cart’s back seat and hopped aboard, I couldn’t help but think how right she was. This particular SR22T GTS, a 2017 Generation 6 model, was, in truth, the nicest on the planet by virtue of the fact that it was the only G6 yet in existence.
The Cirrus Sr22 AirCraft features sleek Spectra LED wingtip lights.
Painted in an attractive Athens blue and sterling gray paint scheme, it was different enough from a G5 Cirrus Sr22 AirCraft that my traveling companion, Cirrus SR product-line manager Ivy McIver, went to great lengths to ensure no snooping eyes on the ramp could deduce that this was the new generation. She set to work fitting wingtip covers over the telltale Whelen Engineering-designed LED light strips and strategically placing sun shades in the windscreen and side windows so that no one could peer inside and see the new Perspective+ avionics system with its qwerty-style keyboard and subtly altered buttonology.
My introduction to the G6 SR22 included a half-dozen flights over the span of three days in mid-December. By now the secret is out and the G6 is the talk of the Cirrus-owner community — but at that time flying the new model required stealth since it was among the most closely guarded secrets in all of general aviation.
As we rode in the golf cart to retrieve our rental car from the sleepy airline terminal next door to the Marathon General Aviation FBO, I thought back to the journey that had brought us here. The adventure started the morning before in the cold at my home field, Morristown Municipal Airport (KMMU) in New Jersey. ATC assigned us the Morristown Six Departure to join up with V1, the airbound equivalent of the East Coast’s Route 1, and follow it for roughly the next 600 nautical miles to Charleston Executive Airport (KJZI), where we’d refuel and grab lunch.
The skies were clear until we reached Charleston, where a wide band of heavy rain slid across Georgia and South Carolina. The conditions were predicted to remain crummy into the afternoon. To that point, I’d been enjoying exploring the new features of the Perspective+ avionics system, which is based on Garmin’s new G1000 NXi platform, but now I was about to gain my first inkling that the added technological capabilities really do warrant referring to this Cirrus Sr22 AirCraft as a whole new generation. Cirrus Sr22 AirCraft
Because of its greatly increased computing horsepower, Perspective+ is 10 times faster than the previous Perspective avionics in the G5 Cirrus, making enhanced capabilities possible. What stood out to me was the animated Nexrad radar images on the SiriusXM weather depiction that showed the movement of the storm cells and convinced me that landing to the east on Runway 9 was the prudent course of action despite the wind very slightly favoring an arrival from the opposite direction. Cirrus Sr22 AirCraft
Into the Muck
Entering waypoints and approaches using the qwerty keyboard is so much easier than the alphanumeric keypad in my airplane that I’ve decided there’s really no point debating which is better. With the approach activated, we slid down the ILS and broke out at 700 feet to land on the rain-soaked runway. Ivy covered the wingtips and interior and ordered a fuel top-off before we headed into Atlantic Aviation and procured a crew car to take us for lunch at a seafood joint called Lokal Seabar on nearby Johns Island.
Our next leg after lunch would take us through the worst of the rain into Florida. Here again, the animated Nexrad imagery available in Perspective+ came in handy as we flew through green areas of precipitation on the map into yellow with heavier rain and turbulence. We could see that our course would take us quickly through the weather and rode out the bumps secure in the knowledge that the conditions the rest of the way to Miami would be much improved.
Subtle cockpit changes add up to major improvements:
The qwerty-style keyboard that replaces the previous alphanumeric keypad is a revelation in Perspective+ that just makes sense. Cirrus Sr22 AirCraft
The handy home button ensures pilots never get lost in the mire or, if they do, lets them start over easily from scratch.
Numeric keys light up in blue when they are active for entering data, such as a nav or comm frequency.
The overall layout of Perspective+ will be familiar to pilots flying with previous versions of the Garmin system, ensuring a quick and easy transition.
Our reward for cinching down our seat belts over South Carolina and parts of Georgia was the opportunity to break out into glorious skies for some cloud surfing as we skipped in and out of the tops of wispy vapor against a sky ablaze in the Day-Glo kaleidoscope of the late-afternoon sun.
“It’s time for some tunes, don’t you think?” Ivy suddenly suggested. I concurred and she called up SiriusXM’s Pop2K channel. Our headsets filled with dance-rock anthems that served as an energizing complement to the dazzling cumuliform vistas unfolding before us.
One of the songs that came on was Good Charlotte’s “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” a single infused with punk-pop tempos and heavily steeped in class envy (the song’s lyrics advocate robbing the mansions of the wealthy). Ironically, Good Charlotte’s members today are grown men with families who admit to using aviation to its full advantage to see their kids more often while on tour. They just so happen to be rich and famous themselves now too, thanks to a string of hit songs, and are no longer trying to stick it to the man.
The G6, like previous the Cirrus Sr22 AirCraft, has room for five people.
As I sat in the left seat listening to the song, it got me thinking. More people with the means to fly themselves in an airplane like this one really should. The SR22 is fast, safe, comfortable and a blast to fly. If only more people who could afford one understood what a personal time machine it really is. Of course, the SR22 is already the best-selling general aviation airplane in the world, with an annual production rate of around 300 SR models a year at the factory in Duluth, Minnesota. Still, I couldn’t help but think the number should be a lot higher.
Passing Florida’s Space Coast, the sun at last bid us a final farewell. By the time we switched over to Miami Center, blackest night had fallen. The plan was to stop in Miami and continue on to Marathon Key early the next morning. As Miami Executive Airport (KTMB) drew closer, the skies over South Florida became a hive of activity. We kept a watchful eye outside the cockpit and on the traffic display as ATC vectored us for landing on KTMB’s Runway 27R. The approach controller asked if I’d prefer the RNAV or a visual approach. I opted for the latter to give me the chance to try out another new feature in Perspective+, the ability to select a visual approach to any runway from the procedures menu. A few button presses later and I was receiving ILS-like guidance cues that took us all the way to the runway threshold.
Likewise, it comes with headset holder straps on the front seats.
We grabbed an Uber from the airport, checked into our hotel and then headed back out for dinner. After first confirming I was cool with raw fish, Ivy suggested Pisco y Nazca, a nearby Peruvian ceviche gastrobar. The ceviche was the best I’ve had, but the revelation for me was the crunchy corn kernels bathed in a light sauce, a perfect compromise between popcorn and nuts. I could have kept munching on them all evening. Cirrus Sr22 AirCraft
We met up at breakfast the next morning to discover a 400-foot overcast layer that I confidently predicted would burn off by the time we got to the airplane. Of course, I was wrong. All set to depart but without a flight plan in the system, we tried our luck by asking clearance delivery for an IFR routing through the Miami Class B to Marathon. No dice. We’d have to file a flight plan. Not a problem, Ivy said. With a few taps on her iPhone, she created the flight plan in the Garmin Pilot app, filed it, and then used the wireless connectivity built into Perspective+ to beam the route into the flight deck.