Flying Cirrus Avidyne Approaches

by HPA · March 2, 2012

Expect Vectors to Final, Part I

By Hank Gibson, Gold Seal, CFI, CFII, MEI

A lot of pilots these days don’t get a lot of actual IFR time, so they don’t have to shoot many actual IFR approaches. This leads to pilots quickly getting rusty on approach briefings and procedures. Cirrus has published their Flight Operations Manual (FOM) to provide standardized guidance on how to perform all the normal flight maneuvers, including instrument approach guidance. To help knock some of that rust off, here’s an overview of the way Cirrus wants pilots to fly approaches in the SR22. (Note: All information below is taken from the Cirrus Flight Operations Manual for the SR20 and SR22).

Cirrus in Formation

The Cirrus Approach Briefing

There are many different ways to brief an instrument approach, some more simplified then others. As pilots finish training, most quickly discover the briefing they were taught during their instrument course isn’t very practical to the real world. Often, the result is they don’t learn a simplified way to brief approaches. Cirrus is here to help. Here is the flow the company published for an instrument approach briefing:

    • Type of Approach and Runway
      • First and foremost, figure out what type of approach it is, whether an ILS, GPS WAAS, localizer, RNAV/GPS, VOR, or (gasp, these still exist?) an NDB approach.
      • Then determine what runway the approach is for. This seems kind of obvious, but if the airport has several RNAV approaches, make sure the plate you are looking at is for the correct runway.
      • Finally, load the approach into the Garmin 430.
    • Transition to Final
      • This one is pretty easy. Are you getting vectors or are you flying to a specific Initial Approach Fix (IAF)?
    • Frequencies
      • Now, brief the communication and navigation frequencies. For the Com frequencies, make sure you’ve got the proper approach frequency in. Put the tower or CTAF in standby on whichever radio you are using. Tune the ATIS/ASOS/AWOS on the other radio and listen to it. Be ready to tune in the ground frequency once you land.
      • As far as Nav frequencies go, for ILS, LOC, or VOR approaches, make sure the proper Navaid frequency is tuned in AND activated. Always identify the Navaid to make sure the signal is reliable. Remember to change the HSI from GPS to VLOC if you are flying one of these approaches. Traditional Navaid approaches are not allowed to be flown using the GPS, even though the procedure is showing on the Garmin 430.
    • Altitudes
      • Brief the Final Approach Fix (FAF) altitude (or the glide slope intercept altitude for an ILS) and the Decision Altitude (precision approach) or Minimum Descent Altitude (non-precision approach).
      • Cirrus doesn’t say it, but I would include briefing the Final Approach Course (FAC) heading here too.
    • Missed Approach Procedure
      • Last, but not least, brief the missed approach procedure. What headings do you need to fly? What altitudes should you climb to? Where are you supposed to hold?
      • If you do have to go missed, don’t forget to press the OBS button while flying the missed approach procedure. Otherwise, the GPS won’t cycle over to the procedure.

Precision Approach Procedures

When getting vectors to the FAC or flying to the initial approach fix, Cirrus recommends to slow to 120 knots, using whatever power setting is necessary to get slowed. In the SR22, this would probably be somewhere in the area of 20-30%. Once you are turned by ATC to intercept the FAC (if getting vectors) or procedure turn inbound, slow to 100 knots (10-20% power) and set the heading bug for the final approach course. Once you are a dot below the glide slope, this is where the flaps come in. Here, the altitude bug should be set to the decision altitude (DA). 50% flaps and 100 knots is the proper configuration to shoot any approach with. This is also the time to check to make sure your GPS has switched to Approach (APR) mode if shooting a GPS approach.

As you descend on the GS, the power should remain between 10-20%, depending on what it takes to hold 100 knots. Also, at the FAF, note the time, as all ILS plates have published how long it takes to get from the FAF to the missed approach point (MAP). At the DA, either land or go missed. For the missed approach, push the power lever full, pitch up to 7.5-10 degrees, and start climbing. Flaps should be retracted once you are clear of any obstacles and have a positive rate of climb (which, in the SR22, doesn’t take very long!). The OBS button should be pressed on the 430 to cycle the Garmin GPS over to the missed approach procedure.

Non-Precision Approaches

With a non-precision approach, the procedure is the same as with a precision approach, with the exception of where to put the flaps down. Since there is no glide slope to reference, Cirrus instructs the pilot to lower the flaps to 50% two nautical miles prior to the FAF. Other than that, everything else remains the same. 50% flaps and 100 knots on final.

Cirrus doesn’t mention this, but when flying a non-precision approach, don’t have a descent rate any less than 500 feet per minute into a headwind. If you keep the airplane descending at 300 feet per minute, you’ll never get down to the MDA in time. You’d rather get to the MDA early then late. Just make sure you don’t go below the MDA until you see the runway environment.

What about the autopilot, you ask? Well, come back next week and I’ll explain how to work the S-TEC autopilot for instrument approaches.

How it Started

One of my best friends in high school, (Doug Gray) was a private pilot. He offered to take me up for a flight in a 1967 Cessna 150, N6228S. We took off from Calhoun, Georgia, and he took me on a scenic tour of the area, I was hooked. I later found out that my English teacher, (Jan Haluska) was also a flight instructor and the school was offering a ground school course the next year, which he taught, along with flight training with the goal of becoming a private pilot. I managed to talk my dad into funding the training, at the time the total cost was right around $500. Cessna 150 rental rates where $12 an hour, and the 172 we used for cross country was $15 an hour including fuel.

Training Begins

It started August of 1977. The fall semester rolls around, and I am enrolled in ground school, and if memory serves me, we met twice a week. First came the paperwork for my student pilot certificate, which at the time was included with the 3rd class medical. I loved ground school, especially learning navigation, plotting courses on the sectional, again this was before iPads and GPS, so we did a lot of dead reckoning and VOR navigation for cross countries. At the end of the course, I made an 83% on the Private Pilot written exam, remember this was before we had the question-and-answer books that on future test I would consume before taking a written.

2022.06.09 11.19 Flyhpa 62a27fea7716a


The fun really began on August 22, 1977, it was my first flight. To my surprise we used the same Cessna 150, N6228S that my friend Doug Gray had taken me for a ride in. The Cessna 150 had a standard VFR instrument panel, with one NAV/COM, and one VOR CDI. No intercom, so no headset, at the time I didn’t know what I was missing. I didn’t get my first headset until I started my instrument training in 2003. I was a big guy, I was 6’ 4” and weighed 245 lbs. but I do not remember being uncomfortable in the 150 even with the instructor in the right seat.

First flight lasted .8 hours, and we accomplished orentation, shallow turns, stability, and effects of flight controls. Over the next few months we added steep 720’s, slow flight, stalls, turns around a point, S-turns, emergencies, landings, (short field, soft field and normal).


At this point I want to talk about a training experience that still stands out. We were close to solo and were practicing takeoffs and landings. Turning base to final Jan got very upset at the way I was cross controlling the aircraft. Cross control is when you are in, say a left turn, and use opposite rudder to line the nose up with the runway. So, he had me depart the pattern and head east to the practice area, and climbing up to 5500 feet MSL, he had me slow down to just above stalling speed, start a left shallow turn and add right rudder. As the airplane stalled I had the strangest sensation, no roller coaster has ever come close, instead of blue sky in the windscreen I was looking at brown ground, and as far as I could tell we were upside down, through the terror of the moment Jan talked me out of the spin, controls neutral, oposite rudder, pull slowly out of the dive. As we leveled off he asked me what altitude we were at, as I remember it was around 2,800 feet MSL. Then he asked me what would happen if I experenced this on base to final in the traffic pattern. The answer was obvious, I would be a pile of wreckage off the end of the runway with a very short-lived aviation career. Needless to say this cured my cross-control tendencies.

Another training event the sticks out in my mind was the first time we did takeoffs and landings at the High School runway. The runway was 1,500 feet long, not sure of the width, but it seems like we had about 5 feet on each side of the wheels when on the center line of the runway. Landing from the south you also had to go between a cutout in the trees to be able to stop in time on the runway. After getting confortable landing here every runway since seemed huge. I remember landing at Chattanooga (KCHA) on a night cross country and commenting to Jan, that I felt like I could of landed sideways on the runway, it felt that large.

Very soon after this I started wearing old shirts to all my flight lessons, the reason for this occurred on February 8, 1978. The lesson that day was stalls, takeoffs and Landing. As we were taxing back in Jan told me it was time for my first solo. I was very excited, and after some last minute advice from Jan, including watch for floating on landing the plane will be light with him not in the right seat, complete 3 takeoffs and landings to a full stop. It was a blast, and at the end of my shirt was shorter in the back because Jan cut the tail out of it signed and dated my solo [an aviation tradition]. Total flight time accumulated on the day of my solo was 18.1 hours. I was now officially a pilot with solo priveleges.

In my next article I start cross country training, when Jan decided that it would be best accomplished this in the 172. Checking out in N5970R was like moving into a 747, this started a love affair with one of my faviriote planes to date. Since this time I have flown over 900 hours in many different models of the 172 and feel like I am stepping into an old friend every time.

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