Aircraft Ownership, May Edition
I’m going to be starting a monthly article series on aircraft ownership. The goal is to shed some light on what to expect as an aircraft owner if you are considering purchasing. This week’s article will focus on transitioning to a Cirrus.
Initial Transition Training
So, you’ve bought a new Cirrus. More than likely, it’s very different than what you have been flying. You’ve heard lots of rumors concerning landing it flat, touchy controls, something about a parachute, and an advanced glass panel setup. These rumors have you a little worried about taking it for a spin (not literally, of course). No need to fear, your local CSIP is here. A CSIP is factory trained by the Cirrus Aircraft Company and is certified to do factory transition training in all Cirrus aircraft.
Before jumping into the transition training, you’ll need to purchase a training kit from Cirrus. The kit includes:
- Aircraft POH
- Cirrus Flight Operations Manual (this outlines how to do every single maneuver in a Cirrus)
- Transition and Recurrent Training Syllabus
- Online Avionics Course
- Access to the Cirrus Training Portal (home to a lot of very valuable resources)
- Cirrus Avionics PC simulator
- Cirrus Icing Awareness Course
- Cirrus Avionics Cockpit Reference Guide
- Cirrus Aircraft Training Software for either Avidyne or Perspective Avionics suite
After you’ve purchased the kit (which HPA can do for you), what can you expect from the transition course? Well, Cirrus presents two options: a VFR transition course (simply, Cirrus Transition Training) or an IFR transition course (Cirrus Advanced Transition Training). The VFR course is usually 3 days, flight and ground training (or the hourly equivalent if you don’t have 3 straight days to do it). The emphasis here is placed on the new owner becoming safe and proficient in normal VFR operations. You’ll learn about the airplane systems (including the low-down on the parachute), all the VFR maneuvers, landings, emergencies, avionics, and the autopilot. The training is scenario-based, so your CSIP will present a “mission” for each flight, using real life scenarios.
Both the Transition Course and the Advanced Transition Course put a heavy emphasis on cross country legs during training. The idea is you, as a pilot/owner, will be flying cross country legs 90% of the time, so why not train you in the way you will utilize the airplane? Pilots in the VFR course average about 10 cross country legs, while the IFR folks come in at around 12.
If you have an instrument rating, then you have two options. Cirrus (and HPA) recommend that IFR pilots take the VFR Transition Course first, then take 2-4 weeks to get comfortable in the airplane. Go fly it around, do some VFR cross countries, get more comfortable with the avionics, then come back and train 2 more days to complete the IFR Advanced Transition. The other option would be to do the full 5 day IFR Advanced Transition Course.
The Cirrus IFR Advanced Transition Training course is typically 5 days long, flight and ground training. The IFR course will contain everything in the VFR course, plus IFR operations as well as IFR specific avionics and GPS training. This course also includes an Instrument Proficiency Check to help the pilot/owner knock off any rust in the IFR environment. Once you become proficient in IFR operations, you will be free to explore all facets of VFR and IFR flying.
Do you have insurance specific requirements? No problem. Your CSIP can customize a course for you, including all the Cirrus factory training.
Are you already a Cirrus pilot? Does your new plane have a different engine or avionics then you are accustomed to? Cirrus has the solution in their Airframe and Powerplant Differences or their Avionics Differences courses. The Airframe and Powerplant Course is for owners who are either upgrading from a Cirrus SR20 to an SR22 or a normally aspirated Cirrus to a Turbo Cirrus. The Avionics Course is for pilots upgrading from steam gauges to a glass panel, or an Avidyne Entegra to a Garmin Perspective. Each of these courses are approximately 1 day, ground and flight training.
You’ve completed the transition course, but you want some recurrent training. Cirrus comes through again with an initial 90 Day Refresher Course (1/2 day), followed by two, Six Month Recurrency Checks (each 1 full day). The six month checks continue every year, allowing you to get a current IPC and BFR once a year (insurance usually requires this anyway).
If you are looking into purchasing a Cirrus SR20, Cirrus SR22, Cirrus SR22TN, or Cirrus SR22T, this is what to expect as far as the training goes. It’s the same training the factory gives, using factory materials. After completion, you’ll be a safer pilot in your new aircraft.
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.
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.
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.
More about Randy here: https://www.flyhpa.com/team/randy-delong/
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