Eaglesoft Cirrus SR22 G2 for FS2004
By Andrew Herd (28 April 2006)
he tale of how the Klapmeier brothers came to found Cirrus was told in our Eaglesoft Cirrus SR20 review. Outrageous though it seems that two guys could start from nowhere and end up beating giants like Cessna and Piper at their own game, that is exactly what they have done and if the SR20 threw down the gauntlet to the competition, the SR22 hammers the point home, because its nearest competitor is probably the Mooney Ovation, which is an evolutionary product backed by decades of experience, not to mention being a third more expensive. To give a comparison, although the SR22 cruises around 17-18 knots slower than an Ovation 2 or a Lancair 300, it has a greater payload with full tanks than either - and although both the new Cessna 182 and the Piper Archer III cost less, the SR22 leaves both wallowing in its dust, given that most 182s of my aquaintance struggle to make 140 knots and the Archer can't realistically be expected to top 130.
The SR22 answers the question many SR20 owners asked when they had been flying a while, which is 'how about fitting a bigger engine?' Being a listening kind of company, Cirrus obliged by mating the airframe with a Continental IO-550 that increased the power by more than 50% to 310 hp. The rate of climb increases by nearly 500 feet a minute, the takeoff roll is cut by nearly the same amount, the cruise speed jumps by up to 30 knots, and the range goes up to just over a thousand nautical miles. There are a few very small external changes to the plane, which has 18 inches more wingspan, a slightly longer prop and repositioned landing gear, but that, apart from taking the tankage up to 84 gallons, is more or less the end of it. Oh, and you still get the ballistic chute.
Unlike the original SR20, the SR22 doesn't have a vacuum system, because the panel is fully electric. Vacuum systems are vulnerable to icing and bugs (live ones, not coding errors) crawling into the tubes, but electrical systems introduce a new set of dependencies, so the SR22 has twin batteries, twin alternators and twin buses, isolated from each other much in the way such systems are in an airliner. All this electrical redundancy will make sense when you get a look in the cockpit, which is dominated by two big Avidyne displays that relay virtually all the information the pilot needs, but bear in mind that since just about everything in the plane is electrically operated, including the flaps, twin batteries are good.
The list price I am looking at right now for a basic SR22-G2 is $349,750, but if you wanted one configured the same way as the Eaglesoft sim, I reckon you can add another $14,000 for the twin GNS430 option, $21,500 for the SkyWatch TCAS, $1,395 for the flight director and $6,000 for the engine/fuel monitoring, which means that at $31.95 the sim is something of a bargain by comparison. Priced like this, dreams are cheap.
The package is a 46 Mb download which arrived full tilt from Eaglesoft's website. Like the SR20, the file is protected using the Flight1 key and wrapper system, which I must have used hundreds of times now and has always proved reliable - and this installation was no different. Although a great wadge of documentation is installed, for some reason the installation doesn't create a new program group, but all the manuals can be found in ...Flight Simulator 9\Aircraft\Eaglesoft Cirrus SR22 G2\Documentation. The docs are in pdf format and provide 7 pages on the flight director, 29 on the multifunction display (MFD), 21 on the primary flight display (PFD), 37 on the Garmin GNS430 nav/comm/gps, a couple of quick reads about the GMA340H and the 330, 10 pages on the S-Tec and 17 pages on the workings of the cockpit, which I suggest you read before you even think of taking to the virtual air. This might be a single, but it is a complex little plane.
All the models are listed under 'Cirrus' in the FS aircraft selection menu - three different versions of the plane are installed, with five different liveries, all of which are as attractive as all got out. You get a 'full' version of the plane, which includes both a 2D and a 3D panel, together with a virtual cabin; a 'VC lite' version, which lacks a 2D panel; and a 'lite' version, which lacks the VC. As a bonus, you also get a '430 lite' version, which allows users who own RealityXP's standard-setting GNS430 unit to load a pair in the panel without having to do any editing. Suggested minimum system specs are: Windows XP, 2.6 GHz Pentium or AMD CPU with 512 MB DDR RAM, 3D AGP or PCI Express video card with 128 MB DDR Ram,128-bit Direct X sound card or 'on motherboard' sound, latest Direct X, video, and sound drivers and a 17" to 19" monitor. The last spec will raise a few eyebrows, but believe me, there is so much fine detail in this panel that you will not find it easy to use on anything less than a 17" display.
The reason for all these different options is that the addon isn't exactly kind to frame rates, which is no more than you would expect when you consider the quality of the visual model, the textures those stunning gauges on the panel. Trying the various different versions should find a one which will return reasonable frame rates on most systems, but for what it is worth I got much the same results as I did with the Eaglesoft SR20, which isn't surpising, given the similarities between the two products.
The visual model is the usual high class Eaglesoft effort, with superb reflective textures and perfectly judged dynamic shine that makes it a joy to behold. Everything you would expect is animated including the pilot, who looks around while he is flying, and you can open the doors and drop the sun visors as well. A preflight utility lets you tie the plane down and should you wish it is possible to unload the luggage, put on the pitot covers and tie the plane down (the SR20 review has a set of screenshots showing this). Health and safety freaks will be delighted to find a control that makes the pilot wear his sunglasses.
Beyond the change in color, the differences between the Eaglesoft SR22 and the SR20 panels are slight, which reflects the how things are in the real aircraft. Beyond the detail stuff relating to the different v-speeds and engine parameters, the only thing most users will notice is that the SR22 has two buttons at top left of the panel, which allow the pilot to choose between engaging the flight director only, or the FD and the autopilot - pressing the latter switch knocks out the former if it is active. You might ask why anyone would want only the flight director active, but it is a useful option at times, for example in rough IFR conditions when the autopilot does not want to know anymore, and during high angle localiser intercepts. Curiously, selecting any mode on the S-TEC causes the mode to switch on the flight director buttons, which is unusual behavior, given that most avionics stacks keep these two functions independent, so that you can select a mode on the autopilot and then engage it when needed.
A variety of hot spots on the panel allow you to fly from either seat and there is a slew of zoom options. You can enlarge the PFD and MFD so they fill the 2D panel; zoom either instrument up to nearly full screen size; and if you put the cursor in the correct area in the center of the glareshield, it is possible to use the mouse wheel to vary the horizon view to suit your preference, or so Eaglesoft tell us. Personally, I like the horizon to stay exactly where it is, even in FS, but this facility makes it possible, for example, to have the aircraft flying perfectly level with a forward view consistent with a steep dive, or with a zoom climb, or any state in between. I am sure someone must have asked for it, but I cannot think why.
Other popups include the electrical panel, the standby instrument panel, throttle console, radio stack, mini autopilot, CAPS control, compass window and the aforementioned preflight gauge. One last hot spot, lest I forget it, toggles the ADF/DME window, a useful addition, since this is the one piece of information you cannot glean from the PFD.
To say any more about the panel would be to duplicate much of what was said in the Eaglesoft SR20 review and I don't propose to do that, as the SR20 shares 99% of the gauge set and that review is but a mouse click away. In the SR20 piece I go into considerable detail about the instrumentation in the plane and since the avionics fits in the addons are virtually identical it would be a waste of words to repeat them. One thing I forgot to comment on in that review is that you can escape waiting for the PFD to warm up by clicking on the logo on the bottom of the gauge, which drops the unit straight into operational mode; a neat facility that many real world Cirrus owners would love to have too, I am sure. All the same features are present, as are some of the peculiarities, such as the reluctance of some of the checklists to appear when I called them up on the MFD.
The virtual cockpit is at least as good as the 2D panel and I spent a lot of the review flying the 'VC lite' version, so I could use TrackIR 4.0 - the two addons make an excellent combination, especially as I could drink beer while flying the plane, which is something the FAA does not allow you to do in real life. The one problem I came across was that the switch set lies in a position that is just under a real pilot's hand, but unfortunately hasn't translated well into the VC, with the result that the switches are end on to you and it is anyone's guess which is which. The 2D electrical popup is very sensibly presented in plan view, with the result that you can see what you want to press at a glance. In passing I should point out that there isn't a separate VC config for users of the RealityXP Garmins and if you use that version of the SR22 you will have to fly with the 2D panel only. I imagine Jean-Luc at RealityXP is thinking hard right now, because it would be great to see those units available in virtual cockpits and who knows if FSX will support the 2D panel any more?
The flight model is good, most of the comments in the SR20 review applying with the exception that the SR22 gives you more in every respect. Having such a fast cruising speed means that slowing down for the approach is an even greater issue than it is in the SR20, which is a slippery little bird; just imagine what it is like with fifty more ponies up front. The ballistic parachute operates exactly the way it does in the SR20, except that you have to be even more careful to watch your airspeed before you pull the lever (much faster than a hundred knots and the sim does back somersaults around the chute). One of the few problems with real SR22s is that being heavier, but with the same size of canopy on the chute, they come down faster, which means that the hull hits the ground doing 1680 feet per minute vertically, or nearly nineteen mph. Survivable, but ouch. Oh, and Cirrus recommend deploying the chute to extract yourself from a spin, the reason being that because it is hard to get into a spin, the real SR22 is also hard to get out of one; so don't do that.
The sound set is very acceptable, although the limitations of FS2004's sound mean that one piston aero engine sounds much like another, so I guess all that remains is the roundup. What you are getting here is a faster version of Eaglesoft's SR20 with a flight director and a black interior - as such, if you already have the the SR20, there isn't a particularly compelling reason to buy the SR22, particularly because the darker panel background doesn't display as well in Flight Simulator's graphical environment as the light one in the SR20 does, and although all the legends are very crisp there is some very noticeable banding. I was very struck by the SR20, which got a Silver AAA because it represented a huge leap forward for Eaglesoft; the SR22, if you come to it without having purchased the SR20, is just as impressive.Andrew Herd