Cirrus SR22 - The Bold New Leader in Modern Aviation

Written By: Jack Buscombe

The Cirrus SR22 needs no introduction for aviation enthusiasts. As the highest produced light aircraft starting in the 21st century, it's widely used for personal planes and as training aircraft. With production beginning in 2001 as the evolution of the SR20, the Cirrus SR22 has gone on to manufacture 6,500 over the last 20 years. This article outlines the origins and developments of the Cirrus SR22, it's safety record, and the costs associated with buying and owning the Cirrus aircraft.

Developments from the SR20

SR20 (predecessor to the SR22)

The original SR20 had been in production for 2 years (1999-2001) before the Cirrus Aircraft Company initiated production of it's more powerful sequel. While the SR20 is still in production, it's production levels are significantly overshadowed by the SR22. There have been 6,500 SR22's built over the course of it's entire production life, whereas only 1,500 SR20's have ever been built.

The SR22 was made with an increased range and more powerful engine in mind. While both the SR20 and SR22 have a 4-5 seat capacity and the trademark parachute safety system, the capabilities of the SR22 are vastly higher. The lower 1,154km range of the SR20 limits the aircraft to short flights, whereas the range of the SR22 allows for almost double at 1,943km's. This meant the qualities that made the SR20 so popular were brought to a wider audience. The benefits however, certainly come at a price! In fact, when the SR22 was first released, it was priced more than double its predecessor.

The Cirrus SR22T

Cirrus SR22 - The Bold New Leader in Modern Aviation

The most popular variations of the Cirrus Aircraft is the turbocharged 'SR22T'. Launching in 2010, the SR22T immediately overtook the sales numbers of the SR22, and the trend continues today. Given that the Cirrus family of aircraft sit on the top-end range, it's no surprise that customers are willing to pay the extra $70,000-$100,000 to have the more powerful model.

Despite the fact that both the base and turbocharged models look almost identical, there are a number of distinguishing factors under the hood. The SR22T features a 315 hp (235 kW) engine (vs. 310 hp) to provide an extra kick when up in the air. The maximum cruise speed of the SR22T at 85% power is 213 knots, whereas the SR22 is 183 knots, making the SR22T quite a bit faster. One of the other major draw-cards of the SR22T is the 7.5:1 compression ratio which runs on 94 octane AVGas.

Modern Models

These days, the Cirrus Aircraft Company is making some interesting innovations for the SR22. Early 2020, the Cirrus SR22 made an announcement for their new 2020 G6 model with the addition of the Cirrus 'IQ' mobile app. The app connects to the plane to retrieve data related to fuel levels, TKS, oxygen levels, battery voltage, oil temperature and aggregated flight hours.

Another recent development to the newer models are the 4-blade propeller options, as opposed to the standard 3-blade. On top of this, Cirrus is known for it's state-of-the-art avionics system. In particular, the stabilized approach software is world-class in keeping the aircraft in safe flying conditions and assists pilots in the case of balance deviations.

Specs

The Cirrus SR22 is a non-pressurized cabin with a 4-5 seat capacity. The base model technical specifications are:

  • Engine: Single 310 horsepower 231kW piston engine
  • Aircraft Base Weight: 1,028kg's (2,272lbs)
  • Load Capacity: 605kgs (1,328lbs)
  • Load capacity with 3 hour trip fuel and 45 min reserve: 439kg's (963lbs)
  • Cruise speed: 183 kn (211 mph, 339 km/h)
  • Stall speed: 60 kn (69 mph, 110 km/h) flaps down
  • Range: 1,049 nmi (1,207 mi, 1,943 km) with reserves at 65% power
  • Service ceiling: 17,500 ft (5,300 m)
  • Rate of climb: 1,270 ft/min (6.5 m/s)
  • Fuel Capacity: 348 litres
Panel from inside aircraft.

How Safe is the SR22?

The safety record of the Cirrus SR22 is above average in the general aviation market. As they come stocked with a number of safety features, it's no surprise that they are well regarded in terms of safety.

When the plane was first released, it's public perception was hopeful. In the pre-release marketing, the Cirrus Aircraft Company gave the impression that it would be the safest aircraft in General Aviation without explicitly saying it. Packed with safety features, and in particular the parachute, it was the talk of the town in the early 2000's. The excitement and expectations came unstuck quickly however, when the SR22 saw a slew of accidents in it's early days.

In 2011, there were 31 accidents in Cirrus aircraft where 16 were fatal. The slew of fatal accidents in 2011 called for inquiries into the safety of the SR22's, and an investigation by the Cirrus Owner's and Pilot's Association (COPA) was launched. They concluded that most of the fatalities could have been prevented if the parachute system was engaged. Another study conducted in the same year by the Aviation Consumer magazine suggested that the SR22's overall accident rate was better than the industry average, despite the high fatality rate.

In 2012, the fatal accident rate for the SR22 was sitting at 1.6, per 100,000 flight hours, which was slightly higher than the GA average of 1.2. Just 6 years later in 2017, the fatal accident rate dropped to 0.78 when the GA average was at 0.8. This was a result of the company exercising more effort in safety procedures and crisis procedures. Since the start of the decade, the fatality rate has been consistently been improving year-on-year.

Cost to buy a Cirrus SR22

Brand new SR22

The retail price to buy a brand new SR22 starts from $779,900. Cirrus has positioned itself as a higher quality aircraft than many of it's counterparts in the industry. For example, the base model Cessna 172 (it's main competitor) is priced around $400,000US. If you're looking to fly a Cirrus SR22 but don't want to pay the premium to buy the aircraft, they are able to be rented for about $479/hr. This is quite reasonable when you consider the additional costs of ownership!

Cost of a used SR22

An interesting addition to the Cirrus service is their pre-owned marketplace. While they provide prices on their website and a facility to purchase their planes, they also allow for owners to submit their pre-loved Cirrus aircraft.

In 2020, the cheapest pre-owned SR22's are running at around $175,000US for the early models of the 2000's. If you're looking for a modern second-hand SR22 with the latest avionics and features, it'll cost $575,000US for a 2016 G5 base model.

The used SR22T's cost from $385,000 for the original 2010 models to $890,000US for the additionally equipped 2018 models. You can have a look at the used Cirrus marketplace here.

Used Cirrus for Sale

Cirrus SR22 Running Costs

Based on our research, the cost to run a Cirrus SR22 is approximately $140 per flight hour. This estimate can vary significantly depending on location, aircraft age, condition and weather. The breakdown of these costs are listed below:

  • Annual Fixed costs = $32,520
  • Annual Inspection costs = $800
  • Annual Maintenance costs = $6,510
  • Annual Direct variable operating costs = $30,000
  • Total Annual Operating Costs = $69,830

Allocated over 500 annual flight hours, a Cirrus SR22 costs approximately $140 per flight hour.

Each of these cost categories are expanded on below.

Fixed costs

Based on surveys conducted by 30 owner's of the Cirrus planes, the most common fixed costs associated with the SR22 are insurances, housing and registration:

  1. Based on our research, insurances for these aircraft in Australia can range from $1,500-$2,500 monthly. For an aircraft like a Cirrus SR22, you're likely to be paying $2,000 in monthly insurance premiums.
  2. Housing costs usually depend on a number of factors, including location and hangar size. Rental costs for hangars to house light aircraft such as an SR22 sit between $400-$900 per month in popular GA airports around Australia. The average price you can expect to pay to house an SR22 is around $650 per month.
  3. Aircraft registration for a base model Cirrus SR22 is about $700 per year. Monthly registration costs therefore equate to $60.

Monthly fixed costs for the Cirrus SR22 total to approximately $2,710. This equates to $32,520 per year.

SR22 inside a hangar.

Inspection Costs

As with any private aircraft, there are requirements to have aircraft individually checked by an authorized inspector. This varies from country to country, and inspection costs vary depending on the aircraft. Given that the SR22 is loaded with additional safety processes, complex systems and avionics, it's generally more expensive to inspect.

We spoke to 30 Australian SR22 owners, and they reported their annual inspection costs to range from $400-$5,000. The median cost was $800, where the average was $1,200. It's reasonable to expect inspection costs to cost $800 per year for a Cirrus SR22.

Maintenance Costs

Maintenance crew on SR22

As the Cirrus aircraft is a high-end plane, maintenance costs tend to sit higher than most in the market. Similarly to any airplane, maintenance costs will increase with running hours and flight conditions. Typical maintenance categories are:

  • General maintenance (tires, brakes, cleaning) = $4,000 annually
  • Spark plugs every 500 hours = $30 annually
  • Alternators every 500 hours = $1,230 annually
  • Parachute repack costs = $12,500 every 10 years ~ $1,250 annually
  • Total Annual Maintenance Costs = $6,510

Click here to browse more maintenance items.

One of the costs unique to the SR22 is the parachute replacement cost. It is a legal requirement to repack this every 10 years, and will cost $12,000-$15,000US. This equates to about $1,250 annually.

It has been noted that pilots should be wary of the crushable seats in the aircraft. They are built with a honeycomb design and are optimized for safety. This means they can be fragile and if broken, replacement costs are between $300-$400.

Another thing to be aware of is the casing on the nose landing gear, which can break off with relative ease if a sloppy landing is performed. If they are cracked, the casing will cost $1,000 to replace. However, thanks to the in-built stabilized landing software on the SR22, cracking these is not as likely as you may think.

Hourly Operational Costs

The direct hourly operating costs can be mainly attributed to fuel and oil costs. From the research we've gathered from SR22 owners, the data suggests that the average fuel burn is around 11.5 gallons per hour. Depending on fuel price, hourly fuel costs are about $58 per hour at $5 per gallon. On top of this, average hourly engine/propeller reserves and oil costs are around $2 per flight hour.

  • Fuel Costs = $58 per hour
  • Engine/propeller and oil costs = $2 per hour
  • Total direct operation costs = $60 per hour

Based on 500 flight hours flown annually, direct operating costs are around $30,000 per year.

Inside a SR22

Conclusion

The Cirrus SR22 is constantly pushing the boundaries in delivering world-class GA aircraft. As an industry leader for it's avionics innovation in tandem with well-built vehicles, Cirrus is sure to compete against the all-time greats, such as the Cessna 172. As many GA manufacturers ramp down production output, Cirrus is expanding and is quickly becoming an icon in the evolution of light aircraft.

One of the downsides to the added features of the SR22 are the additional costs that come with them. Expensive maintenance procedures such as the parachute repacking and landing gear casing replacements are contentious issues among owners. It's clear that many owner's long for them to be removed from the Cirrus design, yet they're features which made the aircraft so popular to begin with.

In any case, it's always a breath of fresh air to see innovations in the general aviation industry, and the Cirrus Aircraft Company is consistently delivering.

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