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Cirrus Vision SF50

Posted on August 10 2021

Cirrus Vision SF50 user+1@localho… Tue, 08/10/2021 - 21:17

Cirrus Aircraft’s Vision Jet is a very-light-category business jet produced by the Duluth, Minnesota-based manufacturer, itself a subsidiary of China Aviation Industry General Aircraft Co. (CAIGA) In addition to being in the very-light category of business jets, the Vision Jet—which is the commercial designation for Cirrus’ SF50 type—is also a single-engine jet, with its power coming from a Williams International FJ33 engine. What became the Vision Jet was announced in 2007, made its first flight from Duluth International Airport on July 3, 2008, and was designated the SJ50 some 10 days later on July 10, 2008. At the time of its first flight, that prototype airplane was registered as N280CJ, powered by a different FJ33 variant—the FJ33-4A-19—and meant to be “ready to market in 2011.” However, it was not until Oct. 28, 2016, that the SF50 was certified by the FAA, representing a delay of about a year from the revised 2015 entry-into-service date. That gap in time between the first flight and certification was the result of the program being put on hold as a consequence of the 2008 economic downturn, with the 2011 purchase of Cirrus by CAIGA providing the company with the financial resources necessary to continue the development of the airframe. The first delivery of a Vision Jet took place on Dec. 20, 2016, to a real estate developer from Little Rock, Arkansas, with three such deliveries to U.S.-based customers taking place between the certification date and the end of 2016. The type certificate for the SF50-based Vision Jet is held by Cirrus Design Corp. of Duluth.

On Jan. 8, 2019, Cirrus launched a second-generation version of the Vision Jet—marketed as the G2 Vision Jet—which incorporated a number of improvements to the airframe’s avionics, cabin, engine, payload and performance. The first delivery of an upgraded SF50 airframe—beginning with Serial No. 94—took place on Jan. 14, 2019. A further upgrade of the SF50, marketed as the G2+ Vision Jet, was announced by the airframe manufacturer on July 20, 2021, with that second upgrade including further improvements to the FJ33 engine, additional color options for the airframe’s exterior and the introduction of in-flight Wi-Fi. Although it was announced in late July 2021, the delivery of the first G2+ Vision Jet—Serial No. 0288—will occur in the third quarter of 2021.

Cabin Dimensions and Outfitting

According to the FAA type certificate data sheet (TCDS) for the SF50, the airframe can accommodate a maximum of seven seats, with the Vision Jet G2’s standard cabin featuring “modular seating” for as many as five adults and two children. The child seats are located in the aft portion of the cabin, while the cabin seats themselves are able to be “easily removed.” The Vision Jet’s passengers and pilot(s) are accommodated in a 30.7-ft.-long fuselage that yields a cabin with a width and height of 5.1 ft. and 4.1 ft., respectively, with passengers entering the cabin through a clamshell entry door that is 49.4 in. high and 24.6 in wide. Promoted as being the largest cabin in its class, the amount of cabin space is enabled through the use of a carbon-fiber in the fuselage. The cabin is also marketed as having the ability to be configured in 28 different seating layouts, with two of the three configuration options promoted by Cirrus having seven seats, and a third featuring four seats. The latter configuration is described as featuring executive seating and a center console between the pair of aft seats, while the seven-seat configurations have two seats in the forward part of the cabin—include the pilot’s—two seats in the middle cabin and three seats in the aft cabin. The airframe’s 6.4-psi pressurization system allows for a cabin altitude of 8,000 ft., with the pressurization controlled by the touchscreen controllers that are discussed below. Indeed, the airframe’s avionics “automatically adjust the cabin pressurization during takeoff, climb, cruise and descent,” while “automated outflow valves maintain an appropriate pressure differential.” Supplementing the space in the Vision Jet’s cabin, the 23.5-ft.3 aft baggage compartment has a maximum capacity of 300 lb. and is accessed through a “quadrilateral baggage door” that measures “slightly smaller than 2 ft. wide by 1.5 ft. tall.” The capacity of the baggage area can be increased by 40 lb. and the volume increased by 3.9 ft.3 “with an optional extension pocket” that allows the airplane to carry baggage measuring as long as 80 in.

Beyond the modular seating, other standard cabin features include air conditioning that has “automatic climate control” and USB power ports, with those standard features able to be supplemented by a number of options. Those options include an entertainment display that measures 22 in., climate controls for passengers in the rear portion of the cabin, interior lighting that is “enhanced,” a reduced level of interior sound and “gold reflective windshield and cabin windows.” Passenger connectivity was introduced on the G2+ Vision Jet through the installation of Gogo Inflight WiFi, which provides “Wi-Fi connectivity throughout the U.S. and most of Canada through Gogo’s AVANCE [L3] system.” Additionally, Cirrus Global Connect gives passengers worldwide satellite-based telephone and text message capability, both airborne and on the ground.

Avionics

Pilots of the original Vision Jet operate the airplane using the Garmin G3000-based Perspective Touch avionics, while the G2 and G2+ Vision Jets incorporate an improved version that is marketed as the Perspective Touch+. Regardless of the version that is installed, all Vision Jets equipped with the Perspective Touch have standard features such as a pair of flight displays that measure 14 in., are high resolution and which have split-screen capability. That latter capability allows for the engine indication display (EIS) and three “vertical planes” to be displayed at the same time, with the information available to be shown on the displays including “system synoptics” of the airframe’s electrical power, engine and fuel, environmental, general status and information, ice protection and landing gear. Alongside those system synoptics, checklists, a moving map, traffic information and weather radar can be displayed, as can the standard Synthetic Vision Technology (SVT). In addition to the digital diagrams of the Vision Jet’s systems and subsystems that are able to be shown on the Perspective Touch/Perspective Touch+’s displays, an “aircraft status page” is also available that provides an “overview” of the airplane’s “operating state.”

Standard features of the earlier Vision Jet airframes included an automatic dependent surveillance – broadcast (ADS-B) transponder, a digital autopilot that is three axis and which incorporates Cirrus’ Blue Level Button, SVT and XM audio and weather. Also standard are redundancies in the avionics hardware, including dual attitude heading reference systems (AHRS), air-data computers (ADC), communication and navigation radios, pilot-static and wide area augmentation system (WAAS) GPS receivers. Optional on Perspective Touch-equipped Vision Jets a third AHRS and ADS, an enhanced vision system (EVS), Perspective Enhanced Traffic [traffic alert and collision avoidance system (TCAS-1)], a Class B terrain awareness and warning system (TAWS-B), real-time weather radar that is “enhanced” and Flight Information Services – Broadcast (FIS-B) weather and Traffic Information Services – Broadcast (TIS-B) traffic. Another avionics option was the Perspective Touch Global Connect (now marketed as Cirrus Global Connect), which—in addition to its satellite-provided communications capabilities—also provides “datalink weather outside of North America.”

Pilots operate the Vision Jet’s displays using three high-resolution, sunlight-readable touchscreen controllers that have a landscape orientation, with those displays allowing for communication within the cabin and the tuning of the airplane’s radios. Cirrus also states that they allow for “enhanced interaction” with the airplane’s systems, improved “real-time weather” and the integration of weight and balance calculations, with the controllers also able to serve as a navigation and communications (NAV/COM) controller and multifunction/primary flight display (MFD/PFD). Other features of the touchscreen controllers are “icon-identified touchkeys” and menus that are shallow, while the presence of a third controller allows for an entire controller to be committed to “audio/intercom system” functions. Additionally, the avionics’ moving map can be controlled through a “pop-up touchpad page on the touchscreen controller.”

Another aspect of the Vision Jet’s avionics is a dual-channel automatic flight control system (AFCS) that is “fully digital,” and which provides lateral and vertical navigation guidance, with the autopilot controlled by a mode controller. On that mode controller is Cirrus’ Blue Level Button, which the airframe manufacturer describes as providing pilots with a “time out” in the event that they become disoriented or distracted.

Safety and situation-awareness features of the Vision Jet include the previously mentioned SVT and TAWS-B, with the former described as combining the airplane’s position and three-dimensional images of topography, and the latter providing pilots with audible and visual caution and warning alerts. The Vision Jet’s “forward-looking terrain-avoidance equipment” provides pilots with alerts of hazards that include a loss of altitude or negative climb rate after takeoff, as well as rates of descent that excessive or premature. Also available is real-time weather radar that provides pilots with a weather-avoidance tool through its horizontal and vertical scans, with the “solid-state transmitter technology” allowing pilots to locate the tops of storms and “gradients.” Weather Attenuated Color Highlight (WATCH) allows for the identification of areas of hazardous precipitation that are beyond “capabilities” of the radar, while Cirrus promotes pilot workload reductions of the automatic changes—as altitude changes—to the beam angle made by the altitude-compensated tilt (ACT). The combination of real-time weather radar and data-link weather that can be displayed on the moving map are described as giving pilots “a composite view” of weather conditions.

Airborne and airport situational awareness can be further enhanced by Garmin’s SurfaceWatch, a technology that highlights the proper runway with cyan chevrons, provides “textural advisories” that constantly update an airplane’s location and issues “urgent alerts”—such as “CHECK RUNWAY” and “RWY TOO SHORT”—that notify a pilot they may be attempting to use a runway other than that which they intend to use. Cirrus states that the airframe’s traffic-avoidance technology is meant for “jet speeds,” has the ability to scan up to a distance of 80 nm and “detect up to 75 targets within 10,000-ft. vertical separation,” while audible alerts allow pilots to remain heads-up more often.

Another standard safety feature incorporated into the Vision Jet’s avionics is the Electronic Stability & Protection (ESP) system, which Cirrus promotes as “passively and unobtrusively correct[ing] unusual flight attitudes.” The features of the ESP system include alerts when the airframe is approaching its minimum and maximum airspeeds, with tactile alerts provided by the stick shaker that is “paired with an angle of attack [AOA] indicator.” That tactile alert—which vibrates the side stick that pilots control the airplane with—provides a warning when approaching an aerodynamic stall. Another aspect of the of the ESP system, the stick pusher, pushes the side stick control forward automatically “to correct for low-airspeed conditions.” In addition to the ESP system, flight-envelope protection is also provided by the YAW Stability Augmentation System and a dynamic VREF indicator. Another feature incorporated into the Perspective Touch and Perspective Touch+ is the ability to calculate the SF50’s weight and balance information, with that information able to be displayed as a graph, list or “station-weight calculation.”

The G2 Vision Jet installs an upgraded version of the Perspective Touch that is marketed Perspective Touch+ and which “has twice the processing power,” while also incorporating new hardware and displays that have better “screen resolution.”  That upgraded version of the G3000-based avionics retains the pair of high-resolution, 14-in. widescreen displays that are supplemented by standard avionics hardware that includes dual ADC, AHRS, pitot-static and WAAS GPS receivers, as well as a transponder that is ADS-B Out capable. Also standard is Garmin’s GFC 700 AFCS that incorporates safety features such as “autopilot stall protection,” the ESP system, an emergency-descent mode (EDM) and the Blue Level button. Other standard avionics features include ADS-B In traffic and weather, Garmin’s FliteCharts and SafeTaxi, SVT and TAWS-B. In contrast to the many avionics features and hardware that are retained by the G2 Vision Jet, one change made to the G2’s avionics hardware are new ADC that “RVSM capable.”

As an option, the G2’s avionics installation can incorporate an autothrottle, EVS camera, SurfaceWatch and real-time weather radar that is digital. Promoted as being a component that is more common on “high-end business jets” and commercial airframes, the optional autothrottle reduces pilot workload through its integration with the airframe’s autopilot and ability to change the airframe’s airspeed “for each phase of flight.” Cirrus states that the autothrottle gives pilots the ability to “program [their] entire flight profile” prior to departing, “including climbs and descents.” Garmin’s Flight Stream 510—a memory card that provides Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity—is also available for the G2 Vision Jet, a piece of hardware that enables a number of capabilities including wireless updates to the avionics database. In addition to database updates, Flight Stream also allows for the transfer of flight plans from mobile devices wirelessly, while also “stream[ing]” traffic and weather information from the Perspective Touch+ to mobile devices.

On Aug. 31, 2020, Cirrus announced the certification of another Vision Jet safety feature, Garmin’s emergency autoland technology that is “powered” by the Perspective Touch+ avionics and marketed as the Safe Return system. Should the activation of the system become necessary, passengers can do so with a single button on the Vision Jet’s ceiling, with Safe Return then taking “control of the aircraft” and guiding it “to the nearest suitable airport for landing.” Specifically, Safe Return utilizes the Perspective Touch+ to determine the appropriate flight plan, navigate around terrain and weather, perform an approach and “complete a fully autonomous landing without pilot or passenger intervention,” as well as also handling communications with air traffic control. Should its use no longer be necessary, Safe Return can be disengaged by “press[ing] the autopilot disconnect button on the yoke.”

Mission and Performance

Promoted by Cirrus as being “designed to fill the significant gap between high-performance piston singles and light jets,” the Vision Jet is a single-engine, turbofan-powered airplane that is comparable, in many respects, to single-engine turboprops such as Daher’s TBM 940, Pilatus’ PC-12 NGX and Textron’s in-development Beechcraft Denali.

The performance limitations of the SF50 include a maximum operating speed (VMO) of 250 kt. indicated airspeed (KIAS) and Mach number (MMO) of 0.53 Mach, while the maximum operating altitude is either 28,000 ft. or 31,000 ft., based on an airframe’s serial number. Although the increased maximum operating altitude was introduced on the G2 Vision Jet, because the pressurization on G2 airframes was increased from 6.4 psi to 7.1 psi, the 8,000-ft. cabin altitude at the “maximum cruising altitude” was retained. Beyond that maximum certified Mach number, the updated Vision Jet has a cruise speed of 305 kt. true airspeed (KTAS) and maximum cruise speed of 311 KTAS, an improvement in comparison to the 300 KTAS maximum cruise speed of earlier airframes. Although the conditions under which these figures are possible is not specified by Cirrus, the Vision Jet is promoted as having a takeoff distance, distance over a 50-ft. obstacle and landing groundroll of 2,036 ft., 3,192 ft. and 1,628 ft., respectively. Other performance figures promoted by manufacturer include a climb rate of 1,609 ft./min. and a stall speed with flaps of 67 kt.

Supplementing its performance capabilities and ability to operate with a single pilot, the FAA TCDS notes that the SF50 is also certified for “flight into known and forecast icing conditions.” According to Cirrus, that certification that is enabled by pneumatic boots that are found on the airframe’s V-tail and leading edges of the wings, boots that—along with the engine inlet anti-ice—utilize bleed air from the airframe’s FJ33 engine. In contrast to the use of bleed air by that deicing system, the AOA vane and pitot probes are protected from ice through the use of electrical heat, while windshield deicing is provided by TKS fluid.

It was the increase in the SF50’s maximum operating altitude that allowed the type to operate at flight levels where Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum (RVSM) is allowed and achieve a range over 1,200 nm. At the time the G2 was announced by Cirrus, the company stated that, “on a typical mission,” the airframe could accommodate a further 150 lb. “on an 800-nm mission,” as well as increasing the top speed to “above 300 kt.”

Specifications Comparison

Airframe

Passenger Capacity

Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW) (lb.)

Range (nm)

Takeoff Distance (ft.)

Landing Distance (ft.)

Cirrus Vision Jet

6

6,000

1,275

3,192*

1,628**

Beechcraft Denali

8-11

 

1,600

2,950

 

Pilatus PC-12 NGX

10

10,450

1,803

2,485*

2,170*

Daher TBM 940

5

7,394

1,730

2,380*

2,430* 

  *Over a 50-ft. obstacle

   **Groundroll

Variants

Cirrus Vision Jet Specifications

Wingspan (ft.)

Wing Area (ft.2)

Length (ft.)

Height (ft.)

38.7

195.7

30.7

10.9

Engine

 Takeoff/Maximum Continuous Thrust Limits (lb.)

Usable Fuel Capacity (gal.)

1x Williams International FJ33-5A

1,846

296

Basic Empty Weight

 (lb.)

Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW) (lb.)

Maximum Landing Weight (lb.)

3,550

6,000

5,550

Williams International FJ33 Engine

In addition to having takeoff and maximum continuous thrust limits of 1,846 lb., the SF50’s single FJ33-5A engine also incorporates a dual-channel full authority digital engine control (FADEC) system. According to the FAA TCDS that covers that engine variant, it is a twin-spool turbofan engine that has an annular combustor, exhaust mixer and full-length bypass duct. The engine also has a single-stage fan and three-stage axial centrifugal compressor, both of which are driven by a turbine that has two stages. In comparison to those engine components, the centrifugal compressor and the turbine that drives it both have a single stage. According to Cirrus, the FJ33 engine found on the G2+ Vision Jet has an “optimized thrust profile” that gives it takeoff performance that is improved by 20%, a feature that is noted as being of particular value during operations at high altitudes and in hot conditions. The airframe manufacturer further promotes the increased takeoff performance of the engine as providing better takeoff safety margins and initial climb performance, allowing for a higher useful load that can be used to carry more fuel or passengers and the ability to operate at airports with shorter runways.

Vision Jet Design, Flight Controls and Limitations

Beyond the SF50’s 6,000-lb. maximum takeoff weight (MTOW), Cirrus notes that the G2+’s basic empty weight is 3,550 lb., a slight decrease in comparison to the 3,572-lb. weight that of earlier Vision Jets. The SF50’s 296-gal. usable fuel capacity is held in left and right wet-wing tanks. Although the wing spar is “made in a high-pressure, high-temperature autoclave for high strength,” most of the SF50’s other “major airframe parts” are made using “cure carbon fiber sandwich construction” that is both low pressure and low temperature. In contrast to composite materials utilized for the airframe’s major parts, aluminum is used for both the wing’s trailing-edge flaps and the primary flight controls.

The Vision Jet’s wings are “high-lift airfoils” that place a premium on “low-speed performance” in lieu of “top-end speed.” Indeed, the previously noted MMO and VMO are more comparable to “turboprops than jets.” The sidestick controls are mechanically linked to the ailerons, as well as ruddervators “on the V-tail,” with yaw control provided by rudder pedals that are connected to the ruddervators. Additionally, pitch and yaw “inputs to the ruddervators are mechincally mixed by linkages.” Actuating the flight controls are bell cranks and push-pull rods, while it is servo tabs on the twin ventral fins located “below the V-tail [which] provide automatic yaw stability augmentation” including and below 200 ft.

Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS)

A safety feature that is carried over from Cirrus’ piston-engine SR20 and SR22 airplanes is the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS), described by the company as being a “whole-plane parachute system.” CAPS is further noted as being the “industry’s first general aviation parachute system produced in an FAA-certified aircraft,” with the Vision Jet also representing the first turbofan airplane to be fitted with such a system, which can be deployed in the event emergencies such as an engine failure to “slowly lower the aircraft to the ground.”

Program Status/Operators

In terms of program development, all three conforming flight-test airframes made their first flights in 2014, with the first such airframe—designated C0—making its first flight on March 24 of that year. According to Cirrus, a conforming flight-test airframe is one that is “substantially built and inspected to formal aircraft type design,” with C0 noted as “perform[ing] a wide range of aerodynamic performance and handling tests,” as well as testing of the airframe’s CAPS. The second conforming flight-test airplane, C1—an airframe that was primarily focused on flight into known icing (FIKI) conditions certification—made its first flight on Nov. 25, 2014, while the 20-min. first flight of the third conforming airframe, C2, occurred on Dec. 20, 2014, from Duluth. At the time of its first flight, Cirrus noted that the C2 flight-test airframe would “enter the [test] program with the goals of performing reliability and optional equipment testing, as well as serving as a catalyst for flight standards and training evaluations.” The first flight of a production version of the SF50—designated as P1—took place on May 5, 2016, a flight that represented what Cirrus described as “a shift of focus from engineering and production over to flight testing.” At the time of its first flight, it was noted that the primary mission of the P1 airframe would be to validate the Vision Jet’s training program, as well as “achieving approval from the Flight Safety Board.”

The final assembly of the Vision Jet takes place at Cirrus’ Duluth facilities, while the airframe’s composite parts are produced at the company’s facilities in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Although the initial deliveries of the airframe took place at the company’s “68,000-ft.2 Finishing Center” in Duluth, Vision Jet deliveries now take place at Cirrus’ Vision Center, located at McGhee Tyson Airport near Knoxville, Tennessee.

References

  • AWIN Article Archives
  • Cirrus, Daher and Pilatus Commercial Materials
  • FAA TCDS (FJ33-5A, SF50)
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Business Aviation
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