Cirrus Transition Training: What to expect
Thinking about purchasing a Cirrus? You’re in for an exciting time! In my admittedly biased opinion, it’s one of the most fun, capable, and safe aircraft on the market today.
But as the exciting prospects of where to go and what to do begin to unfold in front of you, so do some of the more mundane details of the process. You’ll need to find a plane (The Flight Academy has a buyer’s agent service to help with that if you’d like to take the headache out of it and ward off some pitfalls) do a pre buy inspection (we recommend going with a full annual inspection for security) at a neutral service center, arrange insurance, get a place set up to house it… and then you’ll need to move it and get some training in how to operate safely.
In this post, I’d like to cover the last part of the process.
There are a couple of different routes to take when it comes to training. Some of this will be mandated by your insurance company so be sure to double check your policy before your plans become concrete!
Find a CFI
First, you’re going to need an instructor who is very familiar with the Cirrus’ systems. Certainly you’re going to want someone who is very familiar with the avionics, but you’re also going to want someone who will train you to fly the Cirrus in the safest possible ways. This covers a wide variety of things – as simple as the proper approach speed and as “complex” about where and when to use your CAPS system. Cirrus has a standardization program for instructors called the Cirrus Standardized Instructor Program (CSIP). Instructors who have been doing it for a long time are designated as Platinum CSIPs. This requires 2 years teaching and over 1,800 hours of Cirrus time.
Not all CSIPs are equal so make sure you chat with your prospective instructor to get a feel for their personality and experience with the aircraft.
Another option exists in the form of a Cirrus Training Center. This is a company that is dedicated (wholly or in part) to Cirrus training. Again, you’ll want to do an interview with your training provider to make sure you’re getting what you like.
Some insurance companies require the Cirrus Transition Training and even if they don’t it’s still a pretty good idea. This course consists of a syllabus made up of seven lessons, typically completed over a span of 3 days, meant to familiarize you with the VFR normal and emergency operations of your aircraft. Your training doesn’t start on the day you first meet your airplane though! Prior to meeting with your instructor (at least a week prior) you’ll want to dive into the Cirrus transition books and software. Your Training Center or CSIP should be able to help you get these documents but they can easily be purchased from the Cirrus Connection Store. If you’re not sure about which training materials package to purchase, I’ll cover that in the next section.
If you’re an instrument pilot and would like to start using your Cirrus to its full capability, you can do the Advanced Transition course. This syllabus is designed to get you familiar with the normal and emergency IFR operations that you’d expect, including integration of the autopilot and Garmin systems. At five total days, the Advanced course tends to be a fairly sizeable bit of work. We normally recommend that unless you’re a fairly experienced instrument pilot, go with the normal course and add on the IFR familiarity after 2 or 3 months of flying your Cirrus VFR.
Some insurance companies will simply state a number of hours they’d like you to receive prior to flying solo or with passengers. In this case you and your instructor can define the areas you’d like to cover but to reiterate I’d still go with something heavily modeled on the Transition course mentioned above. Systems, normal operations, emergency procedures (to include CAPS), and anything else particular to your airplane are going to be important things to cover. Turbo owners, for example, will want to do a flight up into the flight levels. FIKI owners will want to be familiar with that system and complete the associated online course. This list goes on but as always, make sure your CFI is familiar with the systems and operations that are particular to your aircraft.
Many CSIPs will come to you and train with you at your location. My company, for example, has made this our business model and thus it’s a norm. An option to consider is to bring your experienced CSIP with you when you go to accept your new aircraft and have that person go around it with you, pointing out squawks and identifying abnormalities in flight. Complete the paperwork and start your first lesson on the flight home! Or, if you’ve got the time and inclination, you can turn your transition into a tour of airports across the region that you’d see yourself visiting later with your family. Training work can be done on the way to keep it efficient and you’ll be that much more familiar with busy airspace or challenging terrain later.
The Cirrus Connection store has a couple of options for your training. First step: make sure you pick the correct avionics package. They sell both Avidyne and Perspective kits.
Next, decide between the Basic and Deluxe kit. The primary difference between the two is software – the deluxe has a POH, Flight Ops Manual, Checklist, and a few programs to aid your learning. The basic is just a POH and Flight Ops Manual. Both feature access to a web based training portal built by Cirrus which you can use to find documents and answer questions that serve as a study guide (there’s also a printed version of this for those who prefer it).
The Deluxe software offers an avionics simulator (note that this is not a flight sim, it is an avoinics sim) and a Cirrus Aircraft Training Software (CATS) package. If you’ve never really dived into the electrical system of an airplane or worked with a turbo, the Deluxe package has some appeal because it’s designed to break those systems down into their essential pieces, then slowly put them together for better understanding.
If this is your first high performance airplane or first glass cockpit, the Deluxe is a good idea. If you’ve worked with a glass panel aircraft and feel like you could do a reasonable job at understanding the systems based just on what the POH and FOM say, the Basic kit isn’t a bad way to go. The price difference between the two is either 300 dollars (Perspective) or 400 dollars (Avidyne). Considering the awesome and advanced airplane you’ve just purchased the price isn’t all that steep for a Deluxe kit but decide what will work best for you based on your experience.
Focus Your Training
We generally recommend doing all of the training in your new Cirrus in a fairly condensed period of time. The more you stretch out flights the more ground you have to go back over on the next lesson, so it’s often best to keep the intervals short between breaks. Most people just do all 3 days in a row but if your life is busy and you’ve got some things to do it can still work. The key is to not let more than 2 or 3 days go by between training sessions. If you simply can’t devote 3 full days, try doing successive half days. If even *that* can’t work, consider delaying your training for a little bit. You want this foundation to be very solid since all of your future habits will be built on this transition. Make it count!
If you’ve got more questions about the training, feel free to ask in the comments section below or give me a call at The Flight Academy: (206) 219-3720.
Chief Pilot, The Flight Academy