The Cirrus SF50 Vision jet is entering the final stretch of a nearly two-year certification campaign with company officials encouraged by performance so far but cautious about the chances of remaining on schedule.
Officially, the single-engined, V-tailed jet launched by Cirrus nine years ago is still running on track to receive type certification from the US Federal Aviation Administration by the end of the year, says Pat Waddick, president of Innovation and Operations.
But past experience certificating the piston-powered SR-22 provides a cautionary note.
“I’ve seen all sorts of things come up where you’re got to work through issues,” Waddick says.
So far, the three production-conforming SF50 flight test aircraft have completed a package of flight performance testing, including stalls, spins and manouevreability, Waddick says.
The flight test fleet also has completed certification tests showing the SF50 can fly normally with ice shapes attached to the fuselage, he says.
The next step is to complete static testing to prove that the airframe can survive a 12,000h design life.
Then comes one of the most challenging tests in the certification programme: in-flight deployments of a ballistic aircraft parachute system.
Cirrus pioneered the integration of a ballistic-deployed parachute system behind the cockpit of the SR-22, with 53 deployments to date saving 107 people.
With a jet engine occupying the same space in the SF50, Cirrus’ newest aircraft instead installs the parachute system in the nose. That configuration – occupying a sensitive area for balance and centre of gravity – forced Cirrus to adopt the parachute as a required standard item.
“We had a fork in the road and we had to choose one or the other and because of our passion for safety we chose to have it,” Waddick says.
So far, Cirrus has performed a progressive series of certification tests on the parachute, including an ultimate load test involving a simulated aircraft deployment.
By mid-September or early October, the company expects to perform one or two in-flight parachute deployments for the first time.
“Those are tests that get your attention because it’s one of the higher risks tests that we run,” Waddick says.
Meanwhile, another production conforming aircraft must begin a 150-200h series of function and reliability testing, he says.