In the aviation journalism biz, we like to think we keep abreast of all the latest developments. And we do, but at a certain distance that sometimes insulates us from the real impact of new technology and products. That's another way of saying sometimes we don't exactly get it.
I had one of these eureka moments this week. Matt Bergwall of Cirrus dropped by our Florida headquarters with a model of the soon-to-be-certified-and available flight into known icing package that Cirrus is now offering. Although I hadn't seen it, I had written about it and thought I had a good grasp of the system. Well, not quite. Cirrus has added some nice touches to this version of TKS that really makes it the most advanced ice protection system ever envisioned for single-engine aircraft.
The fluid tanks, for instance, are in the wings and easily accessible. And to keep from dumping gas into the TKS tanks and vice versa, the lockable caps have separate keys. There are ice lights on both sides of the fuselage with prismatic lenses that illuminate both the wings and the tail surfaces. With four gallons of fluid per side, the system has protection capacity for at least two-and-half hours, but probably a lot more if the TKS fluid is conserved. On the tail surfaces, the outboard elevator counter balance surface is also protected with its own stub fluid membrane. It's a nice little detail.
So far, so good. But there are two other touches that make an SR22 equipped with this system a serious ice-capable machine. One is that management and monitoring of the system is integrated into the Garmin Perspective system, which annunciates fluid levels, flow rates and faults. You don't have to worry about pumping the fluid overboard with no warning.
Secondalso related to the Perspectiveis the ability to display WxWorx's new Current Icing Product, which is available if you buy the Aviator Pro Service through XMWX Weather. In color-coded format, CIP shows icing potential at various altitudes. When Bergwall pulled it up for Florida, we saw that icing was a possibility above 9,000 feet in the Miami area. (Yes, Florida gets that cold. It has been this week.)
This combined capability is simply stunning. Thinking back 20 years ago when I was instructing in the northeast, stooging around in Cherokees and Skyhawks, we were all but clueless about icing conditions. Sometimes there were PIREPS, often there were not. And if you picked up a load, you had to deal with it with whatever you had available, which was basically nothing but a heated pitot tube. Now, besides having color-coded pictures of icing potential, you can hold the stuff off the airframe for a couple of hours with TKS.
New Cirrus buyers probably take this equipment for granted. But to really appreciate it, it helps to remember what it was like not have any of it.