Cirrus: Taking the Chill Out of Icing

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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.

Second—also related to the Perspective—is 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.

Comments (4)

Interesting. In the last issue of Aviation Consumer, Jan/09, a letter was written by a Mooney owner. It is quite an eye opener for anyone considering this system. While the TKS system may be better than nothing, this letter gives me pause as to its value. As a matter of fact, the letter has convinced me that little airplanes and ice should be kept apart at all times regardless of TKS's claims. The day when someone produces a elecrothermal system that covers all the flying surfaces, is the day I would say it would be OK to fly through icing conditions. I'm not holding my breath.

Posted by: mike brooker | February 4, 2009 3:52 PM    Report this comment

Worth noting here is that a follow-up letter from CAV Ice Protection, maker of the Cirrus system, disputed that letter. CAV makes the point that certification rules require the system to be able to de-ice after an encounter of two minutes in severe icing with the system off. Over the years, we have conducted many surveys of TKS users and this is the first such letter I have received. The overwhelming sentiment is that TKS--approved for known ice or not--all but takes icing out of the equation. Over confidence is always a concern, of course. Clearly, it's time for so more customer surveys.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | February 5, 2009 9:00 AM    Report this comment

Having flown for eight years with TKS on my Turbo Centurion and encountered all kinds of icing, I will second Paul's statement that TKS all but takes icing out of the equation. I'll always look to get out of icing but, flying in the Northeast, sometimes that higher or lower altitude you want just isn't available. TKS removes the "Pucker Factor". TKS prevents icing and TKS removes icing. It works and works better than boots. There is no runback icing and every portion of the airframe aft of a deicing panel will be ice free. Those are the facts. I can't state it any more plainly than that.

Posted by: Michael Harbater | February 5, 2009 2:50 PM    Report this comment

I have 15 year's worth of experience flying a TKS-equipped aircraft. The system works as advertised, and functions as both an anti-ice and de-ice system. Lots of personal experience with the latter...I read the Mooney pilot's letter in January and do not understand his contentions. I think it is also worth noting that despite all of the interest in various electrothermal systems TKS is the ice-protection system of choice for current production aircraft (Cirrus, Cessna 400, Cessna Caravan). After two years of waiting for the problems to be fixed with the eVade electrothermal system-the fix was always "imminent", I went ahead and took the opportunity to have TKS installed on my 400 and and very happy with my decision.

Posted by: C. R. | February 5, 2009 7:38 PM    Report this comment

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