Nice when there's ice

Cirrus SR22s get FIKI

June 1, 2009

The outside air temperature was near freezing—but the Cirrus SR22’s wings glistened as though they were sweating in a sauna.

Seconds after hitting the “max” button on the 2009 model “X edition” SR22 equipped for flight into known icing (FIKI) conditions, the windshield, wings, and tail were bathed in clear TKS fluid that streaked aft in the 170-knot slipstream.

Previously, Cirrus had equipped some SR22s with a minimal anti-ice system designed to help pilots escape inadvertent encounters with freezing precipitation. Now, a much more robust system is available on both normally aspirated and turbocharged SR22s.

Externally, the original anti-ice and FIKI-equipped airplanes look almost identical. The leading edges of the wings and horizontal tail carry porous titanium strips that allow TKS fluid to weep out and prevent ice from accumulating on the airfoils, and a “sling ring” sends fluid to all three propeller blades. But the FIKI airplanes come with important differences, most of them buried deep within the composite airframe.

FIKI SR22s are equipped with two fluid pumps (not one); carry eight gallons of TKS fluid (not 2.5 gallons); disburse fluid at three rates (not two)—normal, high, and max. FIKI SR22s also have heated stall warning vanes, larger TKS strips on the wings and horizontal tail, a TKS strip on the leading edge of the vertical stabilizer, a pair of nozzles that spray TKS fluid on the left-side pilot windshield, and exterior ice detection lights on the fuselage that shine on both the wings and tail.

FIKI SR22s also graphically display the amount of TKS fluid remaining, and endurance at different settings, on the multifunction display. Endurance is expressed both in time and distance. For example, the demo SR22 at 65-percent power and leaned for economy cruise (162 KIAS) had nearly full TKS tanks, or enough to operate for two hours, 20 minutes (363 nm) at “normal”; one hour, 10 minutes (177 nm) at “high”; and 34 minutes (88 nm) at “max”.

The range figures are particularly meaningful when combined with an XM Aviator Pro satellite weather system that shows icing potential at various altitudes for the entire continental United States.

“Our system is designed to help pilots make intelligent decisions during flight based on real-time weather information,” said Matt Bergwall, a Cirrus corporate pilot and instructor.

The FIKI system cannot be retrofitted to existing SR22s—not even those with TKS already installed.

As an option, FIKI adds about $45,000 to the price of an SR22 (or $24,000 above the price of an airplane with a non-FIKI anti-ice system). FIKI also adds weight, most of which is the eight gallons of TKS fluid itself, or about 72 pounds. But since Cirrus found other areas to reduce weight, the total payload penalty for the full FIKI system has been kept to just 61 pounds. That weight is subtracted, of course, from the airplane’s typical full-fuel payload of about 675 pounds. (An SR22 carries up to 84 gallons of fuel.)

Bergwall said Cirrus aims to give pilots greater flexibility by allowing them to adjust the amount of fuel and TKS fluid they bring along. “We wouldn’t expect pilots to keep their TKS tanks full in the middle of summer, or on flights when they are extremely unlikely to encounter icing conditions,” he said. “We want to give them options.”

The FIKI SR22 company demonstrator was a luxurious X edition with options that included the Garmin G1000-based Perspective avionics suite with 12-inch screens, premium paint, TAWS-B terrain warning system, stitched leather seats, and a suede headliner. The airplane as flown was valued at about $550,000, Bergwall said.

Other changes in recent models include automotive-style heating/air conditioning controls with an electronic “flapper valve,” which replaces the former manual switch that shifted between heat, vent, and defrost. The switch that controls the electric flaps is smaller, and additional space has been created on the carbon fiber console for future upgrades the company is keeping mum about.

Cirrus officials said it was unclear how popular an option FIKI protection is likely to be for owner/pilots. The company will offer FIKI protection as an option only on SR22s—not SR20s. But FIKI is likely to be very popular among Cirrus air taxi operations. FAA rules currently prohibit air taxis operating SR22s from flying in areas where icing conditions are forecast, and that can ground entire networks across broad geographic regions for extended periods.

With FIKI systems, air taxis—and individual owners alike—will have more flexibility to make their own weather choices, and powerful new tools if and when they encounter real icing conditions.

E-mail the author at dave.hirschman@aopa.org.

Dave Hirschman

Dave Hirschman | AOPA Pilot Senior Editor , AOPA

AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Dave Hirschman joined AOPA in 2008. He has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates. Dave flies vintage, historical, and Experimental airplanes and specializes in tailwheel and aerobatic instruction.