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I flew a high-performance aircraft for the first time recently (SR22T) and nearly ground-looped the thing during a touch-and-go because the instructor gave me absolutely zero pre-flight instruction (my brother is taking lessons and I'm certificated with ~100h in a 172, which I made abundantly clear).

There are two contributing factors in my mind:

  1. I was making copious use of the nose-up trim during final for a zero control-pressure at approach speed. The landing was butter, but as I advanced the throttle the thing literally jumped off the runway and I panicked as I tried to keep it in ground effect without adjusting the trim.
  2. I advanced the throttle quite aggressively which caused an enormous amount of yaw, where during my panic, instead of rudder, I tried to steer the thing like a car with the obvious result. Luckily we were off the ground and avoided a worse-case result, though I'm pretty certain that the AFCS(a) saved us from stalling out in the chaos.
  3. (bonus) The instructor quite obviously abdicated his responsibility to the safety of his passengers and the aircraft. Though, I have enough experience that I should not have flown without a briefing.

It was terrifying and it has made me apprehensive about taking the controls of such an aircraft again.

What briefing or process should the instructor have used that would have ameliorated this outcome? How should you handle trim on such an aircraft for a touch-and-go?

(a): The SR22T I flew had a Garmin G1000 with an Automatic Flight Control System, which includes a feature sometimes referred to as "envelope protection" that is active even with the autopilot disconnected. One aspect of this protection is that it will (for example) reduce AoA like the stick pusher in a commercial aircraft to keep it within its safe flight envelope, preventing a stall.

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  • $\begingroup$ Re point number 1, the question would be improved by explaining specifically which control surface(s) you found yourself trimming on final. Elevator? Rudder? Both? Etc. Also re "though I'm pretty certain that the AFCS saved us from stalling out in the chaos" -- can you elaborate just a bit more, and spell out what AFCS is? This sentence will be a complete mystery to many readers unfamiliar with this specific aircraft. $\endgroup$ Jun 15, 2023 at 20:17
  • $\begingroup$ Good point! I've clarified that it was only elevator trimmed to approach speed. $\endgroup$
    – joshperry
    Jun 15, 2023 at 20:20
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    $\begingroup$ Upvote for use of the word "ameliorated". ;) (you made me look it up...) $\endgroup$ Jun 15, 2023 at 21:10

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Yeah you were very poorly briefed. With a tractor airplane with the tail in the propeller wash and the engine thrust line close to the C of G, trim speed can drop significantly with power. The 172 will do this as well, but the effect is a lot more subtle. I can imagine full power in a beast like the Cirrus lowers the trim speed by 5-10+ kt, just from the increased propeller wash, and that on top of torque effects can be a handful.

The proper way to do touch and goes with an airplane like that is to retrim on the roll to a setting that is close to the desired one at full power, which you can do while you're reconfiguring flaps for the go.

I've done touch and goes in CRJs, flying them in a circuit/pattern like a light plane, and the procedure once down is to maintain the centerline while the other pilot configures trim and flaps, and when they are set stands the thrust levers to around vertical, enough to get the lift dumpers to retract, confirm everything is good, set climb thrust (not TO thrust on T&Gs), and off we go. Retrimming is a critical part of the procedure.

In the case of the Cirrus, you're going to do that yourself obviously. One suggestion is to do some experimentation on the ground to see how long it takes to retrim from the approximate approach speed trim value to the take off trim value. Count it out, one-thousand-two-thousand-three-thousand or whatever, and when you do touch and goes, as you are resetting flaps hit the trim for the three count while you are doing it, with a quick glance at the indication to confirm it's reasonable. You'll be close enough, then when you lift off it's light control pressures to achieve the target speed and blip blip blip with the trim to get it exactly where you want it.

If you are going around while still airborne, it's the same thing really; if you have a rough idea of what it takes to retrim for full power climb, just develop the instinct to give it a couple of shots of ND trim as you are feeding in the power. As well as developing the instinct to feed in the rudder you know is going to be required.

And yes you should be getting in the habit of adding and reducing power reasonably slowly, 2-3 seconds from idle to full throttle, especially with high performance machines with turbocharged engines like that, to allow the turbo waste gate controls and propeller governor to keep up without overshooting. It's just good engine management practice. The exception is when you need power right now to stay alive.

It's basically a matter of learning the airplane's behaviour and using that knowledge to stay ahead of it. A proper briefing and probably a demo T&G by the instructor on the first try would've helped a lot. But don't be intimidated by the thing.

Treat it like a horse, which has to be shown who's boss if you don't want it to take you back to the barn when it feels like it. Take charge. Command it. A lot of it is psychological.

The way to get there is knowledge and practice, and sometimes, experimentation done at a safe altitude as well. And for sure, better training.

Drill the airplane's procedures in your mind, over and over again. If you have a Cirrus computer simulator, use that to drill and drill and drill, practice practice practice, until you can't stand it. When the time comes, your hands will fly around automatically without thinking, and your brain will be free to concentrate on actually flying the thing. Computer sims are a very powerful tool for that. Then get back on the horse.

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  • $\begingroup$ "The proper way to do touch and goes with an airplane like that is to retrim on the roll..." --this really surprises me. Even during single-pilot operations? Keeping in mind that depending on exactly when power is re-applied, sometimes the amount of time spent with the wheels on the ground can be rather brief-- $\endgroup$ Jun 16, 2023 at 12:42
  • $\begingroup$ When doing T&Gs, (or "circuits" in Canada) you will be rolling for the time it takes for landing flaps to be retracted to takeoff flaps. You are normally on the ground for 3-5 seconds at least, depending on how long it takes to reset the flaps. In a C-150, you don't have to bother with the trim and can take care of it during the climb. If there is a major trim change between the two configs, then yes you should use the interval to reset trim to the normal takeoff range. Otherwise you takeoff again and have to hold 30lbs of forward pressure as you frantically re-trim. Quite dangerous. $\endgroup$
    – John K
    Jun 16, 2023 at 14:46
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    $\begingroup$ Excellent point on trim speed changing, excellent answer! I might have to tweak mine a bit... $\endgroup$ Jun 16, 2023 at 15:10
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EDIT: Read John K's answer regarding trim speed changing with power. I will modify my answer later to correct my statements regarding this...

Caveat: I have never flown the CR22T, and have never done a touch and go in a piston single over 180hp. I have some number of T&Gs in the Cessna 208 and T-34C, but there is some lag in the turbine spool up so I am not sure how they compare. I have done thousands of T&Gs in jets.

ELEVATOR TRIM: In most aircraft the approach speed is pretty close to rotation speed. Your technique of trimming for final approach speed is correct, and I don’t recall in any aircraft ever being taught to re-trim during a T&G. Therefore I don’t recommend changing anything in your habit pattern, just know that unless you leave it at idle and decelerate significantly during the ground roll that with extra power you will get airborne again very quickly. As you noticed…

Control pitch on the go, but don’t fight to hold it in ground effect as long as your speed is under control. Because you weren’t in ground effect on final at the speed the airplane is trimmed for, so you know the airplane will fly. That might mean a higher nose attitude than you are comfortable with, but you will get used to it. And even come to like it!

Of note, it took some adjusting on my part to get used to light piston single GA T&Gs, letting the nose fall through, maybe changing flap configuration, carb heat in, advancing throttle slowly… In Navy jets you don't mess with anything, you literally “touch” and go, full power and backstick as soon as the main wheels hit.

YAW: It would seem that a HP piston single might have a faster response than what I have flown, but yeah… you need to be ready for it. WWII fighters could put you right on your back as I understand it. Feed power to it a bit slower next time, and counter with rudder. Basic stuff, and I know you know it, but that leads me to…

INSTRUCTOR/YOUR REACTION: Yes, your instructor could have “ameliorated” the situation with a better pre-flight briefing on what to expect, and/or ridden the controls a bit. Hard to say because I wasn’t there, but saying they abdicated responsibility for safety sounds a bit harsh. It’s difficult to anticipate how a student might react, and perhaps with your experience they presumed you would handle it better. It sounds like you overreacted, gave both of you a bit of a scare, but hopefully you had a thorough debrief so that both could learn from the experience.

Your story reminds me of years ago when I traded in a tired 4Cyl Fox Body Capri for the same chassis in a newer Mustang GT with a V8. On my first test drive I was just trying to accelerate briskly to compare power to what I was used to. In doing so I unintentionally lit up both back tires and started drifting sideways before backing off the throttle. It startled me, but as soon as I learned to respect and control the power I loved it.

These sort of events definitely get the heart pumping, but you walked away unscathed and no mishap on your record so please don't be discouraged. And I wouldn’t dramatically change anything in your methodology, just be more cautious until you develop a feel for it.

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  • $\begingroup$ That is a really great point about being trimmed to fly, hadn't thought of it that way! Compared to my 172 where the throttle is more of a suggestion, that plane is an absolute rocket with a 78" composite prop. I overreacted without a doubt, the stall horn was chirping from my panic porposing the plane trying to level when it felt like we were going almost vertical. Watching some T&G instruction online, the instructor was forcing the student to advance the throttle while counting to 5. There was no debrief, so I came here. Thanks for the perspective, next time maybe I can enjoy the power. $\endgroup$
    – joshperry
    Jun 16, 2023 at 0:01

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