How does a normally aspirated SR22 get into level cruise at FL17500?

On the Step Cirrus SR22TN Turbo Perspective credit wikiWings
“On the Step” 2008 Cirrus SR22TN Turbo Perspective, credit wikiWings

We’re continuing a review of articles written about flying an airplane “on the step.” These articles help us to better understand flying in level cruise flight. Simple right?

A number of expert instructors have pointed out that many pilots tend to prematurely reduce power after leveling off at their selected altitude, which creates a mushing along flight attitude with the nose slightly up and tail low. Cirrus pilots in normally aspirated SR22’s that reach higher flight levels have posted comments on this type of flight attitude.

At an altitude of 17,500 feet a normally aspirated Cirrus only has about 55% engine power.  So, can a normally aspirated SR22 climb from below into flight level 17,500, it’s ceiling limitation, and use just engine power alone to accelerate into best cruise velocity?  If the plane is set at full remaining power (55% of 310 hp), how long does it take to get the plane’s nose lower and accelerate into best cruise speed?

A Cirrus SR22TN Turbo may require up to 2 minutes at full power (100% of 310hp) to pull the plane into level cruise flight.  It’s seems that the task in a normally aspirated plane would be harder and longer than 2 minutes at just 55% power in the flight levels.  But climbing slightly above to 17,600 feet and then descending would use the airplane’s momentum to assist in acceleration toward best cruise velocity.

Pilot Observations

  • A number of variables can affect reaching best cruise performance, including: pilot procedure, density altitude, temperature, weight and balance.
  • If you’re on an IFR flight plan obtain ATC approval for deviations above your assigned altitude.

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