General Aviation Safety and the Cirrus SR22

Prior to the start of my flight training, I was clueless about general aviation safety. When I began researching the SR22, I was extremely surprised that in the short lifespan of the Cirrus planes, they have already been involved in 26 fatal accidents (with 52 deaths). That number still runs chills through my body. To put things in perspective, there are only about 3,400 Cirrus planes ever made. With 26 fatal accidents, that means 1 in approximately every 130 Cirrus planes have crashed killing at least 1 person on board. That’s a sobering statistic. 1 in 130.

Up until this point, I had operated under the assumption that “flying is safer than driving.” This is true when comparing Commercial Airliners against the general driving population, but it’s far from it when comparing General Aviation to car accidents. That was all news to me. I decided I needed to do a lot more research on General Aviation Safety and Cirrus planes before becoming an owner.

Pilot Safety Discussions

If you listen to or read any forum messages where pilots discuss fatal aviation accidents, inevitably someone will blame an incompetent and inexperienced new pilot for making fatal mistakes and they move on. With the Cirrus owners in particular, lots of people blame the “new, young, rich entrepreneur” who gets a plane for all the wrong reasons. They claim that the Cirrus airplanes have become the new “must-have toy” for these rich people who have no business flying and they end up killing themselves and their passengers. Some people even blame Cirrus marketing for going after new pilots.

Unfortunately, such pilot discussions are rarely supported by any studies, statistics or proof to support the case against new pilots. These type of posts appear to be a way to convince the writer him or herself that fatal crashes happen to “other people” who are not competent. Since much of the pilot discussions blamed pilots with my exact background, my research into this matter became even more intense. I was afraid that if the overall statistics are “bad”, then for me (new, rich entrepreneur) flying a high-performance plane such as the Cirrus might be much worse.

Reading the Accident Reports

I decided to dig up some accident reports to see for myself. The first place to get some factual information is the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The NTSB investigates every aviation accident and makes the reports publicly available and searchable on their web site. That’s very cool. Anybody can read the accident reports for themselves. Here’s how to find every Cirrus accident report the NTSB has in its database:

  1. Go to this page: http://www.ntsb.gov/ntsb/query.asp
  2. For the “Make/Model” field, type “cirrus”
  3. If you prefer to just see the fatal accident reports, you can choose “fatal” under the “Injury/Severity” field
  4. Click Submit Query and your search results will show

Reading the Cirrus accident reports, it becomes obvious that the problem is not just with new inexperienced pilots. There have been fatal accidents with nearly all kinds of pilots with the largest group of fatal accidents (16 of the 26) having greater than 400 total hours of flight experience. So Cirrus Marketing to new pilots and the new group of rich entrepreneurs who need to have the latest toys are not to blame.

Unfortunately, that still was not very comforting.

Statistics Don’t Lie

The next question I had was about how the Cirrus planes compare to the General Aviation average accident rates. Once again, the NTSB provides excellent statistics about General Aviation accidents. Here’s a summary of the number of fatal accidents per 100,000 hours of flight for the past 20 years:

General Aviation Fatal Accident Rates

The graph shows that in recent years fata accidents happen at a rate of 1.3 for every 100,000 hours of flight. The NTSB also puts out an Annual Review of Aircraft Accident Data. The latest copy of this report is for calendar year 2003 (where are the newer ones!?!). This is a very well-prepared document with more statistics than you ever cared to know about General Aviation. It’s an excellent source of information and I highly recommend that every pilot, new or veteran, at least review this information:

NTSB’s Annual Review of Aircraft Accident Data for 2003

I’ve gone ahead and summerized some of the highlights of the report here.

1 in 2,000 Pilots Die Every Year

One of the first graphs you’ll find in the NTSB Annual Review of Aircraft Accident Data is this one:

General Aviation Accidents per 1,000 Pilots

There’s no good story to tell here. According to this graph, approximately 1 in every 2,000 pilots die every year due to a fatal aviation accident. If you plan to be a pilot for 40 years of your life, the chances during your lifetime (assuming the stats don’t improve) is about 1 in 50! Ouch. That hurts.

It might be comforting to know that according to the National Safety Council’s general population Odds of Dying by any accident during the average lifetime, is about 1 in 22. As a pilot, you’re barely nudging your overall chances in the wrong direction. So don’t worry, you’re in good company. Even if you weren’t a pilot, your overall chances of dying from an accident is 1 in 22.

Fatal Accidents by Type of Operation

Unfortunately, it doesn’t get much better for us casual personal & business pilots. Since the overall GA accident statistics also includes corporate jets, which have a signficantly lower accident rate, breaking it down by type of operation brings the casual pilot accident rate closer to 2 fatal accidents per 100,000 hours of flight:

GA Accidents by Type of Operation

Notice how low the grey bars are. It appears that Corporate/Executive fatal accidents are closer to .1-.2 per 100,000 flight hours making corporate/executive traveling significantly safer than cars. So if you can afford it and you don’t enjoy the flying aspect of being a pilot, hiring a professional pilot for your corporate plane might be a better way to go.

Accidents by Type of Aircraft

One additional set of statistics worth examining is the rate of accidents based on the type of aircraft:

GA Accidents by Type of Aircraft

As you can see from the chart above, Amateur-Built experimental planes have the worst safety record, with nearly 4 times as many fatal accidents as a single-engine piston airplane.

Back to Cirrus Planes

With all the General Aviation safety statistics in hand, you’re probably still wondering as I was how the Cirrus stacks up to the GA average accident rates. Fortunately, or unforutnately, depending on how you look at it, the Cirrus planes don’t stand out in either direction. With about 1.44 fatal accidents per 100,000 flight hours during their lifetime, the Cirrus planes are slightly higher (but statistically insignificant) than the average Single-Engine piston, which stands at 1.41. The big problem is that you’d expect that Cirrus planes would definitely stand out and have a signifcantly lower fatal accident rate. After all, the Cirrus planes have a lot going for them:

  • Significantly newer fleet compared to average age of GA planes
  • CAPS Safety System (parachute)
  • Modern Design for Safety and Control
  • State of the Art Avionics

Yet, with all the advantages that Cirrus planes should have, the fatal accident rates so far have not been better than average. There is a lot more Cirrus-specific accident information and statistics on COPA. There’s also an excellent presentation that was given by Rick Beach which is available on COPAPedia. COPAPedia is a Wiki for COPA members with information about everything from maintenance to safety to operations and even accessories. If you aren’t a COPA member and you’re considering a Cirrus plane, it’s a great place to do extensive research and meet other Cirrus pilots.

In Rick’s presentation, he also points out that the CAPS system was activated 13 times with 10 saves (saving 22 lives) and 3 CAPS activations being counted as failures (2 fatalities). However, the overwhelming evidence points to the CAPS system working well in emergency scenarios where the pilot loses control of the aircraft. So when in doubt, pull the chute, ask questions later when you live.

Conclusion

It was disapointing to find that Cirrus planes don’t appear to be any safer than the general single-engine fleet of planes. That brings the safety responsibility back to the pilot. The bad news here is that a lot of pilots don’t think it can happen to them and they blame fatal accidents on stupid pilots. The problem is that we’re all stupid pilots every now and then. The key is to not be in denial. General Aviation is not as safe as driving. Period. It’s about 7 times more fatal (about the same risk as motorcycles). But the risks are significantly less when flying in good weather during the day, in VFR conditions and in familiar territory. Night accidents are almost twice as likely to result in fatalities and forget about it if the weather is bad. Overconfidence contributes to the bad statistics. The plane is a small part of the accident story, which is why the Cirrus planes have not been able to save the pilots who make bad decisions. That’s too bad. I think more can be done.

The thing to remember is that it can happen to you. Make good decisions and when in doubt, pull the chute!

More Research

If you’re looking for additional information on aviation safety, here are some great sources:

130 responses to “General Aviation Safety and the Cirrus SR22

  1. Thanks for the link to the Cirrus accident info. You post prompted me to review the NTSB GA accident review, the one where it calculates a rate of 1.41 fatal accidents per 100,000 hours in single-engine piston airplanes. In 2005, that number appears to have jumped significantly to about 1.86, with both more single-engine fatal accidents and fewer hours flown in the FAA survey. Consequently, the Cirrus lifetime rate of 1.44 compares favorably with my calculation. Interesting to see what NTSB presents when they get around to publishing their 2005 data in a couple of years!

  2. Rick, thanks for that comment. It’s interesting to see the accident rate jump that high for 2005. Some people are also looking at the FAA’s crackdown on airspace violations as potentially increasing accident rates. People who make sudden movements to avoid airspaces, but then end up running into something.

  3. Your comment about having a 1 in 50 chance of dying over 40 years is incorrect. Each year, you say statistics show you have a 1 in 2000 chance of being killed as a PIC. That means each year. Odds don’t change just because a new year has begun. Think of it this way: There are 2000 marbles in a hat. 1 is red and 1,999 are white. You reach in and pull one out blindfolded. You had a 1 in 2000 chance of pulling the red one out. Now you put the marble back in the hat and pull one out again. You still have the same odds as the first time around. You can do this 40 times but it does not change the odds because each time you pull a marble out is an INDEPENDENT event unconnected to the last drawing. So, therefore, the 1 in 2000 odds do not change no matter how many times
    you draw with 2000 marbles in the hat. Past drawings have nothing to do with future ones. Just wanted to clear that up.

  4. Peter, the odds of each pull of a marble is 1 in 2000, but when you do it 40 times, the collective odd of pulling a red marble is actually 1/2000 + 1/2000 + 1/2000…40 times = 40/2000 = 1/50. So the overall odds of pulling a red marble is actually 1 in 50.

    Hope that makes sense.

  5. If you’ve drawn 1 out of 2000, and then again the next year, you’ve drawn 2 out of 4000. Go ask a math teacher!

  6. And, if you really think about it, pilots around 500 hours are potentially some of the most dangerous pilots. They think they know everything but haven’t learned everything so they open themselves up to a lot of risks that newbies and seasoned vets wouldn’t.

  7. Scott, no need for a math teacher. I still remember basic arithmetic. By your measure, you’d have the same chance of pulling a red marble regardless of how many times you pull out marbles. So if you tried the pull 1,000 times, using your math, you’d still have a 1 in 2,000 chance of pulling out a red marble. Obviously that’s inaccurate.

  8. you’re talking about year to year odds, 1 in 2000 people get killed per year. You’re only pulling it out once out of 2000 per year.

  9. Scott, each year you have a 1 in 2000 chance (purely statistically speaking). So after 2 years, you have a 2 in 2,000 chance, after 40 years, a 40 in 2,000 chance.

    Clearly if a person is only a pilot for 1 year the odds of dying (during the entirety of the person’s life) is significantly less than if the same person is a pilot for 40 years. The way you are doing your math, regardless of how long one is a pilot their odds of dying is the same. That’s not possible.

  10. I am sorry but that isn’t correct. If you check with a statistician or actuary, he/she will come to the same result as I did. Scott is correct with the 1 in 2000 and the 2 in 4000. The thing to remember is that they are independent events. If you buy a lottery ticket, and the odds of winning the lottery are 1 in 10,000,000; your odds remain the same unless you buy more than 1 ticket in the same drawing. If you buy another ticket for a different drawing, the odds are still 1 in 10,000,000. There is no such thing as cumulative odds from drawing to drawing. It goes the same way with a slot machine. Each “pull” of the lever is an independent event so you have the same odds of winning the jackpot no matter how many times you pull the lever, because each pull of the lever is an independent event. Your idea of 40 in 2000 only applies if you are pulling from the same hat and you do not put the marbles you have already drawn back in each time.

    The key is, each year is equivalent to drawing from a different hat. There are still 2000 Pilots in the hat, you are still just one of them. Therefore, the chance of being killed remains at a constant of 1 in 2000 if you your data is correct. Good debate, though there is only one correct mathematical answer, the one that I have given.

  11. Peter, you are right in that your chances EACH YEAR are 1 in 2,000. Therefore, if you are a pilot for 40 years your OVERALL chances of dying are greater than if you are a pilot for just 1 year. After 40 years, your odds are roughly 40 in 2,000 and NOT 40 in 80,000 as you suggest. However, this is not entirely accurate. It’s just close. I’ll show how to get exact below.

    The same is true if you play the lottery. If you play the lottery 1 time your OVERALL chances of winning are lower than if you play it 1000 times (even if it’s over 1000 different drawings). Although each time you play you have the same odds of winning, if one was to try to figure out the overall odds of winning during those 1,000 drawings it would be CLOSE TO 1,000 / X where X is the odds of winning in any given drawing.

    In fact the National Safety Council also calculates your odds of dying from different events in the same way I have. They take the one-year odds of dying and multiply it by your life expectancy. Take a look at http://www.nsc.org/lrs/statinfo/odds.htm to see what I mean.

    But that’s not entirely accurate.

    So what is the accurate way of calculating the statistical probability of one pilot dying over a 40-year period? Here are the steps:

    – First calculate the odds of surviving each year, which is 1,999 to 2,000 (or 0.9995 or 99.95%).

    – Since after 2 years you’d have a 0.9995 x 0.9995 chance of surviving, to calculate the odds of surviving after 40 years, you simply take the odds of surviving for 1 year and raise it to the 40th power. 0.9995^40 = 0.9802 or 98.02% chance of survival.

    – To calculate odds of dying, you simply subtract 98.02% from 100% = 1.98% or close to the 2% that I had suggested in the article.

  12. With all of this discussion, I think it is more intuitive to think of the statistics in fatalities per hours of flight time ie: deaths per 100,000 hours. Thus, the more you fly over the years, the higher probability for a fatality. This is no different than any other acitvity such as driving. The more time you spend on a busy highway with speeding trucks, the more likely you will be involved in an accident.

  13. Marbles and stats aside; this was a well written and very interesting piece. It should receive more circulation. Great job. Why not show the accidents rate per flying hour. I disagree with comment regarding 500 hour pilots. Goose Gowell

  14. Dave is right. And accidents per operation (TO/Lndg) might be an even better measure. Also, there is a misunderstanding of the meaning of “fatal accidents” in the NTSB data.

    The NTSB fatal accident numbers include accidents where anyone on board (or on the ground) died, not just pilots. The chart above is intended to show what portion of pilots are involved in accidents and fatal accidents, not what portion of the pilot population dies. In addition, the measure is “fatal accidents,” not “fatalities.” Sometimes many more than one person dies in a fatal accident.

    So, the basic number is that at least 1 fatal accident occurs each year for every 2000 pilots. There are roughly 600,000 pilots, so that means that there are about 300 fatal accidents per year; and, in fact, the latest published NTSB data shows 303 fatal GA accidents in 2006.

    If this number holds constant, then during 40 years of flying there will be 40 x 303 = 12,120 fatal accidents. If the number of pilots also holds steady at 600,000, then in a pilot’s flying lifetime there will be 12,120/600,000 = 0.02, or 1 in 50 pilots will be involved in a fatal accident — if all the pilots’ careers span the same 40 years. But they don’t. There will be at least twice that many pilots over a 40 year period, since pilots come and go.

    There is another problem in using total licensed pilots, which is that the number of active pilots is far less than 600,000.

    Which brings me back to the opening point — that fatal accidents per operation would be a better measure of a pilot’s exposure to a fatality.

    It is also relevant that ATP Pilots have a far lower accident rate than others, and that flying experimental airplanes is riskier than average — roughly 5% of the total GA flight hours, but 15-20% of the total GA fatal accidents. And as already mentioned, night time flying in IFR weather raises the risk considerably.

  15. I was a math major in college…the rule for determining cumulative odds for independent events, described by SR22 above is correct; Peter and Scott are wrong.

    But statistics really shouldn’t be the concern, since so many other things influence who actually buys the farm. For the fellow whose destiny is to kill himself, through reckless and incompetent flying, his odds are 100%, which significantly lowers the odds for guys like us. ;-) There are plenty of studies showing the accident bell curves for pilots with different levels of training, hours and experience. Suffice it to say that the odds of a fatal accident for an instrument rated pilot with over 500 hours TT and over 120 instrument time, who flies regularly and makes conservative go-no-go decisions, are miniscule.

  16. Given the same innate abilities to fly an airplane, there is no way a 500 hour pilot can be as experienced and therefore as competent in skills and decision making as a 12,000 hour pilot. Obvioulsy having “been there and done that” is an immense advantage. At 500 hours many pilots tend to be more brave than brand new pilots, who have yet to test the waters, and veterans who have tested it and know how to avoid that activity in the future! As a flight instructor for the past 30 years I have seen proof of this theory many times as I’ve marveled at incredible decisions made by relatively low-time pilots. They just haven’t had time to acquire the experiences that are always the best teachers.

  17. either way you go on this topic if you are a good pilot and make good decisions you won’t become a statistic. As far as the cirrus goes it is an very safe plane if it is flown correctly… which means unless you don’t have a wing you shouldn’t pull the chute… Almost all the stories I have read about pilots pulling the chute have done it cause it was an option not because they had to, they made a bad decision and put themselves into a situation they shouldn’t have been in.

  18. I just checked the NTSB accident database, and there have been another 11 fatal accidents involving Cirrus aircraft since this article was published, about 6 months ago. 9 of those 11 accidents involved the SR-22.

  19. As a new pilot and plane owner, I appreciate
    this information. I race open wheel formula
    cars and have always had motorcycles, I was
    surprised to learn how dangerous flying really
    is. I agree, we are all stupid pilots once
    in a while–they’re called mistakes.

    • A mericans are in love with their autos, but their vehicle insurance policy is n’t certainly loved by QuotesChimp. Sadly, the pleasures of owning an automobile are regularly reduced by the worlds of vehicle insurance policy. Or, to place it more graphically, automobile insurance policy is to autos what buffalo chips are to bison.

  20. cirus use a TKS De-ice system manufactured in the UK. Do any of the Cirrus accidents point to a failure of that system.

  21. I was also a math major in college and continued on to get a doctorate in mathematics. Peter and Scott are DEAD wrong! Not even close. They remind me of my students that ardently argue a point, but are blind to the mathematic reality of the situation. Gentlemen, it is a nice try to tell “Sr22” that he is wrong and talk down to him, but for those of us who know math you couldn’t have a more juvenile and incorrect understanding of this concept. I would be afraid to fly with you, and, for example, your “heading” may be off and as someone tries to correct you, and you stubbornly insist and are sure you are right….and auger the plane right into a mountain. Its really embarrassing for the both of you!

    Just one final piece of advice for Scott and Peter: it is better to be presumed a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt!”

    Thanks Gentlemen

    • In addition to your degrees “big daddy”, you can now add the title of “Certified Ass”.

    • To my eye the colors are on the iindse, assumung the sun in on the right. Nevertheless, interference fringes were my first thought as well. But upon looking at the non-encahnced images they just seem more like halos. It looks like the intensity variations follow the irregularities in the cloud.If we would know the angular dimensions of the photo field of view, that might help in resolving the issue. c1gnes, is there exif-data available?

  22. If the first year your odds of a fatality is 1:2000 and the second year 1:1999 (pilot 2000 is dead), is your average chance of a fatality 1:1999.5 or does it jump to 1:1000? In genetics, the chance of giving birth to a boy each pregnancy is 1:2 (actually slightly higher..more boys are born). The odds of a boy next time are 1:2 (same), as each year they are independent events. Just because you had a boy this time DOES NOT increase your odds of having a girl next time. To predict 4 boys in a row, though, is 1:16 (1:(2x2x2x2)), but EACH BIRTH is still 1:2. Your odds of being involved in a fatal crash in the next 40 years is 40:2000 or 1:50 if 40 pilots out of each 2000 will die in the next 40 years, but each year is only 1:2000 and remains 1:2000 per year (slightly less unless you replace the dead pilot). If you survive that year, next year the odds again are 1:2000. So both are right. : )

  23. The dead pilots have nothing to do with it. Don’t confuse rate (or odds) with real pilots! One in two thousand is simply a rate, Larry. You almost had it right. Both certainly are not right. Everything you said is right except when you derailed your brain and started talking about dead pilots being replaced. Big Daddy has spoken!

  24. Great thread spanning almost a year. I am a student pilot of a SR-20 transitioning from weight shift/ultralights. I have many reservations regarding safety in Cirrus aircraft and in my opinion its mostly over the fact that these designs are “high performance” and initially give the a new pilot more to think about than just flying a airplane. I was more than enamored with the whole glass cockpit design especially being a network systems engineer , but honestly I think that I never really learned to “fly” the plane outside of that. I spent far to much time in the “glass” and didn’t feel confident in the aircraft when systems became unavailable i.e. (TCAS,NAV). I have moved on and always try an remember “fly first, gadgets later” A great quote for this thread I think! “There are two kinds of statistics: the kind you look up and the kind you make up” Lets make sure none of us “make up” a damm thing!

    • They are redesigning the airarcft and they are NOT available for delivery for about two years. This was the story from Cessna at Sun and Fun. There will not be significant differences other than the interior and the avionics. The new version will have some sort of icing package as an option. With icing, I was told it will be north of 800K. It’s gonna be hard to compete with a Cirrus at that price. I just wonder if the new Cessna leadership will stick with a loosing program.

  25. I just logged on to Facebook and was compelled to tell friends many of which do not fly my concerns over the cirrus. Allegedly, to prevent any come back. I have been flying with my late father from a young age (2 mayday landings during the first 10 years) later I managed to have the funds to gain my own licence (purely a licence). I fly PA-28 old planes with an IMC (UK). My point is I recently went flying with a Cirrus owner.. my view after 8 years qualified flying was to him … this plane could get you in trouble. To his natural surprise he said ‘Why’ and I responded saying that if I had this I would push the boundaries in all sorts of weather because it makes it so easy. Bottomline, 2 questions 1. Is the VNe of the aircraft approx 10-20% more then the indicated speed ? or is that wrong. 2. Do you think the glass cockpit distracts pilots from what is going on, to much automation. My concern transpires as after flying with this Cirrus pilot he smashed the prop on landing 2 weeks later (always thought he came in too steep and told him… but I understand the prop clearance is very low on older models). And unfortunately another guy ditched in the sea recently outside where we live Accident Investigation Bureau checking now…. my belief is two options spatial disorientation and the screens flicked off (which I understand is actually quite common) or structural failure. Both concerns are early days in investigations and I do not assume to know the answers however after my priviliged flight in a Cirrus where I told the owner how lucky he was ….I am quite happy to fly PA-28s, old technology and fly the plane as priority not head in the glass cockpit of an automatic pilot orientated design. On saying all this I believe Cirrus have made remarkable leaps in aviation and I wish them good luck just a sense of caution on development.

  26. Good plane ,low paiload (not for 4 passenger , to short tail for the torque of the motor can easyly overpower the steering .Be carefull it can be a big sorprise . It does not stall like other plans it sinks not glide at low speeds . But is fast , confortable, good when it crashes in to the floor .Hope you never try it

    • Other parties involved in the accident. Your QuotesChimp will need the name, address, home and work phone numbers of the other party or parties to the mishap. You should also obtain the name of the other driver’s insurance company and his or her policy number, if you can. In addition, include the make, model, and license number of the other automobile(s) involved in the collision.

  27. The clearest formula to use to determine your chance of dying is to ask yourself how many hours you plan to fly over your lifetime and multiply that by the fatal accident rate for the airplane you fly. If you fly 100 hours a year over four decades that’s 4,000 hours. Multiply that by 1.2 deaths/100,000 hours of flight time and your looking at a 1 in 21 chance.

    The accident statistics on Cirrus aircraft is improving significantly, possibly due to better pilot training, more likely due to statistical variations because the population (the total number of aircraft produced) only totals a couple thousand.

    You can improve your odds many times over if you:
    * Buy a plane with a better accident history.
    * Put yourself through a more rigorous training program and take follow up training.
    * Gain experience, many pilots die in their first 500 hours – the 100 to 200 hour range is especially deadly.
    * Always fly with a co-pilot.
    * Use a quality autopilot.
    * Stay out of planes without up-to-date avionics that provide situational awareness.

  28. Here’s a link showing statistics on Cirrus Aircraft accident rates:

    http://www.cirruspilots.org/blogs/pull_early_pull_often/archive/2008/10/02/cirrus-accident-statistics-as-of-2008q3.aspx

    Although it has improved, insurance companies have lowered premiums, the Cirrus stats are no where near those of Diamond Aircraft’s numbers:
    http://www.diamondaircraft.com/why/ Click on “Committment to Safety” then click Judge for Yourself – Explore Safety Data and Statistics.

  29. Hamid, this is a really good analysis, one of the most lucid I’ve seen for the layperson. We’re debating safety & the BRS system over on the Cessna Pilot’s Association, and I linked to your article… very nice. Just wanted to say thank you.

  30. Four more fatal accidents leaving ten more dead since Rick Beach bragged
    “2008 ends with improvement in Cirrus fatal accident rate” betterwww.cirruspilots.org/blogs/pull_early_pull_often/archive/…/2008-ends-with-improvement-in-cirrus-fatal-accident-rate.aspx
    With all the advantages (age, spacial awareness, fixed gear, simplified throttle, fuel injection, improved technology, and of course the CAPS system) these new planes should be far safer than the tired 25 average age fleet. The fact is they are not. I suspect the problem is either the MFD or the plane or either equally. The industry and particularly the trade publications are ignoring this horrific problem to their great detriment. Cirrus is beginning to give GA a bad name.

  31. As of April 2009, NTSB reports show the Cirrus is not as safe as Cirrus claims:
    http://stevewilsonblog.com/2009/04/16/dead-pilots-dont-lie.aspx

  32. The blog link listed is to one run by a Cessna dealer. If you pick a recent fixed period, I took 1/1/07 to 1/1/09 and count the number of fatals for aircraft of similar type and then compare to number in the air on Flightaware you will see that the SR22 is no more dangerous than others. Even the C182 doesn’t look better. The C210/P210 looks much worse. There are a lot of SR22 accidents becasue there are a lot of them beign used for challenging missions. It is being flown like a light to mid-sized twin rather than a trainer. The accident rate is similar to a Beech Baron BE58. Cessna hates Cirrus because the SR22 has been the number one selling piston for many years.

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  34. In doing research comparing the Cirrus to the Bonanza line of aircraft, if safety is a concern, forget the parachute AND the Cirrus as the Bonanza is a far safer aircraft based on FAA accident data from 2005 to 2009. Consider these facts: The chance of being involved in a fatal accident versus an accident with injuries in a Cirrus is 2.5 to 1. In ANY Bonanza, independent of age, its less than 1.1 to 1. Now consider the accident rate involving fatalities and injuries… Cirrus is 34.7% and ALL Bonanzas is 19.3%. As an ATP pilot with 38 years experience looking to purchase a new airplane, a quick review of the safety stats made for an easy decision. When you take into consideration resale value, a time-proven airframe, and customer support, it was a non brainer.

  35. How was the Bonanza data calculate? I respect the Bonanza as a capable aircraft. My data says its accident rate is similar to the SR22. However, I try to normalize for hours flown per type rather than number manufactured. Newer planes are generally flown more than older planes. A plane that sits and isn’t flown can make the accident rate of a type look better than it is. I use Flightaware data taken over a period of time to look at relative flight activity between types. Since you mention fatalities as a percentage of accidents, there is an interesting graph of this vs. stall speed with higher stall speed aircraft upping the ratio.

  36. I read somewhere that about 14% of GA accidents are from mechanical failure. So over 85% are pilot error.

    Taking off or landing in high crosswinds or bad weather, flying through ice, landing or taking off on short and narrow fields, running out of fuel, overloading or incorrect loading, high density altitude, spatial disorientation, flying at night, flying too low, flying too slow, not maintaining VFR separation, runway incursions, flying too high without O2, exceeding aircraft limitations, not slowing to maneuvering speed in turbulence, flying under the influence, flying fatigued, not paying attention, conversations in the plane causing distraction, lack of familiarity with the aircraft’s equipment or operation. I’m certain I’ve missed plenty of pilot error possibilities… But think about what I ‘have’ listed. Aren’t these preventable by all of us…? The more chances we take, the better the chance we’ll screw up. Feel free to add any pilot errors you’ve heard of. Let’s all help each other.
    So before we take off in crummy weather, we choose to wait for it to clear up a bit. We follow our check lists, we know our plane and it’s performance and limitations.

    Sure there is always broken crank shafts, contaminated fuel, bad electrical, popped tires, bad props, vacuum failure, bird strikes, etc. Some things just go wrong and break….but only 14% of the time and not always resulting in a crash. That means we have more than an 86% chance of doing things correctly, by making the right decisions. It’s up to us. We become statistics when we make bad decisions.

    I love to fly at night, but if something goes wrong, I’d like to SEE where I’m putting the plane down. When I fly at night or IFR, I know that the odds start to stack up if I face an emergency. IFR can be challenging and fun…but again…more dangers.
    Whenever we get in a plane, there are dangers…How much, depends mainly on ourselves.

    Ya’ll fly safe…be careful…be smart…!
    And barring any mechanical failure, or a dummy running into you, you’ll have a great time.

  37. I came across this post whilst looking at general aviation safety stats and this blog had just what I needed :)

    By the way, have you got more recent stats as I see this post is from 2007. Has the amount of pilot deaths went down since then to now, 2010?

  38. A friend of mines husband died two nights ago. Declared an emergency while PIC of his SR22 and crashed while trying to make the airstrip. There was one survivor so I will be watching this investigation closely

    • I found the NTSB probable cause report on this tragic accident. It was not due to the Cirrus, but apparently the result of a failure to properly secure a fuel fitting during an annual inspection the month before, which then came loose in flight resulting in fuel starvation.

      Here is the report:

      NTSB Identification: WPR10FA163
      14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
      Accident occurred Friday, March 19, 2010 in Morton, WA
      Probable Cause Approval Date: 04/12/2011
      Aircraft: CIRRUS DESIGN CORP SR22, registration: N224GS
      Injuries: 1 Fatal,1 Serious.
      The airplane was in cruise flight when the engine lost power. The pilot attempted to reach the nearest airport, but the airplane collided with trees about 2.5 miles short of the runway. Non-volatile memory from the cockpit instruments revealed that the engine power decreased to 1,200 and 1,750 rpms, while the fuel flow reached 30 gallons per hour (the maximum range of the fuel flow sensor). Examination of the airframe and engine revealed no evidence of preimpact mechanical anomalies except for the fitting cap on the throttle and metering assembly inlet, which was not installed. The cap was found resting on the cylinder baffle, and there was light blue staining on the crankcase indicating fuel leakage. During a postaccident engine run, the engine operated normally with a substitute cap installed finger tight.

      An annual inspection was completed about 11 flight hours prior to the accident, during which three engine cylinders were replaced. Following the cylinder replacement, the fuel system pressures were checked with instrumentation that was plumbed into the system at the throttle and metering assembly. Following the pressure tests, the line where the instrumentation was connected should have been secured with the fitting cap that was found not installed. The manufacturer’s maintenance procedure requires that after the pressure tests are completed the cap be torqued and that a leak check be performed.

      Metallurgical examination of the cap showed that if it had been properly torqued it would have remained secure. Therefore, it is likely that the cap was installed finger tight and was not properly torqued when it was reinstalled. During the accident flight, the cap loosened and came off, resulting in a loss of engine power due to fuel starvation. There was no logbook entry for the most recent annual inspection, nor had the final items on the annual inspection checklist been completed. The Director of Maintenance for the facility had signed off the work order and returned the airplane to service. The assigned mechanic with inspection authorization indicated that he had not completed the annual inspection on the airplane and that the last maintenance he performed was that noted on the work order and annual inspection checklist. If the final checks had been completed, it is likely that the improperly secured cap would have been found because the fuel leakage would have been evident.

      The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this ACC as follows:

      The failure of maintenance personnel to properly secure a fitting cap on the throttle and metering assembly inlet after conducting a fuel system pressure check, which resulted in a loss of engine power due to fuel starvation. Contributing to the accident was the decision by the Director of Maintenance to return the airplane to service without verifying with the assigned inspector that all annual inspection items had been completed.

      Full narrative available

      • Restaurant? All you can eat: Chinese, MexicanSmall store? Books and Magazines (loved managing one years ago)Book genre? Road cutrule and perspectiveRan a school? A hitchhiker/hobo college in the tradition of the 20s/ 30sRecorded an album? Road-spoken word and instrumental soundtracks (people tell me I write movie themes)

  39. All the discussion about the SR-22 safety vs. other aircraft seems pretty simple to me. It reminds me of the statistic about people who drive red cars recieving more tickets. Do red cars naturally go faster? No, that would be a very illogical explanation. The fact is that people who are attracted to red cars are a certain type of person who typically will drive faster. Of course this isn’t always the case, but statistically it is true.

    The SR-22 is a dead sexy airplane. It is the kind of airplane that attracts a certain type of person. A person like me. I am also the type of person who likes fast cars and bullet-bikes. Statistically I am a ticket magnet, and I admit that. So I probably would be just as at risk in a 182 as I would be in a Cirrus. Probably more so than the retired guy that just bought himself a 182, and the responsible business professional in his Cirrus.

  40. I have not flown a Cirrus but the side stick control concerns me. Would not such an arrangement limit roll “authority”?? After all, the f-16’s side stick control has bunches of computers and hydrolics to help out. The Cirrus pilot has only his little wrist muscles to input roll, while a yoke or center stick allows the pilot to use arm muscles which are much stronger. If you don’t believe me, I challange you to an arm wrestle, you use your wrist, I will use my arm. We’ll see who wins ;-)

    • Please let me know if there will be another group of B-26 pilot and arcriew visiting MAPS later this year. My father was a B-26 pilot and I would love to bring him to an event like this. He flew with the 9th Air Force in Europe (arrived just after D-Day).My daughter visited the B-26 in the museum near Paris and took some great pictures.

  41. Cirrus uses a side yoke and not a joystick. Imagine taking a conventional yoke. Chop off one of the horns on the yoke. Move the remaining to the center. Now slide the shaft and single horn to the side. BTW, the SR22 is very nimble in roll with a lot of control authority.

    • They really aren’t riensigdeng the airplane. They are going through the process to re designate it as a T240, to make it in line with their other aircraft. The redesign is just interior and avionics. The problem with the wing delam was humidity control. This has been addressed, but going through the FAA’s PC processes are tough. Both Cirrus and the Corvalis are great aircraft.

  42. Paul, thanks for the feedback. I look forward to flying the Cirrus someday. Although I must admit I still like the conventional yoke. The only other thing which concerns me is the rather high stall speed (60 kts??). I have also read accounts that it must be “flown like a jet” – that is by the numbers. Airspeed and other paremeters must be “right on”. Other accounts read it must be “flown all the way to the runway” during landing. I went thru the NTSB database query and (having far too much time on my hands) found in the last 10 years 21 incidents of stall/spin/loss of control resulting in 42 fatalities. Some reports indicated failure of the PIC to deploy the CAPS/BRS parachute, which otherwise might have saved the occupants . Was this aircraft spin certified? I don’t mean “rag” on the Cirrus but I am wondering if this the kind of aircraft newbie pilots should fly. It looks like a somewhat “unforgiving” aircraft.

    • Dictionary.com defines crash thulsy, Aeronautics. to land in an abnormal manner, usually causing severe damage: The airliner crashed. While evidently being used correctly, the term crash does tend to sensationalize aviation incidents.Frankly, I’m just getting tired of the news altogether. Even local news anchors lead in each story by editorializing the event. I wish they would just report the facts and let me come to my own conclusions about how I should feel about it.

  43. Like all planes you need to understand what the SR22 is and isn’t. It’s safety record is pretty similar to other aircraft with a similar mission profile. Remember that Cirrus now has about 45% of the single engine piston market. That means there are a lot flying and my experience is that they are flown on challenging missions. Stall characteristics are very benign if you treat it as a traveling plane. By that I mean it is tame in an early stall due to the dual angle of attack wing design. I personally wouldn’t “whip” stall it i.e. use full power and yank up hard. Stalling the entire wing I haven’t done. The plane is spin recoverable but I doubt that means much in real life. How many high altitude spins do people get into? At pattern altitude it doesn’t matter. If you get into a spin it is too late. The Cirrus lands conventionally. However the sight picture is very different since the excellent forward visibility means you can see the runway even in the flair. Consequently pilots tend to flair too much when transitioning. I find the controls a bit numb due to the trim system but very responsive with good authority. It is a relatively heavy (3400 max gross) plane landing at 78 kts over the numbers. That means kinetic energy is many times that of a 172. Yet, the wheels are still small and the gear is springy (no shocks). The plane is slick so speed management is key upon arrival. It is fast so you have to think ahead more than with a 172. This is no different than a Bonanza A36 except you don’t have the gear acting like speed brakes. The Cirrus is great in crosswinds and has a relatively smooth ride in turbulence. The airframe is very strong. The interior is comfortable. Most are loaded with goodies and goodies can break. Hence it can be on the expensive side to maintain. For fun check the number of aircraft in the system using flightaware.com. Take a look during the day. You will see why you hear so many Cirrus aircraft when you are talking to ATC.

  44. Steve – you should go fly one but only after flying other high performance singles or light twins. Compare it to other planes that cruise in the 160 to 200 kt range. You don’t have to be any more “on” than you do on those other planes. Nor is the SR22 touchy. I do find it more sports car like in feel however because of the excellent roll control. The side yoke is easy to adjust to and I prefer it to a standard yoke. While I have flown a Columbia some I haven’t done it enough to choose between the side yoke on the Cirrus and the joystick on the Columbia. The Columbia is another very nice plane with a similar mission profile.

  45. I might do that. Our flying club has some high proformance singles and twins along with the plane old (pun intended) Cessnas and Pipers. Might take a awile to get checked out in some of them. Not to mention the $$$$. Of course, if one is worried about the budget they probably should not be flying in the first place. Someone at the flying club suggested a Diamond DA-40. I went to the NTSB web site and did the same search on Diamond DA-40 over the last 10 years for fatal accidents as I did on the Cirrus and found only 3 fatal resulting 7 fatalities. Only 3??? And none were stall/spin related. I couldn’t believe it. Even if the DA-40 has been is production only half the time (half number in service, half flight hours, etc), that is a stunningly low number. Also, checking the specs, the DA-40 is 10 kts slower in stall speed. Other pilots I talked to who have flown both aircraft say the DA-40 is much easier to fly. The only negitive thing mentioned was that the DA-40 is also 10 kts slower in cruise since it has a 180 hp engine vs Cirrus 200 hp. I might fly a Cirrus if I get the chance. But I am DEFINITELY going to check out the DA-40.

  46. The DA40 has even better visibility than the Cirrus although it can be hot in the summer. Seating works for some but not others. The stick is fun but less suited for long cross country flying if you like to use a kneeboard that spans both legs. It has a great safety record. BTW I once saw a chart fitting stall speed together with fatality rate and it was a good fit. I suspect plotting vs. kinetic energy at stall would be even better. That would take gross weight into account. Even when taking flight activity into account Diamond has a great record. Here is what I mean by flight activity. Right now Flightaware shows C182(55), SR22(40), BE36(29), SR20(10), DA40(9), and COL4(5).

  47. Stall speed to fatality rate was a good fit? Amazing. I’m sorry I didn’t think of that. I have always suspected they were linked as energy is a square function of velocity (double the speed equals 4 times the kinetic energy.) And yes, I can see how the center stick on the DA-40 could get the way. I also may have found someone (or at least been told 2nd hand) which may let me go up in his Cirrus. Don’t know if he has a SR-20 or -22. Not even sure if he’ll take me up as I haven’t met him. We’ll see.

    • Amazing simply amnazig. Barn weddings are always the cats-meow but you put this one over the top with the details (rooster?!?) and the big moments all caught perfectly. Great work!

  48. Linking stall speed to the fatality rate is certainly something. The sept 24 2010 Sundre Alberta SR22 accident just lee of the foothills is one where evidence of unexpected low level windshear under a clear sky may expand on that reality some more. Even a moderate low-level turn thru increasing tailwindfactor while using the scenic VFR horizon out the windscreen where your old fashioned IAS is displaced to the bottom left by the larger Garmin panels (occasionally out of view behind a fistgripped sidestick or blinding sun-angle) could expand on that comparison. The sneaky shears are a problem.

  49. I am a new student pilot with not even 20hrs yet but I just went up in my uncle’s SR20 and was completely blown away with the comfort of the plane, and perhaps this is also the same factor that creates some of the problems with the cirrus. I felt almost over confident while flying the plane as it seemed to respond effortlessly. I did notice though that on approach I seemed to always come in high and really drop quick to the runway. I’m sure a lot of it has to do with my inexperience but I find this thread extremely interesting and like hearing about the plane

  50. I found the article very informative, although now a few years later it would be nice to see an update with more current statistics. I thought that the probability discussion was a hoot, and I don’t think anyone quite got it right, even the PhD. types. When probability is calculated in advance of results, one could argue that any particular pilot (a ficticious statistical average pilot, without regard to skill and experience) has a one in 2,000 chance of a fatal accident each year. Calculating probability in advance, that same avergage pilot over 40 years then has a 1 in 50 chance of a fatal accident, again without regard to skill and experience. But the notion that the longer one flies the higher the probability of a fatal crash is nonsense because the results of probability in the past, good or bad, do not factor into future probability. The probabilty of flipping a coin nine times in a row turning up heads each time is one in 512. If someone actually succeeded at coming up heads 9 times in a row, what are the odds it will come up heads a tenth time? Some would argue one in 1,024, but the correct answer is one in two or 50/50. The past history of nine heads is not relevant to probability–it could be heads or it could be tails, an equal chance either way. Likewise, the argument for the one in 2,000 pilots probability each year for a fatal accident causes each year to be more and more likely for a fatal crash is nonsense. In fact, each year that a pilot does not have a crash, fatal or otherwise, statistically (as oppossed to probability) he is actually less likely to have a fatal crash. The crash risk for new pilots and experienced pilots is not equal. More experienced means less risk. Anyone who has to pay the airplane insurance bill understands that. Ask an Insurance actuary rather than a mathematician. The pilot with 39 years of experience and no fatal crash is not “due for a crash” simply because the odds were 1/50 when calculated 39 years earlier. In fact, they’re not even 1/2,000 anymore because the statistics are skewed toward younger and more inexperienced pilots, and the more experienced pilot avoids undue risk. to say that one in 50 pilots will die in a crash in the next 40 years is terribly misleading.

  51. This was a good analysis and the math on statistics was correct. I would just add that I am not a big fan of all the electronics in the cockpit.

    First reason is that it may instill in the pilot a sense of confidence and expectation of “safety” that is not there.

    Second reason is that the head down time at crucial moments in an instrument approach can be a big negative. In that sense, the old radio gear was less demanding and provided less opportunity for mistakes.

    The key thing about flight safety is what SR22 and others pointed out—It is mostly human error. The reason the airlines and bizjets have a much better safety record is not because of glass cockpits or any other piece of equipment, but because flying in this environment is strictly procedure-based. And the procedures have been developed over years of digesting “what went wrong” accident data and putting procedures in place that minimize the possibility of human error to occur.

    Over at Flying magazine, new editor Robert Goyer is writing reams of articles about how new cockpit gadgets can “save your life.” This is explicitly stupid and dangerous in my view. I pointed out on Goyer’s blog that the widespread installation of certified GPS and glass panels have NOT reduced accident rates by one iota. This was not something they wanted to hear and they deleted my comment.

    A few years ago AOPA published a study on the safety issues of Technologically Advanced Aircraft (in the lightplane segment anyway). What they found was that “the steps required to call up information and program
    an approach in IFR-certified GPS navigators are numerous, and during high workload situations they can distract from the primary pilot duty of flying the aircraft.”

    Another key finding was that “TAAs provide increased ‘available safety,’ i.e., a
    potential for increased safety. However, to actually obtain this available safety, pilots must receive additional training in the specific TAA systems in their aircraft that will enable them to exploit the opportunities and operate
    within the limitations inherent in their TAA systems.”

    My point is that we should exercise some caution about embracing new technology as being automatically better. And if you think that having some piece of electronics in your dashboard is going to make your flying safer, well that is just plain stupid.

    The problem is that magazines like Flying are promoting the electronics as exactly that, safety enhancements for your airplane. They are also promoting constantly the idea of IFR flying and “transportation” flying in your piston airplane.

    Now the fact of the matter is that flying in IMC increases your chances of crashing by a large amount. Yes, I agree it is a good idea to earn your instrument rating and keep current and active, but promoting a culture of flying our light piston airplanes as if they were real transport planes, well that is only encouraging people to take higher risks.

    As to the question of Cirrus safety, I think these psychological factors are partly to blame for the mediocre safety record. I think a lot of Cirrus pilots feel the fancy electronics gives them an edge and they feel more comfortable tackling challenging weather that a Skylane pilot might not.

    I don’t think the airplane itself is less safe by an appreciable amount although the lighter wing loading of the Cessnas certainly does improve your chances of surviving a forced landing.

    We have to keep in mind that these are all small airplanes and respect the inherent limitations of small craft. You would not want to tackle a raging sea in a birchbark canoe, so why think you can tackle big iron weather in a light airplane?

    Some of the others here mentioned the kinetic energy of the airplane and this is important in flying, not just landing and crashing. The reason is that the air mass we are flying through has energy also. Even benign looking conditions can have a lot of energy, like that downdraft that was mentioned.

    This is an example of the limits of small craft. A big airplane with 100 times the mass of a piston single has nearly 1000 times the energy because of its three times faster speed. It means the big plane will not be so easily overpowered by an energetic air mass, although this can and does happen. The forces of nature can be very powerful.

    The lesson here is DO NOT think that you can operate like some kind of “transportation” outfit, as the magazines would have us believe. And don’t kid yourself that having some electronic gizmos in your panel is going to stop you from screwing up, because it won’t. Only you can stop yourself from screwing up and that means a clear-headed and sober appraisal of the physical limitations of lightplane flying.

    Unfortunately for Cirrus owners, it seems a lot of them think the “technology” has made this kind of caution less relevant. And unfortunately for all of us, Flying magazine and others want us to believe there is some kind of safety magic in the glass panels and gps radios.

  52. Patrick J Fleming

    I haven’t flown the Sr-22 yet. I have 3200+ hours in pimarily Cessna Aircraft. But I have a significant back ground in probability and stastics. None of the NASTB stastics should be a significant determinant in the purchase of a specific aircraft. The variable that cannot be considered is the PIC (Pilot in Command). To put together statistics with out a significant input as to the personal pilot aspects (sober, agressive, angry, panic prone, inflated time vs actual instrument conditions, physical or mental limitations, etc.) is meaningless. There is no way you can factor in a pilot who flies at 25,000 ft without checking his oxygen recharge. then there are the factors that no one can predict. Take WW2 fighter pilot ace C.E. (Bud) Anderson (357th goup 18 1/2 aerial victories). He admits not switching from internal fuel in his P-51 (wich he had intense training and hours in) on a routine mission when he was a flight leader and if there had been enemy action, he would have never made it back. In insurance and stastical terms, the N, (number of occurances) of the stastic is too small for determining the catrosphic loss potential. Do not determine what the potential loss situation is based on the NTSB statistics alone. Evaluate all of the conditions prior to each and every flight. Do all of the pre-flight inspections and checklists (even if you are sure of the results). Corky Meyer, famous grumman test pilot, recalls in his book how he was grousing about his next test flight, saying he could predict how the next flight would go on the TBF without before he flew it. Bob Hall, his boss and an aviator of Jimmey Doolittle preportions, ran out of the shower and said “Corkey, if you ever predetermine the results of a flight, I will kill you before the aircraft does”
    Do not fly when you have physicaling limiting conditions (Colds, Flu, Alcohol, Stress, fatigue etc.) Do not be distracted from your mission. Taking off, navigating, and landing. Choose an aircraft based upon your flight experience, training and limitations.

  53. 53. of course like your web site but you need to check the spelling on quite a few of your posts. Several of them are rife with spelling issues and I find it very troublesome to tell the truth nevertheless I will certainly come back again.

  54. Excellent article and some of the best comments I’ve ever seen! I am a Cirrus Instructor in the Northern VA area, I teach almost every day in the SR-20 and 22. I have over 1800 total hours and approx 1200 dual given in the Cirrus. The learning curve in the Cirrus is a bit tougher because of the avionics; I find the Avidyne and Garmin platforms roughly the same in learning difficulty.

    I love the plane and I am always researching Cirrus accidents, I was at first in the group of “put it down in a field and try to save the plane” in the event of an engine failure unless you are absolutely certain you can make your intended runway via power off glide, but now lean towards more of “Chute happens” and walk away from it- let the insurance company sort out the rest.

    I love having the GPS map, multiple screens for systems, destination and waypoint info, XM weather in IFR conditions. While I don’t mind flying steam gauges, it does give you that reassuring feeling (as with any GPS) that you are not flying a dead localizer/glide slope into the side of a hill rather than your intended runway.

    Just wanted to put my two cents in – and if you decide in the Cirrus, get as much training and information as you can, then once you are checked out, continue to fly as much as you can, finances permitting. Thanks again for the insight and excellent info!
    Safe Flying! Mark

    • If you are asking about a CAPS ouahrevl for your aircraft, please contact our service manager Shannon Seigler at or 954-202-5995. She will be happy to help you and give you an out the door price.Just an aside .. I am assuming that you are not the Dan Miller that is already a friend and customer of ours.Kerry

  55. Here’s my take……
    As a professional pilot and instructor, I have had the opportunity to fly over 90 makes and models of GA airplanes and there are always four factors in determining the popularity and longevity of a particular airplane success in the marketplace: 1) Safety, 2) Economy, 3) Speed, and 4) Resale.
    The Cirrus is marketed to a particular segment like that of the old V35 Bonanza in that it appeals visually to the Single Engine Private pilot with (or without) an instrument rating. These are relatively low time pilots with the motivation and where-with-all to afford to rent or buy a newer product. This “need for speed” is not to be ignored, but the reward is not without risk. The Cirrus is marketed with the BRC as a “safety tool” Never mind the airplane is engineered so as to be technically unrecoverable from a spin and needed the chute to attain certification. My main objection to the this line of thinking is that subjugates the normally intensive training in slow flight, stalls, unusual attitudes and spins. Because you know you will have to pull the chute to recover from an unintended result of a failed maneuver; And, that in pulling the chute you have basically totaled the airplane with dire insurance consequences for future rates – the pilot is lulled into conundrum of whether to fly the airplane or give up and pull the ring. This may not be a problem when the cause of the problem is clear, such as loss of power at night in IMC, but when you are low and slow on an approach and near a stall, the chute won’t help you and the lack of training will kill you. The Ballistic Recovery Chute is a great marketing tool that has enabled many a pilot to get the wife’s endorsement for permission to fly, but it should never be considered a substitute for good ole fashioned training sweat in the seat.

  56. You can kill yourself with your turkey fryer or barbeque too. I’m an instructor and former professional corporate tuboprop and jet pilot with 25 years in, ( just to get the bona fides out of the way). I enjoyed the humorous math-credentials-wagging contest in the earlier posts, but feel they missed the point entireley: Which is that the pilot is always the most important factor by far. It’s always the person in control of the inanimate object that makes all the difference, whether it’s a ship, a plane, a gun, a car or whatever. Yes, an ill fated design flaw or a mechanical failure CAN kill even the best pilot (ie Reno P-51), and everybody makes dumb mistakes even at higher levels of experience, but then there are the Sully Sullenberger stories too. It would be easy to throw you hands up and say the answers can’t be known.

    No activity is 100% safe, we all know that. People who expect that shouldn’t get out of bed in the morning. Taking flying seriously, learning all you can, getting the best training and then PRACTICING that training every day that you fly, – they all reinforce a mindset. Self- knowledge, emotional intelligence, and ego control can be sharpened from the beginning by a good instructor, then the responsibility to continue that “personal training” becomes the pilot’s. We recognize that every level of flying has its’ pifalls too: inexperience eventually grows into early (naive) overconfidence, which grows into later overconfidence, followed by complacency and even arrogance. We’ve all met the types from every level. I think one of the best things that can happen to a really sharp cracker-jack pilot is that he be out of a job for a long enough period to lose his proficiency, – not just legal but practical too. It re-humbles you, and then you start over. From that point, you know it’s always a body of knowledge in flux, – it can be gained, lost, reacquired, but it is never a “given”. Airlines know this, the military knows this, and NASA knows this. So why doesn’t GA make this a major issue from day one, since this is a very common pattern for many of us? We can as individuals, even if the industry is slow to catch on.

    There’s a reason that the most complex, fast and difficult-to-fly aircraft (complex turbojet airliners and corporate aircraft) are also the safest to fly in as a passenger: the pilots who fly them are extremely well-trained and take their work seriously. They have experience, and even if they don’t (think EASA/JAA’s “frozen” ATPL F.O.’s with 300 hours here), they follow procedures rigorously.

    Among others, I flew at Dayjet for a while: A new company, flying a new type of aircraft built by a new aircraft company with zero experience, and we had zero accidents or incidents in 3 years of operations because the company decided to follow a rigorous airline training model that kept owner-operator skill levels relatively high. We followed practical and sound procedures developed by a senior pilot-base and management. Even though the aircraft had annoying glitches constantly and never performed as advertised (initially), we never had an accident or incident. I never had any incidents flying old steam-gauge Lear 35’s or Citation I &II’s either.

    There’s a lesson there, and I think it’s clear that training is the most important thing you can do to change “statistics”, which are, after all, only data collected “after the fact” about other people. I care about ME, and I deal with the here and now. Glass, steam, high performance, it doesn’t matter: It is the training and the mental outlook of the company and pilots flying the aircraft that matters most. You do the right thing, at the right time, every time, and that’s the best you can do. That alone will make flying the safest form of transportation. If you can’t or won’t do that, then flying isn’t for you.

  57. Regarding the safety rate then, would it be safe to assume that WITH the CAPS with Cirrus is about the same in fatality rates as other aircraft with similar missions, etc? In other words- don’t count on the ballistic parachute as an additional safety feature- it just gets the plane back in the same general ballpark as similar aircraft. If all those “chute happens” pilots were counted as fatalities then the Cirrus would likely be in real trouble in the statistics (please don’t start up the statistics thread again).

    Wonder if you took the CAPS off the Cirrus if the fatality rate would really go up? Could there be a type of pilot out there who is taking on a complex airplane because of the CAPS- who would not have flown such an aircraft otherwise? (And thus not ended up in the fatality column).

    It will really raise some eyebrows if the DA40 starts adding CAPS and the fatality rates go up. :)

  58. Another SR22 crashed yesterday 13.11.2011 on approach to Katowice International Airport (Polish: Międzynarodowy Port Lotniczy Katowice) (IATA: KTW, ICAO: EPKT) – 4 fatalities

  59. I’m not a pilot but I live in rural Alaska and spend a lot of time in Caravans, 207s, and similar. First of all, 500 hours is nothing. You can’t get a job up here with less than around 1500. And you’re not considered a seasoned pilot until long after that. All the argument over statistics in this section is pointless. When it comes to flying airplanes, all people are not created equal. Some people should not be pilots. Me for example. There’s a certain personality type that works and when I’m getting into a 207 loaded with soda pop and pampers headed for Pt. Hope or Kivalina, I make sure I know who is sitting in the left seat. I’ve got buddies in the lower 48 who fit the picture of the wealthy entrepreneur who’ve just bought airplanes. I cringe at the thought of these guys flying. They’re smart and effective people, but they’re not pilots. The reason I just read this article is because an SR22 crashed today near Chicago, killing 4.

    • The 50 lean of peak is for turbo models. They orptaee differently because the intake air is forced in, rather than drawn in like a normally aspirated model.If you’ve taken the Advanced Pilot Seminars course, continue with the big pull technique. It’s very important to get through the red zone quickly. Once there, 50 degrees LOP is as close as you want to be to peak. 75 degrees LOP is better.

  60. Interesting blog. I am a Diamond DA40 pilot and owner – picked up the slower plane 2 and a half years ago after considering a Cirrus. 500 hours later I am dying for an upgrade, but I still won’t have a Cirrus. I thought it coukd be useful to share my reasons.

    In my opinion, the most important criteria in selecting a plane for a low time pilot should be its behaviour at very slow speeds, because eventually, you WILL have a good reason to find yourself too slow, too low. All it takes is a distraction during a turn into final such as conflicting traffic or a bird strike or a very sick passenger to make you oversee a 10 knot loss in airspeed. I admit of having made that mistake a few times…

    Consider also a botched landing and how challenging the go-around is. Both the Diamond and the Cirrus have very low damping in their landing gear, but the Cirrus has a lot more energy at touchdown and much more torque to cope with if you find yourself unexpectedly airborne. Going around in a DA40 is so easy, I was stunned reading NTSB reports about Cirrus pilots dying that way.

    And last but not least, if you ever have to do an off-airport landing, ask yourself why Cirruses catch fire and explode, while Diamonds don’t. Wet wing tanks are flying bombs…

    But don’t take my word for it, do what I did and read the NTSB reports on both types. Each and every one of a few hundred. Then you’ll have to agree: the Cirrus is one scary plane, and even more so because it looks so nice, beautifully built and finished and harmless with its CAPS.

    And please, dont call me a fanboy: I really think the SR22 is beautiful and puts Diamond to shame in terms of fit and finish. I would love to trade my DA40 for a FIKI, 200 knot Cirrus, it’s just I don’t think its wise… and I hope my input can persuade a fellow pilot or two to trade ramp appeal and bragging rights for plain, boring… safety. Good flying to all.

    PS: yes I am a software entrepreneur like all of us ;-)

    • The DA40 is a great plane and I like the fuel tank design a lot. It will look better compared to about any plane. Compare an SR22 to a Cessna 206 and things will look different. The same is true comparing to a BE35 or BE36. Some of this is due to design. The DA 40 stands out in several areas including the fuel tank design when compared to just about any other aircraft. Recently the NTSB subdivided the GA accident rate into subcategories. The personal and business class looks very poor. You get it by removing flights with professional crews and instructional flights. Interestingly, the SR22 has a better than average safety record when looked at that way.

    • Clear, informative, simple. Could I send you some e-hugs?

    • We codvl’ue done with that insight early on.

    • Now we know who the sensible one is here. Great post!

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  65. Archer2
    All this stuff just gives me a headache. I still retain all the stuff I learned while working on my PPL. I am a 560 hour pilot with a night and IFr rating. I do many cross country flying and really enjoy it. Even though I am IFR I fly in mostly good weather. I say to my wife be prepared to have a back up date. We should all practice safe flying and stop showing off to our friends how good we are then maybe we can preserve GA.

    • You preserve GA by lowering it’s cost. Forget 100LL and all it’s stupid substitutions. It’s not going to happen and it’s destroying GA.

      Fuel and airplane acquisition cost are preventing new pilots from entering the market and keeping existing pilots flying ridiculously old airplanes. In most cases pilots don’t fly as often as they would like because of high fuel costs like $8 gal in some SoCal airports. This means less experience, less practice and therefore more accidents.

      We need way more people owning aircraft and flying airplanes than we currently have. More people means more power and lower prices on everything. GA won’t have A powerful lobby for much longer and it’s already very difficult to justify Federal spending on local airports when most of them hardly get used anymore.

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  68. Interesting article. I find the math debate hysterical. I can’t believe that some people would argue that the more you fly the greater the chance of dying becomes. If a pilot has 5000 hours of experience this kind of reasoning would apply that pilot has a greater chance of dying next time he goes up. That’s just stupid. Clearly the more experienced you have the better pilot you are. And we all know better pilots are less likely to had an accident.

  69. You will never convince me that a pilot in a 60-year-old airplane has the same chance of crashing as a pilot flying a brand-new airplane with modern navigation tools, safety features, increased reliability and real-time weather data.

    Also, all pilots are not created equal. Some are smarter and have better natural abilities, different life experiences and everyone has different risk tolerances. Consider for example, A young man who drives a Ferrari because he likes to live on the edge. He buys an SR22T because of its speed characteristics. Now consider as an alternative, a much older man who is very conservative in every aspect of his life. He buys the same plane because of its simplicity and he is getting very forgetful in his old age and wants the parachute feature for his wife in case he passes out from a heart attack (#1 chance of accidental death in all men over 30). Broad basis studies like these can’t differentiate these kind of abnormalities. They just group all pilots together and say that they have the exact same strengths and weaknesses.

    In short, these reports have some interesting value but common sense would tell you that the type of playing your flight does matter, all men are not created equal (otherwise we would all be professional athletes) and although we all make mistakes there are countless reasons why we do so.

    If you want to increase your life expectancy then don’t take unnecessary risks. Fly a newer airplane if you can, maintain it to the highest standards, fly with a co-pilot when possible, use flight following or fly IFR and don’t be an idiot.

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