Do Cirrus pilots have a safety problem?

Richard Collins has written a thought provoking post for Air Facts noting that when the Cirrus first debuted, one of its executives pointed out that product liability would not be a problem because the aircraft would be so safe BUT since then, NTSB figures show 80 fatal Cirrus accidents in its database (nearly all of which have probably led to lawsuits….). In other words, 80 fatal Cirrus accidents despite the fact that:

  • Cirrus has worked hard to see that pilots are properly trained for the aircraft.
  • All Cirrus airplanes have an airframe parachute.
  • Cirrus was the first light aircraft with a glass cockpit.

However, Richard also pointed out that the FAA had drastically reduced instrument rating requirements to make the rating less expensive – and potentially more lethal with the result being that there are now instrument-rated pilots who are actually not prepared for instrument flying in technically advanced aircraft like the Cirrus. He then added that:

From the beginning the Cirrus has been sold as a transportation machine. That relates to weather flying like the airlines do. So a new pilot, and many Cirrus pilots are relatively new, gets an instrument rating and is suddenly trying to do what infinitely more experienced pilots are doing with airliners. And there are two of those experienced pilots in the front end of every airliner.

On the other hand, a certain Capt. Dave posted a comment well worth noting:

In my experience in both boating and flying, it always seems to be the rich playboy that buys more plane or boat than their experience deserves.

Ray Stallings then added to that point with his take about Cirrus pilots:

The thing that always impressed me the most about these people is their total lack of airmanship. The majority of them have much more money than sense (or pride in their flying abilities) and rely totally upon the avionics in the aircraft to get them from point A to B. They fly for the most part completely heads down, eyes glued to the PFD, even on CAVU days.

So what do you our readers think: Is there something seriously wrong with Cirrus pilots or is there another explanation?

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2 Responses to Do Cirrus pilots have a safety problem?

  1. mrogers May 19, 2012 at 22:21 #

    I have conducted a lot of research on the Cirrus line of Aircraft because I am in the market for a good personal aircraft for my business needs. Cirrus is very cool with great avionics including an advanced AP, as well as, being fast and mostly all weather and there are many used aircraft at a good price on the market right now. But they just are not safe or at least not safe enough for me. They were never made to be hand flown and those who have tried (many with 1000's of hours) have learned the hard way (fatal way) that this airplane is not forgiving. It is not a plane that a busy business owner can safely fly 100-200 per year. I think it would take 10 hours a week to stay current and safe and even then many of the 80 dead had literally 1,000s of hours. No I won't be buying a used Cirrus.

    • Matthew Stibbe May 20, 2012 at 08:22 #

      I don't know about 10 hours a week but certainly it is quite demanding to stay current on a Cirrus (I know, I fly one). But pilots can also reduce the risk with a recognition of the complexity of the plane, their own weaknesses and state of currency and the conditions of the flight. People with lots of hours crash regularly in different planes too, as The Killing Zone attests. A large proportion of light GA accidents are down to avoidable circumstances and I think we, as pilots, have a lot of work to do to make sure that we are flying safely. For a conscientious, current, reasonably cautious pilot a Cirrus should be no more dangerous than any other type. I do however take issue with your suggestion that they were never made to be hand flown and that they are not forgiving unless flown on an autopilot. This just isn't true in my experience (400+ hours on type).

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