Cirrus with airframe parachute
7 min read
Cirrus with airframe parachute

It’s not the whistles and bells, it’s the pilot.

I recall when the Cirrus first came out, one of the principals said that product liability was not going to be a problem for them because the airplane would be so safe.

Since that time the NTSB shows 80 fatal Cirrus accidents in its database. Because of the litigious nature of our society, most, if not almost all, have likely resulted in legal action against the company.

Since the beginning, Cirrus has worked hard to try to see that the pilots of these airplanes are properly trained. All Cirrus airplanes have an airframe parachute, too. Without the chute there would have been many more fatal accidents because presumably a pilot does not pull the chute until he feels for certain it is necessary to save his ass.

The Cirrus was the first light airplane with a glass cockpit, too, and Cirrus has been a leader in using the latest whistles and bells to help pilots be better informed.

Despite all this, the Cirrus SR-22 has a higher fatal accident rate than most similar airplanes from other manufacturers. (We all know that SR-22s fly a lot of hours every year but that is taken into account when comparing accident rates.)

Why, with every safety advantage, has this come to be true?

It can only be because of one thing: the Cirrus pilot.

If you take at face value the benefit of type-specific training, Cirrus pilots have that.

If you accept that glass cockpits give a pilot many valuable informational tools, Cirrus pilots have that.

If you buy into the fact that an airframe parachute gives a pilot one last but extremely valuable option, Cirrus pilots have that.

What they don’t seem to have is common sense and that is our collective fault. Both industry and government have worked to ensure that Cirrus pilots don’t know the score.

Start with the FAA. A while back the instrument rating requirements were drastically reduced making the rating both less expensive and potentially more lethal. This was in response to pressure from general aviation interests, especially AOPA.

The result is that we have instrument-rated pilots who are not at all prepared for instrument flying, especially in technically advanced airplanes. The training systems that have been developed do what training systems have always done: they prepare pilots for the FAA tests. A person with an instrument rating might know something about operating on an IFR flight plan but know nothing of cloud flying.

Why would this affect Cirrus pilots more than others?

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.

SR-22s on Flight Aware

SR-22s are flying hard IFR trips all over the country (image courtesy of

You can look at Flight Aware’s listing by type of airplanes in the IFR system at any given moment and there will be a lot of SR-22s in there. In fact there are usually more than any other GA type that is used for transportation. Sadly, you can look at that number and, unless it is a clear day, it can be safely assumed that an unhealthy percentage of the pilots really don’t know what they are doing or at least might be unable to handle anything out of the ordinary. This is not their fault. They were certified by the government, they were sold the airplane, and they were encouraged to use it.

So, cloudy day IFR wrecks are a big part of the Cirrus problem. So are low speed losses of control. Here the FAA also has bloody hands.

Normally a single-engine airplane has to be spun as part of the certification process. The Cirrus wasn’t. The FAA waived this requirement and accepted the airframe parachute as an alternate means of compliance. I kid you not, the spin recovery in a Cirrus is based on deploying the chute. That is the only way a pilot can recover from a spin in a Cirrus.

The stall characteristics of the airplane are not bad when compared with some other airplanes but they aren’t real good, either. It might have been reasonable to expect stellar stall characteristic in a new design but, alas, aerodynamics reached a plateau many years ago.

When everything is considered, the Cirrus record is what it is and will remain ever so unless some pretty drastic steps are taken. It can’t be more training or more safety features because those things are already there. The only thing that can actually lead to improvement is the mind-set of Cirrus pilots.

Years ago, insurance underwriters put far lower rates on insurance for twins than singles. Then some wise-ass writer (that would be me) started exploring the fact that the serious accident rate in twins was actually higher than in singles. The underwriters had been basing rates on what they thought to be true as opposed to what was actually true. Insurance underwriters have done that in a lot of areas over the years.

Such might be the case with Cirrus pilots. With training, advanced equipment, and a parachute, a pilot could develop a false sense of security about flying the airplane.

I recall an accident that well illustrates this. A professional person had finished a long and full day of work. After work, and after darkness set in, he flew an IFR trip to an airport located in rough terrain. At 11:30 p.m. he left that airport on an IFR clearance. He lost control of the airplane soon after takeoff and collided with rising terrain.

This was a relatively inexperienced pilot and you can read between the lines of the NTSB report and contemplate several things.

To me it is likely that there was some sort of distraction or confusion that caused the pilot to lose control. Certainly a marginally trained and inexperienced pilot does not have a lot of ability in reserve, especially in the middle of the night following a long day.

The airplane had a good autopilot. Was the pilot not properly trained in its use? Autopilots have been known to cause confusion if not used correctly.

A question that has to be asked is whether or not the pilot would have even been flying IFR in bad weather over rough terrain at night in his single-engine airplane if it had not been equipped with a parachute. I have always thought that a pilot who would do anything in a twin that he wouldn’t do in a single is an accident looking for a place to happen. Same goes with the parachute.

I question, too, whether or not many in the industry don’t minimize the hazards found in aviation. No manufacturer is going to tell you that a product is dangerous as such and no entity that is in the business of promoting aviation will either. But collectively we should feel an obligation to make sure that new pilots understand that an airplane can kill you quicker than most anything else. When I look at the Cirrus accidents, I get the feeling that many of the pilots did not realize how quickly an airplane can bite, hard.

I always communicated with airplanes. Mostly the chatting was about the good things but I always though the most important question to pose was, “Old buddy, what are you going to do to try to hurt me today because I can’t let you get away with that.”

What do you think it would take to rein in the Cirrus fatal accidents?


Four years later, Richard Collins updated his analysis in a new article called “What’s right with Cirrus pilots?” Be sure to read it here.

Richard Collins
245 replies
  1. Pete Zaitcev
    Pete Zaitcev says:

    What does the paragraph about spins have to do with the rest of this article? How does it matter if Cirrus cannot recover? SR-20 is actually perfectly spinnable, but leaving that aside, private pilots were not taught to recover from a spin since 1980s. If Cessna 210 were not recoverable, would it change its accident rates?

    • Tony
      Tony says:

      I agree with your comment, except when you typed:
      “…private pilots were not taught to recover from a spin since 1980s.” This simply is not true. I got my ppl in 2005, and spin recovery was a part of the training at KSU.

      • Bill Bennett
        Bill Bennett says:

        You and the original poster are both partially right in my experience. I also got my ticket in 2005, and while I wasn’t required to take spin training, we spent some time on “stall-spin awareness” that was designed to help lessen the possibility that you might get into a stall-spin situation, and also how to recover from a spin, although we never actually did any.

        My instructor told me back then that spin training was removed from the requirements for private pilot because the FAA discovered a large number of stall-spin accidents that occurred with an instructor in the aircraft.

        • Bill C
          Bill C says:


          Then your instructor did you a disservice. If you have never experience a full on spin and seen the ground being the only thing you can see in your windshield, then you are not properly prepared to be flying. Sorry, but just because the FAA took it out, doesn’t mean that it isn’t necessary. As a matter of fact, I would argue the fact they dropped it is all the more reason to do it. Instead of sighting accidents as a reason to drop it, they should have required instructors to be better trained to do and teach them. Do yourself a huge favor and go do some acrobatic training. It may save your life one day.

          • Len Forster
            Len Forster says:

            I don’t necessarily agree with your disservice comment. Here’s why. Many new pilots can’t wait to take passengers out to show them how great they are with their pilot certificates.

            “Oh, come on, Joe, show us what you can do.”

            “Sure, my instructor showed me how to spin the airplane. Lemme show you”.

            Whoops! And, don’t tell me it doesn’t happen. I have a ticket in three countries as an instrument rated pilot, and, in two of those countries, a full spin and recovery is required on the check flight. And, I have seen the testosterone laden pilot going out with a bunch of his buddies, all of who have been drinking to his accomplishment, talking about “let’s go out and have some fun. Can you do loops and things, Teddy?”

            It happens. So, not being taught how to spin the airplane may be a great safety feature of training. The other side of that is for the instructor to spin the airplane for you, the student, and then say, OK, recover.

            Of course, if you think it’s a disservice, who am I to argue. Oh, yeah, I’m one of those OLD pilots, not one of the BOLD ones. Know what I mean?

          • Ira Bourstein
            Ira Bourstein says:

            Bill C,
            I agree 100%. I’ve probably done about a 100 spins by now, ALL IN PLANES DESIGNED FOR LIGHT TO MEDIUM AEROBATICS, AND WITH EXPERIENCED AEROBATIC CFI’S. Now when the earth twirls, I just think “Yup, been here, done this, and know how to fix it. No need for panic.” It won’t help if I spin at 80 feet AGL, but (1) it makes every part of the process familiar, and thus easier to detect and cure, and (2) it nearly guarantees that if I spin high enough, I can save my butt. I doubt that spin training would save every Cirrus pilot, but it would surely save some.
            And finally, if all CFI’s had to teach spins, we would definitely have better CFI’s. Do you really want CFI’s who rushed through certification and just started “building hours” ASAP, or would you rather have someone who took the time to really hone their skills, before we trust them with a student’s training, and maybe his life?

          • Donald Ross
            Donald Ross says:

            Correct, Bill … My flight instructor was an old barnstormer named (Hank Coffin) and spins were part of the curriculum.
            Later on in my flying days it saved my life – IMC at night in the clouds.

      • Christian
        Christian says:

        Your part 141 program required you to have spin training. But it’s not required for part 61, its optional.

      • Len Forster
        Len Forster says:

        Wait a minute, guys. All of you keep saying that spins aren’t required, but you need to reconsider the statement.

        I’ve been flying airplanes as an instrument rated pilot since 1963, courtesy of my Uncle, general aviation since 1966.

        Some years ago, I was living in Canada and decided to kill some time by getting a Canadian private ticket. As part of the training and part of the check ride for private pilot, spins ARE required in Canada.

        Personally, I thought at the time that this was pretty stupid, because I saw too many 18 year old pilots taking their friends out on first flights with passengers and spinning their airplane deliberately with no knowledge of the flight characteristics with a loaded four place plane. I still think it’s stupid.

        On the other hand, I grew to love my angle of attack indicator in the military aircraft I flew in. Those things will save your neck a 1000 times over versus their cost to install.

        There is no doubt that there needs to be a load more emphasis on recognizing and recovering from power on stalls. A pilot who is well-practiced in this procedure alone will be able to avoid any possibility of entering a spin inadvertently 99.9% of the time. I do believe that entering a spin, spinning through 3 revolutions and spin recovery should be a requirement for commercial and instrument tickets. I just hate to see beginners learn to spin and then kill themselves because they don’t know enough not to be dangerous.

        Unfortunately, most GA aviation accidents are because the pilot had his head where the wheels go on the big airplanes. I know of no means of avoiding the pilot who flies with his head “up and locked”.

        • Ira Bourstein
          Ira Bourstein says:

          Len Foster
          I agree that stupidity is a capital offense, and sooner or later it will kill the perpetrator. But I also think that fools who show off and fly over their heads will always find a way to get killed, with or without spin training. But by leaving it out we may shortchange responsible pilots. I certainly respect your age and wisdom, and the fact that you’re still breathing proves you know what you’re talking about, but I also think there is some validity to the counter argument. By the way, I thought you made an especially good point about the difference between spinning with one or two aboard, versus having all four seats full, but I wonder if spin practice with sandbags in the back seats might solve that problem. I don’t know, I’m just wondering, and I’d be interested in your response.

          • Alan Hamilton
            Alan Hamilton says:

            Most four place airplanes that I have flown are only certified to be spun in the utility category, if at all. No weight in the back. That’s why trying it with four persons in the plane causes surprises for the new test pilot.

      • David Ross
        David Ross says:

        My PPL training in 2009 required stall recovery and spin avoidance.

        The FAA hans’t required you to demonstrate spin recovery in a long time. Only that you know what a spin is and how to avoid it.

        It was only after I took actual Spin training in a Citabria that I realized how useless it is to know how to avoid a spin if you ever enter one.

        No parachute in the world will save you if you enter a spin on your base to final turn.

      • Ira Bourstein
        Ira Bourstein says:

        Thank KSU, not the FAA. Spins are not required for the PPL. But KSU, wisely in my opinion, chose to teach you more than the FAA required.

      • Tom Hope
        Tom Hope says:

        My instructors refused to spin me in the 1980s…I think they were not happy with me pushing them…One finally told me to go to an aerobatic training school

      • Laurel Smith
        Laurel Smith says:

        Tony, you were in a different curriculum. There is no FAA requirement for PPL. Some dyed-in-the-wool, old school instructors like to show students what great pilots they are. For airplanes flown correctly, spins are irrelevant.

        • Bill Grant
          Bill Grant says:

          For airplanes flown correctly, hard landings are irrelevant. Ever have one? I believe spin training was eliminated to accommodate those who fear the airplane. No matter who you are the first time you spin you are completely overwhelmed and completely out of control. I also believe learning how to perform an aileron roll could save someone who got into a vortex. some aerobatic training just makes good sense.

    • Brad
      Brad says:

      Spin recoveries are not a requirement of either a 141 or 61 training for a private license. It’s a good idea to teach it, and I would request it if you have an airplane that can do it. They are, however, a requirement for a commercial ticket. And actually his comment does have place. He was talking about low speed losses of control. When I hear that I think base-final turn stalls; a spin. That situation is probably going to kill you no matter what airplane you are in, but a parachute is definitely not going to save your life. My own personal observation is that I see more of this in Cirrus aircraft (as well as experimental) than others. I have no idea why. This article relates to not only SR-22’s. This problem pops up in many areas, and while I do believe a pilot can be IFR proficient with the current training standards I don’t believe it is always the case.

    • Geoff
      Geoff says:

      The comment is to draw the connection between the fact that the safety factors built into SR-20/22 have caused a sense, even at the FAA, that the parachute can handle everything.

      This of course has not been lost on the pilot, who is being told “Ok, so what do you do if….” then he answers “Pull the chute”

      As for the spin training, you’re wrong, I’ve been spinning since 2010.

    • Jan
      Jan says:

      Not true… I am busy with my PPL at the moment, and they do teach me how to recover from an incipient as well as a full spin.

      • John Zimmerman
        John Zimmerman says:

        This whole discussion on spins is academic I think. If we’re talking about some of the Cirrus accidents that involve a stall/spin on base to final, what good is spin training? If you spin an SR22 from 400 ft. AGL, no amount of spin training will help. Maybe we need to do more accelerated stall awareness, but the idea that 5 hours of spins would save Cirrus pilots is wishful thinking.

        • Dwight Myers
          Dwight Myers says:

          Even though a stall/spin from 400 ft. AGL is probably not recoverable, more stall/spin training would likely help the pilot by being better able to recognize an imminent stall and prevent it from happening.

          • Michael David
            Michael David says:

            It’s not the glass panel, nor the steam gages or anything else, for that matter. It is pilot error, straying away from basic pilot skills. For regardless if you are going 200 Kts or 80 kts, it is all relative and inconsequential. It is pilot error and nothing else!

        • Michael David
          Michael David says:

          John, when you contemplate the purchase of real estate, you think, “location, location, location!” When you contemplate flying any aircraft, you think, “airspeed, airspeed, airspeed!” Simple as that!

        • David
          David says:

          To spin or not to spin is not really the most important question. Stall/spin recognition is where the action is.

          • David
            David says:

            Absolutely right on. Stall/spin recognition is where most of the training needs to go. We did accelerated stalls when I did my PPL and that is good stuff as well.

    • James Van Doren
      James Van Doren says:

      Cirrus? Take away the chute; it’s just a wife-pleaser, and REQUIRE spin recovery. After almost a 30 year lapse from my US flying I got back into it with a Canadian PPL and the CFI and I spun the hell out of that 172 in spite of how difficult you probably know it is to make it (the 172) do it unless the tanks are almost empty. Good ole 172, it just likes to fly. I could always get out and level in 200-300 feet with about one turn. Now I own a 172RG and it is not even certified for spins but I still practice power on and off stall recovery and that’s an easy 50-100 feet.

    • Jon Eric
      Jon Eric says:

      Former Astronaut Robert Overmeyer Died Testing one of the Original Prototypes.That was Enough for me to be Leary about ever getting in a Cirrus Aircraft.There are many unanswered Questions about that Accident.
      The Aircraft was hastily certified in My Opinion.

      • Daniel
        Daniel says:

        Robert Overmeyer died testing a Cirrus VK-30 a pusher experimental kit plane. Don’t spread misinformation.

    • Scott Carpenters Ghost
      Scott Carpenters Ghost says:

      If the 22 has poor stall spin recovery characteristics, keep in mind most fatal crashes that start with theses maneuvers occur at low altitude situations on approach or climb out. Also with side stick control systems one really has to control the airplane with one hand (left seat, left hand). This isn’t an ideal situation in a heavy single in turbulent low speed, low altitude environments. Inexperience and fatigue factored in make for a fatal mix. Why were V35’s called forked tail doctor killers? Because the plane was unsafe in its design? No sir. It was the fact that wealthy owners that didn’t respect the complexities of true IFR flight in high speed complex aircraft got into situations they couldn’t handle. These were the majority of people who could afford to fly these planes. Most pilots know that. We have a similar situation with the Cirrus SR22 as well. I know that a lot of these pilots think their lack of experience can be compensated for with the G1000 and Avidine avionics packages and autopilot systems. This mentality is having a backlash effect on the airline industry. We are now seeing accidents caused by the fact that some of these pilots are relying on aircraft to fly themselves. Its just not one thing that is causing these accidents, but it is the human factor, rather than the hardware and engineering behind it.

    • Wayne
      Wayne says:

      “SPIN” recovery should be mandatory, know why? I was curious one time while in the air I ask my instructor why they didn’t teach it for a P/P,-he was a new Inst to me(my 3rd w/in 1yr because of my location, I already had over 100 hrs,should’ve already had my Lic “just lazy”) he replied, you’ve never done a stall, spin, recovery? So he showed me-then I done it, over several time’s until I was proficient. A wk or so later I was solo an practicing pwr on/off stalls, at 3000ft I inadvertently got in a uncoordinated climb an stalled -left wing low and full on spin -losing alt fast, I was panicked! Then “TRAINING” took over(I thought ‘calm-dn’ no biggie) after 3to4 turn’s I broke the spin, pulled out of the dive. If had been anytime before the last Wk -I WOULDN’T BE HERE TO RECOMMEND YOU GET, LEARN AND PRACTICE-SPIN RECOVERY!! Eventually Your life will depend on it! BE READY

  2. John O
    John O says:

    Hasn’t a similar theme been used for pilots of any sophisticated single over the years? I know the Cirrus SR-22 isn’t the first plane sold as a transportation device.

    I’d agree that good training, plus a healthy dose of experience is what will keep you safe. I think that applies to any high performance aircraft that is likely to appeal to those individuals fortunate enough to afford a well-equipped aircraft to be used for transportation. Who is buying the Cessna Corvalis/Colombia 400?

  3. Harrison Miller
    Harrison Miller says:

    I agree with this article however not with any prejudice simply towards the Cirrus. I believe any pilot should begin to learn in a bucket of bolts. Im young and only just around the 100hr mark. But I do truly think that if a person learns in an aircraft that is as basic as it can be, they’ll have a greater appreciation for what they have once they climb into a glass cockpit. I always wonder what a young student like me will do when something fails in their a/c when all theyve ever been in are glass displays. I’ve been in some concerning a/c’s where radios failed, plugs fouled and x-ponders failed. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. As for the Cirrus, perhaps a greater amount of hours should be required in order to operate one and not be so lax when it comes to the sales.

  4. Capt Dave
    Capt Dave says:

    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.
    It is my personal opinion that glass panel planes tend to lure novice pilots into a false sense of security.
    Glass panel airplanes do not teach the new pilots about trending and the signs to look for.

    As for the comment on spin training: I had extensive spin training during my PPL in 1987 and again with my instrument training in 2002.

    • Bill C
      Bill C says:

      I received my private in 1989 and we did at least a good three hours doing spins. I learned in a C172 and the nice thing with them was their are so stable that if you take your hands off of the controls they will right themselves. I am sure a C22 would do that or not do it in an a reasonable enough time.

      Most flight instructors today don’t do spins because they were not taught to do them. Also, I know many flight schools won’t allow them to be taught because they can’t lock the gyros and it ruins them over time.

      If the FAA would make it mandatory that all new gyro instruments made, must have a locking feature then the training would become more prevalent.

      • Larry
        Larry says:

        I also learned in 150s and 172s in 1977. My dyed- in-the-wool instructor (now deceased of natural causes) taught (really TAUGHT) me spin recovery from about 5000 ft AGL. I no longer fly, but if it were forced upon me, I have confidence I could recover in an aircraft with which I was familiar.

  5. Ray Stallings
    Ray Stallings says:

    I am a retired Naval Aviator and an active duty airline pilot. I have had many personal experiences with the “typical” Cirrus owner, having seen many of them over the years come through my brother’s Cirrus maintenance facility. 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. I remember sitting at the hold short one day waiting on a guy in a Cirrus that kept making radio calls reporting he was inbound to land on the same runway I was waiting to depart on. Because he kept reporting in close proximity to the runway, I decided to wait on him before departing. What was curious was the fact that even when he was calling himself on short final, I could not see him. Finally I looked way up and saw the guy probably 1500 AGL over the threshold. He was flying completely heads in the cockpit and had somehowe lost situational awareness. He made a John Wayne play for the runway but never even came close to making it. At least he had the good sense to go around. Another time I had a guy in a Cirrus come blowing into the landing pattern and almost hit me while I was on downwind. (Fortunately I was flying an aerobatic aircraft.) I accosted him after he landed to find out what he was thinking. He kept going on and on about how I didn’t show up on his TCAS display. I asked him if he ever considered looking out his window or utilizing the UNICOM frequency. His answer was that he was “too busy flying the aircraft”. General aviation has it’s share of idiots. It just seems that many of them are former flight simulator geeks that have now upgraded to the real thing with no concept of what is going on outside their little computer displayed world. Be careful out there.

    • Jacob
      Jacob says:

      I agree with ya on this one. The first time I saw the inside of a Cirrus aircraft I though it looked more like a sports car than an airplane cockpit. I think thats why I have never liked them and why some of these people are attracted to them. They are less intimidating giving a sense that they are easier to fly than a traditional aircraft.

    • Bill C
      Bill C says:

      Ray, I have run into a 100 pilots that make the same mistake regularly. They are so busy flying the plane that they forget to actually fly the plane. They have no situational awareness.

      As far as more money than sense, you are right on the mark there. These guys plop down a few hundred thousand dollars for a new or used high performance plane. But, they spend little or no time with an instructor learning how to fly them properly. It is why GA gets such a bad rap.

      • Jason
        Jason says:

        …I wish I could make this type of money, and I think I’m pretty smart and successful.


    • Rich
      Rich says:

      Bingo, Ray. You hit the nail right on the head. More money than brains, and no sense to realize that it’s probably more important to spend time in flight training than spending time out hustling the next buck.

    • Jack
      Jack says:

      Agree – I did a long x-country in a DA-40 just this week in not so great weather (3+ of IMC over 6.2 hrs). At both my stops it was me and Cirrus pilots and the big boys in the air. I watched several Cirrus pilots struggle with the wind on landings, really struggle. One that followed me (I greased the landing 20knt+ wind) said “I’ll try that runway, not sure I can get in”. Most of these guys just don’t fly enough or in the right type of recurrent flying to get the stick and rudder skills needed.

    • Rodney
      Rodney says:

      I get that. Altho, for the simulation “geeks” there are some of us out their that are actually worth a damn when it comes to situational awareness. A sim pilot, traing for ppl, and going to a flying school for a degree in aviation safety in a year. Ive made it a point to prioritize flying the plane, in real life and in the sim, rather than focusing on all the instruments and stuff. Basically only planes I fly in the sim are ones that need hand on control all the time like 172s and L-39s. Anyway, agree with the rest of your comment.
      CAVU to you

      • Dave Gamble
        Dave Gamble says:

        Agreed. I think the dig at sim “geeks” was unfounded. In fact, part of the problem with hard IFR is that people don’t get enough opportunity to practice it. Today’s sims are sophisticated and cheap enough that they can bring great value to maintaining situational awareness in the IFR realm. And given that sims are actually harder to fly and provide for much more realistic ‘in the soup’ conditions than foggles, they are in some ways better than in-plane practice.

    • Theresa
      Theresa says:

      Key word is “guys” I’m a lady cirrus owner since 2010 and I don’t believe it’s the cirrus owner, it’s the guy. I believe the cirrus is a bit mushy at slow speeds but other than that it’s no different than any other aircraft. I believe there are too many poor CFI’s out there and teaching is not the reason they do it. They either want to clock hours or are addicted to flying. There have been too many accidents, fatal and near fatal from our airport. When I first got my private pilot license I was dangerous. Good thing I was aware of it.

  6. Josh Johnson
    Josh Johnson says:

    Hmm, interesting thought. My experience in distance flying and IFR ops were gained in both my old 172 just going places (including hand flying in IMC the whole way to Sun-N-Fun one year), as well as flying a a few hundred hours in twins in a part 135 operation. That said, unless I regularly practice, I still can’t fly IFR as well as I would like, hence I go looking for low weather to practice approaches in or grab a safety pilot and go pound out some approaches.
    In my 135 days, I got into the bad habit of letting the autopilot fly most of my approaches, and got quite lousy at hand flying them. At that point, I was a commercial pilot with 1200 hours, 200 multi & about 200 actual IMC and flying every night. The thought of a private pilot not flying for 3 weeks, then having to go hand fly an approach in their SR-22 because the autopilot failed is scary.
    I believe the solution may well be either a monthly session in a flight simulator, or a couple hours of hood time every month with a CFI. And I really do believe it needs to be monthly.
    Now, can this be sold to the busy people who buy Cirrus aircraft – good question.
    The other option is to automate the aircraft, ala Airbus, to the point that the aircraft would make decisions to protect itself. The automatic envelope protection they are working on is a good start, but the system would have to be much more advanced to make a meaningful difference in my opinion. Additionally, perhaps having a dispatcher who can make the go/no go decision would help minimize the pressure to complete the flight.
    The Cirrus is a perfectly fine aircraft – I like the way they fly, they are relatively mild mannered and plenty fast for a fixed gear single. But they ain’t no 172. If a person isn’t willing to commit to staying current and proficient, perhaps a 172, 182, or an Archer would be a safer bet – if for nothing else than things happen more slowly and give a bit more of a chance to get caught back up with the airplane.

  7. Michael Daugherty
    Michael Daugherty says:

    I would take this more seriously if you would publish your data along with your verdict.

    • Ameriman
      Ameriman says:

      The stats for fatal accidents are:
      Cirrus 1.69 fatals/100,000 hours
      Overall GA fleet: 1.24
      2.38 for Personal Business flying
      Consider that Cirri are over-weight used for serious long distance transportation, often IFR… to a much greater extent than ‘nice days’ typical GA usage… including instruction, corporate use.
      Apples to oranges really.
      And the Cirrus stats are pretty much the same for ‘steam gages’ vs PFDs.

      IMO Cirri are used by more aggressive pilots for more long distance and IFR transportation, accounting for the difference.

  8. Dale Bender
    Dale Bender says:

    Flight simulator geeks? Really? Spare me, will u? I understand where you are coming from, but geeks? C’mon! Fly the plane!!!

  9. Jason Eddy
    Jason Eddy says:

    Training, training, training! I don’t care how arrogant you are a proper training regimen should and will prepare you for what may and ought to come your way over your flying career. My flying club does a great job of requiring significant training and minimum hours to fly our SR20. Not increasing, or effectively decreasing training requirements is flat out wrong.
    What do they call Cirrus’? “Millionare killers”? Too much money and arrogance? Make training more meaningful and not an excersize in checking the boxes. I suppose I am a bit of an aberration in the GA world as I am quite risk averse. A bit ironic I suppose in a business that most consider inherently dangerous.

  10. Chris Tarbell
    Chris Tarbell says:

    “Aviation in itself is not inherently dangerous. But to an even greater degree than the sea, it is terribly unforgiving of any carelessness, incapacity or neglect.”

  11. bill c
    bill c says:

    I have not flown the SR-22, but it sounds like the plane is to well equipped and as is stated here a false sense of security sets in.

    I think it is the same false sense that many pilots have flying light twins. The old addage that the second engine only carries you to the crash site has allot of truth behind it. I see the parachute being the false sense of security for these pilots.

    The perfect storm here is a glass cockpit that most GA pilots are not trained to use properly and a plane that is not designed to recover from a spin and has average to poor stall characteristics. It is an accident waiting to happen.

    My friends and I owned an flight school for five years and worked for another one for four years before that.

    While we didn’t operate this way, other schools teach the test mentality is what is getting people killed.

    Weekend ground schools, ratings farms, poor training
    and reduced training requirements are just some of the reasons people end up dead.

    It used to be the insurance industry was much harder on GA than the FAA ever was. Some guy goes a buys a light twin or a mooney and the insurance company would require 50 – 100 hours of additional dual after licensing to be insurable.

    The insurance companies have slacked off. What GA pilots that due look for more dual look for is the cheapest instructor they can find, instead of the right one.

    We charged $50 an hour for dual in 1996. People said we were goughing them. I had five CFIs flying with us. Three out of the five had over 1,000 hours CFI experience and they contiuosly worked with the younger instructors to make sure they were teaching properly. You simply don’t find that in allot of flight schools. Especially in the ratings farms.

    I live ten minutes from an airport in Florida that has a huge ratings farm on it. I’ll go sit in the restaurants around the field and watch these 20 year old instructors come in that don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground. They themselves were training in the same program they are now teaching in only six months later. Again, an accident waiting to happen.

    I listen to them go on and on about their exploits in the cockpit and wonder how any of them keep jobs, let alone how they got an instructor certificate in the first place.

    We have cocky kids teaching clueless ones. Or worse yet, kids teaching wealthy adults that buy to much airplane that their skill level should allow them to and they push the instructor out the door the minute they get the required dual to please their insurance company.

    Safety “last” is what is pulling this industry down.

  12. Steve C
    Steve C says:

    Full disclosure: I own a Cirrus SR22.

    I have 2 large issues with this post.

    The spin comments are really very silly. Just a little bit of research will show that the Cirrus can recover from spins just fine…in fact, it had to in order to be certified in Europe. Cirrus simply chose not to spend the extra money to show all the certification data to the FAA due to the fact that they spent engineering money on the chute and that met the standard. When it costs like a bizzillion dollars to certify a new design, a million here and a million there add up to real money. The cirrus is not some crazy handling plane that is just dying to spin you into the ground…and impossible to recover. I’d venture to say it’s just as good or bad as any other high performance single.

    Same with my 2nd issue…this whole stall thing. To say that the plane has bad handling and is easy to stall etc. is also silly. Heck, I had about 15 hours in a 172 before getting my SR22…I spent 100 hours training for my PPL (yup, it takes longer in a HP plane) in it and did…a LOT of stalls in all sorts of configurations. It’s a very nice handling plane.

    As for the whole theme of the article. I totally agree. The safety record of the Cirrus planes really stinks. I can’t defend it.

    I don’t really know why. I’m not sure anyone does. From where I sit, I really feel much safer flying the Cirrus than anything else. But..I trained a lot…and take it very seriously. I went on to get my IR and I fly every 90 days with an instructor for a full day (bang out my IR currency and get good training every 90 days, doing the things I become stale at). I think that level (or even more) commitment to training is simply necessary.

    Maybe most are not willing to do that…and the safety net goes away a lot quicker in a naturally less forgiving aircraft than a 172 or something. That’s about my only theory.

    • Pete Zaitcev
      Pete Zaitcev says:

      I suspect that all this talk about the stall reflects something that people heard through the grapewine and pass along uncritically. The original problem with stalling of SR-22 is that the stall speed is relatively high, and statistically speaking, the fatality rate of light piston airplane accidents definitely corellates with the Vs0, across many airplane types. Therefore, if you fly SR-22 to an off-airport landing, you are taking significant chances. The difference is enough to offset the benefits from cases when pilots elect to ride the chute.

      • Michael David
        Michael David says:

        Pete – this is nonsense! So what, if the stall-speed is “relatively high?” What is the significance of that?

        According to Airbus F-COM 3.04.10

        VS or Stalling speed, it is not displayed. Moreover, for a conventional A/c, the reference stall speed, VSmin is based on a load factor that is less than 1g. This gives a stall speed that is lower than than the stall speed at 1g.

        All operating speeds are expressed as functions of this speed (for instance VREF = 1.3 VSmin). Because A/c of the A320 family have a low speed protection featute (alpha limit) that the flight crew can not override, the airworthiness authorities have reconsidered the definition of stall speed for these A/c.

        All operating speeds must be referenced to a speed that can be demonstrated by flight test. The speed is designated as VS1g. Airworthiness authorities have agreed that a factor of .94 represents the relationship between VS1g for A/c of the A320 family and VSmin for conventional A/c types. As a result tha authorities allow A/c of the A320 family to use the following factors:
        V2 = 1.2 * .94 VS1g = 1.13 VS1g
        VREF = 1.3 * .94 VS1g = 1.23 VS1g

        FCOM concludes by saying that the A319,320,321 hav exactly the same maneuver margin that a conventional A/c would have at its reference speeds.

        Saying that it stalls at 80kts or between 108 and 110 is somehow inaccurate – So what?

        • Larryo
          Larryo says:

          Yes stall speed IS a significant number and one SHOULD know it. And, yes, higher stall speeds (via higher ref speeds) can correlate to a less survivable crash.

          And, the Bus has nothing to do with the discussion at hand….. just another plane that happens to be over automated, taking decisions away from the pilot. Glad I skipped that one in my career.

    • Dick Collins
      Dick Collins says:

      In the very first SR-22 fatal accident, control was lost at 5,000 feet, the airplane entered a flat spin and impacted the ground in that flat spin.

      • Steve Phoenix
        Steve Phoenix says:

        I believe that one was two new owners taking it up to see how it would spin (answer; pretty good, recover; not so good). Used to have that problem with American Yankees; people spinning them to see what it was like and then discovering that the SPINS PROHIBITED placard was not there to hold the panel in place.

      • Steve C
        Steve C says: you do no research at all…took about 15 seconds to look it up online and confirm this…it was a jammed aileron that caused that accident. Once again, the plane has been spun and recovered from plenty of times for JAA and EASA…again, 15 seconds online to confirm this

        • Steve C
          Steve C says:

          And again…just for clarification…I agree the accident record stinks. But, this whole stupidity surrounding the spin issue and the stall issue is silly. That is NOT the reason…of that we can be sure.

        • Steve Phoenix
          Steve Phoenix says:

          Please enlighten me as to just how the jammed aileron caused an unrecoverable spin from 5000′. I’m sure you can find it online. I’m not that good at online research; but curious nevertheless.

          • Rick Beach
            Rick Beach says:

            Regrettably, Dick made a subtle distinction when he described the “first SR-22 fatal accident” that makes searching the NTSB database a bit of a problem. Here are the facts for the “first” Cirrus fatal accidents:

            3/23/1999 first fatal accident in a prototype Cirrus SR20 that crashed during flight testing with a modified aileron that jammed

            4/10/2001 first production Cirrus fatal accident was an SR20 at Serra Vista, Arizona, as VFR-in-IMC scenario

            4/24/2002 first SR22 Cirrus accident at Parish, NY, in which 2 partners were aggressively maneuvering the airplane in stalls and entered a flat spin at 5,000 feet; the CAPS parachute activated after ground impact


    • Rhonda
      Rhonda says:

      Steve C. I commend you on your personal high training standards, as a cfii. I appreciate it when pilots are willing to invest time, effort, and money into their flying abilities.

  13. Mike
    Mike says:

    Actually according to the 2010 NTSB report the Cirrus Accident rate for 2010 is 2.80 and the fatality rate to be 1.06. The GA rate was 6.86 with a fatality rate of 1.27. Cirrus accident rate was 59% lower than the GA rate. For the first time the Cirrus fatality rate was also lower than the GA rate by 16%. I have nice graph to show this, but it won’t post here. These numbers might be a little dated now, however the parachute system on the Cirrus has had 29 saves and has saved the lives of 61 people. That would have been 61 more people killed if flying a different type of aircraft! If used as advertised, it works.

    A Cirrus is really no different than any of the other TAAs or high performance aircraft on the market today. The Bonanza was called the “doctor killer” because many low time, rich pilots bought them and died because they didn’t respect them or get the training they should have had. This isn’t to say there aren’t bad Cirrus pilots, because there are. The plane isn’t the problem, it’s training and PILOT ERROR. I own an SR22 and I fly about 200 hrs a year, lots of XC and lots of IMC. I get flight training annually at a minimum and practice every chance I get. Most Cirrus pilots that I know take this aircraft very seriously and train to keep their skills up. Any aircraft you fly like this should be treated this way. As far as the chute goes, it is nothing more than a last resort and doesn’t effect my decision making when making a go/no go decision, so that’s kind of a cop out to say stuff like that. Maybe some pilots think of it the way you mention, but none that I have ever met.

    Last note, Mr Collins you are a hell of a pilot and I could only hope to be even remotely as proficient as you, however since you are affiliated with Cessna, your comments don’t mean much when you are bashing Cirrus. I would ask that you add data and metrics to your articles before trying to prove a bias point.

    • Dave White
      Dave White says:

      Your comment about the 61 lives saved by the parachute is silly, it would have been 61 more killed in a Cirrus if it didn’t have a chute.

    • Dick Collins
      Dick Collins says:

      I am not now and have never been affiliated with Cessna. I did own a Cessna for a long time and many times I pointed out that the P210 has one of the worst accident rates in general aviation. You should consider facts before accusing someone of “bashing” something.

      • Jeff Civitano
        Jeff Civitano says:

        Hey Richard! Glad to see you are still out there.. My friend forwarded me this link and I read it before I realized you were the author. I used to read your articles religously in flying magazine. I read “Flying IFR” at least once a year. — A must read btw for any new IFR pilot (or any GA IFR pilot for that matter). Where are you based at these days airport wise?

  14. Michael David
    Michael David says:

    Please., give me a break! You ATP’s have not hand-flown an approach since you step-into you “sterile cockpit!”

    • Ray Stallings
      Ray Stallings says:

      Excuse me but you don’t have any idea what you are talking about. I (and most every other professional pilot I know) hand fly every approach that I am not obligated by OPSPECS to fly with an autopilot, including CAT III HUD approaches down to 600RVR. I would recommend getting your facts straight before posting erroneous BS like this in the future. It only makes you look ignorant.

      • Michael David
        Michael David says:

        Ray, you can fool the “non-flying” public but you cannot fool an ATP! Get real!

      • Michael David
        Michael David says:

        @Ray – Beside, if you call “hand-flying” an approach, disconnecting on short-final, I agree. However, as I said, take your “erroneous” post somewhere where it will fly!

        • Ray Stallings
          Ray Stallings says:

          I don’t know what discount operation you fly for but you have the typical attitude of the undisciplined, RJ trained crop of First Officers that the respectable airlines are now being forced to hire (and re-train) due to the shortage of military trained aviators. Again, your posts are ignorant as well as arrogant.

          • Michael David
            Michael David says:

            @Ray, “discount operation?” The last time I looked out of the left-seat and forward, 12 o’clock level, at KORD, I observed 23 “discount operations” in front of me taxing! When told to “line up and wait,” I saw a “discount operation” grease one on 9R!

            I looked at the FO and said, “that discount operation put it right on the numbers!” Get real, Ray!

  15. Charlie Schneider
    Charlie Schneider says:

    I am a Cirrus SR-22 Turbo owner and instrument rated pilot with about 600 hours. It is the only plane I have ever flown. My flight instructor and aviation mentor and I fly monthly and we perform the IFR Proficiency every 90 days. He is also in charge of whether or not I am current, not me. In other words I treat flying like I fly professionally. Hand flying approaches is just one example of a requirement of proficiency. So, it is about attitude. As for the comments about the parachute, go talk to the alive Cirrus driver who suffered a heart attack in-flight and woke up nose down and was able to pull the chute and live. In any other plane you couldn’t talk to him any more.

  16. Chris Sparg
    Chris Sparg says:

    How sad is it that this innovative and brilliant aircraft is blamed for the shortcomings of airmanship and poor attitude and regard for safety. As an Owner and pilot of the SR-22 – i continue to respect any aircraft I fly and work within legal and personal competency limits. The real factor here is recognizing that any aircraft flown in marginal conditions has a potential to kill you. As a pilot we are licensed to wisely consider every event and situation and always err on the cautious side to protect our passengers and people around us – apart from upholding the reputation of general aviation and the worth of a private pilots license which we are extremely fortunate to acquire.
    There are a number of excellent organizations like COPA who continuously work to improve safety and training – offering Cirrus training, simulator training and even an opportunity to deploy the chute in a simulator. This organization send out regular safety bulletins to help pilots recognize what mistakes are been made out there – most are regrettably all about pushing limits.
    Attitude is the main contributor to general aviation accidents – a real pity that some of the older style CFI’s out there -who quickly discouraged those with poor attitude and airmanship to retire from this awesome industry- are scarce to find these days.
    I have lost many friends flying Cessna’s over the years – again a brilliant aircraft and I can admit that in every instance it was my friends own determination to push limits that resulted in many tragic and sad losses! Usually a combination of issues stacked up against them – but the route cause was pushing a boundary beyond their capability!
    The Cirrus is an amazing aircraft manufactured by a company who have continued to be innovative and strive to look at every safety aspect for years.
    Rather be in your car wishing you were flying then be in your aircraft wishing you were in your car! If there is doubt……..then there is no doubt!

  17. Rick Beach
    Rick Beach says:

    Here we go again. An innovative aviation company has its brand name sullied by the critics when all pilots continue to do things that have been killing airplanes for decades. BTDT.

    The fatal accident rate has not skyrocketed because of Cirrus. Nor has it gotten better for over a decade.

    The facts are that 94% of NTSB probable causes of Cirrus fatal accident relate to the pilot. Unfortunately, it’s not newbie pilots, because over half of those pilots had more than 800 hours total time. Unfortunately, it’s not private pilots without instrument ratings, because over 80% of the Cirrus accident pilots had an instrument rating or CFI or commercial ticket. Time in type really does matter, as over half of the pilots had less than 250 hours in a Cirrus. Instructors matter, as 5 fatal accidents had instructors in the right seat — although 3 of those instructors had less than 30 hours in a Cirrus.

    Oh, and 5000 of these airplanes have grown the aviation market, which might otherwise be dwindling faster and leaving fewer and fewer reasons to sustain general aviation.

    What’s wrong with our aviation system that critics blame the brand rather than system? We need to both keep pilots alive and reverse the decline in general aviation activity.

    So, my answer to Dick’s question: nothing unique to Cirrus is wrong; Cirrus pilots are like any other pilot population that get excited by the new thing they fly and get themselves into bad situations. Just that there are more Cirrus airplanes so more examples for the unthinking critics to latch onto.

    Now, what to do about general aviation pilots killing themselves in any airplane?

    (COPA safety zealot and chair, Cirrus Pilot Proficiency Program)

    • John Zimmerman
      John Zimmerman says:

      Rick, great to see you add your expertise here. Thanks for the numbers, especially about time in type. That’s a big number in any airplane.

      I think some people didn’t read the article very carefully. Collins is not bashing the plane. The title is about Cirrus pilots, not Cirrus itself. I think it’s the classic moral hazard question: is the safety benefit of all the technology offset by the increased risk of that pilots take on because of the technology? It’s a fair question.

      • Rick Beach
        Rick Beach says:

        So, I went back and reviewed Dick’s claim that Cirrus has a higher fatal accident rate than similar aircraft.

        COPA has been tracking this rate based on flight hours tracked by the reliability engineering folks at Cirrus Aircraft who use hours on warranty claims, service bulletin and parachute repacks. We consider world-wide fatal accidents, not just NTSB accidents, so our rate is more conservative.

        1.17 Cirrus fatal accidents per 100,000 flying hours (36 fatals in over 3 million hours) for the past 36 month rolling.

        1.27 GA fatal accidents per 100,000 flying hours (267 fatals in over 20.9 million hours) from the 2010 NTSB aviation statistics report.

        Things like fatal accident rates for a single model or manufacturer are subject to swings due to the effects on small populations. There are only 5,000 Cirrus aircraft among a GA fleet of over 200,000 (1 in 40). There are only 3 million Cirrus hours among 20.9 million fleet hours (1 in 14). For example, a cluster of 8 fatal accidents in 3 months happened in the fall of 2011, which bumped up the 12-month rate to 1.68, while for several quarters earlier it had been 1.03, 1.04, and 0.91.

        These numbers are solid for Cirrus aircraft. But what numbers do we have for other models and manufacturers?


        • Dick Collins
          Dick Collins says:

          Because about 75-percent of the Cirrus fatal accidents are in SR-22s I think that its record would calculate out to be worse than the SR-20. I calculated the total Cirrus rate at 1.52 a while back. Using the same methodology, the Cessna 172 was .56, the Skylane .74, the non-pressurized 210 1.26, the Bonanza A36 1.81,the Baron 58 1.58 and the Cessna P210 at the top of the list at 2.33.

  18. David McCowan
    David McCowan says:

    My two cents with what’s the problem with Cirrus pilots is that it is easy to get behind a TAA that you don’t stay proficient in.

  19. John
    John says:

    “This is not their fault. They were certified by the government…”

    Dick, I know you think the regs are lax, but come on, let’s not completely dismiss personal responsibility in this country…that kind of talk is just helping the idiots in Washington who try to regulate everything. It is ruining us as a nation.

  20. Michael J. Nutt
    Michael J. Nutt says:

    The Cirrus is the new Beechcraft Bonanza: “The Doctor Killer.” It is an expensive, high performance and technically complex aircraft that requires training (both initial and ongoing) in order to remain current and safe. Too many of these owners have the money but not the time to remain up to speed with their aircraft. As was noted in the article, this aircraft is marketed as an alternative to the airlines, a means of reaching destinations in safety and with speed. If you take a low-time pilot, one who has little actual IFR experience, and try and achieve these goals -you are asking for trouble.

    As a side note, if I had the money I would choose a Diamond DA-40 over the Cirrus any day.

  21. Michael David
    Michael David says:

    All these comments, “Cirrus is this, Cirrus is that,” the truth is, an an aircraft like any other aircraft. It’s not a “doctor-killer,” this killer or that killer. It’s an aircraft with the same aerodynamic design as any other! It flies just like a 150 or a 777-200!

  22. Michael J. Nutt
    Michael J. Nutt says:

    Those commenting on my post missed my point, or are too young to remember the issue with the Bonanza. The Beechcraft Bonanza, like the Cirrus, was a high performance aircraft that was far more complex than the Cubs, Taylorcrafts, Cessna 140s etc. that were more common then. Wealthy pilots (doctors, for example) could afford the aircraft -but not always the time to remain current. Therefore, undeservedly, the aircraft became widely known as “the doctor killer.” It had nothing to do with the aircraft’s flight characteristics, but with those who flew it. When flown by professional pilots, who were trained, competent and current, the aircraft performed well and had a safety record comparable to other aircraft. It was in the hands of these low-time pilots who failed to keep up with their aircraft that the record was so shocking.

    Whether it is a Ferrari, a high performance offshore powerboat or an aircraft, money does not infer competency. THAT was the reason for my comment about “the doctor killer”, bringing up a comparable situation from over 50 years ago.

    • Jake Brodsky
      Jake Brodsky says:

      Michael made the point I was going to make: Certain aircraft have been magnets for those with more money than skills, judgement, and experience.

      It doesn’t mean that every C22 pilot is lacking, it simply means that this model of aircraft tends to attract more than their fair share of pilots who get in over their heads.

      In the late 1980s I recall there were a rash of in-flight breakups with the Piper Malibu. The Malibu was a very popular aircraft at the time among those seeking comfortable personal transportation. It was well designed to the very latest standards for strength and performance. People were questioning the ultimate standards.

      The problem turned out to be a combination of high performance, inexperienced pilots, and rotten weather. Careful reading of the manual revealed that Va was surprisingly slow. The breakups occurred in turbulent weather. These pilots weren’t slowing the plane down enough. Once this fact was recognized, the investigations and inquisitions concluded.

      The ultimate problem is that although we can train pilots with curricula that is supposed to teach them most of what they need to be safe, there will always be some who have been brought to water, but didn’t drink.

      Some collect pilot certificates as if they were scouting badges. They chase the certificate as if it alone were the goal, instead of a license to learn. These are often the sort of pilots that later get in to trouble, stumbling in to weather they do not understand, running out of fuel in mid-air, attempting to take off overweight or with insufficient runway, or suffering equipment problems they could have spotted easily had they bothered to conduct a pre-flight inspection.

      Though I have nothing but contempt for idiots like this, they exist. They pass the exams and check-rides, and they seem to be okay until they encounter anything even slightly outside their experience.

      These are the pilots who gravitate toward the C22. The ‘chute gives them that extra confidence that everything will be all right. They’ll just pull the ‘chute. What they don’t realize is that by the time they discover the situation is really bad, it will be too late to deploy anything that might save them.

      If someone could find a way to weed such people from the community, I’d be ecstatic; not just for aviation, but for many other fields in which real time judgement and decisions need to be made. We haven’t found it.

      As much as we hate it, Darwin still plays a role in aviation.

  23. Steve Phoenix
    Steve Phoenix says:

    One way to “rein in Cirrus fatal accidents” might be to change the analysis parameters. I wonder if maybe a rate per mile might show the Cirrus type airplane in a more favorable light. I’m sure that an hour in a 172 at 130 mph creates less weather exposure than an hour in a Cirrus at 200. Of course, other hazards like takeoff and landings are more hour related so an accurate accounting method would have to take that into account.

    Then too, maybe we worry about it too much. Other relatively hazardous activities, like motorcycling, do not seem to spend endless words and pages on crash analysis and yet do just fine by depicting the good side of the activity.

    • Michael David
      Michael David says:

      Have you ever heard of “slo-flt?” What in the world are you talking about! Fly the plane and if you can’t, push a button that says, “wing-leveler and altitude hold!’

  24. Michael David
    Michael David says:

    Rule of thumb! VFR, non-turbulent, standard rate turns ALWAYS!
    IFR in IMC, half standard rate turns! ALWAYS! ALWAYS ALWAYS!

    • Larryo
      Larryo says:


      That statement is just plane stupid, and with your experience you should know better.

  25. Joe
    Joe says:

    An interesting aside, I read an article that showed that Cirrus owners association members are several times less likely to have an accident (in a Cirrus) than Cirrus owners who are not members. Seems like self-selection for people who take piloting seriously.

  26. Jack
    Jack says:

    Forget Cirrus!! Buy a Cessna Corvalis! It walks ALL OVER the Cirrus AND the company didn’t cut corners and omit spin certification to save money. Why people buy planes that are NOT CERTIFIED unless they have a parachute is beyond me. If u wanna parachute take up skydiving and leave the flying thing to professionals!

    • Brian
      Brian says:

      Corvalis….? Are they still selling those or did all the wings fall off now after the Mexico factory issues….? (LOL, I couldn’t resist, I don’t really have any issues with Cessna just wanted to point out that nobody is perfect…)

  27. Doug W
    Doug W says:

    Don’t focus on the Cirrus, or you lose the big picture. Pilots are pilots and we have a problem. Pilots are still getting into seemingly preventable accidents. Modern aircraft have data collecters and some even have a blackbox of sorts. Yet, in GA, no one uses this data well. We still blame the stupid doctor pilots, or cirrus pilots, or businessmen pilots. When the airlines have an accident do they write the pilots off as stupid, as GA does, or do they ask why and build training around their findings.
    Who cares what plane of the day is getting in accidents, if pilots are killing themselves and others are not, by God, we need to know the fk why!! Wait until it is one of your friends, though i hopeyou neverknow the feeling, and you say “wait, he wasn’t stupid, he was a good pilot”. We are moving to a time where we have the technology to let average student pilot spend hours spinning and losing control in sims, but if we dont change our beliefs and methods, they will still be dying at similar rates.
    The cirrus is just the hp single xcountry machine of choice and seems to picked up the accident records where the old hp single,bonanza, left off

  28. Andrew D.
    Andrew D. says:

    I would like to share my perceptions on SR22 accidents as well. I started flying in 1971, my first airplane ride was as a passenger to Officer Training School on an Eastern Airlines flight. My next flight was four months later in a T-41 Cessna. After 350 hours total time I was a T-38 instructor. After 1200 hours I was a instructor to instrutors in T-38’s. I now have over 10,000 hours in all types and have never considered myself a professional pilot. When the SR22 came out with a glass cockpit, my first thoughts were: A low time pilot does not need that much information, he cannot process it, he cannot pick and choose pertinent information, he will think he is the master of the sky and, of course, let’s through in a parachute for the plane as a final backstop in case he can’t handle the situation. You have given a guy, or gal, with too much money, too much confidence, the ultimate aircraft to push beyond the limits of their common sense. Look at how many Cirrus aircraft are destroyed in either the turn to final or on an instrument approach in low weather. The pilot needs to start with a humble mind and know that this beast (supersonic trainer or basic GA trainer) can be ridden, but he will try to bite and kill you as soon as you believe you are more skilled than you deserve. Train well in scenario based training, do slow flight, practice instrument approaches at the end of every flight if possible, re-read the flight manual, learn to use the autopilot regulary as a copilot not an aircraft commander, learn what takes you to the approach of a spin and at all costs stay away from that approach. Finally, don’t just go up with an instructor, go up with an instructor who knows the aircraft type and its characteristics better than you.

  29. Brad
    Brad says:

    Hey, The turn to final, that almost got me once. Real gusty day.The 496 voiced ” sink rate” The 172 just waited for more fuel. Nice plane. Is there a common flaw to the training we have, and the procedures we use? We need to keep evolving.

  30. David Reinhart
    David Reinhart says:

    Richard, it’s always been possible to get an instrument rating without seeing the inside of a cloud. If I’d stayed out in the SoCal High Desert after graduating college I would very likely have never flown actual IMC while getting my rating. The only exception may have been the long cross country if we’d flown into the basin on a day when the marine layer was in.

    Given the compressed schedule and location of many military flight training establishments I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of new USAF, Marine and Naval aviators don’t get much actual, either.

    I’m really not sure that general experience, required under the old IR rules, really translates into better instrument pilots. What it might have done is weed people out of flying who were stuck flying VFR and decided they couldn’t get the utility they wanted out of GA and quit. You were left with a population of determined pilots who saw the IR as a real step up.

    I also have a theory why the chutes in Cirrus aircraft aren’t pulled more often. A strong element in Cirrus purchases is the “spouse factor”. The flying spouse (usually a man) tells his wife “If I conk out at the controls, just pull the throttle back and pull this red handle”. Their mindset is that the chute is only there to handle pilot incapacitation scenarios. In any other scenario they revert to the standard macho pilot mindset and try to fly the airplane out of the problem.

  31. Tom Yarsley
    Tom Yarsley says:

    The title of Dick’s piece was “What’s wrong with Cirrus pilots?” It certainly has spawned a fusillade of commentary. I’d re-phrase Mr. Collins’ question slightly, to the perhaps less pejorative: “what’s DIFFERENT about Cirrus pilots?” That’s not an effort to excuse their collective safety record; it’s just the way that I try to understand things.

    In the last decade, Cirrus became the biggest fish in a decidedly shrunken pond. By any measure, delivering 5,000 vehicles in a 10-year span is spectacular success in this industry. And everyone has got to give the devils of Duluth their due: they’ve found a way to identify and close prospects who are willing and able to part with upwards of three-quarters of a million dollars for a 4-place SEFG personal transportation aircraft. I consider that achievement to be praiseworthy, regardless of the topic of this column.

    Right up front, let me admit that throughout Cirrus’ history, my interest in the SR2x vehicles has been little more than mild curiosity. My interest in the company is deeper, because of my long-standing interest in the emergence of a truly personal jet airplane. Their SF50 far and away is the best example I’ve seen of that ideal. Dick’s column and readers’ many thoughtful comments give me an excuse to ponder one of the more curious elements of its design – a parachute-based whole-vehicle recovery system.

    I always thought that the SR2x CAPS feature was essentially a gimmick. A leftover artifact of the vehicle’s kitplane origins, intended to assuage buyers’ anxieties about a plastic airplane that wasn’t manufactured by one of “the big three.” That doesn’t mean that the gimmick couldn’t be useful – clearly it has been, in at least 61 instances. But when Cirrus announced that they intended to include a CAPS system in their jet…

    From an operational standpoint, CAPS is one method (there are others) of addressing two unhappy scenarios:
    1. some kind of critical failure of the vehicle itself
    2. a critical failure of the pilot, whether through incapacitation or some variety of stupidity.

    Both of these “rescue” scenarios are fraught with hazards. Successfully deploying a parachute from a tumbling vehicle (as often is the case in instances of structural failures) is an interesting technical challenge. Conjuring a scenario in which a pilot who has just exhibited enough bad judgment to place himself in intractable mortal danger suddenly transforms into a person with enough calm and detachment to deploy the chute is an interesting study in human nature. Relying on a third party occupant to deploy may be little more than wishful thinking.

    Technically, CAPS is challenging enough in an SR2x. But in an SF50? I don’t shrink from technical challenges, but I’m senior enough to ask “why?” I think that by the time you’re playing in the jet leagues, the idea that your plastic kitplane-origin design ever would need a rescue from a structural issue is a complete non-starter. To admit otherwise would be suicidal, IMWO. Gulfstreams do not apologize for not having a parachute-based whole-vehicle recovery system. The SF50 is no Gulfstream, but safety and its firstborn son, reliability, are aspirational.

    I’ve offered my opinions to Cirrus along the way. Some of my advice, they’ve apparently agreed with – lose the right-side door, for example. I opined for a FL340 certification – they upped the ante from FL250 to FL280. I cautioned them about noise signature issues resulting from vectored exhaust – they seem satisfied with their results so far. I think that the parachute is a major mistake. I see no real technical benefit from the rather substantial costs that will have to be endured owing to its development. The 400-pound weight penalty (my figure, not theirs) represents critically-needed forfeited Jet-A payload. The enormous windscreen center post is a rare blemish in an otherwise truly remarkable design. I could quibble over flap hinge geometry, but it’s their ball and they need to pitch.

    If I were king in Duluth, I’d lose the chute; work with Garmin to certify a real auto-land system; and call that the “rescue me” path of the future. First of all, it would be a lot easier to do that, than to do a successful parachute, in my engineering opinion. Secondly, “autonomous aircraft” are the future of aviation – an argument I’ve made in this space and in others, much to the dismay of many in the pilot community.

    But right now, parachute-based whole-vehicle recovery systems are the paradigm at Cirrus. And they’ve got upwards of 5,000 pilots out there, who to varying degrees of commitment have drunk the CAPS Kool-Aid. I fear that I seriously mis-evaluated the role that the CAPS mindset has played in the purchasing decisions and in the operational decisions of SR2x owner-pilots. And I worry that that mindset may migrate to the SF50 cabin/cockpit.

    So, what’s different about Cirrus pilots? Apart from the thickness of their wallets, I’d say that they have found general aviation for reasons that are different from those that motivated their forebears. I’ve been around flying for my entire life (so far). Most of the earlier-generation pilots I’ve known (and trained) first and foremost have loved to fly. So with varying degrees of success, they became aviators. This new generation of GA pilots (and they’re not all young; and they’re not all Cirrus-drivers) want reliable on-demand personal transportation. And so they become aircraft-systems operators. Some become aviators; many don’t, for a variety of reasons. And but for the safety record, who are we to judge? You may treasure the splendor and the challenges; they may like arriving on time. Different strokes, I guess.

    I’m not convinced that the industry is going to have much success at transforming these newbies into “aviators.” From my perspective as an engineer, I just want these people to be as safe as they can be. And, hey – technology is my trade. When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Right?

    • tom
      tom says:


      I like your style of thinking and ideas. I wonder of CAPS as a sales pitch doesn’t mirror the airbag sales pitch?
      My type club recently pushed installing AmSafe airbags. I declined after some research because it would have required replacing a 4-point belt system with the Amsafe 3 point system, which data suggests is a step down in restraint. I have time in a new C-182T with the Amsafe belts/bags and note that it’s common for the copilot to use the pilot’s belt and vice versa, which defeats the airbag.

      After further study, airbag crash data in autos seems more hype than fact. In aircraft it is decidedly so with one ‘Save’ that could be attributed to aircraft airbags (side loads render them fairly ineffective. So we need more bags!)

      Despite the data or lack thereof, pressure from others was considerable. When asked for a basis, the argument was on the lines of warm fuzzies more than the cold pricklies of data. I suspect the CAPS thing is similar.

      it’s interesting how bragging rights have morphed from ‘more power” to “more airbags” over the years.

      • Tom Yarsley
        Tom Yarsley says:

        Airbags in cars are a pretty easy sell, in no small measure because drivers fear that someone ELSE is going to collide with innocent little them. And because of the variety of impact vectors that apply to automobile collisions, airbags proliferate like rabbits.

        The idea of a whole-vehicle recovery system as a “get out of jail free” card is fascinating mostly for what it says about its advocates.

        A better approach to whole-vehicle recovery would be to teach the airplane how to land itself when the pilot becomes unable to do so. This is the logical extension of Garmin’s recent “straight and level” button on their autopilot device. The technology already exists. But most pilots say that they would be unwilling to cede the authority to “pull the trigger” to a machine. Better to wait until it’s too late, I guess.

        Personally, I think that an autoland demonstration video would sell a crapload of autopilots. And airplanes equipped with them. But what do I know?

        • Brian Litch
          Brian Litch says:

          There have been a number of Cirrus accidents where the pilot has deployed the parachute and survived. I am not aware of any incidents where a pilot attempted to deploy the parachute and it did not deploy, with the exception of one time where the chute was deployed outside of it’s operational parameters. I am also aware of several accidents where the pilots chose to attempt to save the plane rather than deploy the chute, and they did not survive. COPA sponsors Critical Decision Making seminars which I have attended. Typically the room is full of Cirrus pilots. A number of Cirrus accidents are analyzed in great detail. The ultimate conclusion is that, unless an on-airport landing is absolutely assured, deploy the parachute. That is the best way to improve your chances of survival in a Cirrus accident. I have pulled the parachute handle in a Cirrus simulator, and I would not hesitate to do so in the air should the circumstances arise.

          • tom
            tom says:

            Brian, That a number of people have lived after deploying the chute is wonderful. I think the question is: Why not all?

            Many people land off airport and survive without a parachute. The discriminator is maintaining control, no fire and lots of little impacts to preserve the cockpit, not one big one.

            If all you have is a hammer, everything begins to look like a nail.

          • Tom Yarsley
            Tom Yarsley says:


            You’re an experienced SR-driver. If you could choose, would you prefer your whole-vehicle recovery system to be a ballistic parachute or a full-capability auto-land system? And why? Thanks.

        • tom
          tom says:

          There is certainly data to support the autoland idea. Sparky Immeson taught a mountain survival class that began with photos of wrecks people walked away from. All flew it into the rocks/trees/water etc with the intent to sacrifice the wings to save the cockpit. Drop-ins always resulted in spinal injuries – always – which makes me wonder at the value of parachute arrivals while sitting. The F-111 had a few airframes that ejected the the cockpit. I wonder at the injuries if any compared to standard ejection seats? Ditto many Russian space capsules that fall on land. IIRC they have retro-rockets for the last ten feet. Probably for good reason.

          This might fall under ‘screwing up a good idea:” Could an autoland take advantage of wind and terrain data to arrive at a ‘least unsurvivable’ landing spot?

          • Tom Yarsley
            Tom Yarsley says:

            That’s exactly one of the features of an “autonomous” control system – it’s continuously determining the best available spot to land, so if the sh!t hits the fan, the system already has the best available option figured out – whether it’s a nice long runway or the Hudson River.

        • Brian Litch
          Brian Litch says:

          Sorry, this is out of order, there wasn’t a reply link on your most recent post about CAPS vs Autoland. Autoland probably has great potential, but it will not get you down if you have a loss of control situation. Consider the midair collision, which is of course the precise reason that the Klapmeiers developed CAPS for Cirrus. If the collision takes out half your wing, the autoland is useless, but the CAPS works. Fortunately midairs remain fairly rare. Autoland probably works well for an engine out. CAPS won’t save you if you’re heavily iced, but neither will autoland. CAPS is probably superior to autoland for ditching. Once the autoland system is worked out, it probably adds less cost and little additional weight to the plane. Autoland may very well proliferate in non-CAPS aircraft as a retrofit. Right now, CAPS is tried and true, I’ll keep mine.

          • Tom Yarsley
            Tom Yarsley says:


            Thanks for your excellent points, especially about a ditching situation over open water. The mid-air collision situation appears to this engineer to be vastly over-sold. You’d be amazed at how rapidly an aircraft will roll if it loses a wing panel at cruise airspeed. The resultant tumbling can foul the parachute lanyard in no time flat.
            That said, collisions and ditching still remain two instances where a parachute-based recovery system could be a life-saver. Not convinced that it will be practical at 350 kts / 6,000 lbs, though.

    • Terry
      Terry says:

      I too hope to not see but can invision the day the autonomous aircraft pulls up and we get on. Then we will be talking about the guy at the desk.

  32. Myron
    Myron says:

    I am new to Cirrus. I have only about 20 hours in the SR22. 1000 total time.

    One issue with the turn from base to final is the amount of ground visibility during the descent (compared to most training aircraft). Although I haven’t fallen into the trap myself, it would be easy to lift the nose higher than the safe attitude. This seemingly normal picture could, in a steep turn to final, cause a false sense of security and lead to a stall. (This could especially be true in my case, as I fly the SR22 as only about 5% of my flight time.)

    I completely agree with Dick’s assessment of Cirrus pilots–in general they tend to be more reckless. I am based at a satellite airport which sees SR22 traffic daily. The average wealthy owner/operator gets the SR22 because it is smart, fast, and “easy.” Cirrus pilots tend to be reckless–just like guys with flashy sports cars. SR22s have an appeal quite unlike that of a small Cessna. I absolutely love the SR22, and I fight to prevent myself from becoming reckless.

    Before you accuse me of groundless ranting, I will leave you with an example: I was doing patterns with a student on RWY 23 for about an hour. An SR22 (using no radios) began to depart RWY 31 just as we slowed towards a stop in the intersection. He spotted us (because we were in the intersection) and aborted his T/O. We crossed within 4 seconds of each other. It was certainly a lesson for me: Always check the crossing runway…even if it’s the 20th landing.

    WHEW…that was a lot of stuff.

    • Tom Yarsley
      Tom Yarsley says:


      May I ask – are you saying that having too much ground visibility during an approach can motivate a pilot to ignore airspeed and raise the nose, to present a “normal” ratio of dirt to sky?

  33. Harry Clements
    Harry Clements says:

    All of these comments create a barrel of memories that I might mention, but there is one set that has been bothering me for a long time. These three incidents span a time period of perhaps eight or ten years, and occured when I was checking out in some remote state – OK always in a Cessna with which I was familiar – and after leaving the ground in the first takeoff the instructor said “Oh,you can fly”. The first time I thought “This guy recognizes genius”. The second time I thought “Wait a minute, I just did a routine takeoff in a routine way. Why did he say that?”. The third time it dawned on me, he wasn’t praising me, he was critizing the flying of the other pilots he has checked out. I concluded that “today’s” pilots are not as proficient as they should be, to the point that instructors easily recognize it.I don’t know why, and therefore I don’t have a solution. What bothers me is that I bet the instructors released those guys to fly the FBO’s airplane anyway.

  34. Pete Kuhns
    Pete Kuhns says:

    Excellent article that has pilots talking, with comments as valuable as the article itself.

    I went to a Cirrus open-house a few months back. Most of the folks there were NOT pilots, but rather doctors/lawyers/construction guys.

    I’m 100% in support of getting more people into aviation. But putting big ego’s into complex, slippery airframes should be step 3 or step 4, not step 1.

  35. Brad
    Brad says:

    OK,There it’s said. Cats/Dogs, Teenagers/fast-cars, Doctors/Bonanza, Big ego’s/ Cirrus.(don’t pin it all on the Doctors again.)NASA has a form for pilots to fill out, try to figure out what the heck they were thinking, but you have to still be alive to write.
    God hold’s a pilot in one hand, Mother Nature in the other hand, and watches…..

  36. Brad Koehn
    Brad Koehn says:

    Why is it not the fault of Cirrus pilots who are out flying in weather that’s over their heads? Last I checked those pilots are acting as PIC and are solely responsible for the safety of their flight, just as the DA-40 pilots (who have a much better accident rate) are.

  37. Gregg
    Gregg says:

    The old saying of “…a doctor in a Bonanza” seems to have changed to something more like “…an IT guy ina Cirrus 22″…

  38. douglas
    douglas says:

    In my reading of the NTSB reports, including the analysis of Air France 447, the #1 GA accident cause is that, in an emergency or unusual circumstance, ‘pilots’ forget to fly the airplane, especially all the way to the ground…, and stopped. In many cases, the animal response is the wrong one: i.e. Buffalo, to pull when the airplane is low and slow and starts to fall just before the threshold. The only answer to these issues is training, followed by enough practice to develop proficiency. Every pilot should ask, every few hours of routine: When’s the last time I intentionally created a stall or spin in my airplane? If the answer if more than 90 days, practice is in order. This practice will save your bacon.

    • Tom Yarsley
      Tom Yarsley says:

      “The only answer to these issues is training”
      Actually, there’s another answer: automate the vehicle. No pilot = no pilot error.

    • John in Texas
      John in Texas says:

      I came to flying after several years of racing sports cars and am convinced that this experience helped me in flying, especially when transferring to sailplanes in that I was used to doing actions that were not “normal” for the typical driver (like steering into a slide and accelerating instead of braking and keeping calm) and, so, when I got into a couple of bad situations at low altitude in my Cessna 140A and my sailplane, I shoved their noses down, not up, even though I was darn close the ground. Later, aerobatic training also helped.

  39. Alex T. Podlecki
    Alex T. Podlecki says:

    I agree with Ray Stalling’s May 14th comment. Like to add that the huge amount of information that the glass cockpit dishes out and the pilot’s experience and ability to weed out the clutter and concentrate on the essential for that portion of the flight, could play an important part on accident prevention.

  40. Mike
    Mike says:

    Mr. Collins,

    Enjoyed the article, it is factual and brings up some interesting points. As a professional pilot and having gone to advanced simulator training, the truth is when things start going wrong, it happens fast! You then are relying on instinct and fundamental flying skills to recover from an event.

    With limited experience, trouble starts and often bad decisions are made with a terrible outcome. I believe some of the bad decisions start before the airplane leaves the ground, because the aircraft has performance and equipment…it must be ok to fly in any weather?

    As a flight instructor, it amazed me how some people were overly confident…and these people usually didn’t have the skills that an equivelant experienced pilot would have had. If you don’t respect the airplane and the environment, shame on YOU!

  41. Brian Litch
    Brian Litch says:

    I am the “poster child” of this conversation. I’m a physician and an AME. I didn’t start flying until age 49. After 100 hours in a 172, I bought an ’06 SR20. After 100 hours in that plane, I now have 400 hours in my ’08 SR22. I have my instrument rating, and I participate in WINGS every year. I usually make my flights utilizing our autopilot, but I make it a point to occasionally “hand-fly” a flight. Although I always file IFR, I rarely fly in IMC and have a very low threshold to cancel a flight for weather. When I travel to a conference, I almost always fly the airlines to avoid any pressure to operate on a schedule. I realize that I’ll never be as good a pilot as another 56 year old guy who has been flying for 40 years and has 5000 hours. Clearly Cirrus has marketed itself to guys just like me. Some of those pilots not pay enough attention to safety, and it doesn’t take many to make the statistics look bad. But it is my experience that the average Cirrus pilot is very serious about safety, particularly members of the Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association. I believe that Cirrus pilots who are also COPA members have a better safety record than other single engine piston pilots. There is no doubt in my mind that the capabilities of the Cirrus allow me to fly at a much greater level than if I were in a low-tech plane. I just returned from a trip from the Bahamas, a trip I never would have considered if I were still flying a 172. Is this a calculated risk? Absolutely, but not an unreasonable one, and it’s a risk I’m willing to take. I can say for sure that there is no other plane out there that I want to fly.

    • Tom Yarsley
      Tom Yarsley says:


      Thanks so much for your valuable insights. An ounce of real-world is worth a ton of speculation.

      May I ask: do you consider yourself a candidate for a step-up to the Cirrus SF50 personal jet? Why or why not? Thanks for anything you choose to add to the discussion.

      • Brian Litch
        Brian Litch says:

        My partners and I were position holders previously but got our deposit back. If I had unlimited funds, my dream machine would probably be the new Kestrel! I hope Cirrus does well with the SF50, but I believe it will be a much greater task than they imagine to move the average SR22 driver to a true jet.

    • Jake Brodsky
      Jake Brodsky says:

      Brian, thanks for the information. Yours is a case study worth looking at. And by the way, I appreciate the fact that you recognize your limitations. I know some multi-kilohour pilots who I am certain will some day name a crater after themselves. Only dumb luck saves them. Nevertheless, by recognizing your limitations, you are far less likely to be among their number.

      As for me, though I’ve been flying since the late 1980s, I am a weekend pilot, and I know it. I plan my flights accordingly. However, some pilots use legality instead of common sense as a guideline for whether one should make a flight.

      If someone offered me the left seat of an SR-22 I could legally file IFR and fly it. I would be a danger to myself and the general public –But I would be legal. Some pilots conflate legal with safe. And for whatever reason, the SR-22 seems to be a magnet for these sorts of people.

      And that’s really what I think the problem is. I’m not sure what kind of regulation would make sense here, and I’m not asking for more regulation. The fact remains that we already certify pilots in more ways than I care to think about, and we still have stupid accidents such as people taking off overweight or running their fuel tanks dry in mid air.

      I wish I had answers for the social phenomenon of what is going on with Cirrus SR-22 pilots. But I don’t. I think there is a very interesting sociology and psychology paper to be written about this subject…

  42. Doug Rodrigues
    Doug Rodrigues says:

    The Private check ride doesn’t require spins, but only spin recognition. The FAA should again require spins be demonstrated. Of course it depends on the plane being used for that demonstration. Some training planes can easily be put into and recovered from a spin. A couple of others would scare you if you did a spin. I believe that the FAA requirement is for a plane to recover within three turns, but I could be wrong? A Cessna 150/152 can be recovered in half a turn. A T-34 will take you around a couple of revolutions if a passenger is in the back seat. That gets your attention! A CFI has to demonstrate a spin and recovery during the check ride. Any ‘good’ CFI will have his student be competent in doing spins. Once you know how, it becomes easier to recognize the conditions that cause a spin. Lately, I’ve been reading about SR22 crashes while the aircraft is being maneuvered low level in a traffic pattern. It would appear that those particular pilots should have been more properly trained for spins even though the FAA doesn’t require it. Better still, I’d recommend that prior to the Private Pilot Check Ride, that the student get at least one hour with an aerobatic instructor so that the student can take the airplane to extreme attitudes and know first hand what will happen. That could make all the difference in the world to bring down the accident statistics.

  43. Mike
    Mike says:

    Spins aren’t required during a CFI checkride, you must have an endorsement that you received spin training and demonstrated recovery from a spin.

    As a flight instructor with a few thousand hours of dual given, the real secret is to teach proper airspeed control, especially in the traffic pattern. I learned that whether it is a stall at low level, or a spin at low level, both were fatal.

  44. John F.
    John F. says:

    Wow. The man has dedicated his entire life to GA and bared his soul to every pilot now flying. His advice, particularly regarding aviation weather has undoubtedly saved thousands of lives. I don’t know, I just couldn’t talk to Dick Collins the way some have here. If I disagreed with him I would show him the greatest respect, he would never ask for it, but he has earned it. What has happened to civility? My own guidance is that I would never say anything online that I would say to the person’s face either privately or publicly. And if he chided me for not checking the facts, I’d take it and like it. :) Show some respect for your elders!

    I feel better now…

  45. Bruce L Gray
    Bruce L Gray says:

    Convert the control system to stick and wheel or give extensive training with wrist stick. Imagine controlling the plane with the left hand. I have no disagreement with all the other factors.

  46. Charles Lloyd
    Charles Lloyd says:

    Richard, your comment about the Cirrus accident at 1130PM in rough terrain I believe misses a major point. At a major fractional operation where I flew we had a 14 hour duty limit from the time we checked in at the airport until the aircraft was chocked 14 hours later.
    How long had the pilot been up that day working and later flying. It was probably greater that 14 hours. The accident rate for fatalities on approaches starts increasing at 10 hours duty time and increases dramatically after hour 13.

    This is not a Cirrus problem but a duty time accident waiting to happen. I limit my duty day to 12 hours in single pilot operations. The GA pilot has to wear many more hats.

    Can’t speak to the Cirrus but I have an Angle of Attack heads up display in my 182 that provides a lot of good information on how the aircraft is flying.

    • Tom Yarsley
      Tom Yarsley says:

      After reading Mr. Collins’ piece (several times), I concluded that he doesn’t blame the airplane for its accident record. Rather, the question that he posed is “what’s wrong with Cirrus PILOTS?” (considered as an abstract group).
      To your example, if a lot of group members don’t give it a second thought before jumping into the vehicle after a long work day, that inevitably will lead to increased exposure to risk.
      An atypically large share of these guys (and they overwhelmingly are guys) are (and have been trained to be) aircraft systems operators, rather than aviators.
      The solution set includes:
      1. Erect additional barriers-to-entry to non-aviators
      2. Find a way to convert these operators into aviators
      3. Automate the vehicle control system, to remove the major risk element from the equation.
      The first solution won’t work – if the pilot has the requisite certificates and a fat wallet, a purchase will follow. Besides, we want to sell more airplanes, not fewer – don’t we?
      The second solution may fail, if only because it requires motivation – which is an internal phenomenon. If a purchaser seeks reliable transportation – not the satisfaction of aviation – then that will be his motivation.
      The third solution will work, but it offends the sensibilities of a large subset of aviators who advocate solution # 2, but when faced with its lack of success, eagerly endorse solution # 1.
      Cirrus’ insistence on the inclusion of a parachute-based whole-vehicle recovery system in their nascent personal jet is revealing, and it absolutely fascinates me.

  47. tom
    tom says:

    It’s interesting how many posts claim the PPL, commercial or some other check ride requires spin demos. Come on folks, stop with the urban legends and OWTs. It’s a no brainer to Google the PTS for free copies of current private, instrument, commercial and CFI PTSs to get the facts and come up with an informed answer: Dick is right. None of the above.

    All but the CFI only have to discuss it. The CFI PTS says:

    NOTE: At the discretion of the examiner, a logbook record attesting applicant instructional competency in spin entries, spins, and spin recoveries may be accepted in lieu of this TASK. Logbook record shall be certified by the flight instructor who conducted the spin instruction.”

    I’ve flown with instructors who dislike stalls very much, so one might assume that any spin training they give is in the form of a severe pencil-whipping.

    I love spins, but it’s getting difficult to find a plane to do them in. Either the type certificate, an STC or the owner prohibit spins.

    The commenter who said spin recoveries at 400 ft are a joke is exactly right. I think even the feds recognized that and deleted spins for private and commercial applicants. But heavy drivers look at our spam cans and wonder: Where the hell is the Angle of Attack indicator? If you avoid a stall then by design you’ve avoided a spin.

    Does the Cirrus have an AOA indicator? If not, it seems that if the feds and/or TC holder really wanted to reduce stall/spin accidents, making it easy to install one would be a priority. Of course the pilot still needs to know how to use it.

    Recently there were multiple discussions about the effect of yaw on airplanes. Remember the mantra: A stall plus a yaw equals a spin?” I noted that a lot of pilots fear slips, claiming ‘that’s what flaps are for.’ An equal number don’t have a clue about a slip vs a skid. One is very useful for altitude loss without gaining airspeed. The other is useful for spin entry. Get it wrong and a slip becomes a spin.

    Investigating why pilots dislike slips, I noted that the authors of the FAA private pilot handbook go out of their way to not explain the difference between slips and skids while muddling a description of a forward vs a side slip. What a shame, but it explains the confusion.

    A copy of William Kirschner’s Private pilot handbook explains it properly and illustrates it intuitively.

    As a primer: There is no aerodynamic difference between a forward and a side slip. They are both a yaw using bottom rudder.

    Never ever use top rudder. It skids the plane. A skid plus a stall causes wingovers, which is a great spin entry.

    I’ve never flown a Cirrus, but have over 5000 hrs in Cessnas, Beech and Pipers. When they are not hauling a bunch of load factor or have only two aboard up front the tail stalls first and a burst of prop blast fixes it. Even if the main wing were to stall a burst of prop blast and relaxing back pressure will fix it as long as the controls are coordinated. What many people describe as stalls are not: The stab simply started talking at slow speeds and told the pilot to go faster. Or add prop blast.

  48. Gene Benson
    Gene Benson says:

    After more than 30 years as a flight instructor and more than 8000 hours of dual given, I fully recognize that I do not have all the answers. But here are some thoughts on the Cirrus loss of control accidents. Let me state that I have never flown a Cirrus nor have I instructed in one, so I cannot address the specific handling characteristics.

    I believe that to be safe, a pilot must learn to handle the airplane at the edges of the performance envelope. So I have always taken my students into that realm, whether they were primary students, checking out in a new airplane, a certificated pilot taking a flight review, or someone just doing proficiency training. Of course, I would always make sure that I was thoroughly checked out and experienced in the type of aircraft before I took a student to the edges of the envelope.

    Therein lies the problem for me. Since the Cirrus is not intended to be spun and the official method of spin recovery is to deploy the chute, I would be hesitant to be aggressive in taking my student into more than very mild, fully-coordinated stalls. Chute deployment effectively destroys the airplane and I would not want to be responsible for that during a normal training flight. Perhaps other instructors feel the same way and some new Cirrus pilots are not taught the result of uncoordinated stalls. I know the argument is to teach students to always keep the airplane coordinated, but it is hard to drive that point home without demonstrating what can happen when the airspeed deteriorates and the ball is not in the center.

    So perhaps two things are working here. First, pilots may be losing control at low altitude, such as in the pattern, because they have never seen what happens when the airplane gets slow in uncoordinated flight. Second, pilots who lose control at altitude are reluctant to destroy a very expensive airplane by pulling the chute so they futilely try to recover.

    It would be interesting to hear some thoughts from some active Cirrus instructors.

  49. tom
    tom says:

    I made an error in my post above where I said ” Get it wrong and a slip becomes a spin.”

    That is false, I meant a SKID becomes a spin. A slip plus a stall is a rather benign event. A skid (top rudder) plus a stall is much more exciting.

  50. tom
    tom says:

    I found an article I wrote about slips and skids and thought I’d share it. The real meat is in the links to other authors, so forgive my poor writing.

    The discussion started on the forum, where we wondered at a crash where a Cardinal overflew a perfectly good corn field and crashed into a hedge row. I wondered why the pilot didn’t slip to get it down into the corn, and many pilots responded that ‘they never slip, it’s too dangerous.’

    During the CFO discussions about emergencies and slips to land I have not seen a definition of a forward slip, side slip and a skid. Maybe I`m slipping and missed it? Quite likely.

    At any rate, a few posts expressed concern about these maneuvers and how they could lead to spins, so I thought I`d address it.

    First, a note of sympathy to those who avoid them. I think we were taught to maintain coordinated flight because doing otherwise lead to a yaw, and `A yaw plus a stall equals a spin.` In addition, slow flight doing Dutch rolls with feet flat on the floor demonstrated the results of adverse aileron yaw, so we got nimble on the rudder pedals and keeping the ball centered.

    In addition, `right rudder` and `more right rudder` were driven home to ensure I compensated for all those other turning tendencies, to the point where it was religion and the devil herself worked on the dark side in the spin department. All I had to do was let the plane yaw and I`d pay her a visit.

    Fast-forward to: `lets cross the controls for a slip to land.` The first time I heard that my brain barber-poled because it ran counter to what I had been trained. If anyone remembers that stuff about primacy of learning, the first thing learned about uncoordinated flight was don`t do it, yet here we were about to do it and close to the ground to boot. Good grief! So I demonstrated slips and went back to coordinated flight and flaps and crabs to land.

    Until I moved to Montana. Here the wind blows with serious effort and does it across the runway. Good luck with that crab landing and if you do manage to get it down, even more luck with the taxi. So back to the drawing board. Today making a left turn from downwind to final in a left side-slip then switch to a right forward-slip to land into a right crosswind is just another day at the office. A taxi from that is a piece of cake because positioning the controls to minimize damage is already done.

    Now I can do it, but can I explain it? Not convincingly. So I went thru my old Bill Kirchner and FAA manuals and Wolfgang Langewiesche`s `Stick and Rudder` looking for definitions and answers. Simple discussions were surprisingly difficult to find, but the links below do a pretty good job. Here`s a recap.

    In a slip, if the plane gets slow enough to stall, the high wing stalls first and the plane tends to roll through level on its way into a skid. That gives the pilot time to recover. For a refresher on slips (both forward and side slips) see page 8-10 here

    John S. Denker wrote a good skidding discussion here:

    The author explains the aerodynamics and control input differences along with some neat stuff I forgot, like a slip string.

    In a skid, the low wing can stall before the high wing causing a snap roll as the high wing comes over the top. As a rule of thumb: Avoid skids by never applying more bottom rudder than is needed to center the inclinometer (slip/skid) ball. It`s a great spin entry procedure, however.

    A scenario often told involves a left turn from base to final. First speeding up a bank using `bottom rudder` then inadvertently holding that left rudder, and applying right aileron to roll out on final, producing a skid, something to avoid while low and slow.

    I find the following series of articles by John E. McLain useful because they dissect yaws, skids and adverse aileron yaw versus what the turn and bank or slip skid indicators and the inclinometer show.

    John makes a point that is new to me, which is this: `only a skid, not a slip, involves yaw. Therefore, a stall while in a slip will not result in a spin.` You`ll have to read his discussion to understand why that is.

    To summarize:

    ) A proper slip results from applying more top rudder (or less bottom rudder) than required for coordinated flight.

    ) A skid results from applying more bottom rudder (or less top rudder) than required for coordinated flight.

    A skid is more dangerous than a proper slip, because it is more likely to flip you upside down if anything goes wrong. Therefore, never apply excess bottom rudder (no exceptions). To say it another way, never try to speed up a turn with the rudder (no exceptions). Never try to roll out of a turn without applying coordinated rudder (no exceptions). Right aileron deflection requires right rudder deflection; left aileron deflection requires left rudder deflection.

    • Bill
      Bill says:

      I think you (Tom) need to review the correct terminology of slips. You DO NOT use a forward slip to land in a crosswind. It is a side slip. Conversely the FORWARD slip is used to loose altitude quickly.

      Also if you have right aileron deflection, ie right aileron is DOWN, you are lifting the right wing and entering a LEFT turn. The added induced drag on the right wind yaws it right, requiring some left rudder pedal push.

  51. tom
    tom says:

    Another error in my May 26, 2012 at 12:59 am message- (I’ve got to stop with the night-owl stuff!)

    The following is exactly wrong: ‘Never ever use top rudder. It skids the plane. A skid plus a stall causes wingovers, which is a great spin entry’

    Top rudder results in a slip, a good thing because it is benign. For example in a left turn the top rudder would be the right pedal.

  52. Victoria
    Victoria says:

    I am a GA pilot with 2800 plus hours, with instrument and rotor craft ratings. I experienced the loss of three of my best pilot friends/mentors in a Cirrus crash…Still brings tears to my eyes….The PIC had hundreds of hours instructing and his own flying business; right seat was the best 22,000 plus hour ATP and aerobatic pilot I have ever known…O.K. Sean Tucker is awesome….and an A&P, I.A. plus instrument rated pilot who knew more about flying by the ‘seat of your pants’ than I can ever attest to, in the back seat. I know without a shadow of a doubt, the crash was in the aerodynamics, or lack there of…of the airplane, not pilot error as the Null report stated. I am a lady pilot that has ‘women’s intuition’ and I use it all the time, even more so, when I fly. My intuition says loud and clearly, if the plane could be flown out of danger….one of those pilots, especially the right seat pilot could have saved the situation. They were doing a climbing left hand turn and it became unstable. I believe the same thing happened to the pitcher for the Yankees in Manhattan a few years ago.
    I flew a Cirrus at Oshkosh just to see how the plane handled and as a tribute to my friends. Cirrus paid for the fuel and supplied their own instructor.
    Wow, nice panel. Great display. I flew to Sheboygon and did 4 touch and goes. The Perspective instrument panel was hard to take my eyes off of. Here lies one of the problems. I was watching the tapes and terrain on the screen and don’t remember ‘the out of the window views’ there or back.
    Then the sleekness of the plane’s design is the next issue. I had the throttle pulled all the way back on downwind and still was racing along at 160 kts, then 100 kts over the threshold. I own a high performance airplane and can quite comfortably manage the airspeed. I questioned the young CFI on this and all he could tell me is “plan ahead more”, no suggestions, instructions or tips.
    I will never get in a Cirrus again until the company addresses the issues I have delineated and pray for all those who do fly in them.

    • Brian Litch
      Brian Litch says:

      I’m very sorry to hear of your friends who perished in a Cirrus accident. It is always more concerning to hear of a highly experienced pilot who dies in a Cirrus crash than it is the typical low-hour pilot who makes a bad call on weather.
      The Corey Lidle incident has been analyzed thoroughly and was purely pilot error. He made a downwind turn where there simply was not enough room to do so.
      The glass panel can be a distraction to a pilot who is not used to flying with it. Once you have enough training and hours with it, it is no longer a distraction. The glass panel becomes a wealth of information available instantly at your fingertips.
      The Cirrus is an incredibly capable machine. Thousands of them complete their missions successfully every day. Because of their tremendous aerodynamics, there is one thing that they do not do as well as other planes: slow down. When I transitioned from a 172 to a Cirrus, it amazed me how much sooner you had to anticipate bringing the aircraft to the proper pattern speed. However, this obstacle is also easily overcome with the proper amount of training and experience.

    • tom
      tom says:


      First, it seems from your description that your friends had a trim-stall situation and it brings up an interesting point: If he trimmed to land with minimum back pressure then went around, just how much control pressure does the pilot have to contend with on that little bicycle grip? And if he was small or not particularly strong, could that have been a contributing factor?

      Second, I’m a CFI. When students are driving I’m all about being in charge and ready to take over. When the pilot is someone who has demonstrated good control and skill I let my guard down. If that pilot gets in trouble they expect me to fix it, and if it comes as a surprise then there are two dummies in the front seat: One who wants someone else to fix what’s broke and the other trying to figure out what’s going on.

      An inverse corollary is two CFIs in the front seat, which bears higher awareness and scrutiny than any other combo I can think if.

      Finally, any thought that a person in the back seat can do more than yell is pure myth unless they have a baseball bat and 6 foot long arms. Sitting in the back is the most powerless I’ve ever felt.

  53. Tom Yarsley
    Tom Yarsley says:


    Reduce power; maintain altitude; the vehicle will slow down. If it’s VMC, ignore the television; look out the window. When northbound over the east River in NYC, and attempting a turn with a howling easterly wind, begin over the west shore of the river; turn into the wind (to your right); the wind will compress the track of your turn and keep you over the river. If you do the opposite, the downwind turn will result in a very large turn radius, which can take you into tall terrain (buildings) located on the west side of the river.
    It’s not the vehicle – it’s the pilots.

  54. Gene
    Gene says:

    The captain of the Titanic would have loved to own that type of aircraft.
    We all must not allow this, Basic IFR training with steam gauges is like stick and rudder! The ABC’s of flying.Mom always said, “LIVE AND LEARN”

  55. Tom
    Tom says:

    I’ve written about this before – I had the misfortune of witnesing a fatal sr22 accident at my home airport. I was holding short of the runway ready to take off while they were landing. The whole cirrus approach was off – high and hot. Touchdown occurred about halfway down the runway – lots of wobbling (a rumored prop strike or two) then a go around attempt where by the airplane seemed to shoot nearly straight up into the sky followed by a stall crash and huge fireball. 3 lives were lost. The pilot was a hospital administrator with over 800 hours in her book. I heard that she was having difficulty finding someone to sign her off on the cirrus for insurance – although that might be just small town airport bs. The ntsb’s conclusion was the usual stuff – one of the things they did point out which was interesting and relavent was that the flaps were left fully extended according to cirrus a go around requires the pilot to retract the flaps to 50%. When the pilot applied full power the plane shot up like a rocket sealing their fate. I guess the point I’m tring to make here having witnessed the accident is that the pilot was having a difficult time recovering from a just couple of mistakes – it was Ike in some respects watching a rodeo rider getting knocked off a bucking bronco. Everything seemed to happen fast – There did not seem to be much wiggle room once this started to go south. I would like to point out that I would disagree with some statements that cirruses spin or stall easily. The plane seemed to nearly hover at around 200 feet agl for what seemed like an eternity before it flipped and crashed. FYI the weather was not a factor as it was a clear day – a 7kt wind – quite hot though 95+ temps.

  56. Gene Benson
    Gene Benson says:

    Just a point of clarification. There is another person commenting under the name Gene. I have had some negative personal emails about a particular post from that person. My posts include by first and last name so please do not confuse my posts with that of the other Gene.

  57. Michael
    Michael says:

    Im a bit of a newbie when it comes to this topic, but maybe they have higher deaths because more people fly them than other planes in it’s class? Maybe it has nothing to do with the pilot, maybe it’s just popularity.

    Or it could just be more unstable than other planes…

  58. tom
    tom says:


    Mr. Collins addressed your questions: The plane’s mission is more for travel than fun, and when covering long distances there are more weather encounters. So the risk goes up unless the pilot has a low threshold for risk and cancels or aborts early.

    Why stall-spin accidents vs other kinds and other aircraft types apparently isn’t clear and well discussed here.

    I own a 4 seat fixed gear Cardinal (180 hp, constant speed prop.) Owning in itself gives me the mindset of taking it vs driving or going commercial air. Most trips are also solo, so the plane is light and I don’t have others helping me make the go/nogo decision. I also rarely have to be anywhere on time, which is good, because My missions are often long and almost always cross at least one weather front. For example, from MT to MI. The best case was about hours and two gas stops going East. Worst case was 18 hours and four gas stops going West. All because of wind.

    Fortunately, I can cherry pick the day to travel and have developed a set of weather patterns I look for before going. I always get it right going East because I look for high winds aloft, climb high into cold air and go like hell. Those conditions coincide with a high to the South, which means nice weather until I get to the Great lakes. Then all bets are off.

    Going West is very different. I look for calm winds, which require a low South of my route which invites nasty weather nearby and often across the route, usually in the ND area. It took a few trips to develop those criteria. The first few were IFR with ice encounters. Any more I go VFR, especially Westbound where I’m hugging the dirt to get out of the wind. That’s damn fatiguing too. Garmin is my co-pilot for terrain & towers as well as weather, sports and entertainment. 3 AM over Beach ND is a very lonely place, and even center is napping.

    I study the NWS and ADDS weather sites for hours looking for gotchas. Even then I’ve hit freezing rain in VMC in the Rockford IL area where I failed to account for a warm front meets cold front moment. If the plane had been heavily loaded it would have been ugly.

    The bad part of my personality is, once I get the plane loaded, plan filed and the mind set, it takes a significant emotional event for me to abort. Freezing rain is one of them.

    Someone once questioned accident free airline pilots the secret to their success. The answer was: “Never let the schedule drive the operation.” We all talk the talk, but it takes a lot of grit to follow through with it.

    My point is, if schedule forces pilots to launch into weather that the plane and autopilot can handle but not the pilot, it doesn’t always end well, especially if heavily loaded. Ditto for fatigue. It’s easy to get behind a fast plane too, and I’ve seen pilots come apart when they realize it.

    The best IFR advice I ever got was: When you get behind the plane, slow it down. The FAA private pilot PTS requires the applicant to do it all, and I think many pilots are unwilling or don’t know how to delegate if there is anyone to delegate to. At 90 knots that’s doable for most, but at 200 kts not so many can keep up and arrive unprepared. Consider that the airlines required a gaggle of people on the flight deck when they were going less than 200 kts. A single pilot at that speed in IMC can get mighty busy unless the technology picks up the slack. Nothing like a panic to encourage incorrect computer inputs so the boxes cannot assist. Then what? If slowing down doesn’t occur to the pilot it might not end well.

  59. Peter T
    Peter T says:

    Richard, you sure set off a controversy and a valuable discussion, but I think the title of the article was a little pointed, and perhaps unfair. To me, the clear message from the vast majority of the responses is that there is, has always been, and will likely always be, a problem with pilots who get in over their heads with equipment that is beyond their capability. So, to be fair, maybe the Bonanza was called the “Doctor Killer” at the time, but it could just as well have been the Arrow, Commander, Mooney, or 210. It was just that the Bonanza was more popular, or maybe more popular with the less-risk-averse pilots. Today, your article could have just as easily been titled “What’s Wrong with the Columbia/Corvalis Pilots?” had history taken a different turn 10 years ago. The point is that a fast, sleek airplane is a different ballgame, and some (too many) of those who choose to fly one just aren’t prepared for it. Maybe they even get away with it for a couple 100 hours or more, but their attitude will catch up with them eventually.

    The big difference I see between the Bonanza and the Cirrus (just to stick to the two that got singled out) is the glass cockpit. It is the equivalent of the second engine: a fantastic development in terms of performance and safety, but also a world of difference in terms of the skills and recurrency required to use it. What’s more, let’s be honest: in our video/computer/iPad addicted world, who doesn’t want to be playing with all the stuff on the screen rather than paying attention to that silly turn & bank indicator?

    In short, while I think the title of your article unfairly pointed at Cirrus pilots (and no, I’m not one of them, I’m sticking to my lowly Archer, thank you), the message has come across loud and clear. And I’m especially happy to see such a strong consensus among the readers that poor attitudes are not compatible with safe flying. At least the Air Facts crowd has their heads on straight! Unfortunately the culprits probably can’t be bothered to read sensible and educational media.

  60. Bart MCPherson
    Bart MCPherson says:

    This airplane was designed to be a hot airplane, goes like hell and has a high stall and landing speed. It goes without saying that hot airplanes will kill average pilots at a higher rate than more sedate planes. If you want to fly a Cirrus, learn your job very well or prepare to pay the price.

  61. Bill H
    Bill H says:

    Interesting comments all around. But, boy o boy do I hate that good ole boy, “ticket” and “bird” stuff. Yes, im a grumpy old man, but its a license and an airplane !

  62. Bill H
    Bill H says:

    Interesting comments all around. But, boy o boy do I hate that good ole boy, “ticket” and “bird” stuff. Yes, im a grumpy old man, but its a license and an airplane !

    I flew an accident free Navy tour (where i learned to fly…) and 35 years with the airlines. No big secret to my success. Dont ignore that inner voice that says….nah, dont do that. I think my experience ultimately gave me that inner voice, but in the begining, i stlll wouldnt fly into a thunderstorm. Common sense should work until the ” inner voice” appears.

    Now, without common sense, you should not be in an airplane as a pilot. Too bad we dont test for that.

    • tom
      tom says:

      “but its a license and an airplane !

      And here I thought it was ‘certificate’ and ‘equipment.’ But I sip from the curmudgeon’s well of spritual pith:

      My hat’s off to naval Aviators who put a finer point on that ‘gut feeling’ while facing a pitching fantail at night in the weather with a crazed pitter, shot up engine and 250 lb to ‘E’.

    • Tom Yarsley
      Tom Yarsley says:

      When someone actualy defines “common sense,” I’ll become a lot more open to persuasion. And pilots who lack sufficient judgement don’t have any “inner voice.” If they did……….

    • tom
      tom says:

      Common sense: Can anyone define it? What would you test for, and what would it take to score highly on such a test?

      I flew as a crewdawg on the NATO E3 AWACS with thirteen different nationalities as crewmembers. You simply could not rely on ‘common sense’ to be meaningful or useful. Everything had to be taught and demonstrated to be sure it was communicated correctly. (Ironically, Canadians, Britts and Americans mis-communicated the most because we assumed the common language was common ground. ‘Taint so. “Put it in the boot” means different things to each group. Americans use contractions, Britts don’t). Non-English speakers learned Oxford English, a confounding factor.

      Simple things, like no cigarette butts in the trash or no smoking while refueling or no raw chicken in the galley ovens or no wine with the in-flight lunch or uninvited formation flight with the E3 while the radar is on was common sense to some, not even on the radar for others. It had to be taught. There were tense moments.

      It’s also generational. In the 80s the USAF hired Morris Massey to ‘discuss’ race and sex relations. His tapes are on Amazon. Massey broke society into groups who have thoughts based on “where they were when” and a book called the People Puzzle. In his theory, “where we were when’ between age zero and about ten ” programmed” us to emulate our peers and elders. From then on we refine it some, but that initial programming is always there.

      Massey professed to be a racist/bigot/homophobe of the worst type. The thoughts will happen because that’s how we are programmed. But as Archie Bunker would say: Stifle!

      AT the time he identified four main groups: The ‘greatest Generation,’ which is conservative and suspicious of the liberal ‘boomers’ who are leery of the technically savvy who followed. A ‘Tweener’ gen too old for the sexual revolution and too young to be a greatest gen round it out. Each group has basic characteristics but individuals might not. The groups view each other with suspicion.

      Before you flame me just remember it’s a theory, not a law or rule. It’s just a way of thinking about who you are dealing with.

      For example, a WWII vet most likely grew up on a farm surrounded by Alis Chalmers and John Deere, horses, mules and livestock. A step up was to get a factory job, a garage full of tools and hang onto both for life. For the “techie” Great Grandson – GGS – who is never too far from a smart phone or Mac, relying on a company for old age pension is a proven loser.

      GGS might not reliably identify the north and south end of a screwdriver but he can write C++ code for the fun of it, breach firewalls at will and can hold his boss’s IT department hostage if necessary.

      So which one has the ‘Right Stuff” – er – common sense? I tend toward the guy with the Chalmers/Deere background, because those are my roots. But I cannot code C++. I might be able to put holes in a few punch cards tho. If .22″ is acceptable.

      I’ve flown and taught G1000 Cessnas. There is a definite generation gap between the ‘newgen’ attracted to it and the ‘oldgen’ who look at the specifics and walk away. A G1000 costs 10x more;carries less; repair costs are simply stunning and database upkeep out of line. The newgen won’t go out of sight of the home airport without one and own a computer that can run Garmin’s G1000 sim, so they can stay proficient at home. Not so much for an oldgen.

  63. David
    David says:

    Great post, but I don’t see many cirrus pilots responding or even a cirrus pilot that is a doctor. Well here goes. I have been flying for over twenty years and I have been in a lot of different airplanes and flown with a lot of different pilots (several of them doctors). I definitely feel that the cirrus is a lot of airplane and thus flying one should be taken very seriously. Increased speed has always meant increased risk. That is true regardless of the type of machine. Cirrus has done a great job creating an airplane that can provide excellent speed, situational awareness, comfort for pilot and passengers, and even safety in the case of catastrophic failure(parachute). I once flew a C172, and yes it was much safer than the SR22. There, I said it, the SR22 can be a dangerous airplane. If not respected, a pilot can definitely find himself in a lot of trouble. But people are not created equal. Even pilots. Some are just better than others, even with the exact same amount of training. No matter how much you train a pilot, you may not be able to protect them from themselves. Does that mean the FAA, instructors, and manufacturers have the responsibility to protect people from themselves? I think they already do a great job getting pilots ready, to then learn. Some will always make bad decisions. Even doctors. As far as the drone on and on about spin training, those who have spun will always side with spinning. In my training to become a doctor, I know that cutting a few wrong directions, into the wrong vessels can really ruin a patients and my day. That doesn’t mean that I need to or ever want to see such a situation in order to make me a better doctor. Everything we do is about weighing the risks and benefits and I am sorry but some people are just better at it than others.

    • Tom Yarsley
      Tom Yarsley says:

      Brian Litch is a physician and an SR-22 pilot. His posts in this thread are informative and insightful.

    • Brian Litch
      Brian Litch says:

      I would recommend that you go to, the website of the Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association. On the home page, you’ll see a photo of the most recent Cirrus parachute save. It is a fellow physician/Cirrus pilot, Richard McLaughlin. He has been flying relief missions to Haiti in his Cirrus since the big earthquake 2 years ago. He and his daughter were on the way when he experienced a loss of oil pressure, followed by engine-out. He was a few miles from Andros Island. He glided toward land, waited until he was 2300 feet agl, then pulled the chute. They splashed down, got out of the plane, and waited for rescue from the USCG. They were prepared with life jackets and a raft. I believe in this case that the parachute lead to a better outcome than a ditching attempt in a fixed gear plane at 60-70 kts.

  64. tom
    tom says:

    CAR 3 and part 23 aircraft certification set maximum stall speeds and landing speeds. AFAIK ya have to meet the specs to get a type certificate. So I looked.

    According to wikipedia,

    the SR22 full flap stall speed is 60 kn (I assume that’s knots not kilometers.)

    Full flap stall speed for a C-172 is 47 kn.

    I find it hard to believe that the distance between a staid and safe trainer vs a dangerous XC machine is 13 kn. There has to be more to the story.

  65. Bob
    Bob says:

    I’d like to see AOA indicators in all planes, especially since the paperwork is now trivial to add it to certified aircraft

    • tom
      tom says:

      The June issue of Aviation Consumer said exactly the same thing, then backpedaled some when they mentioned a 337 is required for the heated probe on the Alpha system or surface mount port holes for the Advanced flight system. Agreed, the all pneumatic Lift Reserve Indicator is a minor mod and a logbook entry will suffice, but AVCON straddled the fence on the electric models, leaving it unclear. OTOH they made it clear that some models will never qualify for a spam can unless they get an STC, driving up the cost. a

  66. R Winter
    R Winter says:

    I have a few hundred hours in SR20’s and 22’s. Its not my favorite ride by a long shot, but when going on a trip with my wife it is preferred by her by a wide margin. “Its got a parachute”… is the first thing she will say to someone unfamiliar with them. The happy spouse element has to account for a significant amount of sales.

    One thing I have not read anyone bring up is the stick – mushing along in slow flight the aileron feels pretty much the same as it does in cruise. I wonder if this has had any bearing on accidents in the type.

    • tom
      tom says:

      R. Thank you, Thank you Thank you. Finally someone spoke up on control feedback. All of the aircraft I’ve flown ‘firm up’ at high speeds and ‘get sloppy’ at lower speeds.

      A few years back a local operator lost a number of wildland fire fighting aircraft in one year. They were all PZL-Mielec M-18 Dromader.

      An experienced Dromader pilot made exactly the same observation you did: The control feedback isn’t there. For a fire fighter who is trying to drop a load on a fire, talk to the lead plane and avoid terrain in smoke and drafts, it’s too easy to lose sight of airspeed. Control feedback can save your bacon.

  67. Bill Stowe
    Bill Stowe says:

    When I learned to fly gliders, an old experienced hand said that those who flew MOTOR-gliders flew differently. You cannot NOT know that the spare engine is there and it makes you do things you wouldn’t ordinarily do. (Not BAD things necessarily.)

    I wonder about Cirrus pilots and that parachute. I wonder if the take chances they wouldn’t otherwise take thinking it will save them.

    As Mr. Collins correctly said, it is there because it MUST be there because the airplane doesn’t otherwise recover from a spin within the guidelines of Part 23. But the deployment speed is pretty low (130K or thereabouts?). If inexperienced pilots continue into IMC and the get nose down and the speed way up, the parachute is meaningless.

    I wonder if that has anything to do with it?

  68. tom
    tom says:

    Paul Bertorelli did a thorough review of the Cirrus’ safety record in the jan 12 issue of Aviation Consumer in which he rated the Cirrus safety record ‘just average.’ That’s a far sight from how it has been typified as dangerous doctor/CFI and IT killer.

    He also interviewed John King and Rich Stowell in a podcast about stalls, skids, slips, and spins here. They note the state of spin training, who has to have it and why most don’t (Hint, the FAA’s PTS and knowledge test are key players):

  69. Paul Nadas, CFI
    Paul Nadas, CFI says:

    Years ago, when I was living in Portland, Oregon, the Cirrus people brought their travelling road show to my local home airport of Troutdale, OR (KTTD). I brought a neighbor boy along for the visit to the Cirrus event because I knew he loved airplanes and airports. I share that love of all things aeronautical ever since I was his age, but my interest that day was a bit different: “Why is it…” thought I, “… that such a state-of-the-art aircraft has such a less-than-stellar Safety Record?” I wondered if I might find the answer that day from the Cirrus people themselves. I did, but…not from the company’s spokesperson’s mouths. Here is what I discovered.

    They had Cirrus aircraft there that were available for ‘seriously interested’ prospects. Being a cash-strapped ‘working stiff’ and CFI-in-training, that was definitely not me. There was also a Cirrus cockpit indoors that was fun for the young neighbor kid and I to climb into and ‘pretend’ to fly… But that was not what gave the game away. What it was arrived in the form of Cirrus’ official Sales Video pitch. I watched this film, first..only mildly curious, and then with increasing interest and finally with an unmistakable “Aha!” moment when I realized that I had just inadvertently hit on the Mother Lode of Why Cirrus has all those accidents. The answer? Simple: because they are not marketing that airplane to pilots! They are marketing the airplane to successful ‘men’ (yes, I repeat, men!) out there who have everything: the fancy home: the vacation home: the ‘trophy’ wife or new curvy young girlfriend; the BMW or Mercedes, Lamborghini or Ferrari; the golf club membership; all the corporate perks; etc. and now want to get/do something ‘really exciting!’ – get their Private Pilot license and fly this beautiful 21st century aircraft! You think I am kidding? You should have seen this video. Picture a Cirrus flying along the Gold Coast of southern California…with cameras located on top of the panel facing into the cockpit: the left-seater (a reasonably trim, good-looking man in his 40s..) and his companion (an attractive blonde bimbo in the right seat) and other cameras on board showing various points of view, plus footage from a ‘chase plane.’ Is it by coincidence that we see the passing panorama of exclusive beach-side properties…the lush greens of golfing communities…the compelling and enticing visual of surf and sparkling sand? And how is this for a snippet of our connubial pairs’ conversation: He: “We will be coming in for a Landing soon…” She: (in her best flirty blonde lost-in-the-wonder-of-aviation lubricious innocence) “Do you think I should fasten my seat-belt?” (Note to reader: the camera clearly shows that not only did she not have her shoulder harness on, she did not even have a lap belt on! Clearly, the implication by the company is that this is so frigging safe, who needs all that FAA mandated belt stuff, eh?) The pilot chuckles a little and says (obviously as a ‘wink’ to Safety) “Ah…you should have had that on anyway.” (but..nudge, nudge…wink, wink..why bother ourselves with that, eh?) Then Blondie makes a crack about expecting a smooth landing to which ‘Our Hero’ responds, “Careful…you don’t want to give me “Performance Anxiety!” (Get it? Meaning…”never mind the landing baby, I need to be ‘up for it’ when we ‘get it on’ later at ‘The Lodge’…know what I mean?”) I could not believe this! But it all fell into place. As a CFI, I have several times run across Student Pilots who want to buy their own airplane to train in. Why not? It is a good strategy for those who are serious to train in their own airplane and will save them money over the long haul. Particularly if they buy an airplane that will carry them through the Private ticket and on to further training, skills, and ratings. What is not a good strategy is buying an expensive high performance sophisticated airplane that is clearly not for ‘beginners.’ Invariably these guys (and, yes..they are all ‘guys!’) bring up the Cirrus, and…invariably, I probably disappoint them and give them all the reasons to not consider this as a suitable first airplane. Those who insist, probably are some of those I fly with once or twice and never hear from again. They are the ones who have the money and the means and who are used to getting what they want. Typically, when these guys get into trouble in their magnificent flying machines, they don’t have the experience, skills, or background to fall back on to keep them from becoming accident statistics. I would like to fly a Cirrus, but if I don’t, that’s okay too. I still feel it is a good airplane, but I would caution anyone thinking about getting one, to not do it until they are experienced, seasoned, Instrument-rated pilots, with enough ‘chops’ to know their limitations. The beginning or Student Pilot has none of that, and those who acquire that aircraft and lack the invaluable background of coming up the through the ranks by training in traditional Cessna, Piper, Diamond, etc. aircraft are going to find themselves all too easily in a very tight corner of their own making some day from which they will be very hard-pressed to extricate themselves…alive. Sad.

  70. Zach Taylor
    Zach Taylor says:

    I note that none of the readers above have commented on the recent upgrade to Cirrus’ version of the Garmin GFC 700 Autopilot that offers an “Underspeed Protect” feature. In essence, the autopilot operates in the background at all times and, in the event the aircraft approaches stall speed for the current configuration (calculated, I believe, at MAX weight) at an altitude higher than 10′ AGL (i.e., flare height during landing), the autopilot automatically engages and re-trims the plane to maintain a minimum safe airspeed. Similar auto-feedback has been introduced for over-banking and unusual attitude, where the autopilot servos kick in and provide increasing control forces to match the severity of the unusual control input. In all cases, the servo inputs are coupled with rather difficult to ignore messages on the PFD, and in all cases the autopilot control forces can be overcome by the pilot with force.

    As far as I am aware, this is a standard feature on all 2012 Garmin Perspective equipped SR2Xs. For the record, Cirrus is decidedly not advertising this feature as a “stall protector,” and in fact I am not sure they are advertising it much at all.

    What do the venerable members of this forum think about these features in general, and Mr. Collins, if you are reading, what in your highly experienced view are its potential vulnerabilities?

    • Dick Collins
      Dick Collins says:

      Hi Zach: Thanks for your good comment. I think the greatest potential vulnerability will be the pilot. The Airbus that was stalled in the Flight Levels and then belly-flopped in the Atlantic had such features but they were defeated by the pilot(s). It will be interesting to see how the Cirrus system adapts to its users and vice versa. For now, I think Cirrus is wise not to push it as a “safety system” because that has been known to backfire. I’ll add that I hope it does a lot of good.

      • Zach Taylor
        Zach Taylor says:

        Mr Collins, being an avid follower of your wisdom, that is what I thought you might say. I could not agree with you more. Planes rarely crash pilots. Pilots crash planes. Although common sense is certainly a factor in ADM, healthy human beings are built with rational and emotional cores. The normally good sense of the more passionate among us can often become over-ridden by desire, whether it is the desire to impress others, the desire to ‘get there,’ or the desire to prove to oneself that the added investment in a Cirrus was, after all, worth it because it will take us anywhere, anytime, and in any weather.

        My feeling is that the greater issue at play here is one of complacency, which automation technology would appear to breed in droves among pilots young and old. How else can we truly reconcile similar Cirrus accidents involving low-time pilots and those with 20,000+ hours? Technology, if used properly, makes us inherently safer. Proper use of technology should likely be limited to (a) retrieval of quality information to support ADM functions en route, and (b) its use as a tool to minimise pilot workload in certain functional areas so that the pilot can focus on other, more critical duties.

        The problem is that many pilots, and certainly the working professionals that learn how to ‘operate’ rather than ‘fly’ the plane, as another writer points out above, rely so heavily on technology that they use it to fly the plane almost all of the time. The autopilot for many becomes a device to enable the pilot to read a book or work on a laptop en route, rather than a tool to support and enable traffic avoidance, navigation, problem solving, and systems/situational awareness. Technology practically begs us to become complacent and, if we allow it, to become a passengers in our own planes. On the other hand, if we allow technology to support us in the execution of our duties as pilots in command, technology will “save our bacon” more times than we can count, to borrow one of Mr. Collins’ favourite phrases.

        I am a relatively low-time pilot, but have been focused intently on safety since the day I took to the skies. I first flew the DA-20 and then the DA-40/G, and recently made the decision to transition to a new Cirrus SR22T after much hesitation and internal wrestling over the very same issues discussed in this post. I ultimately concluded that the problem with Cirrus is, as your article above evidences, the complacent Cirrus pilot (which is not, as reading posts on the COPA site will demonstrate, to be confused with the typical Cirrus pilot). A contributing factor, as the NTSB would put it, is the chronic under-emphasis on advanced weather knowledge in private and instrument training.

        Even prior to transitioning, I made the conscious decision that I would not hand the controls over to the autopilot any more than is necessary, in a concerted effort to ensure that complacency will never set in. I have both a healthy respect for, and a slight fear of, the airplane, and I believe that keeps me safe. I am also aiming for my commercial licence, even though I have no intention of being paid to fly. It’s an excuse to get more time in the cockpit with a good instructor. If I couldn’t afford to do that, I would seek out every more knowledgable and experienced pilot I could find and drag them into the cockpit with me. As pilots, we should never stop learning, and therein lies the problem for many of our colleagues.

        What is the best antidote to complacency? I think it just may be continuing to learn with ever-increasing aspirations, and an unwavering dedication to achieving precision in each phase of flight. Once thing the lower-time professional who buys and then complacently flies a Cirrus and a 22,000 hour ATP have in common is that both, for different reasons, likely step into the aircraft thinking they have this flying ‘thing’ conquered. Done and dusted, and complacency sets in. That’s what gets pilots killed.

        • Zach Taylor
          Zach Taylor says:

          N.B. – My apologies for the typos in my post above. I proofed it and yet somehow missed them. I am, despite outward appearances, a native speaker of the English language. :-)

  71. tom
    tom says:

    Zach, deja-vu all over again. Yours is the “is it a feature, or is it a bug?’ conundrum. I recently looked over a used Piper Arrow which had an auto-gear extend feature. It was Piper’s answer to those who might land gear up. Sadly, having the gear come out and act like a speed brake at the wrong moment turned what might have been a bruised ego into fatal accident.

    Oddly, gear-up landings occurred anyway, almost always with a CFI on board, the result of defeating the system so they could do stalls and slow flight. So let you imagination run wild with that scenario. And a bobble – like an aborted takeoff ended landing on gear partly extended, doing more damage than if they were all the way up.

    Finally, there is the tired/inattentive pilot in the flare who notes someone else is flying and fights it. The 2005 G1000 C-182 came with the King KAP-140 autopilot that was not integrated into the MFD or PFD. It was possible for students to fight the autopilot and get into a serious out of trim condition. Will that integration help? All I can say is that we made Garmin and Cessna know how little we liked the G1000/KAP140 combo.

  72. Pete Tolley
    Pete Tolley says:

    I agree with almost everything you said regarding the SR22 accident history. Similar comments were made about the Bonanza.

    I do not agree with your remark that any pilot who would do something in a twin that he wouldn’t do in a single is an accident waiting to happen. Example, I will not fly accross Lake Michigan in a single, but I will in a twin.

  73. tom
    tom says:

    Pete Tolley – I cannot find where Dick said what you said he said about twins vs singles.

    And why don’t you fly over L. MI in a single?

  74. Tim
    Tim says:

    How do you sqare the fact that Lancair( now Cessna) Columbia300/400’s have a MUCH lower accident rate. No Parachute, not spin rated, higher performance, generally glass cockpit. I have flown both (owned a Col 300 and Col 400) and they are aerodynamically equivalent. Vastly different accident rates, even taking in to account number of airframes in service / hours flown.

    Training? They turned me loose from the factory with 3 days training. probably same for Cirrus. Where is the delta in accidents?

  75. Vern Jackson
    Vern Jackson says:

    Th Cirrus accident information indicates IFR and low speed operations are the most common conditions encountered in fatal accidents. Recognizing that Cirrus airplanes are operated in all-weather transportation environments more than other GA airplanes, it is logical for Cirrus airplanes to experience a greater number of challenging IFR situations.

    The response of a GA airplane to the same level of turbulence encountered by a commercial airliner is more extreme due to its much lower mass and wing loading. The higher dynamic motions will present greater control challenges and disorientation than experienced by the crew of an airliner. In addition, the non-redundant flight instrumentation in GA airplanes may be more prone to inaccurate information at high accelerations and attitude rates.

    Methodical investigations using full motion flight simulators could provide useful information on what commonly takes place in the Cirrus cockpit during challenging IFR and stalled flight conditions. Analysis of this data could be used to identify the most effective training and/or design improvements.

    There are a number of aviation organizations and companies with appropriate facilities and personnel to conduct full motion pilot-in–the-loop flight simulations. Funding to conduct investigations of this type should be a priority for all stakeholders interested in reducing the accident rate of Cirrus and other GA airplanes that operate in these flight conditions.

    Vern Jackson,

    Retired Programs Director of Rockwell Collins, Member EAA and AOPA

  76. James Scott
    James Scott says:

    I bought a Stinson 108-1 in 1956, and started on my PPL. I was taught by
    a US Navy WW-II pilot. Very early on with my flying lessons, he insisted
    that I learn to recognize both power=on and power-ff stalls, and also
    how to recover after entering a full spin. Almost every lessons with him, he kept insisting that I practice these manuevers. Also how to avoid loss of airspeed on base and final. He preached airspeed, airspeed. I guess it was that he landed on carriers in a Corsair!

  77. James Scott
    James Scott says:

    Oh yes, I forgot to mention that my last flight in a single-engine aircraft was in May of this year, in a CIRRUS 22! The pilot proudly
    pointed out the parachute handle. (And the glass cockpit!)

  78. Frank Hellwig
    Frank Hellwig says:

    I own a SR20. I have almost 1,200 hours, most of them in SR20s and SR22s. I have also flown the 172 (started in that) and a 1968 Piper Arrow. The Cirrus is a wonderful airplane but I find it no different than the 1968 Piper that I flew. Both are airplanes and both require the ability to look out of the window.

    Comparing my flights, I would honestly say that flying the Cirrus gives me the equipment to fly in IMC and perform approaches down to hard minimums that I would not have desired to attempt in the other aircraft that I have flown. So far, no problem.

    What is a problem is when that envelope, specified by the limitations of the plane, personal minimums, and the minimums indicated on charts and approach plates is exceeded. No amount of automation will save a pilot, Cirrus or otherwise, from these types of deviations.

    I know a bit about the accident referred to in the original article. I have flown in that plane. I know about the pilot and the training he received. The training was solid and the plane was first-rate. The gentleman elected to take off on a departure that was not authorized at night. (Sadly, the NACO charts put these in the beginning of the book.) He already admitted to trepidations about the flight that evening because of his lack of IFR experience but decided to continue the flight.

    Could one argue that the TAWS system in the Cirrus gave him a false sense of security? Perhaps. But it was a mistake that could have been made in any airplane.

    Time in type, good recurrent training, and an adherence to published procedures and minimums is what will keep people alive. No amount of automation, whether in a Cirrus or in any of the latest G1000-equiped machines, will save a poor decision or rewrite the FAA regulations and published procedures.

    If we want to argue that Cirrus pilots have an attitude of invincibility or arrogance, then that is certainly a topic of discussion, but it wasn’t Richard Collins’ point. His final question was: “What do you think it would take to rein in the Cirrus fatal accidents?”

    Probably education – but not the type that the FAA requires. TAA pilots need to understand that once outside the Mode-C veil, people won’t show up on the Sky Watch system. Or that pressing the “enter” button in the wrong sequence on the MFD and 430s causes the autopilot to get confused and climb right through the target altitude. Or that you can have a bad cylinder and still see perfectly good EGT/CHT on the display.

    My point here is that Cirrus, or any TAA, will have a whole host of issues and quirks that can only be discovered by flying – and by flying often and in varied conditions with people who understand the systems and can help explain its various benefits as well as flaws and danger points. That desire must be self-motivated, as it is not required training.

    Perhaps Cirrus pilots come from the cubicles and offices of automation where computers do great things and the worst thing that could happen is the collapse of one’s own chair. Similar confidence, and expectations of perfection, then extend to the glass cockpit. But I am not sure Cirrus pilots are unique in that regard.

    Train hard and fly safe,


  79. Sam P
    Sam P says:

    Mr Collins et al. I got my ppl about 19 years ago through a private instructor using my 1966 Cessna 150. He taught me to do power on and power off stalls to recognize incipient spins. Also slow flight with and without flaps. I also learned to slip the plane without flaps. I was taught how to do spin recovery without doing an actual spin. Everything needed to pass the practical test standards. Being in my mid 50s at the time, it took me about 60 hours total before he released me to the examiner. I passed on my first try. Since then I have flown the 150 many hours along with a 172, much of it cross country. Now I fly a used Cessna 182 (1967 model) with an autopilot and GPS. I am confident but cautious. Wasn’t the Bonanza once called a forked tailed doctor killer? I think the Cirrus is much the same today. Both examples of too much airplane for too inexperienced pilots with an invincibility complex. As Clint Eastwood says “a man has got to know his limitations”.
    More training, more often.

  80. Patrick
    Patrick says:

    Move the yoke to the centerline of the seat like the Bonanza did and this aircraft will be incredibly safe, (compare F33 to G36 Bonanza).

  81. Gogona
    Gogona says:

    *****A while back the instrument rating requirements were drastically reduced making the rating both less expensive and potentially more lethal. This was in response to pressure from general aviation interests, especially AOPA.****

    I believe, you don’t realize, why these changes had to be made. You will be surprised, but the hours reduction (from 200 to 125) leaded to the substantial decreasing of VFR-into-IFR accidents, as it was expected by FAA.
    Don’t you think, that safety is a _primary_ AOPA interest, by the way?

  82. David Megginson
    David Megginson says:

    There’s something to say for a dirty, underpowered airplane. I’ve owned my Warrior II for 10 years now and flown it in a lot of pretty-rough IFR conditions, on many long cross-country flights, and through both busy and remote airspace, at altitudes from 3,000 to 12,500 ft.

    During my first 400 hours or so, I probably made most of the same mistakes that those SR-22 pilots (and V-tail Bonanza pilots) made in the fatal accidents. The difference is that I was in a plane that let me get away with it with nothing worse than a “confirm altitude/heading” reminder from ATC.

    Maybe if the economy were better, I could upgrade, but I’m not sure there’s a point — the Warrior can get my family and me from Ottawa to NYC or Boston in 2:30, to Toronto in 1:45, or to Washington, DC in ~4:00, and it can do it on 7.5 gph. And if I do make dumb-ass pilot mistakes again in the future, I have a better chance of living to write online comments about them.

  83. Julian Baretta
    Julian Baretta says:

    You claim that the SR series have poor stall characteristics and that they did not receive spin certification. First off, the SR20 is fairly docile in a spin if you recover from the spin quickly. You don’t leave an aircraft in a spin. Its not a trainer aircraft, its a transportation machine. It shouldn’t be stalled. Next, although the FAA didn’t require spin training, the europeans did on the other hand. It can come out of a spin, but it should never enter a spin. If you had any training in an SR aircraft you would realize it is very hard to spin. The split wing along with stall strips help prevent a spin. I realize Cirrus has many issues along with any aircraft in the sky, but please do not trash cirrus for its accident rate. It is not the planes fault, in fact mechanical failure may play a role in 5% of the accidents. Pilots crash the plane and its not because they are flying a bad aircraft. It is because they lack proper training and experience to operate such a capable aircraft. Don’t blame the aircraft, blame the human in the left seat.

  84. William
    William says:

    Like my old flight instructor asked me when I started flight training. “You want to just get your license or do you want to learn how to fly?”

  85. Michael Hans
    Michael Hans says:

    Loved the article. As a Cirrus sr20 owner , COPA member and Vfr pilot, I can tell you the problem is one that I pointed out in a thread last year and got crucified for. Just because you legally can, doesn’t mean you should. I believe there definitely is a greater arrogance with the Cirrus owner, especially the IFR rated Cirrus pilot. How often, without the instructor next to you are you really flying in IMC conditions. Big time false sense of security. Commercial pilots fly everyday and with a copilot. Those fatal accidents happened to mainly IFR rated pilots in a SR22. That rating don’t mean squat unless you’re flying IFR in IMC regularly. Regularly means more than once a month. For those that are insulted , deal with it. Obviously these comments don’t apply to all Cirrus owners, but it does to a greater percentage than they want to admit to.

  86. Ira Bourstein
    Ira Bourstein says:

    The fastest way to get from where you are, to dead, is a straight line through complacency. It’ll kill you in a car, on a skateboard, in the toolshed, at the stove, in a plane, or anywhere else. It all comes back to the Clint Eastwood line: “A man has got to know his limitations”. And failing to know them, sooner or later, becomes a capitol offense. When you’re 100% certain you know it all, you know nothing.

  87. Bert
    Bert says:

    Somebody once said that a Cirrus is as easy to fly as a car, except you have to be a pilot. Herein lies the answer to the mystery. Pilots today are taught by rote, have lots of automation at their disposal, and expect all-weather utility out of their airplanes. Everything goes fine until a piece of equipment fails, unexpected weather is encountered, or a turn is skidded. That’s when it’s time to “do that pilot thing”. Frankly, most of today’s pilots aren’t up for it.

  88. Ward
    Ward says:

    I just found this article and think we might be missing something. Most of the comments are about the airplane and not the pilots. I have a friend that is a CFI in a club that specializes in training for the Cirrus and he has made some interesting observations about many if not most of his students. Let’s think about the type of pilot this airplane is geared toward. It’s not known as the Doctor/Dentist/Lawyer Special for nothing. Think about the FAA’s 5 attitudes – Anti Authority, Impulsivity, Invulnerability, Macho, Resignation, and the antidote to each of those attitudes. I have been told that Anti-Authority, Invulnerable, and Macho pretty much describes the mindset of majority of the Cirrus buyers. They made their money, got to their positions, or whatever specifically because they had these characteristics. And while those attitudes may be an advantage in parts of the professional world, they have no place in the cockpit.

  89. JP
    JP says:

    It’s not just the skill or the aircraft. It’s the type of pilot it attracts. Unaware of anything other than themselves. They are the pilot that barrels into the pattern, or asks for airport advisories without listening to the local chatter first, they block the fuel pumps, start up right in front of other aircraft and then sit at high power settings blasting gravel all over the airplane behind them while they configure their glass panels. They say things to ATC like “I have that traffic on my scope.” while never looking outside the aircraft.

  90. Paul S
    Paul S says:

    Thanks for all who have taken the time to post here, quite the breadth of experience and a lot of passion for aviation.

    I’m ‘one of those guys’ who makes enough money to be able to look into pursuing getting a license and flying a Cirrus. In researching everything about it I can get my hands on I’ve come to this post.

    There’s a sentiment on some posts that guys like me are reckless, don’t care enough, aren’t serious enough, don’t get the amount of training they should…etc.

    I don’t think because I make enough to afford an incredibly expensive endeavor that I’m by default not as serious.

    I believe people like me are sold what we are sold by people we perceive as experts in the space. The manufacturers, the flight schools, the instructors…etc. Yes we can stroke the check, but I believe we are doing so under what we believe to be good information.

    As a few posts pointed out a vast majority of the incidents were at the helm of highly experienced pilots either in control or in the passenger seat.

    The biggest takeaway I believe I’m getting is learn to fly, not check off the boxes to getting a license. Thanks for all that have contributed here.

  91. Paul M
    Paul M says:

    First, no one has any idea how many hours the Cirruses are flown. How exactly would that data be collected? By whom? No one knows how many hours I fly my Cirrus except my mechanic, and he doesn’t recall reporting that data. So total hours isn’t “taken into account by anyone.”

    All this crap about Cirruses is just noise from jealous pilots flying their little underpowered pudknocker Archers and C-172s. Get some money and buy a real plane. Until you do, suck it.

  92. Robert
    Robert says:

    My question is, why doesn’t the Cirrus Company install an angle of attack instrument like the ones in icon A5? More importantly, why doesn’t the FAA mandate this instrument to be installed on every personal small planes? I’m sure that that would help solve the spin problem…

  93. Ed Watson
    Ed Watson says:

    In ’74 I bought an M model in Pontiac MI. My first 5 flights took me to Sercuase NY and back, to the UP and back for a cup of coffee, to Las Cruces NM and to Oxnard CA. That old machine became my personal airliner for 12+ years for compamy business and never let me down. DTW to the west coast was a routing run as was a PTK to THA and return. The first 10 years averaged 300 hrs/yr, It was a dream to fly even IFR with its ‘6 pack’.
    I did have a good military and civilian background and a lot of respect for TRs fog and ice, but took in stride the rest and ‘she’ never let me down – I miss her.

  94. Bob
    Bob says:

    Dudes, you got to know how to fly the airplane. End of discussion. The only other remark I will make is to agree with the poster who pointed out that rich guys either crash the plane or run the boat aground.

    Just because you’ve got the means, doesn’t mean you’ve got the smarts.

    24,000 + pilot (old guy)

    600 hours in Cirrus types.

  95. Bob Bray
    Bob Bray says:

    This discussion suggests the Cirrus may not like back seats to be filled.
    Can aft CG limits be exceeded below gross with low fuel?
    Are flight characteristics greatly different at gross?
    As a 10 year Bonanza (s/n D348) owner I found out the hard way on takeoff from Montauk by frightfully light control forces.
    Speed brakes or anti spin tail chute could slow Cirrus’s to main chute speed.
    A speed brake would slow you to pattern speed on arrival.
    A variable configuration wing having flaperons, automatic leading edge slats etc to give a low speed wing should help low speed issues.
    Lastly there seem to be too many power failures for a new plane and engine.
    Derated engines would seem to be indicated.

  96. JOhn Spanks
    JOhn Spanks says:

    It is my understanding you do not put a Cirrus in a spin as it is either not recoverable or extremely hard to recover. That is the sole reason for the CAPS system. Also I think the high accident rate is so large as it is that Cirrus is the number One GA manufacturer in the world and so the accident rate may reflect the actual numbers out there .

  97. Ed Downs
    Ed Downs says:

    I lost 3 dear friends to the June 16 stall/spin accident at Houston Hobby airport. The pilot, Dana had been directed to several different approaches on different runways because commercial airlines were overtaking her in the pattern. Listen to the transcript. It’s hard to imagine the controllers not understanding this and just sequencing her properly. But they didn’t. On the last pass, the controller told her to “keep it in right”. She made a left turn and stalled/spun in. She had been flying that airplane for 4 years and going everywhere in it. By Cirrus standards, she was more than qualified.

    I don’t have near the experience of many here, but I have been flying for 45 years and can tell you, the idea that an airplane in perfect VFR conditions can just stall/spin in the pattern with an experienced pilot is unthinkable to me. All of us watch airspeed. We don’t do 60 degree banks in the pattern. And I’m sure Cirrus pilots don’t either. But you read all these accident reports and have to wonder HOW a Cirrus pilot just “loses control” on base to final?

    I think flying a Cirrus is like riding a mountain bike across the Hoover Dam. You can do it 1,000 times, never knowing you are just inches from losing your life. The one day you hit a pebble, and it’s all over with no way to recover.

    I have spun many aircraft that had a Utility Category – Cherokee 140s, Cessna 150s, and 172s. All of them come right out of the spin if you just let go of the yolk. Obviously, Cirrus airplanes do not do this. If you get into a spin, you are dead. I know Europe requires spin certification. But when I see a Cirrus pilot spin to the ground from 5,000 feet, I know the airplane just won’t do it. In fact, in this forum and anywhere else, I haven’t seen ONE PILOT say they intentionally spun a Cirrus.

    The solution? The control forces on Cirrus are indistinguishable at any speed because the stick is spring loaded – it feels the same on the ground as going 100 kts. You can’t tell a stall is about to happen. You need something else looking out for you. Cirrus should outfit their glass panels with a simple LOUD warning device that computes angle of attack, airspeed, bank angle, and p-factor. Like YELLOW ALERT followed by RED ALERT. Why Cirrus has not done this is beyond me.

    Dana’s crash was recorded on a security camera at a hardware store. Google Hobby Crash and watch it. We can all imagine what Dana was thinking as her plane rolled over into the spin at 800 feet.

    • Duane
      Duane says:


      I am very sorry that you lost your friends in that crash, I too have lost friends in air crashes and it hurts, quite obviously.

      Your conclusion that a Cirrus SR22 is a spin just waiting to happen is not correct though. Even though you say you cannot imagine a qualified pilot stalling and spinning an aircraft in the pattern, I personally knew two professional pilots with something like 45-50 years and tens of thousands of hours of logged time each, both CFIs and one was on a training flight with a student when he died – both accident aircraft were low performance light sport aircraft, very unlike the Cirrus SR22.

      Losing aircraft control can and does happen to pilots of all levels of experience. All it takes is for the briefest moment of inattention to airspeed/angle of attack and rudder to stall and then spin. Base to final turns with significant crosswinds (such that the base leg is downwind) with excessive skid are the most common occurrence of this combination of cross-control. Even the easiest of all aircraft to fly, such as my Piper Cherokee, can do exactly the same thing, and spin out, when flown that way. And as any expert can and does say, a full spin at or below pattern altitude (as your friends were at when the accident occurred) is almost certainly a death sentence in virtually any common light aircraft unless a CAPS is available and deployed. There just is not enough altitude to recover.

      Your friend, in attempting a landing at a major commercial airport heavily used by high speed heavy jet transports, was likely in a stressed state throughout the landing approach. After having gone through a couple of approaches that weren’t successful, her stress level was probably very high – I know that would be susceptible to stress in that situation. In that scenario, it is understandable how a brief inattention to aircraft control could occur.

      What is not known is why the CAPS parachute did not deploy – did the pilot not attempt to deploy it, or did she attempt to deploy it and it failed? The NTSB will attempt to determine the answer to that question. It is demonstrated that the CAPS parachute can save lives when deployed from as low as 400-500 feet AGL.

  98. RDvs
    RDvs says:

    I stumbled on the Sirrus 20 accident at Hobby Field , Houstone. June 2016. It was a youtube video of just radar tracking with ATC – pilot communications. So I had no idea what was going to happen other then a crash at end.

    The plane flat spun into hardward store parking lot, sadly ending the three lives on board the plane.

    But as a private pilot(warriors & 172/150s only) I became very concerned about the towers verbal directions to the sirrus pilot that was trying to land. There were so many contacts between ATC and sirrus pilot, I started to get a sick felling in stomach. At that point listening to this I did not know how bad this ended. But you could tell this was not going to end well.

    I hope and pray the ATC in tower learns from that tragedy, surely they have. One time back at Beverly Airport 1980’s I turned base to final only to find tower had put another in my path mistakenly. The traffic pattern was jammed. I aborted final to avoid midair. I exited right climbing to empty side, then advised controller what I was doing and that I would return. He apolgized for error. Okay that is too long a story.

    The point is way early in the Sirrus event, the controller and /or the pilot would have done well to leave pattern, regroup and make organized normal return.

    That accident was partly a result of the too many ATC directives to Sirrus Pilot. Land 35, hold off landing , let Passenger jet land first, now land on 4….etc etc. You could feel the pilots head spinning. The pilot deffered to tower many times before the end came. I don’t know the fuel situation but I would left the pattern w towers approval, regrouped as I said prior. With all the varied directives tower gave pilot, maybe the tower should have thought of this. Or maybe they will in future.

    Watching that track and listening to communicaitons I think you would have felt what was coming. A fatal tight turn trying to land for x time, a last second change to another runway….The plane eventually flat spun to its end. No altitude to recover if it is even possible.

    They gave the speeds logged too through out. The accident is a learning event for all of us. Also I remembered getting close in a similar situation when
    I was turning final in cessna 150 and I was late on the turn. I started to overbank to get back on track. My speed just vanished. The only right thing I did was knowing my speed. I immediately leveled and put nose down. I was high enough to still be here now. I made that mistake at a non-controlled field with no one else in the pattern.
    I can’t imagine the stress on the Sirrus pilot that day.

  99. Air Plane Tug
    Air Plane Tug says:

    Hey, very nice site. I came across this on Google, and I am stoked that I did. I will definitely be coming back here more often. Wish I could add to the conversation and bring a bit more to the table, but am just taking in as much info as I can at the moment. Thanks for sharing.

    Electric Aircraft Tug

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