Bill King
Vice President of Business Administration
Cirrus Aircraft
Duluth, Minnesota 55811

Dear Bill: 

I own one of your aircraft. There are some nice things about the Cirrus. But a few things, from a safety standpoint, really suck. First, the doors don’t stay closed. Second, too many pilots and passengers are getting killed when pilots try to land the thing. Third, the fuel gauges don’t work.

I read your comments on each of these issues in today’s Duluth News Tribune. Considering that they come from a company that prides itself on “celebrating safety,” I found some of the comments disturbing.

The doors.

Bill, they pop open. A lot. It’s always a distraction when it happens. If they pop open at a bad time, it can spell real trouble. More on that here

I read how you flew from one airport to another a few weeks ago with a door that wasn’t shut, and

you handled it without any problem. Congratulations on some good piloting. By the way, was the weather low IFR on your flight? Was it at night? Was your engine running rough? Did you have a scared Cirrus doorpassenger to deal with?

No? Then maybe it’s no surprise that you found the open door to be a "non-event."

You point out that doors pop open on other aircraft too.  That’s true.  But we know that most of those "other" aircraft are “legacy” aircraft and that, unfortunately, lots of people have died as a result of the 50 year-old door designs used in those aircraft.

Now, as I understand it, Cirrus doesn’t accept the old ways of the industry.  Rather, Cirrus’ mission is to “challenge conventional assumptions to find ingenious new improvements,” right? 

Great. Please gather your most ingenious people and have them figure out an ingenious way to keep the doors of your super-modern and ultra-safe $600,000 aircraft closed.

Landing accidents.

Next, this stuff about people getting killed when they try to land the plane. I find it troubling. I guess Cirrus does too. I received from Cirrus a safety alert (pdf), asking pilots, in light of all the accidents, to review the landing speeds spelled out in their Pilot’s Operating Handbook.  And to get recurrent instruction.

That’s always good advice.  But I don’t think it’s a solution to the problem.  With all due respect, Cirrus pilots are not, as a group, especially stupid. They are just as likely as Beech and Cessna and Mooney pilots to read and follow their handbooks.  They are just as likely to get recurrent instruction. In fact, from what I can tell, they may even be more so.  Yet, for some reason, they are having more landing accidents.

Can Cirrus consider the possibility that there might be something about the airplane itself that contributes to its poor safety record? Or does Cirrus believe that it’s all the fault of Cirrus pilots who, Cirrus seems to think, are not as conscientious about doing their homework as the pilots who fly the competition?

You say that “all airplane models have their idiosyncrasies.” Agreed. That’s my point. Maybe there are some idiosyncracies about the way the Cirrus behaves in the landing phase that need to be uncovered and dealt with. Maybe the speeds the Pilot Operating Handbook specifies need to be re-evaluated. Please take a hard look and tell us what idiosyncracies your engineers and test pilots find. Don’t just tell us to follow the Handbook, because I think we are.  Something else is going on.

Fuel Gauges.

Buy a new airplane and you’d expect it to come with fuel gauges that work. But in the Cirrus, they don’t. Your comments totally avoid the issue. Rather than ‘fess up Cirrus Fuel Gaugeand get on the problem, you stated that the aircraft’s other “sophisticated electronic monitoring makes the gas gauge superfluous.”


The reporter, John Lundy, then asked “Then why even have a gas gauge?” Your response: 

You know what? I don’t know. . . I think it’s probably an FAA requirement.

News flash: fuel gauges are an FAA requirement. That’s because the FAA thinks it’s really important for pilots to know how much gas is in their tanks. And, Bill, none of the “sophisticated electronic monitoring” on board the Cirrus makes the gauges superfluous, because none of it tells the pilot how much fuel is in the tanks. The only thing that does that is the fuel gauge. 

Any questions on this, you may want to spend some time with the Pilot’s Operating Handbook.

Sorry, Bill. A working fuel gauge is high on this pilot’s wish list. Call me nutty.

Will Cirrus please fix the problem? Please? Before someone gets hurt?

Thanks.  Looking forward to Cirrus’ response.

Mike Danko