Steve Wilson argues that there are safety issues with Cirrus airplanes. First, Wilson feels that the Cirrus is more prone than your typical Beechcraft to crashes in which the pilot loses control of the aircraft while maneuvering. Second, Wilson feels that the Cirrus is more susceptible to crashes involving inadvertent encounters with icing conditions.

Of course, the NTSB chalks up both of these types of accidents to pilot error, not to a fault in the


Continue Reading Steve Wilson: “The Cirrus Airplane Has Serious Problems”

An instrument rating entitles a pilot to legally navigate an aircraft when the weather is bad enough that he can’t see outside.  A pilot who is not instrument-rated must always stay out of the clouds. If the weather is such that he can’t do that, he must stay on the ground.  

The training required to obtain an instrument rating is extensive.  In most cases, it takes a pilot longer and costs him more to obtain the rating than it did for him to get his pilot’s license in the first


Continue Reading Cirrus Crash Near Agua Dulce: Pilot Not Instrument-Rated

The Cirrus aircraft is loaded with advanced safety features lacking in older "legacy" aircraft.  Yet, the Cirrus safety record appears to be no better — and perhaps even worse — than that of the legacy fleet.  How can this be? 

I’ve written before that "risk homeostasis" may be one factor at work.  I suggested here and here that pilots might tend to use the advanced features of the aircraft to fly into more challenging conditions than they otherwise would.  While using the features in that fashion might increase the utility of the aircraft, it necessarily undercuts many of the features’ safety benefits.  

It turns out that that three human factors experts have published a short article (see below) on risk


Continue Reading Cirrus Safety and Risk Homeostasis

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


Continue Reading A Letter to Cirrus Aircraft: Please Fix Your Plane

Cirrus N146CK crashed on August 4 at Deer Valley, Airzona.  The pilot was killed.  Just before the accident, the aircraft’s door popped open.  We know that because the pilot reported to air traffic control that his door was open and that he needed to return to the airport to close it.  Plus, surveillance cameras confirmed that the pilot’s door was indeed ajar. 

The plane’s door popped open? What’s with that? 

The Cirrus doors are poorly designed.  It’s that simple. They just don’t stay shut in flight.  

The plane flies okay after a door pops open.  But the distraction can be dangerous, and can lead to a loss of control, as demonstrated by this 2009 Cirrus crash.  Following the 2009 accident, John


Continue Reading Cirrus Crash at Deer Valley, Arizona: Door Opened (Yet Again. . .)

When Cory Lidle’s widow sued Cirrus Design, it caused a bit of an uproar in the aviation community.  Her suit alleges that it was a defect in the aircraft’s flight controls that caused the Cirrus SR-20 to slam into a Manhattan hi-rise.  That claim led many to call the suit frivolous.  After all, the NTSB determined the accident was caused by pilot error, plain and simple. Right?

Cirrus asked the federal judge who is hearing the case to toss it out as being based on "junk science." Cirrus argued that under legal precedent known as Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, the judge must act as a "gatekeeper."  That means she must review the expert


Continue Reading Lidle v. Cirrus: Claim Not “Junk Science”

That’s the number one question I’ve been asked about this accident.  Not "why did the accident happen," but "why didn’t the pilot use the parachute?"

As I note here, most Cirrus pilots would say that the parachute should be deployed in the event of engine failure, unless there is a long, paved runway beneath the aircraft such that a safe on-airport landing is assured.  But that doesn’t mean that, if there is no airport within range, a pilot who opts to glide to a field rather than pull the chute is negligent.

Pulling the parachute has serious risks.  The aircraft’s rate of descent under the parachute is high.  Ground impact forces are severe. Cirrus warns that the decision to deploy the parachute should


Continue Reading Morton, Washington Cirrus Crash: Should the Pilot Have Deployed the Parachute?

A Cirrus SR-22, N224GS, crashed yesterday in Washington state.  The pilot was killed.  The passenger was critically injured.  The aircraft departed Concord, California (CCR) in good weather, bound for home.  It crashed in Morton, 60 miles from its destination, which was presumably Renton (RNT).

The accident appears to have been the result of engine failure:

Facts suggesting that the engine failed because it ran out of gas:

  • Fuel exhaustion is the leading cause of engine failure.
  • The pilot reported to his wife that he was battling a "stiff headwind." Unexpected headwinds are common to many fuel exhaustion accidents.


Continue Reading Cirrus Crash at Morton, Washington

Most general aviation aircraft manufactured today come with "glass cockpits."  Instead of being equipped with mechanical gauges and indicators, they are equipped with computer screens.  The screens integrate and display all sorts of useful flight information.  The information displayed may include satellite weather, synthetic vision, infrared vision, terrain awareness information, traffic


Continue Reading NTSB: Glass Cockpits Associated With Higher Rate of Fatal Accidents

Cirrus aircraft are now available with "flight into known icing" (FIKI) capability.  That’s a great feature. I’ve written before, however, that Cirrus is asking for trouble with its marketing.  Cirrus sells the feature as one that both enhances safety and increases the aircraft’s utility.  But Cirrus can’t have it both ways.  If a