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Thread: Cirrus Thoughts

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Jul 2011

    Cirrus Thoughts

    I don't own a Cirrus, but have had a few hours flying them and have several friends that do own them, and they are certainly in the news.
    They are a success as for as marketing, me must have half dozen at our airport, only one or two new Mooneys or Beech. They are like flies in the summer.
    Just from a recent flight, I was surprised at the rapid acceleration on takeoff in his turbo SR22, seems more than my turbo Be 36. In cruise, about the same speed around 175k seems he was using a little more power than I do.

    I haven't seen any data, any actual figures, but my impression is a lot of Cirrus buyers are relatively new pilots, don't think folks are selling their Bonanzas to get one. I think the Garmin price is $50, 000 with ofd
    His has a G1000. and man there is a lot of techno gizmo facts there. I don't know how to use all that or what it all means, but if you do it might come in handy.

    Looking at Consumer Reports, April 2019, the safety record has improved over last few years. One notable weakness seems to be a high percentage of crashes are fatal, compared to say Mooneys. I don't mean when the chute is pulled, I mean other crashes, such as bad landings and go arounds.
    Last edited by Bill Greenwood; 01-16-2020 at 09:35 AM.

  2. #2
    rwanttaja's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    I've looked at the Cirrus safety record, using my standard analysis tools and comparing it to the Cessna 210, the Bonanza 36, and the Cessna 172. There's some good; there's some bad.

    As with almost all aircraft, Pilot Miscontrol leads.

    "Pilot Miscontrol" is, basically, mistakes made in the fundamental control of the aircraft. It doesn't include judgement errors, such as running out of fuel or continued VFR into IFR conditions.

    As the figure table shows, the Cirrus has a higher rate of pilot miscontrol than the two high-performance competitors, yet lower than the Cessna 172. The two rows showing pilot median flight time explains why; generally, Cirrus pilots involved in accidents are less-experienced than the other two high-performance aircraft (which are both retracts).

    So the concept that Cirrus pilots are generally less experienced than the pilots of other high-performance aircraft is probably a valid one. Considering that, I don't believe the higher rate of pilot miscontrol is reflective of problems with the aircraft. I seemed to see a lot of problems with go-arounds and overshoots, and some button fumbling. AND some accidents where the remove-before-flight pin was still in the CAPS handle.

    (by the way, all these figures cover ALL accidents, not just fatal ones.)

    Here's a look at causes OTHER than pilot miscontrol:

    These numbers are the percentages of the total accidents in which pilot miscontrol is not a cause.

    "Builder Error" is higher...but you would assume that, for a new-production aircraft.

    "Maintenance Error" is lower. Being a fixed-gear aircraft probably helps, but the entire fleet being less than 20 years old probably helps more. Interesting to note, though, that the rate of mechanical area related to the landing gear is quite a bit higher than the Bonanza (and significantly BETTER than the 210). The Cirrus apparently had an issue with brake fires, early on.

    The lower part of the plot starts showing the statistics related to pilot judgement...and, again, the pilots involved in Cirrus accidents generally have half the experience as the other high-performance aircraft. Yet Cirrus does well in both the fuel exhaustion and fuel starvation (having fuel, but not getting it to the engine) categories.

    More cases of continued VFR into IFR conditions, which, of course, can be reflective of pilot experience.

    This table shows the percentage of accidents which involve engine failure.
    Cessna 210
    Bonanza 36
    Overall Engine Failure (all causes)
    Non-Pilot-Related Engine Failure
    Pilot-Related Engine Failure
    The Cirrus has the best record here, in both the mechanical and the pilot-induced categories.

    Looking at the fatality rate (percentage of accidents that result in at least one death) has an interesting result:

    Cessna 210
    Bonanza 36
    Cessna 172
    Fatality Rates

    The fatality rate for the Cirrus is roughly the same as the Bonanza, and quite a bit higher than the Cessna 210.

    Two things factor in for the fatality rate: The speed at impact, and the amount of occupant protection. The Cirrus, Cessna 210, and Bonanza are roughly the same performance, so the speed at impact should average out about the same. High-wing aircraft have better occupant protection than low-wing ones (having heavy structure around the occupant's heads), so I'm not surprised at the Cessna 210 results.

    What is weird, to me, is that I would have expected the Cirrus results to be lower due to the whole-airframe parachute system. However, if you look just at accidents that started with an engine failure (either aircraft or pilot-induced), the results are interesting.

    In those cases where a reportable accident occurred (e.g., the NTSB doesn't track no-damage forced landings) 16.7% of Cirrus engine failures lead to at least one fatality or serious injury, vs. 39.3% for the Cessna 210 and 41.3% for typical High Performance Homebuilts. Having the CAPS is probably a big factor, here, and no doubt improved crashworthiness of the more-modern design is a contributor as well.

    Talked to one guy in the Cirrus group; he says that some CAPS deployments don't even get into the NTSB accident database (being considered incidents, not accidents). So that would affect the figures.

    One factor in Cirrus accident is post-crash fires. Based on the "Fire" flag in the NTSB database, the Cirrus does have a higher rate.

    This is probably related to its composite construction more than anything else; I see the same effect with composite homebuilts.

    Now, I'm not a professional accident analyst, any more than I'm a real statistician (I'm an engineer with a working knowledge of Access and Excel). Personally, I like what I see, when I examine Cirrus accidents. The number of cases where the people come out with few or no injuries after a CAPS deployment tends to catch your attention.

    What's strange is that the Cirrus is diametrically opposite to my Fly Baby. Other than for BFRs, I haven't even SAT in a production airplane since well before the Cirrus came out. Yet I do like the airplane.

    Ron "Not my first posting about Cirrus" Wanttaja

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Cirrus is the biggest selling GA aircraft of the past 20 years. I flew one years ago with a company rep pilot. With the G1000 and the side control yoke there was a lot of transition to overcome. I did not like the position of the yoke and did not get use to it.

    One of the major Cirrus problems is loss of directional control on landing on the runway because of the tendency of the plane to porpoise if you don't stick it, then over-correcting this with the result of loss of complete control.

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