Cirrus Design builds a safe airplane. Yet, despite many safety improvements, fatal accidents continue to occur.
Since the introduction of the SR20 in mid-1999, there have been 101 fatal accidents in over 5,400 production Cirrus SR2x aircraft. In those accidents, 198 people have perished with 24 people seriously injured and 3 with minor injuries (including 2 injured on the ground).
In the same time frame, there have been 36 "saves" with the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System in which 76 people survived.
The following chart illustrates the frequency of fatal accidents and CAPS saves over the past 13 years.
Each bar represents one quarter year, with red bars representing fatal accidents, green CAPS saves and white those fatal accidents involving COPA members. Note that in the early years until about 2010, more fatal Cirrus accidents occurred in the dark half of the year (October to March) than in the light half of the year (April to September). The fall of 2011 represents the worst three-month period with eight fatal accidents. Also, note that over the past few years, the frequency of fatal Cirrus accidents does not follow the increased size of the Cirrus fleet.
Cirrus Fatal Accident Rate
Because Cirrus Design collaborates with COPA, we have access to their compilation of fleet flying hours. This enables COPA to calculate the following fatal accident rates.*
Past 36 months: 1.69
We use a 3-year average because, with a modest fleet size of 5,000 airplanes flying about 700,000 hours per year, the accident rate varies substantially with only a few accidents. By contrast, the GA fleet contains 200,000 airplanes flying about 20,000,000 hours per year, or about 40 times more aircraft flying about 30 times more hours.
In the past 36 months, there have been 35 fatal accidents and approximately 2,000,000 flying hours for a rate of 1.69 fatal accident per 100,000 hours of flying time.
Past 12 months: 1.45
In the past 12 months, there have been 10 accidents in approximately 700,000 flight hours for a rate of 1.45 fatal accidents per 100,000 hours.
GA fleet: 1.24 overall, 2.38 for Personal & Business flying
We compare the Cirrus fatal accident rate to the overall general aviation rate for non-commercial fixed-wing aircraft of 1.24 for 2011 (ref NTSB aviation safety statistics).
At 1.45 for the past 12 months and 1.69 for the past 36 months, the Cirrus rates appears higher. However, the NTSB report calculation includes corporate flying with professional pilots, as well as twin-engine aircraft and turbo-prop and turbojet aircraft, which skew the activity comparable to flying done by Cirrus SR2X aircraft.*
Consequently, we also compare the accident analysis published by the NTSB, which separates the purposes of flying into Personal, Business, Instructional, Corporate and various other activities. Using that data, we determined the accident rate for Personal and Business flying to be 2.38 for 2009. The Cirrus SR2X rates compare favorably with those more comparable activities.
The fatal accident rates for Cirrus aircraft averaged over 12-months (blue) and 36-months (red) compared with the Nall report GA fatal accident rate (green) and the NTSB Personal & Business rate (grey).
*Caution on comparing fatal accident rates
Care must be taken when comparing fatal accident rates with other models or manufacturers. Because the Reliability Engineering staff at Cirrus Aircraft maintain a database of flight hours by serial number for their world-wide fleet, we have access to the estimated fleet hours for Cirrus SR2X aircraft. COPA then uses those hours with the world-wide number of accidents to compute a rate. We know of no other manufacturer that shares their fleet flying hours. And as stated above, we use both the 12-month and 36-month intervals to address the effects of a small fleet of about 1/30 of the 150,000 single-engine fixed-wind piston aircraft in the FAA database.
The NTSB and FAA fatal accident rates are focused on N-reg aircraft primarily based in the US and flight activity from a survey also based primarily in the US. Furthermore, the types of operations in the survey include commercial, business, pleasure, instructional, aerial application and other purposes. Those operations are weighted quite differently than the Cirrus fleet. For instance, commercial and instructional flying have extraordinarily few accidents and large numbers of flying hours, so when you remove those from the NTSB calculation, the remaining large number of accidents and modest number of flying hours result in a much higher accident rate. While there are some commercial and instructional flight activity in the Cirrus fleet, the proportions appear to be quite different.
Comparing the Cirrus rate to other models or manufacturers cannot be done reliably without an estimate of flying hours for those aircraft. Because the age of the Cirrus fleet, where all airplanes were produced since mid-1999, and because of the limited roles for Cirrus aircraft compared to others, any comparison is fraught with difficulty.
Please be thoughtful about how these accident rates are discussed.
Improving Cirrus Pilot Safety
After two fatal accidents within 5 days in January 2003, early in the history of the fleet, the Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association, Cirrus Design and our insurers focused on a concerted effort to improve pilot safety, training and decision making. COPA operates several safety programs that further our mission:
Updated: 14 August 2013
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