Cirrus accident history continues improvement through first quarter of 2014 - Pull early, pull often! - Safety and Training Programs - Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association

Cirrus accident history continues improvement through first quarter of 2014

Cirrus accident history continues improvement through first quarter of 2014

The Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association (COPA) maintains a focus on safety throughout our programs and activities. Consequently, we also focus on tracking the results and outcomes from accident investigations. Over the past several years, the decline in fatal accidents exceeds the slight decline in all of General Aviation in the US. The increased use of the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS) appears to have dramatically reduced the number of fatalities. And overall, we have seen a counter trend to the increased number of aircraft produced with a steady to slight decline in the number of total accidents, including fatals, parachute saves, non-fatals, and incidents.

Cirrus Fatal Accidents

First, number of fatal accidents per year has gone down over the past 3-5 years. 

Discount the 2014 number of fatal accidents, since that's the winter months during severe weather. 

However, you can see an Interesting declining trend since the peak in 2009. The anomaly in the fall of 2011 represents 8 accidents in 3 months, mostly in rental, used or flying club aircraft.

The green bars show a counter trend in CAPS parachute saves, in which increasingly COPA Pilots are deploying the parachute rather than risk an off-airport landing. The 5 CAPS saves in the first 3 months of 2014 does seem like a significant change, especially given the severe weather during that time period.

Fatalities in Cirrus Fatal Accidents

While fatal accidents have trended down, the number of fatalities per year seems to have really fallen farther.

Again, discount 2014Q1 due to severe weather in the winter months. But the lower 2013 number of fatalities suggests that our safety efforts may have had good effect. We believe that this greater reduction in fatalities is largely due to the increased use of CAPS to survive off-airport landings.

Trend in All Cirrus Accidents

While saving lives remains an important measure of safety, COPA members also show interest in reducing any accident. Here are the number of NTSB accident/incident reports in their database since the introduction of the SR20 in mid-1999.

Note that the NTSB database shows fewer fatal accidents and CAPS saves than COPA numbers above. COPA data includes any Cirrus event from around the world. The NTSB only records those for which it has been involved in the investigation.

While the reduction in total accidents remains a work in progress, recall that the number of Cirrus aircraft flying has increased from about 3,000 at the start of 2007 and is now over 5,600 at the start of 2014. That's an increase of 86% in aircraft flying while we've seen a drop of about 10% in all accidents. 

Feels good to be on the right side of these trends.



  • Rick hi,

    I happened to see this very interesting analysis, which of course results from your personal efforts and those of COPA.

    I would suggest that you add a graph with Y-axis showing a defined index of say accidents per total number of Cirrus aircraft or per total hours flown.

    Kind Regards,


  • @ttjclz: Agreed, normalizing the number of accidents against fleet size or total hours flown helps us know if things are getting better. This post was in response to a specific claim about frequency. For rates, see this link:

  • Rick –

    First, and most important, it is clear to most of us that the increased use of CAPS – and the resultant savings of lives – is a direct result of your apostolic efforts. Not many of us can reflect on what we have done in our lives knowing that many lives have been saved because of our work. You should be pleased.

    As to the first quarter of 2014, what should we make of the fact that the combined total of fatal accidents and CAPS saves – which could well have been fatal without CAPS – is 6 when the totals in 2012 and 2013 were 16 for the entire year? Is this an anomaly or is the first quarter of a year typically higher than the other three?

    Again – thanks for the great work.


  • @Rick Dawson: what to make of 6 CAPS+fatals in 2014Q1 compared to the full years of 2012 or 2013?

    Since 4 of the 5 CAPS saves involved mechanical issues, that suggests that Cirrus pilots avoided risky off-airport landings. Is it an anomaly? Certainly, yes. But does it continue the trend of greater consideration of CAPS during emergencies? Certainly, yes. What does it mean for the future? Cirrus owners and operators need to increase diligence on maintenance issues.

    As the fleet ages, with the average age of the 5 aircraft in those CAPS saves being 9.7 years since airworthiness date, perhaps more mechanical issues will appear in the accident history.



  • Agree that a better measure is accidents / aircraft / hour.   Also, and you mentioned this, putting the 2014 bar on the graph now is not valid unless you can normalize it with seasonality (i.,e., given the rate of accidents / fatalities in Q1, can that be extrapolated to a year (with a footnote of course).   Finally, of most interest, how does the accident / fatality rate per hour currently compare with the rest of GA?  I find Cirrus planes challenging, less forgiving, and more difficult to fly overall   I feel have a fairly unique perspective since I maintain currency (through multiple FBO's and a club) in PA28, PA32, DA40, C172, C182, SR20 and SR22.

  • @VWGhiaBob: to compare the Cirrus fatal accident rate, see this wiki page: Cirrus Accident Rates at

    The third chart on that page displays the 1-year and 3-year moving average number of fatal Cirrus accidents per 100,000 hours of flying time in the Cirrus fleet. The chart also displays the GA overall fatal accident rate and the rate of GA personal and business flying, both from the NTSB.

    Current numbers are 1.07 and 1.57 for the Cirrus and 1.24 and 2.38 for the GA rates.  Good to be on this side of those comparisons.



  • Very useful.  Thanks, Rick.  Let's hope the positive trend continues.

  • Rick:

    Are there enough numbers over a long enough period of time to calculate separately accident and fatality rates for COPAns?

  • @bessmago: Unfortunately, calculating an accident rate requires a denominator, usually flying hours. We have no practical way to determine the flying time of 3700+ COPA members.