Mid-Year 2014 Update on Improved Cirrus accident rates - Pull early, pull often! - Safety and Training Programs - Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association

Mid-Year 2014 Update on Improved Cirrus accident rates

Since the beginning of 2014, Cirrus accident rates show a dramatic and welcome reduction.

Fatalities in Cirrus Accidents

Most importantly, fewer people have died in Cirrus accidents.

Here's the number of fatalities by year since introduction of the Cirrus SR20 in 1999 and the first fatal accident in 2001. (Note: data for these charts comes from COPA and Cirrus Aircraft and includes accidents world-wide.)


We are halfway through the year 2014 with only one presumed fatality worldwide. (That fatality is presumed to have happened in Brazil where the plane went missing in February and has not been found since.)

The Cirrus fleet has continued to increase to over 5,700 aircraft produced. The fleet hours are estimated to have increased to almost 6.5 million hours with about a million hours in the last 12-month period.

People are still flying in Cirrus aircraft, but fewer people died this year.

Fatal Cirrus Accidents versus CAPS Saves

One reason for fewer fatalities comes from increased use of the Cirrus airframe parachute (CAPS). That is, the number of CAPS deployments with survivors has increased over the past six years while the number of fatal accidents has declined since the worst year in 2011. (Interesting to realize that most of the 2011 fatal accidents were in aircraft purchased used or flown from rental or flying clubs.)

Almost all of those CAPS saves in 2014 involved mechanical issues with loss of engine power. One involved an icing encounter and another a loss of control during a demonstration flight. The use of CAPS avoided a risky off-airport landing in those situations.

Frequency of Cirrus Fatal Accidents and CAPS Saves

When the frequency of Cirrus fatals and CAPS saves are charted by quarter, the decline in fatal accidents can be seen more clearly from the worst 3-month period in the fall of 2011. 

Nice to see zero fatal accidents (red) in 2014Q2, something that has not happened since 2006Q2 when the fleet was only 2,700 aircraft produced, less than half of the current fleet size. Also good to see that COPA members (yellow) are less and less involved in fatal accidents over time, with the last one in 2013Q3.

That prompts a chart that superimposes the growth of the Cirrus fleet size (GAMA data) and flying hours (Cirrus Aircraft data) with the accident frequency (COPA data):

While the fleet and flight activity continue to grow, the fatal accident frequency shows a declining trend, with CAPS saves keeping people from serious or fatal injuries in bad situations.

Fatal Cirrus Accident Rates Per 100,000 Hours Flying Time

By tracking the world-wide fatal accidents and utilizing the estimated fleet flying hours from Cirrus Aircraft, we can chart the Cirrus accident rate and compare to the NTSB general aviation rates.

The two NTSB rates come from their analysis of general aviation activity. The lower rate (thin green), hovering around 1.2 fatal accidents per 100,000 flying hours includes all types of general aviation activities, especially those with excellent safety history such as corporate and instructional flying. The higher rate (thick green), increasing to 2.38 fatal accidents per 100,000 flying hours separates out flying for personal purposes, which would match the majority of Cirrus flight activity.

Because the Cirrus fleet is less than 1/30 of the single-engine piston fixed-wing fleet in GA, two moving averages are plotted for the Cirrus accident rates, one for a 12-month period (blue) and another smoothing out the effects of a small fleet using a 36-month period (red). An obvious impediment to those trends was the horrific 2011Q4 period when 8 Cirrus fatal accidents happened in 3 months, with 3 accidents in just 24 hours.

Yet, the overall trend since 2007 has shown improvement with fewer accidents over increased flying hours. And the most recent few quarter years show even greater decline.

Good news to report. Of course, these trends are the compilation of thousands of individual pilots flying individual aircraft on numerous flights. Continued diligence will be required.


  • A very gratifying and promising trend.  It has only come about through constant education and reiteration of CAPS awareness across the board at all phases of training and operations.  "Continued diligence" is the key to sustaining this effort.

    Be safe and have fun,

  • Rick:  I am somewhat active on the Rutan experimental forums.  I think your analysis, like the report shown here, is consistently astonishing, insightful and motivational.  I would love to give the members of those forums the benefit of seeing this work.  Can I re-post it there (Canard Aviators, Cozy Forum)?  Are there any other rules on sharing this?  Thanks.    

  • Tom, this blog is accessible to the public. Feel free to cross-link to this blog to your forum. Doing it that way maintains the context within the safety work of COPA and encourages browsing other blog entries.



    p.s. It also reminds me to provide an update with the safety stand down statistics that I presented at M12.