"Reach the Unreachable" safety column in COPA Pilot magazine Sept/Oct 2017 - Pull early, pull often! - Safety and Training Programs - Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association

"Reach the Unreachable" safety column in COPA Pilot magazine Sept/Oct 2017

"Reach the Unreachable" safety column in COPA Pilot magazine Sept/Oct 2017

(This article appears as the safety column in COPA Pilot magazine issue Sept/Oct 2017)

Reach the Unreachable

Safety in the Cirrus fleet has improved with a reduction of fatal accidents and an increase in survivable parachute deployments. However, an uptick in recent fatal accidents belies our progress. Consequently, we know that there are pilots and owners out there who are not participating in our safety programs. So, how do we reach the unreachable?

Low time-in-type vs low time-of-ownership

We have known from tracking Cirrus fatal accidents that about half of the accident pilots had less than 200 hours of time-in-type. Experience matters.

Recently, we discovered a new category of pilot experience: low time-of-ownership resulting in accidents in the traffic pattern with instructors on board.

Recent fatal accidents with low time of ownership

Here are some examples.

  • In early 2015, an owner new to his Cirrus of 9 weeks with about 40 hours of time-in-type departed his airport, got disoriented in low-visibility weather, then crashed into the shallow Great Salt Lake in Utah. The pilot died.
  • In February 2016, an owner new to his Cirrus of 1 week was practicing with his instructor and crashed in the traffic pattern. The instructor had zero time in a Cirrus. Four people on board all died. 
  • In April 2017, an owner new to his Cirrus of 3 weeks was practicing touch-and-goes with his son, bounced two landings and skidded across the ramp, through a fence, and caught fire when it hit a berm on the other side of a road. The pilot died and his son was extracted with serious injuries.
  • In June 2017, an owner new to his Cirrus of 8 weeks encountered difficulty and crashed with serious injuries to the pilot and right-seat passenger.

In each of those accidents, I wonder who signed them off to fly their Cirrus?

How many used Cirrus airplanes change hands each year?

One of the first questions I wanted to explore was how many used Cirrus airplanes change ownership each year?

Our magazine publisher, Village Press, analyzes the FAA registration database to identify change of ownership so COPA can send invitations to join COPA.

Each year, there are about 800 changes.

We know Cirrus delivers about 300 new aircraft.  Those new owners receive transition training from Cirrus Aircraft.

Three of the largest brokers sell about 250 used aircraft each year. That leaves about 250 used aircraft sold by smaller brokers or owner-to-owner sales.

What kind of transition training do those 500 new owners of used aircraft utilize?

If they hire instructors who are part of the global training partner network run by Cirrus Aircraft, then they have access to substantial transition training resources.

If they hire local instructors or the ones that last trained them, we have no idea what resources they utilize?

Despite offers of transition training, no sale

One frustrating aspect to some of these low-time-of-ownership accidents has been discovering the failed attempts to encourage Cirrus transition training.

In one case, attempts were made by the broker, the training center where the pre-buy inspection was done, even the ferry pilot who flew the plane to the new owner. All attempts were rejected. The new owner apparently planned to use a local CFI with some experience flying a Cirrus. I have yet to determine if that CFI had any dual-instruction given in a Cirrus.

In another case, local COPA members discovered that the new owner had been seeking a lower-cost alternative to Cirrus-experienced instructors.

This suggests that new owners of used aircraft have several objections to Cirrus transition training.

What are the barriers?

It didn’t take long to brainstorm a set of barriers that might explain the lack of Cirrus transition training.


An old G1 Cirrus SR22, like mine, can be bought for less than $200,000.

That’s an affordable price for some. Others form a partnership with 2-3 owners to make the purchase feasible.

Do they then have sufficient funds to engage Cirrus transition training? Perhaps not.


In one of my examples above, the broker reported that the new owner rejected transition training with the explanation “It’s just a single-engine low-wing airplane, so I can handle that.” Within a couple of months, he was dead.

Capacity of Cirrus training network?:

Cirrus Aircraft manages a network of experienced Cirrus instructors who are committed to following standardized procedures.

Cirrus Training Centers (CTC): these instructors conform to the requirements of their Chief Instructor and are routinely audited by Cirrus regional training managers. There are 91 CTC centers in 11 countries.

Platinum Cirrus Standardized Instructor Pilots (Platinum CSIPs): these instructors are distinguished at a higher level of experience with lots of hours of Cirrus dual-given instruction, expertise with Cirrus avionics suites, engagement in promoting Cirrus and general aviation, and factory trained and audited. There are 80 Platinum CSIPs in 10 countries.

Cirrus Standardized Instructor Pilots (CSIPs): these instructors are factory trained who commit to using Cirrus training resources for their clients. There are approximately 350 CSIPs around the world.

But, for all of that capacity in the training network, are they fully booked? Do they have the capacity for the 500 new owners each year? And are they located in places convenient to the new owners?

Insurance lack of transition requirements?

Some people suggest that getting insurance for your new Cirrus should require transition training.

As Part 91 pilots, we have the freedom to choose many aspects of how we fly. One of them is choice of insurance underwriter.

We know a couple of underwriters do not require transition training per the Cirrus syllabus, just a checkout of a few hours.

We also know that some COPA members resist restrictions imposed on them by underwriters and hence seek out lower-cost premiums with fewer requirements on them.

We know that a few of these low-time-in-ownership fatal accidents were with those underwriters.

Knowing the problem is the first step to a solution

This column states what I know of the problem. Unfortunately, many things are not yet known, such as which of those barriers really exist with those new owners of used aircraft. 

Consequently, we are working on a proposal to conduct a study with a sample of new owners by a professional service. We want to ask the question and learn why new owners avoid things that would keep them safe.

Look for the safety keynote talk at M15 migration in Nashville in September.

  • Hi Rick, Thanks for the comprehensive article.  I have just bought a 2017 G6 SR22 Australis Premium and look forward to 3x days of training with a Platinum CSIP in Australia.  I have 300 hours of experience in a G1 SR22 but it had Avidyne avionics.  The new plane has Perspective Plus avionics.  My training is covered by the Cirrus Factory but I am a Doctor who has cancelled 3x days of clinics because I believe training is essential in becoming a better pilot.  This should translate to being at a lower risk of some of the accidents you have highlighted.  Keep up the good work in educating and informing current and future Cirrus pilots.  It is valued.

    Regards, Brett

  • Hi Rick. I’m just coming out of a 172 after receiving my PPL. I’ve purchased a G2 SR22 and have enrolled in the Embark program. My insurance company here in Canada has mandated this training plus another 15 hours of training with an instructor with significant SR22 experience. My feeling is that the more training I can get by the experts the better off I’ll be. It’s my life and I’m taking no chances.