Cirrus Fatal Accident Frequency

The following chart illustrates the frequency of fatal Cirrus accidents and CAPS saves over the past 15 years. (CAPS = Cirrus Airframe Parachute System, see Cirrus CAPS History)

(Data compiled by COPA includes all known fatal accidents and survivable CAPS deployments in Cirrus aircraft world-wide, hence more than those investigated by the NTSB.)

Each bar represents one quarter year, with red bars representing fatal accidents, green CAPS saves and yellow 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 months 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 grew less quickly than the increased size of the Cirrus fleet. Furthermore, the use of the CAPS has significantly increased in the past three years. Here is the frequency of fatal accidents and survivable CAPS deployments:

(Data compiled by COPA includes all known fatal accidents and survivable CAPS deployments in Cirrus aircraft world-wide, hence more than those investigated by the NTSB.)

And the number of fatalities has also changed dramatically from 2011 to 2015. However, recent uptick in fatalities prompts continued diligence in promoting safety behaviors.

(Data compiled by COPA includes fatalities in all known fatal accidents in Cirrus aircraft world-wide, hence more than those investigated by the NTSB.)

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: 0.89

We use a 3-year average because, with a modest fleet size of just under 7,500 airplanes flying about 1,000,000 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 30 times more aircraft flying about 20 times more hours.

In the past 36 months, there have been 24 fatal accidents and approximately 2,700,000 flying hours for a rate of 0.89 fatal accident per 100,000 hours of flying time.

Past 12 months: 0.84

In the past 12 months, there have been 8 accidents in approximately 950,000 flight hours for a rate of 0.84 fatal accidents per 100,000 hours.

GA fleet: 0.99 overall, 2.53 for Personal & Business flying

We compare the Cirrus fatal accident rate to the overall general aviation rate for non-commercial fixed-wing aircraft of 0.99 for 2016 (ref preliminary aviation statistics for 2016 in NTSB aviation safety statistics).

The Cirrus rates compare favorably with the overall GA rate. Over the past 5 years, the average fatal accident rate of 0.49 compares favorably to 1.13, the average of the NTSB fatal accident rate for the past 5 years.

However, the NTSB report covers all types of GA flying, including corporate flying with professional pilots, as well as twin-engine aircraft and turbo-prop and turbojet aircraft, which skews the personal and business activity comparable to flying done by Cirrus SR2X aircraft.* Furthermore, the NTSB accident rate for GA filters for N-reg aircraft that have fatal accidents while not flying Part 135 operations. Hence, the NTSB rate does not include most foreign accidents, whereas COPA includes all Cirrus fatal accidents world-wide.

Consequently, we also compare the civil aviation 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 2.05 for 2013. The Cirrus SR2X rates compare favorably with those more comparable activities.

(Data compiled by COPA includes all known fatal accidents in Cirrus aircraft world-wide, hence more than those investigated by the NTSB. Flying hours for the fleet of 6,000+ Cirrus aircraft provided by the reliability engineering group of Cirrus Aircraft. Flying hours for the GA fleet of 150,000+ aircraft provided by Bureau of Transportation Statistics in the FAA GA and Air Taxi Survey.)

The fatal accident rates for Cirrus aircraft averaged over 12-months (blue) and 36-months (red) compared with the NTSB reported GA fatal accident rate (green) and Personal & Business rate (thick green).

*Caution on comparing fatal accident rates

Care must be taken when comparing fatal accident rates with other aircraft models or manufacturers. COPA has access to the estimated fleet hours for Cirrus SR2X fleet because the Reliability Engineering staff at Cirrus Aircraft maintain a database of flight hours by serial number for their world-wide fleet. COPA then uses those hours with the world-wide number of fatal 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-wing 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. Consequently, the NTSB can calculate the fatal accident rates by type of operation separately.

(Sources: NTSB data presented by Board Member Earl Weener, 25 February 2017, from the NTSB (green) and COPA fatal accident rates filtered to match NTSB criteria (blue))

Those operations are weighted quite differently than the Cirrus fleet. For instance, corporate 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 corporate 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 after 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.

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