May 29, 2013
By Dan Namowitz
Cirrus Aircraft, touting 2012 as one of its safest years, announced a new pilot training initiative and an effort to enhance the quality of Cirrus-specific flight instruction and standardization.
The new program, known as Cirrus Approach, is the company’s “top corporate priority for 2013” to be supported by increased staffing and other resources, said Dale Klapmeier, CEO of the Duluth, Minn.-based company.
Educating pilots who fly the company’s high-performance composite single-engine aircraft on the proper use of the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System, or CAPS, will be a key component of the training initiative.
“Cirrus Approach includes a dedicated effort to educate Cirrus owners of the need to train to use CAPS,” Cirrus said in a May 23 news release. “CAPS is proven, with 69 lives saved to date. Not a single life has been lost when CAPS has been used within the pilot operating handbook parameters. By the company's estimation, potentially more than two-thirds of all fatal Cirrus accidents could have had a different outcome if the pilot would have simply pulled the CAPS handle, activating this unique safety device.”
Cirrus has made a suite of CAPS training materials—including a video, a training syllabus, and information on the location of CAPS simulators—available on its website.
Klapmeier said Cirrus also is seeking to enhance the overall instructional quality available to its customers. That goal prompted the company to bring on board two new flight training quality specialists who will visit Cirrus’s corporate training and standardization partners to “discuss new techniques in Cirrus-specific flight training, aircraft and procedure knowledge to help enhance flight instructor quality and standardization.”
Although the Cirrus accident rate “has historically been on par with the rest of the single engine general aviation industry,” that is not an acceptable level, Klapmeier said.
“We build our airplanes to be the absolute safest in the industry, with features like the cuffed wing to help prevent spins, electronic stability protection (ESP) to protect pilots from unusual flight attitudes, the ‘Blue Level button’ to engage the autopilot while avoiding pilot spatial disorientation, and of course the parachute," he said. “But if pilots do not utilize these features or are not trained properly on how to use them, then these safety devices are not as effective as they could be.”
As the two goals of the outreach effort suggest, Cirrus has long been known for a less-than-conventional approach. But not all Cirrus pilots have learned to manage aircraft systems and flight-control characteristics the easy way.
In February 2004, AOPA Foundation President Bruce Landsberg reported on flying a Cirrus SR22 and discussed the company’s emphasis on safety. He analyzed selected mishaps associated with Cirrus aircraft as sales grew with pilots responding to the prospect of Cirrus’s speed, comfort, and affordability.
“A number of Cirrus pilots have fallen into the same traps that affect pilots of mature-technology aircraft. There have been a few maintenance or aircraft-generated problems, but pilots continue, as always, to be the leading factor in damaging fully functional airplanes,” he wrote, urging pilots to take time to learn how to manage Cirrus aircraft’s handling characteristics and systems.
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor.
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