Buying a SR22 for the chute

I currently fly an A36 and am a fairly conservative pilot. So while I
am happy flying in the day (VFR or IFR) I have avoided flying in the
night due to off-field landing concerns in desert/mountains regions
of (Nevada/California/Arizona).

A logic of a friend of mine is that I am much better off in a SR22.
While I give up some things which matter to me (Double door cargo
etc) I will open up flying in the night while keeping my risk profile
similar due to the chute

Any opinions on this line of logic? Am I really keeping risk profile the same or is it an illusion? Note I am not looking at any other advantages of the SR22 which I know are many. Just on the safety logic.




This is just my opinion so take it for what is. Others will probably have real numbers for comparison.

As Cirrus pilots and COPA members we live by the mantra of “Consider CAPS” (CAPS = Cirrus Airplane Parachute System). It is not the first thing we do at the sign of trouble but it is the first thing to consider. i.e. “Engine out - do I need CAPS? No, not yet - next thing on the list” we continue to circle back to CAPS while trouble shooting. If we get to the point where we run out of options, control or altitude then we will use CAPS.

I think the Chute is a game changer in both day and night flying, VMC or IMC.

Imagine yourself in your very awesome A36 flying in the mountains IMC. The ride is smooth and you’re living the dream. All of sudden your engine sputters to a halt. Things get real quiet while you try to get it restarted in IMC. You’re losing altitude and you know those mountains are only 1000 feet below. Ceilings are 700 feet with 2 miles of visibility. Once you break out you will have a few hundred feet to find a suitable landing zone. Even if you do see one there is no guarantee that you’ll make it in safely.

I know that is a pretty grim picture and I don’t mean to be a Debbie downer but it does make a good point.

There is no guarantee that a Chute pull will result in a no injury landing but you’re odds are much better of survival. Others here will have some hard numbers for you but, in a nut shell, CAPS saves lives.

Good luck!

I bought mine to do what many others do but with a lower risk. the type of flying I do is the type that lots of pilots do daily, but perhaps have a higher risk tolerance than I. This includes IMC, mountain flying, night flying, and even flying at lower altitudes that ruin an ordinary plane’s chances of gliding anywhere useful. Life is short, and even shorter when the $&@! hits the fan. I traded in a fast efficient Mooney for a Cirrus and am glad every time I fly. My rule is to never go anywhere without an “out”. The Cirrus gives you an out in almost every scenario. It gives our family an out too…and they put more trust in us than we deserve.

When flying a single engine piston aircraft, having a chute dramatically lowers your risk profile in all conditions. Consider that the energy absorbed in an impact is proportional to the square of the velocity. Under chute, you descend at 17 kts. An off field forced landing will have you contacting terra firm at at least 61 kts. That’s a lot more energy to absorb if you a not landing on a runway, an open road, or a smooth field. If you’re over mountainous terrain or water (with non-retractable gear) the chute is a no brainer in the event of an engine failure. Many on this site would also ague that a chute deployment is safer than a dead stick landing under any circumstances.

Actually you would be improving your risk profile.

For me (also originally coming from a Bonanza 36, s/n 17), the one and only case where CAPS changed my go/no-go decision was the situation you mentioned: night flights. Without it, you simply have no outs; an engine failure at night in this part of the country is pretty much a death sentence. With CAPS, it’s a wild ride and a story to tell your grandkids (IF you also carry a PLB, please!).

But as I have watched the system succeed again and again over the past 13 years or so, I came to the conclusion that CAPS was a better way to handle a forced landing in almost all situations, even day VFR. So in my opinion, your risk profile will decrease in a Cirrus, beyond just the night flight mitigation.

Of course, there are many other safety aspects to the Cirrus, including a very robust “roll cage” cabin, airbag seat belts, great visibility, etc.

Night flying is the primary reason I choose to fly a Cirrus. I own a Cessna Cardinal and will not fly it at night for the exact reasons you stated. Even over relatively flat terrain, an off airport night landing is absolutely not something I want to do. Day forced landings don’t thrill me either. We had a recent accident here at my home airport with a mis-fueled Malibu Mirage that lost power shortly after takeoff - In the city, there’s zero to few options of where to put it down - it cost the pilot his life.

Interesting story . . . a good friend of mine, also an endodontist and a CFII, owns a P210 in Scottsdale. He was on a night flight to San Diego with two passengers to go to a weekend meeting. About 15 or 20 minutes out, over mountainous desert terrain, pitch dark, his engine quit. His GPS showed he was 20 miles from the nearest airport and had no chance of making a field. He tried a restart, but no go. He figured . . . “this is how I’m going to go out”. He saw a string of lights to the south . . . I-10 . . . and headed for it. He barely made the freeway at under 1000 feet agl, lined up, and pitched to match the speed of the traffic. He saw his opening between two semi trucks with enough spacing between them and set it down, then high speed taxied on the fortunately very wide shoulder and into the sloping gravel, while traffic kept on moving along side of him. No car stopped or pulled over. He made a cell phone call to an airplane “hauler” he knows in Phoenix, who came right out, pulled the wings off, loaded it up, and he was back home by 2:00 AM.

I’m very certain that I’m not that good or lucky.

I just landed at KSLC after a 4 hour flight over the mountains, the last 90 minutes at night. No way I’m doing that in a piston single without a chute.

I would be very happy pulling a chute at night over the Rockies, what could possibly go wrong? [;)]

1000 foot drop bar inserted for scale. I think of the chute as an out when I am being prudent and it hits the fan. Not an out to do things That I would not do in the same plane without a chute.

I fly in the same areas, and the parachute was the number one factor in my decision to buy an SR22. I really wanted a Piper Saratoga…with 6 passengers and huge useful load. But the Saratoga has no chute and BRS isn’t working on one like they did for 172 and 182.

But I also discovered along the way some other huge SR22 advantages…

  • Unmatched ratio of redundancy and advanced avionics to price: Do the math. I found a stellar brand new looking 2005 SR22-GTS for $187K (yes, add the ‘cute’ repack and it did have 1,350TT). Try to find a 2005 ANYTHING with the loaded GTS features in that price range.

  • Fast, but economical: I typically get 170 knots ground speed at 12 gph lean of peak. In miles per gallon, that’s better than a 172!

  • Community: As you can see, the folks here are smart and extremely helpful. No question I’ve ever asked has gone unanswered. Also, the Cirrus events…annual migration, local courses, etc., are fantastic.

  • Cool Factor: I take up new passengers at least once a week. They LOVE the look and comfort of the plane (even in the back seat)…and many will give GA a try for the first time because of the 'chute.

Overall, I feel safe in my SR22. I add high personal minimums, exhaustive pre-flight procedures, and careful planning to the 'chute…and believe this plane is about as safe as it gets in GA.

When I took my mountain flying course, they pointed out the following 4 risk factors to flight:

  1. single engine

  2. mountain flying

  3. night flying

  4. IMC

They suggested that flying with more than 2 of those risk factors at the same time was extremely risky. Therefore, when flying a single engine piston plane in the mountains, there is really no room for the prudent pilot to go at night, or in IMC. Not to mention that at night it is much easier to encounter inadvertent IMC, which generally contains ice, and you are already in an underpowered aircraft (SR20) for mountain flight in general. The flight you described has a much higher risk profile than I would be comfortable with, and I think represents a potential downside of having a parachute, in that I think the knowledge that you have that safety feature encouraged you to make an excessively risky flight that you wouldn’t normally have taken. I don’t think the chute should be used to justify a flight that you wouldn’t take in a non-chute aircraft, it’s just another safety feature to help you if the @#$% hits the fan. You wouldn’t not wear your seatbelt because your car has airbags, right?

Bingo! A Cirrus is a nice airplane. It is fast, efficient and well equipped. It is competitive with anything in it’s class in most respects.

It also has an out that other planes don’t have. But don’t consume that safety factor by taking on additional risks you wouldn’t otherwise.

I disagree that flying single engine over mountains at night is an unaccepable risk. I’ve done it safely for 28 years and am approaching 2,000 hours of flight time. Some of that was IMC.

The main risk of flying over the mountains (day or night, VFR or IMC) is losing an engine. Here, I do consider my chute to be a second engine. It is the ONLY application of CAPS that I use to mitigate a risk factor.

Also, there are “mountains” and there are “mountains”. My flight from VNY to SLC was along Victor Airways along a route I’ve flown a dozen times day VFR. I know where those rocks are. The winds were light and the weather was CAVU. Would I make that same flight from, say, Grand Junction to Denver at night? Or with strong winds? Of course not.

If I could not fly over the mountains at night in my Cirrus, then I’m going commercial so often that I wouldn’t even own an airplane. To me, the loss of the freedom of flight is an unacceptable risk factor.

It is a risk, and you are comfortable with your mitigation strategy. I do think that the chute could potentially encourage someone to do things that have more risk than perceived though. I hike, bike and ski these mountains all the time. We have people die every year falling down these slopes doing just that with proper equipment, survival gear and training. What looks like a nice sloping hill from 2 miles away, is often a very treacherous and unforgiving slope or downright cliff. Next time you are hiking or skiing in the Rockies, or even driving through the passes, think to your self, where would I want to parachute down; and also think what parachute school would ever drop even the most experienced jumper out of the plane in these areas. I think a drop would be depending on a lot of luck, even the “flat” parts can be pretty hostile when you get up close. This ain’t Kansas :wink: I do fly over these Rocks at night, and IMC, but I pick altitudes and routes where I am always in glide of at least one airport.

But if you DID fly over mountains at night, are you safer in a Bo or an SR? (Rhetorical - no answer required.) ;)

I do think you are making an important distinction. I don’t know how the chute changes the overall risk equation if you start taking on riskier missions due to the chute.

For example, I often hear pilots say they will not fly at night in a plane without a chute, but will fly at night with a chute.

While a chute can mitigate some of the risks of night flying, there a lot of risks it is not effective in mitigating…basically anything that happens below 500 AGL (take-off and final approach and landing). So, I am not sure flying an SR22 at night+day is any safer than flying your Bo restricted to day only.

Having said that, if you are determined to fly at night regardless, the chute give you an additional option and thus should reduce your risk.

On mountain flying, Chuck Ivester makes good points about the risks of mountain flying that can’t be eliminated by the chute. I think the same logic applies as night flying…if you are committed to IMC mountain flying regardless, the chute should reduce risk. But, is IMC mountain flying in a Cirrus less risky than VMC flying in your Bo with a route carefully selected to stay within gliding range of an airport or at least benign terrain? I’m not sure, but would guess not.


Two have inferred… stated… that you should not fly the SR anywhere/time that you wouldn’t a non chute plane.

Really? I don’t buy that.

I’m NOT saying that you are as safe flying over mountains, at night, in IMC as you are sitting at home on your couch. Eliminate any one of the three (and don’t add anything else…), and I’m OK. But as always, if you choose to, just make sure your passengers are read in on the risks.

I sold the Bo and bought the SR because I do fly at night, and over/in wide spread IMC, and very often LIFR conditions. 98% of that is around Texas - fairly flat.

After having an oil indication problem coming back from Austin one night, and making a rapid unscheduled landing in Lampasas, I avoided night as much as I possibly could. Now, with the chute equipped SR, I enjoy flying night, again.

And I’m a LOT more comfortable making those early morning trips to Houston when I cross 250 miles of LIFR conditions.

Yes, both the Bo and the SR have risk, but IMO, one has measurably more risk.

There is nothing more valuable than training to mitigate risk. Combine that with a chute or second engine, and you get some, literally, staggering safety records (0.82 and 0.31 per 100k hours flown in a 3 year period and a 12 month period in the Cirrus is that definition).

So, Vijay, you know where I stand. Of course, you’ve seen my stance on BeechTalk. I don’t think you can fly a statistically safer plane until you burn kerosene, when you combine the plane with training. The one exception is a twin, but only if you fly a LOT, and go to SIMCOM every six months. At least, that’s what I need to feel safe. Most twin pilots think they train enough, but fatality stats say they don’t - roughly the same as over all singles.

I bought the SR only because of the chute. It came down to a twin or the chute. I recognize my propensity for putting things off when I’m busy. I could see myself saying, gee, I’ve flown every week for 6 months - why would one more month matter. At that point, I felt, for me, the twin became more of a risk than the SR.

Because I can’t afford a turbine, the decision was made. For me.

My .04. :shrug:

Good post and excellent point.

Before selling my much-love Bo, I tried the excellent Xavion app. I was truly shocked how often, even from 12k feet, I was NOT within gliding distance of an airport.

I have often said that were I not using the plane for business, and not needing to fly on a schedule, I would have never sold the Bo. I really enjoy the SR, and have no regrets, but the nostalgic beauty of flight characteristics of a v-tail are tough to give up. :pilot:

Depends on whether you wish to die from impact or from exposure. [;)] Remember that S&R won’t get going until daylight even if they know with good confidence when and where you went down. Carry what you need to survive the night in snow and cold!

I know I sound like a broken record, but it’s consequences that are being mitigated by CAPS/BRS, not risk.

Scott has made his own deliberate risk/consequences calculations and I respect that whether my own conclusions would be the same or not.

Yes, there were flights I made with CAPS/BRS that I hesitated to undertake without it. I was more comfortable making flights with BRS on board that I might otherwise have deferred or done differently: over harsh terrain (in daylight), over widespread low-ish IMC (e.g, the central valley’s winter Tule Fog) or at night anywhere. I viewed CAPS/BRS as an additional piece of safety equipment in a way analogous to how I viewed an autopilot or XMWX.

Off topic, but there is a fairly new EFB app out of Australia that not only shows you which airports are within glide range (accounting for both winds and terrain) while is flight, it also show glide range circles in pre-flight mode thus allowing you to construct routes and select altitudes before leaving the ground to keep you within glide range of an airport to the degree you are comfortable with. That also allows you to brief diversion points pre-flight…sort of like equal-time-points (ETP) and points-of-safe-return (PSR)in oceanic flying. In the mid-teens it may not always be possible to construct a route that is in glide range 100% of the time, but 90-95% should not be too difficult if you are willing to add 10% or so to direct routing time.


This morning’s flight is about as good as it gets… Smooth clear and calm SLC through Weber Pass then on to Bismarck. The 4G on my iPhone 6 is amazing at 1,500’ AGL

I’ll post more spectacular pics when I land at BIS in about 3 hours.