Cirrus/Lancair Safety

I think we all agree that the biggest factor regarding the safety of these aircraft is the pilot. Whether he or she can cope with the higher speeds, etc., is important; but more important is their expectation of what they and their planes are capable of.

On the Lancair board there’s a thread called “No more commercial” in which pilots describe how much less they use the airlines now that they have their own planes which can get them where they want to go with much less hassle and sometimes even faster. But the thread also illustrates the fact that more and more pilots will expect these planes to get them where they want, when they want. These modern aircraft look more and more like airliners in terms of their navigational capabilities, but there are two big differences: the robustness of the plane and the skill of the pilot. The plane lacks the systems redundancy (multi-engines, multi-generators, etc.) and the all-weather capabilities (known icing, turbulence tolerance, ability to fly above the weather, etc.) of the “big iron,” and the pilots, by-and-large, lack the experience, proficiency, and flight support that airline pilots have (not to mention the copilots!). These differences are what allow the airlines to get you there pretty much any time in pretty much any weather. To expect the Lancair or Cirrus to do the same, especially with a less proficient pilot up front, will inevitably lead to trouble.


Good points, IMHO. In the two-plus years that I’ve had the Cirrus, I’ve relied on it for a variety of travel I used to do via the airlines – especially from the SF area to the LA area when I was in California, and now from the DC area to Boston, a trip I frequently make. But an important part of the transition has been recognizing that in fact I can’t rely on using the airplane – not for mechanical reasons (only one scrubbed flight for that reason) but because of weather. This year’s non-stop storms on the east coast have lost their charm.

So the trick is recognizing that there is, on balance, some practical utility to private aviation – though for most people in most circumstances it has to be justified as an avocation rather than a purely practical undertaking. It’s just that there are severe limits to the practical applications, and if you forget about them you get into some of the scenarios we’ve been studying in the NTSB reports.

If the mini-jet / Eclipse industry gets going, it should be much different. First, the planes are designed to be more robust; second, the air-taxi model assumes professional pilots.

I think this is and excellent point, especially when it comes to business use. I always schedule my flights for business with the idea that I must make a go-no go decision no later than it would allow me make alternate plans, be it fly commercial, drive, or reschedule. To schedule a departure for an important meeting and then at the last minute be forced to make an iffy decision, sets you up to possibly make a bad decision.

The inflexibility of a particular meeting makes it very important to make the decision much earlier.

I also make it very clear to the parties involved when I am planning to fly, AND that there may be an unforeseen problem with my making it. This way I try to never paint myself into the “go at any cost” box.