Cirrus Parachute: A Successful Failure?

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My blog last week on an imaginary trip in a single-engine airplane across California's Sierra west of Reno was a little experiment that seems to have failed miserably. Or at least I think it did. I was trying to tease out of the audience a little rumination over whether having a BRS-equipped airplane like a Cirrus would fundamentally affect risk judgment. Most readers, if they addressed it all, shrugged off the parachute as having no effect on the go/no-go decision.

The scenario I posited wasn't actually imaginary, but was based on this accident which occurred February 6, 2005 in Norden, California. The pilot departed Reno/Tahoe Airport for an IFR flight at night to Oakland, California across the Sierra in IMC, but with no ice in the forecast. What I didn't mention was that the airplane was equipped with the "no hazard" version of TKS. That system's not approved for flight in known icing but is, nonetheless, an effective measure against icing and is intended to provide a means of escape. Whether it was used in this accident is unknown. The pilot, by the way, had about 473 hours total time, with 69 hours in type. To my mind, that's relatively low time to tackle night IMC over high terrain, icing or not.

Most who commented on the blog said they would not have made the flight under these circumstances, a few said they would. Personally, I would not have. The deal breaker is the high terrain. I have just enough mountain experience to know that mountains make their own weather, it can change fast and there's no necessity to fly anywhere that would make me tackle this at night and I don't scare that easily. Also, I occasionally cancel a flight when I think I could do it simply to demonstrate to myself that I'm not susceptible to gethomeitis. I ended up agreeing with reader John Wilson, who said he wouldn't do it either, but it's not unthinkable. For those nonplussed by the mountains, I wouldn't try to talk you out of it. Have at it.

Still, the nagging question remains for me. Why would a sub-500-hour pilot charge into these conditions? Did the TKS system provide a false sense of security? Did the BRS? Or the two together? The icing seemed to put the airplane into an uncontrolled descent within two minutes. Really? Or could this simply be a case of an inexperienced pilot who had never seen much ice simply panicking and diving for the deck trying to escape it? We'll probably never know.

I spent two weeks in December researching the Cirrus accident record and comparing it to other like aircraft. The type of scenario described above was hardly isolated. I frequently asked myself…why did this pilot do this? Take on this weather or this terrain? And having gotten into the jam by his own hand, why didn't he extract himself the same way by using the BRS? Easily more than half of the 83 fatal Cirrus crashes could have been survival stories, yet they were not? Why not? No one knows.

Having pored over these reports, my opinion is that there's definitely more risk homeostasis going on than many will admit to. Risk homeostasis is the phenomenon whereby someone will assume more risk if he or she is aware of some sort of magic bullet as the ultimate backstop. In this case, that would be the Cirrus' BRS. This theory is nothing new and has been debated.

But what hasn't been discussed much outside the Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association (and Cirrus itself) is why these pilots in extremis aren't resorting to the parachute. Its deployment record and survival rate is good and although it alone hasn't made the Cirrus accident rate better than average, pilots who deploy the parachute within its envelope have survived to fly another day. A dozen of the airplanes have been repaired and flown again. Not bad.

I think what's going on is this: For a pilot of less than exceptional talent and competence, flying a TAA like the Cirrus doesn't leave much headroom when things aren't going just as expected. When things really go south, you fall back on your lowest level of training and externalities get dumped from the thought stream sooner rather than later. My guess is that BRS isn't well trained enough, isn't well understood enough and isn't well-enough incorporated into the OODA loop to survive the tunnel vision that any about-to-have-an-accident pilot is going to suffer. In other words, they don't pull the handle because they can't pull the handle.

The overarching question is can they be trained to? Maybe. COPA is noodling some ideas to do this very thing. Not to be too cynical about it, but I don't think it's going to have much effect on the overall accident pattern. Unless someone comes up with an exceptionally clever way of training up for this problem, I think many GA pilots just don't have the analytical capability to make these decisions under duress.

It does, after all, get complicated. If you're thinking about deploying the parachute, you need to do it within the system's envelope. So as your mind starts to turn to mush, you have to be aware of that. Yet another thing to parse as you try to sort out whatever problem is making you think about the parachute in the first place. In the Norden accident, it's thought that the pilot deployed beyond the system's maximum speed. Was he aware of speed? Or just task-focused on a hell-for-leather descent? Who knows? Perhaps the fact that most readers blew off even discussing the parachute is telling. Maybe we don't think about it enough.

By the way, the forgoing is not to suggest I don't approve of BRS. I think the system is a good idea, I don't think it has been oversold and I'd want it in any airplane I could afford, especially an LSA. But thinking something is a good idea and having that idea have a meaningful impact on accident rates are two different things.

Later in the week, I'll have another commentary on the actual numbers my research yielded.

For a research paper on risk homeostasis, click this link.

Comments (127)

"I was trying to tease out of the audience a little rumination over whether having a BRS-equipped airplane like a Cirrus would fundamentally effect risk judgment."

Paul~

A early 1920's air-mail pilot certainly could have appreciated having one. It would have been similar to jet fighters having ejection seats.

But having one should not play a factor for a GA pilot deciding to cross the Sierra on a night such as this. It would be irresponsible for a GA pilot to launch saying, "Let's go. We can always pull the BRS if we get into trouble."

First: A parachute landing in the Sierra at night would be no picnic, and would have no guarantee of survivability. Hitting the side of a mountain under a parachute and sliding to the bottom would probably cause the pilot to become a "mort."

Second: Were I the insurance carrier, my company resist paying damages to the pilot/airplane owner who took off depending on the BRS as a substitute for his/her bad judgement.

Posted by: Gary Dikkers | January 9, 2012 1:06 AM    Report this comment

Paul, You might research statistics with Mooney's Positive Control "PC", that became standard on their models in the 60's. It was a wing leveler that was always on. To turn you presses a spring loaded shut-off button on the control wheel, or you could override it, by pressure. It was supposed to prevent graveyard spirals if a VFR pilot stumbled into the clouds. Mooney dropped it after several years.

Posted by: Claude Wagner | January 9, 2012 1:49 AM    Report this comment

"Hitting the side of a mountain under a parachute and sliding to the bottom would probably cause the pilot to become a "mort.""

This is, I'm afraid, a common misconception about BRS. The very scenario you describe here actually happened. One of the early CAPS deployments came after a turbulence upset in the mountains over British Columbia. The airplane landed under canopy on a steep slope and slid downhill for 1/4 mile in a scree field.

Not only did the occupants survive, the airplane was helicoptered out, repaired and is still flying. In general, claims that BRS landings could be fatal for any factor you care to list have not been borne out by the data. That's not to minimize the risk, because there is some. Low-altitude deployments are a problem.

On the other hand, as of this morning, there have been 32 CAPS deployments involving 59 occupants, 41 of whom have survived uninjured--a 70 percent survival rate. Seven have been seriously injured. There have been six fatalities associated with CAPs deployment but none when the system was deployed within its envelope.

That's why I said the decision making here can be complicated and, in the aggregate, possibly so complex as to not make a dent in the overall rate. Five years from now, I will happy to be proved wrong.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | January 9, 2012 5:32 AM    Report this comment

Paul, I agree with your assessment of a pilot in distress forgetting the parachute. When I took my primary training I was told to use GUMPS as I was entering the pattern to be sure the airplane was ready to land. This was stressed even more when I moved to complex retracts. I also flew with instructors that insisted on practicing emergency situations/procedures in the aircraft. At that time none of the aircraft I flew had a BRS, but if it had I'm sure we would have discussed and practised BRS deployment (simulated). Bottom line: BRS use would need to be practised as part of the emergency process until it became second nature for the pilot to consider that option - in time to be useful.

Posted by: Richard Norris | January 9, 2012 5:51 AM    Report this comment

Very interesting line of thought, Paul. Thanks for writing it.

I think it is possible the problem with Cirrus is not about the pilot training but rather about the marketing strategy. It seems they offer their product as so safe with so many save-you features that anyone can safely fly the planes. All you need is enough money to buy one. This has generated lots of sales, but not a very good safety record.

I came up through the USAF aero club program. This is exactly the opposite approach to safety from the one Cirrus promotes. It teaches student pilots that safety is number one and all else gets considered after the safety question. It uses the same regs, aircraft, and instructor procedures, but adds a military safety oriented touch. I don't know how this translates to accident records, but I've had FAA safety experts tell me that pilots who came through the military aero club path make up the top 5 percent of GA pilots in the safety area.

On the mountain flying question - I live near the Cascade mountain range and love to fly over it. I only fly in the daytime and severe clear weather. The secret to enjoying mountain flying is one I learned from my friend and EAA chapter president Bob Martilla. He said if the surface winds are over 12 knots don't do it. I've found it is the redirection of the winds that make all the turbulence and other difficulties in mountain flying.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | January 9, 2012 5:54 AM    Report this comment

Paul,

Until today I was unfamiliar with the term "risk homeostasis" but I agree with you that it exists. A couple days ago I spoke to a pilot who was flying with another pilot, taking some pretty big risks with terrain, fuel supply, etc. and when my friend mentioned the risks, this pilot replied, "Don't worry. We have a parachute!"

Years ago I was involved with an on-demand charter service using the Cirrus SR-22 and completed the factory approved training course. It beats you upside the head with the five different situations where you should deploy the chute but, at that time at least, there was not one word about the aeronautical decision making (ADM) factors related to the BRS.

No one can argue that the lady whose husband had a stroke or the guy who had flight controls depart the airplane were clean and clear "saves" for the BRS.

What is not clear is how many of the other deployments came to pass because of a thought process which included the pilot encouraging him or her self with the words "we always have the parachute."

It would be naive to think that at in at least some of those accidents had this as a contributing factor.

If I were in charge at Cirrus, I would add to the factory/insurance approved qualification course a couple hours of ADM specifically addressing the BRS.

At I would add a statement to the training course to the effect of:

"If you are saying to yourself, 'Don't worry, we have a parachute," that's a day you need to stay on the ground."

Posted by: Carl Andersen | January 9, 2012 6:20 AM    Report this comment

A little besides the point but nonetheless : with electrical systems beefed up considerably, how far are we from a simple hot 'carbon film' leading edge ?

Posted by: Peter De Ceulaer | January 9, 2012 6:28 AM    Report this comment

Hi Paul,

It certainly seems to me that this is primarily a training issue. I also believe that it is possible for Cirrus or BRS to improve the design by adding an effective spoiler system that would activate before the main chute.

My wife and I have discussed flying again but would only do so with a BRS equipped (LSA) aircraft.

Posted by: rick ward | January 9, 2012 7:02 AM    Report this comment

Maybe the sales advertising for BRS should include:

"PROTECTING YOU FROM NATURAL SELECTION"!

Posted by: Tom Evernham | January 9, 2012 7:10 AM    Report this comment

"whether having a BRS-equipped airplane like a Cirrus would fundamentally affect risk judgment."

No wonder it failed miserably. Pilots don't think that wasting an aircraft is a "successful" flight. You don't plan for your butt to make it to a destination, you plan for your AIRCRAFT to arrive.

As far as the flight, it was very short and the briefer gave no significant weather. It was a "go" because there was no specific reason NOT to fly.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | January 9, 2012 7:12 AM    Report this comment

Paul, I believe I can speak for the average Cirrus owner here since I have owned two. No one makes a go/no go decision based on CAPS availability. My decision about crossing mountains at night in weather is bases on ceilings. I fly across the Appalachians often both day and night. If the ceilings are below a couple thousand feet I'm going another day or going around them if I have to make the trip which I have done. As far as making the pull should we end up in a situation that we are not going to make an airport. You betcha, my wife and anyone that flies with me regularly has been trained to make the pull also. Insurance company just bought themselves an airplane and we live to fly another day. The training is there you just have to be level headed enough to get in the parameters and use it.

Posted by: Brian Bailey | January 9, 2012 7:26 AM    Report this comment

The problem has been at the back of my mind since I started reading accident reports on the cirrus series. Many of the events indicate unnecessary risks taken by the pilot. Aircraft are designed to stay in one piece and glide given an engine failure. Structural and aerodynamic failure is least of the issue. Many of the chute deployements would not have been necessary.

It has become a crutch to use as a poor excuse for good decision making.

Posted by: Christopher Basham | January 9, 2012 7:26 AM    Report this comment

I'd say it has a lot to do with the aerodynamics of the wing. I've noticed a lot of stall/spin accidents in the cirrus close to the ground. The parachute doesn't come into it much, but you have to pay a price for a nice slippery aircraft that goes fast with the gear down. I think there are quite a few pilots out there flying cirrus aircraft that don't quite understand this or have the skills necessary to properly fly that wing in all circumstances.

Posted by: James Howery | January 9, 2012 7:28 AM    Report this comment

Brian Bailey's comments illustrate exactly why the Cirrus has such a poor fatal accident record. Risk homeostasis is a sub-conscience process! People aren't aware that they feel safer in the aircraft because it has a parachute and therefore increase their acceptable level of risk as a result, but the proof is there in the kind of accidents that Cirrus pilots have. Cirrus pilots claim that the parachute doesn't affect their decision making, but you don't find so many non-parachute equipped aircraft over the mountains in the dark in icing and turbulence.

You see the same effect in cars that have ABS brakes. Studies show that drivers of these vehicles speed more, tailgate more, brake harder and weave in and out more. And, yes they have a higher accident rate, not lower, because of these "safety" devices. In almost all cases people take "safety devices" and use them to go faster, not "go safer".

For a complete understanding of Risk Homeostasis Theory, you need to read the book by the person who developed the theory, Dr Gerald Wilde of Queens University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Fortunately he posted the complete book on line for free and it is very readable. http://psyc.queensu.ca/target/

Posted by: Adam Hunt | January 9, 2012 7:57 AM    Report this comment

It looks like AVweb's forum software scrubbed the link to the book, so just do a web search for "Target Risk Gerald J.S. Wilde" and you will find it.

Posted by: Adam Hunt | January 9, 2012 7:59 AM    Report this comment

"No one makes a go/no go decision based on CAPS availability"

No one? Not one single one? That's quite a broad statement. It may be neither provable nor disprovable, but my gut tells me risk distortion may have been a factor in one of those 83 fatals.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | January 9, 2012 8:00 AM    Report this comment

First, we are trained as pilots. "First fly the airplane" has been drilled into my head like my children's names. How do you transition from that to "Give up and take a carnival ride"? I've been coming up against this test flying an experimental with a BRS for a friend. Before each flight I sit in the aircraft and practice turning off the ignitions, counting to three to make sure the prop has stopped (it's a pusher and I don't want the bridle line to get tangled in the prop)and only then pulling the red handle. When I tested the aircraft for stalling characteristics with flaps I did that mantra before each test. I think if things went bad I would pull the handle but there's always that doubt. In two engine outs in aircraft with a BRS I automatically went with my training and didn't even think about the BRS until I was on the ground, out of the aircraft. Second, we automatically assume the BRS to be that perfect machine that always works when called upon. Cessna's experience with the Skycatcher put the lie to that.

Posted by: RICHARD GIRARD | January 9, 2012 8:02 AM    Report this comment

Part of the reason maybe a fear of just sitting there in the quiet airplane waiting for the landing. Car manufactures offering Stop and Start systems, now in their third generation found many people switched them off, even though they were and are very reliable and save 10-20% fuel in heavy traffic, because they could not stand being in a stationary car on the road without the motor turning. So it could be people prefer the screaming descent or the stuttering engine because they cannot imagine sitting under a relatively quiet parachute waiting for the big thump.

Posted by: Brian McCulloch | January 9, 2012 8:09 AM    Report this comment

>> risk distortion may have been a factor in one of those 83 fatals <<

Is this just another way of saying these unfortunate pilots suffered from poor judgement?

I think the big lesson we can learn from the Cirrus story is that our training program just doesn't do a good job of instilling good judgement in pilots. Perhaps a way to prove this correct or wrong is to study the accident statistics of pilots from different training environments. Perhaps there is no difference between pilots from the military training programs and civilian programs or the FBO based training vs. big school (e.g. ERAU) programs. I suspect huge differences would be found if the study were done. I would do it myself but I am not properly skilled and just plain too lazy. Unfortunately this is not one of the facts recorded by our government bureaucrats when they track pilots.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | January 9, 2012 8:10 AM    Report this comment

I can not imagine any pilot ending a flight under the BRS would call it a successful landing, even if there is minimal damage and no one is hurt. You are just happy to be alive, but you failed in your mission to land safely. The BRS is a safety net only and not a plan B. How could you launch into ice, thinking that the BRS is your only plan B? It's like setting your house on fire because the bathtub is full of water and you think you can survive.

Posted by: Paul Mcclure | January 9, 2012 8:33 AM    Report this comment

Rick, you have illuminated what I see as somewhat central to the discussion. Can--or more appropriately, will--pilots sort through the decision tree under duress to reach the right decision. This is where I have my doubts.

One could argue that this concern is beside the point. The real point may be that it's good enough to have the BRS available as a second chance for those capable of using it. For those who aren't, sorry. Hope you weren't thinking it was a passive safety system.

In that case, the expectation of it having a positive effect on the airplane's safety record is immaterial. Maybe that's not why it's there.

Paul, the judgment issue is interesting. I reviewed nearly 1000 accidents for this research and was struck by what I saw as a persistent streak of questionable judgment in the Cirrus accidents. But I may very well be a victim on confirmation bias on thinking that.

But then I go back to the raw numbers. Why does the Cirrus have a worse fatal accident rate than other models. With BRS, why isn't it better?

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | January 9, 2012 8:37 AM    Report this comment

I wonder if there has been any study of the number of pilot flight hours vs. Cirrus ownership/rentals. In other words, is this relatively hot airplane being flown by under-experienced pilots, who are still well within "the killing zone" because they can afford the dollars to buy or rent but haven't yet accumulated the necessary experience to know that they are taking unnecessary risks? In other words, have they not yet developed the judgment to make those risk decisions? It's often said that good judgment comes from surviving bad decisions--and recognizing that they were bad decisions. But that recognition takes time, and time takes experience.

Posted by: Cary Alburn | January 9, 2012 8:41 AM    Report this comment

Adam, I posted the Wilde link at the bottom of the blog. I had read an article by him on the subject, but not this paper.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | January 9, 2012 8:43 AM    Report this comment

"No one? Not one single one? "

Not even one. The BRS is no different than an inflatable raft or a fire axe. They are tertiary, not primary.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | January 9, 2012 8:44 AM    Report this comment

Lol, if you wanted a topic that will raise temperatures without getting anywhere you found it.

Perhaps things have settled down, but years ago, friendships ended over the cirrus /brs safety issue.

The owners group had a great stat showing that their members had a much better safety record so whatever the problem is, training/knowledge can help. Someone mentioned the wing but there have been changes made in the wing, so the newer planes may be doing better (or the newer training that likely comes with it).

I read a few years ago they were training pilots to grab the handle to build muscle memory. I don't know if they have any rules to help decide inputs to get into the envelope. Cirrus owners?

If you are going to fly hard IFR to get places, I say buy a Mooney. That's what I did. :)

Posted by: Eric Warren | January 9, 2012 8:48 AM    Report this comment

Paul: Thanks for adding the link. Wilde developed RHS some years ago and it is widely accepted these days because experimental evidence supports it strongly. Safety programs that have applied his work have seen substantial improvements in accident rates. But there are still lots of safety programs out there that try to rely on new safety devices, only to find that the users apply them to go faster or further (or to get home over the mountains in the dark in icing) and not just to go the same speed or distance only safer.

People have a set amount of risk that they are willing to accept and if their situation is made more risky they will take steps to increase their safety. But the converse is also true, if their situation is made safer they will take steps to regain their comfortable level of risk. This produces odd results in many fields, such as the fact that people who quit smoking actually live less long than those who keep smoking. I suspect that it also means that pilots who feel safer because of the parachute will take more risky decisions, just because the parachute makes them feel safer.

The problem seems to be that while the parachute makes them feel safer they aren't using it in a timely manner or at all and that means that it is giving a false sense of security. This results in a defacto increase in the real level of risk and hence the increase in the fatal accident rate that the data shows.

Posted by: Adam Hunt | January 9, 2012 8:59 AM    Report this comment

Well Fraser, you managed to elegantly, if inadvertently, disprove your own point.

Ask pilots with GA overwater experience, and you'll find a large percentage of them who will fly an overwater segment with a raft that they won't fly without a raft. (Or PFDs, if you prefer.)

Therefore, having the raft both prepares them for survival but it also causes them to accept higher risk for which is no certainty that having the raft will improve the outcome.

This is a fine example of risk homeostasis.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | January 9, 2012 9:00 AM    Report this comment

"Ask pilots with GA overwater experience, and you'll find a large percentage of them who will fly an overwater segment with a raft that they won't fly without a raft. (Or PFDs, if you prefer.) "

I think that's the first time I've heard a comparison between carrying a PFD for over-water flights to a BRS, and I have to admit it's one I've never considered. I would not do an extended over-water flight (single-engine piston) without a PFD or life raft.

But the difference there is that a PFD is to help me survive *after* the landing/crash, where as a BRS is only there to get me *to* the landing (though not ignoring the fact that post-crash preparations are moot if you never make it that far). Where I can see a BRS being useful and a consideration in my go/no-go decision is when considering flight over inhospitable terrain where the likelihood of a safe crash landing is reduced (wooded or mountainous terrain with few-to-zero suitable landing areas). I think using BRS as a go/no-go factor when considering only weather conditions is the wrong way to go, and may explain the accident record. Also, if I were using BRS to hedge against airframe failure, I shouldn't have taken off to begin with.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | January 9, 2012 9:16 AM    Report this comment

Isn't part of the problem that acceptable risk for a given pilot is subjective, even unconscious, but rarely objective? "Having a raft will save me" is probably a subjective belief, as you say.

I'm reminded of the old saw that good judgement is learned by exercising poor judgement and surviving.

More ADM to "spring load" pilots to use the CAPS seems to be beside the point.

The whole point of risk homeostasis is to motivate us to accept less risk, something that experience and age often accomplish without an elegant theory to explain the change in our behavior.

"I'll never do that again..."

Posted by: JAMES GRANT | January 9, 2012 9:16 AM    Report this comment

The time to decide when to pull the chute, like so many other decisions in aviation, is before you leave the ground. If I flew a BRS equipped plane I would want to know under what circumstances it made sense to pull, then I would have to decide that if I ever met those conditions, I pull the chute, period. Unfortunately the chute's limited deployment speed is less than the Cirrus' cruise speed making it useless in the the likely scenario of loss of control in IMC and the clean airframe which will build speed very quickly. In the context of Paul's Reno flight, by the time the pilot realizes he needs the chute it's too late.

Posted by: Richard Montague | January 9, 2012 9:19 AM    Report this comment

On a slightly off-topic subject, I'm starting to come to my own conclusion that most GA accidents (at least, those not involving mechanical failure outside of the pilot's control) are rooted in complacency. It's so easy to unwittingly fall into the trap of complacency that it takes real effort to be on the lookout for it.

To that end, I expect some of the failed BRS deployments (i.e. deployed outside the envelope) to be the result of the pilot too late realizing he/she was over their head. They feel they can handle situation and recover, and that the BRS is there to save them if they can't. But the reality is, when things go quickly south, there is only a small window of opportunity to deploy, and if its use is not part of the pilots' regularly-practiced emergency procedures, it's always going to be a too-little-too-late decision.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | January 9, 2012 9:26 AM    Report this comment

"This results in a defacto increase in the real level of risk and hence the increase in the fatal accident rate that the data shows."

To me, it seem plausible that this *might* be what's happening. The dataset is rather small and the nature of the data can be ambiguous, but it's all we've got.

Try this thought experiment. What if the Cirrus didn't have BRS? Then what? I think we could reasonably assume far fewer would have been sold. (700+ Columbia/Corvalis vs. 5000+ Cirrus) Everyone I speak to on this subject agrees the parachute has been a brilliant and effective sales tool.

So without BRS, where would the Cirrus fatal rate be? What reason is there to believe it wouldn't be exactly the same as the Columbia's is, which is substantially lower?

Further, the percentage of Cirrus accidents that are fatal is 48%, the highest of any models we've seen. (The 182 has a 21% fatality rate.) Why is the Cirrus so high?

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | January 9, 2012 9:33 AM    Report this comment

"Therefore, having the raft both prepares them for survival but it also causes them to accept higher risk"

Paul, That wonderfully makes my point. The risk factor does NOT increase by flying non-BRS aircraft. That means that the BRS is a tertiary item(at best). Basically it's relegated to "lucky rabbit foot" status when it comes to operation of a certified aircraft.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | January 9, 2012 9:35 AM    Report this comment

The fact remains that the much greater percentage of BRS deployments are caused by the situation the pilot gets HIM OR HERSELF into. Only a small number have been genuine equipment failures (like pieces of the airplane falling off) or pilot (medical) incapacitation. The BRS, in practice, is primarily used to get pilots safely out of situations they shouldn't have been in in the first place.

Sorry, for me it makes more sense to spend the acquisition cost of BRS on equipment that ACTUALLY MAKES THE PLANE MORE CAPABLE (like TKS ) or on training to increase my own skills. As for the weight, I'll take more fuel thank you very much.

Posted by: Carl Andersen | January 9, 2012 9:45 AM    Report this comment

"But the difference there is that a PFD is to help me survive *after* the landing/crash, where as a BRS is only there to get me *to* the landing"

Well, break that down a little and it's the same thing. The BRS is there to save you only if the airplane breaks or you screwup. The raft is there to save you only if the airplane breaks and maybe if you screw up and run out of gas.

The only difference--and it is without distinction--is that under BRS, you don't have to worry about the landing. But both systems are there to mitigate risk. With the raft and PFD, we know for a fact that having them causes you to accept slightly higher risk, unless you happen to think floating around in 50-degree water awaiting a CG helo is not riskier than shooting touch and goes at your home drome.

So clearly the equipment has some effect on risk taking. We just can't quantify how much, especially for BRS.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | January 9, 2012 9:45 AM    Report this comment

How do we as an industry teach judgement? This would make a big improvement in our overall safey record.

Posted by: Tim Busch | January 9, 2012 9:55 AM    Report this comment

THANKS 4 your BRS STORY. Greatly appreciated ! LvM

Posted by: Lance van Merlin | January 9, 2012 9:56 AM    Report this comment

It seems that they vast majority of pilots on this forum are highly seasoned and learned in an era of non-BRS. As such, we were taught to fly the airplane until the last moving part quits moving. Perhaps that explains the lack of attention to the BRS in making the go-no. It would not come into play in my risk assessment and hence the only reason I could ever see using it would be structural failure. Sorry, law of primacy in action.

Posted by: Shannon Forrest | January 9, 2012 9:58 AM    Report this comment

It seems possible that the "homeostatis" could be applied to VFR pilots wanting to equip their airplanes with gyros (or PFD in these modern times); "just in case". The combination of gyros and three hours of training may induce more confidence to "press on" in the face of lowering weather than is warranted. With a non-gyro airplane the decision process is much reduced; you have to stay visual even if it means landing somewhere other than an airport. I could see the same complex "press on" decision process occurring with a parachute equipped airplane.

Posted by: Stephen Phoenix | January 9, 2012 10:27 AM    Report this comment

My theory. To safely fly, you have to be down to earth. What is the likely personality type that can afford to buy a half a million dollar Cirrus? Occupy wall street ninety nine percenter? These people can afford an airplane that offers them many more opportunities to get into situations they are ill-equipped to handle... I don't care how many silver bullets they can buy.

Posted by: Andre Abreu | January 9, 2012 10:50 AM    Report this comment

Stephen,

I think you have gone a little too far suggesting a VFR pilot shouldn't have gyro instruments.

We all know you can't fly a plane by visual reference when there is no visual reference. We all (except for some of the early Sport Pilots) had to demonstrate the ability to fly on instruments only to get our license.

There is a huge difference between having sufficient skill to fly straight and level or perform a 180 turn on instruments than the skill to file an IFR flight plan and fly in the system.

Unlike the BRS system, I consider a minimum gyro panel (or better yet a low end EFIS) a requirement for any plane I will fly. I've experienced the case several times where perfectly legal VFR still couldn't be flown by visual reference since there was nothing to see. In those cases a gyro panel or partial panel (if the pilot can handle that) is a life saver.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | January 9, 2012 11:15 AM    Report this comment

"This is, I'm afraid, a common misconception about BRS."

Paul,

Nevertheless, once you yank the BRS trigger, you have given up the aircraft commander's control of where the airplane will land. In the mountains that is potentially risky.

An A/C who would relies on BRS to replace his/her for poor judgmental is not a very good A/C's.

A BRS is for a true November Sierra emergency much as an ejection seat in a fighter -- not a substitute for the A/C's poor judgement.

Posted by: Gary Dikkers | January 9, 2012 11:57 AM    Report this comment

As a 1600 hr. Mooney Ovation2 driver with known ice capability, I still will not fly over the Cascades or Sierras at night IMC. The accident statistics are compelling for night IMC over terrain. I choose not to add my name to the list.

Posted by: DOUGLAS WATSON | January 9, 2012 12:23 PM    Report this comment

EVERY time you start up an aircraft, or a car, or whatever, you accept some level of risk. You are trading that risk to your life/health/wealth in exchange for some reward... going somewhere, the sheer joy of flying, getting home, getting paid, status, whatever. Everyone has some inherent risk/reward ratio limit. Some are more cautious than others, but everyone has this. If you didn't accept risks, you wouldn't achieve anything. We idolise people who take BIG risks for big rewards (astronauts, pioneer aviators, test pilots).

When an added safety feature (BRS, PFD, GPS, gyro, liferaft, survival suit, ELT, seatbelt, airbags, ABS, traction control, whatever) reduces the risk, this provides the opportunity to achieve something (acquire a reward) that would otherwise be an unacceptable risk.

Where things can go astray is when the PERCEIVED risk is less than the actual risk.

If you pull the BRS handle on a night IMC flight over mountains, you still have a 6/59 chance of being killed in the landing. If you survive the landing, you still have to survive a night out high up on a mountain... I'd say the chances of being found by emergency services before morning would be close to zero. Let's say that the 7/59 chance of serious injuries from the crash is also fatal. Assuming that a helicopter comes and finds you first thing in the morning, so that there's little of dying through hypothermia, a chute landing under those circumstances has a 13/59 (a bit over 1 in 5) chance of survival.

Posted by: Frank Van Der Hulst | January 9, 2012 1:17 PM    Report this comment

"If you survive the landing, you still have to survive a night out high up on a mountain... I'd say the chances of being found by emergency services before morning would be close to zero. Let's say that the 7/59 chance of serious injuries from the crash is also fatal."

Bingo Frank. Well said. BRS is no panacea or guarantee flying across the Sierra at night in the weather scenario Paul described. Even surviving the BRS landing would leave the PIC and PX in for a long, uncomfortable night -- one they might not survive.

Posted by: Gary Dikkers | January 9, 2012 2:47 PM    Report this comment

Paul Mulwitz: Re: Gyros and Parachutes I would suggest that your self imposed limitation of only flying gyro equipped airplanes is preventing you from enjoying a number of good airplanes. I've never seen a gyro panel in a Pitts S1, but they're still a pretty good airplane; ya ought to try it. J-3's and Citabrias are a lot of fun also, but alas, no gyros. I also suspect that you will find very few accidents occurring in those airplanes due to loss of control in IMC conditions; not so with gyro equipped airplanes.

There are a couple of things that gyros and BRS parachutes have in common; they add weight and cost. The weight reduces the airplane's performance and the cost reduces the amount of gas you can afford. Safety is primarily a function of flying within the pilot's and the aircraft's limitations (assuming the pilot knows those limitations).

Posted by: Stephen Phoenix | January 9, 2012 2:51 PM    Report this comment

I might reduce your probabilities to incidents rather than bodies.

So out of 32 tries, BRS has delivered 28 times. Four times there were fatalities, but to make that fair, it should really be 31 because in one--a mid-air with fire--the occupants probably did not intentionally deploy.

So on an incident basis, 28 out of 31 or 90 percent. The injury rate is similar: 90 percent were uninjured.

Not seeing how you calculate the one in five survival chance. As for the landing, the percentage of fatals under a fully deployed, intentional CAPS fire is zero. It could happen, of course. It just hasn't.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | January 9, 2012 2:56 PM    Report this comment

Stephen,

I appreciate your comments about Pitts and the weight of gyros, but I'm afraid none of that applies to me.

I only fly my own airplane - one I built from a kit - which has a full glass panel. Indeed, without the glass the plane would be heavier just to meet the required instruments in the FARs.

I would love to fly a Pitts and a lot of other high performance airplanes, but the FAA currently prohibits that joy for me. You see, I don't have a medical certificate so I am limited to LSA.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | January 9, 2012 3:23 PM    Report this comment

Paul, I think the really interesting question is why Cirrus has a significantly worse accident rate than Colombia/Corvalis (assuming that's true, please show some numbers). Except for the chute, the two planes are pretty similar. Looking forward to hearing your opinion later. I wonder if some of the cause is that Cirrus seems to do a much better job marketing their planes to new or even non pilots (they have displays at boat shows, car shows, don't they?). Is there a way to figure out the experience level of Cirrus pilots involved in fatal accidents compared to Colombia/Corvalis pilots involved in fatals? Not that experience always translates to safer, but interesting nonetheless.

Posted by: Scott Dickey | January 9, 2012 6:20 PM    Report this comment

Scott, I can't answer your question with any degree of certainty but I can offer a couple of suggestions:

1. The wing. The Columbia/Corvalis wing was subjected to the ordinary spin testing required for certification of a Normal Category Airplane. The Cirrus was not. The FAA waived the spin testing requirements in "exchange" for a number (50 I think) of consecutive successful BRS deployments. This high performance wing is one where there is little experience with stall and spin recovery. If it happens low to the ground where the BRS can't help, lights out.

2. The BRS system gives pilots, especially new pilots, an increased/false sense of security which induces them to take more risks than they would otherwise take.

3. New pilots don't grasp the "high performance" aspects of the Cirrus. They look at the fixed gear and single power lever and say to themselves "no different than the C-172SP I've been training in" when the performance and "slipperiness" is really more like a Mooney.

Every time there's a non-fatal Cirrus BRS deployment, Cirrus screams from the mountain tops, "We saved another one!" but I'm yet to see them remark on some of the poor judgement the pilots exercised or adapt their training program to include type specific ADM.

Posted by: Carl Andersen | January 9, 2012 6:39 PM    Report this comment

Some people can afford all of the bells and whistles and wind up in a position to hurt themselves. There's no doubt that not everyone can afford a Cirrus. It's may be a question of experience. I know a person who took his training in a Cirrus because a C172 was average. But I also remember seeing a Cirrus in a ditch at Sun-N-Fun a couple of years ago, and it wasn't even on a primary taxiway.

I guess my point is that there are probably a lot of Cirrus pilots that can afford them, but haven't had to work their way up to fly a high performance plane.

I recently read an article about a person who won a Ferrari in a raffle and totalled it 6 hours later.

I believe the same thing applies here. Is a Cirrus more prone to accidents? They should be very safe airplanes, but they attract owners that may need more experience before going to this level.

The percentage of saves is impressive, unless you wonder why the BRS had to be used so many times?

Posted by: Larry Hoffman | January 9, 2012 6:43 PM    Report this comment

For a later blog, I'll pull the numbers together. But the summary is that the Cirrus combined fatal rate is 1.6/100,000, with the SR22 at 1.5 and the SR20 at 1.8. The Columbia is 1.0. At the low end is Diamond's DA40 at .35 and the high end is Mooneys at 1.9.

Having said all this, the caveat is getting good data. It's very difficult to get hours flown and to find every single accident. I'm sure I missed some. But I used the best data I could come up with.

So you can see there is daylight between the Cirrus and the Columbia when, because of the BRS, you might reasonably expect to see the reverse. But we don't. So it's fair to ask why and I have theorized that risk homeostasis may be a factor.

Hard to prove. But it's also clear that for whatever reasons, many pilots who could have saved themselves with BRS did not.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | January 9, 2012 6:44 PM    Report this comment

Thanks for the opinion Carl. I am about as far as you can get from an expert on aerodynamics but I wonder how much the wing has to do with it. The Corvalis must have a pretty high performance wing too. It could be that Cirrus was going to do the chute testing anyway and figured that was an easier method of compliance than a full spin testing program. Who knows, maybe a Cirrus recovers from a spin just as well as a Corvalis. There's no way to tell really. My feeling is that the cause is probably more related to #2 and #3.

Posted by: Scott Dickey | January 9, 2012 6:54 PM    Report this comment

I hate to muddy the waters, but the Corvalis is an outgrowth from (a version of) LanceAir kitplane products. Indeed, I believe it was originally a kit design.

I also understand LanceAirs are NOT approved for stalls. I don't know exactly why this is, but it must have something to do with poor handling in this maneuver.

To say that the Cirrus has a poor accident record because it was not spin tested and has a strange wing is just another example of how these extremely high performance designs can behave. I doubt this explains why the Cirrus accident record is worse than the Corvalis.

My vote for the best explanation of the poor accident records for the Cirrus products goes to the marketing strategy. Others have commented that this brand seems to attract pilots with little experience. These are different sides of the same coin.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | January 9, 2012 7:08 PM    Report this comment

The risk homeostasis to me just seems like a special version of a broader truth, widgets (or laws) go out in the world unbundled from their designers intent.

To a candlestick maker a hefty base is safe to prevent tipovers and fires. But Mrs. Peacock doesn't care about that, to her it's made to crack Col Mustards skull.

I don't really see the problem with Cirrus parachute because it seems to work. Whether a pilot uses it to fly harder missions with the same risk or same mission with less risk is up to them.

Also the overall risk of the cirrus v other planes doesn't really say much about the chute to me. How can you pull out the chute effect from the thousands of other design differences.

Arguably Cirrus, Columbia, Diamond should be much much safer than any CAR 3 plane, there are a whole lot of tweaks to the design rules since then on big and small things, from fatigue to high g seats to dual redundant tab rods, etc

Posted by: BYRON WARD | January 9, 2012 7:28 PM    Report this comment

The risk homeostasis to me just seems like a special version of a broader truth, widgets (or laws) go out in the world unbundled from their designers intent.

To a candlestick maker a hefty base is safe to prevent tipovers and fires. But Mrs. Peacock doesn't care about that, to her it's made to crack Col Mustards skull.

I don't really see the problem with Cirrus parachute because it seems to work. Whether a pilot uses it to fly harder missions with the same risk or same mission with less risk is up to them.

Also the overall risk of the cirrus v other planes doesn't really say much about the chute to me. How can you pull out the chute effect from the thousands of other design differences.

Arguably Cirrus, Columbia, Diamond should be much much safer than any CAR 3 plane, there are a whole lot of tweaks to the design rules since then on big and small things, from fatigue to high g seats to dual redundant tab rods, etc

Posted by: BYRON WARD | January 9, 2012 7:28 PM    Report this comment

I've had one encounter with a Cirrus driver. He cut me off in the pattern after I announced 10 miles, 5 miles, entering downwind. When I announced I too was in the downwind he commented "where, I don't see you on my TCAS". I suggested he look out his window as I was at his 1:00 as he was cutting in front of me. I turned out of the pattern and waited for him to put space between us. I think people with a lot of fun toys to help them fly may have lost the critical basic skills to do just that. Perhaps the reliance on a BRS is helping erode those skills too.

Posted by: Jay Manor | January 9, 2012 7:38 PM    Report this comment

I've had one encounter with a Cirrus driver. He cut me off in the pattern after I announced 10 miles, 5 miles, entering downwind. When I announced I too was in the downwind he commented "where, I don't see you on my TCAS". I suggested he look out his window as I was at his 1:00 as he was cutting in front of me. I turned out of the pattern and waited for him to put space between us. I think people with a lot of fun toys to help them fly may have lost the critical basic skills to do just that. Perhaps the reliance on a BRS is helping erode those skills too.

Posted by: Jay Manor | January 9, 2012 7:38 PM    Report this comment

Jay, I don't think that Cirrus drivers have a monopoly on discourtesy or having their heads stuck in the technology. There's plenty of other aircraft drivers doing the same thing.

I also don't think that the BRS "erodes" skills like TCAS erodes traffic sighting skills. TCAS can and should be used to help make visual contact with traffic when possible. BRS should not be used to justify getting into situations you wouldn't consider entering without a parachute. There's very little skill involved in deploying the BRS but there's a lot of planning, judgement, and decision-making involved in avoiding situations where the BRS might be needed.

And these are things we are not teaching very much anywhere in GA anymore.

The BRS just reinforces, in some minds, that they're not necessary anymore.

"Superior pilots use superior planning, judgement, and decision-making to avoid situations requiring the use of their superior skills." (or their BRS!)

Posted by: Carl Andersen | January 9, 2012 7:57 PM    Report this comment

Risk homeostasis is just trading in safety improvements for increased capability, which is something people have always done. It's the same story with twins, which people buy specifically to do missions they think are too risky without a second engine. And just as with the Cirrus, twins have a worse safety record than comparable singles. I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with trading safety for capability, the problem is that people are really bad at it. By definition, if risk homeostasis were done perfectly, planes would have similar accident rates and different capabilities.

Posted by: DAVE VANHORN | January 10, 2012 1:17 AM    Report this comment

"I've had one encounter with a Cirrus driver..." "I don't think that Cirrus drivers have a monopoly on discourtesy... "

Could we all agree not to call pilots "drivers" whether they own a Cirrus or not?

Posted by: Gary Dikkers | January 10, 2012 9:48 AM    Report this comment

"Still, the nagging question remains for me. Why would a sub-500-hour pilot charge into these conditions? "

1)there were no adverse conditions forecast 2)he'd probably had made that trip several times 3)almost 500TT and 70 in type is both sufficient and legal.

I've received dangerously inaccurate forecasts myself, even being forced down on a local flight over flatland's because of unforecast sever weather. It happens; sometimes it ends badly.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | January 10, 2012 11:04 AM    Report this comment

"The pilot, by the way, had about 473 hours total time, with 69 hours in type"

I took a (non scientific) look at Cirrus accident reports about two years ago and it seemed to me at that time that a disproportionate number of the accident pilots had substantially the same experience. A pilot with 400-500 hours has typically been flying about 4-5 years - not nearly enough calendar time to develop and season life saving ADM skills IMHO. One poster suggested that a certain type of pilot buys Cirrus aircraft - one who can possibly afford more aircraft than he can handle at that point in his flying career. There does seem to be some merit to this point of view, although there are always exceptions to such generalizations. Another poster commented on the Cirrus marketing approach to safety and I think that this comment is also more or less on traget. When Cirrus was in its early days, the founders invited me to the factory for a day in to discuss providing some financing they were seeking. They went on at great length about how the Cirrus approach would "de-skill" flying so that most anyone could fly the acft. I asked how the pilot would handle a major avionics failure and if that might not require flying the acft on standby instruments or even partial panel. They reluctantly said that a pilot would need to maintain these skills. No easy job even with standby instruments when you are used to acres of glass and an autopilot.

Posted by: R Boswell | January 10, 2012 12:52 PM    Report this comment

"almost 500TT and 70 in type is both sufficient and legal"

Too bad we all know where this type of misplaced over-confident thinking leads: Frequently to a smoking crater. I'll give everyone the facts and they--including you, Mark--can decide if under 500TT was sufficient.

According to his logbook, the pilot had made the trip--or one similar to it--13 times. Eleven of these were day VFR, one was night VFR (looks like a pinkie, actually) and one was in the right seat of a PC12.

At the time of the accident, he had his instrument rating for a few days shy of a year. He had a grand total of 11.3 hours of actual IMC, most of it west of the Sierra around the Bay area, none of it on this route. If he had ever encountered icing, his logbook didn't make note of this.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | January 10, 2012 1:34 PM    Report this comment

Now the red flags here should be obvious to anyone paying attention. With not even a year with an instrument rating, he hadn't even been through a full winter and had not flown in any icing or in areas where icing would be likely. Even if he had, he hadn't seen much of it.

He therefore had no frame of reference to know that during the winter, you might as well not even pay any attention to icing forecasts and just assume that you're going to encounter it in cold clouds and have an immediate action plan in mind.

Further, he would have been clueless about how bad really bad icing can be, because really bad icing is rare enough that most pilots won't see it--if they see it all--without several winters of experience. Not having had that, he didn't know how bad bad could be so he didn't, say, climb to 17,000 in a hold over RNO before departing.

Second, for all intents and purposes, he seems to have flown the airplane into a mountain in a hair-on-fire descent to get out of icing. It seems unlikely that in four minutes time, the icing would have rendered a TKS-equipped airplane uncontrollable, although anything is possible. It looks for all the world like a panic reaction to icing by a pilot who had never seen same.

I don't usually second guess pilot judgments. But I'll make an exception here. There's no way in hell he had the experience to make this flight with sufficient safety margin.

Your mileage may vary.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | January 10, 2012 1:45 PM    Report this comment

I'm not sure we can single out Cirrus aircraft as being any more dangerous for the 400-600hr crowd, since if I recall correctly, that's generally the most dangerous experience level for pilots of all skills. I haven't been able to find the original data I looked at, but I think it typically goes like this: 0-100hrs: pilot is in training/newly certified, and usually reluctant to go much outside their comfort zone 100-300hrs: pilot starts to expand their comfort zone, but generally still safe 300-600hrs: pilot has a good deal of experience now, but not necessarily enough diverse experiences to recognize overconfidence. this overconfidence sadly sometimes leads to a "smoking crater" 600-1000hrs: pilot starts to recognize that some of their personal minimums are perhaps a bit too optimistic, and reduces accordingly 1000+hrs: at this point, the pilot is either flying professionally (instructing, airlines, etc) or has been flying for enough years (10+) to fully recognize when a situation is safe or not.

I may be off a bit on the hours, but that's generally how I remember it. Around the 300-600hr mark, I think most pilots tend to look for higher-performing aircraft, and the jump in performance from lesser aircraft is bigger than they think. That, I believe, is where you start to have problems. The fact that Cirrus aircraft have many safety features may hide the fact how quickly it can bite you.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | January 10, 2012 1:52 PM    Report this comment

(cont.)

Note, I myself am in that "danger zone" level of experience. Recent training and personal events have shown me that it is indeed a level of experience where one needs to be particularly self-aware of their own actions (even more so than earlier in their flying career) to ensure they aren't simply acting on overconfidence.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | January 10, 2012 1:52 PM    Report this comment

"Now the red flags here should be obvious to anyone paying attention. With not even a year with an instrument rating, he hadn't even been through a full winter and had not flown in any icing or in areas where icing would be likely. Even if he had, he hadn't seen much of it."

At what point could one consider themselves familiar enough with winter icing to be able to make a competent go/no-go decision, given those conditions? Also, should equipment such as TKS and BRS ever factor in to the equation (and if so, at what experience level)?

I ask these questions seriously, not rhetorically: I really don't have any idea what level of experience should be required.

The most time I have in any potential icing conditions has been (twice) on an IFR flight plan with prevailing VFR, non-precipitating conditions. In both cases, I knew if I encountered any icing I only had to descend below the thin (at most 1500'-thick) cloud layer where I would still have at least 3000' between the bases and any terrain.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | January 10, 2012 2:04 PM    Report this comment

"Now the red flags here should be obvious to anyone paying attention."

Paul, Any rating is a LICENSE TO LEARN, nothing more. The forecast was not serious IMC nor for icing. He was familiar with the route and the aircraft. he had plenty of experience to make the flight AS IT WAS PLANNED. You are second-guessing.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | January 10, 2012 2:12 PM    Report this comment

"Paul, Any rating is a LICENSE TO LEARN, nothing more. "

You don't learn to drive by entering the Daytona 500. Many pilots on this forum with lots of winter icing experience saw this is marginal or a no-go. I 'm not sure you understand that lack of icing in the forecast has nothing to do with the decision.

Evidently, neither did he. If you still think this was a well-planned flight, your risk antenna may need tuning.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | January 10, 2012 2:20 PM    Report this comment

"At what point could one consider themselves familiar enough with winter icing to be able to make a competent go/no-go decision, given those conditions? Also, should equipment such as TKS and BRS ever factor in to the equation (and if so, at what experience level)?"

At that point when you've seen enough icing and winter weather to (a) know that only a fool would believe no icing in the forecast means its okay to go and (b) you understand how to plan and execute solid gold outs and (c) you err on the side of caution.

My absolute worst experience with icing occurred in the early 90s. I was flying a fully-deiced Navajo on a freight run from Detroit to Hartford. I launched into conditions of forecast and reported moderate icing, with lots of pireps confirming it.

But I knew where the tops were, I knew there was 35-degree air at 2000 feet and I knew the ceilings enroute were about 1000, so I had a lot of airport choices.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | January 10, 2012 2:28 PM    Report this comment

I'll come to Mark's defense here. I think he is saying that at 500 hours the pilot would not know what he didn't know . Forecasting and training likely failed here, too as did his own decision making and lack of experience.

With more experience, another pilot may have made a different call. With 500 hours and a capable aircraft and a good forecast, it is easy to see why he made the decision to go. Obviously not the right decision, but an understandable one.

And did the BRS really add to his decision to go? I have a hard time believing he would of said, "well if it gets bad I will just pull the parachute". Perhaps that is just my own bias coming in, but its really difficult to see how anyone would think that is a good alternative.

Posted by: Paul Mcclure | January 10, 2012 2:37 PM    Report this comment

Also, I had a lot more than 500TT, several nasty northeast winters of IFR and several hundred hours of actual instrument. Over Lake Erie at 3 a.m., I hit a band of icing that was probably SCCD. It overwhelmed the boots in about 10 minutes. I couldn't climb, so I descended, melted it off, picked up more, melted it and motored back to Hartford just like any other freight dog that night.

The point is, if you look at this fact pattern and say this pilot made a high percentage call to go based on his experience and ability to handle what might be thrown at him, you may also lack the experience to make the right judgements. It seems likely he didn't know what he didn't know.

On paper, this one just screams at me: Marginal judgement, no apparent plan B and no execution under duress. His executed plan B to get out of the icing was a rapid descent into rising terrain.

When you know enough not to do that, stick a fork in yourself. You're done and likely capable of making a less risky decision.

If this guy had had a dozen winter trips in IMC on this route over a couple of winters and he had told the controller he needed to climb in the hold over Reno, my second-guess would be different.

But he did none of that.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | January 10, 2012 2:42 PM    Report this comment

The flight Paul B. picked for this discussion had a lot of unrelated risk factors. First (in my book) was the flight in a relatively low performance aircraft (compared to a multi-engine jet) over high mountains. Second was flight at night. Third was IMC. Possibly 4th, the ratings and experience level of the pilot was OK but not anything that should garner a lot of confidence. And possibly 5th - the overconfidence promoted by Cirrus to convince folks with more money than experience to buy their products. (I am not counting the BRS but acknowledge it is part of the previous point.)

Looking at this long list of major risk factors leaves me wondering why the pilot was in such a rush to make a short flight. The Night and possibly IMC conditions would improve with a 1/2 day delay. I have not heard how the winds were in the mountain area, but I suspect this might also have been a factor by generating lots of turbulence. This whole story sounds like an accident looking for a place to happen. The pilot in question didn't agree with this opinion and paid the appropriate price for overconfidence.

For my money, waiting for VMC and daytime would be an easy choice. If this unfortunate pilot was depending on meeting a schedule with his airplane then, once again, he paid the appropriate price. While his ratings and experience were plenty to make this trip VFR day the same trip IFR Night would probably call for two pilots and multi-engine aircraft if it were a revenue flight.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | January 10, 2012 2:46 PM    Report this comment

Agreeing with you on all points in last two posts. Having about the same experience and time in a TA aircraft (without BRS), I just recently made the call to avoid IFR conditions over the Appalachian mountains with freezing levels just over the tops and good PIREPS. I made the decision precisely because I was scared of what I didn't know. The forecasts were very tempting if I didn't think about the what ifs.

Very little is taught to new IFR pilots about how to understand ice possibility, how to stay out of it and what to do if you get in it. This has to be sought out and learned. Personally, I think the accident is more about these issues than if the plane had a BRS or not. Had he talked to you before launching and followed your advice he may be able here to tell us his tale personally.

Posted by: Paul Mcclure | January 10, 2012 3:03 PM    Report this comment

"at 500 hours the pilot would not know what he didn't know ."

Fair enough. But was he also blind and deaf? In the aviation press, we have beaten the topic of icing and mountain accidents to a bloody pulp. You can't hardly open a car door without bumping into a cautionary tale about icing and mountains.

Shouldn't these be enough to alert even the thickest pilot to the fact that he's about to embark upon something for which he's not well-informed or prepared?

Maybe I'm proving my own point. No matter what we do, we won't be able to reach some people and they will be accident victims. Their "license to learn" is a one-way ticket to the bottom of a smoking hole.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | January 10, 2012 3:07 PM    Report this comment

"If this guy had... told the controller he needed to climb in the hold over Reno" .........

Paul, to refresh your memory, that was my FIRST comment when you initially proposed the scenario. I said everything was ideal except for the proposed route. It was a completely DOABLE flight from the starting airport to the destination with that pilot, that hardware and that weather.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | January 10, 2012 3:10 PM    Report this comment

"It was a completely DOABLE flight from the starting airport to the destination with that pilot, that hardware and that weather."

Clearly is wasn't, Mark. He died trying. But you got two right--hardware and weather. You're making the mistake so many inexperienced pilots do in assuming just because the airplane will do it, they can too.

But if they lack the ability to stay calm, reason and analyze under duress, they can't do it. This is an example of that and thus and example of a questionable judgment in the face of a pretty plain red flag. You seem to suggest the human factor is homogenous. It isn't.

Also, you are assuming--as am I--that a climb to higher altitude would keep him ice free. That may or may not been true, but the climb gave a shot back to the departure.

What he could have done matters less than what he thought of doing. That's why experience matters.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | January 10, 2012 3:36 PM    Report this comment

Paul B,

I don't remember all the details of this flight. Was ice known to be the problem or is that a guess?

Another possibility is the combination of turbulence and a pilot dependent on a properly functioning autopilot for IFR flight. My experience with autopilots is mostly bad, but particularly bad when the air is not smooth. This unfortunate fellow might have found himself with conditions beyond the capabilities of both his autopilot and his own pilot skills to handle.

I suppose it doesn't really matter what the case is here. This guy's fate is sealed. For those of us still around the case makes a good lesson for possibly many reasons.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | January 10, 2012 4:55 PM    Report this comment

"Clearly is wasn't, Mark. He died trying. "

To REFRESH YOUR MEMORY AGAIN, you did not initially specify what plane to fly(maybe a 737?). When you did specify a Cirrus, then it was still doable by (as you say) by gaining a safe altitude first.

If you keep changing parameters then it's impossible to "judge" accurately. Q.E.D.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | January 10, 2012 5:48 PM    Report this comment

Here was the original design brief:

"Would you make the flight in a piston single at night? How about during the day? How about a piston twin? If the single had a BRS system like the Cirrus, would that influence your decision?"

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | January 10, 2012 6:03 PM    Report this comment

The NTSB listed the cause as inadvertent encounter with unforecast severe icing. So that's the best data we've got. It could just as well have been light or moderate that the pilot over reacted to,

One key point for people without much winter experience is to not be lulled into a go decision because ice isn't in the forecast or there aren't any PIREPS. Think about it. There's visible moisture, it's below freezing and in mountainous terrain like that you're very likely to have upslope moisture flow.

Everyone knows ice is often forecast and isn't present. The reverse is also true. So I have always advised students to plan a winter flight as though they'll encounter icing and have the bolt plan ready.

For an experienced pilot with some winter hours, this flight might be doable, but it would out there in the corners of the risk envelope. For someone with no icing experience and 11 hours of IMC on an instrument rating less than a year old, not so much.

If no bolt plan looks workable or realistic, don't go.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | January 10, 2012 6:16 PM    Report this comment

"Would you make the flight in a piston single at night? How about during the day? How about a piston twin?"

Yep, no hardware was specified so a go(no go) is impossible to determine. Obviously more capability is better for ANY flight. Hello?

Posted by: Mark Fraser | January 10, 2012 6:45 PM    Report this comment

I have really enjoyed this discussion; it's been so thought-provoking that I even broke my own blog-reading rule of not reading past the first twenty responses :-| ...

What strikes me about this whole discussion is that it seems as if we are all asking one central question twenty different ways: Is it realistic to expect a pilot to perform a manuver ...a dramatic manuver... if that pilot never had to think-through the decision making process and derive the conclusion to perform that manuver based only on flight conditions? It's actually a unique decision in a world of piloting algorithms: "...if unexpected headwind leads to inadequate fuel reserve --> land". But: "...conditions exceed my capacity to fly --> give up (pull BRS)." seems to fly in the face of our first and most important guideline...remember...?

Fly the airplane.

Posted by: ANTHONY NASR | January 10, 2012 7:29 PM    Report this comment

Paul, As interesting discussion but this is it isn't unique to the Cirrus. The Aircoupe was designed as a "safety airplane" with a special pilots license until the accident rate for it went thru the roof. Bonanza's got the reputation as "doctor killers" in the 50's and 60's with many of the same characteristics as the Cirrus, without the BRS. Most people are very susceptible to marketing hype, especially people with limited knowledge and experience related to a given subject. The airframe parachute is almost entirely hype, the actual conditions under which it can be successful are so limited it could hardly be justified even if the penalty were only 40 pounds of weight. As you've so aptly pointed out it isn't a passive safety device, like an airbag, or a worst case scenario backup like a life raft or survival gear. Marketing is a very powerful tool and amazingly effective under the right circumstances.

Posted by: Barton Robinett | January 10, 2012 9:29 PM    Report this comment

In addition to my Bonanza, I also fly ultralights. Most of my friends that fly ULs have BRS chutes and think I should have one. Unfortunately I have read about too many BRS deployments that CAUSED a fatality, rather than prevented it. I think people think of the BRS handle as a get out of jail free card. When times get tough they panic and deploy the chute outside the envelope. In the case of UL pushers, the chute gets wrapped up in the turning prop. In the case of the Cirrus, they're going to fast or too low to the ground.

In one UL deployment if he had not deployed the chute he probably could have landed power off with perhaps minor injuries. Instead he is dead. I understand how when things go to hell and you think you are about to die, it's difficult to stay focused, check your airspeed, etc. But the fact is all BRS deployments are under stressful conditions and pulling the chute when you shouldn't will greatly reduce your survival chances.

Although a BRS is probably your best choice for some situations (e.g., engine failure over trees) and your only survival option for others (loss of wing or flight controls), my choice is to fly without a BRS. That way it forces me to FLY THE AIRPLANE all the time and to not give up, pull a handle, and hope for the best.

Posted by: JIM DUNN | January 11, 2012 6:12 AM    Report this comment

In addition to my Bonanza, I also fly ultralights. Most of my friends that fly ULs have BRS chutes and think I should have one. Unfortunately I have read about too many BRS deployments that CAUSED a fatality, rather than prevented it. I think people think of the BRS handle as a get out of jail free card. When times get tough they panic and deploy the chute outside the envelope. In the case of UL pushers, the chute gets wrapped up in the turning prop. In the case of the Cirrus, they're going to fast or too low to the ground.

In one UL deployment if he had not deployed the chute he probably could have landed power off with perhaps minor injuries. Instead he is dead. I understand how when things go to hell and you think you are about to die, it's difficult to stay focused, check your airspeed, etc. But the fact is all BRS deployments are under stressful conditions and pulling the chute when you shouldn't will greatly reduce your survival chances.

Although a BRS is probably your best choice for some situations (e.g., engine failure over trees) and your only survival option for others (loss of wing or flight controls), my choice is to fly without a BRS. That way it forces me to FLY THE AIRPLANE all the time and to not give up, pull a handle, and hope for the best.

Posted by: JIM DUNN | January 11, 2012 6:12 AM    Report this comment

I think that Cirrus has inherited the demographic group that decades ago gave Bonanza the "doctor killer" moniker. People with more money than they should are buying Cirrus when they were giving Bonanza a bad safety record. These people generally have money, attitude and over confidence combined with schedules that don't allow for much experience or much time for training. They have no aversion to launching into dangerous situations because they can do no wrong and have the overconfidence in their limited pilot skills to overcome all risks that would ground mere mortals. I think they are the part of the record with high accident rates. The BRS is trying very hard to offset those numbers and when you look at the stats I think Cirrus is no worse than other manufacturers on the safety record, despite their demographic mix.

Posted by: Marc Charron | January 11, 2012 7:06 AM    Report this comment

Unfortunately aircraft that are touted to be or designed to be able to save people from themselves seldom do. The principal cause is that they embolden the under-qualified to the barely qualified to take on something that they might not otherwise do. The prime example is the Aircoupe...at a time when the "stall-spin" accident was a major contributor to death in aircraft crashes the under and barely qualified would go off into the sky thinking that they would not die because the airplane would not spin...they did not consider the other factors that could kill them and the safety record of that airplane was horrible. Gyro copters were similarly touted to be a "safer" way to fly and they had their own set of problems that led to a lot of people, under and barely qualified to operate them, to die as well. There is no substitute for the training that the ultimately will qualify someone to safely operate an airplane...just look at the Air France fiasco that happened over the Atlantic ocean...

Posted by: william laatsch | January 11, 2012 7:49 AM    Report this comment

I find it amazing that people can be lulled into complacence by slick marketeers when we all know driving a car is taking your life and the lives of your passengers in your hands every time you start your engine.

I feel flying is inherently safer than driving and this is obvious to even the least qualified pilot. When you are flying 2 miles from the nearest solid object it is difficult to get hurt. Even the kinds of judgement problems and questionable value of safety innovations like BRS don't change this basic truth. I don't know how to make a fair comparison between flying risk and driving risk, but with numbers like 1 or 2 fatalities per 100,000 hours it seems like driving is a lot more dangerous to your health.

Perhaps we are too hard on aviation accidents that we feel could be avoided. Auto accidents can also be avoided but the issues are much more obvious. Don't drive while intoxicated. Stay within the speed limits. Drive carefully on slippery roads. Texting while driving is a no no. These are all elementary issues any sober driver can understand and follow. The judgement calls under discussion here - whether to launch on a night IFR mountain cross country flight - are much more subtle. If aviation accidents were full of drunk pilots (like they were 30 years ago) it would be different.

I suggest we avoid feeling like we are doing it all wrong because of the current accident records.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | January 11, 2012 8:18 AM    Report this comment

>> Yep, no hardware was specified so a go(no go) is impossible to determine. Obviously more capability is better for ANY flight. Hello?

Hey Mark Fraser, Are you this argumentative in person? I know as pilots, by our very nature, we tend to be type A, stubborn and opinionated but do we really need to show that side of our personalities during every interaction with others?

Posted by: Steve Ingraham | January 11, 2012 9:48 AM    Report this comment

"My guess is that BRS isn't well trained enough, isn't well understood enough and isn't well-enough incorporated into the OODA loop to survive the tunnel vision that any about-to-have-an-accident pilot is going to suffer. In other words, they don't pull the handle because they can't pull the handle. The overarching question is can they be trained to?"

This sounds right to me, Paul. If I try to put myself in a situation of whether to pull the handle (I don't have one in my aircraft), I think the problem would be that the moment I've decided to pull the handle I've also made an irrevocable decision to have an accident in which I not only damage the airplane and but also perhaps seriously injure or kill myself. So, I can easily envision clinging to denial just a little too long -- I can get out of this, regain control of the plane, etc. -- until I've waited too long and now I'm beyond the design parameters of the chute. This is somewhat similar to other emergency situations in which we use training to overcome denial -- e.g., avoiding the impulse to turn back to the field. But it also strikes me as a somewhat more difficult training challenge because the chute has to be pulled before it is completely obvious that there is no hope of survival otherwise.

Posted by: Robert Davison | January 11, 2012 11:18 AM    Report this comment

I do not think that having the BRS would be the critical tipping point in making Go-No Go decision.

In the case of this accident it is plausible that the pilot would have made the same Go-No Go decision if he had been flying another high performance single such as a TKS Mooney, or Bonanza, that was comparably equipped. To me having the TKS system would have been more of a factor. You could surmise that if you start picking up ice you could use the TKS to reduce the buildup as you made a hasty retreat.

The decision to climb vs. descend, or make an immediate 180, when ice was encountered, may have been the critical factor as it is possible that a stall spin occurred as the pilot attempted to climb while icing, in an aircraft that was at high altitude. Either one of the other 2 decisions might have produced a different outcome. Of course a spiral climb over the departing airport, to get above the cloud layer, would have been a much better decision.

I do not find it surprising that the Cirrus accident rate is as high as it is. Cirrus has replaced Bonanza, and Mooney as the preferred single cross country Aircraft for pilots with the financial means. I remember reference years ago to Bonanzas as the “Forked Tail Dr Killer” as many affluent lower time pilots found themselves in aircraft that exceeded their capabilities, or would fly an aircraft into conditions that exceed its capabilities.

Posted by: James Pelc | January 11, 2012 11:44 AM    Report this comment

The pilots ability to tie all of the pieces together, to make an informed Go-No Go decision might have been a factor, as was his possible belief that he could fly through the cloud layer, and be out of the clouds/ice.

As many have said " He didn't know what he didn't know". As a 400 hr TT, IFR rated pilot, I can attest to the fact that my IFR training did not place enough emphasis on determining when to stay on the ground, and how to correctly tie all of the pieces together in making the Go-No Go decision. Its main focus was about flying the aircraft proficiently with the hood on, in order to pass the check ride.

Posted by: James Pelc | January 11, 2012 11:46 AM    Report this comment

This accident is a perfect example of why GA types have such a bad record. My friend and fellow airline pilot (747 Check Airman) was there that day and refused to fly his known ice Cessna 340 in those conditions. The man's wife refused to go so she was spared. I have flown jet airplanes in and out or Reno for years and icing can be severe. Until people realize that light aircraft are not capable of flying in heavy instrument conditions, especially over the mountains, these accidents will continue. Thousands of dollars of glass instruments do not make these airplanes airliners. After I retired from the airlines I flew a Citation in and out of Reno. One night I had to hit the boots 15 times during a winter storm; how do you think a Cirrus would have done?

Posted by: Patrick McBurnett | January 11, 2012 11:48 AM    Report this comment

Thank you James! IFR training covers little of the real world decision making that has to happen. It mostly teaches how to fly under the hood. I did all of my required simulated dual time with an instructor and much of that in real IFR and XC. But I still feel woefully unprepared to make a decision like this night required. Hence, I would have to make the decision not to go. Should we require more XC time in IFR training, maybe. But we as pilots are responsible for our own decisions and should do better of avoiding situations we are not prepared for. PS - must have been an important meeting if this guy left his wife at the FBO!! That has it's own icing consequences!

Posted by: Paul Mcclure | January 11, 2012 12:23 PM    Report this comment

Paul B. said,

"…… was he also blind and deaf? In the aviation press, we have beaten the topic of icing and mountain accidents to a bloody pulp. You can't hardly open a car door without bumping into a cautionary tale about icing and mountains……"

Paul, I think you may have an over-inflated view of the influence of the aviation press. They do their job, but in my opinion, and experience, it is probably mostly read and absorbed by professional pilots.

I do not know what the profession of this pilot was, but clearly it was something otherwise.

I can say that as a businessman starting and growing a company over a 30 year period, now retired, I used my flying capabilities to good effect. My customers were leading physicians. For some reason they liked to schedule meetings and symposiums at ski resorts. I've flown my old 310 to just about all of them in the west more than once. I launched into forecast conditions similar to those described (obviously with better results). My point is that even though I subscribed to Flying and AOPA, not every issue got a full read. Time was precious and consumed with other things.

BTW, out here in the west, visible moisture and temperatures below freezing do not (always) equate to icing conditions.

Posted by: Edd Weninger | January 11, 2012 1:51 PM    Report this comment

>> probably mostly read and absorbed by professional pilots <<

Also, pilots who want to fly in a professional manner no matter what their actual day job is. Even some old guys like me who are limited to day/vfr still have an interest in safety and absorb as much as possible about aviation.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | January 11, 2012 2:36 PM    Report this comment

Sorry, but with the lone exceptions of an organ transplant or delivering the isotopes needed to stop a runway nuclear reactor, I can think of no civilian missions where having a BRS would be the compelling/decisive factor in deciding to "Go" when making a "Go-No Go" decision.

And truth be told, those missions would take place even with no BRS.

Posted by: Gary Dikkers | January 11, 2012 5:11 PM    Report this comment

"Hey Mark Fraser, Are you this argumentative in person?"

Only when it comes to Aviation and safety. Airplanes are not made to stay in a hanger nor can all accidents be avoided. The only thing we know for sure in this case was that the go/no-go decision was based on FAULTY information in the weather brief(unforecast severe icing conditions).

It was a tragic accident. Too bad that the pilot did not survive to learn to distrust briefings and to become more assertive with ATC when things don't match the view out the window.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | January 12, 2012 8:28 AM    Report this comment

Mark,

I can't remember the last time I received a weather forecast that was correct.

If you want to risk your life on the notion that these notoriously wrong forecasts are correct then I wish you lots of good luck.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | January 12, 2012 9:00 AM    Report this comment

I found your muse about the training issue (to actually deploy the BRS...) I think you are on to something there. Back when I was training in aerobatic a/c, every take-off briefing included extraction callout and action. Thankfully I never had to find out if the training ever "took"

Posted by: Thomas A Kubishta | January 12, 2012 9:33 AM    Report this comment

Paul, It's not that forecasts can be wrong, it's how wrong. I've never in 40 years encountered unforecast SEVERE icing. I don't think any of us have "practiced" flying with a load of severe ice so the pilots "failure to control" in that situation is understandable.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | January 12, 2012 9:54 AM    Report this comment

Bob Davison makes a good point of the problem of having the chute as "plan B." When you pull the red handle, it is a total commitment, you become an interested bystander to whatever happens. That would make it a very difficult decision, an admission by the pilot he is no longer able to cope, resistance is futile and the outcome is totally up to chance. That is a much different call than "if the weather goes bad or if the winds are worse than forcast or if I pick up a trace of ice, I will make a 180 and land."

Posted by: Richard Montague | January 12, 2012 10:49 AM    Report this comment

Some people have speculated on the level of icing severity that this Cirrus pilot encountered as being a factor in the accident. I haven't read the full accident report, but I wonder if it's possible the pilot simply never turned on any ice protection system that may have been available, or turned it on after it was too late. Assuming it was a weeping-wing anti-ice system, my understanding (which may be inaccurate since I don't fly any aircraft with such a system) is that it wouldn't do any good if it was turned on after the leading edge was already ice-laden. If that's the case, any degree of icing would be "severe".

I wonder how many icing accidents have been caused by improper use of anti/de-icing equipment (such as forgetting to use it, or using it too late). I was taught by my instructor during my instrument training that I should turn on the pitot heat whenever entering clouds regardless if any icing may be expected. If pilots of aircraft equipped with ice protection systems aren't properly taught how to use it, how can anyone expect they will do the right thing when required.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | January 12, 2012 1:15 PM    Report this comment

The BRS system would be useful in certain circumstances. However its very presence may cause, I know someone where it did cause, an accident. One of the accidents in the records was caused by a poor pilot that I know. He was always flying in conditions that his experience level couldn't handle. He actually said that he was not worried because he had the BRS parachute.

One day his lack of experience and poor judgement caught up with him. Fog rolled in at his landing airport. He was not IFR rated and panicked. Instead of just making a 180 degree turn with the auto pilot back to VFR conditions he pulled the chute. The chute hit an obstruction. Both the pilot and his wife were very badly injured.

How many Idiots are out there flying in conditions that they have no business flying in because they feel safe with the "chute".

How many times has the chute been deployed when just flying the airplane would have been the better solution. Would the pilot that just safely landed in the water off of the Bahamas have been better off just landing the plane under control in the water? Didn't a pilot receive spinal injuries landing in the Hudson River with the chute?

Posted by: ROBERT ANDERSON | January 12, 2012 4:53 PM    Report this comment

There are some times when a parachute system will save your bacon. 1) Engine out at night beyond reach of an airport. 2) Pilot has a sudden illness causing incapacitation, and the non-flying passenger deploys the chute. 3) Pilot has a bird strike to the face and the non-flying passenger deployes the chute. 4) In flight structural failure. 5) Loss of a critical control surface. 6) Mid-air collision. Yes, there are also times when a chute can come in handy, like running out of gas in the mountains, loss of control in IMC or VFR at night, forced ditch etc, but these are not the primary reasons for a chute, the examples above are. It is too bad that the Cirrus CAPS is not certified for the gross weight or maximum speed of the aircraft, this is unacceptable in my book. But this should not be a bad reflection on chutes in general. As the old saying goes, if you need a chute and you don't have one, you will never need one again. I fly the Phoenix S-LSA motorglider with a Stratos chute. And if my engine quits while a mile high I can glide to 10 different airports. That is not why I like my chute, the reasons above are.

Posted by: Jim Lee | January 12, 2012 8:48 PM    Report this comment

"BRS. I think the system is a good idea, I don't think it has been oversold and I'd want it in any airplane I could afford, especially an LSA."

interesting. why specifically LSA? they land comparatively slowly thus should have better crash survivability than many heavier, faster aircraft.

Corvallis isn't approved for stalls? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwShFFzaSag

Posted by: MICHAEL MUETZEL | January 13, 2012 8:50 AM    Report this comment

"Corvallis isn't approved for stalls?"

Anyone who does stall is already WAY behind the aircraft. Anyone who does a stall and then a spin entry is not even in the game as a PIC.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | January 13, 2012 10:34 AM    Report this comment

The subject of risk homeostatis is very interesting. Two individuals I know of had handguns at the Tucson shooting last year, one forgot he had it with him due to the panic, and the other didn't want to risk firing at the shooter and maybe hitting someone else. My brother carries a revolver when out in his Colorado woods, but the feared mountain cat jumped him suddenly from the right side, the pocket he had the gun in, thereby rendering his right arm useless, and so he relied on his hiking companion to save him, escaping with minor injuries.

I see the BRS and carrying a handgun similar to needing the perfect circumstance for their use, nonetheless, there are some individuals who expand their risk envelope because of these added, last great hopes and maybe flip off the driver or fly over mountains at night, comforted by the thought they would be able to use either guard precisely and correctly. Paul's suggestion of added training would help some, but you still need top assessment skills and judgement to employ either one at that critical moment.

Posted by: David Miller | January 13, 2012 12:16 PM    Report this comment

I wonder how many icing accidents have been caused by improper use of anti/de-icing equipment (such as forgetting to use it, or using it too late).

Not many. For light aircraft GA, the majority of accidents happen to aircraft not equipped with ice protection. A smattering have been caused by ice protection that was either overwhelmed by conditions or didn't work properly.

In air transport aircraft, the record is a little different, with the Roselawn ATR accident being the most notable exception. There are others, such as Air Florida in 1982. Not structural icing but related to non-use of ice protection systems.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | January 14, 2012 5:33 AM    Report this comment

"Interesting. why specifically LSA? they land comparatively slowly thus should have better crash survivability than many heavier, faster aircraft."

Several reasons. LSA have light structure and are thus may be susceptible to structural breakup than heavier airplanes. We haven't seen that yet. We will as the airplanes age and wear in spots where their designers didn't figure they would.

If I had an LSA, I'd like one that's IFR capable and I'd like a little downside protection against the unforeseen. Last, if I had an engine failure over trees or rough, inhospitable ground, the parachute is a better bet, no matter how light the airplane is.

Crash survivability of LSAs is all but completely unknown because there isn't sufficient record to judge them. It's analogous to the Cirrus, which looks great on paper, but has proven a little less than average in the real world.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | January 14, 2012 5:36 AM    Report this comment

>> LSA have light structure and are thus may be susceptible to structural breakup than heavier airplanes. We haven't seen that yet. We will as the airplanes age <<

Aux Contraire. There have been around 10 structural failures of Zodiac XLs world wide in the last few years. Fortunately, the design has been reviewed and updated and none of the updated ones have failed yet. These planes are identified as kit planes but a number have been factory built in the USA and Czechoslovakia.

Of all the known failures only one had survivors. It occurred to a Frenchman who used a BRS.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | January 14, 2012 6:57 AM    Report this comment

My context is airplanes that don't have those identified structural or design shortcomings, but fail due to wear, cracks and just abuse.

Those we have not seen.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | January 14, 2012 7:41 AM    Report this comment

Anyone watch the debates? Ron Paul said something about privatizing the FAA. Never heard of that before. Turns out he proposes to privatize the FAA and air traffic controllers and getting rid of the TSA. Little nutty... but then I looked into it and it turns out he has his PPL. I'm starting to think that all private pilots are leaning Libertarian.... with the freedom to kill yourself in an flying an airplane if you so wish.

Posted by: Andre Abreu | January 14, 2012 11:21 PM    Report this comment

Andre,

The FAA does a lot of functions outside of ATC. I can see a private ATC function, but certifying aircraft and pilots and mechanics? I can't imagine those functions being privatized. Then again, I probably couldn't imagine privatizing flight service stations . . .

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | January 15, 2012 3:57 AM    Report this comment

Paul, the Underwriters Labs is not a government organization. When you get a good night's sleep because you believe your extension cords won't set you on fire, thank a private organization. Professional certifications are (mostly) non-governmental as well. We can think a little broader than we are used to on the subject of privatization, I think.

Posted by: Glenn Killinger | January 17, 2012 2:27 PM    Report this comment

I should clarify I'm talking about professional certifications like medical specialties and engineering, not *licensing* which is a little different ball of wax.

Posted by: Glenn Killinger | January 17, 2012 2:28 PM    Report this comment

Glen, I have no problem with eliminating the FAA altogether. I just don't think it is a practical idea.

One side note - every year there is a survey of government workers to determine which agency is the worst to work for. The FAA always won that distinction until establishment of TSA.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | January 17, 2012 2:38 PM    Report this comment

Long Path Tool helped me in this situation. http://PathTooDeep.com

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