"safe" piston single-engine planes

ozone

Well-Known Member
So, I was perusing the NTSB website last night and I began to wonder: is there any correlation between number of accidents reported for a class of plane and its safety. For example, cirrus (all models) has about 12 pages of accidents listed (since it became a full-scale commercial enterprise), with around 80 fatalities. Diamond (all models, including gliders) has 6 pages since inception in 1995 with around 10-12 fatalities. Then there is Cessna (just looked at 172 models from 1995 to present)..232 pages for about 2000 accidents....didnt bother to count fatalities.

Trends i noticed:
1. most accidents were pilot-error (VFR pilot into IMC, takeoff stalls, hitting things attached to the ground, etc).

2. Alarmingly, I noticed that cirrus had a not-too-small number of front gear failures that were described as due to "inadequate welding" by the NTSB. More alarming: one of their test pilots died due to poor alignment of the ailerons relative to the wing...so it got stuck. AND, the pilot had no training to be a test pilot in either a military or civilian test-pilot school (?).

3. Diamond had 3-6 accidents due to "engine failure for unknown reasons"...most described by the pilots as 'i tried to give it more gas, but nothing happened' or 'i tried the pump, the auxiliary pump, etc...and nothing happened' Interestingly, diamond has seemed to use several different engine manufacturers along the way (rotax, continental, lycoming etc)

4. Cessna: in the first few pages, I found only one or two equipment failures...everything else was pilot error.

So, is this any way to look at the "safety" of an airplane, or am I off-base if I am going to think about buying/leasing/renting some day?

...And another thing: for the moment if we assume that one way to evaluate safety would be mechanical failure per number of planes in a particular model/brand....how would one find out how many of a particular model/brand are floating around the GA community in the USA? How many diamond DA40's are there total in the USA for example?
 

cool92092

Well-Known Member
Re: "safe" piston sinlge-engine planes

correlation !== causality. there are more Cessna accidents because there is an exponentially greater amount of Cessna a/c flying out there than cirrus etc.

On a side note, i was told that the Cirrus has to be equipped with the ballistic parachute because it cannot recover from an incipient spin. Does anyone have any factual info on this? i hate living my life not knowing if this is just an old wives tale.
 

twotwowoo

New Member
Re: "safe" piston sinlge-engine planes

Safety has a lot more to do with the pilot than the aircraft. Any airplane can be dangerous if it has an unsafe pilot behind the controls. A sound maintenance program, and good preflight and postflight checks should eliminate most mechanical issues.

As for the Cirrus: I used to fly it and it's as safe as any other aircraft. I would imagine most of the nosegear failures occur from flat landings. As for the chute, it's true that the Cirrus cannot consistently recover from spins/incipient spins, so the chute was added for certification purposes. That doesn't mean that the Cirrus can't recover from a spin, but only that it can't be consistently demonstrated to do so. During my Cirrus training at WMU, I was always told to (altitude permitting) try the standard PARE method of recovery before pulling the chute.
 

ozone

Well-Known Member
Re: "safe" piston sinlge-engine planes

I used to fly it and it's as safe as any other aircraft. I would imagine most of the nosegear failures occur from flat landings.
Actually, here's the direct quote from NTSB:

accident number MIA05IA087
"The airplane's nose landing gear was sent to the NTSB Materials Laboratory in Washington DC for further inspection. Metallurgical examination of the nose gear revealed the weld between the strut tube and the spindle assembly was inadequate."

There was another accident reprots as well that described a similar problem and that the flight school (to whiuch the cirrus belonged) checked the rest of their fleet and found similar issues.
 

jonny

Well-Known Member
Re: "safe" piston sinlge-engine planes

The Cirrus aircraft were never tested in the spin, the idea behind the whole marketing of the cirrus single was "if you hit IMC hit the 'chute". Thus the requirement for the parachute. I'm sure there are people who fly Cirrus' on a daily basis that could add constructively. (sp?) This aircraft is completely capable of IFR operations, but if the pilot isn't than the chute is the only option.

Conversely, the decent rate with the parachute was compirable to those in a 172 in a stall (around 1500'pm)... obviously not the initial drop with no flaps, but if you read the latest brochure from ACA you will notice that the published (at least in the brochure for one a/c I really don't remember which one) escape procedure from a cloud is to stall the aircraft and just let it descend until you're out.

I would recommend an instrument rating. It's cheap life insurance, especially if you fly daytime VFR only. Does this mean that you can handle all instances of IFR no, but it gives you the basics so that if you encounter a cloud and are afraid it'll continue than you can survive.
 

USMCmech

Well-Known Member
Re: "safe" piston sinlge-engine planes

So, is this any way to look at the "safety" of an airplane, or am I off-base if I am going to think about buying/leasing/renting some day?
There is no such thing as a "safe" or "unsafe" airplane.

Flying is as safe or unsafe as the pilot makes it. End of discussion.
 

Brian Z

Well-Known Member
Re: "safe" piston sinlge-engine planes

On a side note, i was told that the Cirrus has to be equipped with the ballistic parachute because it cannot recover from an incipient spin. Does anyone have any factual info on this? i hate living my life not knowing if this is just an old wives tale.
It is not that they cannot recover, but rather they were never tested to recover. IIRC, it was cheaper to have the FAA sign off on the chute than certify for spins.
 
R

Roger, Roger

Guest
Re: "safe" piston sinlge-engine planes

Keep this in mind regarding the mechanical issues with Diamond and Cirrus: Those designs are 30-40 years younger than the 172. Over the last 4+ decades of building the 172, Cessna has made it pretty bulletproof. You have to TRY to break that airplane. Heck, even the engine in it now is derated by 20% of what it can do(A mostly similar model of the IO-360 is capable of 200 HP, while the stock 172 engine does 160).

As far as "safe" GA single-engine pistons, I echo a previous poster: with comparable maintenance and pre/post-flight inspections, all these airplanes are equally safe. Now, if you want to look at which one will be least expensive to keep in safe operating condition, then you'd be onto something.
 

tgrayson

New Member
Re: "safe" piston sinlge-engine planes

So, is this any way to look at the "safety" of an airplane, or am I off-base if I am going to think about buying/leasing/renting some day?
Without a fleet size or fleet hours per year flown, the NTSB data isn't worth much. I believe Aviation Consumer crunched the numbers and evaluated airplanes based on safety records. I recall the C182 as being the safest airplane. Most likely, the C172 wasn't far behind, but I don't remember the rest.

While pilot proficiency and judgment are probably overwhelmingly the dominant factor in the safety of any airplane, I think it's naive to say that the airplane itself doesn't sometimes play a role.
 

ozone

Well-Known Member
Re: "safe" piston sinlge-engine planes

There is no such thing as a "safe" or "unsafe" airplane.

Flying is as safe or unsafe as the pilot makes it. End of discussion.
I would agree with that statement in the vast majority of accidents, but what if the company making the plane doesn't weld stuff right, or manages to get their control mechanisms to stick.

cirrus: ERA09LA062
and not to be prejudicial....
diamond:MIA08LA156
and one more:
cessna: CHI07LA168
 

USMCmech

Well-Known Member
Re: "safe" piston sinlge-engine planes

Anticipating and planning for possible mechanical failures is part of being a "safe" pilot.
 

WalterSobchak

Well-Known Member
Re: "safe" piston sinlge-engine planes

It's also the type of pilot and the mission of the airplane. a 172/182 owner /pilot isn't probably doing the same missions as the 210/mooney/bonanza owner. Those airplanes probably fly more IFR and challenging flights for the pilot increasing the workload and the likely hood things can go wrong.
 

jonny

Well-Known Member
Re: "safe" piston sinlge-engine planes

Yeah, but less incidents happen on IFR flight plans than VFR. Explain that one.
 

Adler

Low-Level Individual
Re: "safe" piston sinlge-engine planes

...but there are unsafe airplanes: The Cri Cri
 

killbilly

Vocals, Lyrics, Triangle, Washboard, Kittens
Re: "safe" piston sinlge-engine planes

Yeah, but less incidents happen on IFR flight plans than VFR. Explain that one.
One possible explanation is that inexperienced pilots have to fly VFR while exercising the license to learn.
 

jonny

Well-Known Member
Re: "safe" piston sinlge-engine planes

Wow, myself and several others (lots of others), somehow were able to avoid doing things that would requre the use of instrument procedures to get our tickets. Maybe your experiences were different?
 

ozone

Well-Known Member
Re: "safe" piston sinlge-engine planes

...but there are unsafe airplanes: The Cri Cri
But, i could only find six NTSB reports from 1962 to present. That seems pretty safe to me....for an oversized model airplane :)
 
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