US auto-travel safety statistics are compiled by NHTSA (National Highway Transportation Safety Administration) and its measure is "accidents per hundred million miles traveled". This and aviation accident information can be combined to give the information on the chart to the right.
Airlines and business aviation (Biz-Av) are very safe, about ten times safer than auto travel. Motorcycles have a much weaker record with general aviation fitting between auto and motorcycle travel. But when you fly yourself the fatal accident rate is about ten times higher than when you drive your car.
We easily grasp that motorcycle risk can vary on factors entirely within the rider's control: helmets and alcohol are major factors in NHTSA statistics.
We also grasp that our choices while driving determine the risk level - and these show up in accidents statistics: alcohol is again a big factor and the use of seat belts are easily measured and significant. But passive features in cars also show up well: risk is measurably reduced with passive features like airbags and traction control.
There are similar factors at work in general aviation - factors very much within your control. Things that are common in Airlines, Biz-Av and other professional flight departments (like Cirrus), but rarely considered in general aviation as a whole.
This chart (right) shows where Cirrus in-house operations fit in on the accident rate spectrum. Cirrus operates a fleet of (yes, Cirrus) single-engine aircraft and conducts all types of flights from flying club to self-flown executive travel; customer flight training to air taxi-style transport; and sales demonstrations to sales travel. A very broad spectrum of operations and pilot experience.
Cirrus is not unique in this respect - aircraft manufacturer's flight departments, many air-taxi operators and others also have this kind of record.
SOPs and Regular Flight Checks
Two factors that are emphasized by those very safe airline and business operators - and by Cirrus' in-house corporate operations - are:
Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs): Cirrus publishes, and enforces, rules on when, where, and in what conditions Cirrus company pilots fly. This varies by the experience level of the pilot.
Regular Flight Checks: All Cirrus in-house pilots receive 6-month checks on both VFR and, if appropriate, instrument procedures.
You can fly the same way: Cirrus publishes its SOPs (the Cirrus Flight Operations Manual):
- As a printed book from Cirrus Connection. (for both Cirrus Perspective and the older Garmin/S-TEC/Avidyne avionics).
- As a Download (Cirrus Perspective only).
A summary of these Cirrus SOPs is shown on the MFD screen in every Cirrus aircraft when you start up the avionics. A review before every flight will alert you that you may be accepting levels of risk that Cirrus does not allow for its company pilots.
Extracts are shown on the right. Click on them for the complete screens.