Cirrus pilots react to plane crash
On Oct. 11, a Cirrus SR-20 flown by New York Yankee pitcher Cory Lidle and a flight instructor crashed into the side of a high-rise apartment building in New York City. The crash thrust Cirrus and its planes into the spotlight, amid questions about the safety of the Duluth-based company's planes. MPR News asked Cirrus SR-20 pilots around the country to share their insights about the plane.
St. Paul, Minn. — Eight pilots responded by email to an MPR request to share what they knew about the safety of the Cirrus SR-20. All said the SR-20 is a safe plane, with state-of-the-art equipment.
"It is a docile, extremely forgiving airplane," wrote Michael Zurenko, a South Carolina pilot with experience flying the Cirrus SR-20. "When flown in appropriate conditions and within the limitations of the pilot, it is a very safe and capable airplane."
"(T)he Cirrus community believes that about 75 percent (of accidents) involve pilot factors, and only a few are suspected of involving airplane factors," wrote Rick Beach, a five-year pilot from San Diego who has also flown the Cirrus SR-20 model.
Pilots wondered less about the plane and more about Lidle's level of training with the Cirrus SR-20.
David Dixon of White Bear Lake, who has flown for nearly 50 years, doubts that the design of the Cirrus is to blame in the crash of Cory Lidle. Dixon said investigations will have to look at weather conditions, the pilot's mental state, and whether eyewitnesses noticed problems with the plane.
"I do not think one should start blaming the airplane," Dixon wrote. "It is much more likely that serious pilot error is the cause, as has been the cause of most of the Cirrus crashes."
"A plane going slower than normal, lower than normal and having to make a steep turn is a dangerous mix," wrote Tom Morrison, a New Jersey pilot with 30 years experience, who said he's flown the Cirrus SR-20.
Pilot Rick Beach also wrote that an important finding is the instructor's lack of training with the Cirrus SR-20 aircraft. Tyler Stanger, a 26-year-old California flight instructor, accompanied Lidle on the flight and was killed in the crash.