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Feature Article 3


Max Trescott, WVFC CFI


For pilots flying the Cirrus SR20 and SR22—and for those who want to transition into these fun-to-fly airplanes—I’d like to share a few tips. They are fresh on my mind after teaching all weekend in Concord, California at the most recent COPA CPPP.

COPA is the Cirrus Owner Pilots Association, the type club for Cirrus aircraft. If you fly Cirrus aircraft or are interested in them, I strongly recommend you join. Here’s why. Pilots who actively participate in COPA have a Cirrus accident rate that is just one-quarter that of non-COPA members. There’s no way to know if that’s because only the most safety-conscious pilots join COPA.  And certainly, just mailing in your $65 dues won’t make you any safer. Actively participating means posting on the COPA forum and/or attending COPA sponsored seminars and training programs. There’s a wealth of information to be gleaned from their web site at And if you’re a CFI, you can join for just $35/year.

CPPP stands for the Cirrus Pilot Proficiency Program. COPA introduced CPPP in early 2002 and over 350 COPA members attend each year. It’s a weekend long course held at locations around the world. The three closest locations are Concord, Van Nuys, and Las Vegas. Attendees can attend the ground portion for $600, or a combined ground plus flight program for $1400.

Here’s tip number one. In a Cirrus, don’t reverse the direction of travel of the flaps while they are in motion. For example, if you meant to set the flaps to 50%, but accidentally turned the flap lever to 100%, wait until the flaps reach 100% before selecting 50%. If you reverse the flap direction while the flaps are in motion, sometime a relay will fail, causing the flaps to freeze in one position.

During a power-off stall recovery at this CPPP, a SR22 pilot I was flying with raised the flaps from 100% to 0% and then remembered that he should have just raised them to the 50%. Instead of waiting for the flaps to reach 0%, he immediately moved the lever back to the 50% position, where the flaps froze. He’d owned the airplane for seven years and this had never happened to him before. Yet the problem is so common that many SR22 owners carry spare flap relays with them! Coincidentally, two hours later, an SR22 owner visiting Concord from Orange County asked me where he could get his flaps repaired as they became stuck while he was preflighting his plane for the trip home!

Here’s tip number two. On each flight, review the checklist for at least one emergency procedure and system malfunction. If you do that consistently, you’ll amass knowledge on how to handle the unexpected.

I find when I ask pilots about emergencies, they will often talk through what they would do and maybe mention the checklist at the end. Even if you prefer paper checklists for preflight and start up as I do, you’ll probably discover that you can find a Cirrus emergency checklist fastest by using the electronic checklists in the MFD (Multifunction Display). Invariably when pilots talk me through emergencies, they forget at least one step that they would have taken if they’d only gone to the checklist.

Here’s tip number three. When running through emergency procedures that require you to pull the Alternate Air knob, such as engine failure in flight, you might want to just touch the knob instead of pulling it. One pilot attending this CPPP thought he was pulling the Alternate Air knob and instead pulled the parking brake knob! The two knobs are similar in shape and are both located near the pilot’s right ankle, where they are very difficult to see. Fortunately after landing with the parking brake on, the aircraft didn’t blow a tire, though it did come to a stop on the runway.

The Cirrus SR20 and SR22 are my favorite aircraft and West Valley now has the least expensive SR20 for rent in the S.F. Bay area.