Piston charter model aims to get people off the road

 - June 3, 2008, 10:52 AM

The Cirrus SR22 has been the world’s best selling single-engine aircraft for five years, with more than 3,000 sold to date. But the thought of using the SR22 for charter services is still relatively new.

“It’s really the most cost-effective airplane we could offer,” said James Cooper, co-owner of Open Air. An average trip costs between $400 and $500 per hour.
Current business jet owners also use the SR22 because the airplane can land at airports with 2,500-foot runways, which allows the airplanes to reach more U.S. airports, according to SATSair CEO Steve Hanvey.

Safety is another factor. The AOPA Air Safety Foundation (ASF) recently concluded that the Cirrus–with its advanced cockpit technology and a rocket-deployed 55-foot airframe parachute that can be activated by the pilot or the passengers–“shows improved safety versus the [rest of the] general aviation fleet.”

However, ASF executive director Bruce Landsberg did note that there have been six fatal Cirrus accidents resulting in the deaths of 10 people since November. The problem, he said, is not the aircraft itself. Rather, Cirrus Design has found a market among younger, less experienced private aircraft owners. None of the Cirrus accidents have involved commercial operations, Landsberg said. “Commercial pilots have a significantly higher level of experience.”