Twin vs single engine with parachute for cross-country

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After reading about the cost of insuring a Cirrus, and the Cirrus
retraining requirements, I am questioning as to whether a light twin
would be just as safe or even safer than a parachute equipped plane
for cross country travel.

It would seem that the Cirrus is not cheap to buy, or to insure. (like
a twin) It would also seem that periodic recurrency training is going
to be needed to stay safe in this plane. (like a twin) We also know
that the parachute will not save you from every possible emergency,
and that deploying it is not a guarentee of an injury-free landing.

Every pilot has heard that the only use for the second engine is to
take you to the scene of the accident. But at the same time, every
pilot has heard that it is unwise to fly single engine at night, over
water, or over mountainous terrain. It seems to me that the Cirrus is
being sold as a cross country plane, and that for the cross country
mission, a twin might actually be the safer choice.

Phil, you have experience with both the Piper Seminole, and the
Cirrus. Which plane would you pick for cross-country flying, and why?

-- David Sanford, May 2, 2007


If I were flying the Caribbean all the time, a Seminole with air conditioning would be comforting. I didn't enjoy flying the machine to Los Angeles, though, due to a low frequency resonance that fancy noise-canceling headsets wouldn't cancel. The Seminole doesn't provide much comfort over mountains, especially in the summer. The service ceiling is 4400' DENSITY altitude. Unless you are going to fly every 2-3 days and train every 6 months, I think that a piston twin with its six power levers is too complicated for mere mortals (and the accident stats and insurance rates bear this out).

We just got a quote from USAIG for our SR20. It will be $2900 per year on a hull value of $200,000. My partner is low time with no instrument rating.

I think the very best value in the world right now for a cross-country airplane is a three-year-old SR22. You can get one of these for $280,000 with a glass cockpit and every option. It will carry four adults in spacious comfort at 185 knots. If you don't need the interior space, the Columbia 350 is a nicer airplane to hand-fly, but they aren't available on the used market due to the tiny quantity produced compare to the Cirrus.

-- Philip Greenspun, May 9, 2007

I directed this question to Phil, as he has experience in both the Cirrus and Seminole, but welcome comments from others on this topic.

-- David Sanford, May 2, 2007

David, I haven't flown either, so I shouldn't disturb you, but the subject of choosing between aircraft types is just irresistable sometimes, so forgive me. From a safety point of view, I wouldn't know which to choose - not even which safety parameters to consider. Seminole seems to have a lot of landing accidents (among them gear-ups) - probably because its widespread role as a trainer - but apparently not many fatal accidents for a small twin. For the Cirrus, I'm still not convinced about the benefits of the parachute. From a comfort and ergonomics point view, I suppose the Cirrus wins hands down. But while the Seminole is inexpensive to acquire, the DOC and maintainance would be decisive for me. Without having the numbers, I wouldn't be surprised if the maintainance of the Seminole is more than triple that of the Cirrus. Number of engines, fuel system and gear system - and aircraft age. So I would choose the Cirrus. Except I would choose a Columbia.

-- Henrik Vaeroe, May 3, 2007


Thanks for your reply. I was playing around with the AOPA Insurance agency's "Quik Quote" software, and I noticed that the cost of insuring either a light twin (Seminole) or single engine retractable (Saratoga) to be similar at around $4,200 for a pilot with decent amount of time in type. A Cessna 182 comes out at about half ($2100) the cost. Perhaps this cost difference is because of the types of missions flown by the planes, resulting in higher accidents rates for the planes that do a lot of cross country flying. (???)

BUT... what I found very interesting was that for the SR-20, the system will not even give a quote, and the SR-22 is not listed. I take this to mean that the SR-20 and SR-22 are not easy planes to get insurance for. (expensive???)

This is when I got to thinking that with all the hype about the parachute, whether flying a "docile" twin like the Seminole for cross country flight would be a safer move (although more expensive) than flying a parachute equipped plane. After all, convention wisdom says that it IS ok to fly a twin at night, or over mountains/water.

Are we single engine pilots looking for rationalization that with a parachute it is now safe to fly single engine at night, over mountains/water? Are we incorrectly scoffing at the twin engine approach because it is more expensive, and requires a rating that we don't have? And that it requires recurrent training that we don't want to do? Oh but wait a minute, the Cirrus requires that too, and is expensive to insure as well. So if that is the case, why spend all the money and time for a parachute equipped plane when you can have an extra engine instead? The high end Cirrus planes sell for nearly as much as a new Seminole.

-- David Sanford, May 3, 2007

Just go for a Diamond Twin star DA-42.. cheap to operate... great service

In my opinion known icing is more important than possible engine faillure, the diamond has that option available, if you really wanna go SE go for the mooney, nothing beats the cost/ performance ratio..

-- yves soete, May 10, 2007

I just got my insurance quote for a 2001 SR20. It was $1500 per year. I have my PPL only with 50 hours.


-- John P, May 8, 2008

I flew a Baron for about 6 years and moved into a Cirrus about 3 years ago when I sold the Baron. I have a comfort level with the parachute for my family. I like the twin a lot but my wife would not learn to land it - or any other plane for that matter. So, I figured the Cirrus would be a good bet for my family if something happened to me. Now, 3 years into flying the Cirrus, I really miss hand flying the Baron. I still fly a friends Baron now and then;-) In my opinion, the Cirrus is a push button plane that is not intended to be hand flown. I am now considering going into a late model Bonanza to regain the joy of flying I so miss or possibly even going back into a Baron. Thoughts????

-- steve cohen, May 26, 2008


How was insurance on the Bonanza compared to the Cirrus? From what I take the Cirrus is a x-country push button machine to get you from point A to point B fairly quickly. I am considering a Saratoga myself but am more and more leaning towards the SR22 the more I read.


-- Jeff Poplin, June 9, 2010