Latest Cirrus parachute pull

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According to a report on WUSA9.com, a Cirrus crashed yesterday near Montgomery County Airport. The pilot, who was the only person on board, survived the crash thanks to the Cirrus’s CAPS parachute. As of March 2009, the CAPS has been activated 14 times with 27 survivors and 1 fatalities, according to the Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association.

I’m a Cirrus pilot myself and sometimes I think of the parachute as a bit of a gimmick – something to make passengers feel safer in a single-engine aircraft – but these results are a useful reminder that it is a serious safety device.

I spent a very happy afternoon last year at RGV Aviation in Gloucestershire Airport crawling all over dismantled SR-22s with one of their mechanics. It’s fascinating to see how planes are put together and how all the components interact and much better than trying to read the manual and visualise it. One of my strongest memories was how very small the parachute seemed. It’s smaller than a hiker’s backpack when stowed.

Hat tip Rob Mark at Jetwhine (via twitter).

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7 Responses to Latest Cirrus parachute pull

  1. martijn moret March 16, 2009 at 09:16 #

    Oops, when I read the article it says: "A witness who talked with the pilot says the door popped open. He says when the pilot tried to secure the door that's when he deployed the parachute."

    I hope it did not crash because of the chute. Nevertheless, the pilot survived of course, which is most important. Always a pity to see a beautiful plane in such condition. 🙁

    • Matthew Stibbe March 16, 2009 at 09:24 #

      I read that too but it sounds implausible to me for two reasons: 1) the doors on the Cirrus stay shut even if they unlatch in flight because of the air flow. I've had this happen to me and all I did was do a circuit, land and shut the door properly. No drama. Certainly no need to pull the chute. 2) It is very hard to imagine how you could be holding the door AND pull the chute at the same time. The chute needs a very strong downward pull from the ceiling which I think would be difficult with one hand on the door.

  2. martijn moret March 17, 2009 at 08:46 #

    Door in flight should be no problem indeed. My CFI once showed how to use it (in a C152) as an alternative aileron 😉 . I would certainly not let a door distract my flying.

    Where is the handle of the chute; in the middle of the ceiling? Is it possible he wanted to lock the door properly and using the chute-handle to hold himself with one hand and try to lock the door with the other? That would not be very wise, but who knows….. maybe he was never shown to not pay attention to the door.

  3. Matthew Stibbe March 17, 2009 at 08:53 #

    The chute handle is in the ceiling between the P1 and P2 seats. You have to pull it down, then extend it, then pull it very hard in a long arc to activate it. It's hard to believe anyone activated the parachute without meaning to. You couldn't do it just by leaning against it or using it as leverage to shut the door (which wouldn't work anyway because of the angles). I think this "secure the door" reportage is just misleading. It just doesn't sound like something that is either possible or plausible.

  4. martijn moret March 21, 2009 at 08:16 #

    More info (non-official off course)
    http://gazette.net/stories/03182009/gaitnew204745

    "The pilot reported that the door was not fully secure as the airplane lifted off," Schiada said. "As he entered the cloud layer, the door

  5. Matthew Stibbe March 21, 2009 at 08:23 #

    It sounds to me that he got distracted by the door opening, tried to shut it, decided to return to the airport and got confused by all this and going in and out of cloud.

    I guess I was lucky that when the door popped open on me it was a beautiful clear day and I was on a VFR flight. But it's good to remember that Cirrus doors stay shut in the slip stream so while the noise is distracting, you can leave them alone and concentrate on flying.

    It's the old thing, isn't it? Aviate, navigate, communicate. Then shut the door.

  6. Stephen Wilson April 17, 2009 at 22:53 #

    Dead pilots dont lie.  NTSB reports show Cirrus planes advertised with a safety parachute are three times more deadly than their aluminum rival without.

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