The Cirrus Owners & Pilots Association (COPA) website has a detailed account of the recent Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS) pull #32 when Dr. Richard “Dick” McGlaughlin and his daughter Elaine were forced to make an unscheduled “landing” on water in the Bahamas.
Dick, a medical doctor, and his wife were on their way to Haiti to deliver medical supplies when the engine suddenly stopped at 9,500 feet over water. He managed to get to within 2 miles of Andros Island before given two choices: Ditch in the water as slow as practical or deploy the parachute system.
It was noted by COPA that the survival rate for a conventional ditching is over 90% but some still end up perishing due to exposure or drowning – meaning its important to have good survival and rescue equipment on board. It was also noted that there has been five Cirrus parachute deployments over water with generally favorable results except for concerns about back injuries and just how quickly everyone can exit the aircraft.
Dick ended up getting impatient and pulled at the 2,300 foot level rather than his intended 2,000 foot level but nevertheless and lucky for him and his wife, the rescuers reported seeing his parachute from about eight miles away while their tiny life raft was just a speck on the ocean. Both were uninjured – despite the harder than expected impact on the water.
In other words, the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System worked again but COPA concluded that pilots should still anticipate the need to use the CAPS in an emergency by practicing its use in a simulator and to carefully consider what survival and rescue equipment is carried for the conditions being flown through or over. It was also noted that pilots should pull early while over water to allow for plenty of time to prepare for the splash down and more importantly, to get out of the aircraft.
More pictures and details of the mishap and the rescue are available on the COPA website.