First Engine, Then Parachute Failed In Cirrus Incident


A Cirrus SR22 pilot’s really bad day ended with a relatively safe emergency landing on a dirt road after first the engine, then the emergency parachute failed according to an NTSB report. The pilot took off from Tucson, Arizona, on the afternoon of March 28, 2021, and told investigators all was normal until he reached 10,000 feet when the engine stopped making power and started shuddering.

He initially thought he could make it to Marana Airport but the engine kept windmilling after shutdown and that ended the airport bid. ATC gave him vectors for a nearby glider port but at 2,000 feet, he did what the POH advises and pulled the handle for the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS). Then he pulled it a couple of more times. By then he’d lost the altitude he needed to make the glider strip so he aimed for the road. A wing caught bushes on the side of the road and spun the plane around, heavily damaging the wing and fuselage.

The NTSB said the inspection of the engine revealed the No. 2 bearing had spun and blocked the flow of oil and led to the engine’s destruction. The damage was too severe to determine what caused the bearing to spin. As for the parachute, the firing sequence was initiated but “undetermined inconsistencies” in the primer material caused it to fail to ignite the chute’s rocket. Cirrus subsequently issued service bulletins that led to the replacement of firing mechanisms in the chutes of 347 piston aircraft and 26 SF50 Vision Jets.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. I’m happy for the happy ending. But it seems to me that there’s a lesson buried just below the surface of irony. I have not faced this emergency in my forty-five years flying, but it seems to have been handled with aplomb the old fashioned way. How sad it would have been for the chute to have deployed, destroying the airplane and leading to potential injury for occupants.

    • It sounds like the plane is pretty much done for anyhow: engine toast, extensive wing and fuselage damage but – as you say – this was well handled and had the potential for resulting in less damage than pulling the chute. Sounds like the pilot knew this, and was trying to save the plane, but ran out of options.

  2. Engine failure in severe clear over a desert. I know the Cirrus is not exactly a STOL plane but I’d imagine it would have been possible to just focus on a safe landing and not even consider the parachute.

    Either way its all good.

    There may be an insurance reimbursement advantage to totaling the airplane.

    • There is more to consider. I know this desert and it is some of the roughest terrain you would NOT want to land on. With exception of some roads, any of the SW desert terrain is not suitable for off-airport landings.

      • Thanks for the local input. I’ve driven through there, ridden dirt bikes a bit but I’ve not flown through the area.

      • Better to have a “relatively safe emergency landing” on the desert than on a densely populated area. I am glad to know the occupants fared well.

  3. While I also think the circumstances here would favor a landing, I’m never going to fault anyone for following procedures when there’s not a really obvious reason not to. I’m especially not doing it based on a news story.
    I also wouldn’t blame the guy if he never flew in another Cirrus. Lol.

  4. I wonder if the engine failure could have been related to the Continental AD or a consequence of compliance with it.

    • The #1 cylinder was replaced about 50 hrs before the failure. With the #2 main bearing spinning leads me to think that the crank was turned with #1 off and caused the #2 main bearing to shift and eventually spin, cutting off the oil to #2 con rod….
      The fretting corrosion on the case halves at the #2 main indicate insufficient torque on the case bolts/ nuts.

      Glad the pilot got the aircraft on the ground with no injuries [ 10 stars !!]

  5. Read the POH. It does not advise pulling the handle at 2000 feet under all circumstances of engine failure. Instead it says:

    “The Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS) is designed to lower the aircraft and its passengers to the ground in the event of a life-threatening emergency. CAPS deployment will likely result in damage to, or loss of, the airframe, and possible injury to the aircraft occupants. Its use should not be taken lightly…

    If a forced landing on an unprepared surface is required CAPS activation is recommended unless the pilot in command concludes there is a high likelihood that a safe landing can be accomplished. If a condition requiring a forced landing occurs over rough or mountainous terrain, over water out of gliding distance to land, over widespread ground fog or at night, CAPS activation is strongly recommended.”

    I won’t second guess this pilots evaluation of the situation, but it misleading to say he was just “following procedures”.

    • J.B.,

      Thanks for that input from the POH.
      I think that if it was day, vfr, I would prefer to fly the aircraft to the off airport landing.

  6. Never mind, found it in the report. Looks like 2197 on the engine if we are going by the Hobbs meter. NOTE to all, make sure you mx personal are actually STATING the TSOH and or TT of the engine. Its actually REQUIRED information to be entered on the log pages. ( it was not in the logs on these entries. )
    Looks to me like he may have been subscribing to TBO busting. Of course thats just a guess on my part.