VisionJet CAPS Pull In Florida, Three Injured


One person was seriously injured and two suffered minor injuries in what appears to be the first field deployment of the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System on a VisionJet SF50 near Orlando on Friday. According to clickorlando the aircraft went down in a marshy area near Lake Tohopekaliga about 3:15 p.m. The publication said all three occupants, a man, woman and boy, were able to get out of the plane on their own and were then taken to a local hospital for treatment of unspecified injuries.

Details of the flight are scant at the moment but there were severe thunderstorms in the area at the time. A photo accompanying the story shows the parachute tangled in brush behind the largely intact but damaged airframe. First responders told the publication that hundreds of gallons of fuel spilled from the plane. The aircraft took off from Miami and was headed to Kissimmee Gateway Airport. The aircraft is registered to a company in Plantation, Florida.

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. They can glean the details from the pilot. It’s encouraging that these mishaps are now survivable. They had some glitch with the plane that grounded the fleet awhile back. I hope this isn’t a repeat of that problem.

  2. “…there were severe thunderstorms in the area at the time.”
    I’m thrilled at the positivity of the outcome.
    Congratulations and gratitude to Cirrus for their Collier Award-winning SF-50 design.

    • A totaled airframe and 3 injuries were ALL due to the PIC.
      I just cannot believe in this age of near real-time cockpit weather that some pilots don’t give a damn about their airplane or their passengers and just press ahead into SIG weather. Yea, give credit to Cirrus for knowing that most pilots cannot be trusted with a SPIFR jet.

  3. This appears to have been avoidable but get there itis is a powerful disease. Does the CAPS give the pilots an unjustified sense of invincibility? The Vision is a light jet not a 777, tangling with that kind of weather even the 777 would probably hold for a while. I would be interested in the fuel status, did that force the pilot to try to land? What was the motivation? Was there a failure of the plane? Lot’s of unknowns but on the surface it looks bad.

      • Just out of curiosity, how many gallons of fuel can a Vision Jet hold? It’s pretty hard to estimate the volume of fuel spilled on the ground. Even the 50 gallons in a typical 172 looks like a lot when spread out on the tarmac.

    • In some cases, it appears to be the opposite, and some pilots pulled too late. Cirrus training says that if you aren’t guaranteed of making a runway due to engine failure, pull it. But a few have tried otherwise, and some have pulled just in time to ensure being out of control when they hit the ground.

    • Every aviation mishap is avoidable to some extent. This scenario definitely contains the ingredients for overtaxing of the crew and airframe. Maintenance errors, poor planning, lack of proficiency or training, inaccurate forecasts, misreading of instruments…Only the NTSB and manufacturers are capable of discerning the causal factors with any certainty. I just wish they would move those investigations along quicker so pilots and other aviation personnel can learn from those mistakes.

  4. We landed a Bus about 45 minutes after that accident, and not too far from KMIA. We briefed our company policy windshear escape procedure, and reviewed our avoidance policies and modified our approach speed accordingly.

    We calculated fuel to, and routes to our alternates, with an”S”. We had a licensed Dispatcher giving us updates on the wx encroaching on our STAR.

    We didn’t have to go around, but it we were spring loaded and the controllers were providing exceedingly helpful vectors with real time continuous PIREPS from all preceding aircraft.

    We receive constant training from a highly professional organization with multi million dollar simulations from instructors with 10’s of thousands of hours of experience.

    The first time I saw one of those my FO said “that looks like a fun toy for a rich guy”. IMO that aircraft had no business flying around, and apparently in, the convective activity present that afternoon.

    What really irks me is not that they almost killed themselves, that’s on them (although one was some poor trusting kid), but the danger to the first responders, and the additional work load they put on an already overtaxed ATC system by launching at all into that obviously crap weather.

    • Dexter you eloquently hit the nail on the head more than once. For two decades now several OEMs have been producing what we used to call VLJs and marketing them to the financially capable and ego controlled, never intending these aircraft to be professionally operated and backed up by company safety policies and SOPs. It’s the ageless proverbial “doctor in his Bonanza” syndrome all over again but now on steroids. Collier Award-winning designs with ballistic parachutes will never adequately substitute for professional operations.

      • Many years ago when I was working on my ratings I saw encouragement in a Flying magazine safety editorial that has stuck with me. The author’s point was, “You may only have 100 hrs, but that doesn’t mean you can’t fly like a 10,000 pilot.”

      • Besides the “doctor in a Bonanza” , this reminds me of what happened when Piper came out with the Malibu. After several went down due to inflight breakups, the FAA did a complete review of the certification of the plane. They found nothing wrong with the plane, instead blaming those pilots who were flying into weather no plane is designed for and that they had no business flying in.

    • Thank goodness that this accident had the outcome that it did.
      I generally don’t comment on accidents and incidents, but after having read your observations Dexter M on the conditions that day and having just retired from a 43 year long career in commercial aviation as a pilot with the last 35 years in the Canadian equivalent to part 121 operations, I could not agree more. I also second the comments written above that make a similar point.

    • I wonder if the fact other aircraft were proceeding might have given the pilot a false sense of confidence about the situation? I don’t mean to speculate, but there could be a lesson in that either way. As far as I know, the guy is retired Navy and Airline vet with a bazillion hours total and 2,000 in type and was doing perfectly fine until his autopilot started fighting for control or some other unforeseeable malfunction.

    • No airplane, of any size or type, has any business flying in convective activity, ever. The smaller the plane, the greater distance is required from that stuff. I’m a “run and hide” kind of guy when the thunderheads are building.

  5. In discussing insurance cost on a Cirrus, someone quoted an agent as saying, “The CAPS handle should be labeled ‘Pull to Transfer Title to Insurance Company'”. Still, if the end result is survival, it’s a win.

  6. Glad the outcome turned out the way it did. But, while I think the CAPS system is a great idea, I often wonder if it might encourage pilots to take more chances than they would without it.

    • No question about that. Pilot error is often the result of ‘risk homeostasis’. Kinda like drivers on city streets or on highways. Gotta wonder how many accidents occur because of anti-lock brakes or anti-ice materials on the road during the winter when patches of black ice is a reality many drivers ignore.

      • “how many accidents occur because of anti-lock brakes”

        Almost certainly fewer than if most people did not have anti-lock brakes.

        • “Almost certainly fewer than if most people did not have anti-lock brakes.”

          Accidents? Nope. Antilock are designed to maintain control under panick braking. The theory is that it’s safer to plow straight into the accident to better let aibags and belts and engineered crumple zones increase your chances of survival. Honestly, a full -lock sideways slide can avoid an accident if you have skills.

          • Uh, no. Antilock brakes let you steer while braking so you can avoid the accident. Hope you’re keeping your “skills” away from me on the road.

    • Almost certainly some, like any safety technology. But it’s better to have it available so one doesn’t have to die from their mistakes.

  7. This is the exact scenario I set up to happen unexpectedly in approach in a simulator… the auto pilot wants to drive you into the ground and control movement will not release auto pilot control of the aircraft.
    Know where your circuit breaker for the auto pilot is and be ready to pull it if it gets a mind of its own.

    • Some planes don’t disconnect in response to control column movement, and some do. But they all have a button on the yoke.
      Anyway, there’s nothing in the article that says there was an autopilot problem. Jump to conclusions much?

  8. I don’t want to harsh everyone’s speculative righteous indignation, but the article clearly states, “Details of the flight are scant at the moment but there were severe thunderstorms in the area at the time.”

    Florida pilots know that if your wx brief doesn’t say “thunderstorms in the area”, you entered the wrong airport identifier. During certain times of the year, “severe” is much preferred to “widespread”. At this point we have NOTHING that implicates that a TSTM encounter had anything to do with the accident. The guy survived an inflight failure; good for him. What say we all stop screeching and flinging our poop until we know more about what really happened?

  9. “Uh, no. Antilock brakes let you steer while braking so you can avoid the accident”
    I’ve avoided a collision by locking the rear brakes and swinging the car sideways to a stop. That alone shortened the overall length of the stop by 3 feet and thus avoided t-boning right into his drivers door. If you learn how to actually drive a car at the limits, some “technologies” actually hinder ultimate performance.