Low-Level Chute Deployment Probed

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Authorities in Sonoma, California, are investigating whether the deployment of a Cirrus whole-plane parachute at low level was a factor in the death of the pilot. Pilot Bill Goldman was killed and his son, daughter and their nanny were seriously hurt in the crash. The SR22T took off from Sonoma Skypark on Friday morning and airport manager Ron Price told the local ABC affiliate that the engine quit shortly after departure. “When the engine stopped it became a glider, the nose was down, it looked really good and I was just hoping it would make a landing out in that field,” he said. Instead, Goldman apparently pulled the parachute handle at what Price estimated was an altitude of 300 feet.

Cirrus literature says the chute can be effective above 400 feet but didn’t comment directly on this incident. “The Cirrus Aircraft whole-plane parachute system has been deployed 72 times over the last 18 years, resulting in 148 saved lives who were returned to their families,” the company said in response to a query from the TV station. Photos from the scene show the wreckage in a large open and relatively flat field.

Comments (11)

Parachute systems have no place on type certified aircraft. How this got thru the FAA is beyond me. To relinquish your duty and responsibility as a licensed pilot in flight violates several FAA regulations to include careless and reckless operation of an aircraft. If our new pilots are not capable of a power off landing then they should not be piloting an aircraft.

This type of system is not the safety net that we need in aviation. It is dangerous and needs to go away, soon.

The best safety net in an aircraft is a well trained pilot.


Posted by: Dan Uhlik | July 16, 2017 11:34 AM    Report this comment


"The best safety net in an aircraft is a well trained pilot".


But I'll take the parachute, too. I also wear a seat belt when I drive, and I don't think that means I'm a dangerous or irresponsible driver.

Posted by: Thomas Boyle | July 16, 2017 3:55 PM    Report this comment

When it's a glider, the pilot controls the aircraft. But when he deploys the 'chute, he loses ALL CONTROL of where the plane will end up.
No thanks. Not for me. I will always fly it down.

Posted by: Rod Lovell | July 16, 2017 5:55 PM    Report this comment

"I will always fly it down"? Really? So you're flying along and have a mid air collision. One wing either crumples or shears off, and you're going to fly it down? The law of gravity has a different idea and it will win. That is the type of accident these chutes are intended to prevent.

Posted by: Kenneth Sabel | July 16, 2017 7:03 PM    Report this comment

Kenneth, your comment is naive and laughable. So you are suggesting that all RPT Boeing 747's, Airbus A380's etc all be fitted for the reasons you have given, just in case. I'm surprised you can get out of bed in the morning to face the catastrophic world that awaits you.
BTW, have a nice day.

Posted by: Rod Lovell | July 16, 2017 9:48 PM    Report this comment

Hey Hotrod,

Kenneth provided an example. You provided a straw man.

I can think of several life threatening situations, Kenneth's example included, in which the pilot could not effectively "fly it down". What's naive, is not being able to imagine a single one.

Posted by: Robert Ore | July 17, 2017 4:40 AM    Report this comment

With apologies to Dirty Harry Callahan, "a man's got to know his limitations." In this case, the pilot MAY HAVE deployed the 'chute outside of its recommended operating parameters. When lack of knowledge and/or training collides with deeply-held but misplaced Faith, bad outcomes are common.
Cirrus' statement about lives saved by their CAPS is valid. It's no panacea, but it's demonstrated its value in the SR2x vehicles. The 'chute in their Vision jet is another matter, entirely.
I offer my condolences to those affected by this crash.

Posted by: Tom Yarsley | July 17, 2017 5:33 AM    Report this comment

The comments on here pontificating that having a whole plane parachute is a sign that you're not a "real" pilot are absurd. I own a Cirrus. Years ago I had an engine out in a Skylane at about 1000 AGL and managed to put it down in a field without doing any damage to me or the airplane. Been there, done that. As a result, I'm fully aware of how fortunate I was to have a suitable landing place I could reach and I'm aware of how unlikely that was. While I suspect that there are some Cirrus pilots who take the attitude that the parachute is a get-out-of-jail-free card that will save them from bad decisions or incompetence, I see it as something that vastly increases my (and my passengers') safety margin.

Posted by: john kearney | July 17, 2017 8:09 AM    Report this comment

The animosity against airframe parachutes is the same argument against (take your pick): GPS, Autopilot, Tablets, Stability Augmentation Systems, Automated Upset Recovery, HUDs, Cockpit Weather and Traffic, etc. That is, resentment from those who learned things "the hard way" that what once was hard is now simpler. This is simply called "progress", and I'm very much happy that the newest aircraft are more stable (yet still maneuverable), have safer, more robust systems, and provide visual displays aiding in situational awareness.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | July 17, 2017 1:45 PM    Report this comment

I fly in mountainous terrain. My plane does not have a chute, but there are times when I look down and wonder where I could put the aircraft down if I lost the engine. In those cases, a whole plane chute would be a nice option. Glide to best terrain available, pull the chute, and know, while I will lose the plane, I have a better chance of survival with chute.

Posted by: Gary Risley | July 17, 2017 6:04 PM    Report this comment

To 'chute' or not to, will come down to proper training and decision making skills based on proper knowledge. These two elements should be at the core of any pilot training, and recurrent sessions.
As rightly pointed out by several others, the aircraft chute systems are an added safety margin when used properly in the right conditions. If they are to be seen as simply an 'escape' out of a bad decision making sequence then they will certainly hurt more people.

Posted by: Mauro Hernandez | July 19, 2017 12:39 PM    Report this comment

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