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.