Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Light-Sport Chronicles: Shroud Lines II

More post-event insights into an airframe parachute deployment over the ocean

Last month, I served up some supplemental "prequel" anecdotes to my story running in this issue ("Over Water, Under Canopy!"), which covers Dr. Richard McGlaughlin's stirring account of his BRS airframe parachute deployment over the ocean—with his daughter at his side.

Although the deployment was in a Cirrus four-seater, I wrote about it for several reasons. First, it's a great human story. Whose heart would not be moved by the trauma of facing a life-threatening crisis with their own child in tow?

Also, a great many LSA models come with parachute systems made by BRS, GRS, Second Chantz et al as standard or optional equipment. I believe LSA may help bring about a time when most aircraft buyers regard parachutes as "must-have" equipment.

Yet I still hear pilots express, with strong conviction, negatives about airframe parachutes. They worry that pilots now have a too-easy out in situations where good airmanship skills would carry the day. That's an argument that doesn't hold up for a variety of situations: engine seizures, structural failure, mid-air collision, fuel starvation over hostile terrain and many more.

Another oft-trumpeted sentiment is that pilots will be seduced by false confidence and routinely fly into hazardous conditions or take on more risks than they normally would. That concern has some merit, although most of us can readily think of pilots who do stupid things in airplanes anyway, and without parachutes.

Below you'll find more highlights from Dr. McGlaughlin talk at Sun 'n Fun. I suggest you read the article first, then come back. All quotes come from Dr. McGlaughlin.

In answer to how effective practicing 'chute deployment in the Cirrus simulator was, Dr. McGlaughlin answered, "Excellent for pulling the 'chute...except for the very sudden stop once it opens. The sim's nowhere near accurate there: You stop violently.

"In general, I think opening the 'chute in the simulator made me willing to believe that if I ever pulled it in real life, it would work. That's a confidence not all Cirrus pilots seem to share. And many non-Cirrus pilots think having a parachute onboard is foolish...which I think is foolish.


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