Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Light-Sport Chronicles: Shroud Lines II

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

"I've done a lot of flying. I teach in all kinds of multi-engine and taildraggers. I know how to fly a plane, but I wasn't flying too good that day. I have a feeling if that (same emergency) came up again, I once again would not be doing much better.

"This was one of the real take-home points for me: I used to work in an emergency room. If you're having a cardiac arrest or you've been shot, I am just fine. But this was me and my daughter. I was not the same person. I usually have a calm demeanor, but I was tight. My daughter noticed it. I think everybody noticed it. I sure did.

"On the COPA website (Cirrus Owners & Pilots Association:, there's a great deal of talk about what you'd do in that situation—ways (pilots), will think their way around having to pull the chute and make a safe landing somewhere. And I say, 'Bull****!' You are not going to do that. You are not going to calculate wind vectors appropriately or behave at your best capability. You'd better plan on not being at your best. Presume that it's just going to be harder than you thought. And in a time like that, having some absolute iron-clad 'out' like a parachute...well, that's a pretty good thing to have.

"I had the wings level, I had the nose pointed where I wanted, and I'd preplanned to pull it at around 2,000 feet, because I thought if something goes wrong with the 'chute, I'll still have a little time to recover and do something, if I don't get all tangled up. But you don't get all tangled up. The chute comes right out and does just what it's supposed to do. Some pilots have deployed too low, such as in a spin at 200 feet. But I would say that everyone who pulled the handle within the parameters of the manufacturer's recommendations is here to talk about it. Which is not too shabby."

I asked how he and Elaine feel now. "We've flown in the new Cirrus. She's fine. She didn't wake up every night at three for weeks like I did, thinking 'What did I do? Why did I fly over water so soon after maintenance? Why did I fly with my dear daughter? What was I thinking? It's a lot of water!'—all the things a rational person might think.

"It's hard to get back in an airplane after you've crashed one. I was scared. I went flying with a friend. I said, 'Fly with me for awhile while I get my feet wet, so to speak—or get 'em dry—and on one flight, he pulled the engine on our Cessna 172 at 150 feet over an area with nothing but pine trees, and I had a panic attack. I just couldn't stand it. We had to do that one three or four times.


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