By now you’ve almost certainly seen the video of the Cirrus SR22 coming down really, really hard under the chute onto a lawn in a Hauppauge, Long Island, NY, industrial park several miles from the intended destination of Republic Airport in Farmingdale, NY. The pilot, Louis Obergh, said the plane’s engine quit—no word yet on why that happened—and there were few options left. Except that he was in an airplane, a Cirrus SR22, equipped with a chute, so he pulled it. What happened next was shocking to see.
After the pilot pulled the chute, it did what it was supposed to do. Pilots of SR22s are trained to know what to do and how to do it when the time comes to deploy the chute, and they’re told that the arrival back to terra firma will be very firma indeed. But seeing the video of the arrival of Obergh’s SR22 on a strip of lawn (as if it were the intended landing site) brought home in a shocking way just how hard the airplane hits the ground.
The even more shocking thing was seeing video interviews and photographs of the pilot and his daughter after the . . . crash, I guess you’d call it. They weren’t on gurneys or busted or broken in any way. They were perfectly fine, save one scratch on Obergh’s forehead.
As pilots, we can’t help but think what we would have done in the same situation if we hadn’t had the same option, to pull the big red lever, like Obergh did. We can all tell ourselves we’d find a way to save the day, but the statistics tell us the chances are good that we wouldn’t. It’s chilling to think about.
The question is, when will other manufacturers start to offer the chute as an option in their planes? The truth is, many of them are already discussing doing just that, though none of them, for obvious reasons, are publicizing that fact, at least not yet anyway.