A Cirrus SR22 went down in rice fields in Yuba City, California, on Wednesday morning under its CAPS whole-airplane recovery parachute. Details are still emerging, but there were no reported injuries among the three people aboard. Local news outlets are reporting that the plane landed upside down, but based on the crushed gear visible in one of the videos, it is apparent that the plane landed on its belly, as designed. Videos also show the very large chute inflated in what look to be high surface winds. Such winds can move the plane even after it has touched down, which is likely the cause of the confusion as to how the plane came down.
Based on a single photograph on an online message board, the reports at first sparked some controversy from people who thought it wasn’t a CAPS deployment. CAPS is the Cirrus brand name for the rocket-powered whole-airplane recovery parachute system, which comes standard with every Cirrus. Photos and video today make it clear that it was a chute deployment and that the parachute appears to have performed as intended.
Local news is reporting that the pilot said that he had run out of fuel. The NTSB is investigating, but as is the case with nearly every accident these days, investigators are not planning to travel to the scene.
The other controversy among pilots online is nothing new. It is, of course, the argument that since there were open fields nearby, the pilot could have performed a forced landing there. The counter argument is, all farmers fields are not friendly to forced landings. Moreover, what the pilot did is consistent with the aircraft’s operating handbook recommendations. It’s also hard to argue with “walked” away (or “waded?”) as a result.