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New Photo In Denver Miracle Midair Shows How Close To Disaster The Metroliner Came

The SR22 came down under its whole-airplane parachute. The package hauler had to rely on luck. And there's even more to the story.

Denver Midair Crash

A new photo of one of the two planes involved in a midair collision near Denver area Centennial Airport shows how perilously close to death the solo pilot of the twin turboprop came.

As you probably know by now, on Wednesday morning, a Cirrus SR22 and a Swearingen Metroliner collided in midair south of Denver and just north of Centennial Airport. The SR22 pilot pulled the big red handle to activate the whole-airplane parachute system, which Cirrus calls the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS), and he and his one passenger came down in Cherry Creek Park. The Cirrus pilot didn’t pick the place to come down under canopy, but if he had been able to, that would have been the spot.

The Metroliner has no such chute, so if the plane hadn’t been flyable, it would have been lights out in a most horrific way for that pilot. At first the Metro pilot didn’t even know it had been in a collision. The pilot declared an emergency with Centennial Tower and reported an engine failure. It was only later as the pilot was on short final that he reported that there had “definitely” been a midair. He continued the approach and landed uneventfully and taxied under its own power to the ramp of the nearest FBO. We can only imagine what the pilot must have felt when he got out of the plane and walked over to look.

As it was, thank goodness, the plane remained flyable even after the Cirrus took a huge chunk out of the upper section of the fuselage just forward of the vertical fin. We say “just forward,” but further examination showed that the fin itself got hit, we’re guessing by the wing of the SR22. Just a bit of the vertical tail got smashed. Had it been even a foot farther back, it might have been a different story.

So too with the fuselage. Had the Cirrus struck the Metro any lower, it almost certainly would have resulted in a bad day for all three occupants of the two planes.

The names of those involved have not yet been released, but hats off to both pilots for their flying chops after the midair occurred. Both did exactly the right thing, and you can tell because everybody walked away from it.

As for what led to the accident…well, that’s a different story. These are the kinds of crashes that shouldn’t happen with ADS-B. If the reports are true that the planes collided at approximately 6,400 feet msl over Cherry Creek State Park, that means they were both under the Denver Class Bravo airspace but well within the Mode C veil. Both planes certainly were equipped with ADS-B out, and the Cirrus could have had ADS-B In, as well. If it did, the ADS-B signature of the Metroliner would have been on the pilot’s display. And since both planes were talking with Centennial Tower. So while they were not under positive control, since they were not in the Denver Class B airspace, they were talking with Centennial, which would have had access to the ADS-B data for both aircraft.

It’s important to understand that while ADS-B gives very accurate position and altitude data for all equipped aircraft, it is not a traffic alert and collision avoidance system—there are no warnings associated with it, and neither plane is required by regulation to be equipped with TCAS, or ADS-B In, for that matter. So whether or not either plane had any system that would advise them of the nearby traffic remains to be seen.

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We’ll update this story as details emerge.

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