336 Cirrus SR22T CAPS Parachute Pull over Seattle with Jim Simon + GA News

Max talks with CFI Jim Simon, about an incident involving a Cirrus SR22T and a parachute deployment. On a clear winter day in March, Simon and a learner pilot embarked on a six-month recurrency flight. The day started routinely with pre-flight checks showing all systems in the green. They took off from Renton Airport on runway 34, following the East Channel departure, which took them over Lake Washington. As they climbed to 2,500 feet MSL, Simon noticed two engine surges followed by a loud bang. The propeller stopped, and the engine seized, plunging them into an emergency situation.

Simon describes the eerie silence following the engine failure and his immediate assumption of control when the learner froze. He methodically executed the ABCDE emergency checklist: Airspeed, Best place to land, Checklist, Declare emergency, and Execute. With urban areas and a busy highway nearby, Simon decided against landing on the highway or pulling the parachute over water, as he disliked the prospect of swimming post-ditching. Instead, he aimed for a greenbelt area, Creek Parkway, avoiding dense urban zones.

During the descent, Simon determined they would pull the parachute at 1,500 feet MSL, approximately 1,000 feet AGL. After a brief glide, they pulled the parachute at the designated altitude, experiencing a violent jerk as the CAPS (Cirrus Airframe Parachute System) deployed. The plane initially pointed nose-down, oscillating between level and downward pitches. Simon vividly recalls the dramatic view of power lines, but they narrowly avoided them by about 50 feet. The parachute slowed their descent, and they landed softly in a marshy area with blackberry bushes and dead trees.

Simon reflects on the remarkable softness of the landing, comparing it to falling on a bed of pillows. After ensuring there was no fire or fuel smell, he and the learner evacuated the plane. They navigated through blackberry bushes to reach a nearby neighborhood, where they were met by concerned residents. The emergency services arrived swiftly, and the incident transitioned to the administrative phase, involving the FAA, NTSB, and insurance companies.

Simon highlights the role of CAPS in ensuring their survival, stating that without the parachute, a safe outcome in such a densely populated area would have been impossible. The NTSB took the engine for analysis, and Simon remains in close contact with them to determine the failure’s cause. He discusses the thorough administrative processes of the FAA and NTSB, contrasting them with the insurance company’s meticulous demand for precise flight hours.

Despite the incident, Simon experienced no fear during the emergency, attributing his calm response to extensive training and preparation. He emphasizes the critical importance of emergency training for pilots, especially instructors who regularly practice these scenarios. Simon’s learner, initially frozen during the incident, later struggled to process the experience, highlighting the different impacts such events can have on individuals based on their experience levels.

Simon underscores the importance of procedural and emotional preparation for emergencies. He advocates for the use of simulators in training, allowing pilots to experience and manage critical situations safely. He also discusses the cultural shift needed among pilots flying Cirrus aircraft, encouraging reliance on CAPS over attempting risky landings in emergencies.

Throughout the interview, Simon’s account is both a testament to the effectiveness of the CAPS system and a call to action for continuous training and preparedness. Simon’s story serves as an educational and inspirational narrative for pilots and aviation enthusiasts alike, emphasizing that preparation, training, and the right equipment can make all the difference in an emergency.

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