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Engine Cut Out as Family Soared in Tiny 4-Seater Plane, But One Pull of a Lever Unleashed Amazing Invention That Saved Them

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Three people, including a 2-year-old girl, were saved from almost certain death by a parachute that lowered the entire light plane they were in following engine failure near Whitethorn, California, the U.K.’s Daily Mail reported Wednesday.

A “miracle” is how a captain of the local Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office described the event, which happened on March 8.

The pilot of the four-seater plane was Artem Konokuk, 38, the Daily Mail reported. He was accompanied by someone described as his partner, also 38, along with their young daughter.

KGO-TV in San Francisco reported they are residents of Santa Rosa, California.

After the engine lost power, a rocket-fired parachute ejected from the plane and brought it down in a tree. Although the aircraft suffered massive damage, injuries to its occupants were listed as bruises and light cuts.

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“These are usually worst-case scenarios,” said Capt. Quincy Cromer of the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office, according to KGO. “The fact that they had only minor scratches and abrasions is a miracle.”

Images of the incident were shared on social media by the Shelter Cove Fire Department.

 

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The plane was a 20-year-old Cirrus SR 22, the Daily Mail reported.

Since 1998, Cirrus has been the only company that has installed an onboard parachute as a safety feature, according to the company’s website.

The parachute mechanism — called a Cirrus Airframe Parachute System — is demonstrated in the video below:



Paul Bertorelli of AVweb, in a 2019 video about the effectiveness of CAPS, indicated that despite two decades of service, few people knew about a parachute for an entire airplane.

“It’s still enough of a novelty that if there’s a camera around — and when is there not a camera around — the footage will make the evening news,” he said.

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That apparently is still the case.

When the system was introduced, pilots’ egos and skepticism drove them to resist CAPS, according to Bertorelli.

As acceptance spread, there were a lot of Cirrus crash fatalities, to the point it was slightly higher than the fatality rate of overall private pilot plane crashes, he said.

The problem, Bertorelli said, was a lack of pilot experience and training in using CAPS, something similar to 1950s military jet pilots learning to use ejection seats.

A Cirrus plane under a parachute does not present the picture of the aircraft gently floating to Earth. Depending on the wind, the plane is going down at a rate of 1,700 feet per minute or 19 mph, according to Bertorelli.

He said he was told during the system’s early testing that the descent would be “a wild ride.” According to Bertorelli, the manufacturer said people in the plane would be injured, not killed, and the aircraft would be “trashed — never to fly again.”

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“Those things turned out to be true sometimes and sometimes not,” he said.

Nevertheless, as pilots gained experience with CAPS, Bertorelli determined at the time of his podcast that when the parachute had been deployed at airspeeds below about 230 mph and altitudes above 300 feet, there were no fatalities.

Also, injuries were below the 100 percent the manufacturer initially suggested. Bertorelli analyzed 84 CAPS landings and found 10 reports of serious injuries and 19 of minor injuries.

And, he said, his research determined CAPS deployment may have reduced fatalities by 50 percent.

As of Saturday, the system has saved the lives of 265 people, according to the Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association.


This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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