Parachute allows disabled Cirrus plane to land Cirrus SR22 had only moderate damage; pilot walked away from scene
BY PETER PASSI
NEWS TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
© Copyright 2002, Duluth News-Tribune. All Rights Reserved.
Cirrus Design Corp. chalked up a first in the history of manned flight Thursday.
Never before had a certified aircraft used a parachute to land. But that all changed Thursday afternoon when a pilot in distress used Cirrus’ parachute system to successfully bring his disabled airplane to earth.
The crash occurred in a wooded area near a golf course in Lewisville, Texas, just north of the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
The pilot, Lionel Morrison, 53, of Dallas, walked away from the Cirrus SR22 after the plane lost a wing flap and went down near The Golf Club at Castle Hills, authorities said.
The plane, which took off from Addison Airport in Addison, Texas, was scheduled to land at Dallas Executive Airport in south Dallas. The plane was headed to the Dallas airport for routine maintenance, officials said.
“The pilot was talking to the Addison tower and told them that he was having trouble with his aileron,” said John Clabes, an FAA spokesman. “He told them that he was going to deploy the parachute and he did.”
Another pilot in the area reported watching the parachute deploy on the plane and seeing the pilot get out safely, authorities said.
The plane, which ended up in some trees, had minor damage, authorities said. The light plane crashed about 200 yards from the golf course.
FAA officials were scheduled to investigate the crash today.
Cirrus Vice President Bill King said: “We spent more than $10 million developing our parachute system, and if this is the only life we save, it will have been worth it.”
King said Cirrus’ decision to make a full-airplane parachute standard equipment has made the company the subject of ridicule in some quarters. “A whole bunch of people in the industry thought this was nuts,” he said.
Nevertheless, King said he believes Thursday’s events vindicate Cirrus’ actions. Other Cirrus airplanes have been involved in accidents, including some fatal crashes, but the company’s parachute had not been deployed during previous incidents.
When Alan Klapmeier co-founded Cirrus with his brother, Dale, they set out to build an easier-to-fly and safer general aviation aircraft. Alan Klapmeier is the survivor of a midair collision that claimed the life of a pilot in another airplane. Afterwards, Klapmeier became committed to the idea that airplanes ought to come equipped with some sort of emergency parachute system.
King said Thursday’s averted crash “sets a new standard in safety.” In a phone interview Thursday night, King observed: “Tonight, one guy is having dinner with his family who would not have without our parachute.”
Cirrus Design is headquartered in Duluth and has grown to become the second-largest producer of four-seat airplanes in the world.
Cirrus employs about 550 people in Duluth, 190 in Grand Forks, N.D., and 30 in Hibbing.
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