Duluth article

Parachute allows disabled Cirrus plane to land Cirrus SR22 had only moderate damage; pilot walked away from scene

Duluth News-Tribune

© 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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The URL for this well-written article is http://www.duluthsuperior.com/mld/duluthtribune/4210058.htmhttp://www.duluthsuperior.com/mld/duluthtribune/4210058.htm.

The (rather more terse) FAA Office of Accident Investigation description is also available at http://www.faa.gov/avr/aai/A_1004_N.txthttp://www.faa.gov/avr/aai/A_1004_N.txt.


This news story is different from other information that indicates that the maintenance work had been done before the subject flight. I specifically recall that some of the stories specifically mention this. According to Aero-News “a number of sources” indicated the flight was a “test or repositioning flight”.

I am postponing SB A22-27-03 until more is known about this. I spoke with an A&P about this who had SB A22-27-03 but did not know about the accident. He concurs that postponing the work for now is the best thing to do.


Thanks for posting that. It’s heartening to see the FAA’s wording: “THE AIRCRAFT TOUCHED
DOWN IN A FIELD”… in quite glaring contrast to every media report I’ve seen so far - they all say that a small airplane (one said a “Cessna”) CRASHED.

If the Brothers Klapmeier had obeyed the Laws of Convention, though, they’d both have said CRASHED.

  • Mike.

It will be interesting to see how the final FAA report classifies this incident. I am aware of an engine where the pilot elected to land in a river. After recovering the undamaged airplane from the bottom of the river, the FAA looked at it and concluded (largely as a deference to the pilot’s record) it was no crash, but merely an intentional off airport landing because of engine out.

The Cirrus, I’m sure landed reasonably close to where the pilot expected when he pulled the chute. It also landed exactly how the pilot intended (prayed for). Crash? I think not!

Regardless, it must be reported to the NTSB as it involved a control surface failure. As the pilot was not in control of the aircraft at time of landing, I think it would be considered a “crash.”

Not sure the implications of either. The insurance company will have a big bill and the pilot survived without significant injury. The rest is for bureaucrats and bean counters.


In reply to:

It will be interesting to see how the final FAA report classifies this incident… Crash? I think not!


I think it should be called a “Fly-by 'Chuting”. [;)]


Marty: The insurance company has a substantially smaller bill than they would had there been a significant injury or fatality. It’s hard to see how the FAA could put any blame on the pilot. They will probably be asking him what kind of preflight he did, particularly on the ailerons but beyond that it looks like he did everything right!

As others have pointed out, the CAPS deployment from (apparently) low altitude and “touch down” in trees and the chute being away from the aircraft all seemed to go fine.

I don’t claim to be an expert on insurance but it would seem to me that an initial claim to the owner of the airplane’s insurance would eventually end up on the service center’s doorstep if they are at fault.

I don’t get this…why would you postpone an SB. You think they just put it out there for the hell of it??? I think you ought to just make sure the job is done right…

In reply to:

The insurance company has a substantially smaller bill than they would had there been a significant injury or fatality.

I wonder if that is how the insurance companies are going to look at it. It seems that the policy most often written is $1M total / $100K per seat. That means insurance companies have capped (sorry) their liability, and in this case a pilots life would only cost them $100K.

Say 3 pilots have aileron failure and 2/3 times you could land the plane without killing yourself. If all the pilots try to land, the insurance outlay would be for 1 crash, or $300K + $100K or $400K. But if all 3 pull CAPS then the outlay is $300K*3 or $900K. So insurance companies may look at CAPS as a insurance negative since it would encourage pilots to scrap airplanes to have a chance of saving lives.

Fortunately I’ve managed to get $1M smooth, so my insurance company is on my side of the bet.


unless the instruction are WRONG or the procedure misleading…then it’s a helleva a mistake…waiting in this instance is probably prudent.

The SB was not issued because of an aileron failure. It was issued because of a rudder failure and the possibility that the rudder failure would cause an aileron failure. As far as I know, the rudder failure did not cause any accident.

In order to determine whether the “job is done right” it would be very helpful to determine the manner in which the Texas job was done wrong. Since the aircraft involved in the Texas accident is essentially intact, it should not be too difficult to make that determination.

It is a matter of risk analysis. Pilots are making risk analysis in connection with flight all of the time. What appears to have occurred is that a perfectly airworthy aircraft entered the shop and for some reason, presently unknown, an aircraft with a substantial and apparently non-obvious defect to it’s airworthiness came out of the shop. Once the cause of the Texas failure is known, it may well be that the SB is re-written to alert the mechanic so that such an occurrence will not recur.

All that is known at the moment is that a presumably licensed and trained mechanic following instructions provided by Cirrus made some error of some kind that apparently resulted in the aileron leaving the aircraft. It would definitely be desirable to know more about how that occurred before having the work done on my aircraft.

Finally, I do not believe that there is any legal compulsion to have the SB done at this moment. It does not seem likely that the FAA is going to issue an AD on this subject until some conclusions emerge from the Texas accident. Nothing at all prohibits just waiting and not flying the aircraft until all of this sorted out.

Your making the assumption that the mechanic followed the instructions line-by-line or even read the SB. Most likely the chief mechanic read the SB instructions and then told the lower level mechanics (or helpers) to do this or that and supposedly supervised the work being done on the plane. At this time you cannot place blame on the SB, or the shop – you have to wait until the FAA/NTSB/Cirrus figure out what was done/not done before the root cause of this incident will be known.

I wonder if that is how the insurance companies are going to look at it. It seems that the policy most often written is $1M total / $100K per seat. That means insurance companies have capped (sorry) their liability, and in this case a pilots life would only cost them $100K.

If you are the sole occupant of the plane, your life is worthless. Your policy, weather 1,000,000/100,000 or 1,000,000 smooth, probably excludes family members. It certainly excludes the pilot, since the insurance is for liability, and you can’t sue yourself.

I was on vacation being sick, celebrating my wifes b-day and my sisters wedding… sorry to respond so late.

Insurance policies for airplanes typically exclude the owner/pilot from recovering under the policy as a passenger. This is because the liability portion of the policy is designed to protect you from liabilities that you have incurred against others. (basically you can’t sue yourself for your own death)

I have, though, heard the argument often “why isn’t Cirrus liability insurance cheaper due to the 'chute?” Primarily it is 2 things. First, Liability coverage is fairly inexpensive compared to the physical damage coverage for the airplane because a LOT of people walk away unharmed or only slightly injured even from some severe crashes (so even if they discounted for the 'chute, it would be an extremely small amount as it’s cheap to begin with).

Second, there is the ofsetting factor that a pilot could pull the 'chute when it could have possibly been flown to safety, thus damaging the airplane potentially worse than an off field landing would have caused. I know this statement will cause flames. I am not saying not to use the 'chute, and I think it is wonderful to have (and nice to know they work!!) I am just saying that it could happen (the potential is there).

John “JT” Helms
Branch Manager
NationAir Insurance Agency
Pleasure and Business Branch

Humm, maybe my life insurance company should cut a deal with my plane insurance company![:)] The cash payout to my wife and kids if I die in a private plane crash (even if I’m the pilot) is $3,500,000.00 (and 3X that amount if its a regular airline flight)…

Actually Art, that is not true.

The only company that limits Family members at all (other than normal passenger limits) is AVEMCO.

Your policy does cover your family as passengers.

See my post of a moment ago, regarding coverage for you as the owner.

John “JT” Helms
Branch Manager
NationAir Insurance Agency
Pleasure and Business Branch

In reply to:

Finally, I do not believe that there is any legal compulsion to have the SB done at this moment.

I think the only real compulsion to have an SB performed is that Cirrus could take the position to deny a warranty claim arising from not having had the SB done. I doubt they would in this case, but when I had a warranty claim from a nosewheel shimmy, their first question was ‘did you have the SB done?’


Curt: Thanks for the confirmation on this. I intend to call Cirrus next week to discuss the matter further with them. If I learn anything significant, I will post it.