Parachute Entanglement

I don’t recall this issue being raised before, but it could be relevant to a Cirrus in a ditching situation. In Navy training a lot of time was spent teaching us how to avoid parachute entanglement in the water and how to free ourselves if we were to become entangled. (I once watched an A-6 pilot and BN drown when they became entangled in their chutes after successfully ejecting off the bow after a cold cat.)

If this is addressed in the POH or during initial or recurrent training, never mind. If not, I think it would be a valuable addition to the syllabus.

Joe

I’m afraid I will have to take issue with your description of my efforts as “armchair speculation.” I challenge you to find anyone who has spent more time and effort investigating General Aviation ditchings than me, or anyone else save perhaps trainers themselves who have spent more hours being turned upside down and inside out in ditching simulators or every type and description, military and civilian. Ditching General Aviation aircraft remains, despite old wives’ tales to the contrary, one of the very safest and survivable of emergency landing procedures. Adding CAPS to the equation certainly offers some interesting alternatives and complications, but complicating matters further with highly unlikely disaster scenarios adds little to the debate and may serve to mask the most likely issues that will need to be dealt with.

In reply to:


I don’t recall this issue [parachute entanglement] being raised before, but it could be relevant to a Cirrus in a ditching situation.


It has been addressed in previous Member Forum posts. I believe that the likelihood of this happening is just about nil. Even the slightest wind would displace the 'chute, and it is very rare indeed that there isn’t at least a few knots of wind. Also, I believe that our 'chutes are considerably higher above us than a personal parachute, providing even more lateral movement of the canopy after aircraft touchdown.

I’m open to arguments otherwise, and you sound qualified to present those arguments!

Joe: The point you bring up is a good one, but at some point we have to talk about the minuteness of the risk and the benefit of the training.

Let’s face it, in order to worry about the issue, there has to be a “CAPS event,” over water, in such wind conditions that the parachute settles on the aircraft!

Then we have to look at the training, and determine the amount of improvement that it would offer. When I was in the USAF, they did tell aircrews about the method of getting out from under a parachute in water. I presume the USN does as well and did to the A6 aircrew. But it didn’t help them!

that leads to the question," how much training is sufficient?" Should the technique just be told verbally? Should it actually be practiced. Clearly, the latter would be better? But at what level would the time be better spent learning about a riskier topic.

I really do agree that knowing the technique may be important. In the guide book that I distributed to members attending the Bahamian trip, I did include the technique. But every plane was going to be over water for at least 1.5 hours. I also get into that survival stuff. So far, to the best of my knowledge, no Cirrus has been ditched, with or without the parachute. I just don’t think it is important enough to try to cram into the very limited transition training time. Perhaps, if COPA offers more ditching seminars the topic could be included.

Marty

One hundred percent of my flights are over water. If I have to ditch, I’m pulling the 'chute.
Jeffrey Cardenas
N705C

In reply to:


Even the slightest wind would displace the 'chute, and it is very rare indeed that there isn’t at least a few knots of wind. Also, I believe that our 'chutes are considerably higher above us than a personal parachute, providing even more lateral movement of the canopy after aircraft touchdown.


Gordon,

In his seminar on ditching and water survival at the Migration, Doug Ritter discussed this. He shares this viewpoint. He pointed to the 85 (?) feet of riser as being a LOT, that simply will not settle on top of the aircraft if there’s as much as a whisper of breeze.

One new thought (for me) that he presented was the notion of ditching “normally” (that is to say, the way you would if you had no CAPS), then deploying the CAPS as you touch down. If the 'chute deploys aft, as it seems likely it will given the photos we saw when we test-fired the CAPS last March, then it will tend to keep the nose of the airplane high in the water, keeping the airplane afloat for much longer.

Doug went into a lot more detail – so this snippet is grossly out of context; the only way to really get to grips with the subject is to hear his presentation in full.

  • Mike.

I agree that an under-canopy ditch would be a very rare event, but in such an event the danger would be real. Others have pointed out that the wind might cause the canopy to land away from the aircraft. True, but it’s what happens after the landing that’s important. A distant canopy could easily float toward the aircraft (or vice versa) as they drift at different rates. That aside, the shroud lines are as much a threat as the canopy, and they will be much nearer the aircraft under any wind conditions.

All that said, I agree that “hands on” training would be overkill for such a rare event. But talking the dangers through and discussing some simple techniques (like following a shroud line to the edge of the canopy to escape from underneath it or lifting shroud lines over your head one at a time to get them behind you) would, I think, be a reasonable level of effort.

Just being aware of the danger is a good start in itself.

Joe

In reply to:


When I was in the USAF, they did tell aircrews about the method of getting out from under a parachute in water. I presume the USN does as well and did to the A6 aircrew. But it didn’t help them!


No, it didn’t help them, but it has helped many others.

Would you argue that just because good swimmers occasionally drown we should stop teaching people how to swim?

Joe

In reply to:


One new thought (for me) that he presented was the notion of ditching “normally” (that is to say, the way you would if you had no CAPS), then deploying the CAPS as you touch down. If the 'chute deploys aft, as it seems likely it will given the photos we saw when we test-fired the CAPS last March, then it will tend to keep the nose of the airplane high in the water, keeping the airplane afloat for much longer.


This for me brings up the almost comical prospect of mis-timing this attempt and having the airplane strike the surface tail-first moving backwards on the backswing, as it were. Ouch. Personally, I think the 11 kt vertical dunk under CAPS would be a non-event, and significantly preferable to any conventional 60+ kt ditching attempt.

In reply to:


One new thought (for me) that he presented was the notion of ditching “normally” (that is to say, the way you would if you had no CAPS), then deploying the CAPS as you touch down. If the 'chute deploys aft, as it seems likely it will given the photos we saw when we test-fired the CAPS last March, then it will tend to keep the nose of the airplane high in the water, keeping the airplane afloat for much longer.


Hmmm… IMHO, the worst time to try to be a test pilot is during an emergency. I’d stick to chute or no chute and not try to get cute with an untried hybrid.

Joe

While on the subject of parachute equipped aircraft, does anyone remember a poster of a Cherokee under full parachute deployment. I saw it in 1973 on a wall at Zahn’s airport, Amityville L.I.
As a student pilot I thought it was a great idea, but as a student was, apparently, too dumb to ask questions about it.

John
N468JP

In reply to:


That aside, the shroud lines are as much a threat as the canopy, and they will be much nearer the aircraft under any wind conditions.


Since the attachment between the aircraft and the beginning of the shroud lines is via lengthy Kevlar straps, the shroud lines will be father from the aircraft than they would otherwise be, so this will hopefully minimize that factor as well. Rough judging of the photos below leads to the conclusion that the shroud lines are about a wingspan’s length away, so that’s almost 40 feet.

You are certainly correct in stating that awareness of the issue is a good start, as would be the availability of a good knife at all times per Doug Ritter’s recommendations.

In reply to:


Would you argue that just because good swimmers occasionally drown we should stop teaching people how to swim?


Nope, but the A6 aircrew drowning was your example of why it would be a good idea, not mine!

On the other hand, my point is that I wouldn’t suggest giving swimming lessons to the nomadic tribes of the Sahara Desert either. I don’t know if there are such things, but I think you understand my point: All safety training is good, but there has to be a tangible benefit for the cost of money and time. Few of us have unlimited quantities of both.

If a pilot was planning on spending a significant amount of time flying over water, then I hope that that pilot would take the responsibility seriously, and learn as much as possible on ditching and water survival. It is just that for most of us, I think the time and effort would be better spend learning other, more likely contingencies. There have been a dozen Cirrus accidents, about half fatal. Let’s try to figure out why and then focus our resources on those issues.

Marty

In reply to:


IMHO, the worst time to try to be a test pilot is during an emergency. I’d stick to chute or no chute and not try to get cute with an untried hybrid.


Joe,
I don’t believe that anyone was suggesting deploying the 'chute during the emergency, although I see I chose my words poorly ("… then deploying the CAPS as you touch down" — it would have been better if I’d written “… then deploying the CAPS after the ditching”). The point is that at that phase of things, you’re already down, so it’s unlikely to hurt, and there is solid logic to suggest that it may in fact help.

Doug imparted a LOT of information at his seminar, and so there is a very real danger of adding confusion by trying to paraphrase the content - my apologies for doing just that.

  • Mike.

In reply to:


The point is that at that phase of things, you’re already down, so it’s unlikely to hurt, and there is solid logic to suggest that it may in fact help.


Still, IÂ’d be wary of introducing the real danger of parachute entanglement into the conventional ditch equation in exchange for a “suggested” benefit from deploying the chute.

All my training tells me to get away from a chute in the water, not introduce one unnecessarily.

Joe

Mike and all,

Just to set the record straight, as you noted, I never suggested deploying the chute in the process of ditching. I did suggest for possible consideration that there might be some advantages to deploying it after a successful conventional ditching. Please see the attached images of the slides in question for what was actually presented.

I view this as a low risk tool in the tool box with potentially significant advantages if it works and very little down side. YMMV, of course. That’s why we’re all PIC, it’s our decision, ultimately, I just try to get the brain cells working and provide as much data as possible from which to make an educated decision.

Doug Ritter

In reply to:


…the A6 aircrew drowning was your example of why it would be a good idea, not mine!


Yes, I included it as an example of the real danger. It was you who used it as an example of the futility of training, not me.

Joe

In reply to:


…at that phase of things, you’re already down, so it’s unlikely to hurt…


Just one more comment. An open water ditch is the beginning of your survival situation, not the end of it!

Joe

In reply to:


An open water ditch is the beginning of your survival situation, not the end of it!


Joe,

No argument there. I still believe that using the 'chute at the end of the DITCHING phase (after the airplane is in the water) may make sense by helping keep the nose up. After the Ditching, the water Survival Situation begins in earnest, as you say. But it is, as you point out, uncharted territory - at some point maybe we’ll have data that supports or refutes this idea.

Despite all this discussion/debate, my own preference at this point would still be to ride the CAPS down to the water.

  • Mike.

In reply to:


I still believe that using the 'chute at the end of the DITCHING phase (after the airplane is in the water) may make sense by helping keep the nose up.


I agree that, especially in rough water, a ditch under canopy might be preferable to a conventional ditch, the entanglement problem notwithstanding.
However, regarding a conventional ditch, I cannot see how deploying a limp chute would keep the nose up or whether, if it did, that would keep the plane afloat any longer. (Most pictures of floating planes I’ve seen have been tail up, not nose up!) All this speculation as to the benefits is accompanied by the certainty that a nearby chute in the water is a potential hazard to your survival. (If you’re entangled in or snagged by the chute, shroud lines, or risers as the plane sinks, guess where you’re going, life vest or not?) A bad trade, IMHO.
Anyway, who’d want to blow a hole in a floating airplane? Or shoot off a rocket when there might be fuel in the water? And I guarantee you no helicopter pilot in his right mind will hover anywhere near a floating parachute (if you should get so lucky!).

Joe