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Exclusive: More Facts on Cirrus ‘Landing’
We weren’t able to get too much news on the Cirrus SR-22 that went down Sunday (“Cirrus ‘Expert’ (out, standing in its field),” 08-22-01, ANN), but we wanted you to know what we knew, then.Â
We know a bunch more, now, having talked with both the Sheriff and the pilot. [This is turning out to be, “Cirrus Week at ANN,” isn’t it? --ed.]
The High Sheriff of Glasscock County, Georgia, Bryan Bopp,Â
…had a lot of respect for the pilot, Phillip Blanchard, of Waynesboro (GA).Â
He told us that the Cirrus SR22 had come down “about 8:30 in the morning. Then somebody out of Macon called around 10, and some other people called and said there was an airplane in this field. They had picked up the ELT [signal].” The weather in the area Sunday morning was unsettled. “We had had a storm earlier that day, real bad weather,” the Sheriff said.Â
We wondered what had happened. Sheriff Bopp told us what he learned: “He was aiming for a long field, but he hit a sapling. He hit a paved road, tore off the gear, then he bounced, hit sort of a terrace, where he tore off the nose and the other gear,” he said.
How bad did it look? “It’s tore up – they had to take the wings off to move it. The top motor mounts, the gear, the prop – they’re all broken. It had hit a sapling with the left wing, and the left tail was damaged, too.”
The preliminary report says there was only one aboard. The Sheriff had better intel: “There were three aboard, including Blanchard. When we got there, he had already left. One of the deer hunters gave him a ride.” Bopp was impressed with Blanchard, too: “He was cool as a cucumber. …He did a great job of getting it to the ground. If I was going to crash land, I’d hope he was flying.”
Every Cirrus has a ballistic 'chute; but Blanchard didn’t use it. Sheriff Bopp said Blanchard told him “…he was afraid to deploy the 'chute because of all the updrafts.”
We talked at length with Phillip Blanchard,
…who owns a pair of John Deere dealerships, and is familiar with all kinds of equipment. That respect came in handy Sunday. We asked to talk with the ‘ace pilot’ at the store. Mr. Blanchard, in an exclusive ANN interview, said, “Well, I made successful emergency landing, but that sure doesn’t make me any kind of ‘ace!’” What happened Sunday could happen to anyone: “I was on the way to the PGA tournament in Atlanta. I was going to pick up the third person, leaving from Waynesboro (GA), Burke County airport (BXG) with Lester Post, the GM at the John Deere dealership in Waynesboro, in the right seat. I flew from there to Louisville (GA), and picked up Rob Evans, from Bartow. I was on the climbout, about 6500 feet, and I saw some IMC ahead of me, and my StormScope showed some activity.” At that point, he made a prudent decision. “I disconnected the autopilot, and turned 90 degrees,” he told us, “and I didn’t get too far before I got caught in a downdraft.” Blanchard has some 600 hours, and has taken a bit of instrument training; but he’s not instrument-rated [contradicting the information we received, and reported, yesterday – mea culpa! --ed.] “I concentrated on keeping the wings level. I’ve been in this situation before [seeing weather ahead]. I’ve been working on my instrument rating.” [He trained in Duluth, home of the Cirrus, with Wings Aloft --ed.]Â
There are some problems with such an advanced machine, problems we don’t often consider, until it hits us: this is a new-fangled bird! “Finding an instructor, with such new equipment, wasn’t easy,” he told us. With the glass cockpit, a lot of instructors don’t feel comfortable.
Anyway, back to the flight: “We got caught in this downdraft, and lost a whole lot of altitude. I kinda got it stabilized. Then we got caught in an updraft. Then I noticed ‘I’ve got no power.’ I justÂ tried to keep the wings level.” Many times, Mr. Blanchard told us, he said to himself, “Fly the airplane!”
The engine quit; he was a VFR pilot in very-close-to IFR conditions, with two passengers, in the rain, with no engine. “I rode it out of that position,” he said. “You couldn’t see much – you couldn’t see the ground.”
As things started looking really bad, he continued, “…then I thought I saw the ground, so I put the nose down, and headed for the ground, trying to get back to VFR. I thought the engine might start back up. I put the booster pump on, went full rich – I was real busy, so I didn’t have near as much time as I would have liked, for checklists and stuff.”
All Cirrus aircraft have ballistic parachutes.
“I knew that, if I was going to do it, I needed to deploy the parachute at least 2000’ AGL. We had the option, but it was raining, and conditions were unstable. I fly a PPC myself, so I know what winds can do to a parachute, so I elected to go on in, to make an emergency landing. I didn’t want to destroy the airplane [deployment makes a big hole in the top of the fuselage, but it’s not really ‘destroying’ the airplane; but, hey – when you’ve got maybe a couple seconds to weigh all the factors…], so I took an emergency landing into a field of roundtop millet.”
The fun never stopped: “There were some power poles,” he said, “and I went under the power lines.” Then he hit the first time. “The ground was soft. The running gear must’ve dug in pretty good, 'cause it tore the gear out from under it. Then there was a terrace.” The airplane stayed straight, sliding on its belly. “We stopped – I promise it didn’t take 200 feet. I had full flaps. I think I came in about 65 knots – I thought it was going to go a lot further than it did, but I think the mud stopped it. I think that’s what slowed it down. I kid you not – that airplane stopped within 200 feet. All three of us just hopped out.”
Is he happy?
“I don’t want to fly anything but a Cirrus, because it absorbed so much of that energy – it didn’t even feel like a crash.” He likes the SR22. “I picked it up May 9 – it’s serial number 19.” As of Sunday, it showed 173 hours on the clock. The insurance company and Cirrus are figuring out whether the airplane’s fixable. “I think they may fix this airplane – I just got off the phone with the insurance company. They don’t have a lot of experience repairing this kind of airplane. I hope it doesn’t take too long. This Cirrus is quite an airplane. I’m anxious to get it back, or replace it. It’s got plenty of room, it’s stable, it’s easy to land. I flies similar to the Katana [Mr. Blanchard also owns a Continental-powered 1998 C-1, that he got from UND --ed]. I just came off a long trip with the Cirrus, and now I’m grounded. I wouldn’t have anything but a Cirrus, particularly after this happened. It makes you feel safe when you fly. Things do happen,” Blanchard said. He has an ace up his sleeve, though – a delivery position on the SR22 line: “My original position is going to be available in March, 2002.”
He likes the 310hp Continental, too.
“I’ve never had a bit of trouble with it – not a bit. I think it might have lost the fuel, in the negative-G force. It kept windmilling the whole way down. I just wish I’d had more time in the air, to go through the checklists. Something happened with that negative G-force. That’s when it happened, when it quit. They’ve got that thing fixed to the point where, for instance, if you forgot to turn off your boost pump, you cannot over-fuel it. It’s a good engine.”
Any landing you can walk away from…
After he and his two passengers had “hopped out,” they noticed it was still raining, a lot. They were happy to see a pickup truck stop and offer them a ride to town. “There were two guys coming from Gainesville – I’m not sure if they were going hunting, or what – they pulled up with their pickup almost immediately after we stopped sliding. They gave us a ride. Then somebody notified the FAA – I spent most of the day with him, until another accident happened in Blairsville – then they had to go.”
Mr. Blanchard has some plans, for the time when his baby is getting repaired or replaced: “What I’m going to do with this [down] time, is study for the instrument written test. It makes instrument flying so much easier than with the [old-fashioned] standard instruments.”
He didn’t think about too much, other than what he had to do, until later. “I just did what I was trained to do. It didn’t scare me until I went to bed, two nights later,” he told us.
He’s happy for the company, too, and the huge financing: “My hat’s really off to Alan Klapmeier – they didn’t really have the money to do it with, but they kept on.”
**** 08/20/2001 Preliminary Accident/Incident Data Record 5 ****Â
A. Type: A Mid Air: N Missing: N Entry date: 08/20/2001 From: SOUTHERN REGION OPERATIONS CENTERÂ
B. Reg. No.: 232CD M/M: EXP Desc: EXP-2001 CIRRUS SR-22 Activity: Unknown Phase: Unknown GA-A/C: General Aviation Descr: EXPERIMENTAL ACFT ENCOUNTERED A THUNDERSTORM THAT PUT IT IN IMC CONDITIONS, THE PILOT ATTEMPTED TO DEVIATE OUT OF THE STORM, AND THE ACFT ENGINE QUIT, THE PILOT MADE AN EMERGENCY LANDING IN A FIELD, OTHER CIRCUMSTANCES ARE UNKNOWN, GIBSON, GA. WX: UNKN Damage: UnknownÂ
C2. Injury Data:Â
Crew: 1 Fat: 0 Ser: 0 Min: 0 Unk:Â
Pass: 0 Fat: 0 Ser: 0 Min: 0 Unk:Â
Grnd: Fat: 0 Ser: 0 Min: 0 Unk:Â
D. Location. City: GIBSON State: GA Country: USÂ
E. Event Date: 08/19/2001 Time:Â
F. Invest Coverage. IIC: Reg/DO: SO11 DO City: ATLANTA DO State: GA Others: NTSB Dest: UNKN Last Radio Cont: UNKN Flt Plan: NONE Last Clearance: UNKN WX Briefing: N Other: AAI IIC: