Beware of the rocket in the wreckage


Aircraft parachutes are a life-saving innovation in general aviation, but as spectacular video footage from a recent safety investigation shows, they are also a potential hazard for first responders to an aircraft crash.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has issued its report into the crash of a Cirrus SR22 during a night training flight at Orange Airport, NSW, on 15 May 2018. The pilot and flight instructor were seriously injured, and the aircraft destroyed. Footage from the airport’s closed-circuit television showed that the aircraft’s rocket-deployed parachute system discharged uncommanded about 9 minutes after the accident occurred.

‘After a collision with terrain any deformation of the fuselage can put a rocket-deployed parachute recovery system’s activation cable under abnormally high tension, making it likely to deploy with any movement of the wreckage,’ the ATSB report said.

In Australia, rocket-deployed parachute systems are installed in light and sport aircraft including the Cirrus SR20 and SR22, the Pipistrel Virus and Sinus and the Sting TL-2000. They can also be retrofitted to the Cessna 150/152, 172 and 182 series.

Aircraft maker Cirrus says its aircraft parachute system (CAPS) has saved 142 people. ‘The jury is in. The case is closed. CAPS works and it saves lives,’ Cirrus says. But the company says appropriate and ongoing training is needed for the parachute system to save all the lives it potentially could. Our commitment to CAPS training only gets stronger when we realise that over 100 serious injuries and fatalities could have had different outcomes if the pilot-in-command of the Cirrus deployed CAPS,’ it says.

The crash happened at the end of a touch-and-go circuit, when the aircraft struck the ground and collided with a fence, coming to a stop inverted. The ATSB found it was likely the pilot became spatially disorientated after the initial pitch-up during the go-around manoeuvre, which obscured the horizon, resulting in a loss of control at low-level.



  1. Wow, could it be related to the airbag deployment concerns around unstable propellant. Imagine flying happily one moment and …………

  2. As much as they do save lives I’d NEVER fly with one!
    These guys where lucky to live……this should never have happened! Too easy to get an instructors ticket obviously!

      • Clearly you don’t know much either! -:) I guess 40 Yrs driving planes I must have missed something!

        • Well sir, if flying for 40 years taught you to be an experienced pilot it clearly did not teach you humility and respect. Your blanket statement “Too easy to get an instructors ticket ” is facile and degrading to instructors of which I have great respect and experience with, anyway it takes all sorts to spin this little planet !!!

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