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Cirrus chute deployment taped near HawaiiCirrus chute deployment taped near Hawaii

Late January wasn’t a good month for aircraft flying to or around Hawaii. A Cirrus SR22 making a 2,102-nautical-mile ferry flight from Tracy, California, to Kahului, Maui, developed fuel system problems and deployed the airframe parachute 219 nm short of its goal. A Coast Guard C-130 in radio contact with the pilot captured the descent and splashdown with an infrared camera. A short time later that same C-130 was sent to aid in the ocean ditching of a Cessna 172 that ran out of fuel returning to Honolulu from Lihue 93 nm away.

The Cirrus had been outfitted with extra fuel tanks for the flight to Hawaii flown by Louis E. Morton of Seattle. He was conducting the flight for The Flight Academy in Seattle, which specializes in Cirrus instruction and lists ferry flights as one of its services. A school official said in a statement to the Tracy, California, Tracy Press that there were fuel flow problems that the pilot tried to fix. When he couldn’t, he contacted San Francisco ARINC by satellite phone to report the problem. Oakland Center then contacted the Coast Guard, which alerted the Barbers Point Coast Guard Station.

Morton had high praise for the coordination offered by San Francisco ARINC, the Coast Guard, and Holland America, which sent its ship, the Veendam, to pick him up. Morton flew to the ship and deployed his airframe parachute near it. Seas were reported to be nine to 12 feet with 28-knot winds. The ship dispatched a lifeboat and had him on the ship 30 minutes after splashdown. The cruise line continued to Maui, feeding Morton and letting him get some rest, then dispatching a hotel manager from the ship to aid in defending him from an eager Hawaii press corps. (See a brief interview with Morton.)

As the HC-130 was returning to U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point, it was diverted to a Cessna 172 that was running out of fuel with three adults and a baby onboard. The aircraft safely ditched 11 miles west of Oahu and there were no injuries. The survivors were hoisted to a Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter. Two Coast Guard ships were also dispatched to the scene.

Alton Marsh

Alton K. Marsh

Freelance journalist
Alton K. Marsh is a former senior editor of AOPA Pilot and is now a freelance journalist specializing in aviation topics.
Topics: Emergency, Fuel Awareness, Safety and Education

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