A Cirrus SR22T was captured on video by stunned spectators with cell phones as it drifted earthward under parachute Nov. 3 shortly after departure from Bentonville, Arkansas. Video posted on Facebook quickly caught the eye of journalists including James Fallows, who posted a detailed online account for The Atlantic within hours including air traffic control audio recordings and detailed diagrams of the flight path.
The news was not just that the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS) had logged another apparent save. In this case, the pilot saved was former Walmart CEO Bill Simon.
Simon lost engine power soon after takeoff and turned back toward the airport. Realizing that he didn’t have the altitude to make it, he activated the parachute and joined the ranks of more than 50 pilots (55 by Fallows’ reckoning) who have used the system since it hit the market 15 years ago. Full airframe parachutes have been installed by other manufacturers as well, and are credited with saving more than 200 lives to date.
CBS News reported that Simon’s Cirrus struck a pickup truck as it touched down, but the occupants of both vehicles escaped with minor injuries and everyone walked away.
Several different videos and photos posted on social media were collected online.
A February article published online by Air Facts Journal details other recent deployments of the Cirrus parachute system and notes that in 2014, the number of CAPS deployments increased (12) and fatalities decreased (3), marking the first time those curves had crossed.