Chute saves life of pilot who ran out of fuel

Employees at a South Saint Paul company might well be jubilant today. They helped save the lives of a pilot of a Cirrus airplane that ran out of fuel off the coast of Hawaii yesterday.

He was saved by the emergency parachute system unique to the airplane. The system is made by Ballistic Recovery Systems at South Saint Paul’s Fleming Field.

The pilot was traveling from California and had radioed that he didn’t have enough fuel. A Coast Guard helicopter followed the plane and was able to get one of the rare looks at the parachute system deployed under an actual emergency.

The pilot is reported in good condition.

The company claims credit for helping save lives in 240 deployments of the chute system.

  • JB

    Glad he’s okay but that became a very expensive trip to Hawaii! Did he run into aunexpected headwind? You’d think ‘running out of fuel’ would be a very avoidable problem with simple planning.

    • According to my flight planning software, it’s about a 1400 mile trip. An SR-22 can carry up to 81 gallons. At best economy fuel usage it can go about 175 knots. So that’s about 7 hours with no wind burning about 15 gph or 105 gallons.

      Maybe this person had extended range tanks.

  • John

    That had to be incredibly terrifying.

    From the video, it looks like the pilot did a really solid job of following his training and not losing his head as he crash floated (not sure the right way to describe that landing) into the ocean, climbed out of the plane before it sank, and got his life raft deployed.

    rough trip, but good job on the part of the pilot in handling the situation, and an impressive bit of technology by Ballistic Recovery Systems.

  • CHS

    A colleague of mine is a pilot and had the opportunity to talk to a gentleman whose job was to deliver (fly) small single engine planes to the Islands because it was way easier and cheaper than having them shipped via boat. They would strip them down and add as much fuel capacity as possible and then refit them normally once at the destination. Of course the first question we had to know was, have you ever had to ditch? “Yeah, a few times,” was the answer. I wonder if this was something like that.

    • Here’s the FlightAware chart of the flight. His groundspeed was 150-170 knots most of the way. I suspect your guess that this was a ferry flight is correct because the owner is listed as Cirrus Design in Duluth.

      • CHS

        What a job huh? Wonder what something like that pays…

        • BJ

          A friend used to deliver fancy boats, sail boats, motor boats. Usually his pay was very little, unless it was a rush job. Then he made most of his yearly pay in 1 trip. Boats of size where you needed a crew paid ok, but where not as fun.

  • kevinfromminneapolis

    This is one of the more bizarre videos I’ve seen lately.

    • Jack

      It’s as though he had practice at wet ditching. Was that a Cuban I saw in his mouth while he was on that raft?

  • Cosmos

    Thanks for posting the video, I’ve always wondered how the parachutes worked on a Cirrus. His apparently flawless use of the parachute makes sense if he delivers planes for Cirrus.

    • Just realized the flight aware link didn’t post earlier. Sorry.

      Note that while the plane has been flying since ’06, Cirrus only took ownership of it (according to the registration) 11 days ago.