This morning, in Arkansas, a plane piloted by a former CEO of Walmart came down beneath a parachute on a main road in Fayetteville, Arkansas. You can see the plane just before touchdown, underneath its orange-and-white parachute, in the screen shot above.
Now, explanatory Q and A:
1) What happened here? William Simon, a former CEO of Walmart, took off this morning in a Cirrus SR-22 from an airport in Bentonville, Arkansas, Walmart’s headquarters city. The flight was headed southwest, toward Texas; not long after takeoff it developed engine troubles, and the pilot made a U-turn back to Drake Field in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Close to the ground, he decided he wasn’t going to make it all the way to the runway, and he pulled a parachute that allowed his plane and its passengers to descend safely onto a road.
If you’d like to see local news footage, you can check here. For recordings of the pilot’s discussion with air traffic controllers, you can listen to the MP3 here. (Start at time 14:20, and listen to the call to “Razorback,” the local controllers, from the plane “Cirrus eight five seven sierra whiskey.”) If you’d like to see the FlightAware track, go here.
And if you’d like to see a schematic rendering of the entire flight, consult the illustration below. It’s from my friend Rick Beach, of the Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association, and it shows the plane’s elevation and path from takeoff in the upper part of the illustration to its landing in the lower right side.
2) What about this parachute? The built-in “ballistic parachute,” also known as the “parachute for the whole plane,” is a unique and distinctive feature of the Cirrus line of small aircraft. When the Cirrus SR-20 came onto the market 15 years ago, many grizzled aviators scoffed at it as a kind of training-wheels aircraft. Who would need a parachute? Real men would always be able to aviate themselves out of a bind!