Another Small-Plane Parachute Save

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.
The pilot, Louis Obergh, and his daughter Rachel in front of the airplane that came down under parachute. (Photo Victor Alcorn.)

Thanks to many people who have written in, over the past 24 hours, about another parachute-save episode involving a Cirrus airplane. Yesterday afternoon, over Republic airport on Long Island, a father who had been taking his teenaged daughter to see colleges in Rhode Island had an engine failure while coming back to New York. He pulled the parachute; the airplane came down safely; and then he and his daughter walked away. The New York Post has a story, and does the Providence Journal. Here is video from an ABC / New York TV news report:

Last fall there was a similar story, about a former WalMart CEO who had an engine problem in the same kind of plane (now the most popular small plane in the world, precisely because of the parachute), but also came down safely under the parachute. All of this has my attention because this is the kind of plane I’ve been flying through our American Futures travels, and in which I’ve been doing annual recurrent-training last week and will be in the next few days, starting again tomorrow morning.

And here, via LiveATC (and with a tip from Cirrus pilot Scott Lipsky), is the Air Traffic Control recording from the tower at Republic airport.

The whole recording gives an idea of some of the cadence of air-traffic control. I’ve mentioned many times (for instance here and here) the phenomenal calm of the professional air-traffic system, in which people seem to sound more composed as the objective level of emergency ramps up. Something like that is going on here. Scott Lipsky has this guide to the transmissions involving the plane in question, which is referred to as Two Nine(r) Five Alpha Romeo:

First contact with Republic tower: 4:25
First audio from aircraft: 6:25
Emergency & search transmissions: 7:30, 9:15, 13:40, 16:50, 20:10, 28:40

I don’t like the idea of these engine failures; I do like the idea of designers who had the vision and grit to insist that parachutes be installed in their airplanes.