Several late breaking updates to Sunday's Cirrus save
- I'm told there were no problems with the engine in Sunday's accident. While there may have been a mechanical distraction, spatial disorientation in instrument conditions was more likely the main factor that put the aircraft into an attitude from which the pilot felt that pulling the parachute was the only means of recovery after trying to return to the airport and breaking out below the cloud deck.
- If the pilot lost situational awareness in the clouds, it could be that he also became concerned about his position in relation to the Washington DC area "no-fly" zone around the city centre, a ring of airspace that extends outward toward the Montgomery County Airpark, where the pilot departed. General aviation pilots and aircraft entering that zone without becoming certified (with fingerprinting and background check) and having a special clearance are intercepted by patrolling aircraft, and possibly shot down if they don't comply with instructions. That kind of pressure certainly doesn't help one get his act together in a stressful situation, in fact it may have proved deadly in a crash that killed two at a nearby airport in January 2008. Here's the report
- Cirrus officially lists 17 chute activations, including Sunday's, and 34 "saves". Officials have not yet included statements from eyewitnesses to a SR20 crash in Florida that could raise the total activations to 18, but not increase the saves. An except from the report reads: "Two witnesses in the same neighborhood stated they were checking their mail between 1430 and 1500, when they heard an airplane flying overhead. They observed the airplane flying eastbound between 225 to 250 feet above the trees. Both witnesses stated, "the engine was heard to quit and the airplane made a sharp turn to the right." The nose of the airplane pitched down vertically and the airplane started spinning. Just before the airplane disappeared below the tree line, the witnesses observed an orange or red parachute deploy, but the parachute did not inflate."