The post-impact deployment of an aircraft’s rocket-deployed parachute recovery system is a reminder for emergency responders to approach aviation accident sites with caution.
A Cirrus SR22 light aircraft collided with terrain during a night training flight at Orange Airport, New South Wales, on 15 May 2018. The pilot and flight instructor were seriously injured and the aircraft destroyed. Footage from the airport’s closed-circuit television showed that the aircraft’s rocket-deployed parachute system discharged uncommanded around 9 minutes after the accident occurred.
At the end of a second touch-and-go circuit, the aircraft struck the ground and collided with a fence, coming to a stop inverted. The ATSB found it was likely the pilot became spatially-disorientated after the initial pitch-up during the go-around manoeuvre, which obscured the horizon, resulting in a loss of control at low-level.
The post-impact deployment of the aircraft’s parachute recovery system highlights an important safety message for emergency personnel and others who attend aviation accidents, to be aware of the potential dangers of an unactivated rocket-deployed parachute systems.
The mishandling or misidentification of these systems could be fatal.
The post-accident deployment of the Cirrus SR22's parachute recovery system highlights an important ATSB safety message for emergency personnel and others who attend aviation accidents to be aware of the potential danger of these systems.
Designed to be activated during a serious in-flight emergency, after a collision with terrain any deformation of the fuselage can put a rocket-deployed parachute recovery system’s activation cable under abnormally high tension, making it likely to deploy with any movement of the wreckage.
In Australia, rocket-deployed parachute systems are installed in a range of light and sport aircraft including the Cirrus SR20 and SR22, the Pipistrel Virus and Sinus and the Sting TL-2000. They can also be retrofitted to the Cessna 150/152, 172 and 182 series.
Warnings about the presence of a rocket-deployed parachute system, while not consistent across aircraft types, can be found on either the external fuselage or the window adjacent to the parachute exit point.
Additional information for the identification of a rocket-deployed parachute recovery systems at aviation accidents sites is available in the ATSB’s publication Hazards at Aviation Accident Sites: Guidance for Police and Emergency Personnel.
Last update 14 November 2019