Plane that ditched off Maui had parachute - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Plane that ditched off Maui had parachute

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Cirrus airplane is the only production aircraft that comes equipped with a full-plane parachute.  Bill Melohn owns and flies a Cirrus airplane, similar to the one that ditched off Maui Sunday. The parachute is packed in the tail section.

"A rocket will shoot the parachute out this way. Then out of these channels here come the harness pieces that will actually slow the plane down then ultimately cause it to flop down, so that it will come straight down," Melohn said.

Coast Guard video shows pilot Lou Morton's plane just before and after he triggered his parachute. At first the nose faces straight down, then the aircraft levels and descends vertically at about 20 miles an hour, making a landing in the water.

"The idea is to save the pilot," Melohn said. "Whether the plane makes it or not is not a primary concern."

Morton works for The Flight Academy in Seattle. He was delivering the plane to Australia. Maui was a stopover

"Although the aircraft had adequate reserves for the flight, and fuel remaining at the time of the parachute deployment, the remaining fuel was unable to reach the engine for unknown reasons," a company statement said.

Melohn said the Cirrus's seats will crush down during crash landings.

"As the plane hits down, the entire seat goes down. You'll go down about a foot and a-half. And that dissipates all the energy of the landing," he said.

Airbags are built into seat harnesses, and the airplane's composite materials have crumple zones to shield pilot and passengers.

"The final thing is to pull this red handle straight down. That launches the parachute," Melohn said.

A Cirrus airplane has safely crash landed using the parachute 51 times. .

"I hope I never have to deploy it. But I'm really happy to have it on board. I'd like to believe that if we ever do need it, it will be there for us," Melohn said.

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