A rare scene was caught on video in the skies over Fayetteville, Arkansas, on Tuesday when former Walmart CEO Bill Simon experienced engine trouble en route to Waco, Texas, and popped the ballistic parachute on his Cirrus SR22, floating to safety as amazed onlookers watched.
According to a recording of the incident at LiveATC.net, ATC issued vectors to Fayetteville Executive Airport after Simon reported a loss of oil pressure just as he reached his filed cruising altitude of 10,000 feet. Unable to make the airport, the pilot elected to deploy the chute rather than risk a forced landing in the densely populated area near the University of Arkansas campus.
The Cirrus touched down on a five-lane road in front of the Fayetteville High School and was struck by a pickup truck. The occupants of the truck as well as Simon and two passengers in the Cirrus were taken to local hospital, all with minor injuries.
According to data published by FlightAware.com, the Cirrus, N857SW, reached its filed cruise altitude minutes after departing Arkansas’ Bentonville Regional Airport at around 10:30 a.m. when something went wrong. The airplane, a 2014 model year SR22T, descended to 2,200 feet and was on a three mile final to the Fayetteville Airport when Simon weighed his options and elected to pull the chute.
The National Transportation Safety Board will study the video of the airplane’s descent, as no doubt Cirrus and parachute maker BRS will want to review the footage carefully to gain further insight and knowledge of a chute deployment in a real-world situation.
Last January a Cirrus SR22 pilot filmed his descent after pulling the parachute on a ferry flight to Hawaii. That incident was also captured on video by a Coast Guard airplane.