How a plane parachute saved two lives in a mid-air collision

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CENTENNIAL, Colo. (KDVR) — A plane that collided with another plane near Denver Wednesday deployed a parachute that allowed the two people on board to walk away safely.

The plane is a Cirrus SR22 and is equipped with what’s known as CAPS, a Cirrus Airframe Parachute System.

“The safety equipment today really stood up to the test,” said John Bartolic, a commercial pilot and flight instructor who specializes in Cirrus planes. “For aviation to have something like that happen and have no fatalities, I’m in awe,” Bartolic continued.

He and other aviation experts agree the parachute most likely saved the lives of the two people on board the Cirrus.

A Cirrus pilot website reports that prior to Wednesday, CAPS has been deployed at least 102 times and saved at least 207 lives.

“There’s a red handle on the top of the ceiling where the pilot sits,” Bartolic said, describing how to deploy CAPS. “You rotate it down, take two hands and apply about 45 pounds of pressure.

That handle is connected to a cable that goes all the way back to the top part, behind the baggage compartment, of the fuselage. It activates a rocket ignition system and the rocket will shoot up out of the back of the aircraft and carry with it a deployment bag, which contains a parachute,” Bartolic said.

The parachute is big and strong enough to lower the 2,200-pound plane to the ground and allow the people inside to walk away.

The seats are also designed to absorb impact, he said.

“If you were to rip off the fabric, you’d see a honeycomb aluminum-like structure that’s designed to cushion the impact of hitting down.”

Bartolic said the parachute is a major selling point of the Cirrus aircraft and part of the training for its pilots.

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