If safety is a luxury during air travel, then chartering the right single-engine airplane could be the most extravagant choice ever made by a pilot or passenger.
The Cirrus SR22, available for charter in the Upstate through Special Services Corporation in Greenville, offers general aviators and flight enthusiasts the opportunity to fly with the same safety features used by NASA during the Apollo moon missions.
When the Apollo capsule reentered the earth’s atmosphere, a parachute was deployed to slow it down, said Tim McConnell, Cirrus standardized instruction pilot at Special Services Corporation.
The SR22 uses the same technology, he said. As the plane’s parachute deploys, it is held closed until incoming air pushes a slip ring down the lanyard and opens the parachute completely.
McConnell said the plane model is available at Special Services Corporation for both training and business.
Carrying up to three passengers, including a professional pilot, the Cirrus SR22 can be chartered by anyone for regional flights to Charleston, Atlanta, Orlando or Jacksonville, he said. The plane is also used for flight instruction.
Many travelers will not consider using a single-engine airplane, preferring a jet or twin-engine for safety measures, McConnell said.
On one engine, the SR22 has the same air speed as many twin-engine models and has a parachute as its safety backup in place of a second engine, he said. Economically, the single-engine model is much cheaper because “we are not having to feed that second engine.”
The pilot can manually deploy the parachute from a ripcord at the top of the cabin, McConnell said. The ripcord can be reached by anyone in the plane.
“If I am incapacitated, I want the passengers to know how to deploy the parachute so all of our lives are saved,” he said. After the ripcord is pulled, McConnell said a rocket would be launched from the back of the airplane, taking the parachute with it.
Once the rocket steers the parachute above the plane, the chute will deploy and fill with air, he said. When fully engaged, the entire airplane will float down and land on its wheels.
McConnell said the technology would eventually be part of the standard safety measures used in all general aviation and commercial flight.
Cirrus is already developing a jet with a parachute, he said. A jet travels in excess of 350 miles per hour, much like the aircraft used in commercial aviation, so “it is feasible to think that one day safety parachutes will be used throughout the industry.”