U.S. Coast Guard captured the final moments a single engine Cirrus SR-22 aircraft that was traveling from Tracy, California, to Mahului, Hawaii ran out of fuel while in mid-air over the Pacific ocean.
At 12:30 p.m. the pilot contacted the Hawaii National Guard and reported his aircraft had approximately 3 hours of fuel remaining. He told them he would abandon the aircraft 230 miles north east of Maui.
At approximately 4:44 p.m. the pilot deployed his aircraft’s airframe parachute system and safely exited the aircraft into a life raft right after it landed in the ocean.
Once the pilot got in his life raft, members of the crew onboard the cruise ship Veendam spotted the stranded pilot and prepared a rescue mission. The Coast Guard stayed in communication with the pilot the entire time until they knew he got rescued and was safe. The pilot was in good condition afterward, despite his plane being partially submerged under water.
It turns out the parachute the pilot equipped his aircraft with, thus saving his life, is rare yet highly useful. Only 10% of light aircraft is equipped with them. BBC explains how it works.
On small planes like those manufactured by Cessna or Cirrus, the parachute is stored in the fuselage, either behind the back seat or in the centre section of the wing, above the cockpit. In an emergency the pilot has to pull a handle in the ceiling of the plane. Once the large chute deploys, the descent rate is about 1,700ft per minute (518m) – so the impact you’d expect on the ground is equivalent to “jumping from a 4m tall ledge,” says Travis Klumb, Cessna’s director of flight operations. Planes are also equipped with other features that help cushion the drop, such as crushable aluminium inside the seats and landing gear designed for a controlled collapse during a crash-landing.