Over the weekend, the most fortunate plane crash ever happened in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales. A light plane's engine cut out with three people on board, and instead of spiraling to earth and crashing, it floated (relatively) gently back to terra firma. The reason why? The plane had its own parachute.
ABC News covered the miraculous crash, although SMH reports there were three occupants where the ABC counted two. Either way, everyone walked away from the incident unscathed. Apparently there are around 200 Cirrus SR22 "general aviation" aircraft registered around Australia — and for the last 10 years of its production, the SR22 has been sold as standard with CAPS — that's the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System.
CAPS means the four-seater SR22 can be lowered to earth after an incident that renders the plane unflyable (like birdstrike or an engine failure); a solid-fuel rocket blasts off a panel in the aft fuselage of the aircraft, shooting the parachute canopy out to both arrest forward motion and slow downward descent. Basically, if you run into trouble, pull a lever, and your plane's parachute stops you from crashing. Awesome.
Apparently some airframes that have used CAPS in the past have been salvageable; with the tail damage visible in the linked articles, I'm not sure whether this is a write-off, but it actually looks relatively intact. The house's owner will need a new fence, though.
Up until yesterday, it didn't even occur to me that planes could have their own parachutes. Obviously they wouldn't be so practical on a Boeing 787 or Airbus A380, but well done to Cirrus for making an emergency landing system that worked well enough to probably save the lives of three people. [ABC News]