No injuries were reported after a bizarre incident near Denver. Two planes collided in mid-air and despite the damage to both aircraft, all occupants are reportedly unharmed after one landed safely and the other parachuted down.
On May 12, a Cirrus SR-22 (the red and white one), registration N416DJ, and a Swearingen SA-226TC Metro II (the green one), registration N280KL, collided in mid-air. Both planes were approaching for landing at Centennial Airport, Denver, Colorado, reports the National Transportation Safety Board. The Metroliner was operated by Key Lime Air air charter and cargo carrier and the Cirrus was rented from Independence Aviation, a flight school and aircraft rental company.
The Swearingen Metroliner is a 19-seat twin turboprop airliner often used in regional cargo and passenger operations. The Cirrus SR-22 is a single-engine aircraft built out of composites and featuring an innovative parachute system. More on that later.
As Aviation Herald reports, the Metroliner was descending through 6,400 feet on approach for runway 17L while the Cirrus was descending through 6,400 feet on approach for runway 17R, but it appears to have overshot the centerlines of both runways.
The cause of this crash is unknown at this time and NTSB is investigating. The Cirrus pilot deployed the plane’s Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS) to come to a gentle crash landing while the Metroliner, sliced open by the collision, made a safe landing at the airport. No injuries were reported from either aircraft. The Metroliner had 1 on board while the Cirrus had 2.
Check out this report from ABC 7 Denver showing the Cirrus parachuting down and the stunning damage to the Metroliner:
The fact that the Metroliner was able to continue flying and even land with that damage is a testament to the strength of the aircraft.
While some may point to Key Lime Air’s history of incidents, it’s important to note that information is scant on this incident at this stage; that includes how the crash happened and what factors contributed to it.
Here is an air traffic control recording and flightpaths for the two planes by the VASAviation YouTube channel. The skilled pilots of the Metroliner remain cool as cucumbers considering that they just lost a chunk of their plane. Initially they only reported an engine failure:
This is also a great time to talk about the Cirrus CAPS. The system is designed to allow the aircraft to descend at a rate of less than 1,700 feet per minute using a large parachute launched using a rocket. When the plane impacts the ground, Cirrus has designed the plane’s safety system so that the impact is similar to dropping from a height of 13 feet.
It’s more than just a parachute, as the airframe, seats, and landing gear are all designed to collectively absorb the energy in an impact like this. The seats are built with a honeycomb-like structure designed to transmit as little forces to the plane’s occupants as possible.
When pilots pull that red handle to deploy the system, the plane does its best to keep its occupants safe. CAPS may very well be the reason the Cirrus occupants were able to walk away unharmed.
NTSB expects to publish a preliminary report in the next 14 days while the full investigation is expected to take about a year.