Little planes go down all the time, and it would really help people get into them if the occupants didn’t die every time one did. That’s what makes the Cirrus SR22 such a brilliant little aircraft, as it has a parachute not just for the pilot, or the passengers, but the entire damn plane. And while that helps you get on the ground safely, you’re still in a hell of a lot of trouble if “the ground” still means “the absolute middle of nowhere.” So this is what it’s like to actually be rescued.
Matt Lehtinen’s Cirrus went down when his engine lost oil pressure, somewhere in the endless forests of Quebec. It’s a lovely place to go camping if you’re near a road or whatever, but a downright terrifying place to be completely lost. His mangled airplane looks, well, like a plane crash, with the trees crunching his door completely in half. Even with the parachute, the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System, or CAPS, isn’t exactly the gentlest of landings. Lehtinen was lucky to be alive, let alone uninjured.
But that’s only half the battle. Even when Lehtinen sets off his emergency transponder, what if no one hears the signal? What if no one responds? What if rescuers do respond, but they can’t see him? History is strewn with tragic stories of people surviving plane crashes in relatively good health, only to be missed by first responders.
Luckily, Lehtinen had an emergency beacon and some fire-starting supplies, but nothing in life is a sure-fire guarantee, especially when you’re lost.
“Reality is setting in, that, uh, that this could be a while,” Lehtinen says at one point.
It indeed was a while, but only a couple of hours. Pretty soon, he received a message that a search and rescue team was indeed looking for him, and a spotter aircraft had seen the smoke from his fire:
Lehtinen was then instructed to stay with his downed aircraft, and soon after a C-130 flew low overhead, dropping a two-way radio so that he could communicate with the first responders, followed by a helicopter carrying a couple of responders to actually hoist him out.
There’s no word on Lehtinen’s airplane, but I think it’s safe to say it’ll stay put for at least a little while.