Plane's Parachute Helps Save Life of Ex-Walmart CEO

Bill Simon comes down relatively unscathed in Arkansas
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 4, 2015 12:18 PM CST

(Newser) – A parachute helped save the life of a pilot in trouble, but not in the traditional manner. In this case, the parachute was attached to the plane, not a human, reports the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. The drama unfolded Tuesday morning after former Walmart CEO Bill Simon ran into trouble with his small plane, a Cirrus SR-22, soon after taking off from Bentonville, Ark. Simon tried to make it to a nearby air field, but realized he wasn't going to make it. "I'm going to need an all-crash here. We're going to try to find a place over here that's clear," Simon says in Air Traffic Control recordings, per CBS News. That's when he deployed the plane's parachute and descended onto a stretch of road. He clipped a pickup near the ground, but all three people on the plane and the three in the truck escaped with minor injuries.

"They were losing altitude ... so they popped the emergency chute on the plane, which brought them down slowly," says Craig Sout of the Fayetteville Police. A parachute on a plane? As it turns out, they're standard on Cirrus aircraft, explains James Fallows at the Atlantic, who bought one himself. Veteran pilots scoffed at the "training wheels" when the chutes first came out 15 years ago, but the simple fact is that they save lives, he writes. "Small-aircraft flight is perilous," he adds. "And the parachutes make it less so."

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