On Sunday, March 15, Verle Wiita, 64, an instrument-rated private pilot with about 320 total hours flying experience, became disoriented soon after leaving Montgomery County Airpark in Gaithersburg, Md. Automated weather equipment reported an overcast ceiling of 400 feet with two miles visibility at the surface, although the pilot reported the cloud layer began at about 800 feet agl. He deployed the airframe parachute on his Cirrus SR22 at the base of the clouds, and the airplane came down less than a half-mile from the airport.
No one on the ground was injured, and Wiita walked away from the accident without so much as a bump or bruise. But his airplane, a normally aspirated 2008 model with the Garmin G1000-based Perspective avionics suite, was destroyed. To date, there have been 18 parachute deployments on Cirrus aircraft, and the occupants have survived 16 of them.
This is shy Cirrus aircraft are so expensive to insure.