Plane Miraculously Floats to Ground Using Parachute After Midair Collision

Fate dealt a remarkable hand to those aboard two small airplanes who managed to walk away uninjured after their aircraft collided in midair.

The aircraft were flying over Cherry Creek State Park, southeast of Denver, Colorado, on Wednesday morning and the collision happened as they positioned themselves to land at Centennial Airport, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and South Metro Fire Rescue.

One of the aircraft was a twin-engine Fairchild Metroliner, owned by the Colorado-based company Key Lime Air, which had only the pilot on board. The other plane, of which the owner is not yet known, was a Cirrus SR22 single-engine aircraft which had a pilot and a passenger on board.

Before the crash, air traffic control was heard asking the pilot of the Cirrus "did you overshoot the final?" which was followed by, "Cirrus 6 Delta Juliet do you require assistance?" CBS Denver reported.

PLANE CRASH: Fire officials say no one was injured after a cargo plane and a smaller aircraft collided in the air over a Colorado park Wednesday morning. https://t.co/2N0Mji6TR2

— KGET 17 News (@KGETnews) May 12, 2021

Then the controller said: "Cirrus 6 Delta Juliet if you hear this transmission we have emergency vehicles in your direction."

The Cirrus deployed a red and white parachute and video shows it floating to a safe landing in a field. The Fairchild landed at the airport although it did suffer significant damage to its tail section.

Crews with South Metro Fire Rescue and the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office rushed to the wreckage.

"Every one of these pilots needs to go buy a lottery ticket right now," said Arapahoe County Sheriff's Deputy John Bartmann, according to the Associated Press.

"I don't remember anything like this—especially everybody walking away. I mean that's the amazing part of this," he added.

Shelly Whitehead, who saw the plane come down from her patio, told CBS Denver: "I was in the kitchen and I heard a loud firecracker bang. I ran out."

"Right when I got here I heard another bang," she said, "I saw a plane coming down."

"I thought, 'Is it somebody just jumping out of a plane?' And then I realized the parachute was attached to a plane," Whitehead said, "I thought for sure they weren't going to make it out of there."

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said in a statement that it was investigating the incident with the NTSB and that "we have no reports of people on the ground being injured."

In a statement, Key Lime Air said that its plane "sustained substantial damage to the empennage and tail section but the pilot was able to continue the approach and landed safely.

"We are participating in an active investigation of the incident with the FAA and NTSB," it added.

In a statement to Newsweek, the NTSB said it had interviewed both pilots and listened to air traffic control recordings. A preliminary report would be published within the next two weeks and the investigation would take between 12 and 18 months to complete.

"We are working to understand how and why these planes collided," said John Brannen, NTSB's investigator-in-charge said in the statement, "it is so fortunate that no one was injured in this collision."

Meanwhile, in a statement to Newsweek, Cirrus said it "was the first and remains the only manufacturer to include a whole-airframe parachute safety system as standard equipment on a certified aircraft."

Known as a "Cirrus Airframe Parachute System" or CAPS, it was a "standard feature on all Cirrus aircraft," the company added.

Cirrus aircraft
A stock image shows a Cirrus aircraft with a parachute. One of the planes landed safely using the parachute after a midair collision with another small aircraft near Denver. Handout/Cirrus aircraft

Correction 5/14/21, 1 p.m. ET: This article was updated to correct the title of the Federal Aviation Administration.

Update 14/5/21, 4 a.m ET: This article was updated to include a statement to Newsweek from the NTSB.