Detroit/ Crime & Emergencies
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Published on June 21, 2024
WMU Flight Instructor and Student Pilot Survive Crash in Hillsdale County Thanks to Parachute SystemSource: Google Street View

A Western Michigan University (WMU) flight instructor and a student pilot encountered an aerial emergency on Wednesday, which resulted in the deployment of the aircraft's parachute system and a subsequent crash landing in a field in Hillsdale County, as reported by WOOD and WZZM 13. The incident occurred around 11:50 a.m. near Mosherville and Rainey Road in Litchfield Township, according to Michigan State Police.

The small plane, a Cirrus aircraft part of the WMU Aviation Program, faced complications while the crew practiced stall maneuvers — a critical element of flight training that involves recovering from a loss of lift. During the instruction, the plane failed to restart after several attempts, necessitating the use of an emergency parachute system known as the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS), which allowed for a controlled descent to the ground. Remarkably, no one was injured in the crash.

"Due to the decision making of the crew, and this highly sophisticated safety feature (the parachute system), we are very happy to state everyone landed safely in a field with no injuries," WMU Aviation expressed in a statement obtained by WOOD. Dean Raymond Thompson of the College of Aviation at WMU elaborated on the incident, stating, "I feel like in this case, it performed well. Everything went as expected," in an interview with WOOD. Thompson also highlighted that WMU trains their crew for such emergencies in simulators, though they hope such actions are never necessary.

Footage of the plane spiraling before the crash was captured by onlooker Mary Sanford and shared with WILX. The Federal Aviation Administration has taken charge of the investigation into the cause of the malfunction. As for the aircraft, it is expected to remain at the scene for a few days while arrangements are made by WMU for its removal. This incident marks the first time a parachute has been deployed on a WMU plane, reflecting both the rarity of such occasions and the effectiveness of the CAPS in preventing potential casualties.