(CBS4) – An airplane parachute deployed after a mid-air collision prevented a rough flight from turning deadly. Two small planes collided last Wednesday morning south of Denver over Cherry Creek Reservoir. Aviation experts were shocked the parties in both planes walked away without injuries.

(credit: Hector Valezquez)

“Even with the airplane coming down essentially flat, it’s not the softest of touchdowns,” said Tyler Bachelder, associate professor of aviation and aerospace science at Metro State University of Denver. “I was actually shocked that there were no fatalities in either aircraft.”

Hard landings are uncomfortable, but it’s hard to complain after walking away from a mid-air collision unharmed. The 2016 Cirrus SR22 was equipped with an onboard Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS) which the Pilot successfully deployed.

(credit: CBS)

The idea of airplane chutes has been around for decades, but they’re only standard for one company. When Bachelder heard the plane was a Cirrus, the safe landing made more sense.

“Cirrus is the only manufacturer that has it as stock equipment on the airplane. It takes a lot to certify equipment like that in an airplane and it’s just something that other manufacturers haven’t taken on yet,” said Bachelder.

The Cirrus Airframe Parachute System has been deployed in its planes over 100 times, saving more than 200 lives. Bachelder says the lifesaving technology is fairly simple from the pilot’s perspective.

“Before flight, you remove the safety pin. When the airplane is flying, the system is essentially armed and ready to go. In the ceiling, there’s a small little plastic cover panel. When you’re ready to deploy the parachute, you pull that plastic panel down. Behind it is a red T handle that you grab and pull on it,” said Bachelder.

It’s literally groundbreaking technology. But Bachelder’s taken aback by “the bird with fewer tricks” — the other small plane.

“I think I was more impressed seeing the other airplane land with the big hole in the back,” said Bachelder, referring to the safe landing at Centennial Airport. “That’s not usual. It’s incredible that ended up the way it did.”

(credit: CBS)

The NTSB says it will have a preliminary report on what led to that collision in a couple weeks, but the entire investigation will take them at least a year to complete.

Tori Mason