Firefighters Receive CAPS Training

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MTT News's picture
Kevin Murphy
Top to Bottom: Amy Voss points out to Middleton Firefighters a handle that deploys a parachute that prevents a plane crash; Firefighters during CAPS training at the Middleton Municipal Airport-Morey Field Monday night.

MIDDLETON–Nearly 40 Middleton firefighters learned Monday how to respond to an emergency involving an airplane equipped with a rocket-powered parachute.

Cirrus Aircraft builds all its planes around its Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS) which the pilot can deploy in the event of engine failure to prevent a crash.

CAPS uses a small solid fuel rocket to pull a large parachute from the rear of the plane which allows it to float to the ground, landing with the impact of a 13-foot fall, said Matt Hofeldt, Capital Flight co-owner, which hosted the training session.

While there are at least two Cirrus airplanes based at Middleton Municipal Airport-Morey Field, many more are in the sky as Duluth, Minnesota-based Cirrus has sold more than 7,000 of its SR series single-engine aircraft. Also, CAPS can be retrofitted to planes made by other companies. 

When a plane lands after CAPS deploys, firefighters must be aware that they can be struck by the plane if it’s moved by the wind inflating the chute. Firefighters may need to help remove passengers from the plane and check for fuel leaks, oxygen bottles on board, said Amy Voss, Cirrus’ regional training manager.

It’s when firefighters respond to airplane accident or other problem where the parachute wasn’t deployed that they have to be aware of it.

CAPS’ rocket heats to 5,400 degrees Fahrenheit when ignited and the chute assembly is initially pulled from the plane at 4,500 mph, Voss said.

Firefighters will want to avoid approaching the plane directly from the tail as the chute is launched up from the rear of the plane at a steep angle.

Voss showed how CAPS can be deactivated but unless the plane is blocking a road, runway or taxiway, Cirrus prefers the plane isn’t moved until a company representative arrives either from Duluth or Kansas City, MO.

Although these life-saving airplane parachute system can pose another hazard to First Responders, Fire Chief Aaron Harris kept it in perspective.

“Much like airbags in a vehicle you can have post-accident deployment. Here, you can have post-accident CAPS’ deployment. So knowing that it’s there and how it deploys…it’s like another thing to be aware of like airbags, electrical systems in (Toyota) Prius’ and fuel tanks,” he said.

Harris doesn’t foresee his department encountering CAPS situations much at all

“The probability of us having an incident here is nowhere near what we deal with every day. We deal with airbags every day, this is just not probable (to occur),” he said.

Cirrus statistics back Harris up. In the past 20 years, CAPS has been deployed 93 times, said Voss saving 196 people. Meanwhile, CAPS equipped airplanes log “millions of miles,” annually.

Airport Manager Richard Morey told firefighters that about 94 aircraft are based at Morey Field, which is largely used for pilot training. On average, 100 practice takeoffs and landings can occur daily.

Morey said there hasn’t been any aircraft incident requiring firefighter response in years.

The last response was during the August 2018 flood which lifted a fuel tank at the airport but it stayed within its contaminant area, he said.







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