Two Planes Collide While Glider Was In Tow <


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Two Planes Collide While Glider Was In Tow

By Mike Mitchell

February 7, 2010 - At about 1:30 PM Saturday, a Piper Pawnee aircraft towing a glider collided mid-air with a Cirrus SR20 airplane just two miles northwest of Boulder Municipal Airport, Boulder, Colorado. The glider being towed by the Piper Pawnee was able to unhook from its towline and land safely. Several people who witnessed the accident, described people falling from the Cirrus airplane.

All passengers onboard the Cirrus plane were killed and as well the pilot of the Piper Pawnee. The two place glider was operated by Mile High Gliding, Boulder, Colorado. Witnesses report as the Piper Pawnee was towing the glider to altitude, the Cirrus SR20 aircraft clipped the towline. Although non of the passengers survived, the pilot of the Cirrus aircraft was able to deploy the aircraft's Ballistic Recovery Systems (BRS).


The BRS is a system that allows a parachute to be deployed in the event of an emergency.  A deployed parachute would allow the aircraft to descend at a much lower speed with moderate structural damage to the aircraft when it landed. It could be used in the event of loss of control, failure of the aircraft structure, or other in-flight emergencies. The Ballistic Recovery Systems comes standard on all Cirrus aircraft. It appears that the BRS system did its job, but because the Cirrus aircraft was engulfed in flames it would appear that the passengers onboard the Cirrus aircraft never had a chance.

Cirrus Design Corporation is an aircraft manufacturer that was founded in 1984 by Alan and Dale Klapmeier to produce the VK-30 kit aircraft. The company markets several versions of its two certified designs, the SR20 and the SR22. The Cirrus Vision SF50 single-engine jet is currently under development. Cirrus Design has its headquarters and main manufacturing facility in Duluth, Minnesota. An additional manufacturing facility is located in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Assembly facilities are also located at Bembridge, on the Isle of Wight in England and at Archerfield Airport in Brisbane, Australia. 

The PA-25 Pawnee was an agricultural aircraft produced by Piper Aircraft between 1959 and 1982. It remains a widely used aircraft in agricultural spraying and is also used as a tow plane, or tug, for launching gliders or for towing banners. The PA-25 Pawnee was designed by Fred Weick as a rugged, easy to maintain agricultural aircraft. The Pawnee is a single engine low-wing monoplane constructed of steel tubing and covered with fabric. 

The emphasis of this design was on pilot safety with the fuselage structure designed to collapse progressively during a low speed crash, typically experienced during crop spraying operations. The later Pawnee D version featured twin fuel tanks mounted in the outer wing panels, further improving crashworthiness (early models of the Pawnee had a single fuel tank located between the agricultural hopper and the engine). A useful design aspect was the ability to carry a mechanic on a jump seat fitted in the hopper to assist with operations at remote stations.  

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