Los Angeles - Video from a US Coast Guard aircraft released on Monday captured the drama of a single-engine airplane and its pilot splashing safely onto the Pacific Ocean thanks to a parachute built inside its fuselage.
The factory-new Cirrus SR22 was en route to Hawaii on Sunday afternoon on a ferry flight from the San Francisco area when it "ran out of fuel," the coast guard said in a press release.
Video from the C-130 Hercules rescue plane showed the ill-starred aircraft deploy its airframe parachute - standard equipment on the five-seat aircraft that sells for $725 000 in its turbocharged version - several hundred feet above the sea.
Seconds after the Cirrus hit the water with a splash, the unidentified pilot is seen climbing into a small life raft to await a passing cruise ship to pick him up, about 400km off the Hawaiian island of Maui, 30 minutes later.
"The pilot was reported to be in good condition. The plane was last observed partially submerged," the coast guard said.
Flight tracking website FlightAware indicated that the US-registered aircraft was flying a 3 894km route from Tracy airport outside San Francisco to Kahului, on Maui.
Tracy is a frequently used departure point for small aircraft on ferry flights from the US mainland via Hawaii to East Asia and Australia.
A Cirrus SR22 can typically fly for 1 500km, but for transoceanic journeys it is fitted with extra fuel tanks in the cabin.
Minnesota-based Cirrus says timely deployment of its cirrus airframe parachute system has saved 104 lives worldwide since the debut of the original SR20 model in the 1990s.
Similar parachute are available for a small handful of other single-engine aircraft, either as optional extras or for after-market installation.
Cirrus spokesperson Ben Kowalski told Flying magazine that the manufacturer - in whose name the SR22 was registered with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) - was in "detail gathering mode" and assisting authorities in their investigation.
"First and foremost, we're remarkably thankful and happy that everyone is okay, and for the work of the Coast Guard in the rescue," he was quoted as saying on Flying's website.
The video can be viewed below.
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