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story.lead_photo.caption Maurice Willis, 47, (top center) inspect the hood of the plane after he exited an ambulance as emergency responders secure the scene. - Photo by David Gottschalk

FAYETTEVILLE -- No life-threatening injuries were reported after a small airplane piloted by former Wal-Mart executive Bill Simon made an emergency landing by parachuting to the ground Tuesday morning on a main thoroughfare across from Fayetteville High School.

Photo by David Gottschalk
Emergency responders secure the scene of a small plane crash Tuesday on Martin Luther King Boulevard in Fayetteville. Former Wal-Mart CEO Bill Simon and two other men were on the plane, which deployed a parachute after developing engine problems. All three men and one person on the ground suffered nonlife-threatening injuries. More photos are available at arkansasonline.com/galleries.
Photo by David Gottschalk
Emergency responders secure the scene of a small airplane crash Tuesday on Martin Luther King Boulevard in Fayetteville. Bill Simon, 56, Cliff Slincard, 59, and Maurice Willis, 47, were on the plane that deployed an emergency parachute after trying an emergency landing at Drake Field in Fayetteville. The plane took off from Bentonville airport. All three men were taken to area hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries.
Photo by David Gottschalk
Dawson Aircraft personnel lift and transport the small plane that crashed Tuesday on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Fayetteville.

The plane narrowly missed the high school, several major power lines, traffic signals and trees but clipped the right rear corner of a pickup, one of many vehicles on Martin Luther King Boulevard.

How an Airframe Parachute System Works

Cirrus SR20 and SR22 planes are equipped with an airframe parachute system that can be manually released from inside the cockpit in case of engine trouble or loss of airplane control. A similar system called a ballistic recovery system, has been designed for several Cessna models that can be retrofitted for the parachutes. Ballistic Recovery Aviation also makes the parachutes for light aircraft. The company counts 240 lives saved because of deployed parachute systems.

To release the parachute the pilot or copilot must pull the emergency release by essentially doing a seated chin up. It takes 45 pounds of pressure to release the parachute. Once the 65-foot parachute is released the plane pitches forward as the parachute slows its nose-first descent, then a line snaps leveling the plane. After the rocket fires and while the plane is descending pilots are supposed to cut the fuel and ignition, and after landing, get out of the plane as quickly as possible in case the wind catches in the parachute and drags it. The impact when the plane hits the ground is the equivalent to falling 13-feet, according to the manufacturer.

There were 68 instances of a parachute release from a Cirrus plane since 2002 through mid-October, according to the Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association. There have been 85 people who lived following a parachute deployed in a crash involving a Cirrus plane, according to Cirrus Aircraft.

Source: Staff Report

"This is the first time I can recall having a plane crash on a major highway in Fayetteville," said Sgt. Craig Stout, public information officer. "Given the proximity of the high school, the university and all the traffic out here, it could have been an absolute tragedy."

Stout identified those on the plane as Simon, 56, pilot; Cliff Slincard, 59, copilot; and Maurice Willis, 47, a passenger. Simon lives in Rogers and is former CEO and president of Walmart U.S. He stepped down in 2014. Hometowns weren't provided for the others on the plane.

Simon and Slincard were taken to Washington Regional Medical Center. Simon was treated and released and Slincard was admitted and listed in good condition, according to a hospital spokeswoman Tuesday evening. No information was available on Willis, who wasn't listed as a patient. Police spelled Slincard's name with a c and the hospital spelled it Slinkard.

The plane clipped a pickup driven by Shakemia Harris, 30, of Fayetteville, according to police. Harris was also treated and released from the hospital.

Simon told The Associated Press he unfurled an aircraft parachute that brought the plane down and suffered a burn as his air bag deployed.

The plane is a Cirrus SR22T. The plane's tail number N857SW is registered to WG Aviation in Rogers with an address of a property belonging to Simon.

A flight plan filed for the five-passenger, single-engine plane indicated it left from Bentonville Municipal Airport for Waco Regional Airport in Texas about 9:30 a.m. Tuesday for a two-hour flight with a return trip scheduled for the end of the day, according to the tracking website Flight Aware.

Bill Simon serves on the the Advisory Board to the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor University in Waco.

"We understand from news reports that [Simon] and his passengers have minor injuries, and we are thankful that everyone is OK," Baylor spokeswoman Lori Fogleman said.

Stout said the plane began experiencing a loss of oil pressure, some 10 miles west of Fayetteville. The pilot declared an emergency and was heading for Fayetteville Municipal Airport to try and land when the engine failed. The airport is also known as Drake Field

An airframe parachute on the plane was deployed about 2 miles north of Fayetteville, according to the FAA. The 65-foot-wide parachute system is designed with the idea of being a "seat belt" for the plane, according to the manufacturer. A handle in the cockpit shoots a rocket out of a hatch deploying a parachute to slow the aircraft's descent during an emergency.

The plane came down about 4 miles short of the airport. Videos of the crash by witnesses showed the plane drifting downward after its parachute deployed, swaying from side to side.

The plane came to rest on the south side of Martin Luther King Boulevard just across the street from the school, adjacent to a wooded area. The fuselage was on the sidewalk. The left wing blocked the southern-most traffic lane. Firefighters contained a minor fuel leak of less than 25 gallons on the ground, Stout said.

There were no reports of any other people or property being involved.

Martin Luther King was closed between Hill Street and Stadium Drive until the National Transportation Safety Board or Federal Aviation Administration gave permission to move the plane. Investigators from the FAA arrived on the scene about 4 p.m. Tuesday and allowed the wreckage to be moved a short time later and the road opened, according to Stout.

The FAA will cooperate with local and state police, fire and rescue and the NTSB as part of an investigation, according to a spokesman.

The NTSB is responsible for investigating all civil aviation accidents in the U.S. The NTSB determines the probable cause of the accidents and issues safety recommendations aimed at preventing future accidents.

Police marked off part of the high school property near South Stadium Drive and looked for any debris from the plane, Stout said. Debris can come off an airplane when the parachute is deployed.

A Fayetteville Public Schools spokesman said everybody at the high school was fine and classes continued.

"We're just really spectators," Superintendent Paul Hewitt said while standing on the sidewalk in front of the high school.

George Spencer, a chemistry teacher at FHS, said he was teaching a class.

"I heard the engine quit, then a pop and I thought, something's not right," Spencer, a former pilot, said. "Talk about threading the needle."

Fayetteville High band director Barry Harper was at the top of the press box on Harmon Field nearing the end of a morning rehearsal with 180 students, he said.

"We heard an airplane," Harper said. "We have a lot of distractions out there. We didn't think anything about it."

Then Harper remembers hearing the engine sputtering, looking toward the plane and hearing a giant "pop," he said. He saw a parachute and the plane coming down nose first.

"Then we worried about what we could do," Harper said. "We had no idea where it was headed."

Harmon Field wasn't in danger of being hit, but Harper and the assistant directors initially worried the plane might hit the high school, Harper said. The assistant directors ran in the direction of the plane and reported back that the plane landed on Martin Luther King Boulevard and missed the high school.

"That's something you don't see every day," Harper said. "The kids obviously had a hard time concentrating. They were obviously distracted by it."

Fayetteville School District informed parents via email, text messages and social media no damage occurred at the high school and all students and staff members were safe, spokesman Alan Wilbourn said.

The closing MLK, one of the key routes of access to Fayetteville High School, disrupted the afternoon pickup of students.

Students dismissed at the usual time of 3:45 p.m., but parents were told to pick them up from Lot 56 on the University of Arkansas campus, west of the Razorback Soccer Stadium, according to a news release from the School District.

NW News on 11/04/2015

Print Headline: Small plane crash lands on Fayetteville street

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