Plane crashes into playground at Orcutt playground

May 21, 2020

A single-engine plane crashed on the playground of an Orcutt elementary school Wednesday morning, killing the lone person aboard.

Shortly before 11 a.m., the plane crashed on the playground of Ralph Dunlap Elementary School on or near the school’s basketball courts. Fire officials say the pilot of the plane died upon impact.

The crash ignited a fire, which was quickly extinguished.

Surveillance footage shows a large plume of smoke shot up into the air over the Orcutt neighborhood in which the school is located. Also, the footage shows a parachute coming down to the ground as the plane was crashing. The parachute did not appear to significantly alter the crash.

A flight log indicates the plane was a Cirrus SR-20 owned by Southwest Investments LLC. The plane took off from Van Nuys Airport at 9:45 a.m., reportedly headed for the Santa Maria Airport.

Prior to crashing, the plane plunged to an altitude of 800 feet while traveling 104 mph, according to a flight tracker.

Ralph Dunlap Elementary School was closed due to coronavirus measures when the crash occurred.

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An unexpected bright side of COVID-19: if not for shelter in place rules this playground may have been crowded with elementary school students at recess. Now, that would have been a tragedy.

That’s a shame. The Cirrus is one of the few GA aircraft to have a ballistic recovery chute. From the appearance of it in the video, the pilot either waited too long to make that decision to deploy it and it’s function was well out of it envelope or he was too low and too slow. RIP pilot.

The Cirrus chute’s minimum deployment altitude is 400 feet AGL during level flight and 920 feet AGL in a spin. From the look of it, this was a classic overshoot on the base to final turn with the pilot trying to save the approach with a skidding turn resulting in a cross-controlled stall and spin. By the time you realize what you’ve done and pull the chute, sadly there is not enough altitude for it to save you. The base to final turn is the most dangerous part of any approach and is where the highest number of fatal GA loss of control accidents occur.