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Special parachute plays life-saving role in pilot Lue Morton's crash landing

Lue Morton, the pilot who ditched his plane in the Pacific Ocean after it ran out of gas, is speaking out about his experience
Lue Morton, the pilot who ditched his plane i... 02:29

A pilot's 2,400-mile journey that began in California ended before reaching Hawaii. Lue Morton ditched his plane in the Pacific Ocean when it ran out of gas, but it was a special parachute that may have made the difference between life and death, reports CBS News correspondent John Blackstone.

The dramatic crash landing was caught on video. Morton's single-engine plane was in trouble more than 250 miles from Hawaii when he radioed for help.

Running dangerously low on fuel, Morton headed toward a nearby Holland America cruise ship that U.S. Coast Guard officials located. Preparing to ditch, he released the parachute that is standard equipment on the Cirrus SR22 aircraft. The plane plunged toward the Pacific, and after an unconventional but relatively gentle ocean landing, Morton climbed into an emergency raft and was soon picked up by the crew from the cruise ship.

"When everything started to go south, the U.S. Coast Guard and coordination with Holland America was more than impressive," Morton said. "So, they work with the team when I was on the water, getting me out of there, getting me out of the boat."

Morton, an agent for Cirrus, was ferrying the plane to Australia. He has posted videos on YouTube of previous long distance flights delivering cirrus airplanes, including one recent voyage on the same route.

Cirrus said its parachutes have been used 51 times in the past 15 years, saving 104 people.

"There's a red handle that you pull," pilot and Cirrus owner Diogo Rau said. "It triggers a rocket which shoots out the back and launches a parachute."

Rao bought the parachute-equipped cirrus partly to feel safer flying his 2-year-old daughter. While he hates to see any trouble in the air, the happy ending off Hawaii provides reassurance that the red handle will work, should it ever be needed.

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