I wrote to Mr. Widmer (see below); here's his response:
You are certainly correct that only someone who has experienced a particularly stressful incident can truly understand the decision-making logic of that moment. It is also infinitely easier to critique a course of action in the comfort of one's easy chair than it is to decide that course of action under pressure. I don't have CAPS capability in my airplane and therefore have the durbious luxury of one less thing to consider in an emergency. Who knows? in the situation you faced, I may have done the same thing you did.
Some of our terrific technological advances come with a potential downside. I believe CAPS qualifies as one of those advances. I suppose I am potentially one of those pilots who, with CAPS, might push my "risk vs comfort level" envelope further than I normally would without the system.
It was nice to hear from you, I had no idea you were that badly injured. I wish you well and hope your recovery is swift and total.
From: "ILAN REICH" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Your letter to the editor of Plane & Pilot magazine
Date: Fri, 24 Mar 2006 21:41:01 -0500
>There's a current thread on the Cirrus Pilot website relating to letters to
>the editor of Plane & Pilot which have criticized my decision to pull the
>chute and "ruin a perfectly good airplane". Your letter came up, so I
>thought I'd communicate directly with you. Here's what I wrote on the
>Cirrus Pilot website in mid-December, 2005, when there was an earlier debate
>on this issue:
>"I've debated the parachute pull issue many times with many people, both
>before and after my personal nightmare of June 30, 2005. This includes a
>variety of FAA officials.
>Only after June 30 could I appreciate the wisdom of this old Native American
>saying: "Don't judge someone until you've walked a mile in his moccasins".
>Until recently, I sometimes quoted this saying as part of a viewpoint that I
>had a "better" opinion than others, who had not lived through the state of
>mind that exists when the split-second decision to "pull or not to pull"
>needs to be made. I used to think that my perspective was entirely different
>from the luxury of long and philosophical discussion that takes place
>regularly on this and other pilot forums and circles.
>I don't hold that viewpoint anymore. For many reasons, the validity of my
>opinion today on the subject of CAPS deployment is no better or worse from
>During that singular moment in time when one really, really needs to make
>the CAPS decision is the only time I regard myself as having been qualified
>to do so. The "me" of today is not in those same circumstances, and neither
>are 99.99% of all pilots alive today.
>I vividly remember what the "me" of that moment thought and felt: it was
>encapsulated in the phrase "Not Good", which reverberated in my brain at the
>time I regained conscious control and righted the plane. Its a unique
>feeling that enabled the "me" of that moment to turn the tide. "Use all
>available resources", as some would say. Its a feeling that applied again
>when the plane was submerged and then when the door handle was jammed. And
>again when I awoke from surgery one month later to find the entire right
>side of my body paralyzed.
>But I'm no longer captured in any of those dire circumstances, so objective
>thought and reason have replaced the pure stream of emotion, powerlessness
>and optimism that gives anyone in a disaster situation the willpower and
>single-mindedness to pull through.
>These days, "This is Good" is what I think about when I get into an
>airplane, or engage in any of the other physical activities which I enjoyed
>doing before June 30.
>As an aside, I can offer an objective opinion on the relative difficulty of
>learning to fly as compared to learning to walk. Having recently learned to
>do both again, walking is far more difficult."