Just dropping in…

Source: Duluth News Tribune Photo: Amy Davis

A Cirrus demonstration flight made worldwide news this week for all the wrong reasons – or perhaps all the right ones. The Cirrus SR22 descended using its built-in parachute after entering a spiral dive or spin that witnesses say continued for at least six rotations before the pilot pulled the chute handle. Fortunately, all three men on board survived, one with minor injuries.

The Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association (COPA) lists the crash, into a backyard in Lawson, NSW, as the 44th successful activation of the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS). Of that number nine Cirrus aircraft that have used their CAPS have been able to be repaired to fly another day.

COPA says that the system has saved 90 lives. Not all CAPS deployments are successful. Eight were made too low for the parachute to open fully, one took place at an airspeed high enough to tear the chute from its mounts, and on two occasions the deployment rocket did not work properly.

Cirrus is the only general aviation aircraft maker to include a ballistic parachute as standard equipment, but at least three US companies, BRS, Magnum, and Second Chantz, also make aircraft ballistic recovery parachutes.

Aircraft ballistic parachutes can be retro-fitted to Cessna 152,172 and 182 aeroplanes in Australia under FAA supplementary type certificate (STC) approval. Such parachute systems may also be installed under a Part 21M approval.

CASA’s advice about aircraft ballistic parachutes is that pilots of parachute-equipped aeroplanes should make sure they know how and when to deploy them. They need to be extremely familiar with details such as maximum airspeed and minimum altitude requirements, because there will understandably be very little time to ponder these factors when the chute needs to be used.

Aircraft maintainers also need to be aware of the potential danger of ballistic parachute systems. Like ejection seats on military aircraft, the parachute deployment rocket fires with tremendous, and potentially fatal, speed and force. Only B1- licensed aircraft maintenance engineers who have successfully completed an acceptable training course on the system can undertake any inspections, removal, repair or other maintenance of ballistic parachute equipment.




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