Ballistic Recovery Systems (commonly BRS) is a company (Pink Sheets: BRSI) that was formed in 1980 by Boris Popov after he survived a 400 foot fall in a partly collapsed hang glider in 1975. Boris invented a parachute system which would lower a whole light airplane to the ground relatively safely for the people inside, though typically with moderate structural damage to the aircraft when it landed. It could be used in the event of loss of control, failure of the aircraft structure, or other in-flight emergencies.
A solid-fuel rocket
is used to pull the parachute out from its housing and deploy the canopy fully within seconds. Typically on ultralight installations the rocket is mounted on the parachute container. On larger aircraft installations the rocket may be remotely mounted.
Over the years the BRS systems employed have been improved and updated and the current version is the BRS-6. This has a separate rocket installation that can be removed from the parachute so the parachute can be sent for re-packing without the problems of trying to ship the rocket as well. Typically the parachute requires repacking every six years and the rocket requires replacing every 12 years.
The first ballistic recovery parachutes were on the market in 1982, and the first deployment was in 1983. Between then and April 2007, over 300 people were aboard 201 aircraft which deployed BRS parachutes; most of whose lives were presumably saved by those parachute deployments.
BRS Models are available for:
Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS)
The CAPS is a BRS system designed specifically for Cirrus Design
's line of general aviation aircraft including the SRV
. As in other BRS systems a solid-fuel rocket
, housed in the aft fuselage
, is used to pull the parachute out from its housing and deploy the canopy full within seconds. The goal of employing this system is the survival of the crew and passengers and not necessarily the prevention of damage to the airframe.
Since the landing gear and firewall are part of the structure designed to be crushed for energy absorption during impact after parachute deploy, Cirrus originally thought that the airframe would be damaged beyond repair on impact. But the first aircraft to deploy (N1223S) landed in mesquite and was not badly damaged. Cirrus bought the airframe back, repaired it, and used it as a demo plane. It was eventually sold to another owner who destroyed it in a crash short of the runway. Several of the aircraft involved in CAPS deploys have been put back into service, with the exception of those that landed in the water.
On 18 July 2008 BRS announced that its new 5000-series canopy had completed compliance testing to ASTM International
standards. This new parachute system is intended to provide a recovery capability for much larger aircraft, including very light jets
. Initial applications may include the Diamond D-Jet
and Lancair Evolution
certification is being pursued to allow installation on certified aircraft
As of April 2007
, the CAPS has been deployed over two hundred times (some still under investigation):
- October 2002, Texas: detached aileron (NTSB report)
- April 2003, British Columbia: loss of control in turbulence (aircraft C-GEMC), 4 uninjured
- April 2004, Florida: instrument failure in IFR conditions, 1 uninjured (NTSB report)
- September 2004, California: loss of control in high-altitude climb above clouds, 2 uninjured (NTSB report)
- January 2005, California: parachute deployed above design limits, pilot fatality (unknown if intentionally activated) (NTSB Preliminary Report)
- June 2005, New York: pilot incapacitated from undiagnosed brain tumor, 1 injured (NTSB report)
- January 2006, Alabama: loss of control after pilot flew into icing, 3 uninjured (NTSB report)
- February 2006, South Dakota: pilot reported disorientation, 2 uninjured
- August 2006, Indiana: parachute deployed three miles from departure end of runway, aircraft landed in retention pond, parachute was deployed by a passenger because the pilot had fainted, pilot fatality, 3 passengers injured NSTB Preliminary Report,
- September 2006, Jamaica: pilot activated parachute under unknown circumstances, 4 uninjured NTSB Preliminary report
- September 2006, Colorado: Plane destroyed with 2 fatalities after reports of icing problems at 14,000 feet. A preliminary report from the NTSB contains the sentence "A witness in the area observed a portion of the fuselage being drug by the deployed aircraft recovery parachute." NTSB Preliminary report
- February 2007, NSW, Australia: Fuel line pressure sensor connection cap separated and loss of pressure stopped the engine. After an approach to a freeway forced landing, CAPS was activated, the rocket fired, but got tangled with the empennage resulting in parachute undeployment. The plane impacted ground in nose down attitude seriously injuring both occupants. ATSB Preliminary report
- April 2007, Luna, New Mexico: The pilot experienced spatial disorientation following loss of the airspeed indicator. After the terrain warning went off, CAPS was activated and the plane came to rest in a forested area. NTSB Probable Cause
- August 2007, Nantucket Island, Mass: Two people aboard, one suffered serious injury after their Cirrus made a parachute landing on Nantucket. FAA spokeswoman Holly Baker said the Cirrus aircraft apparently was trying to land at Nantucket under visual flight rules when the weather deteriorated. She said the pilot used the plane's parachute system and the Cirrus made a hard landing, apparently hitting the guy wires of a LORAN tower in the village of Siasconset, about five miles northeast of the Nantucket airport.