First-Ever "Save" in a Certified Aircraft

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Cirrus Pilot Deploys BRS

BRS marked another milestone on October 3, 2003, when pilot Lionel Morrison, 53, of Dallas, Texas walked away from his Cirrus Design SR22 aircraft following a "severe" loss of control and subsequent deployment of his BRS parachute system. The aircraft touched down in a wooded area near The Gold Club at Castle Hills, a golf course near the Dallas suburb of Lewisville.

While BRS has been "saving" ultralights and Experimental aircraft for years, what makes this event worth noting is that it's the first-ever "save" of a certified aircraft. Made by BRS of South St. Paul, Minnesota, the system was designed for Cirrus Design Corporation of Duluth, Minnesota, who refers to it as CAPS (Cirrus Airframe Parachute System). Cirrus manufactures the SR22 model and also produces the SR20 model and reports more than 500 of their aircraft are flying.

The SR22 and SR20 aircraft are claimed to be highly innovative in a number of ways, including installation of the emergency parachute system. Cirrus is currently the only certified aircraft manufacturer that has chosen to make the parachute standard equipment in all their airplanes, according to BRS.

"This is a very exciting day for BRS," says BRS president and CEO Mark Thomas. "This is why we do what we do (the company has now logged 156 saves), and it confirms the foresight Cirrus had in equipping their planes with our emergency parachute system. That decision has averted a catastrophe and Cirrus is to be applauded for their vision."

The densely packed 55-foot diameter parachute is extracted from the SR22 fuselage by a 1,000 Newton/second solid-fuel rocket motor after the pilot pulls a handle mounted overhead between the pilot and a right seat passenger. The parachute is mounted aft of the baggage area and blasts out a specially prepared opening in the fuselage when launched. Three Kevlar® webbing straps connect the parachute to the airframe and allow it to descend in a flight-level attitude ­ just like it sits when on the ground. The action of deployment is extremely fast and can potentially save the aircraft from as low as 300 to 500 feet (under ideal circumstances), says BRS.

Morrison's deployment occurred at 1,500 to 2,000 feet and the aircraft appears to have fairly limited damage, according to BRS. "The parachute appears to have performed as designed," says Thomas. "The canopy could be seen laid out perfectly on the trees near the downed aircraft, and the airframe attachments were stripped from the fuselage just as engineers planned."

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating the incident and is expected to issue a report.


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