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Ballistic Recovery Systems

By Wikipedia,
the free encyclopedia,

NASA photo series showing the CAPS deployment in action.
NASA photo series showing the CAPS deployment in action.

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.

Rescues completed

The first ballistic recovery parachutes were on the market in 1982, and the first deployment was in 1983. Between then and April 2007, over 225 people were aboard 201 aircraft which deployed BRS parachutes; most of whose lives were presumably saved by those parachute deployments.

Aircraft supported

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, SR20 and SR22. 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. FAA certification is being pursued to allow installation on certified aircraft.

CAPS deployments

As of March 2009, the CAPS has been activated 19 times with 31 survivors and 4 fatalities . Some additional deployments have been reported by accident investigators as caused by ground impact or post-impact fires, and some accidents are still under investigation.

  1. October 2002, Texas: detached aileron (NTSB Probable Cause)
  2. April 2003, British Columbia: loss of control in turbulence (aircraft C-GEMC), 4 uninjured (TSB Canada Aviation Report)
  3. April 2004, Florida: instrument failure in IFR conditions, 1 uninjured (NTSB Probable Cause)
  4. September 2004, California: loss of control in high-altitude climb above clouds, 2 uninjured (NTSB Probable Cause)
  5. January 2005, California: parachute deployed above design limits, pilot fatality (unknown if intentionally activated) (NTSB Probable Cause)
  6. June 2005, New York: pilot incapacitated from undiagnosed brain tumor, 1 injured (NTSB Probable Cause)
  7. January 2006, Alabama: loss of control after pilot flew into icing, 3 uninjured (NTSB Probable Cause)
  8. February 2006, South Dakota: pilot reported disorientation, 2 uninjured (NTSB Probable Cause)
  9. August 2006, Indiana: parachute deployed three miles from departure end of runway, aircraft landed in a Retention pond, the parachute was deployed by a passenger, pilot fatality, 3 passengers injured (NSTB Probable Cause)
  10. September 2006, Jamaica: pilot activated parachute under unknown circumstances, 4 uninjured (NTSB Factual Report)
  11. 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. 2 injured (ATSB Preliminary report)
  12. April 2007, Luna, New Mexico: 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. 1 uninjured (NTSB Probable Cause)
  13. August 2007, Nantucket Island, Mass: pilot experienced spatial disorientation during approach, deployed parachute, which tangled with a LORAN tower and caused the aircraft to impact the ground. 2 seriously injured (NTSB Probable Cause)
  14. October 11, 2008, San Sebastian, Spain: pilot reported severe turbulence and loss of control on approach, 3 uninjured (News article)
  15. December 18, 2008, Gouvy, Belgium: pilot reported icing, requested lower altitude but lost control, activated parachute, landed in trees. 1 uninjured
  16. December 19, 2008, Patterson, LA: pilot reported mechanical difficulties at night, activated parachute, landed in a canal. 1 uninjured
  17. February 17, 2009, Deltona, FL: plane observed at low altitude, perhaps in a stall/spin attitude, parachute deployed, 2 fatalities (NTSB Preliminary report)
  18. March 15, 2009, Gaithersburg, MD: pilot reported mechanical difficulties, was losing altitude in IMC, activated the parachute and landed in a residential street
  19. June 7, 2009, Elkin, NC: pilot reported loud noise and vibrations with oil spewing onto windshield at 6,000 feet. Activated parachute and landed in a forest. 1 uninjured.

2008 Economic Crisis

In response to the 2008 economic crisis and associated falling orders, the company announced in November 2008 that it would lay-off 25% of its workforce for an indefinite time period.

CEO and President Larry Williams stated:

See also

External links

Text from Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License; additional terms may apply.

Published in July 2009.

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