Duluth, MN--Cirrus Design Corporation recently flight tested what might be called general aviation's ultimate insurance policy: a parachute for the airplane itself. Called the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS), the rocketlaunched system is designed to be standard equipment on the company's single-engine composite aircraft, the SR20.
Constructed of kevlar, CAPS is a multi-conical skirt parachute measuring 54 ft in diameter and weighing about 55 lb. Harness lines embedded in the fuselage attach to parachute to the aircraft. BRS, Incorporated (South St. Paul, MN) manufactures the unit, which is expected to have a ten-year service life.
It's intended to be used only as a last resort, life-saving device for emergency situations, says the company. Once deployed, CAPS lowers the aircraft to the ground at less than 30 ft per second--roughly equivalent to a fall from a height of ten ft.
The project involves more than simply attaching a parachute to the airframe.Cirrus is also required to prove that occupants are adequately restrained. To that end, engineers designed the seats to withstand 26g, and both pilot and passengers have four-point harnesses. The composite fuselage increases energy absorption as compared to an aluminum design, and provides for 3g rollover protection.
FAA approval for the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS) is expected by the end of the year, which would make the SR20 the first certified production aircraft to be equipped with an airframe parachute.