BRS Founder Boris Popov on the Cirrus parachute system - Pull early, pull often! - Safety and Training Programs - Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association

BRS Founder Boris Popov on the Cirrus parachute system

Note: as a sponsor of the recent KANE CPPP, BRS Aerospace was invited to speak to the group of assembled COPA Pilots and instructors.  Boris Popov, founder and VP of BRS Aerospace and inventor of the ballistic parachute system, spoke during our lunch break and held an extensive Q&A session.  He provided me with his remarks in the form of a blog, which I am presenting here on his behalf.

As the founder of BRS, and having received in my hand the first ever check from Alan Klapmeier to initiate the development of the BRS parachute for the Cirrus CAPS system, I have followed with considerable interest the recent dialogue on the COPA web site, and other web sites, whenever the subject of parachute deployment arises. 

It's hard to overstate the level of frustration, and concern, we at BRS have had for the last decade with the lack of adequate training and the misunderstood capabilities of ballistically deployed parachute systems.  There is absolutely no doubt in our minds that pilots and passengers are dying needlessly due to this untenable situation ... and we at BRS are initiating programs to help mitigate it.

Our primary concern is the apparent unwillingness, or hesitation, to deploy in a broad spectrum of actual emergency scenarios. This subject has been widely and deeply discussed on this COPA website, with Rick Beach's long standing commentary well thought out and elegantly presented.  "Pull early, pull often" is a good mantra to follow, for reasons that may surprise you.

After 255 saved lives, 30 years in the ballistic parachute business, and nearly 35,000 systems sold worldwide, we know our product and our markets well.  Currently (and during the decades of developing the system) many of the staff at BRS are licensed pilots with experience from hang gliding through sophisticated high-performance aircraft.  Some of us even survived structural failures and other life-threatening emergency situations.  We've been there, in the air, making a decision most pilots will never have to make. This melding of expertise in flying and designing emergency parachutes gives us a unique and valuable perspective on when and where one makes that decision to trade a likely deadly experience into one still frightening, but survivable one.

Here are some hard supportable data about the capabilities and performance expectations of a BRS ballistic parachute:

Minimum deployment altitude

1) We have documented (video/eyewitnesses) of saves occurring where pilots have activated a BRS ultralight system below 200 feet AGL, one even at 100' AGL. Although these were not Cirrus-size chutes, it nonetheless points out the extraordinary capabilities of a rocket-deployed parachute.   Keep in mind that your airspeed, parachute size, and the descent angle all affect your opening times and your minimum altitude to achieve FULL deployment. 

Drag/brake chute on the ground

2) The initial extraction process of a parachute deployment creates significant parasitic drag. At the least, this creates a nose-up attitude that could be critical in changing a deadly vertical or near vertical impact into an energy-dissipating glancing bounce, and should occur within a half second after activating the system.  Pilots do not seem to appreciate what a great big drag/brake chute they have on board, capable of quickly stopping forward velocity even on the ground.

Pull Early, Pull Often, and Keep Pulling!

3) We suspect at least a few pilots thought they had a malfunctioning activating handle when in fact they simply had not pulled the handle with enough force to activate the system. It needs to be stressed that one not only pulls early, pulls often...but continues to pull/yank until activation occurs.  Perhaps we should cease using the word "pull" and use "yank" as it implies a harder, quicker action better describing the necessary activating forces.  (BRS is currently developing an electronically activated system that should provide more versatility in locating the activating handle, and in activation effectiveness)

Steering with power under canopy

4)  Through the process of performing dozens of in-air deployments in various aircraft, we have found that in many cases the aircraft is somewhat "steerable" under the canopy.  Our test pilots were able to steer the parachute in early tests with Pitts and Cessna 150 aircraft, although they have different parachutes and weights from a Cirrus.  This applies only to tractor prop configurations.  During one Cirrus deployment the pilot thought he was able to "steer" the aircraft under canopy away from a power plant and to a nearby open area.  Later I've learned from Rick Beach that might have been the direction of the prevailing winds.  If you find yourself in such a situation with a tractor prop driven airplane, use the power of the engine to provide some ability to steer towards a desirable landing area.

When to pull the handle?

I am asked quite often under what situation I would deploy a BRS parachute.  There are many and most of us have heard/read the typical ones.  Bottom line for me is "I WILL PULL THE HANDLE WHEN I HAVE LOST CONTROL OF THE AIRPLANE AT ANY ALTITUDE."  When you have lost control of your aircraft, a parachute deployment will not regain control of the aircraft, but likely allow you to regain control of the situation.

When you need it, use it!

Seems most pilots of parachute-equipped aircraft believe there is some empirically based magic altitude where a go/no go exists.  Not true.  If I have lost control of the aircraft after a particularly bad landing and am veering out of control at 50 feet altitude towards a tree line/fence/building -- use the chute as a very expensive drag chute.  Even at the normal landing/approach speeds you will most probably have a fairly quick opening that will decelerate your aircraft to survivable speeds -- if you make the decision in time.  My philosophy is that whenever I find myself in a potential deployment situation, I will first continue to try to solve the problem by flying the aircraft with one hand on the stick/yoke, while the other hand will be on the activating handle ready for an immediate pull. Always keep in mind that it typically takes 3-4 seconds to decide to deploy, reach the handle, and pull the handle.  A 1500 ft/min descent equates to 75 to100 feet lost just for this process alone.  The parachute canopy, suspension lines, and risers total about 88 feet, adding to the distance required for FULL deployment.  (With any kind of glide angle, which most commonly occurs, these distances would be worst case).  When you need it, use it!

With the above in mind, BRS has embarked on a process to provide updated procedural training and better disseminate accurate capabilities of rocket-deployed parachutes.  We will provide one hour of full-motion simulator training, recreating both successful and unsuccessful parachute deployments, for every general aviation repack order we receive.  We will do so via publishing hard data on actual saves, and be more proactive on pertinent blog/forums focused on aviation safety.  

We have a proven safety device that has saved hundreds of lives, and will save even more through better education and training.  We owe that much to ourselves and all those fly with us, as well as upcoming pilots who expect nothing less.

Boris Popov

 

 

Comments
  • Although I find this report very useful in many ways, I think a word of caution is needed as this report can be misleading. None of the low altitude examples of chute use have been demonstarting in a Cirrus. The extra weight and momentum of a 3000+ pound Cirrus is a lot differnt than a small Cessna or an LSA.

    In addition, he raises an issue of whether it is better to leave the engine running or not for the purpose of steering. The instruction clearly say to turn the engine off. Is that now incorrect?

    Brian

  • For an emerging discussion of this blog, COPA members can view this thread: www.cirruspilots.org/.../121033.aspx (You can click on my name above to go there now)

    Cheers

    Rick

  • To Brian's concern about instructions and misleading advice.  Cirrus Aircraft is the authority on how to use the aircraft systems.  But nothing in their POH guidance prevents you from using CAPS when you have lost control and are about to crash.  There are no limitations on CAPS use in the POH, just the demonstrated Vpd speed in Section 2.  In fact, the guidance clearly states that CAPS is warranted "if a landing cannot be made that ensures little or no risk to the aircraft occupants."

    Cheers

    Rick

Topics