Cirrus CAPS History

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Cirrus CAPS History

Revision #36: Modified by on 16 Feb 2014 4:02 in Safety pages

As of 15 February 2014 there have been 42 saves with 86 survivors in aircraft equipped with the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS).

Introduction

CAPS stands for the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System.  It consists of a ballistic rocket-fired parachute that extracts a large round parachute attached to the airframe. The rocket ensures that the parachute will deploy successfully despite the attitude of the airframe in flight, such as a spin or while inverted. The parachute inflates slowly and the risers are reefed to ensure a rapid transition to stable attitude under canopy.

Tests demonstrate that within 8 seconds all forward velocity is reduced to zero (relative to wind) and descent occurs at about 1700 fpm or 17 knots or 20 mph. The parachute deployment airspeed was demonstrated at Vpd of 133 knots. The demonstrated loss of altitude was 400 feet from level flight and 920 feet from initiation of a 1-1/2 turn spin.  Four CAPS deployments occurred successfully at higher speeds, 168, 171, 187 and 190 knots indicated airspeed, and one deployment failed at speeds estimated at over 300 knots airspeed.

No person has died when the CAPS system deployed within demonstrated parameters
(airspeed below Vpd of 133 knots and altitude above 920 feet in a descent).


CAPS Activations and Saves

CAPS provides an additional level of safety for the Cirrus Design SR2X fleet. However, it is not a guarantee.

There have been 55 known CAPS events as of 15 February 2014.

Of those activations, 42 deployments are considered "saves" that involved 86 survivors with one fatality (figures do not include one unborn child who was also saved in CAPS event #13).


CAPS Event Summaries

Here is a synopsis of all of the known CAPS parachute activations. Each summary lists the deployment by year, location and injuries, then describe the factors that lead to the activation, the activation scenario, and the landing scenario.

CAPS event #1, Oct 2002, Lewisville, TX

1 uninjured; (CAPS Save #1) - Factors: VFR departure after maintenance, aileron unhinged due maintenance error and airplane became difficult to control, after maneuvering, first parachute deployment by pilot in a certified production airplane; Activation: low altitude, 1,500 feet; Weather: VMC; Landing: bushes near golf course

CAPS event #2, April 2004, Lethbridge, AB, Canada

4 uninjured; (CAPS Save #2) - Factors: VFR night cruise, loss of control, autopilot-induced stall, night VFR over mountains, SR20 performance Activation: high altitude, deployment upon loss of control; Weather: VMC night; Landing: landed in scree in mountaneous terrain, skidded backwards 1/4-mile, helicopter extraction via parachute risers

CAPS event #3, April 2004, Fort Lauderdale, FL

1 uninjured; (CAPS Save #3) - Factors: confusing instrument behavior, low IMC, departure climb, water in static system; Activation: low altitude, 1200 feet; Weather: IMC; Landing: trees

CAPS event #4, Sept 2004, Peters, CA

2 uninjured; (CAPS Save #4) - Factors: VFR climb, autopilot-induced stall, rolled inverted, attempted recovery; Activation: high altitude, above 10,000 feet, activated CAPS in VMC before entering IMC; Weather: VMC, then IMC under canopy, then VMC;  Landing: walnut grove

CAPS event #5, Feb 2005, Norden, CA

1 fatality; (not CAPS Save, parachute separated from airframe) - Factors: severe icing at 16,000' over Sierra mountains, high speed descent well above Vne of 204 knots; Activation: uncertain if intentional activation or due to airframe stress in high speed descent, located along track to crash site; Weather: IMC, icing; Landing: high speed impact in mountainous area

CAPS event #6, June 2005, Haverstraw, NY

1 serious injury; (CAPS Save #5) - Factors: pilot incapacitated from brain seizure, loss of conciousness, awoke and recovered from Vne dive, determined numbness and loss of function in legs; IFR on approach to KHPN,  Activation: low altitude, last radar report at 1,600 feet and 190 knots groundspeed (well above Vpd of 133 knots); Weather: VMC; Landing: water, bay of Hudson River

CAPS event #7, Jan 2006, Childersburg, AL

3 uninjured; (CAPS Save #6) - Factors: severe icing at 9,000 feet, loss of control; Activation: high altitude; Weather: IMC icing; Landing: trees

CAPS event #8, Feb 2006, Wagner, SD

2 uninjured; (CAPS Save #7) - Factors: pilot disorientation in clouds, shortly after takeoff; Activation: low altitude; Weather: IMC;  Landing: flat, frozen field

CAPS event #9, Aug 2006, Indianapolis, IN

1 fatality, 3 serious injuries; (CAPS Save #8, parachute observed not fully deployed) - Factors: IMC, loss of control, stall/spin descent; Activation: low altitude; 528 feet AGL in 100 knot spin (3-1/2 turns) just 4 seconds prior to impact, well below design parameters for survivable CAPS deployment, first activation of CAPS by non-pilot; Weather: IMC; Landing: water, pond among residential housing

CAPS event #10, Sept 2006, Bull Bay, Jamaica

4 uninjured; (CAPS Save #9) - Factors: loss of control, VFR cruise, passenger activated when fuel streaming from tank filler openings; Activation: low altitude; Weather: VMC;  Landing: trees

CAPS activation #11, Feb 2007, Sydney, Australia

2 injuries; (not CAPS Save; parachute not extracted due to anomalous rocket trajectory) - Factors: VFR cruise, engine problems, rocket took unusual trajectory, , successful emergency off-airport landing; Activation: low altitude; Weather: VMC; Landing: trees

CAPS event #12, Apr 2007, Luna, NM

1 injured; (CAPS Save #10) - Factors: IMC cruise, climb to avoid weather, loss of airspeed indication, terrain warning in IMC; Activation: low altitude, inverted, 34 knots airspeed; Weather: IMC, icing; Landing: trees, mountainous terrain

CAPS event #13, Aug 2007, Nantucket, MA

2 injured; (CAPS Save #11) - Factors: VFR in IMC during approach, parachute tangled with tower wires, 1 serious injury, 1 minor injury, 1 unborn child saved; Activation: low altitude; Weather: IMC; Landing: tower, flat open terrain

CAPS event #14, Oct 2008, Spain

3 uninjured; (CAPS Save #12) - Factors: IFR in IMC during approach, pilot reported turbulence and loss of control, parachute tangled with power line wires; Activation: low altitude; Weather: IMC; Landing: power line

CAPS event #15,  Nov 2008, Turriaco, Italy

1 seriously injured, 3 uninjured; (CAPS Save #13); Factors: fuel exhaustion and loss of engine power, parachute deployed at low altitude and late in the power-off glide scenario, approximately 400 feet above ground; Activation: low altitude; Weather: VMC; Landing: trees and grass

CAPS event #16, Dec 2008, Gouvy, Belgium

1 minor injured; (CAPS Save #14); Factors: icing, pilot attempted several outs but was unable to maintain altitude, Activation: low altitude; Weather: IMC, icing; Landing: trees

CAPS event #17, Dec 2008, Patterson, LA

1 uninjured; (CAPS Save #15); Factors: pilot reported mechanical difficulties late at night over coastal marshes; Activation: high altitude; Weather: VMC, night; Landing: canal (water)

CAPS event #18, Feb 2009, Deltona, FL

2 fatalities; (not CAPS Save, parachute did not have time to fully deploy); Factors: instructional flight practicing low-speed maneuvers, witnesses report spinning aircraft; CAPS activation immediately prior to ground impact; Activation: low altitude; Weather: VMC; Landing: trees

CAPS event #19, Mar 2009, Gaithersburg, MD

1 uninjured; (CAPS Save #16); Factors: door popped open upon takeoff, pilot reported rain in the cockpit and attempted to manage door but became disoriented; Activation: low altitude; Weather: IMC; Landing: residential street

CAPS event #20, Jun 2009, Mount Airy, NC

1 uninjured; (CAPS Save #17); Factors: catastrophic engine failure with oil obscuring windscreen, Activation: high altitude, 6,000 feet above ground; Weather: IMC; Landing: level field

CAPS event #21, Dec 2009, Hamilton Island, Australia

1 seriously injured; (CAPS Save #18) - Factors: engine loss of power, misfueled with Jet-A, attempted return to airport; Activation: low altitude, 441 feet above ocean; Weather: VMC; Landing: ocean

CAPS event #22, Feb 2010, Boulder, CO

2 fatalities; (not CAPS Save, parachute activated due to impact forces) - Factors: mid-air collision between Cirrus SR20 and tow-plane with glider in tow; Activation: high altitude, 8,000 feet; Weather: VMC; Landing: level field

CAPS event #23, May 2010, Sirdal, Norway

4 uninjured; (CAPS Save #19) - Factors: icing induced high-speed descent followed by parachute activation, Activation: high altitude, 6,000 feet; Weather: VMC; Landing: uneven rocky terrain

CAPS event #24, 10 July 2010, Hornton, United Kingdom

2 uninjured; (CAPS Save #20) - Factors: sprial dive while pilot distracted, VFR pilot flying in low ceilings and visibility, Activation: 2,000 feet; Weather: IMC; Landing: field surrounded by trees

CAPS event #25, 16 August 2010, Idabel, OK

2 uninjured; (CAPS Save #21) - Factors: loss of engine power, rapid descent, decision to avoid off-airport landing, activated parachute, Activation: low altitude, below 500 feet; Weather: VMC; Landing: grassy field

CAPS event #26, 23 August 2010, Porter, TX

1 seriously injured; (not CAPS Save, parachute had no effect on outcome) - Factors: go-around after aborted landing, failed to clear tree obstructions, activated parachute after first impact with a tree ; Activation: low altitude; Weather: VMC; Landing: trees

CAPS event #27, 30 September 2010, Mathias, WV

2 uninjured; (CAPS Save #22) - Factors: loss of control in turbulence while on approach in stormy weather, Activation: 1134 AGL, 171 KIAS; Weather: IMC; Landing: trees, remarkably the plane wedged itself on branches about 20 feet above the ground, pilot and passenger were injured when they attempted self-rescue and fell onto rocks below

CAPS event #28, 15 December 2010, Nacogdoches, TX

1 uninjured; (not CAPS Save, parachute activated after ground impact) - Factors: loss of engine power, decision to avoid off-airport landing; Activation: after ground impact; Weather: VMC, night; Landing: residential area

CAPS event #29, 27 January 2011, Cross City, FL

1 uninjured; (CAPS Save #23) - Factors: loss of engine power, decision to avoid off-airport landing, activated parachute, Activation: TBD; Weather: VMC, night; Landing: recently logged forest with lots of stumps

CAPS event #30, 30 January 2011, Bennett, CO

1 uninjured; (CAPS Save #24) - Factors: pilot disorientation due to vertigo, activated parachute, Activation: low altitude; Weather: VMC, night; Landing: field 

CAPS event #31, 24 October 2011, Carrollton, TX

1 fatality, 2 serious injured; (not CAPS Save, parachute did not have time to fully deploy) - Factors: pilot reported mechanical problem and attempted approach in fog, went missed, attempted second approach and plane lost control prior to missed approach point; Activation: low altitude; Weather: IMC; Landing: field

CAPS event #32, 20 November 2011, New Orleans, LA

1 uninjured; (CAPS Save #25); Factors: pilot reported loss of engine power and attempted return to airport then activated over Lake Pontchartrain, repacked parachute, Activation: 300 feet; Weather: IMC, day; Landing: water 

CAPS event #33, 7 January 2012, near Andros Island, Bahamas

2 uninjured; (CAPS Save #26); Factors: engine seized and propeller froze in flight due to loss of oil pressure, Activation: 2300 feet; Weather: VMC , day; Landing: water 

CAPS event #34, 29 February 2012, at Melbourne, FL

4 fatalities; (not CAPS Save, parachute did not have time to fully deploy) - Factors: pilot lost control on base turn to final and pulled at low altitude, Activation: almost at ground impact; Weather: VMC , day; Landing: field 

CAPS event #35, 24 March 2012, near Itu, Brazil

2 uninjured; (CAPS Save #27) - Factors: engine lost power and pilot avoided off-airport landing, repacked parachute, Activation: TBD; Weather: VMC , day; Landing: field 

CAPS event #36, 22 July 2012, near Pickens, SC

4 uninjured; (CAPS Save #28) - Factors: pilot reported mechanical problem, Activation: about 1000 feet AGL; Weather: VMC, day; Landing: trees, suspended about 20 feet above ground, occupants stayed in plane until rescued

CAPS event #37, 6 October 2012, near Birmingham, AL

1 uninjured, 1 minor injury; (CAPS Save #29) - Factors: pilot disoriented during missed approach in IMC , Activation: 1000' AGL; Weather: IMC , day; Landing: field 

CAPS event #38, 16 November 2012, near Show Low, AZ

1 minor injury; (CAPS Save #30) - Factors: engine lost power and pilot avoided off-airport landing , Activation: 1500' AGL; Weather: VMC , day; Landing: field 

CAPS event #39, 21 November 2012, near Gilgandra, NSW, Australia

1 uninjured, 1 minor injury; (CAPS Save #31) - Factors: engine lost power and pilot avoided off-airport landing , Activation: 1000' AGL; Weather: VMC , day; Landing: field 

CAPS event #42, 23 January 2013, near Danbury, CT

3 uninjured; (CAPS Save #32) - Factors: fuel exhaustion; Activation: TBD; Weather: night VMC; Landing: powerlines in residential area 

CAPS event #43, 29 March 2013, near Alexandria, MN

4 uninjured; (CAPS Save #33) - Factors: pilot lost control due to flap anomaly; Activation: TBD; Weather: VFR; Landing: frozen lake 

CAPS event #44, 16 May 2013, near Addison, TX

1 uninjured (not CAPS save, parachute did not deploy) - Factors: pilot reported loss of instruments, activated CAPS, but rocket failed to extract the parachute from the aircraft; repacked parachute; Activation: possibly 7000 feet; Weather: IMC, hard rain; Landing: pilot recovered the airplane and descended underneath the clouds to about 800' AGL and returned to airport trailing the rocket, lanyard and incremental bridle behind the aircraft

CAPS event #45, 6 June 2013, near Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, United Kingdom

1 minor injury; (CAPS Save #34) - Factors: pilot reported "navigational difficulties" while on approach to Cheltenham airport when ATC changed runways and vectored the aircraft to a different approach; Activation: approximately 2000 feet; Weather: IMC; Landing: garden in a residential area of urban city

CAPS event #46, 5 July 2013, near La Guajira, Colombia

2 uninjured; (CAPS Save #35) - Factors: mid-air collision with Cirrus HK-4752; Activation: TBD; Weather: VMC; Landing: ocean 

CAPS event #47, fatal accident #97, 18 July 2013, near Lanseria, South Africa

2 fatalities; (not CAPS Save, parachute did not have time to fully deploy) - Factors: low altitude activation after touch-and-go departure; Activation: TBD; Weather: VMC; Landing: Field 

CAPS event #48, 20 July 2013, near Tappahannock, VA

4 uninjured; (CAPS Save #36) - Factors: loss of engine power; Activation: TBD; Weather: VMC; Landing: Trees 

CAPS event #49, 31 July 2013, near Poncins, France

2 fatalities; (not CAPS Save, parachute did not have time to fully deploy) - Factors: TBD; Activation: TBD; Weather: VMC; Landing: Trees 

CAPS event #50, 19 August 2013, near Texarkana, AR

1 uninjured; (CAPS Save #37) - Factors: loss of engine power; Activation: TBD; Weather: VMC; Landing: Field 

CAPS event #51, 14 November 2013, near Brazil

1 uninjured; (CAPS Save #38) - Factors: TBD; Activation: TBD; Weather: VMC; Landing: Field 

CAPS event #52, 4 January 2014, near Buckhannon, WV

1 uninjured; (CAPS Save #39) - Factors: mechanical, loss of engine power on final approach short of the runway; Activation: 500' AGL; Weather: VMC; Landing: Road 

CAPS event #53, 6 January 2014, near Claveau, Deux Sèvres, France

2 uninjured; (CAPS Save #40) - Factors: mechanical, loss of engine power; Activation: 1800' AGL; Weather: TBD; Landing: Field 

CAPS event #54, 9 January 2014, near Fort Hall, Idaho

2 minor injuries; (CAPS Save #41) - Factors: mechanical, loss of engine power; Activation: TBD; Weather: TBD; Landing: Field 

CAPS event #55, 14 February 2014, near Aspen, Colorado

1 uninjuried; (CAPS Save #42) - Factors: pilot reported icing to ATC; Activation: TBD; Weather: TBD; Landing: TBD 


CAPS Anomalies

The unsuccessful deployments involved three anomalies and eight activations at an altitude too low to fully inflate the canopy:

  • CAPS event #5, Feb 2005, Norden, CA, activation at very high speed (likely in excess of 300 knots indicated, over twice the deployment speed) where parachute separated from the airframe
  • CAPS activation #11, Feb 2007, Sydney, Australia, activation at very low altitude where the rocket took an unusual trajectory resulting in a failure to extract the parachute
  • CAPS event #44, 16 May 2013, near Addison, TX, activation where the rocket failed to extract the parachute from the aircraft (only anomaly within demonstrated parameters)

Several activations occurred prior to ground impact but at too low an altitude to fully inflate the canopy (witnesses report 50 to 200 feet above ground): Indianapolis, IN; Waxhaw, NC; Deltona, FL; Porter, TX; Nacogdoches, TX; Asturias, Spain; Carrollton, TX; Melbourne, FL.

The rocket trajectory anomaly in 2007 was investigated and an airworthiness directive was published requiring a modification of the CAPS rocket assembly. 

In addition, there have been several fatal accidents where the parachute has deployed by forces due to impact with the ground, which are not considered in this history.


9 CAPS Planes that Were Repaired and Flew Again

Despite the language in the Cirrus POH that cautions pilots that CAPS may cause damage, several aircraft that landed under canopy were repaired and flew again.

Revision A7 of the Cirrus SR22 POH currently states "CAPS deployment is expected to result in damage to the airframe" that updates the earlier language that "The system is intended to saves the lives of the occupants but will most likely destroy the aircraft."

However, the following aircraft have landed under canopy, all occupants survived, and the airplanes have been repaired, determined to be airworthy and returned to service.

  • N1223S, SR22 s/n 105 -- CAPS Save #1, repaired by Cirrus, sold, subsequently involved in a fatal accident
  • CGEMC, SR20 s/n 1241 -- CAPS event #2, self-insured, repaired and still flying
  • N916LJ, SR22 s/n 80 -- CAPS event #3, reregistered in AZ and still flying
  • N931CD, SR22 s/n 261 -- CAPS event #4, repaired, sold to friend of pilot, and still flying
  • N479SR, SR22 s/n 2794 -- CAPS event #17, reregistered in 2010 and subsequently involved in a fiery crash in Uraguay
  • N34TG, SR22 s/n 386 -- CAPS event #20, reregistered in 2011 and still flying
  • N470RD, SRV s/n 1636 -- CAPS event #24, repaired and still flying
  • N576WT, SR22 s/n 3440 -- CAPS event #27, repaired, renumbered N311KN and still flying
  • PP-CIE, SR20, s/n 1050 -- CAPS event #35, repaired and still flying

 

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