Staying aloft

The makers of the single-engine Victory (above) hope it will become the first personal jet to use a whole-airframe parachute.
Date:30 September 2007 Tags:

Riding a wave of personal jets, whole-airframe parachutes could become the airbags of the sky

When the alternative is a fiery crash at terminal velocity, hitting the ground at 7,6 m/second sounds almost cushy. That’s the speed at which a plane will land when dangling from a whole-airframe parachute: it’s 1,5 m/second faster than a skydiver lands, and the bone-jarring equivalent of a 3,6 m drop. According to Minnesota-based Ballistic Recovery Systems (BRS), its chutes have been deployed successfully in real-world situations roughly 160 times since 1983 – saving 203 lives.

Initially an option for small, piston-engine aircraft, whole-airframe chutes are now being developed for personal jets. “You’re going to see a lot more of these chutes,” says Alan Klapmeier, CEO of Cirrus, which recently unveiled a V-tail single-turbine jet that will come standard with a chute. “When everything else goes wrong, you have one more chance to save your life.”

Diamond Aircraft also plans to offer chutes on new jets in the next few years – but the Victory, an experimental single- turbine from Epic that requires less FAA oversight than a certified model, will probably pioneer the jet-ready chutes. The R7 million jet should be available within the next few months, and Epic hopes to install chutes as soon as BRS finishes them.
– Erik Sofge

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