Cirrus Airplane Parachute System (CAPS)
The Cirrus Design Corporation (Cirrus) has applied for a Type Certificate under the current Part 23 (the soon-to-be antiquated; hopefully) regulations for its model SF50 airplane, a single engine personal jet. Like previous Cirrus aircraft (the propeller driven SR20 and SR22 models), the SF50 will include the Cirrus Aircraft Parachute Systems (CAPS) (technology designed to bring the aircraft safely down in an emergency). The FAA has issued a Notice of Proposed Special Conditions which, if granted, would remove the requirement of an expensive and risky flight test of the CAPS.
The FAA’s notice recognizes that the SF50 will have a novel or unusual design feature, the CAPS, i.e. the whole airplane parachute recovery system. The existing Part 23 airworthiness criteria do not include certification standards for the ballistically deployed emergency parachute. The Notice indicates that the Parachute System will be separately assessed and the “non required system, additional latitude exists to evaluate and substantiate the system so it will present no additional hazards.” The purpose of the Special Conditions is to establish the basis for the CAPS review.
NOTE: The FAA makes it clear that with this supplemental certification of the Ballistic Parachute, “no credit for the system will be used to meet part 23 requirements.”
CAPS is designed to be deployed with loss of power or thrust; loss of airplane control; pilot disorientation; pilot incapacitation with a passenger on board; mechanical or structural failure; icing; and accidents resulting from pilot negligence or error. The previously approved Ballistic Parachute for Cirrus was approved under Special Condition (No. 23-ACE-88, Ballistic Recovery Systems Cirrus SR20 Installation, Docket No. 136CE) (FR Doc. 97-27504, October 15, 1997).
SF50 CAPS system will incorporate an airbag to assist deployment and a system for sequencing deployment and interfacing with the airplane’s avionics. The avionics interface is intended to bring the airplane within a valid deployment envelope speed (67-160 KCAS). Since it is a non required system, the means of substantiation have been altered to reflect the bounds of the operating envelope, the means of analysis that can be substantiated with overlapping lower-level testing/analysis, and relieve in-flight deployment to avoid unnecessary expense and the inherent danger in performing this test.”
This bifurcated Part 23 certification process (SF50 and then CAPS) is “costly to the FAA and industry, act as barriers to certification, and discourage innovation” from Revision of Airworthiness Standards for Normal, Utility, Acrobatic, and Commuter Category Airplanes, p. 4. The point of the new Part 23, among many things,
- “would hasten the adoption of safety enhancing technology in type-certificated products”, p.5, and
- “permit the use of consensus standards as a means to keep pace with rapidly increasing design complexity in the aviation industry.” p.6., and
- use a more holistic approach to assessing the totality of the proposal safety elements.
It is MOST unfortunate that the finalization of the revised/new Part 23 was delayed. But for the extremely deliberate review of this new approach to certification, the CAPS criteria would have been established by an ASTM group, the value of this special innovation included in the regular review and the Type Certificate might have been issued by now and certainly, much sooner.