The idea of a parachute was first envisioned by Leonardo da Vinci (top left) and then practically proved by Croatian Faust Vrancic (top right) in 1617. Its history thereafter as a personal survival mode, in military application, for recreation/sport and eventually as a means of saving an aircraft in distress is rich. The below story is another example of how the system works well.
The founder of Cirrus, Alan Klapmeier, invented Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS) as part of the package of innovations (full roll cage, and a real-time digital map) for his best-selling single engine planes. The inspiration for CAPS proves Plato’s aphorism—“Necessity is the mother of invention.” In 1985 Klapmeier was flying and another pilot, blinded by the sun, hit the inventor’s plane at about 1,600’. Klapmeier and his co-pilot were able to land their aircraft despite severe damage. The other plane was not as fortunate– it spun into the ground, killing its pilot.
According to AIR FACTS:
“While fatal accidents have been dropping, the number of CAPS deployments has been increasing. In fact, 2014 marked the first time the two curves crossed, with more CAPS events (12) than fatal accidents (3). This is significant, because while pulling the red handle may total the airplane, the pilot and passengers will almost always survive if it’s done within the limitations of the system. Out of 51 total CAPS events, there have been 104 survivors and only one fatality.”
FLYING magazine added:
If you equate every deployment with saved lives, BRS claims 312 pilots and passengers survived by using their system; the Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association (COPA) counts 95 chute survivors in 46 Cirrus pulls. Some of those, no doubt, were aviation knuckleheads; others found themselves in an improbable, impossible situation. But they all lived.
In fact, there has never been a pull within demonstrated parameters — below maneuvering speed and above a minimum height above ground level — that resulted in a fatality. That’s a great success rate that compares favorably with outcomes for skilled, real pilots in loss of control, disorientation and systems failure emergencies. So, why does each new report of a parachute pull result in such controversy? Could the pilot have made a forced landing or regained control of the aircraft? Would a real pilot have saved the situation?
The article below was about Louis Obergh was flying with his daughter, as a passenger in an SR-22. At about 2,000’ the single engine lost power. He declared an emergency and pulled the red T-shaped CAPS handle in the cockpit, which fires a solid-fuel rocket that deploys the parachute within a few seconds. The force of landing when using this parachute is comparable to a 10-foot drop, and is absorbed by specialized shock-absorbent components. The aircraft dropped slowly to the ground, missing a building by just ten feet.
The parachute functioned as Mr. Klapmeier designed and two lives were saved. Aviation safety prevailed, again, thankfully.