AS9120B, ISO 9001:2015, and FAA AC 0056B ACCREDITED

What Is An Airframe Parachute?

While many may be familiar with the ejection seats and parachutes present in various aircraft that pilots use in emergency situations, some may not be familiar with whole-airframe parachutes that help set the entire aircraft down. Airframe parachutes are not the most common type of emergency equipment, generally only being found on models made by Cirrus Aircraft, serving as one of their driving forces of popularity. These aircraft are primarily single-engine models, being light enough to take advantage of an aircraft parachute.

The particular parachutes that Cirrus Aircraft implements on their models are known as ballistic parachutes, and these are parachutes that are ejected from their casing through a small explosion. As such, the deployment of the parachute is fairly similar to an ejection seat, though the entire aircraft is held instead of just a single seat and individual. To those who are unfamiliar with these aircraft and the ballistic parachute, it can seem like a marketing gimmick that has little use in real life situations. Despite these claims, ballistic parachutes on Cirrus aircraft have saved upwards of 376 lives so far, showing that they are more than just a crutch.

With their usefulness, it is important that any pilot controlling such an aircraft has ample knowledge on how to activate it properly in the instance that an emergency ever arises. For ease, the aircraft parachute is always activated by a handle situated in the cockpit, making it very easy for the pilot to actuate it should the need ever come up. As the handle is operated, a connected activation cable actuates an igniter. This igniter then fires a rocket motor, causing the parachute to be extracted from the rear end of the aircraft. The rocket is capable of accelerating to a speed of 100 mph in just 0.1 seconds, and the deployment will cause a shift in the aircraft as it pitches up.

Within seconds of the parachute leaving its housing or canister, the lines will go taut and the canopy will rapidly inflate. This causes the aircraft to begin deceleration, and once stabilized underneath the canopy, it will slowly descend at a rate between 15 and 28 feet per second. During this descent, the aircraft will exhibit a slight nose-low attitude due to the positioning of the parachute.

While Cirrus has been implementing their parachute systems on various models for a while now, they have been focused on how they can build a culture around their aircraft that encourages pilots and owners to commit to early chute deployment for safety. In early accident records, pilots who faced fatal crashes were often not attempting to deploy the parachute, so the Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association created a training program. Since then, Cirrus accidents have dropped to half of the industry average according to AOPA Safety Air Safety Institute Data, leading to Cirrus being honored with the Joseph T. Nall Safety Award in 2016.

Even if you do not own or operate a Cirrus aircraft, there are many things that you as a pilot or owner can do to increase the safety of flight, such as enacting regular part maintenance, system upgrades, and more. At Nascent Industrial, we can help you secure competitive pricing and rapid lead times on a plethora of aviation components that have been sourced from leading manufacturers that we trust. As you explore our offerings, we ask that you take advantage of our RFQ services for items of interest, as that will allow us to formulate a customized quote for your comparisons. If you have any questions or concerns regarding our offerings or services, give us a call or email at your earliest convenience, and we would be more than happy to assist you however we can!


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