Ballistic Recovery Systems

Ballistic Recovery Systems
Ballistic Recovery Systems
Industry Aerospace
Founded 1980
Founder(s) Boris Popov
Headquarters St Paul, Minnesota, United States
Key people CEO and President Larry Williams
Vice President, Sales & Marketing Gary Moore
Products Parachute systems

Ballistic Recovery Systems (commonly BRS and BRS Aerospace) is a manufacturer of aircraft ballistic parachutes (Pink Sheets: BRSI).

The company was formed in 1980 by Boris Popov after he survived a 400-foot (120 m) fall in a partly collapsed hang glider in 1975. As a result Popov invented a parachute system which would lower a whole light airplane to the ground relatively safely for the people inside, though typically with moderate structural damage to the aircraft when it landed. It could be used in the event of loss of control, failure of the aircraft structure, or other in-flight emergencies.[1]



BRS was founded in 1980 and introduced its first parachute model two years later in 1982, focussing on the ultralight aircraft market. The company recorded its first save in 1983, Jay Tipton of Colorado.[1]

In 1998 the company collaborated with Cirrus Design to develop the first recovery parachute system to be used on a type certified aircraft, the Cirrus SR20. In 2002 the company received a supplemental type certificate to install their parachute system in the Cessna 172, followed by the Cessna 182 in 2004 and the Symphony SA-160 in 2006.[1]

In response to the 2008 economic crisis and associated falling orders, the company announced in November 2008 that it would lay-off 25% of its workforce for an indefinite time period.[2]


Ballistic rescue parachutes

NASA photo series showing the CAPS deployment in action.

A solid-fuel rocket is used to pull the parachute out from its housing and deploy the canopy fully within seconds. Typically on ultralight installations the rocket is mounted on the parachute container. On larger aircraft installations the rocket may be remotely mounted.

Over the years the BRS systems employed have been improved and updated and the current version is the BRS-6. This has a separate rocket installation that can be removed from the parachute so the parachute can be sent for re-packing without the problems of trying to ship the rocket as well. Typically the parachute requires repacking every six years and the rocket requires replacing every 12 years.

Rescues completed

The first ballistic recovery parachutes were on the market in 1982, and the first deployment was in 1983. Between then and April 2007, over 225 people were aboard 201 aircraft which deployed BRS parachutes; most of whose lives were presumably saved by those parachute deployments.[3]

Aircraft supported

BRS Models are available for:

Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS)

The CAPS is a BRS system designed specifically for Cirrus Design's line of general aviation aircraft including the SRV, SR20 and SR22. As in other BRS systems a solid-fuel rocket, housed in the aft fuselage, is used to pull the parachute out from its housing and deploy the canopy full within seconds. The goal of employing this system is the survival of the crew and passengers and not necessarily the prevention of damage to the airframe.

Since the landing gear and firewall are part of the structure designed to be crushed for energy absorption during impact after parachute deploy, Cirrus originally thought that the airframe would be damaged beyond repair on impact. But the first aircraft to deploy (N1223S)[5] landed in mesquite and was not badly damaged. Cirrus bought the airframe back, repaired it, and used it as a demo plane. It was eventually sold to another owner who destroyed it in a crash short of the runway.[6] Several of the aircraft involved in CAPS deploys have been put back into service, with the exception of those that landed in the water.


On 18 July 2008 BRS announced that its new 5000-series canopy had completed compliance testing to ASTM International standards. This new parachute system is intended to provide a recovery capability for much larger aircraft, including very light jets. Initial applications may include the Diamond D-Jet and Lancair Evolution. FAA certification is being pursued to allow installation on certified aircraft.[7]

CAPS deployments

As of January 30 2011, the CAPS has been activated 30 times with 50 survivors and 4 fatalities.[8] Some additional deployments have been reported by accident investigators as caused by ground impact or post-impact fires, and some accidents are still under investigation.

  1. October 2002, Texas, United States: detached aileron[9]
  2. April 2004, British Columbia, Canada: loss of control in turbulence, 4 uninjured[10]
  3. April 2004, Florida, United States: instrument failure in IFR conditions, 1 uninjured[11]
  4. September 2004, California, United States: loss of control in high-altitude climb above clouds, 2 uninjured[12]
  5. February 2005, California, United States: parachute deployed above design limits, pilot fatality (unknown if intentionally activated)[13]
  6. June 2005, New York, United States: pilot incapacitated from undiagnosed brain tumor, 1 injured[14]
  7. January 2006, Alabama, United States: loss of control after pilot flew into icing, 3 uninjured[15]
  8. February 2006, South Dakota, United States: pilot reported disorientation, 2 uninjured[16]
  9. August 2006, Indiana, United States: parachute deployed three miles from departure end of runway, aircraft landed in a retention pond, the parachute was deployed by a passenger, pilot fatality, 3 passengers injured[17]
  10. September 2006, Jamaica: pilot activated parachute under unknown circumstances, 4 uninjured[18]
  11. February 2007, New South Wales, Australia: Fuel line pressure sensor connection cap separated and loss of pressure stopped the engine. After an approach to a freeway forced landing, CAPS was activated, the rocket fired, but got tangled with the empennage resulting in parachute undeployment. 2 injured [19]
  12. April 2007, New Mexico, United States: pilot experienced spatial disorientation following loss of the airspeed indicator. After the terrain warning went off, CAPS was activated and the plane came to rest in a forested area. 1 uninjured[20]
  13. August 2007, Massachusetts, United States: pilot experienced spatial disorientation during approach, deployed parachute, which tangled with a LORAN tower and caused the aircraft to impact the ground. 2 seriously injured[21]
  14. October 2008, San Sebastian, Spain: pilot reported severe turbulence and loss of control on approach, 3 uninjured[22]
  15. November 2008, Turriaco, Italy: fuel exhaustion, activated parachute at low altitude, landed in trees. 1 injured, 3 uninjured[23]
  16. December 2008, Gouvy, Belgium: pilot reported icing, requested lower altitude but lost control, activated parachute, landed in trees. 1 uninjured
  17. December 2008, Louisiana, United States: pilot reported mechanical difficulties at night, activated parachute, landed in a canal. 1 uninjured
  18. February 2009, Florida, United States: plane observed at low altitude, perhaps in a stall/spin attitude, parachute deployed. 2 fatalities[24]
  19. March 2009, Maryland, United States: pilot reported mechanical difficulties, was losing altitude in IMC, activated the parachute and landed in a residential street. 1 uninjured[25]
  20. June 2009, North Carolina, United States: pilot reported loud noise and vibrations with oil spewing onto windshield at 6,000 feet. Activated parachute and landed in a forest. 1 uninjured[26][27]
  21. December 2009, Queensland, Australia: pilot reported loss of engine power during departure from Hamilton Island Airport and activated parachute over ocean. 1 injured.[28][29]
  22. February 2010, Colorado, United States: Mid-air collision between a Cirrus SR20 with two aboard and a Piper PA-25 Pawnee with a single pilot aboard towing a Schweizer SGS 2-32 glider carrying three. The CAPS system deployed and the wreckage (shown on video involved in flames) floated to the ground. The pilot and passenger on board the Cirrus and the pilot of the Piper were all killed. The glider made a safe landing intact with all passengers uninjured. 3 fatalities.[30][31]
  23. May 2010, Vest-Agder, Norway: A Cirrus SRV aircraft experienced unspecified problems in flight and the CAPS was deployed. 4 uninjured.[32]
Cessna 162
  1. September 2008, Doublass, Kansas, United States: A non-conforming prototype Cessna 162, registered N162XP, crashed on 18 September 2008, in a treeline. The test pilot parachuted to safety and suffered only minor injuries. The aircraft was equipped with a Ballistic Recovery Systems parachute, but it failed to deploy when activated.[33][34][35][36][37]

See also


  1. ^ a b c BRS Aerospace (2009). "BRS History". Retrieved 2009-11-17. 
  2. ^ Grady, Mary (November 2008). "BRS Lays Off A Quarter Of Staff". Retrieved 2008-11-27. 
  3. ^ "BRS Lives Saved". Retrieved 2010-04-21. 
  4. ^ BRS Announces 11th LSA Installation Complete: Financial News - Yahoo! Finance
  5. ^ National Transportation Safety Board (October 2002). "NTSB Accident Identification: FTW03LA005". Retrieved 2008-12-14. 
  6. ^ National Transportation Safety Board (September 2004). "NTSB Accident Identification: CHI04FA255". Retrieved 2008-02-06. 
  7. ^ Pew, Glenn (July 2008). "BRS Announces Possible VLJ Parachute". Retrieved 2008-07-21. 
  8. ^ "Parachute (CAPS) Deployment History". January 2011. Retrieved 2011-01-30. 
  9. ^ NTSB Identification: FTW03LA005
  10. ^ Aviation Reports - 2004 - A04P0110
  11. ^ NTSB Identification: MIA04LA070
  12. ^ NTSB Identification: LAX04LA324
  13. ^ NTSB Identification: LAX05FA088
  14. ^ NTSB Identification: NYC05LA110
  15. ^ NTSB Identification: ATL06LA035
  16. ^ NTSB Identification: CHI06LA078
  17. ^ NTSB Identification: CHI06FA245
  18. ^ NTSB Identification: MIA06WA137
  19. ^ ATSB Preliminary report
  20. ^ NTSB Identification: DEN07LA082
  21. ^ NTSB Identification: ATL07LA115
  22. ^ News article
  23. ^ NTSB report ERA09WA049
  24. ^ NTSB Identification: ERA09FA169
  25. ^ NTSB Identification: ERA09LA200
  26. ^ News article - Pilot saved by parachute
  27. ^ NTSB Identification: ERA09IA331)
  28. ^ ASN Aircraft accident 24-Dec-09 Cirrus SR22 GTS G3 Turbo VH-SLS
  29. ^ Pilot escapes sinking plane
  30. ^ News article - Three people killed after planes collide in north Boulder
  31. ^ NTSB Identification: CEN10FA115B
  32. ^ News article - 'Descending by 1.8 kilometers per minute, pilot pulls emergency handle'
  33. ^ Niles, Russ (September 2008). "Skycatcher Was In 'Unrecoverable Spin'". AvWeb. Retrieved 2008-09-22. 
  34. ^ Grady, Mary (September 2008). "Skycatcher Crash Update". AvWeb. Retrieved 2008-09-25. 
  35. ^ Marsh, Alton K. (September 2008). "Skycatcher prototype crashes". Retrieved 2008-09-13. 
  36. ^ Marsh, Alton (September 2008). "Skycatcher to undergo small design changes". Retrieved 2008-09-26. 
  37. ^ National Transportation Safety Board (September 2008). "NTSB Identification: DFW08FA234". Retrieved 2009-11-05. 

External links

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