September 2013 Issue

BRS Parachute Retrofits: A Cost-Benefit Analysis

Full-airplane parachute systems are becoming increasingly available as add-on mods. Here’s a pragmatic look at the costs and benefits of the install.

Weight kept the whole-airplane parachute idea in the world of fantasy for the first 70 years of powered flight. It took a terrifying ride to earth aboard a broken hang glider and new materials technology to allow Boris Popov to found Ballistic Recovery Systems and develop a viable arrangement that could successfully deploy a parachute and lower an aircraft and its occupants to earth. BRS products (BRS, as “Systems,” is the company; as “System,” is the device) began saving lives in the ultralight world and expended successfully into FAR 23 airplanes with the Cirrus line and a retrofit for the Cessna 150/152. The number of lives saved as a result of BRS deployment is approaching 300, according to BRS company numbers. (Our research shows 48 deployments, of which 36 were “saves,” with 76 lives saved in Cirrus aircraft—most, but not all, of the other saves were in ultralights.)

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