Whole-Airplane Parachute

In 1998, during eight tests including this one with an SR20 out of Ocotillo Wells Airport in California, engineers and pilots from Cirrus Aircraft and Ballistic Recovery Systems took the plunge. They fine-tuned many items, including how the whole-airplane parachutes rocket extracts the system, and how the slider, the white ring that travels down the cords, keeps the parachute from opening too quickly, which would damage the chute and airplane.After each deployment, the SR20 released the parachute and returned to the airport rather than stranding itself in the desert. This meant that guides had to be added to the empennage to prevent damage to the vertical and horizontal tail surfaces. "Design of the test harness and parachute release mechanism were nearly as difficult as the design of the recovery systems itself," says Jay Yeakle, a Cirrus engineer. Less complex was the animal tracking system used by wildlife management groups that located the abandoned parachutes. (0:24)

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