The Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS) is a whole airframe parachute that was developed by Ballistic Recovery Systems (BRS) specifically for the Cirrus. Started in 1980, BRS initially focused on parachute recovery systems for ultra lights and hang gliders. Boris Popov, the company’s founder, started the company after suffering a partial collapse of his hang glider. It was not until 1998, when used in the Cirrus SR20, that this system was used in a type certified aircraft. Again, the impetus for its development for the Cirrus was the result of a bad experience. Cirrus’ co-founder Alan Klapmeier helped push for the inclusion of the parachute system into the design of the first SR20 after having his own midair collision experience early in his career.
The design of the system was one of the first major hurdles to overcome in creating a system suitable for the Cirrus aircraft. Due to its weight it would need to have a very large surface area, but it would have to be compact and light enough to fit in the aircraft while still allowing enough room and weight for occupants. The other major challenge was the envelope of deployment conditions that it had to be designed for. Typically, parachutes are custom designed for a specific weight and deployment velocity. If you can imagine a skydiver parachute the conditions are fairly straightforward; the body types of skydivers do not vary more than 100 pounds and the terminal velocity of a human is fairly constant. Aircraft present a much larger envelope of conditions under which the parachute must function; weight can vary depending on fuel and passenger payload, but the velocity at deployment can vary tremendously; from a plane that is at the verge of stalling to one that is at max cruising speed.
How were these obstacles overcome? Several unique design concepts helped to create a system that could deploy at a wide range of speeds, deploy quickly, and also ensure the safety of the occupants.
1. Get the chute out quick. The surface area of the chute is massive to carry the load of the aircraft at speeds that will not injure the occupants. In order to deploy such a large mass of fabric, it was important to use an active deployment system. A rocket deployment system was chosen. The rocket allows the quick deployment of the chute so that the system can be effective from a mere 400’ above the ground. This system is very powerful. If untethered, the rocket could reach altitudes as high at 10,000 feet.
2. Make sure the chute doesn’t rip the wings off. If the parachute opens too quickly, the deceleration could tear the aircraft apart. To solve this problem, a sliding ring is used to hold the chute cords close together. As the chute fills with air, the ring slides down to let the material open wider. This simple system keeps the parachute from filling too quickly.
3. Keep the occupants safe. Cirrus utilizes special shock absorbing seat cushions and landing gear to further cushion the occupants from impact with the ground. The cockpit also features a carbon fiber roll cage and a slanted firewall to protect the pilot and passengers and further absorb impact energy.
The system does not end with the parachute itself though. Training even has a part to play in the success of the system. Pilots must be trained to recognize conditions that are acceptable for the system deployment and also realize the wide range of situations where deployment of CAPS should be considered. Surprisingly, one of the outcomes of the system being a part of all Cirrus aircraft are the times when the system is NOT used but could have been used to save the life of the pilot and passengers. One possible reason is that for the entire history of civil aviation pilots have been trained to react to emergencies without the option of having a parachute. Other theories suggest that pilots think they can save the aircraft if they attempt to make it to an acceptable landing site or back to the airport. Whatever the reason, Cirrus has taken the job of training pilots (and passengers) to use the system very seriously. Even over the past few years improvements continue to be made to training materials and checklists to help ensure that pilots are offering themselves and their passengers the safest transportation available in civil aviation today.
Having 1300 hours teaching in Cirrus’ equipped with both the Avidyne and Perspective by Garmin, I’ve gotten to know both avionics suites quite well. I put together a pros and cons list for both systems for your educational purposes.
SIMPLICITY! The Avidyne PFD at first glance appears to be overwhelming, but in actuality, with a little quality instruction, it is quite user friendly. The MFD is nearly as easy and simple to navigate while producing the same information as the Perspective MFD. The checklist is easy to use and the pilot can scroll between the map and engine page with minimal attention.
REDUNDANCY! The Avidyne gets all COM, NAV and GPS information from it’s dual GNS 430’s (Newer Cirrus’ come equipped with WAAS) which I like better for both redundancy and ability to perform to different tasks on each 430.
Single AHRS. Unlike the Perspective, the PFD is a different unit than the MFD, limiting the Avidyne to only one AHRS. Not to worry though. In the event of a PFD failure in IMC, the Pilot can easily shoot a coupled GPS approach.
STEC55X. The autopilot is better than what most single engine airplanes come equipped with. However, it’s not as amazing as the GFC 700 which comes with the Perspective. The 55X is completely integrated with the PFD HSI and ALT/VSI bugs, has GPS steering mode, altitude capture via vertical speed, and will track both an ILS or WAAS glide slope. My biggest complaint with the 55X is the leveling phase of altitude capture. It will not hold a vertical speed all the way to you preselected altitude. Rather it will begin decreasing the rate of climb or decent as it approaches the desired altitude. This feature does make “Chop and Drop” approaches more difficult.
TECHNOLOGY! Garmin put more bells and whistles on the perspective system than anyone could ever ask for! Synthetic vision with color coded terrain, TCAS and “highway in the sky,” WAAS, Dual AHRS, VNAV, Jeppeson approach plates, IR camera, Full alpha-numeric keypad and a Digital autopilot that we’ll get to next.
GFC 700! This autopilot will do almost anything you ask. As long as you ask the right way and nicely. You can capture altitude via Pitch, IAS, Vertical speed or VNAV. (Setting a 120+ KT climb in the Turbo’s make life much easier) It rarely over shoots anything and will hold your desired Pitch, IAS, Vertical speed or VNAV all the way to the desired altitude. It’s easy to use (as long as you set it looking at top of PFD and not at the lights on the autopilot) and even has an auto-level button even though it is rare you should require it.
VNAV! On the flight plan page of the MFD, you can set a VNAV profile to cross a point in space at any altitude on a glide slope you set. For instance you can set up a 3 degree slope to the runway and fly your own WAAS glide slope to land. Every approach also comes preloaded with step down fix altitudes so you cross each fix at the appropriate altitude via a constant decent. Neat stuff.
Too much stuff! There is way too much going on with the PFD. It definitely has a wow factor and can come in handy (Like flying around Aspen night VFR.) But when I fly Perspective IFR I remove the synthetic vision and all that goes along with it. Prepare to be overwhelmed.
MFD navigation. Garmin increased the standard 4 chapters on the 430 and G1000. I much prefer the G1000 and early perspective 4 page navigation.
Overall both systems are fantastic and you will not be disappointed with either. Neither one is perfect but what is in aviation!
Coast Flight Training will have new ground school dates for ground lab:
Private Pilot – August 2, 2010
Instrument Pilot – August 3, 2010
Ground Lab is Coast’s version of ground school. What makes Ground Lab different from other conventional ground schools is its way of making lessons funner and more “hands-on”.
Hana is a spiritual place, it looks like a rainforest but sees a good mix of sun! The Runway winds favor runway 8, the end of the runway disappears into lava rock the falls off into the Pacific. We landed and walked to the edge of the cliffs and watched massive waves crush into the rocks. We shot the GPS26 with a Circle to runway 8. Hana is a must visit for anyone!
The General Aviation Manufacturer’s Association (GAMA) said that Cirrus Aircraft has increased its airplane deliveries and market share every year during its first quarter.
In total, worldwide general aviation airplane deliveries numbered 390 units, which meant a 15 percent drop from last year in the same period. But GAMA said that this is to be considered an improvement juxtapose the decline that’s been experienced last year.
1. Canyon & Drainage Routes
-Fly the windward side, never up the middle of a canyon.
-Scan for opposite direction traffic.
2. Ridge/Pass Crossing
-Terrain Clearance: at least 1,000 feet AGL.
-Always identify your “escape” paths as early as possible.
-Approach at 45 degrees; exit at 90 degrees.
Descent And Landing Procedures
1. Know the pattern or approach track for the destination field.
2. Determine a safe go-around trang for the destination. Remember, as go-around may not be possible!
3. Fly a stabilized approach at appropriate IAS.
4. Plan the touchdown at 1,0000feet from the start of useable runway.
5. CLOSE YOUR FLIGHT FLIGHT PLAN(& give a final PIREP when you do!)
Do you want to fly but don’t have the time to learn? Many of our clients are working professionals that mix the pleasure of flying with business. The picture above is The Wheat Group using the Professional Pilots of Coast. Our client made a round trip flight to LA in 1:30 to pick up a family member! This saves a lot of time when trying to fight rush hour between San Diego and LA! To learn more check out Coast Access Program.