BRS continues work on jet chute

When new airplanes are unveiled these days, Larry Williams and the gang from Ballistic Recovery Systems are invariably at the announcements.

That’s because many new planes offer the BRS whole-airplane parachute system as standard equipment, while the rest offer it as options.

That held true at this year’s AirVenture, where several new aircraft joined the rapidly growing list of planes that offer the BRS system: Lancair’s Evolution, Epic Aircraft’s Victory Jet and Diamond Aircraft’s DA-50.

“It’s great news for us and great news for pilots,” said Robert Nelson, BRS chairman. “More and more people understand the value of having a BRS chute on board.”

The increased business means a lot of activity in the company’s Research & Development department, where efforts continue to perfect a parachute system for jets. At last year’s AirVenture, Diamond’s D-JET was unveiled with the parachute system as an option.

“Bringing down a jet airplane at fast speeds and safely recovering the occupants and the entire airplane is the next step in BRS technology,” reported Larry Williams, president.

He noted that the most visible difference will be the size of the canopy. “If you think the Cirrus canopy is big, wait until you see this,” he said.

Development of the jet parachute is done. Engineers are now working on other technology for the system, including the rocket required to make the system deploy correctly. “We tell people it is rocket science,” he said.

Weight is the biggest issue the company needs to address for the jet application. “The chutes don’t scale up very well,” he said.

But weight is also an issue for Light Sport Aircraft, most of which offer chutes. “We’d really like to see work done to make sure the weight limit doesn’t stop people from installing a critical piece of equipment like a parachute,” Williams said.


To help fund BRS’s growth, the company recently entered into an agreement with Spain’s CIMSA Ingenieria de Sistemas. The two companies will jointly develop new and existing parachute systems. CIMSA invested $1.5 million in BRS, which will be used for research and development, according to Williams, who added, “with a lot of emphasis on development.”

“With the D-JET and others, we’re really going to be busy,” he said. “Dropping parachutes is really expensive.”

The company also has outgrown its facilities in South St. Paul, Minn., reported Williams. BRS is building a new $1.2 million plant at Fleming Field, which is slated to be complete in May 2008.

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A VFR pilot recently was forced by deteriorating weather to deploy the BRS system on his Cirrus SR20.

The Aug. 17 deployment saved the life of the pilot and a passenger. Neither was seriously injured.

“This is precisely why airplanes have parachutes,” said Williams. “The pilot found himself in a situation where continuing the flight in the dark into low visibility and fog was life threatening. He made the right decision — he deployed a parachute and it saved his life.”

Since 1981, BRS has delivered more than 27,000 parachute systems to aircraft owners around the world. The systems are credited with saving the lives of 205 pilots and passengers.

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