In our December cover story about whole-airplane parachute recovery systems, the subject that interested me most was the future of "chutes." These new safety devices are installed on nearly 2,000 Cirrus SR20 and SR22s, and at this writing, four have been deployed in anger. While reasonable people can argue about the details surrounding those four "pulls," there's nothing to discuss in terms of the outcome. Everyone in all four airplanes walked away unhurt. Only time will tell how things play out for BRS and Cirrus; will other airplane manufacturers install chutes? How often will Cirrus pilots pull the handle, and what will be the outcome? We'll all have to wait and see.

While my story was predominantly about safety, the technical aspects of the parachute system are fascinating and were arguably deserving of an entire story. Thanks to BRS, we had a number of great photographs that we used in the story, but there were even more that we would have liked to have used but didn't have the space, so here they are, along with a few words of explanation.

Furthermore, one subject I didn't cover in the story but should have is the subject of spins. Like most light airplanes in the fleet, neither the SR20 nor the SR22 are approved for spins. But unlike every other airplane maker out there, Cirrus was not required to demonstrate that a pilot flying its airplanes could recover from a spin without the use of the chute. It's perhaps the biggest single complaint that pilots (though, interestingly enough, not Cirrus pilots) have about the airplanes. Indeed, Cirrus president Alan Klapmeier has said that he wishes the company had demonstrated spin recovery to the FAA during initial testing.

Included in the photo gallery here are images of an SR20 whose pilot made the big pull over some pretty imposing mountains at night in British Columbia. The photographs demonstrate some of the inner workings of the system. Also included are some interesting technical and historical photos of system details, and of airplanes under the canopy during flight testing, that show just how the ingenious system functions.


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