Ballistic Recovery Systems

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Ballistic Recovery Systems
Traded as OTC Pink: BRSI
Industry Aerospace
Founded 1980
Founder Boris Popov
Headquarters St. Paul, Minnesota, United States
Key people
CEO and President Larry Williams
Vice President, Sales & Marketing Gary Moore
Products Parachute systems

Ballistic Recovery Systems (commonly BRS and BRS Aerospace) is a manufacturer of aircraft ballistic parachutes.

The company was formed in 1980 by Boris Popov of Saint Paul, Minnesota after he survived a 400-foot (120 m) fall in a partially collapsed hang glider in 1975. As a result Popov invented a parachute system to lower an entire light aircraft to the ground in the event of loss of control, failure of the aircraft structure, or other in-flight emergencies.[1]

Popov was granted a U.S. patent on 26 August 1986 for the so-called Ballistic Recovery System (BRS) - patent US 4607814 A.[2]


BRS was founded in 1980 and introduced its first parachute model two years later in 1982, with the focus on the ultralight aircraft market. The company recorded its first successful aircraft and crew recovery in 1983: Jay Tipton of Colorado.[1]

In 1998 the company collaborated with Cirrus Design (now called Cirrus Aircraft) to develop the first recovery parachute system to be used on a type certified aircraft, the Cirrus SR20. They named the design the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS). In 2002 BRS received a supplemental type certificate to install their parachute system in the Cessna 172, followed by the Cessna 182 in 2004 and the Symphony SA-160 in 2006.[1]

In response to the 2008 economic crisis and associated falling orders, the company announced in November 2008 that it would lay-off 25% of its workforce for an indefinite time period.[3]


Ballistic rescue parachutes[edit]


A solid-fuel rocket is used to pull the parachute out from its housing and deploy the canopy fully within seconds. Typically on ultralight installations the rocket is mounted on the parachute container. On larger aircraft installations the rocket may be remotely mounted.

Over the years the BRS systems employed have been improved and updated and the current version is the BRS-6. This has a separate rocket installation that can be removed from the parachute so the parachute can be sent for re-packing without the problems of trying to ship the rocket as well. Typically the parachute requires repacking every six years and the rocket requires replacing every 12 years.

Rescues completed[edit]

The first ballistic recovery parachutes were on the market in 1982, and the first deployment was in 1983. Between then and April 2007, over 225 people were aboard 201 aircraft which deployed BRS parachutes; most of whose lives were presumably saved by those parachute deployments.[4]


On 18 July 2008 BRS announced that its new 5000-series canopy had completed compliance testing to ASTM International standards. This new parachute system is intended to provide a recovery capability for much larger aircraft, including very light jets. Initial applications may include the Diamond D-Jet and Lancair Evolution. FAA certification is being pursued to allow installation on certified aircraft.[5]

Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS)[edit]

NASA photo series showing the CAPS deployment in action.

The CAPS is a whole-plane ballistic parachute recovery system designed specifically for Cirrus Aircraft's line of general aviation light aircraft including the SRV, SR20, SR22 and Vision SF50. The design became the first of its kind used as standard equipment on a certified aircraft,[6] and was adapted from the GARD system initially released for the Cessna 150.[7] As in other BRS systems, a solid-fuel rocket housed in the aft fuselage is used to pull the parachute out from its housing and deploy the canopy full within seconds. The goal of employing this system is the survival of the crew and passengers and not necessarily the prevention of damage to the airframe.

Since the landing gear and firewall are a part of the structure designed to be crushed for energy absorption during impact after parachute deployment, Cirrus originally thought that the airframe would be damaged beyond repair on ground-impact, but the first aircraft to deploy (N1223S)[8] landed in mesquite and was not badly damaged. Cirrus bought the airframe back, repaired it, and used it as a demo plane. It was eventually sold to another owner who destroyed it in a crash short of the runway.[9]

Dating back to the first conception of the SR20, the aircraft was intended to come equipped with CAPS.[10] Because of this, Cirrus designed a special kind of "spin resistant" wing (or leading edge cuff), which makes it more difficult for the plane to enter a spin, and thus, more difficult to recover from one.[10][11] The FAA accepted the parachute as a sufficient mode of spin recovery and complete spin testing was not required. However, in 2004, Cirrus completed a limited series of spin recovery tests to meet European Safety Agency requirements, and no unusual characteristics were found.[12][13]

The first jet with a ballistic parachute, the Cirrus Vision SF50 single-engine jet was certified in October 2016 with CAPS,[14] although the FAA did not require Cirrus to test the device since it was not necessary for certification. Despite this notice, it was reported by AVweb that video was shown at the certification announcement of the parachute system being tested with an unmanned jet mockup.[15] It is unknown if the company will proceed in the future with piloted in-flight CAPS testing.


The idea for CAPS came in 1985 from Cirrus’ founders, brothers Alan and Dale Klapmeier, after Alan survived a mid-air collision where his plane lost almost three feet of wing including half the aileron; the pilot in the other aircraft spiraled into the ground and was killed. From this experience, the Klapmeier brothers decided to implement a device on their Cirrus models that would give the pilot and passengers a way out in the worst-case scenario.[16][17][18]

The Cirrus Engineering & Design Team, led by Paul Johnston, started developing CAPS on the SR20 in Duluth, Minnesota during the mid-1990s. It was first tested in 1998 over the high desert of southern California by late Air National Guard F-16 pilot and Chief Cirrus test pilot, Scott D. Anderson.[19] Anderson completed all seven of the in-flight test deployments of CAPS for development and certification of the SR20.[20][21] The first emergency deployment occurred in 2002 over Lewisville, Texas, and resulted in the survival of one uninjured pilot operating an SR22.[22][23]


As of 15 August 2016, the CAPS has been activated 83 times, 69 of which saw successful parachute deployment. In those successful deployments, there were 142 survivors and 1 fatality. No fatalities, unsuccessful deployments, or anomalies (with the exception of one that is still under investigation) have occurred when the parachute was deployed within the certified speed and altitude parameters. Some additional deployments have been reported by accident, as caused by ground impact or post-impact fires, and 14 of the aircraft involved in CAPS deployments have been repaired and put back into service.[24]

Post 2011, the year of their highest fatality rate to date, Cirrus has experienced an increase in CAPS deployments coinciding with a steady decrease in fatal accidents, giving them one of the best safety records in the industry and less than half the industry average. This was attributed to a new approach to training, particularly in when to deploy the parachute system.[25][26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c BRS Aerospace (2009). "BRS History". Archived from the original on 5 October 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-17. 
  2. ^ "Patent US4607814 - Ballistic recovery system - Google Patents". 26 August 1986. Retrieved 9 June 2013. 
  3. ^ Grady, Mary (November 2008). "BRS Lays Off A Quarter Of Staff". Archived from the original on 6 December 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-27. 
  4. ^ "BRS Lives Saved". Archived from the original on 25 April 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-21. 
  5. ^ Pew, Glenn (July 2008). "BRS Announces Possible VLJ Parachute". Archived from the original on 3 August 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-21. 
  6. ^ "Getting Cirrus about Aircraft Parachutes". Retrieved 2014-10-26. 
  7. ^ BRS to offer parachute system for Cessna 150
  8. ^ National Transportation Safety Board (October 2002). "NTSB Accident Identification: FTW03LA005". Retrieved 2008-12-14. 
  9. ^ National Transportation Safety Board (September 2004). "NTSB Accident Identification: CHI04FA255". Retrieved 2008-02-06. 
  10. ^ a b "An Introduction From Dale Klapmeier, Cirrus Co-Founder". Retrieved 21 August 2016. 
  11. ^ "Interview with a Cirrus Design Engineer". Retrieved 21 August 2016. 
  12. ^ "CAPS and Stall/Spin". Retrieved 2016-08-21. 
  13. ^ Cirrus Stall Spin Report (March 2004). "Cirrus Design SR 20" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-21. 
  14. ^ "Cirrus Earns Vision Jet Certification". AOPA. Retrieved 2016-11-01. 
  15. ^ Niles, Russ. "Cirrus SF50 Certified: First Delivery in December". AVweb. Retrieved 31 October 2016. 
  16. ^ Karlgaard, Rich (October 2006). "What Caused Cory Lidle's Crash?". Forbes. Retrieved 2014-10-26. 
  17. ^ "General Aviation Heroes Part IV - Dale and Alan Klapmeier of Cirrus Design". Retrieved 26 October 2014. 
  18. ^ Fallows, James (January 2015). "The Parachute That Saved a Plane". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2015-01-26. 
  19. ^ Fallows, James (June 2001). "Freedom of the Skies". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2014-07-16. 
  20. ^ Fallows, James (November 21, 1999). "Turn Left at Cloud 109". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014-10-26. 
  21. ^ Higdon, Dave (March 31, 1999). "Cirrus SR20 demonstrator kills test pilot in prison crash". Flighglobal. Retrieved 2014-10-26. 
  22. ^ Goyer, Robert (August 2010). "After Ten Years, Cirrus Chute Controversy Persists". Flying. Retrieved 2014-10-26. 
  23. ^ Duluth Budgeteer staff (October 2002). "Cirrus parachute deploys, saves pilot". Duluth Budgeteer. Retrieved 2016-03-13. 
  24. ^ Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association (10 May 2014). "Cirrus CAPS History". Retrieved 13 June 2014. 
  25. ^ Zimmerman, John (11 February 2015). "Fatal Cirrus crashes are way down – thank the parachute". Air Facts. Retrieved 21 August 2016. 
  26. ^ Hirschman, Dave (24 July 2016). "How Cirrus Radically Reduced Fatal Accidents". AOPA. Retrieved 21 August 2016. 

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