DULUTH, Minn. — Another first for Cirrus Aircraft.
The Duluth-based manufacturer was the first company in the world to build a standard personal jet equipped with a whole-plane parachute. And this year, that system was finally put through real-world, non-simulated testing, including a backup the day after Thanksgiving near Indianapolis, Indiana.
Although Cirrus’ unique turbofan Vision Jet engine, also known as the SF50, has been in production since late 2016, its unique parachute system had never been field deployed in emergency circumstances until just recently, nearly six years after the aircraft hit the market.
On September 9 this year, Cirrus recorded its first parachute save from an SF50, when a storm-stricken aircraft came to rest in a remote swampy area, after the pilot encountered what was described as “severe turbulence” during an approach to Kissimmee Gateway Airport near Orlando, Florida, according to a preliminary report from the Federal Aviation Administration.
All of the aircraft’s occupants, including the pilot, a female passenger and a child, survived the emergency landing with non-life-threatening injuries.
The SF50’s last save was at 8:05 a.m. Friday, in the wake of Thanksgiving, shortly after the plane departed Indianapolis Regional Airport, en route to Greene County Regional Airport, 457 miles from Greensboro, Georgia. When questioned by the FAA, the pilot, Timothy Borrup, reported experiencing engine problems shortly after takeoff. That’s when he made the decision to pull the handle that deployed what the aircraft manufacturer calls its emergency CAPS option – short for Cirrus Airframe Parachute System.
Borrup, who flies for Verijet Inc., a Florida-based charter airline service with a fleet of more than a dozen SF50s, was the sole occupant of the plane, which was in transit between jobs at the time of the flight. emergency landing. The jet floated to rest, partially submerged at the edge of a stormwater retention pond northeast of Indianapolis.
In Facebook posts, Verijet reported that the 54-year-old pilot was uninjured and “in good spirits” after the incident. Company officials went on to say, “We are grateful for the safety of Captain Timothy Borrup. Forward and upward!”
All Cirrus aircraft are equipped with a reserve parachute as standard.
Alan Klapmeier, who co-founded Cirrus with his brother Dale, pledged to include a parachute in future aircraft designs after having his own near-death experience in 1985. While flying a Cessna 182 at Prairie du Sac , Wis. , Klapmeier collided with a Piper Vagabond Cub, and barely managed to land, after losing more than a yard from his right wing. The other pilot was not so lucky and died in the crash.
“People are going to make mistakes. So we decided there had to be another security option,” said Dale Klapmeier.
Cirrus worked with St. Paul-based Ballistic Recovery Systems to incorporate a rocket parachute system into each of its aircraft, a move that initially turned heads in the industry, but quickly bore its fruits.
As of Nov. 25, Cirrus had logged 129 emergency landings using its parachute system, likely saving 241 lives that might otherwise have been lost, according to the Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association.
Although Cirrus’ parachute system has a long history of safely landing slower-flying piston-engined aircraft in emergency situations, the aircraft manufacturer faced a greater challenge in adapting the system to meet the rigors of jet flight, with a larger parachute. The two recent saves of the SF50 should help dispel any lingering skepticism about the effectiveness of fitting its full-frame parachute aboard a jet.
In 2018, Cirrus received the Robert J. Collier Award for its development of the SF50. The honor recognizes recipients “for the greatest achievement in the field of aeronautics or astronautics in America, with respect to improving the performance, efficiency, and safety of air or space vehicles , the value of which has been fully demonstrated by actual use during the preceding year”.
The parachute is not a panacea. The company has embarked on an extensive training campaign to instruct pilots when and where to use it, before it’s too late in an emergency. Cirrus advises pilots that the reserve parachute must be deployed at a minimum altitude of 400 feet to be effective.
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