In 1975, Boris Popov of St. Paul, Minnesota survived a 400
foot fall in a collapsed hang glider.
“As I fell,” Popov explained, “ I became
most angry at my inability to do something. I had the time
to throw a parachute. I knew they existed but they hadn’t
yet been introduced to the hang gliding community. My many
years of gymnastics training conditioned me to prepare for
the water impact, and allowed me to swim to safety minus
a few fillings and a bruised kidney.”
Getting a Parachute Out
Realizing the limitations of current parachute technology,
he concluded, “It became apparent that only stored
energy components such as solid fuel propellants could offer
the power, low weight, low volume, and efficacy needed to
rapidly deploy a parachute, but experts in the field told
us it would be difficult to deploy a main canopy with any
type of rocket device,” remembered Popov.
“As our successes grew with this approach, we slowly
evolved from the drogue gun firing a one pound slug, to
a solid fueled rocket that optimized the kinetic energy
with a given mass,” commented Popov.
The team’s resulting extraction device represented
1) It had enough power to deploy larger chutes (even through
entire fabric wings), yet it presented no recoil to the
2) It was capable of deploying the chute in an orderly,
systematic manner at greater distances from the aircraft;
3) It was adequately safe and had proven reliability from
BRS sells a range of rocket motors, and they are delivered
with complete parachute system. The Parachute Canopy
The parachute had to be extremely light weight, low volume
and be capable of packing into a small container. It would
deploy quickly at slow speeds allowing for low altitude
emergency saves, but slowly at high speeds, preventing massive
structural failure of the canopy in high speed diving emergencies.
After seven years and $1.5 million of engineering effort,
BRS was granted the first-ever FAA approval to install a
BRS ballistic parachute on a certified aircraft, the Cessna
The key to the success of this project was the ingenious
development of a parachute reefing system. BRS eningeers
Bruce Case and Phil Kadlec repeatedly deployed a sliding-ring
device that performed all the functions required. This now-patented
concept has since been included in most of the BRS parachute
line, and has directly saved the lives of pilots and passengers
throughout the world. This “slider,” has enabled
BRS to create larger chutes for faster aircraft.
Why buy a ballistic chute? The following scenarios depict
situations where the BRS system is most effective:
1) Mid-air collision
2) Single engine power loss over hostile terrain
3) Single engine power loss during night flight
4) Loss of control (due to icing or linkage failure)
5) Low altitude stall-spin
6) Major structural failure
7) Component failure resulting in an unflyable aircraft
8) Pilot incapacitation (heart attack)
9) Overshooting runway The system can function at altitudes
under 300 feet AGL for the Cessna 150 (the altitude to which
FAA certified the system), and as low as 100 feet for ultralights.
The system can weigh as little as 15 pounds (ultralight),
45 pounds (Cessna 150) or 67 pounds (Cessna 172). Cosmetic
appearance not a concern because the system is mounted internally
on many aircraft and because of the use of the patented
speed-sensing parachute, deployments speed capabilities
are typically close to the maximum speed of the aircraft.
Present And Future
BRS has won four SBIR (Small Business Innovative Research)
awards from NASA to develop new exotic lightweight parachute
cloth materials that may eventually allow cutting the chute
weight by almost 50%. A later grant has BRS engineers investigating
parachutes for light jet aircaft. Additonal developments
can be expected. Today, BRS is a company of 25 employees
and annual sales of about $7 million. Over 18,000 systems
have been delivered.
In 2003, BRS completed ultimate load testing on our
new 1350-pound (about 615 kg) parachute for Light Sport
Aircraft. The LSA canopy passed dead-weight drop tests
with a factor of safety that yields a maximum deployment
speed of 160 knots (184 mph or 300 km/h). The 1350 LSA
canopy is now undergoing final development by BRS engineers
for container and mount.
After the container and mount are ready, engineers will
fire a series of rockets in test situations to assure
the system functions as desired.
When all testing is done, the system will go through
some further refinement for production, to allow smooth
and efficient manufacturing of these new systems.
BRS expects to have the LSA 1350 ready when FAA announces
the new rule for Sport Pilot / Light Sport Aircraft.