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Video - Life-saving aircraft parachutes

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On 5 March, following an engine failure, this Cirrus SR22, landed on a Long Island lawn by parachute. Its two occupants were not injured. The images may be surprising and yet the concept is not new; BRS Aerospace, based in St. Paul near Minneapolis in the US, has specialized in these aircraft parachutes since 1982.

They are only fitted on small single-engined Cessna’s and Cirrus’ weighing under 3,100 lbs (1,400 kg), because in excess of that, the parachute would twist. In cases of emergency, you simply pull the handle, located between the two pilots. The rocket will extract the parachute in less than two seconds stretching its lines and the three airframe harness attachments tight.

The parachute is carefully folded; it requires compaction by use of a hydraulic press to optimize the dedicated space in the rear of the plane. The parachute, weighing only 30 lb. (13 kg), is made of nylon, 100th the weight of steel and five times stronger. On average it takes fifty hours to install the single-use system at a cost of $15,000.

Since these parachutes have been in existence, BRS Aerospace claims to have saved 344 lives. So why not integrate them into commercial aircraft? Given a Boeing 747’s weight, for example, it seems to be a little complicated, because apparently it would require 21 parachutes, each the size of a football field.

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