Are there some planes that have their own parachutes?

I gather that there a few people on this board that are pilots, like Johnny L.A., so maybe I could get an answer to something I’ve been wondering about.

I recall reading long ago about a small trainer aircraft that had its own giant parachute. If something went wrong with the plane while in flight, the pilot was supposed to deploy the parachute and float down.

I’m reluctant to believe this because I’d assume even a parachute would not slow a plane enough to prevent the pilot from landing unharmed. Is this true or was I reading some kind of science-fiction?

When I think about it, though, astronauts’ space capsules were parachuted down to earth into the ocean and nobody was harmed nor was the capsule damaged. So maybe a parachute (or set of chutes) actually could help here. Obviously a parachute wouldn’t prevent a big jet from crashing, but a smaller prop plane might. Right?

Also, are there planes besides fighter jets that have ejection seats?


Such are available as retrofits for light aircraft.

The Genisis sailplane was designed for for one from the outset. Mid-air collisions are far from unknown in soaring competition.

Hang-glider parachutes all work this way, though the parachute is usually stowed in the pilot’s harness.

Spring, gunpowder, and rocket deployment schemes have all been used.

A personal review of the plane from andros’ link. I thought this was an interesting part:

The The Cirrus Aircraft Parachute System is the only one that I know of. Probably because I drool over the thought of someday owning a Cirrus.


This article mentions a successful usage of such a system back in 2002:

I thought that was pretty cool.

A relatively recent thread on the topic: Ballistic Parachute Option

Yes, but only under a stricter definition of fighter jet than you are probably using. The navy S-3 Viking and EA-6 Prowler both have ejection seats for all four crewmembers in each. The Prowler’s airframe is derived from the A-6 Intruder attack plane for electronic warfare but the Viking was originally designed for antisubmarine patrols. I once flew in a modified version of the Viking, US-3 “Miss Piggy” which AFAIK has no ejection seats. I did not get a close look at the pilot and co-pilot seats but the loadmaster’s seat and five passenger seats were not ejection seats.

A bit of trivia but many planes with ejection seats have their own parachutes as it is built into the seat back rather than being worn by the crewmember before getting in the the plane. The crewmember wears a torso harness and this is attached to the seat and parachute risers by quick release Koch fittings

Question has been well answered, I just wanted to say that I’ve got a photo of a skydiving incident showing a Cessna being lowered to the ground under a (then standard) 28’ round canopy.

Rough sequence of events - accidental reserve deployment by static line student in the plane. Reserve gets out the door. Reserve inflates, dragging student through the side of the plane (huge tear is visible in the metal). Student comes to abrupt halt approximately 10’ later, hung up on the end of the static line. Entire setup (student, pilot, plane, dunno about the jumpmaster) settles to ground.

In the USAF, quite a few non-fighter aircraft have ejection seats. As I understand it, B-1 and B-2 bombers do (not sure about the B-52, but i think they do too). U-2 reconnaisance plane does too, and several trainers including T-37, T-6, and T-38. In the T-37, you actually had to have at least 120 knots and 100 feet altitude to safely eject. The T-6 is “zero-zero” meaning you can safely eject on the ground, without any airspeed. One interesting fact is that a T-6 pilot can eject inverted at less than 400’ AGL and still get a safe canopy.

I didn’t see this mentioned on either thread; as far as the BRS/CAPS, the reason Cirrus needed it is because the plane wasn’t made to spin, and apparently may not be able to recover from a spin. It was designed to be “spin resistant,” but the flight dynamics factors that make it difficult to get into a spin also generally make it hard (sometimes impossible) to recover from a spin. As a result, the Cirrus is not legal (FAA) to fly unless the BRS is installed and functional, IIRC.

No, that’s not quite the reason.

There are quite a few airplanes not spin-approved, and some where they manufacturer is quite clear that if you spin you will not recover and no parachutes are required to operate those airplanes.

It is illegal to fly your Cirrus without a working 'chute because the 'chute is standard equipment and it’s illegal to fly with such equipment inoperative (unless you get a ferry permit, but that’s limited to taking the airplane to a repair facility). It would, for example, be just as illegal to fly with, say, the airspeed indicator removed even if for a given flight the pilot did not require it’s operation. It’s standard equipment, it must be working.

The B-52 has ejection seats for the primary crew positions, with a few seats that are not capable of ejection. The idea is that if something goes wrong the person will don his gear and dive through the hole. Right. That’s as likely as escaping from a C-130 via the crew entrance door without eating a prop. :rolleyes:

Isn’t that negligent design? That’s somewhat akin to putting a label on a car that the car goes out of control easily, you will certainly die in an accident, and it’s not their fault. How does something like that withstand scrutiny, especially when there are other designs that don’t have that flaw?

A young man returns from his Air Force basic training and is sitting at the bar with his pals. Someone asks him what the hardest part of it was. He tells them that it was parachute training, and describes what happened:

"I went up there in the plane, and waited on line to jump out, getting more and more nervous with each guy who jumped. Finally, it was my turn. I stood there, looking down, and I was so scared I just couldn’t do it.

The Jump Master turned to me and said, “come on, jump.” So I got ready, caught my breath, took a step towards the door. But I still couldn’t do it.

So the Jump Master said, “come on, dammit, jump already!” As much as I tried, I could not force myself to do it. I stood standing there, paralyzed with fear.

So the Jump Master grabbed me by the collar, unzipped his pants, took out his giant hard-on, and said, “either you jump out of this plane, or I’m going to stick this up your ass!!!”

“So did you jump?”

“Well…a little, at first!”

The B-1A had an escape capsule. I’d just been assigned to the B-1A flight test team and was heading to mission control with the data team leader when we saw a pillar of smoke in the distance. No. 159 had crashed. IIRC, part of the inflatable bag on the underside of the capsule failed and Rockwell test pilot Doug Benefield was killed.

No. Aircraft are all compromises, but they are generally built to perform specific missions. Training aircraft such as a Cessna 150 can usually be spun. A Cessna Citation is made to go high and fast, and is unlikely to be used for spin training. (I don’t know if the Citation is certified for spins.) A Cirrus is designed to deliver relatively higher speeds than a four-seat Cessna/Beechcraft/Piper/etc., so it’s also unlikely to be used for spin training. You buy a Cirrus to get from Point A to Point B quickly. On the other hand, the Alon Ercoupe was designed to be ‘spin proof’. Part of the scheme was to eliminate rudder control, and just steer it like a car. AFAIK, it was successful; but it was also slow and had limited payload capacity. Rutan’s Vari-Eze and Long EZ (note the change of spelling for ‘easy’ – I’ve heard a lot of people call the former ‘vari-eez’) were designed to be stall resistant, stalls being a way (the way?) of getting into a spin. They delivered high speeds on a small engine (100 hp), but at the expense of a tight cockpit and limited luggage room – not to mention that you had to build it yourself.

On the other hand, cars are expected to perform in a ‘least common denominator’ environment. A Porsche is fast, but not on the 405 during rush hour! And cars are expected to be able to be safely driven by people with little training. Still, there are some issues. We’ve all heard about SUV rollovers (especially the Suzuki Samurai). SUVs are designed – or at least were designed – with higher ground clearance so that they could be used on unimproved roads or off-road. With their higher CGs, they naturally will tend to roll over if a turn is taken at a speed that is beyond their design limits. Most people seem to have bought these vehicles because they’re ‘cute’ or ‘trendy’ without a thought about the intented purposes of them. Lacking proper training, they rolled them.

While spin training is not required in the U.S. for pilot certificates, spin avoidance is taught. Unlike the way flying is often portrayed in the cinema, most pilots do not perform aerobatics. Spin training may be a good thing to have, but most pilots ‘need’ only spin avoidance training. Anyway…

Being compromises, there are some aircraft in which one maneuver or another is to be avoided. The pilots know – or should know – the limitations of the aircraft when they fly them. There have been a lot of lawsuits over the decades where survivors have claimed negligent design. Many, many of them have been won by the plaintiffs. The American/Grumman AA-1 Yankee (I think Sam Stone owned one, so he can correct me if I’m mistaken) had a problem where the fuel would flow to the far end of the tanks in a spin, making a spin unrecoverable. It was placarded against spins. I’ve heard that the Bede BD-5 had a problem in that in a stall, the stabilator could be awash in the unstable air of a stalled wing resulting in a loss of pitch control (after the loss of the engine?). Negligent designs, or a case of pilots exceeding the design limitations? I think that pilots have a greater responsibility for the operation of their aircraft than drivers have for their cars. I don’t think this should be so; but car drivers are put on the roads (in the U.S.) with minimal training.

Cirrus could have just placarded their design against spins and left it at that. Instead, they incorprated the parachute recovery system. As noted previously, this can cause its own problems; but in my mind it is a good way of solving a problem that can happen when you design an aircraft for a specific mission.

On a tangentally-related note, Robinson R-22 and R-44 helicopters should not enter negative-G flight. Unloading the rotor disc can result in mast-bumping or tail boom chop. After a lawsuit, the FAA required extra training for Robinson pilots so that they can avoid negative-G flight. Why Robbos and not JetRangers? Because Robinsons are frequently flown by fixed-wing pilots who have decided to learn how to fly rotary-wings. Some things you do in a helicopter are opposite from what you do in an airplane. Nose high in an airplane? Push the nose forward. No problem. Nose high in a helicopter? Push forward abruptly, and you’ll unload the rotor disc. There’s nothing wrong with the helicopter; just a lack of training on the part of the pilot.

So I don’t think that most designs are ‘negligent’, simply because they are not meant to be spun. There are, however, some aircraft that I would say were negligently executed, if not negligently designed. I’m going from memory of an old article here. The Piper Tomahawk (‘Traumahawk’) did okay in testing and certification. But IIRC Piper made a change on the production models. Again IIRC, this was the elimination of some wing ribs. (Wing ribs are what give the airfoil shape to the wings.) This made the aircraft cheaper to manufacture, but it also removed some rigidity. Some ‘Traumahawks’ flew very well. Others seem to have been a bit scary due to the unpredicable twisting of the wings. (Once again IIRC, Beechcraft’s similar Skipper did not have these problems, as apparently they did not change the design after certification.)

Piper’s changing of the design is, in my mind, negligent. Designing an aircraft that should not be intentionally spun isn’t.

Argent Towers: Thanks for the mention. :wink:

Lots and lots of aircraft are not certified for intentional spins. The Grumman AA1 used to be used for primary flight training until a few were lost in spin accidents. NASA studied the plane, and discovered it had unrecoverable spin modes. So spins were prohibited, but the aircraft was still manufactured and sold.

I can’t remember the exact requirements for spin certification, but it’s something like the airplane has to be put into a fully-developed spin and then recover within X number of rotations after anti-spin control inputs are added. For certification in the normal category, all an airplane has to do is demonstrate recovery from an incipient spin (one turn, with recovery in one additional turn).

Some aircraft are not certified because they won’t enter a spin and can’t be tested, some because they recover but not within the required number of rotations, and others because the manufacturer never even bothered to attempt spin certification. These aircraft have to have alternative methods of avoiding a spin - stick shakers, pushers, or aerodynamic features that prevent them from stalling. Cirrus SR20 and SR22 and Lancair Columbia 300 were certified by having stall-resistance rather than spin recovery.

Perhaps the NTSB had a better way to put it:

In this ASF report, the following tidbits emerge:

Of course the letter of FAA regulation requires functional BRS because it is standard equipment; this is all a pilot/owner needs to know. However, the fundamental reason the FAA required CAPS as standard equipment is because Cirrus convinced the FAA that a functional BRS eliminated the need for spin recovery or spin resistance, and the lack of either makes CAPS/BRS the only acceptable avenue for the specific certification they sought.