Graham Warwick/ATLANTA

BALLISTIC RECOVERY System (BRS) has conducted the first test of the emergency parachute for Cirrus Design's SR20 light aircraft. The SR20, scheduled for certification in mid-1997, will be the first production light aircraft fitted with a recovery-parachute system as standard.

BRS, based in South St Paul, Minnesota, is developing a new rocket motor for the SR20 recovery system, which is larger than any produced previously by the company. The 700Nsec motor is designed to extract and deploy a 16kg parachute canopy, stored in the SR20 fuselage, in 1.5sec.

The company has sold more than 12,000 emergency-parachute systems for ultra-light aircraft, and certificated a version for the Cessna 150, but admits that the SR20's 1,300kg gross weight and Cirrus' requirement for a 205kt (380km/h) deployment-speed capability are "-engineering challenges beyond systems built by BRS in the past".

Chief engineer Tony Kasher does not see any insurmountable obstacles. "True, it is a larger system intended for possible use at higher speeds than anything we've done before, but our technology appears quite adequate to complete the project successfully," he says.

BRS hopes to use new "composite-canopy" technology to reduce the weight and bulk of the parachute by up to 50%. The company has just received a two-year, $500,000 NASA contract to continue work on advanced parachute materials, including testing of full-sized composite canopies.

Under an initial $70,000 NASA contract, completed in 1995, BRS tested subscale parachutes using advanced materials. Existing parachutes are made from sewn Nylon fabric. The company hopes to establish a production capability for composite canopies by 1998.

Cirrus is to build a new manufacturing site in Grand Forks, North Dakota, where it will make composite sub-components for the four-seat Cirrus SR20. The 6,270m2 (67,500ft2) site will support the start of SR20 production which is due to begin in early 1997 with the expected completion of Cirrus' main site in Duluth, Minnesota. Cirrus plans to begin work by the end of July on the new North Dakota site in the city's industrial park. A second site will also be built at Grand Forks International Airport, to provide a flight-test centre and a final assembly line for "future SR20-series aircraft".

The company has received more than 100 orders for the SR20 and expects to receive US Federal Aviation Administration Part 23 certification in mid-1997. More than 500 flight test hours have so far been amassed on two Teledyne Continental IO-360-powered SR20 prototypes.

Source: Flight International