The US Federal Aviation Administration is close to completing tests on a parachute system that will allow Cirrus Design's SR20 aircraft to decelerate and drift down to the ground in the event of a mechanical failure or other emergency.

Tests on the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS) should be finished by the end of this month, says Cirrus Design. The company says the four-seat SR20 will be the first certified production aircraft to have an airframe parachute as standard equipment.

"We're not sure exactly when the FAA will sign the system off, but certification should be obtained by the end of the year," it adds.

The FAA tests will essentially repeat a series of trials recently undertaken by Cirrus on the SR20 engineering prototype. These included maximum gross weight deployments at stall speed, manoeuvring speed and at spin entry. The tests are expected to replicate results from the initial series of exercises, which produced descent rates of less than 1,770ft/ min (9m/s) at 5,000ft (1,500m) density altitude.

The parachute, manufactured by Minnesota-based Ballistic Recovery Systems, is of Kevlar and weighs about 25kg. When deployed, the extended skirt parachute is about 16.5m in diameter. Further tests have also been conducted on the parachute itself, including canopy strength tests. These involved deploying the parachute out of a Fairchild C-123 Provider at weights up to 1,634kg (3,600lb) and airspeeds up to 165kt (300km/h).

The certification of the CAPS is expected to dovetail with that of the SR20, which is now in the final stages of processing for Part 23 clearance from the FAA.

Cirrus says it is "still to early to tell" whether the plan to adopt CAPS has resulted in extra sales of the SR20. It has firm orders for 170 systems and says that the product "-will play a key role in selling more aircraft".

Source: Flight International