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Cirrus explores physical, financial parachutes

Cirrus has begun preliminary flight tests of a two-stage “smart” whole airframe parachute system for the 2,725kg (6,000lb) SF50 Vision single-engined jet.

Officials continue to probe characteristics of the proof-of-concept composite aircraft and seek capital to move project into the conforming prototype stage.

Dale Klapmeier, Cirrus chairman, told Flight International during a 6 October owners gathering in Manassas, Virginia that the jet’s airframe protection system will use air data to determine “how it will deploy itself”. Once deployed, a first parachute will stabilise the aircraft and set the proper speed for the second and final parachute to deploy, he said.

 © Cirrus

Cirrus plans to perform two manned parachute deployments, says chief test pilot Mike Stevens, who flew two high-speed passes and one low-speed landing configuration fly-by at the Manassas event. He says the “V1” proof-of-concept aircraft, which had logged 297 flight hours as of 6 October, had recently completed with “no surprises” a high-altitude upset manoeuvre that will be required by the US Federal Aviation Administration for SF50 certification.

Conforming with the test requirements, Stevens took the SF50 to its design maximum mach speed of M0.55, equivalent to 285kt (527km/h) airspeed, pushed the nose down 7° and held the nose-low attitude for 20s, letting speed build.

“It simulates someone not paying attention at altitude,” says Stevens, adding that the test verifies that proper design margins are in place to prevent high-speed issues such as flutter. He notes that Cirrus will set the maximum dive Mach number to M0.60, above which he says European certification requirements “get tougher”.

Along with the preparation for future FAA certification testing, such as the high-speed dive, and development of a third-generation flap system with a new aerofoil for the Williams FJ33-4A-19-powered personal jet, the parachute system represents the bulk of the flight- testing effort as the company waits on a fresh round of financing to put the project on a fast track.

Engineers, meanwhile, are “doing as much design work as they can” without cutting metal on the first conforming prototype, C0 (conforming zero), says Klapmeier.

A new round of financing for the jet is expected to be secured by the end of the year, says Todd Simmons, vice-president of marketing. Simmons says the investment environment is looking up, with the company going from a “how do we survive” position last year to being more than $30 million ahead in operating cash this year despite a flat delivery projection of 268 aircraft.

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