FAA May Not Require Cirrus Jet Chute Test

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The FAA is proposing that Cirrus' new SF50 Vision be able to skip airborne testing of the whole-plane parachute as part of its certification. In a Notice of Proposed Special Conditions issued March 18, the agency says that since the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS) is a "supplemental" safety system on the SF50 and not required for certification its function can be tested without an in-flight deployment "to avoid unnecessary expense and the inherent danger in performing the test." The proposed rule is open for comment until May 2. So far there haven't been any comments. Cirrus spokesman Matt Bergwall said adoption of the special conditions doesn't necessarily mean there won't be an airborne test. "It just gives us flexibility," he said. The proposed rule says that under the terms of special conditions, Cirrus must prove that the parachute system doesn't pose a hazard itself and that it doesn't impair the safe operation of the aircraft. "The applicant does not have to prove or demonstrate that the system works in flight," the proposed rule says. The system is bigger and more complex than other parachute systems and adds a level of automation the FAA says warrants special treatment.

In the SF50, the parachute deployment system will be coupled to the avionics. If the pilot pulls the handle outside the safe operating envelope of the parachute system (67 to 160 knots) the autopilot will take over and bring the plane into those parameters before allowing the chute to deploy. The chute is stored in the nose of the aircraft and is ejected from the compartment with a blast of compressed air before a rocket motor takes over and carries the big canopy clear of the aircraft. Cirrus has been testing the system intensively and Bergwall said there will be some announcements about it in the near future. He also said the certification process remains on schedule for this summer and the company is now working on the type training program for the more than 600 people who have ordered the jet.