~ Archive for September 2, 2003 ~

Emergency parachutes for helicopters?


A variety of airplanes and ultralights have parachutes in case of catastrophic airframe failure, mid-air collision, engine failure over the ocean, the only capable pilot on board suffering a heart attack (passenger pulls ‘chute), or any other situation in which for some reason the plane can’t glide in to land.  The company that makes most of these, including the ones in the Cirrus airplane (“a machine for preventing the world from becoming overpopulated with doctors and lawyers”), is http://brsparachutes.com/

As it happens the situations in which a parachute is helpful to an airplane are extremely uncommon and the common hazardous situations that fixed wing pilots get into are not helped by a parachute (hence the Cirrus having a much higher accident and death rate than the venerable Cessna 172, despite the older plane’s lack of parachute).

What about a helicopter though?  If you screw up an autorotation and let the blades get below a critical speed you drop like a rock.  If the tail rotor gets damaged the machine becomes uncontrollable.  If various other parts come off, the machine becomes uncontrollable.  The military sticks various sensors above the rotor blades.  Why not put a parachute up there?  The BRS site shows some that weigh 30-40 lbs. and would easily float a Robinson R22.  Out of the payload of 400 lbs. that’s quite a bite.  Would provide some incentive for helo students to lose weight (my instructor is 190 and I’m 200 so we’d have to lose 10-15 lbs. each to fly with a ‘chute, for example).

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