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Is wearing a personal chute with a bail-out system acceptably safe compared to an airframe chute?

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Cass256

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A lot of people advocate for BRS or similar airframe-attached parachutes on E-ABs for phase one testing especially, but I'm not sure it's feasible on my plane due to its design. I've been thinking about making an emergency release for the door+window & wearing a personal chute (I'll get certified to use one alone, first) like they have in our local flight school's Citabria 7KCAB.

I suppose I'm not really asking if a parachute itself is worth it, though I'm still undecided. Just wondering if it's worth investigating as an alternative to a BRS or airframe chute.
 

TFF

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Even if a plane has a BRS, a personal chute might be what saves you. If you can wear one, don’t know why it would be bad. Emergency chutes are not skydiving chutes. Different details. For skydiver pilots I have heard of some custom changes.

The secret is to practice the exit. You don’t need to skydive if that’s not your thing. You have to practice how to get out and review what would make you jump.

On the Biplane forum a few have first hand experience bailing. Literally like a checklist, have XYZ problem, bail or pull BRS. No questions. One had some video from a bystander in a boat. Over the ocean relatively low, ailerons jammed. Released seatbelt, and he said he jumped like Superman arms up. Half second more and he would have hit the water with a closed chute; one second more and he would have never gotten out in time. You have to be definitive.

I’m for wearing one.
 

kubark42

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There are certain things only a bailout chute can save you from, such as an inflight fire. But the nice thing about a BRS is you don't have to worry about getting the door open and struggling out of a spinning plane, and it can successfully deploy much closer to the ground (because of the rocket assist).

@TFF's advice is spot on, and possibly more impactful than differences between BRS and bailout chute. You need to be ready and prepared to bail, no hesitation. There's a glider pilot who bailed out a few years ago and estimates if he would have waited a quarter of a second longer to pull the ripcord his chute wouldn't have opened in time.
 
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TLAR

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Jumping out of the C130 @ 500ft @ 110 mph, 2 ouculations (sorry for misspell) and your on the ground
You are gonna have to have some altitude
 

Vigilant1

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Jumping out of the C130 @ 500ft @ 110 mph, 2 ouculations (sorry for misspell) and your on the ground
You are gonna have to have some altitude
And that was with a static line, which pulls out the D-bag and gives a relatively quick opening of the canopy. Things take longer with a ripcord, pilot chute, etc, esp at lower airspeeds.
 
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TFF

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Emergency chutes open more abruptly than jump chutes. Some can be quite harsh from what I understand. That time can’t be waisted. Of course I’m only regurgitating what I have learned. I have only been a wearer not a user.

One of the prettiest things I have seen was at a Thunderbirds show. Ten C130s came over the runway and out poured jumpers. I don’t know how many came out but it was impressive. Unluckily about five broke their legs. Slowed their planned quick turnaround.
 

cluttonfred

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  • I wonder...are static lines ever used for aircraft emergency chutes?

  • For Part 103 ultralight aircraft, it's worth looking at Mike Sandlin's use of a very simple and affordable hand-thrown hang-glider emergency chute rather than a ballistic system. From his Bloop FAQ page:
    • What parachute model do you have/ what are some suggested brands/sites?
      I use a High Energy Sports Quantum 440 hang gliding parachute (The 440 means 440 pounds maximum suspended weight, my gross weight in the Bloop is about 390 pounds). My Bloop parachute is just my old hang gliding chest pack chute, the same one I used on the airchairs, a modern but ordinary chute and deployment bag. I suppose any normal hang glider chute would be adequate, sized for a single pilot in a hang glider at the right body weight, as mine was. The chute will have a specified maximum suspended weight limit, it would be best not to exceed that, a bigger parachute should be okay if needed. My system has not been tested or used, so I don't know of any special requirements other than to modify a cover bag so the chute can be removed by an upward pull (see the drawing B4N16). The descent rate under canopy might be fast because the Bloop's weight is greater than that of a hang glider, but this is assumed to be offset by the greater impact protection offered by the pilot being belted into an extended, collapsible airframe. My system is unusual because it is attached so as to lower the plane tail or wing first, destroying the plane on impact but presumably sheltering the pilot.
 
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BJC

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I wonder...are static lines every used for aircraft emergency chutes?
Some aerobatic people, but not many, did that, years ago.

Lots of theories. I elected not to use a static line. Rigger Rob can weigh in on the pros and cons, in including any rigger approvals.

I have seen a successful emergency exit from horizontal flight at low altitude. Probably less than 200 ft, with > 100 MPH; 3/4 of one full oscillation before landing.

BTW, we had a thread on this general subject a few years ago.

BJC
 

Doran Jaffas

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A lot of people advocate for BRS or similar airframe-attached parachutes on E-ABs for phase one testing especially, but I'm not sure it's feasible on my plane due to its design. I've been thinking about making an emergency release for the door+window & wearing a personal chute (I'll get certified to use one alone, first) like they have in our local flight school's Citabria 7KCAB.

I suppose I'm not really asking if a parachute itself is worth it, though I'm still undecided. Just wondering if it's worth investigating as an alternative to a BRS or airframe chute.
There are schools that get into advance bail out training ( we have or had one not far from me ) from spinning aircraft. That would be a must. Otherwise you may be just convincing yourself that you are safer.
I would take a serious look at how to install a brs system on your bird. Also ( being blunt here ) ask yourself about your true comfort level in being airborne.

" Flying in itself is not inherently dangerous but to an even greater extent than the land or the sea, it is terribly unforgiving of any carelessness, incapacity or neglect. "
Wise words written long ago by an author whose name escapes me.
 

kent Ashton

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I don't notice too many chutes in ordinary homebuilts. It is extra weight--especially for a light plane, and repacks are required. Never felt the need for a chute myself. Glider guys use them because they thermal together and sometimes collide. I see the Ridge Runner is already flying. If built to plans and well-inspected, I doubt it will come apart on you. I suggest when you gain confidence in your airplane you will see a chute as unnecessary.
 

gtae07

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I don't notice too many chutes in ordinary homebuilts. It is extra weight--especially for a light plane, and repacks are required. Never felt the need for a chute myself. Glider guys use them because they thermal together and sometimes collide. I see the Ridge Runner is already flying. If built to plans and well-inspected, I doubt it will come apart on you. I suggest when you gain confidence in your airplane you will see a chute as unnecessary.
91.307(c) requires parachutes for all occupants if doing aerobatics with more than one occupant (with certain exceptions). I suspect that this is one of the most-violated/ignored FARs in the books.
 

TFF

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You might not need one in normal operation, but during phase 1 testing, some days it might be smart. VNE dives, G force limits, first time aerobatics solo are all little beacons of do this with common sense. Flying 60 straight and level in a Cub clone, not so much.

On another forum, there is a plane which the owner can’t determine if he has bad engine vibration or airframe vibration. Low time aerobatic homebuilt he finished. Just out of Phase 1. He thought it was engine but he has since changed engines. Low budget engines he is using can be issues there. But odd that different engines and props do the same thing. I believe he is always wearing a chute in this plane, but if he isn’t it would be one I would until I figure it out.
 

Vigilant1

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Regarding static line chutes:
Some aerobatic people, but not many, did that, years ago.
I'm sure they had a good reason, but I wonder what it was. Maybe the idea was that they might still get a chute even if they got knocked unconscious while getting clear of the plane?
When bailing out of a disabled aircraft in an unpredictable attitude, getting clear of the plane is pretty important, and trailing a line between the jumper and the plumetting wreckage-to-be seems like a recipe for entanglement. Also, if the plane is falling and the jumper is falling at nearly the same rate, it could be a long time before that static line pulls the chute out-- and when it does, it might be below the jumper.
But static lines work great for paratroopers. Even then, with a very controlled situation, there's the occasional "hung jumper," with some sad endings.
I am not an expert, and look forward to the thoughts of a pro.
 

Cass256

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There are schools that get into advance bail out training ( we have or had one not far from me ) from spinning aircraft. That would be a must. Otherwise you may be just convincing yourself that you are safer.
I would take a serious look at how to install a brs system on your bird. Also ( being blunt here ) ask yourself about your true comfort level in being airborne.

" Flying in itself is not inherently dangerous but to an even greater extent than the land or the sea, it is terribly unforgiving of any carelessness, incapacity or neglect. "
Wise words written long ago by an author whose name escapes me.
Yes you're right, I was planning on getting trained & certified (?) to use the personal chute. There's a skydiving school not too far from me, hopefully they do the training but I'm sure I'll find somewhere that does.

I have taken a look at installing a BRS, and the unfortunate reality is it would make the airplane uncomfortably tail heavy. If I had an HKS on the nose instead of the 503, it'd probably work out better, but even with mounting it pretty much against the header tank it throws the CG too far back. Attaching it to the airframe isn't a piece of cake either due to its design.

You might not need one in normal operation, but during phase 1 testing, some days it might be smart. VNE dives, G force limits, first time aerobatics solo are all little beacons of do this with common sense. Flying 60 straight and level in a Cub clone, not so much.

On another forum, there is a plane which the owner can’t determine if he has bad engine vibration or airframe vibration. Low time aerobatic homebuilt he finished. Just out of Phase 1. He thought it was engine but he has since changed engines. Low budget engines he is using can be issues there. But odd that different engines and props do the same thing. I believe he is always wearing a chute in this plane, but if he isn’t it would be one I would until I figure it out.
This was exactly my thoughts, too - A majority of fatalities happen during phase 1 according to the NTSB, I'd definitely have it on every flight for the first 40 hours. After that, having a removable chute gives me the choice to bring it or not - 20 minute hop over farmland to the next airport? Probably not necessary. But a 2 hour XC over mountains? Definitely gonna wear it.

I probably won't even use it most of the time, since the airplane is basically a chromoly roll cage that stalls at 30mph, but I'd rather have a bailout if the plane becomes uncontrollable.
 

BJC

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Regarding static line chutes:

I'm sure they had a good reason, but I wonder what it was. Maybe the idea was that they might still get a chute even if they got knocked unconscious while getting clear of the plane?
When bailing out of a disabled aircraft in an unpredictable attitude, getting clear of the plane is pretty important, and trailing a line between the jumper and the plumetting wreckage-to-be seems like a recipe for entanglement. Also, if the plane is falling and the jumper is falling at nearly the same rate, it could be a long time before that static line pulls the chute out-- and when it does, it might be below the jumper.
But static lines work great for paratroopers. Even then, with a very controlled situation, there's the occasional "hung jumper," with some sad endings.
I am not an expert, ...
Neither am I.

I do, however, have 10 jumps / 8 free-falls worth of experience, (not much, but enough to have a good idea of what it will take to get out, get stable - assuming adequate altitude - open, steer and land) plus jump plane piloting experience.

I think that the reasons some used static lines reflected thinking like you suggested. Personally, I never wanted a static line, and did not like flying first-time, static line, beginners.

When I was flying serious aerobatics, I was younger, much more agile, and was able to quickly exit a Pitts. I had hard airspeed-altitude-attitude limits at which I would attempt to bail out. For example, based on lots of on-the-ground and in the air practice, I was prepared to attempt a bail out at 100 feet AGL->100MPH-level flight. Vertical down at 200MPH was much higher. The key is to set achievable limits, and bail out when they are reached.

Aside: I know (knew) several pilots who inadvertently entered an inverted spin, usually from a botched hammerhead. They looked up (relative to the pilot), above the wing, and thought that the spin was in one direction when, in fact, it was in the other direction. Incorrect rudder didn’t stop the spin, so they decided to bail. When they turned loose of the stick to open the canopy, the airplane stopped spinning, so they flew home with shaking legs.


BJC
 

Twodeaddogs

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As an example of static lines in use to activate a parachute, in my former military life, the Fouga jet trainers required that the pilot(s) wore a seat-type parachute as they had no ejection seats and were good for 360 kts and a static line was clipped onto the canopy so that if you had to bail out, the pilot rolled the aircraft onto it's back, jettisoned the canopy,opened his seat belt and pushed the stick forward. This was supposed to pop the pilot out to avoid the V-tail, while drawing the chute out of it's pack. Thankfully, we never had one crash so never found out if it worked or not.
 

BJC

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t if you had to bail out, the pilot rolled the aircraft onto it's back, jettisoned the canopy,opened his seat belt and pushed the stick forward.
I always chuckle at such procedures. You need to exit the aircraft, but the assumption is that there is adequate control to execute the procedure. BTW, when flying inverted following a half roll, once the seat belt is opened, the opportunity to push forward no longer exists.


BJC
 

Riggerrob

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Dear Cass256,
First off: congratulations on nearing your first flight. All those hours of cutting and gluing will be replaced by a huge smile!

Secondly, there is plenty of good advice above.
yes a personal parachute is reasonable alternative. It is the old-school method, but still viable today. Do you still have an extra 2 or 4 inches of extra leg-room? ... enough to accommodate a typical back-type pilot emergency parachute?

Definitely install quick-release doors and practice rushed exits with an aerobatic instructor or old-school skydiver (hint: I started jumping more than 40 years ago back when round parachutes were fashionable).

I sewed up static-lines while working for Butler and Paraphernalia (Softie series of PEPs) and think they are a good idea. The S/L needs to be long enough to extend from a seat-belt anchor to just beyond the rudder or wing tip - which ever is longer.

Most of the time I recommend all-airframe-parachutes (e.g. Ballistic Recovery Systems) because the cost, weight and maintenance are roughly the same over their 20 year life , but training and pre-flight is vastly simpler. If you carry inexperienced passengers, CAP are the obvious choice.
If you grumble about the high cost of a BRS try buying an 18-year old BRS from an airplane that is retiring. The old BRS will provide “insurance” until the end of your Phase 1 testing, then the excess weight can be removed.

OTOH if you only want to wear a parachute for phase one testing, I still recommend a CAP/BRS. If installing it inside the fuselage unbalances your airplane, may I suggest installing it on top of the wing (ala. Sea Ray)?
 
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Vigilant1

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... a static line was clipped onto the canopy so that if you had to bail out, the pilot rolled the aircraft onto it's back, jettisoned the canopy,opened his seat belt and pushed the stick forward. This was supposed to pop the pilot out to avoid the V-tail, while drawing the chute out of it's pack.
So the jettisoned canopy pulls out the D-bag while the pilot is still in the seat? There's no way anyone could push out of the aircraft between the time the canopy jettisons and the static line gets taught. I'm probably missing something here.
 

in2flight

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I have been a pilot for about 40 years, and a skydiver for a little more than that. For 36 years I have also been a parachute designer, test jumper, and manufacturer. I have had several skydiver friends who also were jump pilots and a handful of them had to leave a "perfectly good airplane that wasn't airworthy any more. This is what I THINK I have learned during this time:

1. It is way easy to get out of a stable airplane flying level at about 70-85 knots, power at idle. Like slipping into a nice hot tub for me. Going much over 100-120knots is not much fun at all- even in a stable airplane. My max exit speeds have been 170 knots, from a tailgate airplane, with one side door exit at 205knots.

2. Getting out of an airplane with a structural failure of a control system failure is a totally different animal. things happen really really fast, and I have lost a few friends from this over the last forty years that were very competent and physically fit people.

3. Many airplanes just don't have a good configuration for getting out of--without hitting the tail. This is particularly airplanes true with bubble canopies and tight entrances. I have seen videos of tail strikes on actual bailouts of disabled warbirds, and there have even been skydivers who have managed to hit the tail on normal exits on some airplanes. That takes some effort on most jump planes...

4. As for altitude loss during the opening, someone mentioned getting out of a fast C-130 at very low altitude. The very low altitude loss is due to the high speed and the time spent in the forward throw which is present when leaving an aircraft in level flight. The parachute would open very differently if the C-130 was disabled and going vertical at the same speed, and would take a LOT more altitude.

So the above items are what I believe I know, and now what follows is what I think I would do personally. These are my opinions based on my experience and my personal beliefs and should be different for other folks:

1. I fly four pretty interesting airplanes, only half of which would be reasonably practical to leave if things went really bad. There isn't really any room for parachutes in any of them for a guy my size, and the other two are just so hard to get in and out of when they are sitting on the ground. I don't do aerobatics and don't carry a parachute in any of these airplanes.

2. If I owned a plane that had a "whole plane" parachute, I would certainly use it in the case that a good landing could not be made in a very safe location. (I do realize that this attitude has been botched by many Cirrus owners, and that statistics are much better for Cirruses once the company was able to encourage folks to actually use the parachute instead of trying to be a hero.)

3. Again, this is a personal belief, but I believe that when I decide to aviate and something happens, I have a responsibility to make sure that my aircraft won't harm others. I will pick the best place to land if something happens in an airplane that isn't on fire and still has a functional control system. If i am in a sparsely populated area with hostile terrain, I would use the plane parachute, or a bailout rig, if either were available.

4. The part that bugs me with my fleet, is when I do long cross countries at a high altitude over unpopulated mountainous areas. Yes it is a risk... I sure would love to have rig I could wear in my plane in that situation, especially in my faster airplane where the most likely outcome would be very bad. I would love to build a parachute system that would fit me and my plane in a way to make it easier to exit. I haven't done that because I wouldn't want to certify it for one rig, and I wouldn't be willing to sell it to those who don't understand the rig. I also won't violate the regulations by wearing a safe but illegal rig, as there is too much is at stake for me. I would definitely use a whole parachute plane in the above scenario if it would allow me to stay within CG limits with Glasair with a a little luggage in the back.

5. I have had two full power failures, one in a Cessna a long time ago, and one in my Glasair 1TD when it was really new to me. I was able to make the runway safely on both of them, and consider luck to be a part of that... I have had three partial power failures all which ended up on the runway. In a way, the partials seem more challenging. The last couple of years I decided to carefully work on learning about the so-called"impossible turn," and now know the lowest reasonable altitude that make it around to the runway on the two airplanes I have practiced this on the most. I also include an extra margin and think about this on every take off. I haven't gone through this process with the Glasair, as I need to gain quite a bit more respect for it before I work on that-- even if only up high. I only have 450 hours in it...

My two cents. Yours will differ, as it should. Everyone is different.

in2flight
 
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