Parachutes were initially invented for the secure landing of a person descending from high altitudes. And they are still used more commonly in these types of situations. The military forces around the world employ the use of parachutes and their respective needed training for special attacks or in rescue missions.
The design of a parachute helps decrease the speed of the fall caused by gravity and the weight of a person or any other object. Without a parachute the chances of surviving a fall from an airplane would be zero, by obvious reasons.
Thanks to the parachute a person can descend much slower and land safely. It is also employed in the extreme sport called parachuting or as a unique and popular adventurous activity, called skydiving, which is basically a synonym of parachuting.
So, we all understand that parachutes are an amazing source of help when it comes to impacting land… but is it possible for a whole airplane to use a parachute? And with this question, we don’t refer to the passengers… we mean the aircraft.
Would you think that a parachute big enough for a whole airplane could exist for emergencies?
Well, the answer is yes… and no.
Yes because some aircrafts actually already have this kind of parachute integrated and have even used them, but as of late 2013, the largest type of airplane that has carried and used an attached parachute, was a light five-passenger one.
That’s where the “no” answer comes in. You see, different manufacturers have been, and still are, working on making this a reality, but it is definitely not an easy task. That’s why only relatively small aircrafts have had the opportunity to count on a parachute for security.
Another question comes to surface at this point, as well. If it’s so much of a trouble to adhere a parachute to the entire airplane, why not include small parachutes for individuals, along with, or maybe even instead of, the current life jackets that commercial airplanes have with them?
That’s a good question. And we have a good answer. According to several specialized, trained and experimented personnel, it would actually turn out to be more dangerous to actually carry parachutes as a safety measure for commercial airplane passengers.
If you’re an adventurous type of person, and by chance you’ve done skydiving, then you can relate more to this fact. When a person goes out to skydive, there is an instructor (or more than one) giving you indications, basic land training and they help you with all the necessary equipment you need to take; from the special suit, to the eye protection, the safety straps, etc.
And they don’t just give it to you, and expect you to know exactly how to put it on and adjust it where it needs to be adjusted. No, of course not, they walk you through the entire steps.
That being said, it would be completely counterproductive to include parachutes in commercial airplanes and expect everyone to calmly and correctly wear the parachute equipment, which in such a tense and dangerous moment would cause more chaos without a doubt.
So, yes. Parachutes can be used for whole aircrafts and save lives, but only for small ones, still. But that’s actually good news because it means that we’ve had a major progress in aircraft security.
Engineers, manufacturers and a group of people in the NASA keep experimenting and developing new technologies to make it possible for a big airplane to carry a parachute not too far into the future.
Cessna and Cirrus are some of the companies that are working hard in the development of this equipment. Another big name in the industry at the moment is Boris Popov, who is the founder of Ballistic Recovery Systems, which is based in Miami.
Popov has been investigating and experimenting for many years now. He was motivated and inspired by an experience he had when he was a young man. Years ago, he was flying a glider, when he suddenly lost control of it and was dropped into a lake from about 500 meters high. He survived and encouraged himself to find better ways to manage and offer aviation safety.
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