Jump to content

When to pull the 'chute

Doug G.

Recommended Posts

I have been in conversation with a few CFIs and there seems to be some difference in when they would pull the BRS. I am not talking about minimum altitude but what situation would warrant it. I tell my wife who has no flying experience (I hope to rectify some of that) if I become incapacitated to go through the proceedures and pull the handle.

I know some of you live in places where you may be able to find a landing place fairly easy. In the winter my choice would be a road, but I know that would be difficult and iffy on a small country road even when there is likely to be no traffic, there may be powerlines and other obsacles.. Landing in a field with a number of feet of snow is certainly going to flip the plane.

So I guess the question is, if you have an engine failure and there is no restart, would you pull the handle? I'd especially like to know what the CFIs on the forum teach their students. The plane is insured, do you limit risk by using the airframe 'chute?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 127
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Generally I teach my students if they have an engine failure with no restart and can make a runway, a road without power lines with little traffic, or a smooth open field, go ahead and execute a power off approach to landing. If all you can find is trees, tall bushes, rough terrain, or its night time, or over water use the parachute. Ultimately the lives in the plane are priceless, I can always get another plane.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Flying some 25 years with 1000s of hours in ultralights, and now with several hundred hours on my ctsw .....

Forget you have a chute, learn to "really" fly the plane. If a wing folds and your spinning or you look out and your tail section has come off.....yep its time to pull the chute.Engine quits ...just fly it....flies really nice without engine.

Remeber if that chute doesnt work youre pretty much guaranteed "DEAD" If it works and you drift in to power line :dead again".

Fly it to the ground land in any farm field, road,driveway,golf course, ballfield, parking lot......, if it flips over oh well. You will do equally if not more damage laniding by using the chute.(if it works)

I trust my flying ability way more than i trust BRS! Dont get me wrong my chutes not for sale. With all my years of ultralight flying i was taught to always be looking for places to land. You cant see powerlines but you can see the poles!

Good luck and i hpe no one ever needs there chutes.

Just my two cents


ps. I dont have insurance either



Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is often a hot topic.


Lots of Cirrus pilots have died who would have survived if they had pulled.


Good video on the pros and cons here:


Its a presentation about the CAPS system on the Cirrus - its long but worthwhile.


BTW, there's lots of talk about the possible negative consequences of a chute pull. To date, in the Cirrus no chute pull within design parameters has resulted in fatalities.


Take time to watch the video, then come to your own conclusions.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My eyesight is still good enough to avoid all those things you mention. What happens if you pull the chute it doesnt get all the way out and begins to drag behind you? Or it does go all the way out and doesnt open completly.

I can guarantee my flying ability but have ZERO faith in "pulling a chute" IDIOT decison if you still have wings and a tail............


Link to comment
Share on other sites


Thank you for posting this link to a great video. I am going to ask that those members of our club that fly our Lsa view it. I won't get into my personal choice of when to pull to avoid a debate, which no one ever wins, I will tell you that I have a much better idea of what it takes to pull it after doing this in the RedBird simulator they had set up at Oshkosh. Whew!


I always explain the BRS system, it's operation and what can be expected should deployment take place to anyone that gets into my aircraft.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm glad you guys took the time to view it - it IS sobering.


This comes up every six months or so, so a lot of you have already seen the account below. I was reminded of it when Rick Beach talks about pilots who were just briefed on chute usage that, in the simulator, still generally have to die once to get the message.


I know I did!




COPA post, 9/2/2006:


Last Saturday was the nice little fly-in into Kennesaw, GA.


Part of the “hook” was a chance to try out the SimTrain Cirrus simulator nearby.


While my basic flying skills weren’t too bad, I sort of blew two emergency scenarios, though the first was at least survivable.


Scenario 1


Right after takeoff, it became apparent the “plane” was no longer climbing. The good news is that I decreased pitch enough to keep flying and managed to land on the remaining runway.


The bad news is that the instructor (Joe Davis) had failed the oil pressure at the beginning of the takeoff roll, and I hadn’t noticed it.


My bad, and no excuses, but...


...I normally take off with the Emax screen up. Because I wasn’t using my personalized checklist, I did not have the Emax screen displayed. I generally monitor the climb of EGTs, the CHTs and the RPM. I don’t know that I generally scan the other gauges, though now I’ll probably start. I still may have seen the red “abnormal” oil pressure display, but since I missed the “Oil” annunciator, I’m not 100% sure of that, either.


Scenario 2


At some point in the flight, at about 4,000’, the plane entered what seemed to be a spin. I pushed the stick forward, determined the direction of rotation and pushed opposite rudder. I think I retarded the throttle as well. I seemed to be making some progress (I thought) when someone in the peanut gallery said “chute?”. Seemed like a plan and I reached up for the handle, but it was blocked by the cover. I spent a second or two fumbling with the tiny pull-tab on the cover, and then hit the ground. Yikes.


Turns out the left wing had departed and the “spin” was unrecoverable.


This was a real eye-opener to me. I had wondered why the NY pilots who spun never pulled the chute and was certain I would have. Now I’m not so sure.




1) Once the plane started to “spin” the only term I can think of is “task fixation”. I was 100% wrapped up in recovering from the spin. I’ve done hundreds of spins in the past and managed to recover from each and every one, so why not this one?


Warren Zevon (R.I.P.) sang “You’re a whole ‘nother person when you’re scared”. Even in a simulation this was pretty intense and the amount of fixation was remarkable. Kind of like tunnel vision with blinders to any other task.


2) IMHO, having the CAPS cover in place could have fatal consequences. In this case, I don’t care what the POH says (and that means something coming from me!). If the cover is a required placard, maybe it could be Velcro’d to the ceiling next to the handle (I think Mike has the “Pull Procedure” laminated in the handle’s recess). Turns out in my scenario I also had the pin in place - again, I blame this on not having my own checklist which I’m very used to. Still, it shows poor use of the checklist which was provided.


3) I thought Mike R’s “BAM-touch head-grab handle” exercise was cute but a bit over-the-top. I take it back, and will practice it myself in the future.


Similarly, I was impressed when Jeff Seymore briefed the takeoff by showing, on the backup altimeter, the altitude where he would start considering the ‘chute and no longer commit to a straight ahead landing if the engine failed. Again, a good idea which I may incorporate into my own routine.


Anyway, I learned a lot in a very short time (15 minutes?) and plan on going back, next time on my own dime. I figure if I go every other month and shoot at least 3 approaches and do some holds/intercepts, at least I’ll stay current. And I’m sure they have more of these wicked little scenarios I can screw up!


Link to This Post | Quick Reply

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have 3 forced landings under my belt, 1 with the right main gear leg snapped off. Two of my forced landings where with a BRS aboard so I know I would land, I know I keep cool.I have a few hundred landings on roads, drive ways, fields and terrain.


If I had a Cirrus considerations would be different both off field landings and deployments are less survivable. In my CT I am going to dead stick it. How many of you have done dead stick landings in your CT? If you have your options open up a little.


Flying at Page is a great example, would you pull at Powell's rim? You could pendulum all the way down smacking the vertical walls as you go.


Would you pull over water? Your contact on the belly wouldn't be softened by the gear like it would be on land, might you break your back when you could have stalled it just above the surface?


Over the Sierra Nevada I would land on a dirt road or an up slope but over the Cascades I would more likely deploy and hopefully have a climbing rope aboard to get out of the doug fir.


Here in Mono County they leave the snow stakes up all year long now so landing on roads can take some crow hops and swerves to avoid them.


Laughing. If you try to land on a road with fence and power lines you will be dead. If you try to land on a rocky mountain top or a narrow canyon you will be dead. If you try to land in a field and hit a cow, or a big rock, into a barbed wire fence, or into a gully you will be dead. If the chute fails to open, you still have the option to glide and try your luck. The chute is there for a reason, use it.


We used to conduct a moonlight fly-in on the lake bed in Eureka Valley before it became part of Death Valley. We would hike the largest sand dune in the US and fly para-gliders to the camp sites in the moon light. A friend hit the only bolder on the lake bed with the nose wheel on his Cardinal. He did have to trailer the Cessna home but no-one died or even got hurt.


I'll pull my chute If I have no options but I'm probably going to land it so that I remain in control.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

First, each of us needs to decide the situations that we will pull the chute and hold to this plan. Indecision in an emergency is a very bad thing....


My personal criteria is much like Eric's. For an engine out, I'll fly the airplane and if the landing surface is smooth and firm, land without the chute. If not, or I'm not sure, I'll fly the airplane to the general area then pull the chute at a safe altitude.


For airframe issues, I'll pull the chute if the plane is not controllable.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Spin entry in the pattern or at low altitude I'd pull.


Maybe, just maybe, if you spun at 1,000' and IMMEDIATELY pulled the handle, there might be a slim chance it would activate in time.


But I doubt it.


There's a very human and innate "lag time" - call it "deer in the headlights" or "Oh sh*t!" or whatever. When something unexpected happens, without precise and repetitive training you can pretty much count "One-Mississippi-Two-Mississippi-Three-Mississippi" before any action is taken. In those precious moments the plane would have already spun in before you could even make the decision to pull, much less give the chute time to deploy.


I'd love to see you demonstrate a successful chute pull from a spin begun at pattern altitude. Maybe you could find a simulator and prove me wrong, and I'll eat my words.


But until then, I think the most likely outcome of a spin in the pattern is death - chute or no chute. We must train and train and train so it never gets to that point.


I see numerous situations where I would deploy upon losing power on departure.


Agreed. Even when "too low", a partially deployed chute can slow you down, kinda like a drag chute. If you're going down in inhospitable terrain right after takeoff anyway, its hard to see how the chute slowing you down could make things worse!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Altitude loss in spins is another animal


But recovery from a spin is a far different matter, and takes much more altitude, even with skilled pilots. A NASA study done in the late 1970s proved that the average altitude loss in spins done with a Grumman American AA-1 (Yankee) and a Piper PA-28R (Arrow), two popular single-engine aircraft, was nearly 1,200 feet. "


From an AOPA Air Safety Institute publication, date not certain.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

If the plane is still flyable then the quickest way out of the fire is to get to the ground ASAP (like 5 minutes ago). I have had my plane in a dive at 160 mph at 3300 fpm at idle and that would still be too long for me. Pulling the chute will delay that and allow the fire to consume more of the plane and you. If the plane is not flyable or controllable then you would have no choice or impact the ground at high speed and die anyway. In the fire service you have two options. Remove the people from the fire to protect them or remove the fire from the people. In the plane if you can't remove the threat of fire then your only choice is to remove the person from the fire and you can't do that on a slow float to the ground scenario. Down to the ground ASAP and exit the aircraft would be the best option. Tiny fires people tend to survive large fully evolved fires they don't. The main fire load is the engine fuel and oil, in the cabin it's all the materials inside like seats, plastics, wire insulation behind the instrument panel, paper products in the cabin and unfortunately your cloths. A little smoke from the engine compartment is one thing, flames exiting and spreading,,,, gruesome.


This is why I have advocated to remove the extinguisher from behind the seat which is almost impossible to get to and especially in a panic. I try to get everyone to place it in the foot well. It access is easy and quick. The key to fire knockdown and or extinguishment is quick and hard application of a fire suppressant.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Maybe, just maybe, if you spun at 1,000' and IMMEDIATELY pulled the handle, there might be a slim chance it would activate in time.


But I doubt it.


There's a very human and innate "lag time" - call it "deer in the headlights" or "Oh sh*t!" or whatever....


The last stall/spin in the pattern here left a skyhawk with its nose planted in the dirt just a few hundred feet from the departure end of the runway. This pilot took off fully loaded, 4 people and luggage, from a high altitude strip, probably didn't lean for best power and he failed to out climb the uphill runway to a point where he could turn crosswind.


For and extend period ( 7,000' runwayy ) this pilot failed to establish a continuous positive rate of climb and he entered a stall spin with the elevator at or near full deflection. The point is he was probably expecting it, he knew he was in trouble, he just didn't know how to get out of it.


If I am having departure issues or issues at low altitude I have to remind myself that there is no time, I have to be thinking about the chute before I decide to pull it. Higher up I have some o shit time.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yep, a fire in a plastic plane is a bad deal.


The chute for planes is like airbags in cars 20 years ago. I remember folks arguing in driver's ed. class that airbags might be harmful in some car crash situations. We'll, yeah, but that's not the way to bet. For our little planes, the chute is the biggest safety improvement ever! Those that argue otherwise are simply making an incorrect risk analysis. The best instructor I've ever had did not buy a chute for his Remos thinking students might use it improperly. I think that's a huge mistake and miscalculation.


In 20 years there will be no argument about the cost or effectiveness of chutes. Until then, use it prudently and liberally for your own circumstances.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Engine fire? Pull the chute. Entire plane on fire? Kiss your sweet butt bye bye. The CTLS is not designed to spin. Placards in the plane clearly say not to do it. If you get into one accidentally you might have bigger problems in a breakup than a chute could solve. Still. you will pull that chute if you WANT to pull it. its not like the thing will make it worse. it wont. USE THE DAMN THING.


The best way to put out an engine fire in flight is to shut off the fuel source and dive the airplane to flood the fire with too much oxygen to support the flame. I think ASTM rules requires spin testing and recovery from spins. I was told the CT has been spin tested, but they don't want the liability from allowing spins.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Engine fire? Pull the chute. Entire plane on fire? Kiss your sweet butt bye bye. The CTLS is not designed to spin. Placards in the plane clearly say not to do it. If you get into one accidentally you might have bigger problems in a breakup than a chute could solve. Still. you will pull that chute if you WANT to pull it. its not like the thing will make it worse. it wont. USE THE DAMN THING.


Use the damn thing when? After an inadvertent stall/spin entry? If its a base to final turn then yes I'll use it and hopefully I'll be quick about it. A stall / spin at altitude calls for a recovery not destroying the aircraft. Unnecessarily destroying the aircraft would be a definition of making things worse.



If the airplane enters an inadvertent spin, push

the rudder opposite the spin direction. Position the control stick in neutral position for

recovery. After the spin rotation stops, recover to level flight carefully to not exceed Vne,

or the load limits of the aircraft.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

No. The POH and the Placards say NO SPINS. this is not an insurance issue. it is a design and structure issue. modeling of the plane no doubt has led to the limitations placed in WRITTEN restrictions on the aircraft. sure you have to be taught what a spin is, and how they happen. but if you are in a CTLS and someone takes the plane into a spin and you survive it, suggest you dont go up with that guy again.


the discussion was would the parachute catch fire if the plane was on fire. we all know what the emergency procedure is for an engine fire. that is not the point. the point is, what good is the chute if it catches fire. the answer is obvious.


I quoted your post that mentioned spins and you saying theat the airplane might break up if a spin is entered by accident. Yes, the airplane AOI and placards say no spins. I don't plan on spinning the airplane because of that. Just because the limitations are there doesn't mean that there is a structural or design problem with the airplane. I ask about spins some time ago. At either Sebring or Oshkosh I ask someone from the factory about this. I was told the airplane has been spin tested.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...