CAPS, otherwise known as the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System, is a Parachute System which had been the heart of all Cirrus Aircraft since 1999. Cirrus Aircraft have been built around the CAPS system, to ensure it’s the safest General Aviation Aircraft on the Market, which it has proven to be.
So, why CAPS? In 1985, one of the original owners of Cirrus (Alan K) survived a mid-air collision, after he collided with another aircraft on a Base to Final turn, Alan, lost 3 feet of his wing, the other aircraft entered a spin, the occupant was killed on impact. After this Experience the brothers decided to develop an Aeroplane around the CAPS System, thus, the Cirrus SR20, then SR22 and recently the SF50.
CAPS is quite a simple System:
1-The Rocket, is launched after the Red CAPS Handle is pulled (located above the center storage compartment).
2-The Parachute follows the Rocket, initially slowing the Aircraft down.
3-The aeroplane enters a Nose-Down attitude.
4-The Reefer ring, slides down the Lines, allowing the Parachute to fully deploy. (The Reefer ring is in-place to ensure the initial moments after the CAPS Deployment are as smooth as possible, if the parachute was to fully open initially, it would rip of the Airframe)
After the SR20 was released, the Fatal accidents in the Cirrus where above average. Much like the Ejection Seat, Pilots where hesitant or wouldn’t use the CAPS due to the ‘I don’t need a Parachute’ state of mind. After Cirrus gave Pilots the proper training, the Fatal accident rates dropped dramatically. But unfortunately, to date, there are still Cirrus Pilots, who refuse to use the CAPS.
And still today, there have been no fatal accidents due to the Deployment of CAPS within the published requirements.
So, in the event of a Forced Landing, why would you use CAPS?
-Unless you have studied every single field in the world, and have checked that it’s suitable to land an Aeroplane in, a Forced Landing is not ensured to be survivable.
-Why would you want to die with a perfectly good parachute behind you?
-You won’t be classed as a ‘Better Pilot’ because you took an unnecessary risk.
So, your flying along, Engine Failure at 1000ft. What do you do? Do you pull CAPS or no.
Personally, I wouldn’t hesitate, at 1000ft, there is a very small amount of time to make a decision.
Field, Troubleshoot, CAPS.
Any questions on CAPS, ask away :)