April 10, 2005 Leonardo Da Vinci was the first person to conceive the parachute, documenting his idea 500 years ago but it was not until we had airplanes that the idea really offered some compelling functionality. Practical parachutes for aircrew came into usage during World War 1 and were subsequently extended to the cushioned descent of large supply payloads where an aircraft cannot land. But it took another seven decades before the parachute was commercially available for an aircraft via Ballistic Recovery Systems (BRS), the whole-airplane parachute company. Initially for ultralights and small aircraft, the parachutes have been growing in strength and capability ever since and late last year BRS released a parachute to cover the Cessna 182 line of aircraft.
This week, the company’s pioneering aviation work was recognised when it received a prestigious Laureate Award from Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine. Each spring since 1956, Aviation Week publishers have honoured individuals and teams who have made lasting contributions to the advancement of aerospace.
BRS was the first ever recipient of a new Laureate award category; the Business and General Aviation class. In giving the award, Aviation Week praised BRS for its innovation and advances in aviation safety writing, “Ballistic Recovery Systems will be recognized for its ongoing research, and development programs to equip ultra lights and light airplanes with emergency parachute systems for the specific purpose of saving life and offering pilots a last-resort option in life-threatening situations.”
The drive to take the long-dreamt-of whole aircraft parachute from concept to market came in 1975 when Minnesota inventor and aviator Boris Popov survived a 400- foot fall in a collapsed hang glider.
"As I fell, I became most angry at my inability to do something. I had time to throw a parachute." Shortly after surviving that fall he founded the company and Popov the inventor, now serves on the BRS board of directors.
Since the early 1980's, BRS has delivered over 19,000 parachute systems to aircraft owners around the and its parachute system has been credited with saving 177 lives and a record 18 lives during 2004.
The most recent save happened on September 19th, over Northern California while William Graham and his wife Barbara were flying a Cirrus Design SR22. Graham deployed his on board emergency parachute and landed safely in a walnut orchard near Stockton, California. One of the most vivid memories for the pilot and his passenger, "We were getting wet from the dreary weather and rain so once we touched down, I climbed back into the plane and shut the door." Graham, a certified safety flight instructor, also remembers, "My wife, Barbara, said afterwards what a great relief it was to see the yellow harnesses reaching up into the clouds after deployment, we had to deploy and the system worked perfectly -- BRS saved our lives!"