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Frequently Asked Questions about Ballistic Chutes
*BRS in this application does not necessarily imply the trade name BRS™ but rather the generic term for Ballistic Recovery System.
What was OEM ?
All Falcons came factory equipped with BRS systems. The single seat UL had a canopy rated at 500 pounds, the 2 seat XP at 750 pounds
What guns were used ?
The earlier models had drogue guns of a cylindrical shape of shiny aluminum, about 2" in diameter and about 8" long with two firing pins enclosed, recessed. Later versions had rectangular black guns about 2x3x4, with two firing pins sticking up, externally. In all cases the dual firing pins would be made to fire a rim style cartridge, which then activated a black powder charge, which in turn would propel the single slug out of the opposite end. The lanyard, which was attached to the slug would pull the chute out of the bag, rather quickly. None were rockets, as used in today’s applications.
TEK-ORD Black Gun
Who made them ?
The guns were made by a company called Tec-Ord. They are still in business but no longer cater to that market and will not be of any help. I am not certain who made the canopies. Could be Tec Ord or Second Chantz, but cannot be sure.
Who will service them ?
There is no one to service the guns. Although they are not sealed units ( they can be taken apart ) they are not field serviceable. They are however rugged and water resistant and will probably last forever if kept dry and clean, not unlike a shotgun shell.
The canopies can best be serviced by most any skydiving club.
Were Falcons tested ?
Yes Falcons were tested using a radio controlled Falcon UL, performed as designed.
Has anyone ever had to make a deployment in a Falcon. ?
The only one I have ever heard of was a freak accident on final, where the pilot found himself inverted ( still don’t know how ) and pulled the chute. It deployed, righted the aircraft and brought it safely to the ground. I must emphasize however that in most instances, there will be damage involved.
When should or should I not deploy?
You DO NOT deploy if you still have some control over the aircraft. Just because the engine quit or you lose a rudder cable or an aileron, you can still steer the aircraft and have a choice of landing sites, even if trees. Trees make good emergency sites.
You DO deploy if you lost control and the chute will slow down your descent rate. Examples, broken elevators and resultant nose dive, mid air collision, some other structural failure.
How does it deploy ?
The system is designed to deploy out the bottom, to the side. Naturally, you would want to stop the engine so that the cable cannot be wrapped by the propeller. I would hate to think of the resultant lawn dart effect if that were to happen. The sooner you can deploy the better, so the pendulum effect will be reduced.
How can I upgrade ?
For some time there were a number of companies who would compete and offer trade in allowances. Currently BRS has the majority of market share with a few imported units from Europe. Until recently BRS™ offered trade-ins for the canopy or would take your canopy and install it into their package. They no longer offer this and you need to purchase their complete package. Unfortunately they do not have a true Falcon installation kit, so the buyer is on his own. Installation with their universal installation kit is not too difficult. The unit usually sticks out the bottom by a couple of inches.
BRS™ Chute kit
Another ingenious method is one I would prefer if I were to purchase a new unit:
"Soft Packs" are far less costly than the enclosed units, (but need repacking more often).
I would install it into the first wing bay next to the root rib and face it straight up, letting it fire right through the wing cover. I would have the unit serviceable from the bottom, modifying the wing bay accordingly, probably by making the front 12" or so as aluminum shelf with a hinged door. Easier to service and inspect, shoots straight up, not into the propeller, shorter cable, faster, less costly. Falcon 2000 uses that method.
What happens on an accidental deploy?
If in flight, the cable will wrap itself around the propeller and stop the engine. However you will be a lawn dart, nose down, out of control. That’s why I always inspect my chute to be sure it cannot fall out in flight.
On the ground, let me paste a Falcon owner’s letter here, as I always wanted to know myself :
"When the drogue fired I was leaning inside the back seat trying to pull the
fuel tank out. I saw a flash below and at first thought I'd caused a hot
wire with a ground. Then the sound hit! It was like firing a .38 revolver
inside the garage. It did not occur to me that the chute fired until I stood
back and saw the chute lying on the floor. About 8 feet of chute was pulled
out of the plastic sack and strung out nice and neat out the garage door
onto the driveway. The projectile chipped a piece of concrete out of the
floor about 3 in across and half inch deep. If the chute were arranged like
other ultralights out the side or up, I know it would have gone through the
sheet rock wall or ceiling and quite possibly out the outer wall, but
probably not the roof. I certainly would have killed anyone it they were
Now you know why I always safety wire it when I work near it.
Do I really need a chute ?
That is best for you to answer as there is no clear right and wrong answer. One can juggle with statistics until they prove their point, either way . In my personal opinion, I feel they are cheap insurance, and I can use all the insurance I can get. I sure don’t want to be in the position where I wish I had one.
Here is a must-read link
Now an interesting article on some history and development of the systems, courtesy Steve Anderson, Johannesburg, S.A:
the early days of ultralight flying in
were in those days, (early 80’s) developing a ballistic type chute for
ultralights, and I got to test the initial unit on an Eagle. The intention
was, if it worked, to mount it inside of the Falcon’s wing root and have a
spring loaded door opening into the airflow to ensure opening, and then a
spring loaded deployment to shoot the bag up and out towards the wingtip.
the Eagle test unit, I climbed up to 4,000 AGL, slowed that aircraft, shut
down the engine and held the old centrifugal clutch to stop the prop. Turning
the Eagle to see the shadow of the parachute (mounted on the kingpost), I took
a deep breath and pulled the cord.
let me say that to this day I have no parachuting or skydiving experience. The
designers gave me a dispatchers parachute and told me to ”hit the seat
buckle and drop out through the bottom of the Eagle” if anything went wrong.
needless to say it did go wrong.
of the spring on the pack powering the chute up and away, extending the bridle
and the pack, the pack wobbled up about two feet, then fell onto the Eagle’s
wing where it rolled off the back, fell down about four yards below the
aircraft until the bridle extended pulling the chute from the pack.
this point it worked as it should…………..except it opened below and
behind the aircraft, pulling the nose up into a whip stall. The Eagle then
pendulumed backwards (while I waited for the unprotected trailing edge sail to
collapse the wing) and began spinning around nose down out of control.
this time the watchers on the ground got a running commentary of “Oh
sh*t Oh sh*t Oh sh*t” from me via radio, and nothing more useful.
the weight increased and likewise the descent rate, I found the tip rudders
had some authority and I could stop the spin. I rode the canopy down to
3,000AGl and pulled a second cord which released the canopy overhead the
field. This resulted in an elevator like descent for about 100 feet until I
got some speed and entered a glide. I started the motor and flew back to the
result of this was that the whole project was abandoned as we could not build
a spring strong enough to mount into (or on top of) the wing of the Falcon or
the Eagle which would clear the prop arc in an emergency, and so we continued
flying sans any parachutes until the advent of the proper ballistic system.
still have a picture of me suspended below the 28 foot canopy in my intrepid
still want to own a Falcon XP, (with or without a chute!) and hopefully if
someone will sell a fully serviceable one to
The information provided herein is derived from other sources and experiences and is by no means a complete treatise of the subject. Everyone must take responsibility to research the subject in its entirety and make their own decisions. Mike Fithian and Falcon East and his heirs take no responsibility for the contents. ( How’s that !)