Prior to 1975, few had attempted to implement the idea to design a parachute for an aircraft, even though it had been talked about for nearly a century. In that year, Boris Popov of Saint Paul, Minnesota, survived a 400-foot fall in a collapsed hang glider. “As I fell, I became most angry at my inability to do something,” Popov explained. “I had time to throw a parachute. I knew they existed but they hadn’t yet been introduced to the hang gliding community.” This event led Popov to invent the whole-aircraft parachute system and to found Ballistic Recovery Systems (BRS) in 1980.
The BRS parachute had to be extremely lightweight and capable of being packed into a small container. It needed to deploy quickly at slow speeds to allow for low altitude emergency saves, but more slowly at high speeds to prevent structural failure of the canopy in high-speed diving emergencies.
In 1993, after seven years and $1.5 million of engineering research, BRS was granted the first Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval to install a parachute on a certified aircraft, the Cessna 150/152 aircraft. The installation on this aircraft was another giant step forward in establishing credibility and acceptance from the general aviation public. “When we got into the certified market and we installed parachutes on aircraft that everybody could identify with, that really changed BRS," says BRS CEO & President Larry Williams.
The key to the success of this project was the ingenious development of a parachute reefing system. BRS engineers repeatedly deployed a device consisting of a sliding ring that performed all the functions required. The patented “slider” has been instrumental in saving the lives of many pilots and their passengers throughout the world. This innovation has enabled BRS to create larger chutes for faster, more technologically advanced aircraft.
BRS has been awarded four Phase I and II SBIR (Small Business Innovative Research) Awards from NASA to develop new lightweight parachute cloth materials that eventually may reduce the chute weight by up to 50 percent. In another recently completed SBIR grant, BRS engineers actively investigated and tested designs that could be used for light jet aircraft.
BRS is a company of 75 employees with annual sales of approximately $9.2 million. BRS has sold more than 25,000 of its parachute systems and has saved more than 199 lives. In 2004, the FAA and EASA both certified a BRS parachute system for the Cessna 182 to go along with the 172 certification. The companies' products are sold worldwide.
Cirrus Design of Duluth, Minnesota, and Flight Design GmbH of Germany both ship BRS systems as a standard component on their aircraft. Cirrus is the #1-selling Single Engine aircraft, while Flight Design is the #1-selling Light Sport Aircraft (LSA). BRS continues to develop larger and more capable parachute systems for larger and faster aircraft. Recently BRS added internal canopy sewing capacity, and now with the assembly and packing operation, BRS has the ability to make all the critical components in-house.
We at BRS believe that adding more superior products to our expanding line of aviation safety devices is a natural progression. “It’s not always groundbreaking every time we come up with a new installation for our product,” says Larry Williams. “What’s important is that we continue to find applications that complement our company’s 25-year history of finding ways to enhance safety in more and more aircraft.”
- 2010: 250th Life Saved by BRS Aerospace Parachute
- 2010: Piper installs BRS parachute standard on LSA
- 2009: BRS rebrands to BRS Aerospace
- 2009: BRS wins over $20M in new defense contracts
- 2008: BRS Receives ISO Registration
- 2007: Cirrus LSA incorporates BRS standard
- 2007: Epic Victory Jet will fly with BRS
- 2007: BRS establishes Advanced Tactical Fabrication and Purchases Headlites Corporation
- 2007: Lancair Evolution announces BRS installation
- 2007: Diamond Aircraft Announces Development Program for DA-50 with BRS
- 2007: 200th Life Saved by BRS Whole-Airplane Parachute System!
- 2007: Cessna Offers BRS as Option on LSA and Begins Offering 172/182 Retrofit
- 2007: BRS Develops Unmanned Parachute Recovery System for Italian Aerospace Research Center
- 2007: BRS Enters Manufacturing Agreement with CIMSA (Spain)
- 2007:Drop tests for Next Generation Parachute Systems Begin
- 2006: BRS and Flight Design announce that the CT LSA aircraft will ship with a BRS 1350 parachute as a standard on US-delivered airplanes.
- 2006: BRS and Symphony gain FAA approval for an STC on the Symphony 160.
- 2005: BRS receives Laureate Award from Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine.
- 2004: BRS is recognized by Deloitte & Touche as one of the fastest-growing technology companies in Minnesota.
- 2004: BRS received the STC on the BRS-182 parachute system.
- 2004: BRS-172 receives European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) approval for European installation on Cessna 172 models.
- 2004: Cirrus surpassed Cessna as the #1 producer of 4-place single engine aircraft.
- 2003: BRS developed parachute canopies for use on the new LSA category of aircraft, as well as larger experimental aircraft.
- 2002: BRS received its second Phase II NASA SBIR grant to continue development of an advanced parachute system for larger and faster aircraft.
- 2002: BRS received the STC on the BRS-172 parachute system, and also made the first customer delivery.
- 2001: BRS received its second NASA Phase I grant to study the feasibility of developing a parachute system that would work on aircraft up to 5,000 pounds and 350 knots, utilizing a continuous disreefing system in addition to other technological advancements.
- 2000: BRS and Cirrus began development of the parachute system for the next generation Cirrus, the SR22. The type certificate, including BRS’ parachute system as standard equipment, was received in November 2000.
- 1999: The NASA follow-on contract and the ATK unmanned projects were both completed.
- 1999: First customer deliveries of the SR20 took place.
- 1998: A joint effort between BRS and Cirrus Design resulted in the first standard equipment FAA-certified emergency parachute recovery system to be installed in the Cirrus SR20.
- 1996: BRS received a follow-on grant from NASA to further explore thin film parachute development. Later in 1996, BRS received a contract to provide a recovery system to AlliantTech for use on a prototype unmanned aircraft.
- 1994: BRS received its first NASA grant for a proposal to investigate using thin films for parachutes.
- 1994: BRS made its first customer deliveries of the Cessna 150 system.
- 1993: BRS received the STC for the Cessna 150 system.
- 1986: BRS went public to generate funding for the development of parachute systems for use in the general aviation market.
- 1983: First documented save—Jay Tipton of Colorado.
- 1982: BRS’ first products were introduced.
- 1980: Ballistic Recovery Systems was founded.