Including a range of plastics, ceramics and metals like titanium with varying results
Fernando de Caralt, the new CEO of South St. Paul-based BRS Aerospace, sees a high-flying future for the company, a leading designer and manufacturer of whole-aircraft parachute systems.
Caralt points to signs that the general aviation market “is entering a transformation mode” — including greater acceptance of parachute systems — that likely will lift aircraft sales and business for BRS Aerospace.
Further, designs in the works for every new aircraft for fewer than six passengers incorporate a parachute system from the start, Caralt said, and BRS is working with many of those manufacturers.
Plans for futuristic battery-powered private aircraft with vertical take-off and landing technology will all use parachute systems, Caralt said.
“We all saw ‘The Jetsons’ and how everybody would take their flying vehicle and go up here and there,” Caralt said. “That’s a dream that will happen only when whatever vehicle we take we feel is as safe as the alternative, which today is a car.”
Caralt, 54, a native of Barcelona, Spain, was named CEO of BRS Aerospace last month, after five years as the company’s senior vice president of engineering.
Caralt, who’s a pilot and the son of a private pilot, joined the board of directors of BRS Aerospace in 2007, after the company began working with his previous employer, Cimsa Ingenierria de Sistemas. Caralt was president and CEO of that Spain-based company, which designs and manufactures parachutes.
BRS Aerospace founder Boris Popov invented the whole-aircraft parachute system and launched the company in 1980, five years after surviving a 400-foot fall in a collapsed hang glider.
Today the company has 50 employees and manufacturing facilities in an 18,000-square-foot building at the South St. Paul Municipal Airport, and in Pinebluff, North Carolina. Caralt declined to share details about annual revenue or how many systems are produced annually.
A major boost came for the company, Caralt said, when Duluth-based Cirrus Aircraft began delivering aircraft with BRS Aerospace whole-airplane parachute systems installed as standard equipment.
BRS Aerospace has documented 374 lives saved through the use of its parachute system. In the event of an engine failure or other emergency, the pilot can pull a handle in the cockpit ceiling to fire a solid-fuel rocket motor that carries the parachute from the back and unfurls a 65-foot diameter canopy to control the aircraft’s rate of descent.
A top-of-the-line system for a larger aircraft may cost $20,000 or more including installation, painting and other costs, Caralt said, although the company also offers economical solutions for smaller aircraft.
Rick Beach, aviation safety chair of the Las Vegas-based Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association and a Cirrus owner since 2001, said 148 of those saves are considered survivors of successful parachute deployments in Cirrus aircraft.
Caralt’s concern for aviation safety has impressed him, Beach said.
“When we’ve talked about safety issues, there is a passion for and a commitment to ensuring that safety techniques and safety technologies are made available to the marketplace,” Beach said of Caralt.
Joel Pat McKinzie, an assistant professor of aviation at Minnesota State University, Mankato and a Cirrus-certified instructor pilot, said he is a “convert” to the whole-aircraft parachute system.
“It’s a really good thing for our industry and I think you’ll see it in more and more airplanes going forward,” McKinzie said.
Mark Gregor, a Mankato-based sales representative for Italian aircraft manufacturer Tecnam, which offers optional parachute systems, said young pilots insist on having parachutes.
“They’re not going to buy an airplane without it,” Gregor said.
Gregor appreciates having a parachute system in his Cirrus aircraft, which he often flies with his wife and three children aboard.
“I hope I never have the occasion to pull it but I’m glad that I have it,” Gregor said.Discover More