What Is CAPS?

CAPS stands for the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System. CAPS consists of a ballistic rocket-fired parachute that extracts a large round parachute attached to the airframe.

The rocket ensures that the parachute will deploy successfully despite the attitude of the airframe in flight, such as a spin or while inverted. The parachute inflates slowly and the risers are reefed to ensure a rapid transition to stable attitude under canopy.

CAPS parachute

Tests demonstrate that within 8 seconds all forward velocity is reduced to zero (relative to wind) and descent occurs at about 1700 fpm or 17 knots or 20 mph. The parachute deployment airspeed was demonstrated at Vpd of 133 knots. The demonstrated loss of altitude was 400 feet from level flight and 920 feet from initiation of a 1-1/2 turn spin.  Four CAPS deployments occurred successfully at higher speeds, 168, 171, 187 and 190 knots indicated airspeed, and one deployment failed at an airspeed estimated at over 300 knots airspeed.

Diagram showing CAPS deployment

CAPS Saves Lives

As of 28 March 2021 there have been 102 saves with 207 survivors in aircraft equipped with CAPS. No person has died when the CAPS system deployed higher than 1000 feet above ground and slower than Vne airspeed of 200 knots indicated.

See the CAPS Event History