Training on CAPS deployment

I am an Embry-Riddle student working on a masters degree in aeronautics. I am working on a research paper examining the human factors involved in the use of the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS), with a focus on the training for this system.

I would like to know what training new Cirrus owners receive, as well as any recurrent or additional training that is available on the CAPS. IÂ’ve heard that some companies offer Cirrus simulator training. Has anyone done this?

The use of military ejection seats is the only comparison that may be relevant. IÂ’ve heard that the greatest reason for an unsuccessful ejection is a delayed ejection decision and that the military addresses this issue through training scenarios that help pilots identify conditions necessary for ejection. IÂ’m still trying to obtain studies to support what IÂ’ve heard.

How do members of the Cirrus community address the issue of making the CAPS deployment decision? Are the situations under which CAPS should be deployed black and white, or are there grey areas?

Thanks for your help in this matter.

Eric Laing


Are you studying at Embry-Riddle here in Prescott, AZ?


Eric, please let us know if you do not have access to the Cirrus training materials, which I would hope that E-R students could find. Otherwise, some of us can help.

As you’ll see from my comments below, I’m personally interested in following your work. Let’s hope you get an A!

Initial factory training includes CAPS activation, and elaborates on the POH discussion. When I got my plane in 2001, the discussion was much more involved than the POH descriptions, partly due to my curiosity, its novelty, and the wisdom of my instructor. However, since then, revisions to the POH have included almost everything that I recall discussing.

Cirrus has a CAPS simulator in their traveling showcase, a big trailer that expands into a mobile showroom and includes a cockpit with a functioning CAPS handle that can be quickly rerigged for repeated demonstrations of the action of pulling the handle. Many Cirrus pilots have done that. There might also be such a simulator at the factory for initial training, but I did mine long before the simulator was built.

COPA Cirrus Pilot Proficiency Program (CPPP) includes CAPS discussions briefly in the ground school session attended by everyone on flight safety and Cirrus accident history. There are some presentation slides about it and often I have experienced a sprited debate about when/why/how people decide to deploy CAPS.

COPA also conducts Critical Decision Making seminars that focus on risk assessment and personal minimums. The material was created by Mason Holland and reviewed by several COPA members, but it only briefly touches on CAPS deployment decisions. As I have recently facilitated 3 of these sessions, each time I found folks eager to discuss and learn from others. I intend to collect the comments and wisdom that I’ve encountered and propose a portion of the decision-making seminar review personal CAPS deployment criteria.

Finally, the COPA member’s forum has extensively discussed the CAPS issue for the 3 years that I’ve monitored the forum. I consider that much of to be ad hoc training, at least to the extent that COPA members do individual study of the issue. [:)]

Happy to provide follow-up info, so just ask.



There are black and white as well as gray areas for the decision to deploy CAPS. Allow me to elaborate.

Black and white decisions would include TOTAL loss of control due to a mid-air and the loss of, say, a wing, controls becoming stuck and/or entry into a stall spin. I would consider loss of an engine over water beyond gliding range or over inhospitable terrain also beyond gliding range black and white.

Gray areas would include night operations with an engine out. IÂ’m still not sure what I would do in this situation as I live in farm country. The trick would be to confirm that a field was a field and not tree tops or a lake. During the winter months this is relatively easy, even at night with a very small amount of moon light and of course up here lakes become emergency landing sights as well. Other areas of gray shading would be partial panel operations in actual IMC, depending on what was lost such as total electric loss verses just the PFD. It also depends on what the conditions of IMC you are in and how much fuel you have to get to better conditions.

These are just some of my thoughts regarding CAPS deployment. IÂ’m sure others will chime in here and give you more than enough material for a paper.

I took delivery of my SR20 at the factory in August , '03 and took the factory training course by the Univ. of North Dakota. This included sitting in a mockup cockpit and pulling the CAPS handle. It was emphasized that one should not hesitate in using the caps if there is an airframe failure, physical incapacitation, power failure over inhospitable terratory or at night. It was also urged to immediatly deploy caps if a spin were entered. (Frankly I would attempt to recover from a spin if I had the altitude using conventional spin recovery technique.) We were told that successful deployment has been demonstrated after a one turn spin with loss of 940 ft., and from level flight with loss of 400 ft. It was urged that we have at least 2,000 ft. altitude when deploying if possible. At no time during the course was it urged to delay use of the CAPS if a safe landing was in doubt.


I am a December Riddle graduate that still lives in daytona. I also happen to fly a new SR22 out of orlando. If you are in need of any information or would like to take a look at the plane and the system I would be glad to help.


Sorry for the delay in answering your questions, but I just saw your reply.

Please do include my comments in your paper.

Yes, I went through the CAPS trainer only once, which was part of the curriculum. Then at other times it was discussed when one would use CAPS. The statement that was said over and over was, “When in doubt, use it!” It was also repeated that it must be used soon enough that you had 1,000 ft. agl altitude, though it would work lower. Though not part of the formal training, I once heard in coffee lounge conversation that when you pull the red handle you have made your problem now the problem of your insurance company. That’s not completely true, of course, but the idea of trying to put the plane in a field from a glide may damage the airframe and maybe the occupants but using the CAPS should damage only the plane. The word was in Duluth that the first us of CAPS in Texas resulted in about $80,000 in damage and the plane was repaired at the factory and is flying today as a company plane.

CAPS is covered in the Aircraft Manual. If you don’t already have that, I will copy it and send or FAX it to you.

A book “Free Flight” by James Fallows, Public Affairs Publishing, 2001, discusses CAPS from the standpoint of marketing and dealing with the perception that general aviation is too dangerous. Though no macho pilot will tell you that the CAPS is why he bought a Cirrus he may say that it makes his wife feel safer!

I would like to have a copy of your paper when it is complete.

R. Nevin Rupp
28354 Ruffian
Fair Oaks Ranch, TX 78015-4810



I’m in Cincinnati. I’m taking graduate classes at ERAU’s Extended Campus here.



Thanks for your reply. I have looked through the POH sections that deal with CAPS for several of the Cirrus models. However, I am unaware of any other training material relating to CAPS. If you know of additional training material, please let me know what to look for and where I might find it.

My preliminary research into military ejection seat use has found that the leading cause of unsuccessful ejection is a delayed ejection decision. I’ve found a number of papers that highlight some of the reasons for a delayed decision, with one of the more interesting reasons being a “stigma” associated with ejection, i.e., most pilots don’t want to be labeled as having more take offs than landings.

One of these papers also stated that some ejection decisions are delayed because of a failure to recognize the emergency (sort of what I was referring to earlier as “grey areas”). I believe the military addresses this through the use of simulators to give aviators the chance to see what an “ejection situation” looks like without actually risking an aircraft and flight crew.

When I asked Randy Bolinger at Cirrus about the human factors aspect of CAPS deployment, he told me that he was not aware of any and that the training consisted of going through the steps in a procedures trainer. I was especially surprised when he said that he was not aware of any studies on military ejection seat use and training. I would have thought Cirrus would have looked into this area to see if any of it was applicable to CAPS.

One of the other main messages I’ve gotten from these research papers is that the ejection decision has to be made on the ground. It sounds like COPA already helps its members do this through its seminars and the forum where possible scenarios and how to handle them can be discussed. I would think the only thing better would be to actually experience these types of scenarios in a simulator.

Thanks for your help with this.

Dr. Rupp,

This is exactly the kind of info I was hoping to include in my paper. Would you mind if I included it as an example of CAPS training, and sourced it to you? And, for clarification, you went through the CAPS deployment procedure once, correct?

Also, was there any discussion of how to assess situations that weren’t as black and white as the ones you listed?

Thanks for your help.

By the way, anyone interested in seeng my paper, please email me at eric_laing2@yahoo(aaa).com [remove the (aaa) - that is included to foil spambots] and let me know where I can send the paper.


I honestly believe there is a world of difference beween the CAPS system and a military ejection seat not the least of which is the fact that the ejection seat has to depart the aircraft and there are several known instances of injury associated with the pilot’s head slamming into the canopy of the plane or the back of the seat in the high G load ejection process. With the CAPS the pilot stays in the airplane.
In addition, the CAPS system is not a Cirrus product, it is a BRS product as this system is applicable to many different aircraft. A milirary ejection seat is part of the design of that individual aircraft; a much different scenario again.

I’m one of the CPPP ground instructors and can assure that CAPS is discussed at length during the ground sessions. A premium is placed on considering IN ADVANCE when you would deploy it.
While I agree completely that simulataor training would be a major advance, the reality is that full motion realistic simulations are not readily available for GA aircraft. If there were a simulator that faithfully reproduced a Cirrus cockpit and realistically simulated motion it would be a fantastic training tool - and not just for CAPS.
Another GA issue is that training is not standardized. Even with Cirrus specific instruction, students bring different flying backgrounds, strengths and weaknesses to the training environment. In addition, after initial training in the Cirrus recurrent training is at the option of the individual pilots and their insurance companies. The military is a totally different environment (as are the airlines). I don’t see that changing.
Your project sounds most interesting and I hope you keep us all advised of your findings.

In terms of the physical equipment, I agree with you. There is very little similarity between CAPS and a military ejection seat, other than the parachute, and I’m sure that even those are quite different. However, my paper is focusing on the human factors involved in the decision to employ CAPS, which I believe (and I may find out I’m wrong) has some parallels with the decision to eject from military aircraft. In both cases, the pilot must acknowledge that they cannot save the aircraft. My specualtion is that some human factors resulting in a delayed decision may affect Cirrus pilots even more than military pilots.

From my preliminary research, it appears that the human factors involved in the decision to employ CAPS are not part of the current initial training program. I’d be interested in hearing from anyone that has been through recurrent training where these issues have been addressed.

Recurrent training is not required in a Cirrus aircraft. That is totally optional on the part of the pilot. COPA has devloped the CPPP program for members that very much DOES focus on CAPS deployment.
Everyone I know who has received intial traing in the Cirrus HAS been given CAPS training which includes thinking about various scenarios of when and how to use. Much of this is subjective so there are few HARD situations as to when pulling the chute is “automatic”.
We are taught that if you cannot believe you can make a safe landing in the aircraft, you pull the CAPS. It is not so black and white for one to know atwaht point I “…no longer can make a safe landing”. All situations are different. In training you will deal with only the obvious and the “artificial” circumstances.


There is another factor. In high-speed military aircraft decisions must be made relatively quickly.

In our Cirrii one would theoretically have more time to consider and then act.


I purchased a SR22 this June. My experience with CAPS factory training is echoed by other posts in this thread.

I do recall reading a reference to a military study which concluded that the military pilotÂ’s decision to eject or not was often influenced by the cause or type of emergency. In cases where the emergency situation was the result of mechanical failure, the pilot was more likely to decide to eject than when the emergency situation developed because of pilot error.

The authors of the study opined that pilots that delayed the ejection decision because they felt they caused the error did so out of a sense of guilt, embarrassment, etc. While pilots faced with a mechanical failure were more likely to figure, “It’s not my problem—I’m out of here!”

Of course, one could also speculate that pilot error induced emergencies might tend to be ones that are more potentially correctable, while mechanical failure induced emergencies would more likely be beyond the pilotÂ’s control.

I cannot recall if I came across the reference to that study in connection with the Cirrus training or just reading on my own. It is probably the later. Since you referenced one military study that mentions the “stigma” of ejection, you probably already have found it.

Considering human nature, I can imagine a pilot that gets into an inadvertent spin first trying a traditional recovery before pulling the CAPS handle, while the same pilot would not hesitate if there was a structural failure, as was the case with the first actual CAPS deployment.

By the way, the POH I received from Cirrus pre-delivery advised the pilot to try a traditional recovery from an inadvertent spin before pulling the CAPS handle. The POH that I received at delivery of the plane omits that step and advises only CAPS deployment if the airplane enters a spin.

Good luck with your paper.

Todd Carroll


The SR22 simulator simtrain showed at M2 will be incorporated into a full motion SR2x sim that will have a complete SR2x panel, throttle quadrant, CAPS simulator, etc. We will be placing 3 of these sims around the US before the end of the year, and yes, they will be fantastic training tools for simulated CAPS deployment scenarios as well as many other emergencies.


I know this topic has been discussed a lot in the past, but your remark about the POH advising only to use the CAPS in case of a spin, makes me wonder about something: Was the CAPs system ever tested in fully developed spins? E.g., is it known that the Cirrus chute will properly deploy in any type of spin…eg, accelerated, inverted, flat?

I’m not a Cirrus owner, but have always liked the idea of a chute under conditions such as engine out at night over the mountains and in IMC. On the other hand, I’ve struggled with why one would use it in a spin…intuitively, it seems to me a riskier proposition than using normal spin recovery inputs.

Any thoughts on this?

Would love to get in one of those!


Are you involved in the design or sale of the new simulator? When can I expect to see the one Lift is supposed to get? I am eager to get quality simulator time.