Some land-based fighter aircraft have a drogue-chute to help them slow down during landing.

  • Do any current models of commercial aircraft have a similar mechanism?
  • Secondly, would such a mechanism help aircraft in making a better landing and reduce landing related incidents/ accidents?
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    $\begingroup$ One thing to note: You'd have to be very committed to the landing before deploying the chute. Go-arounds would be very problematic while pulling a chute behind you. By the time you've fully committed to stopping, it seems like the chute would be of limited usefulness, except perhaps in emergencies like Lnafziger mentioned. $\endgroup$ – reirab Jan 22 '16 at 19:54
  • $\begingroup$ Almost all landing accidents where the aircraft has reached the runway are as a result of the PIC making a decision to land when they should not have. No retarding system in the world will help with that. $\endgroup$ – Simon Jan 22 '16 at 20:06
  • $\begingroup$ @reirab: Simple solution - when going around, cut the chute. $\endgroup$ – Sean Dec 4 '18 at 5:17

It is called a drogue parachute and I don't think that any of the present generation large commercial aircraft use them.

That said, a number of older commercial aircraft have used them, a good example being the Sud Caravelle.

Caravelle drogue

Image from eu.airliners.net

There are some issues with using drogue chutes in a commercial airliner, which would limit their effectiveness.

  • Most commercial airliners have thrust reversers already.

  • For it to be effective, the parachute has to be quite huge. For example, the Handley Page Victor, which had MTOW in the range of A320, had a drogue chute 48' (or 14.6m) in diameter. The chute would occupy volume and increase weight.

  • If drogue chutes are used, they have to be packed before every flight, which will increase turnaround times. Another option is to replace them at the end of every deployment, which would increase costs.

  • Deployment failure/partial deployment/Uncommanded deployment will affect the safety of the flight.

  • The need to use a drogue chute can limit the crosswind landing of the airliner significantly.

  • Aircraft dragging a huge chute during taxiing back to the ramp is not a good idea from FoD point of view.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ That's quite an amazing picture! I can imagine that using that chute would only be practical if there was some sort of pre-packed canister that would allow it to be quickly replaced during routine turnaround procedures, while the used chute & canister were sent off to a central facility for inspection & repacking. $\endgroup$ – FreeMan Jan 22 '16 at 16:58
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    $\begingroup$ Was it used regularly for every landing, or only on shorter runways? $\endgroup$ – vsz Jan 22 '16 at 17:46
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    $\begingroup$ Other old, smaller "commercial" jets (like the Learjet 20 and 30 series aircraft) also have a drogue chute. It is intended only to be used in an emergency when a landing goes awry (brake failure, off-field landings, poor braking conditions where it appears that you could run off the runway, imminent collision, etc.) $\endgroup$ – Lnafziger Jan 22 '16 at 17:47
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    $\begingroup$ "If drogue chutes are used, they have to be packed before every flight... Another option is to replace them at the end of every deployment" An intermediate option, in terms of both time and cost, would be to take off the used chute, install a freshly packed one and then repack the used one for re-use on a later flight. $\endgroup$ – David Richerby Jan 22 '16 at 18:12
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    $\begingroup$ @Sean That as well! $\endgroup$ – Lnafziger Dec 5 '18 at 8:22

The full list of airliners and business jets is:

  • Sud Aviation Caravelle
  • Tupolev Tu-104
  • Tupolev Tu-124
  • Tupolev Tu-144
  • Concorde prototypes
  • Learjet 25
  • Learjet 35
  • Dassault Falcon 20

Concorde during brake tests

Concorde during brake tests (picture source)

Even some gliders used them (SHK, HKS, SB-5, Salto)

Hirth SHK with brake chute

Hirth SHK with brake chute (picture source)

Brake chutes increase drag and allow a steeper approach, which helps to control the touchdown point with great precision. If the aircraft is too high, just push the stick forward - the drag of the chute prevents the aircraft from accelerating too much and the increased drag at higher speed gets rid of the excess height quickly.

On the ground the drag of the chute reduces the rollout distance which is especially helpful for aircraft with a high touchdown speed.


With the improvement of the brakes and reverse thrust, parachutes are no longer an option for airlines. Nowadays the carbon brakes are the best brakes in the aviation market, together with auto brakes, reversers and speed brakes, most of the new generation aircrafts are landing much shorter compared with old generations, the reject takeoff is almost automatic and with the correct calculation the runway overrun accidents are decreasing considerably. As the effectiveness of the thrust reversers are better at high speed, most of the airlines uses reverser thrust in idle, the pilots are suggested in case of using other than idle reversers, to apply reverser thrust until 80 knots or 60 kts after landing, auto brakes combined with Carbon Brakes and a speed brake, give to the aircraft shorter stop distance than before. The brake temperature is much better in carbon brakes, hot temperatures are still a problem in case of reject takeoff but for long taxis is no longer a problem. So parachutes are retired in commercial aviation. Hope this explanation helps. ;)


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