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When the Cirrus was first introduced, it included a Ballistic Recovery System, which shoots a parachute out the rear of the plane that can save a plane and its occupants when something goes wrong.

Seeing as how this technology has been honed over the past decades, why don't all new planes incorporate this feature? I would think that any drawbacks outweigh the benefit of not losing one's life when something happens unexpectedly.

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    $\begingroup$ I'd venture a guess to say that the manufacturers have to do a cost-benefit-analysis to see if they think that they will gain enough additional sales to offset the additional cost to incorporate and certify such a system. We have a supply-demand market, and if people keep buying airplanes without parachutes, they will keep making them! $\endgroup$ – Lnafziger Jan 4 '14 at 23:50
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    $\begingroup$ Remember that a lot of "new" GA planes aren't that new -- you can buy a new 2014 Piper Archer (PA28-181), but that aircraft's design is largely unchanged from the first PA28-181 certificated in 1975 (same wing, mostly the same fuselage - slightly different engine & modernized avionics are the major differences). They just keep on producing that same approved design (which doesn't include a parachute)... $\endgroup$ – voretaq7 Jan 4 '14 at 23:58
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    $\begingroup$ I disagree with the statement that it "can save a plane". My understanding is that the moment the parachute is deployed, the plane is considered a total loss. Everything is designed to save the people, generally at the expense of the plane. The landing gear, structure, frame, etc, all crumple and collapse to absorb energy and protect people. $\endgroup$ – abelenky Jan 5 '14 at 2:23
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    $\begingroup$ Even with parachutes, MANY Cirrus airplanes have crashed. The most dangerous parts of any flight are at exactly the times when a parachute cannot be, or will not be, effectively deployed (eg. takeoff, landing, and CFIT) $\endgroup$ – abelenky Jan 5 '14 at 2:26
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    $\begingroup$ Just as a side note, in Germany, I think fixed wing, powered, aircraft (with elevator, rudder and ailerons) in the so called UL category (MTOW up to 472.5 kg, most of them qualify as LSA in the US) are required to have a parachute. $\endgroup$ – falstro Jan 5 '14 at 9:23
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Airframe parachutes are becoming an increasingly popular option on newly-certificated aircraft, thanks in part to the track record of successful deployments on Cirrus aircraft.

If I had to speculate on why they're not showing up in older certificated designs (like the Piper PA-28 or the Cessna 172 & 182) I'd go with the reason I mentioned in my comment: "New" Pipers and Cessnas are basically extended manufacturing runs of very old designs - going on 50+ years. Changing an existing aircraft design to include the required hardpoints, breakaway panels, etc. for a parachute system would be a substantial change to the type certificate, and under Part 23 certification rules doing so would cost the manufacturer an equally-substantial sum of money for the design, engineering, and testing required.
Light GA aircraft sales at the moment are, shall we say, lackluster -- the additional costs for the engineering, the type certificate update, and the parachute itself would certainly not help matters, as that cost would need to be passed along to the eventual purchaser of parachute-equipped aircraft (which would probably mean putting a 50+ year old classic Piper or Cessna design in the same price category as a clean-sheet Cirrus SR20/SR22).

In addition to the mainly-financial reasons above Quantas 94 Heavy has a point regarding weight. BRS (the premier airframe parachute company) makes a STC'd kit for some Cessna aircraft.
This kit costs about 80 pounds of useful load, and on many light GA aircraft the useful load is marginal enough that this added weight means you're effectively sacrificing a passenger to the installation. The Cessna retrofit kit also takes up a substantial amount of space in the baggage compartment as you can see from their installation white paper, which is certainly a negative factor as well. Were the chute to be incorporated into the design by Cessna it would likely be installed in a similar location (there just aren't many other places to put it) with a similar cost in weight and cargo space.

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  • $\begingroup$ Although I couldn't find further references to it on the site, BRS did also have a STC for a chute for Cessna 152s available at one point. As I recall the cost in useful load was comparable to the 172/182 chutes, and doing the math on a couple of 152s I'm familiar with it would have limited you to an 80-90lb flight instructor in the right seat. Clearly that makes it a less-than-attractive option for that particular type of aircraft. $\endgroup$ – voretaq7 Jan 5 '14 at 8:50
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    $\begingroup$ Also, Diamond's safety record beats Cirrus per flight hour, from what I last saw, and it's chute-free. $\endgroup$ – egid Nov 9 '14 at 4:59
  • $\begingroup$ @egid I thought the airframe parachute was an excellent idea, and then someone mentioned the human factor: pilots making flights they normally wouldn't have, but in the back of their mind they go "well, I have the chute..." I still think the chute is a good idea, but it's interesting that (like most things) it's not as simple of an idea as it seems, and people think that this is a contributing factor to the higher accident rate in Cirrus compared to Diamond (among other reasons, of course!) $\endgroup$ – Canuk Nov 11 '14 at 4:43
  • $\begingroup$ @Canuk: I wouldn't think a pilot who would be unwilling to take a flight that had an X% chance of killing him would be willing to take it if it had an X% chance of destroying his airplane and an X/10% chance of killing him. On the other hand, pilots who have less confidence in their abilities might be more inclined to take planes with a protective system than would be those who have more confidence and would be less likely to need such a system. $\endgroup$ – supercat Mar 12 '16 at 17:57

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