Giant parachutes help small planes in distress float down to safety: I saw a bit on The Discovery Channel about these once. They started on ultralights, and I watched home video of a guy popping his plane’s chute after a massive structural failure caused both wings to collapse. Very impressive.
There’s a good picture with this article that will help you understand the basic concept.
The company’s most advanced parachute now can accommodate nearly 4,000 pounds. While small planes can weigh up to 2,000 pounds and cruise at about 175 mph, regional jets weigh 80,000 pounds and fly at more than 500 mph.
That’s why Ballistic Recovery Systems is working with NASA — which gave it $670,000 for research — to design a new generation of emergency parachutes that would work on small jets and could be steered by pilots as they drift to the ground.