A totally legit Russian research & development production company that makes actual space suits for real astronauts and ejection seats for Sukhoi and MiG fighter jets has now patented an escape system for light airplanes.
The design isn't a typical ballistic ejection system that you might find in a supersonic combat aircraft, but utilizes compressed air to extend a telescopic pole that propels the occupant clear of the aircraft. The system is claimed to weigh only 36.4 lbs, which also includes a light-weight seat and a parachute.
Pilots of typical small, piston-powered aircraft are generally forced to go down with the plane should an emergency arise. In many cases, the result is a successful "crash landing" where the passengers escape serious injury or death. In other more serious cases, generally due to loss of control either by a system malfunction, or the pilot's decision to fly in bad weather, the airplane and everything inside is at the mercy of physics.
While this gives the ejection seat method some merit, whole aircraft ballistic parachutes have become increasing popular, specifically in Cirrus aircraft. The company's all-composite SR22 became the world's best selling single-engine aircraft in the world and has received a fair amount of attention for its lifesaving parachute system.
A major drawback in the Ballistic Recovery System (BRS) used on the Cirrus and other small airplanes is that the added weight reduces the useful load on the already limited capacity. The entry level Cirrus SR20 can only carry 588 lbs with full fuel. This can easily be maxed out with a family of four and their associated baggage. Many would argue the additional weight is a valuable trade off for the peace of mind the parachute brings. Others claim the parachute breeds lax and under trained pilots who reach for the red handle instead of exploring optional emergency procedures.
Since the majority of general aviation pilots don't own or wear a parachute, the new Russian ejection system may be targeted more toward aerobatic or high risk commercial operations where pilots may need to bail out, but must rely on their own strength to exit the aircraft.
While the weight saving features of the KS-2012 seem compelling I have to wonder what accommodations will be made to modify the canopy or roof of a typical light airplane to allow a pilot to safely eject without breaking their neck. Additional ballistics or compressed air would seem to be required to open a canopy or clear access for the system to hurl the pilot clear of the plane in less than one second. Another hurdle to overcome would seem to be how to keep the pilot's leg from being chopped off as they typically extend under the instrument panel in order to operate the rudder pedals. Its seems in the demonstration tests this has been remedied by pre-removing the legs from the ejection dummy. An aftermarket retrofit seems unlikely in this case and will most likely need to be installed from the aircraft manufacturer with appropriate modifications for the system to operate properly or a completely new airframe designed to work with the ejection seat.
According to Zvezda, who has patented the design in Russian, the system uses air compressed to over 3,000 psi to safely eject the pilot or copilot at speeds up to 250 mph as long as they weigh less than 230 lbs. It can also be used at altitude ranges between 100 and 13,000 feet. Russian news outlet, RT reports that Zvezda will be looking toward foreign markets that have a more robust light airplane manufacturing to sell their system.