Example with context (news story Russian bomber crashes in Pacific region, both pilots killed):

The two crew members were unhurt in the accident, which the Defense Ministry said at the time was caused by a failure of the plane's breaking parachute.

What is that exactly? Does that mean that the parachute was in the process of breaking?

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    I am pretty sure that this is a typo, and they mean braking parachute. I think that may clear things up a bit? – oerkelens Jul 7 '15 at 11:03
  • One line says "both pilots killed" and another says "The two crew members were unhurt". Isn't there a contradiction? – Peter Mortensen Jul 7 '15 at 18:59
  • Do you mean braking or breaking? Or both? – Peter Mortensen Jul 7 '15 at 19:02
  • @PeterMortensen Presumably the pilots were not the only crew members. – choster Jul 7 '15 at 19:22
  • Long range bombers typically have pilots (two to relieve fatigue, just like airlines), a bombardier (guy who controls when bomb is released), navigator, radio operator etc. – slebetman Jul 7 '15 at 21:02

The first time I read it, the phrase a failure of the plane's breaking parachute made me think that this parachute must be somewhat like the parachutes used by space shuttles. The parachute is deployed to help slow the space shuttle down during the landing.

Not knowing the news, I followed the link and learned that the plane in the news was a Su-34. Searching the web a bit, I found this photo:

The Su-34 deploying two cruciform parachutes on landing.
The Su-34 deploying two cruciform parachutes on landing.

So, it's like my first thought (and other answers posted while I've been typing this up): this breaking parachute is a parachute for the purpose of braking. (My thanks go to user8543 for the mentioning of the misspelling, which somehow escaped my notice!)

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    An important point here is that the original article uses a misspelling. A device that stops something moving is a brake (note the lack of the e after the r), therefore the correct phrase would be a 'braking parachute'. A 'breaking parachute' on a fast moving aircraft = trouble :) – user8543 Jul 7 '15 at 10:40
  • @user8543 Gotcha! I admit that I hadn't noticed the misspelling until you mentioned it! Thanks! – Damkerng T. Jul 7 '15 at 10:43

The precise technical term would be "drogue parachute", but "braking parachute" is often used, especially in the context of aviation.

It's a parachute that helps jets and other high-velocity vehicles to brake, shortening the braking distance. For jets, this means a shorter landing strip is sufficient. In your news article, the non-functioning parachute caused the jet to leave the runway, presumably because it couldn't come to a full stop fast enough before reaching the end, resulting in the accident.

In short, it's a parachute for braking.

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That means the parachute that brakes the plane failed to do its job.

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  • Because it is actually common to include parachutes in air plane design intended to break the plane? Scary! – oerkelens Jul 7 '15 at 11:04
  • Yes, that would be scary though! Sorry, I didn't observe the misspelling @oerkelens. – Lucian Sava Jul 7 '15 at 12:24

LOL (Laugh Out Loud.. for future reference), no. I have not read the whole article, but I do understand where you are coming from. When they refer to the "braking parachute" it is easy to mistake or misinterpret the meaning to be "the parachute breaking or being physically damaged "with the spelling mistake of break instead of brake as pointed out by user8425. But that is not what the article means, and you can infer that without reading the whole article. Why? Because

  1. Parachutes are made of fabrics right? So they tear; they don't break. So it is bad/wrong English to say that a parachute can break.

  2. And for the technical aspect now. Since jet planes land at a very high speed, they can't just stop with physical brakes that apply friction on the wheels, so they have parachutes that are deployed from the rear of the jet plane. The parachutes slow the jets and help bring the plane to a stop. Since the parachutes are used for braking the run of the plane, they are referred to as the braking parachutes.

So since, the parachutes can't break, but only tear, and since high speed planes like the military jets use parachutes to help them come to a stop after landing, it is only logical to conclude they are talking about the braking parachutes used to stop the plane.

According to the sentence in question,

"The two crew members were unhurt in the accident, which the Defense Ministry said at the time was caused by a failure of the plane's breaking parachute."

the two crew members were unhurt in the accident which was caused by the failure/malfunction of the braking parachutes (parachutes that are supposed to help stop the plane once it has landed), but since the parachutes did not work as expected the plane probably crashed (I am just guessing as I have not read the article).

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    I mostly agree with your answer, except for this part Parachutes are made of fabrics right? so they tear, they don't break. So it is bad/wrong English to say that a parachute can break. -- Ropes can break, and so can parachutes, though the string broken parachute is probably more common than parachute broke (up/off). Otherwise, your answer is fine, IMHO. – Damkerng T. Jul 7 '15 at 12:34
  • Why do you have some of your prose in a code block? – Fund Monica's Lawsuit Jul 7 '15 at 18:23
  • @DamkerngT. and if the deployment mechanism failed we might say the parachute broke. Suppose it came out in a bundle and just bounced along the runway rather than deploying? – Loren Pechtel Jul 8 '15 at 1:00
  • @LorenPechtel That would be the first thing I thought if someone said a (braking) parachute of a jet fighter broke. – Damkerng T. Jul 8 '15 at 9:21
  • @QPaysTaxes Sorry about the Code block, but I find it helps highlight and differentiate, better than italics and bold. – NANDAGOPAL Jul 8 '15 at 9:27

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