The Rest Of The
(About Emergency Parachutes for
Gilmour, Strong Enterprises, Inc.
been there. The air-show is a great success and it's packed
with pilots and industry specialists from all over the
country and around the world. The lines at the sales booths
are long, but there's this question about emergency
procedures and the care and use of your emergency parachute
that you've been wanting to ask, and now's the time. The
sales guy in the booth is very busy and there are many
people waiting, but you decide to tough it out and wait.
Finally it's your turn so you ask your question, and the
short, quick answer is way shy of what you expected. Believe
me I know I just gave you a half or a quarter of an answer.
I am sure you understand, at this point I am calculating a
sort of answer triage in my head: what is the most important
piece of information I can offer this pilot and still help
the other people waiting? I want to answer the question
fully, as a veteran of 13 Oshkosh's and Sun-N-Funs, plus
innumerable CAF shows, Reno Air Races, FAST clinics, Soaring
Conventions and contests, and aerobatic competitions, I have
been asked every imaginable parachute question by myriad
people, including pilots of every possible aircraft, there
just is no time, to fully answer the question while standing
in a busy sales booth. So, in rebellion against that
shortcoming, this article will attempt to give the rest of
the answer to the most common questions asked.
just leave the parachute in my airplane?
no. The number one reason that emergency parachutes
systems are taken out of service is damage caused by the
sun. So, if you leave your parachute in the cockpit, cover
it up. You should have something in the cockpit that you can
grab and throw over the parachute system to keep the
damaging UVs away. If this is not possible, at the very
least, lay the parachute system down over itself so the sun
doesn't strike the harness. How do you know if you have sun
damage? If the front of the harness where it is exposed to
the sun is a different color than the other side of the
harness, you've got sun damage. If you've lost 50% of the
color, it's a safe bet that you've lost 50% of the strength
as well. In this case, the parachute harness should be
repaired or removed from service.
Additionally, if you must leave the parachute system in the
cockpit, be sure that every time you land, you get out of
the airplane while still wearing the parachute. This is
very important practice for getting out of the airplane in
an emergency: you will know what could hang you up and the
exact procedure for getting out quickly and safely while
wearing the system. By practicing every time you will get
very good at it, and you will come to appreciate how
different it is exiting with a parachute and without it. You
will become very familiar with the time it takes to get out,
and in an emergency that can make the difference between
life and death.
can I be and still use the emergency parachute?
higher the better, really. But Strong Enterprises tests its
emergency parachutes systems at 300 feet AGL. Our 175 lb
test dummy, Oscar, is thrown out at 300 feet and he gets
about a ten-second-canopy ride. In other words, the
parachute opens very fast!
does not mean that you can be at 300 feet before you start
getting out, that could be a problem. So to give the rest of
the answer, you should have pulled the ripcord by 500
feet. This will give you a safety margin and with the
constant practice you have been continuously doing (see
previous answer) you will know how long it takes to get out
of the airplane. With this knowledge you can plan for an
altitude to begin the emergency procedures, again leaving
yourself a margin for error. I call this altitude the
Decision deck, or that altitude at which you MUST make your
decision to either land with the airplane or leave and use
your emergency parachute. If your decision is to leave, you
must execute your decision immediately. Get out! Get out
now, and pull your ripcord. Once you are under your round
parachute, prepare for a landing, (see the next section).
probably is. All civilian parachutes built in the United
States today are steer-able. This is not a high performance
parachute however, it takes about 6-8 seconds to turn the
canopy 360 degrees. But it is controllable enough to be able
to avoid any obstacles, and choose the best landing area
available that altitude allows. Once under the canopy look
up, locate the steering handles (red or yellow cloth loops
in most cases) and grab one in each hand. Once you have
deployed the handles, you can steer by pulling the right
handle to turn right and the left handle to turn left.
To know if
your particular parachute is steer-able, ask your rigger.
Have your rigger show you the steering handles so you know
what to look for in an emergency before you are in an
hard do I hit the ground under my emergency parachute?
standing on the roof of a pickup truck moving along at about
6 miles per hour. Then imagine jumping off the pickup truck
onto any surface imaginable. That will give you an idea of
the landing you will have under your parachute. The FAA
requires a rate of descent to be not more than 22 feet per
second with a 200 pound individual under the canopy. Most
parachutes manufactured today have a somewhat slower fall
rate in the 16 to 17 feet per second range. But, wind and
weather and AGL have a major effect on the canopy's fall
rate, speed through the air during descent, and
controllability at landing. So, always be prepared for a
hard landing: get your feet and knees together, try to
relax, look at the horizon and prepare to roll upon landing.
often do I have to have my emergency parachute repacked?
requires repacking every 120 days. There is a lot of
discussion in the parachute industry about extending the
length of time between repacks. It may someday be moved up
to 6 months or even one year, and most believe it would be
safe to do so. But as it stands right now, three times a
year is the FAA requirement.
I get my parachute system serviced?
very important. Your parachute must be serviced by an
FAA-certified parachute rigger, who is trained in your
particular parachute system's packing requirements. Just
dropping it off at the nearest skydiving center or jump club
and returning to pick it up in a week may not be the best
course of action. I believe you should meet the individual
who is going to perform the service that could save your
life. Do not be intimidated or dissuaded. Meet the rigger
face to face. Or if you ship your parachute out to be
repacked, ask to speak with him or her on the phone. By
asking the rigger the right questions it will help you
determine if this individual is the right person for the
job. Here are some questions you may want to ask, and you
may have more of your own
many total Reserve Parachute pack jobs have you
long have you been a rigger?
many round parachute pack jobs have you done?
many parachutes systems like mine have you serviced?
have, on hand, all of the tools required for packing my
see your tools?
have a 40-foot long table you pack on, or do you pack on
watch while you repack my parachute? (This is the best
one; you will be able to tell pretty quickly if this
person knows what he or she is doing, if you are
the life of my parachute system?
keep your new parachute clean, dry, out of the sun and
serviced regularly, it should be the only one you ever need.
This answer may surprise some of you. A parachute rigger may
have told you that after twenty years or twenty five years
you must remove your parachute from service. This is not
true. Currently, there are no FAA requirements on the age of
a parachute. Of course purchasing a new system for
aesthetics or comfort reasons is understandable, but if that
is not an issue, and your parachute rigger tells you your
parachute is no longer airworthy, get a second opinion. Many
manufacturers have no problem re-certifying a 30-year-old
system as long as it passes their tests for airworthiness.
If your old harness and container system is sun damaged,
your current parachute may be able to be put in a new
container saving you half the price of a brand new complete
emergency parachute systems are important for every pilot.
It is the worst case scenario: bailing out of a
malfunctioning aircraft to save your life. Your emergency
parachute is your last resort and while it may seem like a
necessary inconvenience in the aircraft, some day it may be
the most important piece of equipment that you've ever owned
in your life. Take good care of it; never take a shortcut in
handling it, in servicing it, or in learning how to use it.
and safe flying.