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Revised March 31 2004

Parachute Clinics such as those put on each spring by schools are some of the most professional presentations I have seen in the sport. Other instructors are taking up the torch, and a special word of thanks goes out to all of them. By my count, their hard work and dedication has saved up to 88 lives to date in Canada alone.

Do-Not-Miss Chute Clinics include those put on by Betty Pfeiffer of High Energy Sports
and Rob Kells of Wills Wing


This article is designed to provide a step by step list of

  • how to set up a successful parachute clinic; and
  • what to watch out for during the session.


1st: Read the Hang Gliding and Paragliding articles posted by High Energy Sports and Wills Wing "Parachute and Harness Care" (See "Articles" in the "Support Section")

2nd Obtain the services of the professional, practised eyes of people such as qualified instructors.
They are a real asset to the sport and provide a tremendous service by attending.


Room

Rent a School Gym or similar facility well in advance
You will need a minimum of 3 hours to complete a deployment clinic including enough time to repack

Inspect the facility

  • Make sure it has plenty of ground level fixtures well away from the deployment area that parachutes can be tied to when repacking.
  • An elevated stage is ideal for deployment practice, allowing the parachute to extend to full Bridle length before hitting the floor.

If a stage is not available, make sure you obtain permission to tie a rope to a substantial fixture which the pilots will hang from.

Have the janitor supply two large dust mops. No matter how well they clean it, you will want the floor dust and debris free when it comes time to do the repacking.
Make sure the floor is swept end to end before you leave. Broken elastic bands are invisible ankle breakers on gym floors.

Ask your local dealers to participate

1. Have them set up a table. They can do a very brisk business at these clinics
2. Pilots will upgrade their equipment on the spot. If the goods are there, the wallets will come out.

Ask dealers to bring plenty of the following items:

  1. Double pouch deployment bags. Proven technology. Worth every penny.
  2. New replacement Bridles to replace the worn and UV faded.
  3. The Muller's cheap and effective solution to short HGer bridles is to extend them with 5’ Paraglider bridles. This is a big hit. Have some on hand.
  4. Carabiners, Pin Locks, UV over sleeves are just a few other items you will want on hand.
  5. Many pilots will no doubt want Harness repairs or upgrades. Have a cost / labour sheet ready.

Decisions to replace unsafe / worn items get rationalized and discarded if "impulse shopping" is not provided for.

Each parachute, deployment bag, parachute container forms a system that must be compatible. Any time that one component is changed the pilot must check compatability with the entire system. Hang and practise deploying the system. All dealers should do this with each new customer.


Harnesses

Sit the group down with their harnesses out and inspect each harness before they hang to deploy.
Tell the pilots to Keep The Parachutes In the Harness.
  1. Check overall Harness condition for cleanliness (no petrochemical stains)
  2. Check all Suspension, shoulder and leg straps. Look for frays, wear and tear, UV fading, inadequate knots.
  3. Check all seams and sewn attachment points. Leg strap sewing should be closely inspected
  4. Ensure Pin Locks are installed - no cotter pins. No rust.
  5. Check that Hook knives are accessible.
  6. Point out that skid plates can be installed on the boot area of harnesses to guard against wear and tear.
  7. Ensure that the shoulder straps can not separate far enough to allow the pilot to be ejected from the harness.

Check that all harness straps meet acceptable standards - some are obviously inferior

  • some harnesses have been found with no main riser, others without continuous encircling straps.
  • Shoulder straps should be secured to the Main riser and/or carabiner.
  • Check that Radio and other equipment are not installed in a position that would increase injuries in an accident.

Ensure that adequate perlon climbing rope is used where required. No regular rope.
I find the double braid is the best. We have seen solid cores elongate when the outer sheath wears through. Solid cores are rated stronger, but braided cores do not elongate as much under load. No one should ever have to worry about this happening but pilots who do not inspect their equipment have been known to get very scared by ropes elongating in flight. One pilot many years ago had a shoulder line of his cocoon elongate 12 "in flight! That scared him!

Check that all knots are bowlines.


Carabiners

Aluminum Carabiners are dinosaurs. They are too light and too susceptible to stress fractures for our purpose.
Harnesses should be stored and transported in protective bags. Carabiners which bang around in the back of a truck will develop stress fractures in the metal. Do you own a personal X-Ray machine in order to inspect them?
Any sign of wear, scratches or dents means replace it.

A Steel carabiner with reserve backup is ideal. Ensure that Stainless lock pins are used.
Note: A Steel carabiner is required at many sites.

A recent safety development is the Swivel Pivot which is installed in line between the carabiner and Parachute Bridle. This invention should stop line twist that may collapse your parachute. A paraswivel should be installed on all bridles for pilot's flying a
double surface glider.


Backup Carabiners

Secondary carabiners between the parachute Bridle and main suspension loop can be a life saver.
Failing that, install a short perlon rope as an emergency 'biner.


Bridles

1. A minimum bridle length of 20 feet is recommended. Extensions have been added to the older 14 and 16 foot bridle common in the days when wingspans were only 20 - 25 feet. A Paragliding Bridle extension is ideal a quick solution which will add 4-5'.

  • 1" tubular nylon Parachute Bridles break, when new at 4000 lbs. - Replace these with type 18 or 24 flat webbing. (which break at 6000 lbs.)
  • Kevlar Bridles and shroud lines deteriorate and lose strength quickly and are inelastic (do not combine these with pull down apex reserve designs.)
  • Minimum Bridle length for Hang Gliding is of 25' (8 m) the Bridle must extend past the wing tip or the shroud lines are much more likely to wrap around the wing - and if they do, they won't slip off as easily.
  • A UV protective sheath should be installed over the entire section of the Bridle which is exposed to sunlight and dirt.
  • Make sure there are no knots in your bridle or lines. One single knot reduces strength by 50%

2. The bridle should release smoothly all the way up to the carabiner. Under no conditions should the bridle be attached directly to the harness or be routed internally because in a deployment situation it will yank the pilot in the direction of the inflating parachute. If there are any glider parts in the way the pilot will be yanked into them.

The other problem is that the pilot will be pinned against the sail and therefore at the mercy of fate as far as preparing for impact. I know of 2 situations where this happened.

To demonstrate this I hang pilots from the bridle and so far 100% of the time the sandwiched mains do not rip out to free the bridle.


Deployment Bags

The old single pocket deployment bay system which stores the side shroud lines tied in a bundle on the side by rubber bands should be replaced.
New technology in the form of Double pocket deployment bags are a marked improvement. It is difficult to envision this system running into deployment trouble. The comparative ease of deployment is a dramatic selling point for this system.

Poor Deployment bag design and / or rubber band failure account for most deployment failures.


Harness Deployment Containers

See: Safety Notifications
All pilots MUST hang in their harness and attempt a deployment. Several different problems have been discovered with several different Manufucturors

  1. On supplier ships reserve parachutes packed for shipping. The reserve has 4 elastic bands wrapped all around the parachute.
  2. Neopreme Harness containers are elastic and can hold a reserve with a vice like grip, making it virtually impossible to deploy.
  3. Two malnufacturers have sold harness containers with opening slits which are too small to allow a parachute to be deployed without hurculian effort.
  4. Many harness deployment containers have too wide a strip of velcro. If you can't pull it free, try inserting a narrow strip of blanking on the inside - not outside - edge of the velcro.
  5. Finally. Pilots with side mounted deployment containers:
    • Practice throwing your parachute with the OTHER hand. Your closest / good arm may be injured.


Rubber Bands

DO NOT use elastic bands. There is a difference between rubber bands and elastic bands. Elastic is a man made polymer which varies greatly in density and strength. They detiorate very quickly compared to real rubber. One of the few reliable sources of the proper sized rubber bands is Wills Wing. Thank Rob Kells for his chute clinics by putting your money where your mouth is.

Problematic rubber bands, in my opinion, are one of the major causes of deployment failure in practice sessions
- they deteriorate over time and particularly when exposed to heat. If you leave your harness in your car for extended periods of time in the summer, change your rubber bands frequently.

The practice of stretching the bands to double wrap the shroud lines in order to hold them firmly is to be condemned - an obvious knot situation.

Rubberband issues. I have changed my mind about the rubberbands as a result of many clinics. My current thought is this. The important part of rubberbands is that they easily allow enough stretch for lines to come out of the stows and they break if there is a problem. I repeat: Rubber band deteriorate over time.

Line stows

Rubber bands must easily allow enough stretch for lines to come out of the stows and they must break if there is a problem. Avoid using rubber bands that are too long and too loose. Rubber bands slightly too long can be threaded loosely in the loop thus taking up more band. They have to be reasonable to hold the lines.

Line stows that are too small will not hold the lines internal to the loop. Larger line stows (2" long) are fine as long as the rubber band easily stretches or ultimately breaks.

The point in both cases is to firmly secure the lines with 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm) of folded line protruding.
Excessive line protrusion through the rubber band can result in the lines folding over the band , one cause of deployment failure in practice sessions.

For the Old style Hang Gliding Deployment bags:
Use 1'/4" X 2" (5mm X 5 cm) width rubber bands, example Wilson #64 or APSCO #61 for the side of single pocket deployment bags.

  • These require all shroud lines to be folded into one bundle, placed along the side of the deployment bag and are then secured to it by two rubber bands - one at each end.
  • For the three ties closing the flap of this container type use the shorter 1/4" X 1 1/4" each held in place by one fold of the bridle.
    (5mm X 3cm) rubber bands.

For the new style double deployment bags I prefer the 1/4" X 1 1/4" rubber bands. They can be hard to find until you learn that Wills Wing stocks them.


Practice Deployment Procedures

Designate one person to be Timer, and have them record the deployment times for each person.
Deployment time starts when the starter yells "GO:
Deployment time ends when the pilot has pulled on the bridle and successfully pulled the parachute out of the deployment bag far enough that deployment will unquestionably occur.

Practice

Before practicing dress up in all your regular flying clothes including helmet and gloves.
Have the pilot climb the ladder to the hook in point.

  • Make sure they are suspended high enough that their hands and deployment bag will clear the floor with plenty to spare.
  • Have the pilot position themselves in the harness. Then check to ensure the pilot can not eject out between the shoulder straps in a head down attitude. If they can their dealer should be able to install a line which will limit the spread between the shoulder straps.

Have the pilots throw their own, parachute first, before they repack it. A dummy chute is a good idea for demonstration but pilots MUST practice with their own system.
If you do not want to repack have them hang and extract their chute from the container slowly. Wrap the chute in a plastic grocery bag and tape everything closed with packing tape. This way no matter how hard they throw the parachute will remain packed.
If they have any difficulty and in particular if they have a slow deployment time

  • install the dummy parachute in their harness and have them practice until they get it right.
  • PRACTICE repeatedly to get deployments under 3 seconds - Practice sessions scheduled once a year have proven to reduce deployment times.

A dummy practice parachute can be made with 25' of rope and an old deployment bag stuffed with a couple of pairs of blue jeans works well

It is a lot more difficult to pull the velcro outer container open than many people realize. Get your times down to under 3 seconds.

The bridle should release smoothly all the way up to the carabiner.
Under no conditions should the bridle be attached directly to the harness or be routed internally because in a deployment situation it will yank the pilot in the direction of the inflating parachute. If there are any glider parts in the way the pilot will be yanked into them.

The other problem is that the HG pilot will be pinned against the sail and therefore at the mercy of fate as far as preparing for impact. I know of 2 situations where this happened.

To demonstrate this I hang pilots from the bridle and so far 100% of the time the sandwiched mains do not rip out to free the bridle.

I like to have pilots practice with both right hand only, left hand only, with control bar and without control bar. That means each pilot does at least 4 deployments. Anything over 3 seconds from the time they decide to deploy but not counting the wait time for the rotation to "clear air" and they keep practising.

One step that many pilots do wrong is this: When they reach for the bridle to yank they reach in front of them to the hanging bridle. I instruct that they reach to the location on their harness where the Velcro's attach the bridle towards the mains of the harness.

Film of real deployment failures show the pilots often don't get the bag out of the harness container until the glider was spinning so rapidly that no deployment would have much chance at success. A fast response time is critical.

FYI - By 6 sec. elapsed time Your rate of descent will be +/- 120 fps if the glider is folded up.
- This approaches terminal velocity in terms of harness load limits.

Take Control

Take Control of the situation when pilots prepare their final deployment of unrepacked parachutes. Remove the garbage bag and tape and reinstall it in the harness..
One deployment only,

Time stops when the pilot pulls back on the Bridle. ONE GOOD HARD PULL ONLY
=> if it does not pull substantially free from the deployment bag:
STOP! AND INSPECT WHY.
Lift up the chute by the deployed shroud lines,
Bounce gently to expose (often dramatically) the problem.

We have seen examples where

  1. The rubber bands were rotten / heat "welded."
  2. The rubber bands were too big,
  3. The rubber bands were far too long and thin.
  4. Tied into a knot with shroud lines.
  5. The Parachute was placed handle down in the outer container and the deployment handle could not be pulled far enough to pull the pin locks free of the loops.
  6. The Parachute was sold with the rubber bands wrapped completely around the parachute for tranport purposes. No chance of opening. (I've seen this twice now.)


Parachute needing repair or upgrading such as V tabs or skirt line reinforcement should be sent to a Certified Rigger.
Parachutes which need to be upgraded from ±10 lines to ±20 shroud lines should be sent to a Certified Rigger.


PDA

The development of PDA chutes has greatly improved. Some early PDA chute would occellate to the ground but some of the newer better ones are very acceptable. The problem with all chutes is that you need to know what you have.

Annular canopies like the Quantum and LARA are PDA canopies which are far superior to any other design for oscilation dampening.
Pilots hould be made aware, using jump charts, of the advantages and sink rate differences between old conical designs and new annular designs.

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