Reserve Parachute Buying Guide:
A reserve parachute is an essential part of your flying kit, however, there are a lot of different reserve parachutes out there and it can all get very confusing. Contact Fly Sussex if you need any help!
WHY SHOULD I FLY WITH A RESERVE?
• Your last chance if you lose control of your main wing• You will not be allowed to join a BHPA recreational club without one• Mid air collision• Structural failure • Even if you don’t intend to fly high or in turbulent conditions it’s a good idea to fly with one once you’re qualified
There are 4 main types of reserve parachute, pull down apex, square, hybrid round-square and the steerable rogallo. Depending on your weight, priorities and budget we can help you choose the right equipment combination.
Pull down apex
Also referred to as ‘round’. This is the most popular and widely used reserve type in paragliding for the last 20 years. It is also the cheapest option. A central line holds the middle of the canopy open level with the skirt so the air pressure forces the skirt out and the canopy presents the maximum drag area for the smallest amount of material.
Advantages• Cheaper to buy• Tried & Tested• More straight forward to repack Disadvantages• Can suffer from higher levels of instability• Can have higher sink rate (approx. 0.5m/s)
Also referred to as ‘cruciform’ the square design has corner vents so the reserve tracks sideways therefore offering very good stability and sink rate. It’s not a steerable system so where you glide towards is unknown… Square reserves are mid-price.
Advantages• High pendulum stability• Fast opening and small volume container• Very good sink rates compared to other reserve types as you glide through the air more efficiently. Disadvantages• Mid priced reserve parachute, cheaper option would be pull down apex.• As you have forward speed you can’t control exactly where you’re going to land as you’re tracking to the side. (Only rogallo types can you steer)
Hybrid round-square or ‘cruciform
The hybrid round-square design features pull down apex and cruciform technology combined with a new design which offers higher levels of stability and opening time with less sideways tracking.
Advantages• High pendulum stability• Fast opening• Lightweight• Does not fly forward• Simple to pack Disadvantages• More expensive• Not steerable
Advantages• Steerable, once brakes activated and main glider under control or cut away• The best descent rates compared to all other reserves as the rogallo shape acts like an aerofoil• High pendulum stability• Fastest opening times Disadvantages• Can easily deploy twisted so not steerable but it will still work as a reserve but without steering• You need to fly with a speed bar release system and quick outs if you wish to cutaway the main glider and steer the wing in to land (unless you have time to pull the wing in and stop it down-planing).• Much more complicated to repack• More expensive
It is imperative that you buy a certified reserve that conforms to CEN standard EN12491. These reserves will have passed rigorous speed of opening tests, decent rate test, stability and strength tests.
There are two tests during CEN certification: One in-flight test to check opening time, sink rate and stability. The stability test is a rather subjective visual check and is gauged against the sink rate (an unstable reserve parachute usually demonstrates a higher sink rate). EN stipulate a maximum of 5.5 m/s measured during the last 30 meters, the wing is released, below or equal to 5,5 m/s under maximum load is a pass.
The second is from a helicopter and tests load and strength. Structural tests consists of verifying the overall integrity of the parachute under maximal load for a horizontal 40 m/s speed. There can not be any failure / damage on the riser / lines / canopy system There are two testing systems for reserve parachutes, LTF and EN. LTF allows a sink rate of 6.8mps while EN allows 5.5mps.
How fast you descend is crucial. By EN standards you should not decent more than 5.5mps even at the maximum weight limit of the reserve. It is important to consider that the airmass might affect this rate, for example if you’re in heavy sink you could potentially hit the ground harder. Also you’re weight and loading on the reserve will affect the sink rate.
The maximum certification limit is 5 seconds.
Possibly the most important factor. Worst case scenario is hitting the ground during a down-swing at speeds of up to 25mph+. You need a reserve that remains stable over your head with minimum oscillation. The new square and round-square technology benefits from higher levels of pendulum stability compared to the pull down apex system.
Hitting the ground at 5.5mps is still quite fast, so we don’t advise being right at the top of the weight range. We recommend having a 20% weight margin. So if you’re 100kg all up then get a reserve with a max load of 120kg. All reserves have a weight range just like your wing. It is vital that you fly with the correct size reserve for your all up weight. The consequences of throwing a reserve that is too small is a very fast and hard landing. Being too light on a reserve can also be problematic as a low loading can affect stability and create oscillation. You should not go over 140% of your all up weight.
Most manufacturers recommend you decommission the reserve after 10 years even if its never been thrown.
As the pilot it is your responsibility to know how your gear works and fits together. It is advisable to read the manufacture’s manual both on the reserve and harness as it will details what you need to do. If you have any doubts then seek help from a professional.
Pre Flight Checks:
- Check the deployment handle and pin is secure before you put the harness on and after you get in
- Check the parachute container is totally closed including the bridle chamber up the side of the harness
- Can you can reach the deployment handle?
- If you fall over during take off make sure to double check the reserve system is still secure
- Be particularly careful of velcro closure systems as they can get congested with dirt or seized
• Repack to the manufacturers schedule or every 6-12 months with a BHPA approved repacker• Complete a thorough daily and pre-flight inspection of all of your equipment. Pay attention to your parachute pins and never attempt flying with unsuitable or damaged equipment.• Practice deployment, check you can reach the handle easily and the reserve can exit the harness freely. DHV’s recommendation is with an effort of less than 7kg.• Hide from UV exposure, moisture, dirt, dust and any other contaminants.
What is the advantage of having your reserve repacked?
• Faster opening• Removal of dirt• Inspection of fabric for wear and tear• Check reserve is still fitted correctly• Peace of mind!
What could stop your reserve from working properly?
• Deployment method• Storage method – big reserve in small container• Contamination – damp + dirty• Lack of repack – compacted over time• Porosity – permeable by air/water• Incorrect packing or installation
There have been many examples of reserves being deployed but not actually being attached!
You need to attach the harness bridles to the reserve bridle via a 7mm or 6mm mailion rapide. Don’t forget to use elastics to hold the bridles in place and screw the gate of the maillion ¼ turn.
If you need to attach your harness shoulder attachments then a 6mm mailion rapide is more than adequate. Some manuals do also allow a larks foot attachment.
Time to throw:
If you are in the unfortunate situation of needing to throw your reserve, do so with conviction:
• Look; Reach; Pull; Throw
• Look at the handle, grab it and pull out the retaining pins with sufficient force.
• Pull out the deployment bag. You need to adapt the way you pull your parachute depending on the design of your harness’s deployment system. e.g.under seat positioning often requires an pull outwards so that the parachute extracts sideways from the pocket, pulling the handle upwards will not allow the parachute to release. Know your equipment and adapt your technique accordingly.
• Throw the parachute away from you as hard as you can into clear space, not towards your wing.
• It is important at this stage to remember to LET GO of the handle.
• Aim to throw with the direction of airflow to aid a fast opening and against the direction of rotation.
• If after throwing the parachute does not deploy (possible in low energy emergencies e.g. parachutal stall), grab the reserve bridle and give it a strong pull. This will help encourage the parachute to open faster.
•As the parachute deploys, the next stage is to concentrate on disabling the paraglider. There are several ways to do this – B line stall; rear riser stall; gathering the canopy by working up the A lines until you have the material in your hands or using the brakes to stall the wing. The best technique depends entirely on the situation.
• The most important thing to remember is to completely disable the wing so that it does not act against the parachute and cause a down-plane (where you’ll start descending faster). Whichever method you choose do so symmetrically if possible, you do not want the paraglider to start rotating, this could cause the paraglider to fly into and effectively disable the parachute.
• Due to the position of the reserve bridle hang points on most harness, deploying the reserve parachute tends to automatically put you in to the PLF position (legs down), if you are not, do everything you can to get yourself into this position so you can absorb the landing impact with your legs.