The first step is to carefully deploy the reserve and make sure everything works as it should:
Before hanging the reserve out to air, we carefully examine the lines and canopy to make sure there’s no evidence of damage or contamination. Reserves can inflate very sharply, creating a significant shock loading, so any signs of weakness are taken seriously. We also check the condition of the bridles, maillons, O rings, deployment bag and handle, and the harness compartment or front mounted container.
Care is taken to follow the manufacturer’s instructions meticulously and reproduce the packing method used when the reserve was certified
It’s vital that the reserve is compatible with the harness or front mounted container to ensure a swift and easy deployment. So we check to make sure that:
Manufacturers specify a service life for their emergency parachutes. For most brands that is 10 years, but we know some that specify longer. In those cases, the manufacturers offer extended periods provided the reserve has been repacked and inspected in accordance with their recommendations. It’s worth looking at this aspect when you buy a reserve, because if you think about the cost as an insurance policy lasting for the service life of the reserve, a longer life will give you a smaller cost per year.
For some pilots, cynicism about the motivation of manufacturers specifying a service life is all too apparent online. “They would say that, wouldn’t they – they just want to sell a new one when my existing one is still perfectly good”. And that response is perfectly understandable. Another response is to ask about the scientific basis for concluding that a reserve is no longer safe to use – surely it must be possible to test whether a reserve is still safe?
The basic problem for manufacturers is that they know the materials they use degrade over time and become weaker, similarly to our gliders. But they have no control over the conditions to which the reserve will be subjected. Will the pilot ever get the reserve wet or sit on it on a damp hillside? Will it be left damp inside a harness for months on end? How long might it be baked inside a car in sunny conditions? Will sand and dirt left be inside the harness without being promptly cleaned out? Will it be exposed to UV or corrosive contaminants like salt or petrol fumes? Repeated use of the parachute and even handling during repacking itself can contribute to material strength loss! Unfortunately, degradation is not visible by simple visual inspection and can only be established by destructive strength testing of the actual material from which the canopy and lines are manufactured. The more experienced manufacturers build in such losses into their design calculations, and their declaration of a ten year service life is based on many years of experience, allowing for the deterioration of synthetic materials in temperate conditions.
Drop reserve to: 143 Kings Avenue, Matua, Tauranga 3110 (Back house)
Reserve can be collected from this address once re-pack is complete.