Article by: Chandler Papas and Adam Bell
Before the appetizers of the upcoming flying season are served, we should be thinking about prepping our gear and ourselves for safety sake. That's where Chandler and AJ came in with a really cool reserve, repack and safety clinic at Chandler's place. Chandler is an experienced instructor with a bit of XC and a touch of ACRO background and AJ is quite the XC pilot, has extensive ACRO training and has recently become a Tow administrator. Both have thrown reserves before out of necessity during XC flights and over water during ACRO training. Chandler had a single reserve malfunction that ended up opening. AJ had a dual reserve malfunction where neither reserve fully deployed and landed, to put it mildly, very very hard. To learn from experienced pilots who have thrown reserves in various situations, seen pilots throw reserves many times and know what can happen or go wrong is priceless. At this clinic pilots had a chance to actually throw their reserve in a simulator that whipped the pilots about a bit and AJ and Chandler are working on making even better simulator for next year's clinic. It's very valuable to a pilot to go through what he or she might find in a real life reserve toss situation and realize any difficulties in deploying a reserve only a few feet above the ground. To sit in your harness, LOOK, GRAB. PULL, THROW, GRAB BRIDAL and PULL at least once a year is something they both consider the mandatory bare minimum. Both had done more on their own before their reserve malfunctions and were inspired to do this course out of the priceless muscle memory they both agreed came from their practicing in their backyard simulators. All in all about 15 pilots attended the clinic and a few others just dropped off or sent in their reserves for repack. About 15 reserves were repacked and about 10 pilots took the simulator ride to practice throwing their own reserve. Some very important things with a few reserves were discovered at the clinic, things that could have lead to complications in a real life deployment situation or even accidental deployments. Issue 1: A reserve was found to be too small for the pilots all up weight. Having a reserve that is too small for a pilots all up weight leads to faster descent rates when deployed vs a larger reserve that is designed to handle the pilots all up weight plus a bit more. You can't choose when and where you will deploy a reserve and recently we have seen this twice at our flying sites here in AZ. Both pilots deployed over very rugged and unforgiving terrain, they landed with a fairly slow descent rate and were able to pack up their gear and hike out. Things may have turned out very differently had they chosen to save a little weight in their setup and fly with a smaller reserve. Issue 2: A reserve had the lines looped directly to the harness bridal, no use of mallion, quick link or reserve bridal. Many reserve manufacturers have the reserve parachute lines directly connected to a short bridal or lead, what we are talking about is looping the reserve lines through a longer bridal that connects to the harness. During certain deployment situations, especially in a higher speed deployment, a tremendous amount of friction can occur at the point where the lines and bridal connect if not designed or installed properly. This could lead to a failure of either the bridal or lines. Issue 3: A reserve was extremely hard to pull out from the compartment in the harness, it was older and the deployment bag was starting to fall apart. As we all know, we don't choose when and where we are going to huck a reserve. It could be a 30 second period of trying to resolve a problem with your glider a mile above the dirt or only 200 feet above the hard stuff when the S*** hits the fan. Either way, when you make the decision to throw the round, (or nowadays the Rogallo/steerable reserve) it better come out right then and without any trouble. Then after that, you want everything on your side for a successful deployment and that includes the deployment bag doing its job of containing the reserve parachute until all the line stows have come out in an orderly fashion. Issue 4: A reserve setup was using older style pins that were very sharp on the edges and had been known to cut through the loops the pins go through to hold the reserve compartment together. Sometimes leading to an involuntary in air deployment. Using old gear and not doing annual or even more frequent checks of our gear can lead to safety issues. Accidental deployments have and will continue to happen, they are very, very preventable by performing annual inspections and repacks as well as reserve checks before every flight. If you notice abnormal wear, get it fixed ASAP. If you notice things like your reserve handle falls out or the pins fall out, get it fixed NOW! If you don't have the knowledge or experience in fixing the problem, talk to your instructor and get the problem solved. Another cool thing about having Chandler around is he is known for lending us local pilots the cash/gear to get us safe now and pay him back later. He is still available for this to anyone who needs anything having to do with their reserves. Issue 5: A reserve was found to have a line over. A reserve with a line over is like a life boat with a big hole in it. When you need it, it might not really be there for you. It is so important to learn how to repack with those that are experienced and meticulous about safety and details. It's also each pilots responsibility to know without a doubt that their reserve installation is text book perfect and feel 100% confident that they can get it out in seconds and the chances of a successful deployment are very, very good.
One pilot also chose to do the "Re-pack class" and had his first session on learning how to re-pack his own reserve. Finding these types of problems and learning about the potential complications that can arise from them as well as resolving these types of safety issues is what it's all about. If you haven't attended a reserve safety clinic, you should plan on it in the near future.
Chandler and AJ will be doing this reserve clinic annually during the South Mountain Silent Sunday in January. They may be heading down to Tucson to do another one down there as well as a makeup session at Chandler's place for those that missed it. Being the good guys they are, they will make time to be available throughout the year for repacks and throw sessions for individual pilots. Both Chandler and AJ told me they have been getting taught how to repack PG reserves for years from numerous instructors and know very well if there is any question, they go straight to the ones that taught them. They had two HG repacks to do but they were in two different Deployment bags and they felt confident re-packing them. Since there was one question they didn't feel absolutely sure about and were getting two different answers from two different schools, they sent the reserves to one of the largest flight parks in the U.S. to have them re-packed there.
They really want to make a set up that better simulates turbulence for next year. Their main goal was to get everyone that needed a repack repacked. They also got as many pilots as were willing to be tossed around and get at least a few practice throws in. They also made sure everyone, at bare minimum understands how to place their bridals, lines, and reserve in their harness, pull the pins through and be able to pull their reserve out, check it over and re-stow it a few times a year. Chandler and AJ said they felt good about what got accomplished at the clinic and are working on things to make it even better next year.
Chandler said he would take more than three pictures and not forget to put out the buffet of food he bought at Costco next time!
A positive outcome of a pre-spring time in the desert reserve clinic is that hopefully it prepares each pilots mind set for the season to come. It's good to take care of the safety stuff first so we can show up at the hill pumped up and knowing we've taken care of business and now be in that... "I'm ready!" mindset. It makes a HUGE difference when a pilot shows up on launch with a good mind set and knows the gear, body and mind are all dialed in and ready to go. Good cleaned, gone through, dialed in, repacked, set up gear makes for a better spring time.
So those who haven't, dial in your gear, get your laundry flung and re-packed, charge those radios, kite kite kite, and get pumped for spring time!!!
USHPAUnited States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Associations NEW Website!
Cross Country MagazineThe international cross country magazine for serious XC PG pilots!
Oz ReportWorld wide hang gliding news ezine with reports on competitions, pilot rankings and more.
XC SkiesSoaring forecast maps and tools for virtually every flyable location on planet Earth.
Sky VectorThe best online resource for viewing aeronautical sectional and terminal area charts. Know before you go!