Well, it’s a fair question!
“Parachutist”, the official publication of the US parachute Association published:
Malfunction, Malfunction, Malfunction—The 2017 Fatality Summary
by Paul Sitter
Sunday, April 1, 2018
“Reserve systems—which include the reserve container, pilot chute, bridle, freebag and canopy—are extremely reliable, but there are no guarantees in skydiving. Looking at the last 10 years, reserves failed to save jumpers in about 6 percent of the fatalities. “
The assumption that properly executed emergency procedures at the right height is enough for the reserve to open is just not entirely true! Reserve malfunctions are fact of life!
We learn something every day in skydiving…..if we want to…Which brings the question- how familiar are you with the reserve parachute emergency situations and procedures?
There are numerous factors that affect the reserve openings- container, pack tightness, container materials, body position, MARD systems and packing techniques. Nowadays more skydivers use MARD systems that put them in not that favourable position for the reserve to open.
The following PIA investigation gives some clarity and recommendations on some reserve openings:
But can something be done while packing reserves in order to reduce the risk of malfunction?
Skydiving history has shown that neat pack jobs open better than messy ones! The ones that are packed with consideration for the opening, add even more to the safety. That’s why we don’t pack reserves flat pack, it just doesn’t make sense anymore and It used to be the standard.
Reserve packing techniques that take into consideration the development of the sport and parachute designs are possible, available and can make the sport safer! They involve techniques that significantly increase the reliability of the reserve parachutes openings! Here are some of them:
1. Realistic way of placing the slider during packing. This has several functions – ensures the slider is inflated at the same time or even before the rest of the canopy. It is very important, especially in terminal openings and also ensures slider is not launched down the lines immediately after coming out of the freebag. This also ensures the slider is inflated symmetrically, allows proper separation for the four line groups and time for the load on the lines to be more evenly distributed!
2. S- folding the reserve canopy before inserting it into the Free bag that ensures the least form memory is present on the lines above the slider! Form memory, stiff lines and uneven line tension are the main reasons for tension knots. The specific canopy S folding also ensures the least changes in the canopy alignment when inserting it into the free bag.
3. Additional separation of the line groups, ensure their full separation before stowing them into the Freebag!
4. Freestowing the lines using figure 8 pattern that doesn’t allow the different bights to mix disorderly lines between each other! It is used for high bulk lines with form memory that need to be stowed in small compartment stowing pouch! This ensures orderly extraction of the lines from the free bag!
Skydiving as well as skydiving equipment, materials and rigging are in constant evolution!
We challenge the status quo because skydiving equipment, education and techniques can be improved in order to increase safety. Equipment development and modification are driving force in the evolution of our sport.