If you have a reserve parachute, there are some things to know in order for it to do any good. Our two primary concerns here are that the reserve deploy properly when needed and that it not deploy unexpectedly. Here is more about whether to buy, what to buy and what size to buy.
Below is a great video describing several aspects of reserve deployment and mounting from Chris Santacroce and Shane Denherder. Chris is extremely familiar with reserve use, not just from his own acro experience, but also from giving maneuvers clinics.
2009-09-24 Updated. Thanks to Superfly Inc for information on reserves, deployment, packing, size and maintenance.
What a shame to buy a reserve, mount it, rehearse using it then, in your moment of need, have it break your neck during deployment. That’s what can happen if you don’t mount and toss the reserve properly. To my knowledge, it’s never happened in powered paragliding but has happened in other air sports where reserves are used and certainly could happen to us. We just have incredibly few reserve deployments.
Bridle Is Free
The first thing to do is make sure that your reserve bridles will properly extend without getting stuck, leaving you in a dangerous descent attitude. For example, if the reserve bridles are concealed with velcro, and the velcro locks, the reserve will be hanging you from that point, potentially upside down. Heads are not to be landed upon.
Steps for Tossing
Here are the steps for tossing a reserve on a paramotor. Memorize and rehearse them frequently so they’ become automatic. If it is not automatic, if you don’t have the actual moves ingrained before they’re needed, don’t count on doing it right when shat upon.
1) Kill, 2) Look, 3) Pull. Say that and rehearse doing it. Kill the motor, look at your reserve handle, and pull the handle. If your handle is out of sight, like on machines where it’s above and behind, just look in that direction as you move your hand towards it. When you’re pulling the handle, a forceful “Z” pattern helps pull both pins positively.
3) Clear & 5) Throw. Make sure the area where you’re throwing is clear then throw into clear air, avoiding your flailing paraglider or cage. It’s generally recommended to toss it down and outward.
If the reserve doesn’t open right away or come out of its bag in reserverly fashion, yank firmly on the bridle as if to yank it out. It is generally recommended to disable the glider, especially if it re-opens and begins “flying” downward, pulling the reserve sideways thus reducing its effectiveness. One effective way to disable the glider is by pulling its B lines hard.
Landing will likely be hard. Prepare by thinking about the Parachute Landing Fall where you land with bent knees and roll, letting your cage take the force.
The reserve will open with enormous force. It must be mounted properly to avoid injury and to do its job. We observe that accidental openings happen more on side mounted reserves. If possible mount it in front which also allows either hand to reach it. Wherever it is, practice the hand motion to reach the handle.
Where: Mount so as to be on the opposite side as your throttle or in front. Mounting on the front has advantages and disadvantages. If your’s is designed to mount on top like the pap, then mount it that way
Routing: The reserve bridle must be routed to prevent injury during deployment, maintain structural integrity of the harness and leave the pilot in a landable condition.
Secure with: Either Velcro or weak cable ties are most common. The key is that they must let go at about 20 pounds of pull force.
Connect to: Reserve bridles should attach to a D ring on your harness.
After about a year the rubber bands that hold everything together long enough to deploy properly decay. Plus the fabric can start sticking together enough to slow down inflation. The video below is an example of slow deployment for a number of reasons but is typical of a reserve that has not been recently repacked. They have
Above is a video of the Reserve Repack and Educational seminar given by long time maker of rescue parachutes, Betty Pfeiffer. Her company, High Energy Sports, makes the popular Quantum series of chutes. These clinics are very valuable because the provide hands-on experience and allow the attendees to get questions answered. Although this clinic was for hang glider pilots, most of the information applies to us as powered paraglider pilots.