vary significantly—at its greatest if the
Personally, I’d include a flask of
aircraft is pointed directly at the ground
as you get out. Once the chute is open,
Allen said, “That’s as slow as you’re ever
going to go. If you’re only 6 inches off the
ground, consider yourself very lucky.”
If you have the luxury of a more lei-
surely descent, you can enjoy the view
(meanwhile, hoping the airflow has
some time to dry out your pants). Your
round chute doesn’t have the maneuver-
ability of a square ram-air canopy, but
you do have some control. Forward air-
speed will be about 5 knots, and you
should try to turn to land into the wind.
The steering handles or rear risers can
help you turn left and right. Expect to
land between 45 and 60 degrees of your
direction of drift. And do not try to flare
to a stand-up landing like sport para-
chutists do. The round canopy was not
meant for it. Keep your feet and knees
together and land with your knees
brandy in case of snake bite—and a small,
lightweight rubber snake in case there
aren’t any real ones.
slightly bent, then roll to the ground to
absorb the energy.
Use your controllability to avoid life-threatening hazards. Power lines are
deadly and should be avoided at all cost.
If you need to land in trees, use your
arms to cover your head and face. And
especially guys, be sure to cross your legs.
In the unlikely event of a water landing,
resist the temptation to unbuckle the
harness before hitting the surface. Land
downwind in this case, so the wind will
carry the chute away from you rather
than falling on top of you. Do try to swim
away from the risers once you’re down
and unbuckled to avoid getting tangled,
and if you have flotation gear, inflate it
quickly after you hit the water. Except to
avoid life-threatening obstacles, avoid
any turns within the last 200 feet of your
descent. Landing on open turf can still be
dangerous if the wind is brisk and there
are sharp rocks that you could be
dragged over. In high winds, try to spill
the chute quickly by reeling in the risers
of one side hand-over-hand. Remove
your harness quickly, starting with the
chest straps. If you remove the leg straps
first, the chest straps could rise up to
your neck and choke you.
In all the movies that involve emergency parachute descents, it seems
there’s an attractive love interest running up as soon as the hero’s feet hit the
ground. But don’t count on that. In fact,
you might come down in a remote area.
And even if you’re only a few miles from
the airport, a town, farmhouse, or other
civilization, you could be injured and
unable to walk out on your own. It would
help to have a small survival kit attached
to your parachute pack with a first-aid
kit and signaling gear, even a small handheld radio.
Mark Phelps, EAA 139610, is an aviation writer
living in New Jersey. He is the former editor of EAA’s
Vintage Airplane magazine and the owner-pilot of
a 1954 Beechcraft Bonanza.
THERE ARE SEVERAL MANUFACTURERS of emer- gency parachute systems. They include: • Para-Phernalia (SOF TIE Parachutes), Arlington Washington; • Butler Parachute Systems, Roanoke, Virginia; • National Parachute, Palenville, New York; and • Strong Enterprises, Orlando, Florida. All agree that comfort, light weight, and cost are the decision-makers. Performance is assumed to be comparable. Emergency round parachutes come in diameters of 20 feet, 22 feet, 24 feet, 26 feet, and 28 feet. But diameter alone does not determine rate of descent under the canopy. Parachute material also comes in various levels of porosity, measured in how many cubic feet of air can pass through a given area of the fabric. The more porous, the faster the rate of descent. The length of the risers is also important, with longer risers permitting the canopy to open wider. The tradeoff for larger canopies with less porosity and longer risers is a larger pack and heavier weight. Most important is choosing the right size, material, and riser length for your weight. There are various configurations for the pack, including seatpacks; backpacks (of various lengths); and so-called “wedge” designs, config- ured for lumbar support. Warbird pilots often choose specialized seatpacks designed for the cushionless bucket seats of some military aircraft. Proper care of a parachute includes keeping it dry and safe from mildew and contamination from gas and oil around the hangar. Somerset Air Service instructor Byron Hamby keeps his chutes in a large plastic bin with a snap-on top to keep mice and other odents out. Another enemy of your parachute’s tructural integrity is corrosion of the metal parts. You should preflight your parachute as well as your airplane, checking for stains, rust, or other signs of danger. Check the straps for fray- ing or cuts and look for broken or missing stitches in the harness. You should check the pins of the rip cord by lifting the protector flap and ensuring the pins are straight and extend through the closing loop at least a half-inch. Make sure the rip cord handle comes out of its pocket easily. Your final check should be to ensure the data card shows the inspection inter- val hasn’t expired. FOR A PERSONAL PARACHUTE