Reprinted with permission.
IT ALL BEGINS WITH ATTITUDE AND PRE-PLANNING
Your parachute system will save your life in an emergency bailout situation, but you have to give it every opportunity to do so. Due to a very tragic accident in which a nationally known aerobatic pilot fell out of his apparently improperly adjusted parachute harness after a successful exit from his disabled aircraft, I decided it was time to head back to my word processor.
This will be the first in a series of comprehensive articles on your safety and survival. I hope this three-part series will shed some light on some to the myths and stigmas about wearing and having to use your emergency parachute. While these articles address almost every aspect of safety and basic procedures, they are not intended as a substitute for survival or parachute jump training. At the very least, have your rigger go over these procedures with you until you are familiar with them.
This first installment will cover your attitude and pre-planning toward bailing out, proper storage of your parachute and preflight inspection in order to insure that you have complete confidence the parachute you strap on your back will function properly. This is the same reason you preflight your aircraft.
Your attitude plays a major role in your survival. To paraphrase Yogi Berra, "Ninety percent of a successful parachute jump is half mental." Preflighting your thinking about emergencies could save your life. I strongly urge you to prepare now in the unlikely event you'll have to use your "expensive cushion". During an emergency is not the time to brush up on your emergency procedures. You should plan in advance what will work best for you and your aircraft configuration.
The primary cause of most unsuccessful emergency bailouts is waiting too long to make the decision to bailout and not being prepared. This is your last option, but always make sure you keep it open as an option. Become familiar with your particular aircraft's escape procedures and practice them often until they are second nature. You must be able to react instantly to save valuable time, altitude and your life.
MOST IMPORTANTLY DO NOT GIVE UP. Your life is much too important to you and your loved ones. So don't throw in the towel. What didn't work the first time may work well the next time. A confident, positive attitude will be a recurrent theme throughout this series of articles so begin to develop the mind set that, "I can and will bailout of my disabled aircraft should the need arise."
This positive attitude and confidence in your equipment begins with proper storage at all times and a thorough preflight inspection prior to every use. Unless you have personally and positively checked its condition each time you put on your parachute how can you totally trust that it will save your life? Keep your parachute in a cool, dark place off the floor. Your parachute should be kept in a storage bag, when not in use between the 120 day recertification and repack. Avoid storing it for a prolonged time in areas that could be extremely hot, such as your cockpit, the trunk of your car or even the back seat on a hot, sunny day. Your garage where the hot water heater, washer or dryer may be located is also not a good storage area. Heat and humidity play a very important role in how long your parachute will last. Excessive heat can cause the rubber bands to deteriorate (melt) over time and permanently damage the canopy material and/or lines. I have seen two canopies
this past year turned into car covers because of this problem. Maybe your parachute deserves a special place inside your home or office. Avoid greasy areas or areas that may have sharp surfaces. Keep it away from liquid or dirt. Your car trunk may be convenient, but an exceptionally bad area to keep your parachute. Not only can it be very hot but batteries or jumper cables with battery acid residue may have been or still are kept there. Battery acid can mean instant death to your parachute.
Lockers are generally all right, but if there's a way for mice or insects to enter I would look for a different location. Mice like to chew up the parachute for nesting material and can do severe damage in minutes.
If you are going to store your parachute for an extended period of time (six months or more) you should pull the ripcord and remove the lines from the rubber bands used to hold them in place. Put everything in the carrying bag or other suitable container to protect it, such as a heavy duty plastic bag. If you have any doubts about the condition of your parachute contact your rigger or the manufacturer.
Most manufacturers' manuals for parachutes in use today discuss how to perform a preflight inspection and I urge you to become familiar with them. If you do not have a manual, get one from the manufacturer or copy a friend's, if they have the same type and model of parachute.
Let's begin by visually checking the carrying bag (if your parachute is in one) for obvious signs of damage or contamination before you remove your parachute. This could be an indication of damage to your parachute inside.
Now, remove your parachute from the bag and carefully check it for damage that may have been caused by such things as fuel, oil or sharp objects in your aircraft that may have punctured or be abrading the parachute container. If you have sharp surfaces, including the hook portion of velcro tape, in your aircraft, particularly on seats with the cushions removed, you must smooth these areas by padding, taping or filing them. Be careful of tape because the chemicals on the adhesive may damage your parachute harness/container. If the hook portion of the velcro tape is on the seat back remove it or put a piece of the velcro pile on it.
Inspect all the snaps (leg & chest) for
proper function and appearance. They should be free from
corrosion and dirt. A very small amount of lubricant such
as WD-40 or silicone spray can be used on snaps to keep
them working freely, but be careful to
Make sure the velcro or snaps (not leg and chest snaps) that may be used to keep the various container flaps closed are properly fastened. If they are undone you can refasten them, but be careful not to catch any parachute material.
Check the harness to make sure it's not damaged and that the webbing is routed properly with no twists. There should be elastic keepers or other means to stow the free ends of the webbing to keep them from snagging on anything, especially during an emergency bailout. If you are in doubt about anything consult your manual, the manufacturer or your rigger. That's what they're for.
If at any time your ripcord is accidentally pulled or the parachute canopy is partially out of the container DO NOT attempt to close it on your own. Contact your rigger for his or her advice.
Now that the groundwork has been laid to get you in the right frame of mind to believe your parachute will save your life I'll leave you. In the next issue I'll take you up to the point of being suspended under an open canopy. This will include properly donning and adjusting your parachute, exiting your disabled aircraft and deploying your parachute system. The final installment will cover steering the canopy, avoiding obstacles and proper landing procedures.
Until then, Blue Skies and safe flying. Please don't hesitate to call or write, if you have any questions or parachute needs. Ask me about a safety seminar for your flying group. I'm here to make sure that you survive. I can be reached at (510) 785-7070, Monday-Friday 8am-4pm (PST).
You can find other articles by Allen Silver on his website, http://www.silverparachutes.com/
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