Dr Matt Wilkes has produced an outstanding contribution to paragliding safety. Together with his many supporters, sports professionals, regulators and the team at the Thames Valley Club he ran a study on emergency parachute deployment during the annual reserve repacking event.
He points out that pilots (and all people) react differently when under extreme stress, and revert to instinctive behaviours. These can conflict with the way emergency parachute release systems are designed. Although training can help to improve technique, Dr Wilkes says it would be best for harnesses to be designed for the reality: pilots revert to their survival instincts.
Watch this excellent production by Bandarra and Dr Matt Wilkes on Emergency Parachute Throwing
- Reserve handles should be positioned on the hip.
- Harnesses should be (re)designed to cater firstly for an upward and backward pull that favours the strongest muscles and instinctive responses.
- Handles must be made easy to grip fully, with either hand, should be brightly coloured, and in clear visual position, with lead lines (visual cues) on the harness.
- Front mount reserve handles are easier to locate but do not increase overall speed.
- The best deployment is straight outwards in a single sweeping movement.
Dr Wilkes notes that some harnesses had a mismatched combination of ill-shaped deployment bags, strop lengths that were unsuitable for some short pilots, and other problems that frustrated deployment. In two cases (approximately 4% of the group), deployments failed altogether, which highlights the risks – in a real emergency, those pilots might be dead.
The best results came when harness and inner deployment bag had been designed together and came from the same manufacturer.
A problem with a reserve parachute can be life-threatening. This is why we always do a test deployment for our customers.
Bear this is mind when you find that ‘cheap deal’ from somewhere on the internet. Does the price include a compatibility check? If you buy a harness and reserve from Flybubble, or part-ex your old harness and need your reserve transferred to your new one, we do this free of charge and will hang in the simulator and deploy your reserve before repacking it and shipping it to you. We know it works, because we test it!
To prepare yourself, read our detailed guide on How To Deploy Your Reserve Parachute
Find out more about Dr Matt Wilkes’ work on the Free Flight Physiology Project