06 December 2012

Should Competition and XC Pilots Have 2 Reserves?

Two emergency parachutes are de rigour for acro pilots. Now there is a proposal from CIVL that all entrants to Category 1 competitions follow suit. Coming from the review into competition safety, it sits alongside a range of other proposals.
There appears to be suspicion rather than evidence that lives would have been saved by a second parachute. There have been a number of tragic incidents where pilots have failed to deploy, but the reasons aren't clear. Could the pilot's hand have been trapped in riser twists? Possibly the pilot could not reach the handle for some other reason? Maybe excessive G-force caused the pilot to black out? Can we be sure that the disorientated pilot was able to make the decision to deploy? There are documented cases of parachutes failing to open properly, for example when they get caught in the lines of the glider.
If past history is an indicator, it is fair to assume that a rule change in Category 1 events will also be taken on in Category 2 events, so lots of pilots could be affected. If a second parachute would be a genuine step forward in safety in competitions then isn't it also a good idea for general XC flying?
Opinions are split and personally I am unconvinced by the proposal. I would prefer it be left as a strong recommendation for the time being. I can understand that pilots are very wary of the additional weight, expense and complexity. Thankfully it won't require a change of harness for too many: in addition to the reserve installed as normal in the harness, a front mounted second parachute would do the job. It would have the added benefit of being deployable by either hand.
Perhaps this is a proposal we should not resist. There is strength in the argument that if a second parachute saves just one life then it it worth it.


  1. > There is strength in the argument that if a second parachute saves just one life then it it worth it.

    No, this is not an argument.

    Is there strength in the argument that if making back protecters twice as thick saves just one life then it is worth it?

    Is there strength in the argument that banning EN Ds and setting EN C as the upper limit saves just one life then it is worth it?

    Where do you stop?

  2. I think the "where do you stop?" question is absolutely a fair one and that is why I prefer the second parachute to be a recommendation and not mandatory. The primary effort to help safety needs to be elsewhere. My personal responsibility for my own safety focuses on avoiding the reserve in the first place by making good decisions, trying not to shave the margins too close, training regularly to maintain and develop my glider handling skills.