How to deal with the pilot's last chance - deploying a reserve parachute

Ziggi deploys earlier than planned ... The glider bucks wildly in the turbulent sky, and suddenly 80% of the wing is collapsed, and you are thrown into a asymmetric spiral dive. 800m above the ground. You counter-steer, and pump on the collapsed side, but only a few cells re-inflate. Round, round, round, the G-forces increasing. 700m. You try to turn out of the spiral dive, but the pressure on the brake is so great you need two hands to move it downwards. Roundroundround. The wind whistles past your ears. Then the outer wing bends back and stalls, and the glider is a flapping bag of washing above your head. It thrashes about, and you release the brakes. 600m. The wing suddenly pitches, too fast to catch on the brakes, and it dives asymmetrically. The lower wing-tip collapses upwards through the lines. You fall past the wing, and the lines snap taught, trapping the collapsed tip in a cravatte. 500m. The wing begins to spiral again, and you induce a wing-tuck on the cravatted side, hoping to free the wing-tip. Spiral dive. Round round round. 400m. 300m.

1. DECIDE When you have fought to regain control of the glider, tried everything possible, and it hasn't worked, or you feel you're too close to the ground to think. At 300m you are running out of height, 200m is just enough to execute a fully controlled reserve deployment. 100m is very low, and below that the reserve may not deploy fully, although some pilots have had deployments as low as 50m and walked away.

There are three situations that warrant a reserve deployment
* Unrecoverable flight situation - you tried to fix it, but have run out of altitude, or the known recovery will take more height than you have available.
* Mid-air collision - two paragliders are tangled in such a way that they can no longer be flown.
* Equipment failure - the wing tears apart in flight, or a carabiner snaps off.

2. GRAB the reserve handle. Practice this on every flight so that you can find the handle instantly with your eyes closed. You may be seriously disorientated in a heavy spiral dive, and forget where the handle is. Keep your arm close to your body as you reach for the handle when experiencing high G-forces.

3. LOOK to check that you have the reserve handle and not the harness webbing, or your shoelace. It has happened to pilots, so laugh in sympathy, not in scorn - it is possible that you may attempt to throw something that isn't the reserve. A second to check can save many seconds of incorrect input.

4. PULL the handle to release the reserve pins. Each harness has a different geometry, and it pays to practice deploying your reserve. Sometimes it is possible to deploy the reserve in one continuous outward pull, letting the handle go when your arm reaches full extension from your side. Sometimes this will not provide enough power, and twisting the wrist while pushing the handle forwards can give a more effective pull. Go in hard with the first pull, as some harnesses require a bit of power to release the reserve. Velcro closures on the harness may also become tightly bonded due to lack of regular inspection. The pull should be a punching motion, alongside the body and forwards.

5. LOOK where you intend to throw the reserve. Behind you and downwards is usually clear, but your main glider might be there, which would result in a failed deployment. Choose a space.

6. THROW with all your might. Your shoulder leads the motion, then the elbow, finally the wrist, flinging the reserve out and away from your body. Remember to let go of the handle!

7. LOOK at the ground to prepare for landing, then look back at the reserve to check that it is deploying correctly. It may need a tug to assist, if the throw was not hard enough. As soon as the skirt begins to billow open.

8. COLLAPSE GLIDER. As the reserve inflates, you will be pulled backwards by it, for it has no forward speed. Your main glider will dive in front of you. You will become suspended between the two aircraft, 'stretched on the rack' so to say. The reserve keeps pulling back, the glider feels your body pulling away from it, and flies, fully inflated, in a dive. Straight towards the ground. This is called down-planing, and needs to be prevented. There are three techniques :
* A heavy B-line may work to stall the glider and prevent the down-plane completely.
* A rosette, pulling in one of the central A-lines (pull in a large amount) is very effective, especially on wings of high aspect-ratio.
* If you have height, allow the glider to pitch until it is way below the horizon, then take the A-risers in your hands, as high as you can reach, and induce a massive front tuck. If you can catch some of the fabric in your hands as the glider blows past you, you can neutralise the danger of the main wing.
* Trying to stall the glider using the brakes or back risers is nearly impossible.

9. PLF is the tried and tested method for avoiding injury in high-impact landings. The Parachute Landing Fall needs to be practised to be fully effective. Remember to keep your ankles together, your knees together and slightly bent, your body and feet turned at a slight angle to the direction of impact (45degrees). Present your calf to the ground first, then your thigh, then the hip, then tuck your torso in and roll, straightening your legs as you roll over on your back.

10. DRAGGING is inevitable in any wind. You need to roll over and get on your feet as soon as possible, and run towards your reserve, pulling the bridle in. This is awkward, especially if your main glider tugs at you as well. Quick-release carabiners may be very helpful, or a hook-knife. A useful alternative is to unclip from the harness and wriggle out.