A reserve parachute is an essential part of your flying kit, however, there are a lot of different reserve parachutes out there and it can all get very confusing for all pilots!
WHY SHOULD I FLY WITH A RESERVE?
Your last chance if you loose control of your wing
You will not be allowed to join a BHPA recreational club without one
Mid air collision
Low level collapse
There have been reserves deployments at 50ft that have saved the pilots lives! Even if you don’t intend to fly high or in turbulent conditions you must have a reserve. There is no minimum height that you must have in order for the reserve to save your life!
It is imperative that you buy a certified reserve that conforms to CEN standard EN12491. These reserves will have passed rigorous speed of opening tests, decent rate test (max 5.5mps), stability tests and strength tests.
There are two tests during CEN certification. One in-flight test to check opening time, sink rate and stability. The second is from a helicopter and tests load and strength.
It is very important that you choose a reserve that is suitable for your all up weight in flight (You + harness + ballast + instruments + wing). The reserve will specify a maximum load.
ROUND PULL DOWN APEX / ANNULAR:
This is the most popular and widely used reserve type in paragliding.
A central line holds the middle of the canopy open level with the skirt so the air pressure forces the skirt out and the canopy presents the maximum drag area for the smallest amount of material.
Advantages = Pull down apex has very good opening times.
Disadvantages = can be unstable if not properly tested and more likely to have shock openings. Not steerable.
Square shaped reserves decrease oscillations (its user swinging back and forth) and violent turns during descent. You do not want to hit the ground during a turn!
Square reserves have a good glide angle.
Advantages = high pendulum stability, lowest sink rates and fast opening
Disadvantages = As you have forward speed you can’t control exactly where your going to land. Not steerable.
A new generation of reserve parachute.
Advantages = High stability and great sink rate
Disadvantages = Harder to build so considerably more expensive. Not steerable.
The regallo type reserves are steerable and offer the best sink rate, opening time and stability. Having the option to steer
Advantages = Steerable, fast opening, amazing stability and low sink rate.
Disadvantages = Significantly more expensive and more complicated to repack. You would need to fly with quick outs to cut away your main wing.
Conical reserve are now rather old school. Mainly used in the 1980s by hang glider pilots the conical reserves are renowned to be highly unstable. No manufactures still produce conical reserves. Don’t buy a conical reserve!
Most manufacturers recommend you replace your reserve every ten years. The older your reserve is the more likely it is to be porous which make the reserve very dangerous.
You never want to have a sink rate above 5.5mps as this increases the risk of injury on landing.
All certified reserves should open within 5 seconds.