It was many years
ago when we received the first Strato Star in
our area, complete with rings and ropes, and
you never would have guessed that our small
group of riggers had a combined experience of
several thousand skydives, not to mention as
much rigging and packing experience as most
anybody else in the world. We must have really
looked strange, the way we inspected, fondled,
fumbled and speculated how this thing was supposed
to go into that little backpack kind of thing
that the manufacturer shipped with it. Of course,
we hadn't yet considered looking at the Owners
Manual; we wanted to figure it out by ourselves.
We all knew of
the Barish Sailwings, and the Volplanes with
hydraulic reefing. Some of us had even jumped
the Para Sleds and Baby Planes, but none of
us really knew anybody who had a lot of experience
packing these things. These newfangled things.
Back in those days, there were no packing videos.
Very few companies published packing instructions
with photographs. The ones that did, left it
up to your own interpretation as how you were
to get the canopy from "photo_A" to
"photo_B". Many of the canopies which
we used for both mains and reserves were simply
packed as instructed, "pleat the gores
in the normal manner", a phrase commonly
quoted by many manufacturers in their instructions
I remember one
company that published its packing instructions
on a little fold-out leaflet, so you could kinda
carry it in your helmet to make sure you had
it handy when it came time to fold the thing
back up (the parachute) and put it into the
container. The instruction sheet was harder
to fold up than the canopy.
There were deployment
devices such as sleeves, pods (para-opening-devices),
bags, and slags (half sleeve/half bag). There
were cones and grommets, and spring loaded everything,
from pilotchutes to pack opening bands. There
was no such thing as a pull-up cord, and I distinctly
remember a kinda half hitch arrangement packed
into the lines of one canopy to hold the bag
closed which was referred to as the "dead-man
knot". I know there are still a lot of
people around who remember all of these things,
but there are an awful lot of you who might
not have a clue what all this mumbo-jumbo is
It's about packing
canopies, of course, and mostly about packing
square canopies in particular. Ram-air mains
started catching on in the late 70s. Ram-air
reserves started catching on in the early 80s.
There have been as many different ways to pack
a ram-air parachute as there have been models
to choose from.
I personally know
three different people who claim to be the inventor
of the "propack", a method for packing
ramairs which has become popular in recent years.
I don't really have anything against the "propack",
but what does that term really mean? If you
ask ten different people to show you how to
"propack", I will give you a dollar
for each one who does it the same as the last.
The "PRO" in propack is said to have
been an acronym for "Proper Ram-air Organization".
Maybe it should have stood for "Proper
Ram-air Orientation" referring to the fact
that for the first time a ram-air canopy was
actually going into the container the way it
was intended to come out. (You see, the early
squares were packed by laying them on their
sides before folding, a packjob which is still
used quite successfully by many people. Some
people erroneously think this "side-pack"
method induces a 90 degree off heading opening.
It's not true.) As I remember it, the original
idea of the "propack" was to keep
everything on heading, in theory, that is. That
was a significant idea, and I agree that it
worked to a degree, as long as aspect ratios
were hovering around 2.0 and there were no coated
fabrics or complex airfoils.
In the early days
of propacking, there was no mention of awkward
techniques like stuffing the leading edges into
the center cell to "reduce opening shock",
or rolling the nose past the "B" lines
to ease the pain induced by the parachute opening
sequence. These bastardizations to an otherwise
pretty good packjob came along to help skydivers
deal with more complex airfoils and fabrics.
Talk about producing an off-heading opening!
Some of the things we hear and see about how
people are currently packing out there in the
real world are a true test and testament to
the reliability of the ram-air parachute.
procedures have continued to develop along with
the development of new canopy designs. When
we first started droptesting the Batwing
, I wanted to have a pack job which produced
consistent openings, of course, but it also
had to be a packjob which wasn't such a hassle
to get into the bag.
I started out by
thinking I might have modify the parachute design
to accommodate the problem of getting the trapped
air out of the Zero-P canopy, but then, that
didn't really make much sense. I had gone to
a great deal of effort and calculation to design
this airfoil, so why would I want to go and
cut it full of vents just to get into the d-bag?
What I needed to do was to develop a method
of folding the canopy which exhausted all of
the air out of the airfoil where it entered
in the first place, at the leading edge.
propack might have been OK, except that there
was always this huge bulging bubble when I laid
the canopy down on the ground. You all know
what I'm talking about. There ought to be a
name for this thing. I'll call it the "bubbulge".
It is (was) a problem.
was that contortionist procedure thing I always
had to do in order to get the canopy all stacked
up so I could smash it down into this little
bag. After the canopy is finally crammed in,
the bag always looks like it is about half as
big as it needs to be. That's because all that
fabric is in there, slipping around on itself,
trying to fill back up with air, and you don't
have a new rubber band in your pocket! Damn!
What I ended up
doing to remove all of this frustration is really
simple. I will attempt to put it down into words,
although I might run the risk of just confusing
I have to say at
the outset, that while this packjob has worked
successfully for us in over a thousand documented
deployments in the past year, neither I nor
USPA can be responsible for you or your equipment
if you try to pack this way. At Precision Aerodynamics,
we pack all of our demo equipment this way,
and we base the reputation of our product on
its consistent results. You have to realize
that your interpretation or misinterpretation
of these words may lead to canopy damage, bodily
injury or death. You must pack your parachute
any way you want to. It's your canopy and you
are the one who is jumping out of the airplane.
Accept the risk and be responsible for yourself.
Having said that, I will cautiously continue
to try to describe the procedure.
It is always important
to inspect the entire assembly and determine
that the system is airworthy. Make sure that
the canopy's direction of flight is correctly
oriented to the harness. For the purpose of
this article, I am going to simply focus on
the "canopy folding procedure" which
has been so very successful for us.
Lay the container
on the floor, harness down, and stow the brakes
in accordance with the container manufacturer's
instructions. Split the line groups and run
the slider up toward the canopy, observing that
the leading edge of the canopy is hanging at
your knees with the trailing edge of the canopy
away from you. Work the fabric which is between
the line groups to the outside of the lines,
and continue for all sections of the canopy.
This "accordion folding" A-B section,
the B-C section, and the C-D section is intended
to minimize fabric/line friction during extraction
from the bag, as well as minimize the pack volume
as a result. The idea here is to keep all of
the line attachment points toward the center
of the packjob, with the fabric folded to the
It is important
that you pay particular attention to the location
of the "D" lines and the "control
lines" in particular. It is imperative
that you maintain the relative position of these
and all lines throughout this process, or you
might end up with a malfunction caused by these
lines migrating up to and in front of the leading
edge of the canopy during the rest of the process.
The leading edge is neither rolled nor stuffed.
Just leave it there exposed, even with convicted
"hard-opening" canopies. We have seen
this packjob tame even the baddest of the bad.
The slider is neatly
"cloverleafed" into position so that
it is quartered into the hanging canopy and
against the slider stops. Bring the center of
the trailing edge up and hold it under your
thumb while you roll up the hanging sections
of the trailing edge. So far, this resembles
what is commonly referred to as a "propack".
Here is where everything
changes. Flip the canopy around now, so that
you are actually inducing a 180 degree line
twist into the packjob. Continue to roll the
canopy up at the trailing edge, which now overlays
the leading edge. You are really creating a
pretty tight cocoon. Now you should be standing
there with the canopy hanging from your right
hand, with your right hand still controlling
the slider's position and the trailing edge,
and your left hand controlling the cocoon. The
bag and pilot chute are hanging from the bridle
attachment point, and as you swing them out
of the way, you flop the cocoon to the floor,
retaining control over the position of the "D"
lines and control lines with the placement of
your left hand as the bundle hits the floor.
You have maintained line tension with your right
hand through this process, and the only difference
in this and an otherwise "normal"
propack is that now the container is looking
down and the canopy is looking up. Don't worry
about that for now.
Replace your right
hand with your right knee and your left hand
with your left knee to continue control of the
bundle. You now have a triangular shaped bundle
with the rolled trailing edge facing up, covering
the leading edge of the canopy. Fold the "ears"
in so that the entire canopy portion is slightly
less than bag-width. Pull the bridle attachment
point out to one side or the other, and start
to roll the canopy up like a sleeping bag from
the top to the bottom. Keep the roll tight,
and maintain the roll to be the width of the
bag. The bridle ring needs to be pulled far
enough out from the center of the roll (the
axle) that it can be wrapped around the outside
of the roll and maintain contact the grommet
in the bag. This is important.
When you roll the
bundle all the way down to the point where the
lines come out of the canopy fabric, it is quite
easy to see that you can control this small
bundle/roll with one hand, holding it like a
football. While holding the canopy roll in your
right hand, it is easy to slip the deployment
bag over the roll, but make sure that you place
the bag on "upside down" because,
remember, the canopy is still 180 degrees out
relating to the container. Now with the canopy
in the deployment bag, you will notice that
there is absolutely no tendency for the bagged
canopy to fill with air. It is not trying to
escape from the bag. It is not sliding all over
itself making your life miserable.
This is the point
at which people say, "What if you forget
which way you turned it?", referring to
the 180 degree half-twist you put into the lines
a few minutes ago. Well, simply stated, just
don't forget, because now is the time to take
that half twist out by rotating the bag back
to normal. (Note: if you accidentally do turn
the bag the opposite direction, it should be
very obvious that you have a severe line twist
in your packjob.) Simply rotate it back the
other way. If you have maintained sufficient
line tension during the rollup process, this
will not be a problem. If you are completely
confused, start over.
Now close the bag,
stow the lines, and close the container "in
the normal manner".
This article appeared
in December 1995 issue of Parachutist Magazine,
publication of the United
States Parachute Association. I strongly
encourage you to read the text of the article
above, but if you prefer, you can skip straight
to the step by step photos
of the procedure from the links below.