What color?

Mine is red.
Reserve parachute ready for repacking

There’s a book titled What Color Is Your Parachute?, about figuring out what your career path should be (I think). It might be an appropriate book for me, since I’m currently seeking an employment position, but this post is more literally about parachutes.

It is recommended that reserve parachutes for hang gliding and paragliding be repacked at least once a year. I have enough space to do this at home, provided I put in the work to get my living room adequately dust-free, but at the moment I have a bunch of extra furniture in there that makes it a hassle to get at the end walls to anchor the parachute while folding it up. Fortunately, one of the clubs that I belong to, NEPHC, (which is predominantly a PG club, with a few of us HG pilots as well) likes to host a chute repacking clinic once a year if possible. One of the members, Randy (a HG pilot) owns a martial arts studio, and for the second year, that’s where the clinic has been held. It’s an ideal place: plenty of space, wooden floors, bright, and impeccably clean. It’s also very conveniently located to where I live. The clinic starts with a seminar about all matters relating to reserve chutes, led by John Gallagher.
JG leads chute clinic

This year, I had other things on my schedule, so I couldn’t stay for the entire clinic, I just showed up and repacked my own parachute during the first two hours, and I had to miss the last three (which I think probably included having pilots hang from the ceiling and doing practice throws). I did a cursory check of my own packing job from last year, by making sure that I could rip my chute out of the container with one try (just holding the harness, not wearing it), and then throwing it across the room to make sure that it properly came out of the deployment bag (which it did). I followed that with a thorough inspection to make sure there were no dead bugs or anything in there, and to fluff out the material ensuring that it’s not stuck together, before stretching it out and doing the repack.

I had no idea what color my parachute was until I used it three years ago (I think I had imagined it to be white, but the red circle against the sky was a very welcome sight (any color would have been fine with me!). It’s a bit surprising that the chute came through that ordeal in usable condition, and I now joke that I’m one of few people who has a “fully-tested” parachute (which is not something I recommend!). I sent it back to the manufacturer for repairs and inspection, and there were only two spots that needed to be patched (shown with the ‘biner for size comparison).
Patches on parachute

Two days before the clinic, there had been a couple of options for flying. Keith and Timo went to the Trail, and although conditions were reportedly good when they started setting up, the wind faded below the point of soarability, and in the end Timo did two sledders to the bailout LZ. Greg had sent out a note about trying Talcott, which I considered joining him for, but I didn’t hear from him until nearly 5 PM, which was too late for me to be able to make the drive. He wound up getting 10 minutes of airtime. Then the day before the clinic, Jon A and Jeff C decided to head down to Wellfleet for some late afternoon flying, despite the fact that the forecast was kind of on the light side. The reality turned out to be even lighter than the forecast, and even the PGs couldn’t get enough lift. The best flight was one PG who made one pass, came back, and toplanded, while the others just sledded to the beach; Jeff never even took his glider off the car. But then at the clinic, Jon B was packing his chute next to me, and commented that the weather actually looked really good, and maybe we should have gone to the Trail. My commitments meant that I couldn’t have gone flying anyway, but as I drove away, I have to admit that the sky looked pretty appealing.
The siren song from above

Within a half-hour, though, serious overdevelopment was moving in from the west, so at the Trail, it was probably socked in all day. By 5 PM, it had started raining. While all this was going on over the course of three days, I was thinking that I was missing out on airtime opportunities, but the truth is that I just saved myself a lot of pointless driving.  Sigh.


About cleversky

Hang glider pilot in New England since 2004. Also an avid orienteer, and an embedded systems firmware engineer. And some other outdoor stuff.
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