Posted by “Vulcan”
SourceParagliding Forum
Date: Monday, Feb 10, 2014 06:32 AM
Subject: Finally used my reserve…

After 15 years of XC flying around the World I was beginning to think that carrying a reserve was a waste of time. Especially as nearly all the reserve throws I have seen were unnecessary i.e. the wing wanted to fly but the pilot did not let it.
Sunday last week I was flying at Manilla. Australia is in drought at the moment and I have never seen Manilla so dry and brown…this makes for some big and, at times rough, air.
I had flown about 140 klms and it was the roughest flight I had ever had at Manilla. But it was about 5.00 pm and the air had calmed down quite a lot so I wasn’t expecting anything.
I was about 1000 m above the ground and flying towards another wing in a climb. I had just reached the edge of the lift when I had the biggest, fastest collapse in my flying career, without any noticeable warning. The wing pitched back behind me and then dived down below me.
I tried to brake the surge but obviously was too slow and did not give enough input. Then I was weightless and catapulted between the risers. I hit the left lines and luckily did not go through them. Next the wing started to turn quickly and I thought it was going to wind up into a big spiral.
I reached for the reserve handle but the wing stopped turning so I didn’t throw. It quickly became stable and the descent rate was not high. At some point I looked up and realised that I had a 50% cravat and about 4 riser twists.
I reached up and could just touch the lines above the twists but could not get the risers to untwist.
After some consideration I decided that this was not something I was likely to be able to resolve and so decided to throw my reserve.
Interestingly my descent rate was only about 4.5 mps at that point so could have ridden the wing to the ground but as I could not be sure it would stay in this configuration I thought it better to throw. The reserve, which I had repacked in about October, came out very easily and I watched it start to open. Then grabbed one brake I could see in the mess above me and pulled it in which effectively killed the wing as it pitched down.
I continued to come down quite slowly and in a very stable configuration.

My 15 year old (yes, made in 1999!) APCO Mayday 20 worked perfectly.

However, I was drifting around a lot due to large changes of wind direction at different heights (which may well have been one of the reasons for the rough air) and kept drifting backwards and forwards across the Gwydir River. This gave me the biggest scare as there was a good chance I was going to land in the deep, very cold and fast flowing river. I decided I need to prepare for this and initially let go of the wing but it immediately started to re-open so I grabbed the lines again with one hand and unbuckled my flight deck and pod with the other. Eventually I was over the far side of the river and seemed to be coming down very slowly. I just wanted to get on the ground at that point in case I drifted back over the river, the big gum trees along the bank or into power lines.
In the end I landed in the middle of a ploughed and relatively soft paddock about 150 metres from the river. Just before I hit the ground I saw my retrieve vehicle stop at the edge of the paddock (nice work!). Even though I felt like I was coming down slowly and my vario later confirmed I was descending at only about 4.1 mps I hit the ground very hard.
I had bent my knees in preparation for a PLF but basically it just felt like I was thrown at the ground! I had fractured 5 vertebrae in a flying accident back in 2008 and it really hurt when I hit the ground this time! So, I lay there for a few minutes trying to decide if I had damaged anything badly.
As I did my retrieve drove up beside me and I could see 3 wings approaching above me. One was a paramedic who started to wind down to land (thanks Paul) but he was advised it was unnecessary.

1. APCO Mayday reserves are very good!
2. Get the reserve that is going to give you the slowest, most stable descent possible.
3. Don’t relax late in the day when you think the air has calmed down!
4. Maybe consider a steerable reserve – but at the time I felt like I had my hands full without having a reserve to steer. Certainly I would only consider a steerable reserve that has little forward speed unless you release the brakes
5. When purchasing equipment choose carefully on the basis of the fact that it is reasonably likely you will need to use its safety features one day (e.g. get very good back protection in your harness and a very good reserve).

So, I have decided to retire my reserve given its age and the fact that it has done its job…on the other hand I’ve given it a good test! Shocked