Harness Condition Issues

Q:

 

What harness condition issues should I keep an eye out for?

A:It is not unusual to find someone jumping a harness-and-container system that is more than 20 years old and still in great shape, even after thousands of skydives. But although your parachute harness can take a lot of abuse and still come through unscathed, it is not entirely indestructible.

Fortunately, gear manufacturers have refined the manufacturing process and the quality of the materials they’ve used for harnesses over the years to the point where there are now very few (if any) issues that substandard hardware, design or manufacturing can cause. This was not always the case, and some older containers had problems such as poorly made friction adapters that damaged the harness material, poor stitching, etc. Even with the rise in rig quality, it is still a good idea to check the manufacturer’s website every now and then to see if there are any new service bulletins that apply to your rig.

This pretty much leaves wear-and-tear and user-inflicted damage as the main enemies of your harness. If the hook side of any Velcro on your rig regularly comes into contact with your harness, it can cause enough damage over time that you’ll need to replace the harness. Some container designs use Velcro to attach a rig’s reserve static line to the reserve risers, and older rigs often used Velcro to keep the riser covers closed. If your rig uses Velcro anywhere, make sure none of the hook side is exposed and allowed to come in contact with the harness.

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Hardware abrasion.
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Hardware abrasion and puckering.
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Road rash.
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Velcro damage.

Today, the most common cause of harness damage stems from bad landings onto airport aprons, runways or taxiways that have concrete or asphalt surfaces. All it takes is a split-second face plant onto an unforgiving surface to have it rub through your harness to the point where the harness becomes dangerously thin and un-airworthy. Sometimes, metal hardware also becomes damaged in the process. Packing on rough surfaces and dragging the container can also damage harness webbing and hardware.

Once a harness is compromised, it needs to be repaired by the manufacturer or an FAA Master Rigger. Depending on the harness design and the location of the damage, the repair can be relatively quick and inexpensive or very complex and costly. Replacing a leg strap on a harness with hip rings is usually a fairly simple repair that generally involves sewing a short piece of leg-strap webbing around the hip ring itself. However, many jumpers are surprised to learn that leg-strap damage on certain harness designs may require replacement of one entire side of the harness, including the reserve riser. (Some manufacturers have approved master riggers to splice in a new piece of leg strap webbing as an alternative, which is much easier and cheaper than replacing the entire side.)

Your harness gets an inspection every six months during its reserve repack. However, it is up to you to keep an eye on things between repacks and to know when something looks like it needs the attention of a rigger before you make another jump. Make a habit of looking over your harness along with the rest of your parachute system. This is especially true if you just landed while performing your best Superman imitation by sliding face down across the taxiway at the speed of light.

—Jim Crouch | D-16979
USPA Director of Safety & Training and FAA Senior Rigger

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