Preventing Hard Openings
I’ve been having hard openings on my canopy, and someone told me I should roll the nose more. Is this something you recommend?
The most concise answer is, “If all else fails, you can try it.” However, most of today’s canopy designs do not require the parachute packer to roll the nose to get good and consistent openings. Rolling the nose on older, more rectangular canopy designs of the 1980s and ‘90s sometimes had the desired effect of slowing down openings that were too fast or hard. So, if you have this type of canopy, you might have success with rolling the nose. At least, it could be worth trying. However, canopies that are highly elliptical, semi-elliptical, tapered or slightly tapered will most likely react negatively to rolling the nose. The canopy may actually open harder than it had been, open off heading, start spinning, or it may even go into line twists.
If you decide to try rolling the nose to slow down your openings, do so symmetrically. If you’re PRO packing, gather all the cells’ leading edges together while they’re hanging straight down. Leaving the center cell alone, locate each group of cells on either side of the center and roll their leading edges toward the center cell. If you are flat-packing the canopy, you’ll do the same thing on the ground.
That said, it is probably more useful to go deeper into the reason you asked about rolling the nose in the first place: You’re having hard openings. Getting good openings on your parachute is a coordinated process involving all parts of the deployment system—pilot chute, bridle, deployment bag, riser covers, slider and the canopy itself—and how they are packed. If your parachute system is new, then chances are good that all the parts match up properly and that the system is in good shape. If you own a used system in its original configuration, you should check to make sure all the parts of the system are in good working condition.
When purchasing a parachute system, it is always wise to fly before you buy. You can ask if the previous owner had a problem with openings, but good luck with that. Buying a used parachute or parachute system is no different from buying a used car. Unless you test drive it first, there is no guarantee you will be getting a properly performing vehicle.
If you have been successfully jumping for a while with a new or used parachute system and the hard openings are something new, then something has changed. Think back to when the hard openings started. Did anything change at all with your equipment at that time? You’ll want to:
- Check the riser covers to make sure they are releasing properly and evenly.
- Check the pilot chute to make sure the center line has not stretched or shrunk.
- Ask yourself whether you’re using the same stow-bands you have always used and whether the stow-bands are ones that the manufacturer recommends.
- Check (or have your rigger check) the canopy’s trim.
- Ask yourself whether you’ve changed anything in your packing method, no matter how minor it may seem.
- Ask yourself whether you’ve started freeflying, sit-flying or taking part in a discipline that requires slowing down more at pull time.
If all of your equipment is new (or used but in its original configuration and in good shape) and you’ve had hard openings with it from the start, you need to take a look at your packing method. Even if you have some experience and this is not your first set of gear, you may be packing in a way that worked just fine for the canopy or system you owned previously but not in a way that is suitable for your new system. Performance Designs has informational videos about packing, including how to prevent hard openings on its or just about any other manufacturer’s sport canopies, at The PD Blog's YouTube Channel.
Finally, if you have ensured that all parts of your deployment system are correct and that you are packing exactly as the manufacturer prescribes but are still having trouble with openings, contact the canopy manufacturer for further input on what your next step should be.
—Rusty Vest | D-5838
FAA Senior Rigger
Customer Service and Marketing Manager, Performance Designs Inc.