* With apologies to Charles Dickens
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like times past, that some of the noisiest of the mainstream media insisted on its being received, as both good and evil, as long as it was reported with much rumour, innuendo and hyperbole. And it all depended, most definitely, on a point of of view which the media, sought mightily, to impart upon the public.
Cast in the future in this time was also the approaching moment of the ‘selection of the parachutes’. A time in the history of Orstralia where those given the right were legitimised to leap from the aircraft of complacency and parachute boldly into the future. Flinging their fate, by way of their parachutes, into a brave new world, it might be said!
And to engage in this leap of faith one needed to chose one’s parachute. A choice not to be undertaken lightly, nor with any sense of complacency, but with a sense that parachutes have been known to go awry, sometimes failing with much accompanied wailing and disastrously tragic consequences. And like the best of times, and the worst of times, it was a time to contemplate the offerings of the parachute makers, and after due consideration, to make your choice – lead where it may, for richer, or for poorer, for better, or for worse! That moment was fast approaching, though some, rather foolishly it may be said, had already made their choice, foregoing a careful examination of what was on offer!
There are two main manufacturers, leaders in the field, whose parachutes attract the greatest selection by the discerning chutist, and depending on your viewpoint, the wearer’s could be considered as either ‘very adventurous’, or conversely, ‘very conservative’. It was to these wearers that the respective manufacturer’s touted their wares. As with all things, there was, of course those, who being more adventurous than others, would choose parachutes from fringe manufacturers, not of the mainstream. Sometimes this was a goodly choice, at other times not. The 2010 jump had proved adventitious for the more adventurous, and for the fringe manufacturers.
One of these major manufacturers has labored mightily to reconstitute it’s current parachute into a form that would continue to attract its current followers, as well as attract those who had opted for the parachutes of others, especially those of the other major manufacturer. It’s canopy had been much abused over several years, but had been found remarkably resilient. Apart from four panels sourced from fringe manufacturers, when some panels were lost during the 2010 jump, the canopy remained largely uniform except for some left and right bias. Often this gave the parachute a tendency to ride roughly in adverse wind currents. Fortunately such bias was largely overcome by the fringe manufacturer panels which provided a degree of stability not normally seen in parachutes of this particular design. It remains to be seen how the chute might perform in the future without any outsourced panels. Time will tell! The canopy suspension lines are predominantly of tough union made materials with the occasional addition of more openly sourced material. Since the removal to the rear of the previous main harness, initially so successful in the 2007 jump, and which subsequently unravelled, this parachute, with its revamped harness has performed remarkably well, with only occasional troublesome vibrations from a discordant suspension link, which has a tendency to create dangerous harmonics in adjoining lines. A sharp tug at the main harness usually restores balance, for a time, but this particular suspension link needs careful monitoring! The manufacturer has decided that it will continue to provide this parachute as its model of choice for the 2013 jump, despite there being a considerable degree of questioning in the media as to its suitability to perform well in another jump. Many aficionados praise this chute as; ‘the one you know’!
The other manufacturer, who touts a more conservative design as the chute that will perform best in 2013, and beyond, has provided a catchy phrase to advertise it’s ware: ‘Hope, Reward, Opportunity’! As with all phrases, whilst its meaning is somewhat lacking in consistency, it nevertheless has a certain counterintuitive ring to it. Perhaps ‘Hope, Opportunity, Reward’ would have been more ‘sequentially acceptable’? This manufacturer has decided on a much more conservative design than that which failed so dismally in the 2007 jump, and also in 2010, despite the necessary removal of some old and beyond their use-by date suspensions lines and a very dubious and tired main harness. Unfortunately the main harness used in 2010 also proved to be rather inflexible thereby creating a rather hard landing, and sadly, much to the chagrin of the manufacturer, a missed opportunity! Surprisingly the latest design retains the same harness, begging the question; ‘is this the dubious crink in the chute’ or perhaps, ‘the weak link in the chain?’ Their more conservative model, while still containing many left-over suspension lines from earlier jumps has a canopy which presents with severe and negative lines when fully deployed. This negativity gives rise to questions about its ability to open fully and to provide the necessary support during the descent. It is considered that the chutes claimed, ‘turn back’ manoeuvrability may not match chutist’s expectations. Another hard landing in 2013 would be untenable, unbearable, and even harder to swallow. One particularly annoying problem identified during testing of the chute is the tendency of many of the suspension lines to whine discordantly in the slightest breeze – at the least disconcerting and, at worst, bloody annoying, and it is considered that these promissory ‘sounds without substance’ may affect overall performance. Removal of these suspect suspension lines, and replacement with more substantial material, would be advisable. However, given the circumstances of an absence of new, well-tested, and carefully evaluated cordage, things are best left as they are, especially if these problems are fortuitously overlooked by the eager purchaser. The proof, as they say in parachute world, will be in the landing!!
It is of concern that both manufacturers have discarded their emergency chutes in the pursuit of both weight reduction and to improve aerodynamic drag, and it can only be said in such circumstances that one can only advise: ‘Think carefully! Choose wisely!’
And so there we have it! Leaving you with the usual postscript . . . . . . !