Apart from the line set (We'll talk about this next) your canopy should require very little maintenance. You should give your canopy a visual inspection approx every 100 jumps or possibly get your rigger to do it during your repack cycle. Look for tears in the fabric burns around the slider, stabilizers, bridle attachment and tail as well as broken stitches. The other main things to look for are damaged or rough slider grommets and loose connector links or damaged soft links.
We totally recommend the use of soft links, not only will they make your slider easier to drop down they will be easier to pack with and increase the life of your line set. Most riggers will install soft links for you for a small fee.
Download Soft Link Installation Instructions for Regular.
Download Soft Link Installation Instructions for Tandem.
Download Soft Link Installation Instructions for Reserve.
Collapsible Pilot Chutes
Using a collapsible pilot chute will improve the performance of your canopy. The increase in performance you will gain depends on the size of the canopy and the wing loading. It is a balance between the two rather than wing loading or canopy size as the pilot chute size generally remains constant rather than reducing with the canopy size.
There are two types of collapsing systems in common use, the Kill line system and the Bungee system. We prefer the Kill line however the Bungee is easier to operate and requires less packing.
If you are using a class 3 or below (below 1.25 PSF) or canopies above 160 sf this gain will be minimal and possibly not worth the complication (like in a student canopy situation).
For Class 4 (1.25-1.65 PSF) or canopies between 160 and 120 sf we recommend a collapsible pilot chute. Either a Bungee system or a kill line is OK.
For Class 5 and above (above 1.65 sf) and canopies below 120 sf it is pretty much a necessity. This situation should be used with a kill line rather than a Bungee as the speeds you can reach are leaving a smaller range between a subterminal opening and a hell canopy swoop.
On small canopies collapsing the pilotchute has a double effect, first the drag of the pilot chute has gone and secondly when the pilot chute is inflated it will drag the center of the canopy back putting a slight "V" in the canopy planform. This "V" configuration increases the canopy drag considerably as the flow of air is no longer running directly down the cell (which is relatively smooth) but at an angle across it (which is very rough due to the cells bulging between the ribs). Imagine the cross section of a canopy at any point then imagine the cross section 10 degrees off true and you will understand the need for a collapsing pilot chute in this situation.
Another effect an inflated pilot chute has is to reduce the canopies recovery arc. On a highly loaded canopy with a large recovery arc it may reduce the arc be as much as 30% by pulling the canopy up short and not letting the canopy dive for very long. This becomes especially relevant in two situations. 1) If you have been flying your canopy with an inflated pilotchute then put a collapsing system on you will need to increase the height of your hook turn as your canopy will be diving more and require more time to recover (a potentially dangerous trap) you will also be coming in faster horizontally as your canopy will have accelerated more through this longer recovery arc and through less drag (it will behaving like a smaller canopy). 2) If you are using a Bungee system that may or may not stay collapsed during your swoop you have now lost control of the height that your recovery arc will level out at, especially a problem if your pilot chute has been inflating behind you without you knowing.
Dropping the Slider
Collapsing and lowering the slider behind your head as well as releasing some tension from your chest strap is of some benefit also. Although not providing as much gain as a collapsible pilot chute it can add some extra performance as well as changing the feel of your canopy quite a bit. By lowering and collapsing the slider we will have 3 effects.
- The drag from the slider will be greatly reduced.
- The canopy will produce more lift upwards. With the slider sitting at the connector links it is restricting the spread of the canopy slightly increasing the anhedral arc, this means the outside edges of the canopy are not sitting as flat and the lift generated by the wing tips is vectored further from the vertical thus reducing the overall lifting power of the canopy.
- Any twisting between you and the canopy will be reduced. The load from the lines that was running into your slider and chest strap and out to your hips is now running straight from the canopy to your hips which are wider and more securely attached to you than your chest strap or slider. As you turn your canopy your body will tend to move with the canopy as one unit rather than being left behind in the turn to catch up.
Again all these effects are felt more when the wing loading is higher as lift and efficiency become more important and our turns can become much faster.
If you are using a class 3 or below (below 1.25 PSF) this gain will be minimal and possibly not worth the complication (like in a student canopy situation).
For Class 4 (1.25-1.65 PSF) we recommend a collapsible slider but the chest strap gain is minimal.
For Class 5 and above (above 1.65 sf) it is pretty much a necessity to do both, the performance and feel of the canopy will both improve noticeably.
To drop the slider you must have 25mm (1") risers and either soft links or #3.5 SS links that we provide with the canopy.
The best technique for dropping the slider is
- Open and check your canopy, do not release your breaks.
- grab the rear risers and steer the canopy towards the DZ and clear from other canopies.
- Making sure you are clear of other canopies reach up and using your first two fingers above the grommets slide the rear slider grommets over the links, break settings and toggles.
- Grab the slider in the center and pull it down, it will come easily over the front risers.
- Collapse and stow the slider. We have the option of 2 collapsing systems available on our sliders, the Velcro wrap and the draw cord.
The Draw String can be simply pulled down and pulled tight then thrown behind your head. This system is easy to operate but does not collapse the slider as well.
The velcro is best used with a piece of 25mm hook Velcro sewn vertically on the collar of your jumpsuit, Fold the velcro tail over the hook on the slider for packing as to leave a tail that is easy to grab, after opening pull the slider down and in front of you and twist it several times, tear off the tail and stick it on your collar. This method collapses the slider more to provide more visibility and less drag but is harder to use.
- Pop the chest strap, pull the adjuster back and away from you with your fingers until the chest strap stops moving or is almost against the stop (only do this if there is a stop) some of our customers have ordered rigs with extra long chest straps to help spread the canopy. Do not release the chest strap completely as there will be nothing stopping you falling forwards out of the harness. Also be aware that if you cut away (say in a canopy collision situation) your handles will be in different positions and your harness will be slack.
- Release your brakes.
At first this whole process might take you half your canopy ride but with a little practice you will have it down to 10-20 seconds. The most important thing we can stress here is not to loose awareness of other canopies or the DZ while you do this, it is hard to watch where you are going and stow your slider and there is likely to be others in the area doing the same and not looking out for you. Keep glancing around while you are doing this checking for other canopies and the DZ location, the canopy can be steered quite well on rear risers.
Many people are anti tube stows for a variety of reasons, we watch a lot of people using tube stows in the field successfully without any problems. We have also seen people having opening problems then solving them through the use of rubber bands. If you are using tube stows successfully then keep going however if you have or develop inconsistent openings try tight rubber bands for a while.
Line dump occurs when the line stows are short enough and loose enough to allow the lines to drop from the bag during the snatch of the bag lifting off your back. This may cause bad openings or increase the chances of malfunctions due to out of sequence line deployment. In the worst case the locking stows may dump or more commonly break and dump the canopy from the bag before line stretch. To reduce the chances of this happening keep a good eye on your stows and replace any worn stows as well as keeping your stows tight and line bites a good size.
The pack volume of your canopy will reduce slightly over the first 20-40 jumps as the fabric softens through use. At the same time the coating that is on the fabric will become less slippery. After the canopy has been used a little you may find it much easier to pack than when brand new.
Spectra line goes out of trim over time, hence the common use of Vectran now days (refer below). Some lines will shrink and some may stretch. Stretching is mostly caused by loads on the line pulling the weave closer together and shrinkage is caused by heat as the slider runs up and down the lines at high speed. Unfortunately the lines with the most load on them are the lines in the front in the center of the canopy and the lines that take the most wear and heat from the slider are the outside lines so they do not go out of trim evenly. As the canopy goes out of trim the front center of the canopy will lift up and slightly change the canopies overall angle of attack. As this happens over hundreds of jumps you will more than likely not notice this too much. Your canopy has actually been trimmed from the factory to allow for this slightly and so as it gets a long way out of trim it remains useable.
The problem is that which lines stretch or shrink at what rate is unpredictable. We have seen canopies that have been over 100mm out on some lines still performing acceptably. We have also seen canopies develop problems only 40mm out of trim that have been solved by retrimming. If your canopy is opening, landing and stalling without a noticeable drop of in performance or bad characteristics we suggest letting any one line getting up to 60mm out of trim for canopies below 115sf and 70mm for canopies above 115sf before retrimming or relining. If your canopy is not performing as it should and any one line is more than 30mm out of trim then in this scenario also retrim or reline the canopy.
Select Canopy model for Line Trim Specifications:
On a Zero-P canopy the canopy will generally outlast the line set by several times.
Spectra line has a limited life and will generally need replacing any where from 300-600 jumps for 500lb line and 500-1000 jumps for 725lb line. Note: your canopy may need re-lining sooner as a result of being out of trim (refer above).
Vectran has become a popular choice due to its superior dimensional integrity. In other words, they won't shrink or distort nearly as much as will Spectra. As a result your canopy will retain better openings and flight characteristics for the duration of the line sets life.
NOTE: Vectran does not have as much abrasion resistance as Spectra, and the lines will "fuzz out" sooner than Spectra
It is recommended that you check line wear regularly. In particular, check out the lower control lines; they wear out fastest.
Once again we recommend a line set replacement anywhere between 300 and 600 jumps but due to the variables involved, we recommend that you pay close attention to line wear and if in doubt at least replace your lower control lines regularly.
The life of your lines will depend on several factors like your weight, the cleanliness of your packing environment, the number of lines (7-Cell or 9-Cell), how well you look after them and the condition of your slider grommets. Linesets should be monitored for wear and trim and retrimmed or replaced as you would a set of tires on a car. The things to look out for are trims, wear spots, snags and worn stitching. Often wear spots can appear quite bad but still retain much of their strength (such as wear by Velcro) and sometimes a line can appear in quite good condition and be weakened considerably (often underneath a fingertrap). A simple test is to squeeze the line between your thumb and finger and slide it along, if the line or wear spot gets thinner it is more than likely weakened. Other common wear spots are the lower brake lines and the corner lines where they meet the connector links. You can monitor the condition of your lines easily while packing, about every 50 jumps have a closer look, If you are unsure of something check with your rigger. One of the best things you can do to improve the life of your lines is to use soft links and monitor the condition of your slider grommets
If your canopy is equipped with brake set loops rather than a cats-eye configuration, check them periodically for wear. These finger-trapped loops are especially susceptible to wear and, if not in top shape, can result in premature brake release.