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Taking proper care of your emergency parachute system is equally as important as properly maintaining your aircraft. By following a few simple procedures you will ensure that your SOFTIE will provide many years of trouble free service. And more importantly, operate properly in the event you need to use it. Yes, it can happen to you!
The longevity of your parachute system is your responsibility and is almost entirely dependent upon proper maintenance and storage. When not in use, store the parachute in a bag, in a well-ventilated area away from direct exposure to sunlight, oils, and/or acids. If you find that your parachute has come in contact with any unsafe conditions including wetness, have it inspected by a qualified rigger immediately. Do not wait until you want to use it again as extended exposure to foreign substances can damage the materials beyond repair.
INSPECTION and PACKING
FAA regulations require an emergency parachute in use to be inspected and packed by a licensed rigger within the last 180 days, regardless of the number of times it's been worn. If you fly year round this means you must have your parachute system inspected and repacked at least three times during the year. Locate and establish a relationship with a FAA licensed parachute rigger in your area. Set up a schedule and make note on your calendar to have the parachute repacked (it's easy to forget). That way you won't arrive at the airport ready for a days flying only to find your grounded because your parachute is out of date. To find a rigger, check your local phone directory under parachutes or parachuting, or contact a local sport parachuting center, they will be able to assist you in locating a reputable rigger.
Establish a routine for a preflight inspection of your parachute just as you do your aircraft. Your safety is directly related to the condition of your parachute (it does happen). A small oversight could create a very significant safety hazard. Check the exterior of the container for stains, mildew and excessive wear. Inspect the hardware, be sure snaps function properly and check for corrosion. Look for fraying or nicks in the webbing and inspect for broken or missing stitches. Perform a pin check on the ripcord by lifting the pin protector flap and making sure the pins are straight and extend through the closing loop at least ½". Make sure that the handle extracts from the pocket easily. Also, there should be no kinks or dents in the ripcord housing. Check the last date of inspection and repack on the packing card. FAA regulations require a parachute in use to have been packed within the last 180 days. This preflight routine is mandatory to maintain the safety of your parachute. Note: the FAA definitely frowns on flying with out of date parachutes.