Automatic or Manual Parachute?

Almost every pilot will find the manual parachute easier to use than the automatic one – no need to connect the static line, and one does not have to take care when getting out that the forgotten static line will open the parachute. However, an automatic parachute is probably safer.
In the summer of 1998 there was a serious mid-air collision accident, where it is probable that the pilot who was killed might have survived with an automatic parachute.
In the “Fliegermagazin” 12/98 the accident report was reprinted, and the pertinent section reads as follows:
…… Different from the single seater: Because of traces behind the canopy of the two seater a reconstruction was possible and showed that the single seater impacted behind the passenger seat with it’s tail skid and smashed first the aft and then the front canopy. The fuselage broke about a half-meter in front of the tail fin. Only the control wires still connected the broken part to the rest of the fuselage.
Out of control the single seater dove for the ground. About 200 m above ground the experienced pilot (1200 hrs, 100 hrs on type) exited the cockpit and opened his parachute. The parachute came out, but did not open properly. It “candled” above the almost free falling pilot until he impacted the ground. He had no chance to survive. His aircraft hit a few meters from him.
The tragedy of this accident: The pilot not only managed the near impossible task to exit with sufficient height, but also to pull the parachute release – but he died anyway because his parachute canopy did not deploy properly.
<img src=”” alt=”” width=”137″ height=”350″ align=”right” data-htmlarea-file-uid=”1800″ data-htmlarea-file-table=”sys_file” />That it did not open properly was traced to the peculiar circumstances of the exit. Different from a normal exit the pilot could not control his exit. Typically for such egresses the body immediately starts to rotate. If the falling pilot then tries to reach the opening handle on the left side of the parachute straps with his right hand the rotation increases. The left arm is extended away from the body by the rotation, while the right arm is tight on the body gripping the release.
This rotation was disastrous for the pilot. The chute lines became entangled, as shown by the scorching of the fine surface strands. This “choked” the parachute. The canopy could not unfold. The results was a so-called “candle”. Such entanglement of the lines take quite a while to untangle. Because of the Bernouilli-Effect (the inner surfaces of the candling, pipe like parachute suck against each other) an opening could be completely prevented.

Conclusions for the safer parachute system :
1. With an automatic parachute the rotation would at least not be made worse by (asymmetrically) grabbing the release handle.
2. With an automatic parachute the release is almost always quicker. We are not experienced parachute jumpers, and would probably also suffer shock in a serious accident.
3. If, while exiting, we bump into something and are momentarily dazed, the automatic parachute still offers a good chance of deploying and ensuring a safe descent. A few seconds of loss of senses with a manual parachute will probably kill you.
4. With a NOAH system, which allows considerably faster egress, the chances for the pilot are further improved considerably.
Please also see our article: SAFETY  TIPS  AND  TRAINING