Every container, canopy and AAD comes with a manual that’s full of relevant safety information that the user should know before working on or using that particular equipment. What’s standard practice on one piece of equipment may be dangerous practice on other equipment. The equipment manual is the best source of information to learn directly from the manufacturer who wants to make sure the users know the design features and limitations. Always read the manuals and make sure you fully understand the equipment before packing or using it. Make sure the manual you’re using is the correct one for your equipment; some manuals are specific to a certain date range.
Reserve packers must have packing manuals to hand during a reserve repack. This is usually in paper form, however, if a reserve packer can demonstrate availability electronically, then that’s also acceptable. If you have any questions about a packing manual contact your reserve packer or the manufacturer.
The quality and content of a manual can tell you a lot about the manufacturer. It will contain customer service policy and disclaimers. These differ from manufacturer to manufacturer. The customer service policy is good to know as many skydivers have had to pay extensively for a service through a dealer or reserve packer when it would have been free from the manufacturer. Even though some disclaimers are designed to protect the manufacturer some are very relevant to the use of the equipment to make sure it works as it's designed to.
The manual can contain general information about the particular equipment that it belongs to but more importantly it can contain specific safety information that a user must know. It usually explains how the equipment can be used, packed and maintained and who's qualified to undertake any work that maybe required. Most of this information is nice to know as it's usually the parachute associations who specialise in educating and controlling these issues. The manual usually shows how the equipment has been designed and tested and the speed and weight limitations that restrict its use. For example, some body positions may enable the user to reach speeds and attitudes, beyond those for which the equipment has been designed and tested. Deployments outside of the design parameters could cause extremely hard openings, equipment failure, severe bodily injury, harness failure, canopy damage or malfunctions. This is not a disclaimer it's real information that when ignored can cause those problems.
The manuals also have information about equipment and component compatibility. Container manufacturers usually show the pack volume for the main and reserve canopies that relate to the container size. Some manufacturers state that all component parts must be original from the manufacturer and some allow component replacement by other manufacturers and riggers but only if they are designed to fit the equipment and perform in exactly the same manner as original parts. Parachute associations also have rules and regulations on compatibility which in most cases over rule the manufacturers.
Canopy manufacturers may include a canopy selector so skydivers can see what size canopy is best for their weight and usage and restrict some canopies for use only by highly experienced and well trained pilots. AAD manufacturers include a great deal of safety information that the user must be familiar with, including switching on and setting it for different altitudes and drop zone heights.
Every skydiver should read and understand the user manual that relates to the their equipment and all packers who pack for others should read all manuals so they are aware of the many different issues to prevent known problems on different types of equipment. It would be really nice to see all drop zones provide a library area with all equipment manuals so that skydivers can read them during bad weather days. Manuals are available online and I would encourage all skydivers to read as many as possible to develop their equipment knowledge.
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