Compiled by Pat Works
Military Static Line
by Larry Jacks
Paratroopers' main parachutes are usually deployed by static lines that release the parachute, yet retain the deployment bag that contains the parachute—without relying on a pilot chute for deployment. In this configuration the deployment bag is known as a direct-bag system, in which the deployment is rapid, consistent, and reliable.
Static-line deployment is still used by some novices making their first jumps, to ensure that the chute will open, but experienced parachutists today deploy a folded pilot chute that inflates and then extracts the main canopy.
You'll also find those "novices" of the US Army 82nd Airborne Division using static lines on a regular basis. Static lines are used on all Army parachutes except those used for HALO/HAHO operations. THE WRITER REPLIES: The language regarding static-line deployment by novices referred to recreational parachuting. It is true that experienced Army paratroopers utilize static-line deployment. According to Army aerospace engineer G. Mark Whiteman, project lead for the new T-11 mass tactical personnel parachute, static-line deployment is used to drop airborne soldiers in large numbers from aircraft at low altitudes (500-1,000 ft.).
What an interesting and informative article. I can hardly wait for the book.
True, the static-line parachute was not ideal for all cases of airplane failure. If the craft were plummeting, the parachutist tethered to it could never break free. But that was no reason for wholesale rejection of the device. In 1916, another parachute showman-turned-inventor, Leo Stevens, had offered the Army his pack, which featured a ripcord that the jumper could pull to deploy the chute, ensuring the pilot could free himself from a falling airplane. But the Army, deeming it “dangerous” for inexperienced jumpers, turned it down as well.
In those days, fires in airplanes were common—so common that, in fear of a fiery end, some pilots carried pistols to commit suicide; others chose to jump to a quick death. If a pilot had Broadwick’s static-line parachute, however, he might have a chance at escaping a burning airplane.
What finally convinced the Allies of the utility of carrying parachutes in airplanes? The enemy. German aircraft had primitive static-line-operated packs, and when the airplanes caught fire, the pilots jumped out and parachuted safely to the ground. Seeing the benefits first-hand, Allied pilots came around, but the brass continued to hesitate. By the time they came around as well, the war was over.
Broadwick’s coatpack did figure prominently in the development of the parachute immediately after World War I. A group of civilians under the direction of Major E.L. Hoffman gathered all the parachute models they could get their hands on and set out to find the perfect compromise. Former Broadwick protégé Leslie Irvin was a bit player, as was another former California acquaintance, Floyd Smith who was lead and design chief.. In the end, Smith's group took three elements—Broadwick’s coatpack, Stevens’ round-ring ripcord, and a pilot chute (a small canopy that opens to draw out the main canopy)—and created Airplane Parachute Type-A. Successfully tested by Irvin, the parachute was put into production. Irvin chutes saved countless lives, including that of young airmail pilot Charles Lindbergh.