The creeping danger: How substandard material shortens the lifespan of paragliders.

Before a paraglider reaches the hands of a customer, it undergoes a thorough testing process, during which its compliance with the tested sample is checked and certified by the manufacturer. At least in theory. In reality, manufacturers often delegate this responsibility to flight schools, dealers, or even to the pilots themselves, which could theoretically lead to insurance-related issues. But that’s not the actual topic I wanted to address.

You may have already noticed it if you’ve been flying for a while: New EU laws and regulations have led to the development of a new nylon coating that is water-soluble and no longer as toxic. This is a significant change that has been implemented by all manufacturers in recent years. On one hand, this offers some advantages, but on the other hand, it significantly shortens the lifespan of a paraglider. In the past, the coating was considered almost indestructible, allowing a canopy to be flown for decades. Nowadays, one must be extremely careful to even get the canopy through the three required check periods – moisture, heat, and UV radiation must be avoided.

Unfortunately, canopies can already be delivered with inferior materials since production. There was even a safety notice dated June 30, 2022, in which an independent paragliding workshop reported the issue with the Dominiko D30 fabric. But it’s not just D30 that’s problematic, but also D20, Porcher Skytex 42, and Skytex 38.

Recently, I inspected several new canopies, where the porosity values of the new fabric averaged 300 – previously, they were 5000 seconds at delivery. Manufacturers try to explain this away by claiming that the fabric ages more slowly, but experience shows something else: After the second check, the canopy is no longer considered airworthy. With a current price of about €4000 for a canopy and an average flight time of no more than 40 hours per year for the average weekend pilot, it’s easy to calculate what one flight hour will cost if the canopy has to be discarded after four years.

I want to encourage all pilots to thoroughly check their equipment when purchasing new, especially the porosity of the fabric, to avoid any unpleasant surprises. Because our safety comes first, and we want to be able to fly safely and with fun for many years to come.

BHP -safety advisory DOMINICO D30

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