Although it's true that depending on the altitude at which the emergency occurs, having a parachute may not make much of a difference, aerobatics are usually performed at an altitude which, if we react in time, there is usually sufficient leeway to be able to open the parachute safely and in enough time. As a general piece of information, and according to one of the oldest manufacturers of emergency parachutes in the world, Softie Emergency Parachutes, if you can release the ring at an altitude above 1,000 feet AGL you should have the parachute completely open before hitting the ground. The primary reported cause of unsatisfactory jumps has been lack of preparation on the part of the pilot and waiting too long to make the decision, "Yes! I'm going to jump!” Obviously the use of parachutes is a last resort, but it is always an option. For this reason it is important to be familiar with the emergency exit procedures of your plane, practice them often, and make them a routine part of our training.
Altitude, plane position, and your personal attitude towards managing the problem can determine the outcome of your exit from the plane. A tumbling plane and turning can be almost impossible to exit because of the G forces the pilot is subject to inside. Logically, altitude is important, because at a higher altitude there is a greater chance that the parachute can open in time. With respect to personal frame of mind, as pilots we have to be capable of reacting instantaneously in order to waste as little time as possible, and to preserve altitude as well as our lives.
There is no doubt that the parachute can save our lives on that day we hope never arrives. To maximize our potential, we need to familiarize ourselves with how that "cushion" we wear on our backs functions, make sure the parachute is correctly packed, find out and how the rigger will pack our parachutes during maintenance checks, and understand how to use the system during a real emergency situation .
All the manufactures of parachutes agree that if we don't have parachutes and we decide to buy parachutes, there are various factors that we should consider.
First and foremost is the weight. It's fundamental to choose a parachute that is designed to bear your weight along with everything you would carry at the moment of jumping. A parachute that doesn’t' t have an adequate canopy diameter to support our weight can increase the likelihood of broken bones or worse during the landing. The rules of descent for a given weight depend on the inflated diameter of the parachutes (sometimes the inflated dimensions are not given, but the information is available if we ask for it).The bigger the inflation of the canopy, the lower the rate of descent. And when we are heavier, we will drop more quickly. It's calculated that the desirable rate of descent is approximately between 15-18 feet/second or less. A plane landing is considered "firm" or "hard" at rates of 960 feet/minute, the equivalent to 16 feet/second. It's easy to see the importance of ensuring that the parachutes are adequate for our weight.
Like planes, parachutes also have structural operating limitations. One of the most important limitations is the maximum airspeed at which a parachute can be opened without being damaged. In this case, it is advisable to get one that can withstand airspeed above 150 kt, since in an emergency the airspeed can increase rapidly.
Once we have our parachute, it makes sense to have good habits to preserve its condition. Keeping it in a dry and dark place when not in use, removed from sunlight, oils, and/or acids - and if possible, inside a well-ventilated bag - will help prolong its good condition. Leaving the parachute inside the plane and hangar is acceptable only if the hangar has very little humidity. It is also recommended that parachutes be hung up by the harnesses in a ventilated place for a few hours once a month to eliminate the possibility of humidity accumulating in their interior.
As we conduct a preflight inspection of the plane, we should also inspect our parachutes. Their condition impacts our safety. A small oversight could create unnecessary risks. During the inspection we should make sure the pins are correctly installed and that none of them are bent. We should be on the lookout for any indication of wear and corrosion, check the closing of the harness clamps, and inspect the technical data sheet to be sure that they have not "expired" since the last maintenance check date and packing.
Each country has its own legislation about the frequency of maintenance checks and parachute packing. So make sure you know the regulations.
It is recommended to take advantage of these moments and speak with the rigger to explain us the specifications and requirements of our particular parachutes.
The emergency parachutes can look like uncomfortable cushions that we wear on our backs or underneath our rear that are too expensive. This cushion, however, is a highly specialized rescue device and of vital importance for our safety. Let's make an effort to know our parachute and its functioning down to the detail and never take off in aerobatic flight without it on board, because some day we will realize how lucky we are that we were carrying it with us.
Below we have linked two interesting videos.
The First: Parachute expert Allen Silver explains how to bail out of an airplane in a safe manner in 4 steps. The Second: Aerobatic Pilot Sean Tucker explains how he was forced to bail out of his plane because of a malfunction in his aircraft elevator.