Let's say you try to deploy your main canopy and something goes wrong. For example:
- The main canopy never comes out of the deployment bag.
- The main canopy does not inflate.
- The main canopy gets tangled in the lines.
- Some of the lines break, or the canopy rips during opening.
- Part of the main canopy inflates while another part does not.
In all of these cases, you have a canopy that you cannot use to land safely. You need to cut away the main canopy and deploy the reserve.
All modern rigs have a mechanism called a three-ring release that connects the main canopy to the container.
To cut away the main, you reach down and pull the release handle attached to one of your shoulder straps. This handle releases the lines on both risers simultaneously. You are now in free fall again. Then, one of two things happens:
- On some rigs, there is a cord called the reserve static line that automatically pulls out the reserve when you cut away the main.
- On other rigs, you pull a second handle to deploy the reserve manually.
In either case, you are praying that the reserve deploys cleanly and you have a good canopy when you get done. Most experienced skydivers pack their own parachutes, but it is common for the reserve chute to be packed by a certified rigger. Every few months, the reserve is unpacked and repacked to keep it from getting stiff.