Reserves and AADs

The Reserve, Primary Reserve Deployment System, Auxiliary Reserve Deployment Systems and Automatic Activation Device

The Reserve and its deployment system is the final line of defence. The system is designed to deploy reliably and eliminate as many malfunctions as possible. A Spring Loaded Pilot Chute prevents Pilot Chute hesitation in order to clear the burble, a Freebag and safety stow prevents a bag lock malfunction, a wide Bridle helps with a clean deployment and a 6 monthly inspection cycle ensure the system is in perfect condition. A square 7 cell canopy is docile and has a lower pack volume. There are only a small number of options on the Reserve System with these being around the Reserve Static Line and Main Assisted Reserve Deployment.

Many thanks to Tom Hill for writing this article and for taking the pics.

Who Can Pack a Reserve

You must be at least BPA Advanced Packer to pack or assemble a Reserve Canopy and a BPA Advanced Rigger to undertake work on the Reserve System.

A Reserve Repack is more than a packing of the Reserve Canopy, it is full inspection of the Reserve, the Harness and Container to ensure there is no damage and it is airworthy. Remember, not equipment must be in the air and your life depends on the Reserve – it is literally your final chance.

Spring Loaded Pilot Chute

The Spring Loaded Pilot Chute ensures there is no pilot chute hesitation and ensures a swift deployment. The Spring Loaded Pilot Chute is ripcord deployed which can be Steel or blue Spectra® cord. The Pilot Chute can be fully exposed (often called a Pop Top) partially exposed or completely covered.

Figure 39: Spring Loaded Reserve Pilot Chute.


The Freebag houses the Reserve Canopy.

Figure 40: Reserve Freebag.

Integrated Risers

The Reserve Risers are part of the Skydiving Harness and cannot be detached. They are manufactured from the same material as the Harness.

Figure 41: Integrated Reserve Risers made out of Type 7 Webbing (identified by the yellow tracer thread).


Auxiliary Reserve Deployment System

The Auxiliary Reserve Deployment System is the Reserve Static Line and the Main Assisted Reserve Deployment system if fitted. These are back up devices however a Main Assisted Reserve Deployment system is designed to speed up the deployment of the Reserve Canopy and reduce the altitude lost by using the Main Canopy as an enormous Pilot Chute.

Reserve Static Line (RSL)

Commonly abbreviated to RSL. A mandatory system for BPA A Licence holders and Students. The Reserve Static Line is attached to the Main Riser using a snap hook or Mallion® (generally found on student equipment). The Reserve Static Line will pull the Reserve Ripcord which will then in turn pull the Reserve Pin or on Skyhook® ready containers, pull the Reserve Pin directly. You must be at least a BPA B-Licence to jump a Rig that does not have a Reserve Static Line or jump a Rig that has it disconnected.

Main Assisted Reserve Deployment

One of the very few options available on a Reserve system. Main Assisted Reserve Deployment is designed to use the Main Canopy as an enormous Pilot Chute to extract the Reserve Canopy from the Container faster than the Spring Loaded Pilot Chute. This option is not offered by all manufacturers. Some manufacturers use the Skyhook® Main Assisted Reserve Deployment while others have developed their own using pins and tabs on the Reserve Bridle or a snare system to grip the Reserve Bridle. Some containers cannot be retrofitted with Main Assisted Reserve Deployment options. In all cases, the objective is to extract your Reserve Parachute quicker.


The Skyhook® was the first Main Assisted Reserve Deployment available and was developed by United Parachute Technologies. In addition to extracting the Reserve faster, it uses the Collins Lanyard® to release the other riser the Skyhook® system is not attached to helping prevent a Main-Reserve an entanglement. The Skyhook® requires a specially designed container. Some manufacturers do not offer the Skyhook® option.

Figure 42: A Skyhook® on a Reserve Bridle prior to assembly.

Automatic Activation Devices (AADs)

The Automatic Activation Device, commonly abbreviated to AAD, is a small computer that will cut the Reserve Closing Loop if you are travelling above a certain speed below a certain altitude. There are ones that pull the Reserve Pin however these should be avoided by sports skydivers. However they are found on student and Static Line equipment.

Some Automatic Activation Devices have a mandatory service period either after a certain time period or set number of jumps. At this point, the Automatic Activation Device must be returned to the manufacturer. Do confirm that the Automatic Activation Device fitted or you are about to purchase and have installed is suitable for your Rig. Some manufactures do not permit certain Automatic Activation Devices in their containers.


In addition, some Automatic Activation Devices are subject to restrictions by the British Parachute Association. Check with an Advanced Packer or Rigger if this applies to an Automatic Activation Device you are considering purchasing especially if you are buying from outside the UK.

Some Automatic Activation Devices have several modes within the same unit whereas some have separate units for different modes or only supply a small number of modes. The modes are generally:

  • Student – Used by Student Parachutists and has a higher activation altitude and lower activation speed than the Expert/Pro and Extreme/Speed modes.
  • Expert/Pro – Used by most Sports Skydivers.
  • Extreme/Speed – Catered towards Swoop Skydivers and has the highest activation speed.
  • Tandem – Used by Tandem Instructors
  • Changeable/Multimode – An Automatic Activation Device that contains several modes in one unit, generally Student, Expert/Pro, Extreme/Speed and Tandem.
  • Wingsuit – A specialist mode designed for Wingsuiters.

Figure 43: A complete Automatic Activation Device unit (Vigil) with cutter, control unit and LCD display.