The parachute was developed as a device to help pilots escape near death. However, the demand for skydiving, first as a military division and then as a sport, made pilot parachute manufacturers design different styles of parachutes for each kind of use. If you have always wanted to know the difference between the two, then this blog is for you.
Let’s start with the most crucial difference, purpose. The purpose of a pilot parachute and a skydiving parachute is different. The former is designed to save life, while the latter is used to reach a specific location from above. This is why the main design of the parachute dome is very different. Pilot parachute canopies are round-shaped because when a pilot jumps from an aircraft, his main aim is to save his life. The round shape parachute uses wind power to halt the pilot’s descent and ensure they land without much damage. The pilot has very little control over where they will land because the round dome parachute is very hard to control and is left totally at the mercy of the air. Hence sometimes, landing with such a parachute is little rough.
On the other hand, skydiving, whether done by military personnel or sports enthusiast, is done for reaching a certain location from above. Hence, they need much better control over the canopy to navigate it to the targeted landing points. Hence, the canopies for such parachutes are called ram-air canopies, which can move forward and down against the air current. The person using the parachute is more like a pilot than a passenger.
The second difference is the usage. Pilot parachutes are meant to be single-use. Hence there are automated pilot parachutes that deploy automatically once a certain altitude is reached. This is meant for emergency use only hence it can’t be used again. On the other hand, parachutes used for skydiving can be reused for more than one jump. And they have to be employed by the person doing the skydiving after a certain time of free-fall. The diver reads the altimeter and other instruments before deploying the canopy. This is very important for stealth operations using airborne skydivers because they can avoid detection and deploy the canopy at the best moment.
So, when you go to a pilot parachute manufacturer, tell them which type you want.