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Tales From The Bonfire - The 20 Year Old Pack Job


        It’s always good when old friends that you haven’t seen in a while stop by to say, “Hi.” It’s great to know that they’re still looking at the right side of the grass. So I was happy to see Mark Smith, who worked with me at Westgaard Parachute in South Laguna, California, in 1983, when he stopped by Rigging Innovations a few months ago.
        We visited for a while when he said, “I have something for you that you might like.” He returned a few minutes later with an early Talon 1 rig that had main and reserve canopies in it. It looked eerily familiar.
        “You might like to check out the packing data card,” he said with a sly grin. Opening the reserve flap, I immediately noticed the serial number of the rig: 101. I remembered we started numbering the first TSOed (FAA-approved) Talons at 101—this was the first legal rig Rig?ging Innovations had built in 1985! The reserve was still sealed, and the last entry on the card was dated “5 July 1991.” The seal and signa?ture were Mark’s. He had stopped jumping 20 years ago, and this old Talon had been sitting in a cool, dry closet since then.

        “What are you going to do with it?” he asked.

        “Drop-test it, of course,” I replied.

        A couple of weeks later, I was talking to Bill Gargano, whose B. Gar?gano and Co. was one of the few ram-air canopy manufacturers in the 1980s and whose Hobbit reserve was one of the first seven-cell reserves. Bill is now chief engineer for Airborne Systems. I told him about wanting to drop-test the Talon and that the 20-year-old reserve canopy in it was Hobbit number 54.
        At that point, Bill also got really fired up to drop-test the system. So on November 15—exactly 20 years, four months and 10 days since the last time it was packed—the Talon with its Hobbit reserve, carrying a 175-pound rubber dummy, slid out the rear of a Skydive Arizona Skyvan at 500 feet above ground level. The static line pulled the pin, and the reserve opened perfectly in less than two seconds.
        After recovering the rig from a mesquite bush, we gave it a full inspection. Aside from some minor broken stitching, everything was perfect. The container and reserve will become part of the “mini-museum” in Rigging Innovations’ loft.
        For both Bill and me, it was a real trip down memory lane. It would appear that the technological advances we made 26 years ago are still alive and kicking in the industry today.

—Sandy Reid | C-6557
Master Rigger and President of Rigging Innovations