Chapter 2


The container component assembly of the parachute system is that part which encloses the canopy(s) and lines, the deployment device if used, and the pilot chute. It is held closed by the use of cones or loops, which are secured by ripcord pins or locking pins such as are used on hand deploy systems. Containers may consist of single units as are used on pilot emergency systems, or multiple units such as are used on skydiving piggyback systems. The term “pack” is used interchangeably with container. The harness and container assembly may be called the pack and harness. The term “packtray” is used to refer to the bottom panel or section of the container where the lines may be stowed during packing.

Early containers were simply a bag-shaped unit that the canopy was stuffed into and then tied closed. The parachute was static line deployed and the parachutist simply fell away from the balloon or aircraft allowing the canopy to deploy. With the advent of manually deployed free fall systems, the need for a more secure and tailored design became evident.

Originally, the parachute systems were identified by the position at which they were located in relation to the body of the user. These were the back parachute, seat parachute, chest parachute, and lap parachute. The containers were usually rectangular in shape with four closing flaps. These configurations were primarily dictated by the need to fit the assembly into the cockpit of the aircraft.

With the growth of skydiving, the container configurations and the associated terminology changed. The original location of the main parachute on the back and the reserve on the chest became known as the “conventional” configuration. [Figure 2-5] The original tandem configuration with both the main and reserve on the back became known as a “piggyback” [Figure 2-6], and the introduction of a two-person parachute system became the new “tandem.” [Figure 2-7]


When canopies were packed into early bag-type containers, they always wanted to assume a spherical or round shape. For the container to remain flat, it was necessary to tailor the fabric and then use frames or bow stiffeners to keep it flat and compress the pilot chute. Back designs utilized multiple cones and pins, usually three or four to maintain the length and width. Seat containers were usually more square and thicker since they were held in place by the seat pan. Most use two cones and pins for closing. The same was used for chest and lap parachutes. Many military systems still utilize these basic configurations today.

With the introduction of skydiving in the 1960s, most equipment was of modified military designs, and the first generation of commercial products were simply colored versions of these designs. In the 1970s, skydiving canopies had progressed to ram-air designs, which were smaller in volume and had different deployment requirements. Container designs evolved to meet these requirements. The introduction of the hand deploy pilot chute was probably the most influential concept in the evolving container design. Cones were replaced by fabric closing loops, and main ripcords and pins were replaced by hand deploy bridles and locking pins. It was no longer necessary to compress the spring-loaded pilot chute inside the container. Thru closing loops were used to compress the pack and make it thinner to conform to the body shape. The use of deployment bags and other devices helped provide shaping to the container. This was true for both square and round canopies.

Today, most modern container designs have completely done away with frames and bow stiffeners. This has resulted in smaller, more flexible, more comfortable, and more efficient container designs. Instead of metal stiffeners, nylon plastic is used to reinforce the container flaps for backing the grommets. The nylon is lighter, easier to work with, and cheaper. Many of the modern military designs now follow the design concepts pioneered by the sport industry as they have proven better and more cost effective. Figure 2-8 shows the similarity to a sport piggyback system.

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