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Disclaimer: These IAC pages are developed by individual IAC members and do not represent official IAC policy or opinion.

Collected by: Christopher


From: Christopher

Does anyone have any suggestion or preference for an emergency parachute? I have an idea what I want/need, but I want to hear the opinion of the group...why you bought what you did, how satisfied you have been..etc..etc. I REALLY like the Butler line of chutes, but their price seems to be rather high. I understand they have a new line of lower-priced canopies...anyone have any experience with these? I've heard nothing but good things so far.


Summary of Solutions:

From: Hilton

You need to talk to a dealer. Your size, weight, airplane and what you are flying is important. An example is a Pitts S1S, you are 5ft 8 150 lbs. A Pitts is built for a seat pack parachute. Being 5" 8" you wouldn.t need a cusion on it and you would only need a 24ft canopy. Long Softies are made for gliders and back packs work in certain applications. One of the things I look for is reliability at high speed and low altitude. I fly Advanced. The bottom of the box is 800ft. We regularly have to do a negative push at over 200 MPH at this altitude. Other then that we just fly lower. Butler has developed there new chutes to deal with these problems. In the past there have been pilots that have gotten out but where going so fast that the chute pulled off there back and failed. Last year An Advanced pilot had a fire and bailed out at 400 ft. He swung once under the canopy and hit the ground. Don't think that flying aerobatics that if you have to get out , you are going to be able to climb out on the wing and jump. Chances are you will be fighting for your life until you hit the ground. This is the most important piece of equipment you have to fly aerobatics with. Learn
Hilton Tallman

From: Manley Butler

You're correct - we do make "the best parachutes on the planet" but they are expensive. Therefore, we have developed another product line that complements our existing line but at a much lower price point.

Check out our web site for information on our "Standard Series" chutes which start at $1200 for complete systems. The Standard Series uses the brand new Butler LoPo Canopies which are available in three sizes (350, 450, 550 sq.ft.) and FAA Authorized under TSO C23d for up to 350 lb. gross weight at 150 kts. Our recommended weight limits for the canopies are 175; 235; 300 lb. respectively. The Butler LoPo canopies use a simplified version of the BAT Slider with most of the benefits but at a lower cost.

The Standard Series harness/container systems are similar to our Custom Series but the selection is currently limited to four backpacks; three seatpacks and (soon) one chairpack.

So, you will find that the harness/container selection is roughly comparable to the competition with a VASTLY SUPERIOR CANOPY at approximately the same price!

As always, all Butler Parachute Products come with the strongest five-year warranty in the industry (also on the web site).

Check out the web site then give us a call.

Best Regards

Manley C. Butler, Jr. President

Butler Parachute Systems, Inc. 540-342-2501 540-342-4037 FAX 888-2 EJECT 0/0 1820 Loudon Ave. NW PO Box 6098 Roanoke, Virginia 24014


From: "Dan Tarasievich"

Try the SOFTIE LINE of emergency parachutes. They have led the industry in emergency parachutes for pilots for the past 15 years. All the innovations Para-Phernalia has implimented have been copied by the other manufacturers.

ALL the pilots in the recent airshow Sport Aerobatics show on ESPN2 use a SOFTIE ie Wayne Handley, Greg Poe, Sean D Tucker etc.

their webpage is

From: Don Peterson

It's hard to give a definitive answer unless one has actually used the chute.

When the chute I was using in the Zlin became no longer available, I ordered a new Butler sombrero. At that moment in time, the extra $800 (or so) over a competitive model seemed insignificant to what the extra security might mean to me if I had to use it. The Zlin is not a high speed machine, as they go, but it routinely operates at or above the rated speeds of most other chutes. Kinda like changing your oil at 25 or 50 or 100 hours. Not much extra money for the benefit at the end.

Plus, I will confirm that the chute fit perfectly into the aircraft, and is quite comfortable.

Don Peterson Midlothian, Tx

From: Montaine

We have used the "Strong" for years. Their workmanship is excellent, they have been in the business for ever and to my knowledge, I have never heard of something wrong with them. They are "strong". They do work when needed. Prices are competitive. They make seat, back, chair, custom made to your dimension and a few others. They have just develop one with the help of Phil Knight, that should really please aerobatic pilots.

Check their web site at: or e-mail at: or call 407-859 9317 and speak with Bob


Happy Holidays,


From: "Flyin Brian"

I just bought a Softie backpack for use in my RV8. I find it fits me the best and conforms to the seat back very well. I tried on a Butler that a friend was selling, but it seemed a bit harder and I couldn't get comfortable in the seat. Still, it is an outstanding parachute and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend one if it suits your seating configuration. I think all the major suppliers of chutes are good quality. If at all possible, try on a few varieties at a local contest and see what fits you best.

Brian Denk
Albuquerque, NM

From: "Dan Tarasievich"

Did everyone notice that ALL the competitors in the Airshow Aerobatic championship shown on ESPN2 last Sunday wore SOFTIES

There must be a very good reason!

Dan Tarasievich Para-Phernalia, Inc SOFTIE Emergency Parachutes

From: Patty Wagstaff

I have used them all, and the National always works the best for me and lots of other airshow/competition types. I use the National 360.

I watched Rick Masseggee bail out of his Rebel in El Reno, Oklahoma, a few years ago. He was wearing a National 360. It reaffirmed my faith in the product!

Patty W.

From: "Seppanen, Kari J"

I wonder if the original posting by the anonymous "c. m." wasn't a plant to start an advertising campaign for Butler. It just seems like someone playing the straight guy...

Be that as it may, I would like to add a few comments/considerations based on my own background.

At high speeds the sombrero slider will certainly retard the inflation rate of the canopy to reduce the forces on both the parachute and its passenger. So at really high speeds this is a good thing, but it will also slow down the opening at low speeds which is not such a good thing. It certainly isn't going to help (no such thing as a free lunch). If the high speed end is much more important than the low speed end, then by all means go for it. There will be a weight and volume penalty as well as the price of the slider itself.

One question that keeps coming up is the effect of line twists below the sombrero. These line twists can occur during the deployment of the parachute or could have been introduced during the packing. Line twists could keep the slider near the base of the parachute and keep it from inflating to its full diameter.

What kind of speed requirement is really necessary? Terminal velocity for a skydiver is about 100 kt where the air forces on his body are equal to his weight (1 g). At 150 kt, this is over 2 g's; at 200 kt, the load is 4 g's; and at 300 kt, it's 9 g's. If you were able to exit your airplane at these speeds, you would be decelerating very rapidly (hitting the proverbial brick wall?). At 200 kt, you will slow about 35 kt in the 1/2 sec you spend looking for your ripcord ( about 80 kt starting at 300 kt). Your body will continue to decelerate while the parachute is deploying. It is the speed at which the parachute reaches line stretch and starts to inflate that determines the forces. Admittedly a real emergency will give you increased strength and incentive but trying to climb out of an airplane at really speeds will be extremely difficult. Fortunately most emergencies do not result in a high speed situation.

The bomb that Mr. Butler so happily uses to destroy his competitors' parachutes is unrealistic in that it does not decelerate like the human body while the parachute is deploying. It's very dense and has little drag area. The bomb is still travelling at a much higher speed than a human exiting the aircraft at the same speed so of course it will increase the stresses. Repeated high stresses will weaken a parachute.

On the whole, I think all the major brands of emergency parachutes are pretty comparable in their reliability. Since the development of various deployment devices (diapers) that reliability is very high. So that really leaves comfort and fit as two of the few remaining considerations that the manufacturers can compete on short of bad-mouthing the other guys' stuff. An uncomfortable parachute that is left in the hangar is not a good investment. A parachute that shifts behind your back when you push negative is a distraction. The hardware on leg straps being jammed into your groin area by your restraint system in negative g's is really distracting! (personally I wouldn't want a conventional three point harness while flying straight and level). Ideally you should not be aware of your parachute while flying.

Also you do not need to buy your entire parachute system from one manufacturer. With some limitations, you can mix and match. You could buy a canopy from Butler and put it into a Softie if that best meets your needs. Consult the harness/container manufacturer (or a knowledgeable parachute rigger) to determine what combinations are approved.

These comments are based on 25 years as a Master Parachute Rigger, a couple thousand sport jumps, a Master's in aeronautical engineering and little bit of time doing aerobatics in my E33C. If you look hard enough you will find my name mentioned in Dan Poynter's "Parachute Manual" which is the "Bible" of the parachute industry.

Kari J. Seppanen
Phone 206-655-3356

From: Christopher McEwan

I wish I were working for Butler...maybe I might get a discount.

The reason I was leaning towards the Butler chutes in the beginning was the availability of a chest type chute. The versatility this type of pack offered was the leading factor in my original decision. This was before I had finally decided what plane to buy several months ago. However, after talking to several Clipped-Wing Cub drivers (that's the airplane I am buying), and quite a few others, the conscensus is that a backpack is the best way to go. Since this is the case, my options were opened up quite a bit.

I have heard of the line twist problem you are referring to on the Butler chutes, but I am not sure it is a validated claim. To be honest though, the "Sombrero Slider" actually made me nervous initially. The fact that the technology has only been tested a "few" years versus the decades on the traditional chutes....

The speed at which I will be exiting a Clipped-Wing Cub, should I ever have to, approximates that of a snail crawling through molasses. So you are right about not having to worry to much about high-speed exits.

I have yet to figure out exactly what the "bomb" is that Butler uses, but judging from the pictures, it definitely does not resemble a human body in flight. Granted, the only thing that this does is reassure me of the strength of the Butler chutes. Whether or not this is a fair business practice is up in the air.

One person suggested calling Allen Silver of Silver Parachutes, which I have done. He has proved to be very insightful without being critical of competitors.

Anywho, the discussions on the board and with several riggers have led me to narrow down my search to the Softie and Butler lines.

As far as posting "anonymously", the header of my e-mails should list my full name if it makes any difference. It's just easier to sign "c.m." :)


From: Hal Hitchcock

I can only say good things about Butler. I don't know if you saw my post some time ago, but I had a problem with the check the bank sent to me. It was over the amount of the chute by a large amount. Manley sent me a check for the overage immediately, he is an excellent business man. I ordered an HX-400 custom chute. My chute arrived in a carry bag with a name tag attached. The construction and quality of the container look first rate. It fits perfectly on me and is comfortable in the plane. I can't say anything about how it works, and hope that always remains the case. But I can say that I am not worried about my chute, and that is comforting.

Last item, go with the back pack. My only reason for saying this is backpacks are basically universal. If you fly anything other than your Cub, then you have a chute that will fit both the plane and you. In my way of thinking, they are all around the most comfortable chute and easest to were of anything out there. Bottom line, find someone who builds a good chute, Strong, Butler, National, whoever. And find a manufacturer who makes a chute that is comfortable for YOU to wear. On the advice of others, I made a trip to the airport and tried on anyones chute who would let me. Might be a worthwhile trip for you.

Best of luck and enjoy your new plane!

Hal Hitchcock Chap. 78

From: Manley Butler

Hello Kari:

I'll work through your posting from top to bottom but first this general comment. For your information, we invested over $300,000 on the HX Series canopy development program in 1998 (the H-X canopies use the BAT Sombrero Slider - US Patent 5,890,678 - ) . During this test program, we made over 350 drop tests on canopies with and without sliders. In over 250 drop tests on canopies in the production configuration there were zero malfunctions and no significant structural damage. We went to this unprecedented extent so that we could answer questions such as yours without qualification and with complete confidence that we make the best emergency parachutes on the planet!

I have so much confidence in our products that we will gladly go head-to-head on any kind of drop test program that you would suggest and can get the major players to agree to (split the cost equally, etc.) on the condition that we cover the entire range of the "ratings" and then continue to make drops at the highest rated speed and weight for each canopy until "the last man is standing". Specifically, this would require tests at (as a minimum) 60, 85, 110, 130, 140, 150, 170 knots for all canopies (maybe higher by the time this could happen). All parachutes would have to be configuration controlled, production items that are currently authorized under FAA TSO C23. An unbiased moderator would coordinate and run the entire show and all results would be public. I would however, suggest the use of our testing facilities at Carolina Sky Sports in Louisburg, North Carolina as they have an excellent facility, a huge selection of aircraft to work with (CASA 212, Twin Otter, King Air, etc.), friendly and cooperative people, decent weather, adequate space (indoors and out), etc.

Now - on to your points.

Posting Plant?: I assure you that "c.m." is not a "plant" by BPS and, at this point, I don't even know who that person might be (in fact, I rather dislike the use of pseudonyms and screen names in this kind of forum). Also, I never put anything out without signing my name to it. BTW - are you a "plant" for ParaPhernalia? :-)?

Opening Times: It seems that you have either not seen, or have not reviewed carefully, our video test summaries . I will be glad to send you a copy of the video and a copy of my AIAA paper presented at Toulouse this past June (need an address, phone please). (note that there is an abbreviated version of this paper on the web site under technical publications - look at the PIA paper ). I will also be glad to talk to you at length about the technical aspects of the device. However, in the (assumed) absence of the information contained therein, you are merely speculating on the effects of the BAT Sombrero Slider based on what is generally true for most other sliders. The BAT Sombrero Slider (and to a lesser extent) the BAT Flat Slider (used on the new LoPo canopies) actually accelerate the opening process at low speeds while at the same time controlling the opening at higher speeds. The BAT Sombrero Slider is aerodynamic solution to an aerodynamic problem and provides self-modulating, speed- and weight-sensitive control of the opening process. While there is no "free lunch" the BAT Sombrero Slider is as close as you're ever going to get in a parachute device: our XTC-500 (no slider) is a 24-gore, 500 sq.ft. canopy with 550 Nylon lines; our HX-500 (with slider) is a 20-gore, 500 sq.ft. canopy with 725 Spectra lines and actually weighs about 0.2 lb. less than the XTC-500. There is a bit of a bulk increase but it is not unreasonable for a canopy rated at 416 lb. at 170 knots (tested to 500 lb. @ 205 knots). Our HX-400 is currently our best selling HX canopy and is about 1.25 pound lighter than the HX-500 and a bit less bulky than the XTC-500 - it's rated at 340 lb. @ 170 knots (tested to 408 @ 205 lb.).

Line Twists: This is understandably a concern, and we have examined this extensively. We have found that canopies equipped with the BAT Sombrero Slider are SIGNIFICANTLY LESS AFFECTED BY LINE TWISTS than the same canopy without the slider (we have direct comparison with our XTC-500 and HX-500/24). In fact, during our test program, we have deliberately done as many as 9 complete 360 twists in the lines without slowing the opening (remember that only 3 twists are required for the TSO). In the great majority of the tests conducted with line twists, the slider is fully open within a few hundredths (.01's) of a second of the normal time at the same speed; within a few more hundredths, the twists have been squirted down to the links. Overall, the opening is indistinguishable from a normal opening except on very slow motion examination of the video.

Required Speed: As far as I know, I'm the only person in the emergency parachute business with any tactical aircrew experience (3 years in Navy S3A Viking), so perhaps I have a different attitude about what can happen in the real world. I'm also a Master Rigger ('76), Aerospace Engineer (Texas, '80), experienced jumper (1200+), etc. And sadly, through the years I've also known a lot of people that got killed in airplanes when they weren't wearing chutes and when they didn't get out for various reasons. Each person has to decide what their own requirements are - I personally believe you should come as close as possible to covering the entire flight envelope of the airplane. You're correct about the relatively short time required to slow down for an experienced skydiver in the stable face to earth (actually face to the relative wind) position but this really has little bearing on what happens during an emergency bailout by an untrained person (the phrase "ass over tea kettle" is appropriate). You are also correct about how hard it is to get out of an airplane at high speeds and that many emergencies occur at moderate speeds. However, trying to justify the use of a less capable canopy by minimizing the very real possibilities of bailing out at higher speeds is a bit disingenuous. Some manufacturers place ratings on their parachutes that appear to be the same as others when, in fact, they have not been tested to the same conditions. Thus, any canopy certificated under TSO C23b was almost certainly not subjected to the same requirements as items certificated under later TSO versions. The facts of the matter are that, under TSO C23c, only Butler Parachute Systems (XTC-500) and Strong Enterprises (26' LoPo) were successful in passing the required structural overload tests. Under TSO C23d, only Butler Parachute Systems (HX Series at 205 kts and BPS LoPo Series at 180 kts) and Free Flight Enterprises/ParaPhernalia (Preserve V at 180 kts) have passed the required structural overload tests.

Testing with Bombs: First of all, our intent was not to blow up our competitors canopies; it was to demonstrate the benefits of the BAT Sombrero Slider which I think we have done overwhelmingly. Second, don't use a fair and appropriate testing method as an excuse for not passing the test. Third, we have actually blown up far more of our own canopies (those without sliders) than those of the competitors and we have several of those on our video tape. We use the "bomb" (actually 14" SCH-40 steel pipe with lead ballast) to test canopies because it is much quicker and easier to handle in the aircraft and on the ground; we can get more of them in the airplane; it is much more consistent than torso dummies; and (last but not least) the "bombs" are virtually indestructible. The test methods and conditions that we used were IDENTICAL for all parachutes tested; i.e. each parachute was packed in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions and tested at: 1) its maximum rated weight and speed; (and if successful) then 2) at its maximum rated speed (+ overload factors per FAA TSO requirements); (and if successful) then at the minimum test requirements for TSO C23c (300 lb. @ 175kts.). Your are correct that the bomb does not decelerate as much as a human body - which is one of the benefits of using it because we can justifiably use the aircraft speed as the assumed pack opening speed. I must point out here that our smallest canopy, the HX-300, has been tested at weights and speeds (180 kts @ 300 lbs.) equal to or greater than any other certificated round canopy (other than ours) and that our other HX-Series canopies have been tested at 205 knots at weights up to 600 lb. The same parachutes, in the same configuration, also meet all of the other requirements such as maximum opening time allowed at 60 knots.

Reliability: Your statement that the major brands are comparable in reliability was, for the most part, true right up until we introduced the HX-Series canopies with the BAT Sombrero Slider. Because the BAT Sombrero Slider makes an inversion type malfunction virtually impossible, it is responsible for an increase in reliability in orders of magnitude (not 2 or 3 times better but 10 to 100 times better). For this reason alone, the BAT Sombrero Slider is one of the most important developments in parachute technology in decades without even considering its benefits in control of the inflation process. There is an extensive discussion of this issue on our web site under publications and the PIA Paper ( on the BAT Sombrero Slider.

Comfort/Other Factors: Your statements about fit and comfort are quite true. Those issues are precisely why we offer over 250 container configurations (back, seat, chest, chair) and about a dozen harness variations. We are the only company in the world that offers a truly custom product (designed for a particular person in a particular airplane) despite some of our competitors advertising about a "complete line" or "made to fit", etc. We have about 50 "aircraft specific" models as well and we still are making about 3 or 4 new patterns every month. I will readily admit that our products have always been more expensive that the competition but there is no other way to provide the level of service, attention to detail and the quality of product that we have unless we charge for it. On the other hand, you can't buy a custom BMW for the same price as Chevy either! One "disadvantage" that we do have is that since we began making our own canopies in 1991, we have usually been a bit bulkier and heavier than Softie or National - however that small amount of extra bulk and weight is due to the difference in the canopy capability and translates directly into higher structural margins and better overall safety. Now that we have a much wider range of canopy sizes (enabled by the slider) we have largely eliminated that issue. And, in truth, it was never really an issue if structural capability was fairly considered. Of course, we have been aware of the price differential and have now addressed that with the introduction of the standard series and Butler LoPo canopies. See more info at ( Intro page.htm)

Mixing/Matching Components: Quite true that you can mix and match components - just do so with the guidance of the manufacturer of both components.

My response is based on 23 years as a Master Parachute Rigger; 20+ years as a manufacturer; 3 years as a Combat Aircrewman on the US Navy S3A Viking aircraft; 1200+ sport jumps (including 100+ "test" jumps); BS Aero Engineering (Texas '80); one year as Director of Engineering at ParaFlite, Inc; about 4 years at NWC China Lake in parachute systems engineering & testing. If you look hard enough you will find my name mentioned in Dan Poynter's "Parachute Manual" (in the same paragraph as Kari's in one case) which is the "Bible" of the parachute industry.

Best Regards

Manley C. Butler, Jr. President

PS: What do you do at Boeing?

From: Charlie Harrison

What ever parachute you select be sure that it is manufactured to at least the "C" revision of the TSO. Many chutes are still legally being manufactured to the "B" revision which allows qualification testing at much lower weights and speeds than the "C" revision. I personally prefer Strong in Orlando. Talk with Bob Gilmour at 407-859-9317 before you finally make a choice.

Charlie Harrison

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