Why a Parachute is Worth Thousands of Dollars

  • Dec 3, 2014 4:23pm GMT

When I learned to skydive and was buying my own gear for the first time I remember trolling trough dropzone.com looking for the cheapest gear I could possibly find.

Especially in canopies.

I couldn't understand why some fabric and lines needed to cost multiple thousands of dollars.

And five years and 500 jumps later I still had that attitude – why spends thousands when I could spend just hundreds on a canopy?

Well I was about to find out why…

I hadn't jumped for two years and as my article here in my ATA Hangar ‘When In Doubt – Just Jump!’ describes, I got current at Skydive Perris in September this year. At that time, the rigger at The Loft inspected my canopy and said in her opinion it was unsafe to jump, being that the lines were 3 inches out of trim. This could mean a spinning canopy on opening that I would not be able to kick out of.

So I had jumped my coaches’ rig and canopy that day (thanks Angie!) The rigger suggested I get my canopy – a Performance Designs Sabre2 120 - relined at the factory itself which was in Deland, Florida.

As luck would have it I knew I would be in nearby Orlando for NBAA in October. I called Performance Designs’s main office and made plans to mail the canopy and pick it up personally in Deland after NBAA – and I asked if I could have a tour of the facilities whilst I was there.

I was excited to visit Deland – not only to tour the PD facilities and get my relined canopy back, but also to jump at the famous Skydive Deland (many say the best drop zone in the world) and to see the Florida operations of skydiving suit manufacturer, Liquid Sky – who made my freefly/tunnel suit.

It was a sunny Friday morning as I drove into the car park of Performance Designs. A big American Flag was blowing in the breeze and it felt like something special was in the air.

Parachute Maintenance Supervisor and my official Tour Guide, Donna Wagner, met me in the foyer and beckoned me through a door leading me down a hallway lined with photos of some of the greatest skydivers: including Brian Buckland, The PD Factory Team and the USA Army’s Golden Knights team – with all the images signed and thanking PD for their support.

As I stopped and took in photos spanning the last 32 years, Donna told me about the origins of the company.

“Bill Coe founded the company in 1982 and then in 1984 he met up with John LeBlanc when Bill was studying aeronautics at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. That was when they formed PD and really revolutionized parachute design.”

From PD's company website:

...Working together, Coe and LeBlanc have introduced cutting edge concepts and materials to the parachute industry and helped revolutionize parachute design. Continually setting new standards in performance, quality, and customer support, PD has produced some of the most successful ram air canopies built to date...