Off-heading openings are the principal hazard in BASE jumping. They require valuable altitude to correct and can lead to object strikes.
We believe that the vast majority of off-heading openings actually occur between pack opening and line stretch. A number of factors influence heading performance however one that has yet to be adequately addressed is pilot chute design.
A typical BASE pilot chute uses a flat circular profile with a pulled down apex (PDA). Although fast inflating and high drag, this profile is inherently unstable. The jumper throwing the pilot chute to his side at low speeds only compounds the pilot chute's instability. This results in a noticeable oscillation that often causes the parachute to be lifted to one side or the other. This off-center lifting can start the rotation that ultimately results in an off-heading deployment. Slow speed piot chute deployments are most affected by the jumper's deployment throw. At higher speeds the pilot chute's inherent stabilty is the most important factor.
In an effort to design a better pilot chute we tested numerous vent and canopy profile configurations. Utilizing skydives, BASE jumps and extensive tow testing we settled on a slightly modified profile in conjunction with a meshed vent at the canopy apex.
Other approaches provided even better stability but demonstrated inappropriate slow -speed opening characteristics. Still others we tested opened fast but produced less drag.
The Apex Vent Series Pilot Chutes help control one more variable. As we gain control over the things that cause problems, our jumping takes place more on our terms.