Mastering the Mirage Reserve Container

Written By: Mike Gruwell

Like most good-looking reserve pack jobs, conquering Mirage's wedge-shaped reserve container starts with a cleanly flaked and folded reserve parachute. Over the past three years, Mirage Systems rigs (G3, G4 and RTS) have become the most assembled, inspected and packed container system at the Chuting Star Rigging Loft here in Georgia. The following instructions by no means are meant to replace the Mirage owner's manual, but these tips can help you consistently achieve a great-looking finished product. We highly recommend riggers first thoroughly read and follow the Mirage packing manual and then use the following tips to fine-tune their own packing and closing procedures. The Mirage container has several challenges, such as:

  • Shaping the reserve to match the wedge-shaped container.
  • Pinning the high-tension reserve spring on an angle.
  • Keeping wrinkles out of the side flaps.
  • Concaving the center of the pack job and final reserve flap.

In addition to addressing these challenges, I will give a step-by-step process of how a Mirage is inspected and packed at Chuting Star.

Inspection

If the reserve is still packed, take time to check the overall look of the reserve container for wrinkles, bulging, concaved center, compressed pilot chute spring and closing loop length. Any or all of these issues can be better addressed if you know how it was packed previously. Wrinkles on the side flaps or bulging at the ears show a bulk management issue; while a bulging reserve container center and spring or loose reserve pin, point to a closing loop of the wrong length. Remove the main canopy to allow a thorough inspection of the entire harness and container system. A few wear points to pay special attention to include:

  • Tightness of the BOC pouch.
  • Hardware associated with the elastic inset stabilizers or "fancy pants" option (if equipped).
  • Stabilizer and lower lateral stitching to side of main container.
  • Type III reinforcement on outside corners of reserve container and inside main container.
  • Velcro on pocket for reserve handle.
  • Cutaway and reserve housing tacking and clamps.
  • All main and reserve container grommets for proper seating.
  • Stiffeners in all flaps.

Service Bulletins

The most recent Mirage service bulletin became industry-wide due to defective reserve pins. The Mirage reserve ripcord and pin must comply with Capewell service bulletin CW03-01 if the ripcord was manufactured within the scope of the bulletin. Compliance with the service bulletin is shown by "CW03-01" marked on the reserve handle and packing data card.

Packing

Pro-packing the reserve into a Mirage container is imperative for attaining the proper shape. A few Mirages have come into the loft with a flat or side pack, which does not allow the reserve pilot chute to sink into the pack job for a concave shape per manufacturer instructions. Lay out and flake the reserve canopy per the owner's manual. Pay special attention to keeping as much material as possible away from the center during flaking, folding and placement of the canopy into the freebag. Also keep the grommets of the canopy wide, and if possible, inside the pack job to allow the AAD to sink into the pack job. I recommend using packing paddles for the S-folds for neater, cleaner folds. At this point, the bulk management is slightly different for the G3 and G4 containers.

G3 and RTS

I have found that the G3 and RTS containers not only look better but also operate better with minimal reserve canopy material in the ears or top of the freebag. If too much material is placed in the top of the freebag, the riser covers tend to pop open before deployment. Take a close look at the shape of the reserve container and match that shape with the bulk management of the reserve canopy folds. In addition, I keep my knee in the center of the canopy as I'm folding and placing the canopy into the freebag to create room for the AAD and to keep as much material as possible away from the center of the freebag. A molar strap could also be used to achieve similar results.

At least four-fifths of the canopy should be contained in the S-folds. The ears of the pack job can be folded over slightly or compressed straight back to the S-folds. Slide the canopy into the freebag and smooth out the canopy with a packing paddle to attain the desired shape.

G4

The G4 shape is not as drastic a wedge shape as the G3. Consequently, it helps to have slightly more material in the ears of the freebag. I try to put approximately three-fourths of the canopy in the S-folds with the remainder folded under at the ears. Slip the canopy into the freebag and smooth out the fabric with a packing paddle to attain the desired shape.

Closing

The initial closing process on all Mirage containers starts the same. Place the freebag in the container matching the top of the freebag with the top of the container and the freebag grommet with the closing loop anchor point. Slip the bottom of the freebag into the corners while keeping pressure on the center of the freebag with your knee. Keep your hand on the lines between the closing stows and Velcro pouch as you seat the bottom of the freebag to keep the lines from getting hung up on the AAD.

V-fold the first two-thirds of bridle on top of the freebag per the Mirage manual. Thread the pull-up cord through the AAD cutter and top flap. Use a packing paddle to keep the bridle folds in place as the top flap is pinned.

After each flap is closed from here to the final flap, use your knee or foot to push down in the center while pulling up on the sides of the container. This helps push the air from the center of the pack job and achieve the concaved center shape.

Fold the bridle on top of the first reserve flap per the Mirage manual. The temporary pin can be used to hold the bridle in place as the pilot chute is compressed and pinned. Place the container against a wall if you are having trouble with the container slipping away as you compress and pin the pilot chute. When the pilot chute is pinned, the spring should be completely compressed. If the spring can be rocked from side to side, the loop is too long.

Center the spring on the flap and fold the top portion of the pilot chute material down to the spring using wide flat folds. Repeat with the bottom portion. The material on the sides should be folded toward the spring with the bulk of the pilot chute material ending up under the bottom reserve flap.

Place a packing paddle on the lower pilot chute material to keep the material in place as the bottom reserve flap is pinned. Re-center the pilot chute and smooth out the pilot chute material.

At this point, make sure the freebag (and packed canopy) is seated into the lower container corners and the top of the freebag is not bunched up at the top of the container. Smooth out any wrinkles or bunching on the freebag, canopy and pilot chute material.

Thread the pull-up cord through the number 4 and 5 side flaps. Closing the side flaps at the same time keeps the pack job even from side to side. Use a packing paddle on each side as the flaps are pinned to keep the pilot chute and freebag flat and in place. Push on the side of the container to bring the side flap grommets to the center instead of dragging or pulling the grommets to the center with the pull-up cord.

Close the top reserve flap. With the G4, make sure the flap is through the retainer strap on the bottom side of the reserve pin cover flap. Finishing touches on the reserve pack job include compressing the center of the pack job one final time. Also seat the AAD into the pack job and push the sides of the container toward the center of the container completing the concave center look. A packing paddle can be used to smooth out any ridges, bulges or wrinkles between the freebag and pilot chute and side flaps.

For more information, visit the Chuting Star Rigging Loft web site at www.chutingstar.com and the Mirage Systems web site at www.miragesys.com. (Mike Gruwell is an FAA Master Rigger. Mike Gruwell is a Master Rigger and DPRE. He owns ChutingStar Rigging Loft and Gear Shop based out of Skydive The Farm in Rockmart, Ga Mike has inspected and packed more than 1,700 reserves.)