by Nathan Gain and Christina Mackenzie
The 21st century parachute looks nothing like the one used at the end of the 18th century by Louis-Sébastien Lenormand to jump from the Montpellier observatory on 26 December 1783. Today the parachute is a technical jewel, like the
Phantom Canopy made by Zodiac Aerospace which recently won the French Defence Ministry’s €65M contract to equip all the units of the French Special Forces Operation Command (COS) with new parachutes.
“This is a complete system, from the parachute itself to the navigation systems […] It will be the most advanced parachute in the world. So we are very proud to have won this competition,” Cyril Abegg, Zodiac’s Parachute & Protection director, declared at last week’s MSPO show in Poland.
Entirely designed and produced by Zodiac Aerospace, the Phantom Canopy can carry a payload of 200kg (paratrooper and equipment included) over a maximum distance of 80km. The paratrooper will be able to use it to jump from a maximum altitude of 9,000m, and be able to choose whether to open the chute at high or low altitude. In order to guarantee these performances, Zodiac Aerospace used a specific design software to design each component of the system, notably the leading edge and profile of the canopy. The latter has edges that can be folded using dedicated handles: a technology that will enable the paratrooper to accentuate the surprise effect by literally dropping onto his target.
Once delivered the Phantom Canopy will replace Air Azur’s G9 parachute that had a maximum payload of 160 kg.
The contract comes at a good time for the aerospace subcontractor whose operating income is expected to be down 10% this year compared to last year.
It’s interesting to note during this week marking the 15 years since the terrorist attack against New York City’s World Trade Center that the initial function of Lenormand’s parachute was to save people from burning buildings…