Modifications on the side doors (paratroop doors) of the A400M should help solve the problem of static line/D-Bag (deployment bag) interference which is the risk of paratroopers making contact with D-Bags on exit. For those of you, like me, unfamiliar with military parachuting techniques let me pass onto you the description and demonstration made for FOB using a wall and a stool by Fernando Alonso, head of Airbus Military Aircraft.
First, the basics: a paratrooper’s parachute is on his back inside a bag called a D-Bag. Unlike a civilian parachutist who opens his chute at his convenience, a military paratrooper’s chute is opened automatically by a static line. He or she is attached to this static line which is inside the aircraft and connected to an anchor cable. When the parachutist is ready to jump, they stand at the open door and step out. As they do so, the static line pulls taught which removes the D-Bag from the parachute allowing it to open very quickly.
The D-bag remains attached to the static line and flaps alongside the outside of the aircraft. This is fine as long as the bags do not interfere with the parachutists as they exit the aircraft. However, once there are a large number of bags there is a greater volume of material flapping against the fuselage which can present a hazard to those jumping if the D-Bags are not positioned correctly.
So a prototype solution being tried out by Airbus is to install a system to make the paratroopers step out onto the outer edge of the aircraft frame before jumping. This will take them a sufficient distance from the flapping bags to neutralize the risk of D-Bag interference.
Alonso also said this “may” help resolve the issue of simultaneous dispatch which is where parachutists exit the aircraft from both sides at the same time. Currently the danger is that they could get too close together after dispatch risking collision: this is known in the parachuting world as crossover. If the prototype system which forces the parachutists to exit further from the fuselage is successful then the crossover problems may be solved.
Last Friday (17 June) 25 paratroopers were successfully dispatched in a single stick with no issues. As Airbus is allowed to raise the number by increments of five, the next step will be to test with 30 jumpers this week. The final objective is 58 out of one door. If the system works and the crossover problem is solved this means that the A400M will meet the customers’ requirement for 116 paratroopers jumping out of the plane in one dispatch.