403rd OSS receives new, improved parachute systems

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Kristen Pittman
  • 403rd Wing Public Affairs

The 403rd Operations Support Squadron here recently began to receive Butler Parachutes’ BA-30 Low Profile Parachute Systems in an Air Force-wide initiative to upgrade from the legacy BA-22 emergency parachutes.

In charge of these new parachute systems are the Reserve Citizen Airmen of the 403rd OSS’s aircrew flight equipment shop.

From oxygen masks to flight helmets to parachutes, AFE plays an important role in issuing and maintaining equipment vital for aircrew to have in the event of an in-flight emergency.

With that responsibility comes the importance of knowing the equipment inside and out, so before Tech. Sgt. Ronald Patton and Tech. Sgt. Tyree Leverette, AFE technicians, could start implementing their new equipment and training their fellow Airmen and Aircrew on them, they attended a training course where they learned how to assemble the backpacks and pack the parachutes as well as what it takes to maintain them to ensure safe use.

“The most notable differences with these new BA-30s is that they’re a lot lighter, they have a cybernetic automatic actuation device, and the deployment is a lot more gentle.” said Patton. “Basically, when activated, the system tracks your altitude, speed, and the ambient pressure and automatically deploys.”

Leverette explained that the computerization of the actuation is a significant upgrade from the BA-22s which consisted of an explosive charge for deployment which would result in a violent jerk upon launch.

To further ensure a smooth launch, Patton said that before the canopy is a small dome a quarter of the way up dubbed a “Sombrero” that helps distribute the suspension lines in an efficient manner allowing the canopy to open quickly and evenly further reducing the jolt of deployment.

Another significant upgrade to the new systems, according to Patton, is that a lot of the accessories that were external on the BA-22 are now internal, reducing the risk of accidental deployment.

As for the shelf-life of the new systems, each is good for a total of 15 years, requiring maintenance every 5 years, inspections every 18 months, and yearly battery replacements.

Currently, the shop has 60 BA-30s, enough for the 10 WC-130Js the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron “Hurricane Hunters” uses. The parachutes come unassembled, so the Airmen of the AFE shop are busy carefully assembling them, inspecting each element as they go.

“We’re working hard to have all of the BA-22 parachutes on the weather aircraft replaced by the start of hurricane season in June,” said Leverette “So far we’re on schedule.”

As for the other flying squadron the 403rd OSS supports, the 815th Airlift Squadron “Flying Jennies”, Leverette said it has yet to be determined when they’ll receive the new parachute systems for their 10 C-130Js.