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Soft links – What a great invention! Remember the metal links we used before? Yes, they have done a good job all these years, but they were heavy, bulky and you could feel reserve links from your backpack. Main connector links have given some scares to skydivers by breaking or bending. They have had their time in the sport, they can go on the shelf and rest in peace.
Now, the question is, soft links/slinks, are they better? Well, of course they are better. PD designed and patented the SLink, which other companies have drawn inspiration from. You can get soft links for main and reserve parachutes as well as tandem canopies.
PD patented SLinks on January 2000, if you are interested you can check the link here
How to install Slinks correctly, by PD
When using soft links please consider this:
You don’t actually have to use the slink riser covers that come with your soft links. However, if you are not using covers, the slink tabs need to be tacked. Make sure that slinks are able to move up and down slightly, after they are tacked. There have been incidents where a loose slink tab caught a line on the opening of the main canopy and caused a spinning malfunction. We want to eliminate the possibility of an incident before it happens.
Once installed set the slinks in the correct shape by pulling/tagging/squeezing before tacking.
There are different types of soft links out in the market but they all work in a very similar way. If you are not sure what you are doing and have never seen that soft link before, check the manufacturer’s instructions, they are not all the same. For example, Aerodyne’s old soft link tabs are round metal, they are not full soft links. Please note that Aerodyne now has new links which are called A-Links, which are very similar to PD and Icarus’s soft links
If you are not competent and comfortable, never assume that you have done it correctly and install the canopy without checking the manual. The consequences could be very serious. I have found couple of main parachutes with the soft links assembled incorrectly after the owner had done 200 jumps on them – very lucky that no incident occurred. The owner whose reserve soft links were not installed correctly was not a happy chap and was very scared (as he should be). See photos below:
Links WRONGLY assembled
As with all parts of your gear, your soft links do wear and tear. They should be inspected regularly and replaced if necessary. If you don’t know what you are looking for, ask a rigger.
Have fun and stay safe!