|More Frequently Asked Questions
1. When repairing tears
in sailcloth, should you tape the tear on the inside and
outside of the wing?
Yes, for field repairs, you want to cut a patch large enough
to overlap the damage by at least 3/4-inch. Round off the
corners of the patch and apply one inside and one outside,
offsetting them slightly to prevent a sharp edge. For small
holes (less than the diameter of a pencil), an inside patch
may not be necessary, but a smaller patch applied to the
inside will keep dirt and debris from sticking to any
exposed tape glue. If the damage is on a seam, it should be
2. Is it possible (recommended) to use Duct Tape in the
field if necessary? Are there any dangers associated with
the adhesive of Duct Tape?
I have seen it and used it, but I do not recommend it at
all. I think we have all seen what duct tape looks like
after it is exposed to the elements. I am not sure how the
glue affects the fabric, but it attracts dirt, it is
difficult to remove, and it will make the eventual cloth
repair more costly. It is best to have some repair tape in a
Ziploc and throw it in the bottom of your harness.
3. Is there any possible method of repairing broken lines in
If you absolutely have to, there is a temporary procedure
that can be used on no more than 2 lines per glider. You
need to match the material (Aramid/Dyneema) and the diameter
to keep the strength characteristics: no parachute cord or
clothesline. It is best to obtain a length of main and upper
line material for your glider ahead of time and throw it in
the Ziploc with the repair tape. Also, any knot will weaken
a line, so a good strong knot must be used, like the bowline
or figure-eight knot that will retain 85% of the original
strength. The length must also match the same line on the
other side (within 1 cm).
4. Sometimes it is possible to fly with one or two broken
lines. Generally speaking, which lines are these (usually in
the upper cascades of the Cs and Ds for instance)?
I would never fly with any completely broken lines. They are
all designed to be there for a reason, and any missing lines
will affect your glider and put it out of certification.
5. Which lines may absolutely not be broken (As for
6. Although it must be very uncommon, is it ever possible to
repair tears in internal ribs in the field?
If it is on a seam, a repair is not possible in the field.
Tears usually occur down the middle in the area between the
cross port vents because the rib material is usually lighter
weight and not subject to abrasion. Tape works quite well on
7. What might cause a tear to an internal rib?
If you drop your glider on the leading edge, closing off the
ports, the weight and momentum can create enough pressure
inside to separate the top and bottom surfaces. The damage
is not always apparent. On a lot of the rib repairs I do the
pilot did not know that it was damaged until another pilot
noticed a bulge in the glider. If you beak your glider and
it makes that characteristic WHOOMP sound, you should check
inside for center and V-rib damage.
8. Is it possible to tape coasted Gelvenor? Why not?
Normal repair tape will not adhere to the slick silicone on
9. How can you repair Gelvenor in the field?
One manufacturer recommends that small repairs can be made
by applying silicone glue to a piece of Gelvenor and
applying it as you would tape. This works quite well but is
not really a field repair as it is messy and takes hours for
the glue to set.
10. Are there any other fabrics that cannot be taped?
There are a couple of types of excellent silicone fabrics
used in power chute construction in the United States, but I
have not seen it in paragliding.
11. What, in your opinion, is the best fabric available for
I do not know. I would love to sit down with a group of
design engineers and ask them that question. In my opinion,
Gelvenor seems to win the durability/longevity contest hands
12. Do you repair any and all brands of paragliders?
Yes, my new shop is geared up to handle any type of
paragliding service and repair.
13. What would be some clear signs (signs that anyone might
recognize upon cursory inspection) of a glider needing to be
checked or retired?
It is not always apparent when a glider needs to be
inspected. Frayed lines, soft material, and handling
problems are obvious, but at that point it is probably
overdue. It would be best to send your glider in for
inspection on a regular basis (once every two years
minimum). I will send it back with a written report that
allows you to keep an eye on the wear and tear. As the
glider ages we can catch potential problems before they
become a crisis.
14. What factors that cannot be recognized by visual
inspection would lead to a glider being unsafe to fly (torn
or damaged line core, very low porosity, etc.)?
Porosity, Line Strength, and Fabric Strength are all hard to
assess accurately without specialized equipment. These are
good reasons to have your glider inspected regularly by a
professional. Working together, we will keep an eye on these
factors as the glider ages to spot potential problems before
you end up flying an unsafe glider.
15. How long have you been repairing wings? Is it your main
I started gluing patches and sewing lines 15 years ago. It
seemed natural as I was the only pilot that had a sewing
machine and knew how to use it. In those days, there was not
much service available in the United States, so you were on
your own. I was able to refine my skills working for Edel
USA. I started to think it was something I wanted to
specialize in when I was fortunate enough to partner up with
Mitch McAleer and learn the fine points. After working in
various shops around the country, I decided that the flying
community could benefit from a shop dedicated to full time
paragliding repair and service.
16. What is the most common glider injury that you see?
Line replacements and torn attachment points are pretty
common. Propeller damage seems to be on the rise.
17. What is the most common unrecognized problem that you
see in wings that are turned in to you for inspection?
That would be the porosity and strength issues. However, the
most common preventable problems are debris inside the wing,
which relates directly to porosity and fabric strength;
missing line locks, which seem insignificant but your main
lines will last much longer with them in place; loose
mallions and uneven or maladjusted brake mains; and my
favorite dirty and squeaking pulleys. If a pulley locks
up, you can shred your brake main in a hurry!
18. I would like to mention the Harness should also be
checked occasionally. Back and side protection can move
around. Speed chords can fray inside. Leg straps can wear at
the point where they go through or around the seat board.
Straps, stitching, and pulleys receive a lot of stress
particularly if you are acrobatically inclined.
Matt, thanks for the opportunity to discuss these issues.
Hopefully, it shows that pilots can take an active role in
increasing the life span of their glider and the overall
safety of the sport.
Hey, next time lets discuss parachutes and repacking for