Los Angeles offers you plenty of ways to get your heart pumping, such as staring deep into George Clooney’s eyes at the Hollywood Wax Museum on Hollywood Boulevard. But for an even more intense adrenaline rush, a visit to a Los Angeles skydiving facility might be exactly what Dr. Doug Ross would order. In fact, you can get your skydiving fix and never even jump out of an airplane: places like iFly Hollywood and Perris Skydiving provide indoor-skydiving experiences inside super-powerful wind tubes. One element noticeably lacking from any indoor-skydiving experience, though, is the parachute. That’s because parachutes aren’t required for indoor freefalls, which obviously isn’t the case for outdoor dives. Though they might look simply like giant tarps with some strings, parachutes are very intricate mechanisms that make jumping from 10,000 feet not only plausible, but fun, too. Here’s what comprises a parachute’s anatomy.Main CanopyWhat Is It? It’s the big, colorful thing that the word parachute calls to mind. It’s usually made of a strong, water- and windproof fabric that can last thousands of jumps, and it folds into a special backpack that attaches to the jumper’s torso and legs with thick straps. What Does It Do? Ram-air canopies—the most common shape today—inflate into a bowed rectangle when deployed and allow the jumper to gently drift downward while offering good directional control: pulling on one of two control lines moves the jumper left or right, and pulling both softens the landing.Pilot ChuteWhat Is It? The main canopy’s adorable but essential little sibling, the pilot chute is a smaller canopy that looks kind of like a leg-less jellyfish. What Does It Do? This item sets the chute system in motion once a handle or ripcord is pulled by the jumper. Once released, the pilot chute inflates with the rush of air and, from the drag that creates, pulls out the main canopy from its pack.Reserve CanopyWhat Is It? A backup canopy that deploys only when the main canopy fails to open. What Does It Do? The reserve canopy is usually worn on the back, just above the main canopy, and can only be opened when the main canopy is disconnected from the jumper via a cutaway handle that prevents the two canopies from entangling.Reserve Static LineWhat Is It? The line that deploys the reserve canopy. What Does It Do? Once the main canopy is jettisoned, this line automatically opens the reserve canopy.Automatic Activation DeviceWhat Is It? A safety device that automatically initiates one of the two canopies at a given altitude. What Does It Do? In case the jumper loses consciousness or gets caught up in bird traffic, this device automatically deploys the main or reserve canopy at a preset altitude, usually around 750 feet. Thanks to all these parts springing into action, parachutes have the power to transform a 120 mile-per-hour free fall into a gorgeous, relaxing canopy ride. Jumps with Skydive Coastal California, for instance, cap off 40- to 60-second free falls with parachute rides that can last as long as seven minutes, giving you ample time to soak up the incredible views.
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