On 4th June 2016 German manufacturer Finsterwalder, who supply buckles to many paragliding, paramotoring and hang gliding harness manufacturers, issued an important safety notice for all harnesses equipped with their CLICK-LOCK and T-LOCK buckles, potentially rendering them unairworthy. If these buckles are more than four years old then there is a risk of accidental opening, therefore any harness equipped with them should not be flown. Finsterwalder say that thousands of harnesses from many manufacturers are affected.
This safety notice followed at least two known cases of CLICK-LOCK buckles opening unexpectedly in flight whilst under load. The first case occurred during an aerobatic manoeuvre (SAT); fortunately the pilot did not fall out of the harness and was able to re-buckle his waist strap and land safely. In the second case the pilot was upright and leaning forwards on landing approach, hanging in the leg straps; unfortunately he did fall out of the harness and was killed.
NB: Some harness manufacturers use different buckles from other suppliers which are in fact copies of or based on the original Finsterwalder design. Whilst these other buckles are not officially subject to Finsterwalder's safety notice, it seems likely that they could suffer the same issue since they are based on the same design.
Finsterwalder CLICK-LOCK Safety Notice 4th June 2016
The original safety notice issued by Finsterwalder:
"Safety notice for harnesses equipped with Finsterwalder CLICK-LOCK and T-LOCK buckles
safety notice from 04.06.2016
In the past three months, there have been two incidents involving older paraglider harnesses equipped with CLICK-LOCK buckles (HSi10) in the chest strap. The buckles had opened unintentionally during flight while they were under load. In one of the cases this happened during a SAT maneuver (spreading of the chest strap due to the pilot resting on the riser), in the other case the reason was presumably the load applied by the body weight of the pilot who was hanging only in the leg straps.
Finsterwalder has conducted a technical investigation and found the following: The hooks of the metal tongue can wear out through the frequent diagonal load changes the chest strap is subject to. This might lead to decreased load capacity and – in the case of sufficiently high diagonal load transmission – the buckle might open unintentionally.
As a consequence of this finding, Finsterwalder has limited the respective buckles' service time to 4 years if they are used in paraglider chest straps. The harness manufacturers have already been informed accordingly.
To date, there have been no unintentional openings of T-LOCK buckles. However, since their mechanism resembles that of CLICK-LOCK buckles, the problem is likely to be the same.
Finsterwalder calls on all owners of harnesses equipped with CLICK-LOCKs (HSi10) or T-LOCKs in the chest strap to determine their buckles' previous usage time by checking the routine test date on the sample inspection label. If this date indicates a usage time of more than 4 years, the harness is not airworthy for now and may not be used for flying anymore. Affected owners should contact their harness manufacturer.
The service time limitation applies only to CLICK-LOCK and T-LOCK buckles that are used in paraglider chest straps. When used for applications where only static loads are involved, the CLICK-LOCK and T-LOCK buckles' service life is 10 years.
Affected harnesses include models by Advance, Aerochute, Aeroman, Aeros, Airbulle, Air Heart, Akyüz, AVA Sport, APCO, Carona, Ellipse, Easy Fly, Finsterwalder & Charly, Flight Design, Fly Castellucio, Fresh Breeze, Gin, Independence-Skyman-Flymarket, Ochmann, Onda Enterprises, Sky Paragliders, Fly Products, Karpo Fly, Lookout Mountain, Madreiter, Moyes, Nenerotor, Cwudzinski, PXP, SE-Wing, Sigma, Sitec, Skylotec, SKY Paragliders, SkyTrekking, Supair, Paravis, SOL, Vonblon, Wallend-Air, Wills Wing, Woody Valley, Yamamoto and other manufacturers.
Finsterwalder & Charly Update 11th June 2016
On 11th June 2016 Finsterwalder & Charly issued the following additional information relating to their original safety notice:
"Safety notice: Harnesses equipped with Finsterwalder CLICK-LOCK and T-LOCK buckles
(according to the safety notice from 04.06.2016)
The following products by Finsterwalder & Charly are equipped with chest strap buckles of this type, which is why we issue a safety notice for all of the following products:
[list of Finsterwalder & Charly products - see the Reference section below]
Finsterwalder & Charly limits the service life of CLICK-LOCK and T-LOCK buckles to 4 years when they are used in paraglider chest straps. Such harnesses may not be used for flying anymore if their delivery dates back to more than 4 years.
There is a general service life limitation to 10 years for Finsterwalder CLICK-LOCK and T-LOCK buckles, independent of their context of use in paraglider- or hangglider harnesses.
Finsterwalder, the manufacturer of the mentioned harnesses, offers as a gesture of goodwill to rework these harnesses' buckles free of cost at their Munich headquarter or at their branch in Seeg. The shipping costs to Finsterwalder must be paid but return shipping within Germany is free of charge.
Despite all efforts, delivery times are expected to be longer. After having been inspected and reworked, the buckles' service life extends by 4 more years to a maximum of 10 years.
Whether reworking other manufacturers' harnesses is possible and at which costs must be requested from the manufacturer of the respective harness.
Finsterwalder & Charly (headquarter):
Pagodenburgstr. 8, 81247 Munich, Germany
Phone: +49 89 8116528
Charly Produkte (branch):
Am Osterösch 3, 87637 Seeg, Germany
Phone: +49 8364 1286"
Further Update by Finsterwalder
Finsterwalder have since issued the following further update relating to their original safety notice:
"Update on the safety notice about CLICK-LOCK and T-LOCK buckles in paraglider and hang glider harnesses
After having informed 43 paraglider harness manufacturers about how to rework their grounded harnesses, we would like to to give you an update on the status quo.
Safety notice for Finsterwalder CLICK-LOCK and T-LOCK bucklesCL and TL buckles have been developed 30 years ago. Due to the latest insights on their use in paraglider chest straps, we had to limit their permissible service life for this kind of application. The reason is that CL and TL buckles installed in paraglider chest straps are under permanent load and subject to frequent diagonal load changes. They are, however, not optimally designed for this kind of stress and the effects of wearout play a role. When a plug is worn out, the buckle's closure might gradually be pushed open against the spring pressure of its lock buttons. In the case of heavy wear, the plug can be pulled out by force. Our later developed P-LOCK buckles do not have this disadvantage.
When the buckles are used in paraglider- and hang glider leg straps, they are subject to such dynamic loads only during takeoff and landing. However, wearout after a longer time of use might lead to failure here, too. We therefore limit the service life to 10 years also for this application.
Hang glider harness manufacturers have the possibility to rework their harnesses' CL and TL plugs and therewith extended the buckles' service life from 10 years to a maximum of 20 years in total.
We can only rework other manufacturers' buckles if a maufacturer authorizes us to do so and if we accept his order. At the moment, we rework only Charly harnesses and Advance harnesses from Germany. In any case, we need a signed order from the harness owner.
Please print the order form and enclose it in the package with the harness or the chest strap plugs that are to be reworked. Usually, we charge 38,- € for the service. This price includes VAT, the reworking and return shipping costs within Germany. As a goodwill gesture, we offer the service free of charge for our Charly harnesses. We can only start reworking after we have received the original signed order. The processing time currently takes 4-8 days but might become longer.
How long the service life of inspected and reworked buckles can be extended depends on whether they are used in chest or in leg straps. The respective harness manufacturers will provide this information in their safety notices.
Harnesses with expired service lives can temporarily continued to be used when a webbing loop is installed as a provisional backup security. Woody Valley and Advance made this suggestion.
The harness manufacturers are responsible for the authorization and control of the rework service workshops. For reworking, the plug heads are clamped vertically aligned in a vise (see picture: reworking in the vise) and filed according to the rework instruction using a half round file. We recommend the file atricle no. 525000 150/0 by Hoffmann tools. [the weblink provided by Finsterwalder is no longer valid]
Please note: The manufacturers of the affected harnesses can provide for airworthiness within the stated period only if reworking was done by themselves or by an authorized third party.
In the meantime, the DHV has reworked the SAT harness whose buckle could be opened by force according to our instruction and in the presence of Turnpoint. Afterwards, pulling out the plug by force was no longer possible. The manufacturers were informed accordingly by the DHV."
What to do?
- Check the buckles on your harness waist strap to see if they are affected by Finsterwalder's safety notice.
- If they are then check the age of the harness. (The date of manufacture is usually stated on a label somewhere on the harness. If there isn't then contact the harness manufacturer through their website to ask.)
- If the buckles on your harness waist strap are affected by Finsterwalder's safety notice and your harness is more than 4 years old, but less than 10 years old, then contact the harness manufacturer through their website, or the dealer you bought the harness from, for advice. It may be possible to rework the buckles to extend their service life by 4 years, up to a maximum of 10 years, subject to the manufacturer's inspection and approval.
- If you think the buckles on your harness waist strap are copies of or based on the original Finsterwalder CLICK-LOCK or T-LOCK design then contact the manufacturer of your harness through their website, or the dealer you bought the harness from, for advice.
- If the buckles on your harness are more than 10 years old then they are not airworthy and the harness should not be flown*.
*Flybubble note: If your harness is not airworthy but otherwise in good condition and can be used for ground handling (including karabiners) then we might be able to give you something for it as a 'ground handling only' harness.
References relating to the safety notice for harnesses equipped with Finsterwalder CLICK-LOCK and T-LOCK buckles.
Finsterwalder & Charly
Info relating to Finsterwalder CLICK-LOCK and T-LOCK buckles, including their original safety notices.
- Safety Notice about Finsterwalder CLICKLOCK & TLOCK buckles (PDF)
- Quick Fix Solution for Finsterwalder Buckle Problem (website)
- How to install the buckle Quick Fix (PDF)
- Refinishing the Charly Finsterwalder buckle (website)
- Dismantling and refitting the IMPRESS 1/2/2+ and SUCCESS 2+ chest strap (PDF)
- Clicklock and T-lock Buckles Safety Notice (website)
- Finsterwalder buckle defect fix (website) (PDF)
- Safety Notice (PDF)
- For a 'Guide to securing and replacing Finsterwalder faulty buckles on Woody Valley harnesses' and 'Fix Kit Request Form' contact Woody Valley.
The DHV (Deutscher Hangegleiterverband - the German freeflight association) published copies of Finsterwalder's original safety notice, and other some manufacturer's safety notices, relating to Finsterwalder CLICK-LOCK and T-LOCK buckles, on their website.
- Copy of Finsterwalder's original safety notice (website)
- Advance safety notice (including list of affected harnesses) (website)
- Finsterwalder & Charly safety notice (including list of affected harnesses) (website)
- Icaro Paragliders safety notice (including affected harness) (website)
- Independence safety notice (including list of affected harnesses) (website)
- Swing safety notice (including list of affected harnesses) (website)
- Woody Valley safety notice (including list of affected harnesses) (website)
Whichever your harness brand, it's worth doing regular checks.