Which AAD should I buy? Cypres or Vigil? 12

This blog post is for my skydiver friends ;)

As a certified parachute rigger, I often get asked this question: “Which Automatic Activation Device should I buy? Cypres or Vigil?”

Arguably, these two are the only real choices in today’s market.

While both units have had some growing pains in their initial releases. I am condident that both units are reliable and will function as designed.

Without getting into the merits of the software running on each unit, here’s my opinion: Get a Vigil / Vigil2.

And here are the reasons why:

Vigil 2

Vigil 2

Robustness

The Vigil is a little heavier than a Cypres, which could potentially be seen as a disadvantage, but from a Rigger’s perspective, the Vigil is built way tougher and stronger (see images on the right). It has a metal case (not plastic) and the wires (Control head and Cutter) are thick and reinforced, yet flexible, with reinforced metal connectors. Most people never see the inside of a reserve tray and the business end of an AAD, but if you did, you’d see right away that the Vigil is built stronger and tougher. What does that mean to you? It means that the likelihood of your ADD breaking or being broken by your rigger is much less. I’ve personally witnessed other riggers break the thin wires on both Argus and Cypres AADs while repacking them. What a pain.

Cypres 2

Cypres 2

MultiMode

The Vigil has 3 Modes in 1: PRO – STUDENT – TANDEM

Most people only ever own gear personal gear, and only ever set their AAD to “Pro” (The equivalent of the Expert Cypres), so this isn’t a big feature to them, but think of resale – if and when you want to sell your gear, would you rather have the potential of your AAD being installed in a student rig or a tandem rig as well? Why Yes I do! Bigger market means better chance of selling it at a good price. For the record resale value on both units has always been really good.

Memory Features

The Vigil has a built-in logbook with total number of jumps, overall free fall time, last free fall time, max speed of the last free fall, number of saves, atmospheric pressure, temperature… It’s quite handy for all kinds of reasons, and especially for figuring out exactly how many jumps a set of gear has.

Life Expectancy

A Vigil is designed for 20 years life expectancy vs. 12.5 years on a Cypres. Yes, your gear will last that long.

Cost

This is the big one. Check this out. Let’s figure out the Lifetime Cost and Per Year Cost of a Vigil vs. a Cypres.

A Vigil will last 20 years and need new batteries every 5 years or so. Using Paragear’s current price of $1,395, and 3 batteries (one each on years 5/10/15 at $60 each, I get a total cost of $1,575.

A Cypres will last 12.5 years and need mandatory maintenance (you have to send it off) every 4 years. Using Paragear’s current price of $1,425, and mandatory maintenance (including shipping from/to Canada) at years 4 and 8 at $300 each, I get a total cost of $2,025.

Here’s where the difference is felt the most. Divide the Total Cost of the unit over it’s useful life.

Vigil: $1,575 / 20 years = $78.75 /year

Cypres: $2,025 / 12.5 years = $162.00/year

That’s $83.25 per year more expensive for a Cypres – or more than double the price!

Conclusion

Get a Vigil, and don’t worry about it!

RTFM

Lastly, whether you buy a Vigil or a Cypres, Read the F@#king Manual! Do it! Right now! Here are the links:

Vigil 2
Vigil 1
Cypres 2

The units have very different operating conditions, and as a user of each unit, you should know the details of those condition. Educate yourself.

 

Alain Bard has been an active skydiver since 2003.
Alain holds the following CPSA ratings: D CoP, ,Skydiving Coach Level 2, Jumpmaster (JM), Ground Control Instructor (GCI), Skydive School Instructor (SSI),  Skydive School Examiner (SSE), Exhibition Jump Rating (EJR), Parchute Rigger (RA). He is also a Skydiving Tandem Instructor.
Alain is a certified Hot Air Balloon Pilot (Transport Canada)
Alain is a certified Paramotor Pilot (Transport Canada)
Alain is a certified Paraglider Pilot (HPAC)

12 thoughts on “Which AAD should I buy? Cypres or Vigil?

  1. Reply YK Oct 13, 2012 2:01 PM

    You forgot one thing-

    Cypres will save your life.
    Vigil, i’m not sure…

  2. Reply Meirbhin Oct 15, 2012 7:53 AM

    If your main argument is price a MARS M2 is €815 and NO battery change in it’s 15 year life.

    Only 1 legit AAD fire (unconscious) on our DZ and it was a MARS. The vigils metal case may cause a slight static build up that may fire the cutte, VERY small chance but I’m not willing to take it.

    I’ve 4 years left on my cypres then I’ll see but on the safe side Cypres

  3. Reply HS... Jan 10, 2013 1:01 PM

    Correction on your cost calculation. A VIGIL whether it is a model I or model II only needs a battery replacement every 10 years or 2000 jumps (whatever comes first) Thus under normal conditions just only 1 battery replacement is required which changes the cost calculation from $1575 to $1455 /20 years = $72,75 /year

  4. Reply Sebastian Jan 10, 2013 3:30 PM

    Cypres has no life expectancy. The 12,5 years are guaranteed by Airtec, while Vigil only provides a one-year warranty.

  5. Reply Sebastian Jan 10, 2013 3:32 PM

    And about the modes: Airtec changes the Cypres modes for free. Advantage: Someone who plays with your gear can’t set your Cypres to Tandem mode by accident.

  6. Reply Dutch Jan 19, 2014 11:52 PM

    I bought a Vigil.it looks sturdy, has reinforced wires, and didn’t look cheap. I went from student to pro with it. Yes, I’ve read the manual 3x. One bit oafs ice for any AAD, turn it on AT the DZ, and turn it off before leaving the DZ. If it saves you ONCE, it paid for itself!!!

  7. Reply Brett Mar 6, 2014 12:51 PM

    I have a Vigil 2 and a CYPRES 2. I’m confident that both units will function as designed. About that metal case on the Vigil 2, though, I’ve found a disadvantage to that that you’ve not covered. I travel a lot with my gear. I find it much easier to carry on my CYPRES equipped rig than my Vigil equipped rig. The reason is that on an X-ray, the large, solid metal box that the vigil control unit is housed in appears on the X-ray as an opaque container large enough to conceal a knife or other weapon. I’ve been forced to go back and check my gear at two different airports (LAX and YYZ) as security staff were not willing to trust that there wasn’t anything hidden in there unless they could see it. I’ve had lots of questions asked and had to wait for multiple additional screenings on at least two other occasions. Carrying an X-ray image of your AAD in such instances does not help at all. Security screeners are not interested in any information you can provide them, nor should they be. It’s not a huge issue if you don’t care to carry your gear onto the plane with you. For me though, it’s nice to know when I’m heading to a training camp, event or competition that at least one of my rigs will definitely arrive with me and from experience I’ve learned that a rig without a Vigil is easier to carry on than one with a Vigil.

  8. Reply Alain Bard Mar 6, 2014 1:02 PM

    I have never had a problem carrying a rig on board a commercial aircraft, and I’ve done so dozens of times. You should be aware of this link including the letter from the FAA stating that parachute rigs with or without AADs are officially accepted as carry-on and checked items.

    http://www.uspa.org/USPAMembers/Membership/Travel/WithintheUS/tabid/311/Default.aspx

    This is a non-issue. If TSA or CATSA screeners give you a hard time, you need to call a supervisor and hand him or her the FAA letter linked above.

  9. Reply Shane Sparkes Mar 15, 2014 7:29 PM

    Hi All.
    I have been an active skydiver since 1980, so I have seen a thing or two.
    The implementation of AAD’s on reserves being one of them.
    Initially there were the for and against arguments, all sorts of countless conversations and in some cases heated arguments. It has been amusing. On one occasion there was the suggestion that the Cypres was saving the ‘idiots’ of the sport, an argument countered on with outrage; one person arguing that opinion is pre historic and that they can “set and forget their AAD for a days jumping”, considering it’s reliable life saving features. Which brings me around to the point… READ THE INSTRUCTIONS…CHECK THIS MACHINE ON EACH AND EVERY JUMP. just to reiterate what I have read on this page, what really matters.

    As for a Cypres or a Vigil ?

    In my humble opinion, it is really like those who argue around Nikon and Canon cameras. Here in Australia the car boffins go on about Holdens and Fords…so lets not get too worried about it as i think these two fine AAD’s fit into that mould.

    However, one thing is for certain…
    One day I will take the time to write and thank Mr Cypres, for his part in saving the life of a long time friend in a wing-suiting incident of no fault of his own. He woke up, on the ground, injured, now recovered.
    I am certain that there is some mum, dad, lover or kid who wants to thank Mr Vigil.

    watch the vortex

  10. Reply Reserve Apr 2, 2014 8:09 PM

    Electronic hardware fails after a while. 20 years without any service sounds scary.

    Everybody has had some sort of electronic equipment that just unexpectedly fails. Hot, cold, moisture, altitude.. of course this affects the electronics

    Driving your car for 20 years without service… would you?

    • Reply Alain Bard Apr 30, 2014 9:09 AM

      The power-up self-test should take care of any issues.

      The issue with electronics is not whether or not it will work after 20 years – it will. The issue is are there any moving parts that can fail? A car has thousands of moving parts, all subject to wear. A car is a really poor comparison. Most electronics only ever have their moving parts fail. On a modern computer, fans and hard disk drives (parts that move) are typically the only parts that ever fail. AADs have no moving parts other than the cutter (and this is fired by a pyrotechnic charge). A better example is an Atari 2600 gaming console. Made in 1982. Still works 32 years later.

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