Friday Freakout: AFF Student’s Skydive Goes Wrong, Gets Entangled With Bridle

Posted by Zej Moczydlowski

An AFF student’s jump gets a little spicy when she tumbles at pull time, has a messy deployment and gets entangled with the bridle.

What happened

During an AFF Category C this student did pretty well… up until pull time! She grabbed her right lateral rather than her pilot chute and as the AFF-I reached to place her hand on the PC she looked back to locate it. She de-arched, rolled, and flipped as she found her PC. She held onto it for a second instead of releasing it, resulting in an entanglement. She was able to get the bridle off of herself…  but it went right into her instructor’s legs!

Fortunately, he managed to control the bridle, cleared it from himself, and waited until the student was in a more ideal position for deployment before letting go. The student’s canopy reportedly opened without incident. Both her and her instructor landed safely.

Why did it happen

  1. Despite a very successful exit and free fall, this student panicked when her first grab for her pilot chute failed. Then rather than reaching back, she turned to look for her PC, resulting in a tumble.
  2. When the student found the plot chute, she held onto it for a moment (01:27 – 01:29 in the video), giving the bridle a chance to whip around and entangle itself.
  3. The reserve side instructor started opening up the distance between himself and the student during her first attempt at deployment. As a result, he was a bit too far away to re-dock and help with stability when that attempt failed.

How could it be prevented

  1. This student’s instructor says she was trained to grab her butt and slide her hand up to locate her PC in such a situation. Had she done this, she likely would have been able to locate her handle after the first failed attempt.
  2. Jumpers (students and experienced jumpers alike) should not hold onto their pilot chute after pulling it out of the BOC! As is seen in this video, doing so allows the bridle to whip around and entangle itself on the skydiver or their gear.
  3. According to USPA standards, if there is a problem with the deployment sequence on a Category C jump, the reserve side instructor should re-dock to assist with stability. Had the reserve side instructor been flying slightly closer to the student at that moment, he may have been able to quickly re-dock and assist in keeping her stable.

Author’s Note

By no means are we trying to beat up these instructors. They did well! The main-side instructor in particular kept his cool and reacted calmly, managing to not only clear himself of the entanglement, but having the wherewithal to wait until his student flipped over before letting go of the bridle. While the reserve-side instructor may have left a half second earlier than he should have, it was likely because from his view it would have looked like a very competent student had successfully reached for her PC.

It was a good jump by both of them and we appreciate their decision to submit their video so that we can use it as a teaching point!