Friday Freakout: Skydiver’s Premature Parachute Opening Strikes Plane Tail & Rips In Half!

Posted by Zej Moczydlowski

What happened

This might be one of the most intense premature parachute openings — while exiting the plane — we’ve ever seen! As this skydiver was climbing out of the plane, their deployment bag fell out of the container without them noticing. The jumper behind her grabbed the d-bag and threw it out of the plane, the main deployed and ripped the jumper off the step. The canopy and multiple lines were cut by the tail of the plane but – miraculously – the aircraft suffered no damage, and the jumper was able to cutaway and set down safely in the landing area under their reserve canopy.

Why did it happen

Close Quarters

In a small plane like a Cessna 182, it is pretty much impossible to get in and out without rubbing your gear against the surfaces that can inadvertently disturb your gear. Jumpers need to be incredibly aware of these realities and take them into consideration while packing, boarding the aircraft, climbing to altitude, and preparing to exit the plane.

How could it be prevented

Diligence & Gear Checks

Given that this jumper knew they were about to get into a small aircraft, they should have been more cautious about their gear in every way possible. While packing and doing gear checks this would include ensuring that their closing loop was tight and their closing pin seated correctly. In the plane this would entail doing whatever they could to minimize how much their rig rubbed against the plane and other jumpers. And, most importantly, prior to the door opening this would include checking their gear and having someone else check it as well. That last step would have prevented the door from ever opening and this situation arising.

Additional Notes

Parachute in the Aircraft

The USPA Instructional Rating Manual does not really address this scenario – it discusses what to do if the parachute stays inside the aircraft, if the parachute goes out the door, or if there is a premature deployment during set-up. In this video one of the other jumpers tosses the d-bag out of the plane. We’re not going to “armchair quarterback” that decision; if anything, that jumper gets a lot of credit for immediately reacting and doing something to attempt to save the plane. For the sake of discussion, it should be noted that doing so caused the canopy to strike the horizontal stabilizer on the plane’s tail. This could have caused catastrophic damage to the aircraft. However, if the jumper didn’t think they could safely get the jumper back in the plane then they probably made the best call possible.

Drag them back into the plane?

Had the jumper in the plane noticed the situation sooner, they could have attempted to grab the jumper who was exiting the plane, keep them in the plane, and close the door. We think that would have been the best case scenario in this situation. However, this also poses an important question: at what point do you consider it no longer feasible to attempt to drag a jumper back in rather than push them out and get them away from the plane as soon as possible?

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