Friday Freakout: Skydiver’s Parachute Snivels For 18 Seconds Before Cutting Away!

Posted by Zej Moczydlowski

What happened?

This skydiver was jumping a canopy for the first time — a Rage 155 from Flight Concepts. They deployed the main at about 4000 feet and the slider got hung up, resulting in a sniveling canopy that was not inflating. After 18 seconds the jumper finally cut away their main and landed on reserve. We’re guessing they chopped somewhere between 1200 and 1500 feet.

Why did it happen?

Two things happened on this jump that apply to this question: why did the slider get stuck and why did the jumper take 18 seconds to cut away.

Stuck slider

The slider isn’t moving at all and it looks like there’s some fabric popping through one of the grommets. This could have been a packing error, or it could have been an equipment issue.

Loss of altitude awareness

The jumper appears to have lost altitude awareness, or they forgot their emergency procedures. By 2,500 feet jumpers should make the decision about whether a canopy is landable or not. With the slider not moving at all despite the jumper’s attempt at pulling the risers it was apparent that it would not come down, effectively making the canopy a streamer.

How could this have been prevented?

Careful packing & gear maintenance

The causes for the slider getting stuck and resulting in a streamer aren’t clear but there are a few different ways that it could have potentially been prevented.

  • If it was due to a packing error then it could have been prevented by the jumper taking their time and ensuring that their slider was properly quartered and set.
  • If it was due to an equipment issue, for example, if it was due to a broken slider stop disk or damaged grommet, it likely could have been caught during the pack job. Jumpers should remember that while packing they should also be inspecting their equipment and checking for any defects or damage.

Altitude awareness

This jumper took this malfunction far too low. We can’t see their altimeter in the video but, based on how high their fellow jumpers are above them, and based on how close the ground is, it’s likely that they were at least 1,000 feet below their decision altitude before they finally decided to cut away. If this was due to a loss of altitude awareness, then it could have been prevented by remembering their deployment sequence, which should include checking canopy size then checking altitude. (Checking size is taught at some dropzones, if the canopy above your head is very small, it’s likely a high speed/total malfunction and needs to be chopped quickly.) Alternatively, the jumper may have forgotten what their decision altitude and hard deck was, and this incident could have been prevented through a regular refresher of emergency procedures — something we should all do regularly.