Friday Freakout: Skydiver Forgets to Unbuckle Seat Belt, Hangs From Plane

Posted by Zej Moczydlowski

What happened

This newer jumper, with only 50-ish jumps at the time, tried exiting the plane without unfastening his seat belt. Uhhh… yeah… what else is there to say? No bueno.

Why did it happen

New Equipment

This may sound weird to people from the US but there are places around the world that don’t require — or at least don’t enforce — the requirement that seat belts be worn during take-off. This jumper noted that the video is from 2015 and that his dropzone had just started requiring seat belts, so this was a new procedure for him at the time.

No Gear Checks

Had this jumper sat up to check his gear before the jump, he would likely have noticed that he still had his seat belt on.

How could it be prevented

Gear Checks

This type of incident is a perfect example of why more experienced jumpers get annoyed when the back of the plane doesn’t get up until the red light comes on. Prior to the door being opened, it’s important to get up and ensure your pilot chute didn’t sneak out, your pin didn’t become dislodged, etc. It’s not certain that a gear check would have caught this issue — some longer seat belts still have enough slack for a person to get up — but that’s the type of thing that should become obvious pretty quickly during a gear check.

Training

We’ve seen a new jumper intentionally make sure that their seat belt was still on before opening the door at 2,000 feet. When (calmly and politely) asked “What were you thinking?!?” the jumper didn’t understand what had happened; it turns out it was their first time opening the door and they were scared of falling out below hop and pop altitude. It seems like common sense, but it’s not really discussed in AFF and new jumpers may not understand how catastrophic it would be for a plane to have a parachute deploy while the jumper is still attached to their seat belt.

Additional Notes

  • During gear checks on the ground, do you ask yourself or your buddies: “Where’s my/your hook knife?” This scenario is yet another example of why that question is important and why a hook knife can be as critical as an altimeter or an AAD. Had this jumper’s main or reserve deployed, pulling them back in would not have been an option and a hook knife may have been the only way to prevent a very tragic ending.
  • Someone who reviewed this video asked, “Why did they have him move to the front of the plane?” Well, the simple answer is that — after a totally bone-headed move like this — it’s understandable that a jumper could be shook up to the point where they’re not in the right frame of mind to make a skydive… and if they’re not shook up, then they’re so clueless that they certainly need remedial safety training.

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