Friday Freakout: Skydiver Stuck Hanging Under Plane for 45 Minutes, Saved by Hook Knife and AAD!

Posted by Zej Moczydlowski

What happened

While exiting from a Cessna 182, this wingsuiter’s bootie got caught on the step and he was unable to reach up and release the tension to clear the snag and free himself. The pilot, alone in the plane and unable to release the controls, signaled a suggestion to the jumper – that he use a hook knife to cut apart his wingsuit. The jumper began doing so but grew tired and had to largely focus on staying alert and conscious. After 45 minutes the wingsuit tore and he fell away from the plane. Unfortunately, his arms were completely asleep and his torn suit was covering his handles so all he could do was arch, wait for his AAD to deploy his reserve, and look for a landing area.

“The battery in my camera died shortly into the situation. The result was the wingsuit tearing in half after 45 minutes, and automatic activation device (AAD) deployed the reserve parachute. I landed safely in a small backyard and walked away unharmed.”

Why did it happen

Exit Priorities

Arguably, wingsuit exits are a bit more complex than normal skydiving exits – they require different form, different priorities, and different considerations. Most skydivers aren’t worried about making sure their wings are closed, worrying about a tail strike, and fighting the urge to jump as they exit. However, those additional factors aren’t an excuse to paying attention to your equipment and the plane.

How could it be prevented

Snag Avoidance

This incident came down to one simple factor: the jumper forgot to pay attention to potential snag points. When exiting any aircraft – regardless if you’re a belly jumper, a swooper on a low pass, or a wingsuit pilot – you always need to pay attention to your environment and avoid anything that could snag your equipment. For wingsuiters, who obviously have a lot more fabric on them that could potentially get caught on something, that reality is even more important.

Additional Notes

Hook Knives

The pilot in this video was pretty heads-up, telling this jumper to get their hook knife out and start going to town on the suit. That being said, the jumper had a hard time getting the job done. This brings up two points.

  1. First, do you know where your hook knife is and is it part of your gear check? If not, we think this video underscores why those questions are important.
  2. Second, have you ever used a hook knife? Don’t go out and practice using the one you have on your gear because the hook knife on your equipment should be brand new and in pristine – sharp – condition; if you have a cheap flimsy one, consider an upgrade. However, if you are ever afforded the opportunity to try cutting through fabric using an old hook knife just to feel what it’s like, do so! (Safety Day idea?) It’s something that combat medics in the military do as part of training because cutting apart a combat uniform is not as easy as it looks.

AADs

Simply put, this video could have – and probably would have – been a fatality had this jumper not been using an AAD. His arms were completely asleep, so he couldn’t reach his pilot chute, and his handles were covered by the torn suit, so he couldn’t pull his reserve even if his arms were working. If you don’t jump with an AAD, this is the type of video that should leave you asking one question: ”Why not?”

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