Friday Freakout: Skydiver’s Reserve Handle Caught On Helicopter Skid!

Posted by Zej Moczydlowski

What happened

While climbing down to hang from a helicopter, this jumper’s chest strap and reserve cable both snagged on a skid connection point (used for ground handling wheels), leaving him suspended from the skid. The snagged cable extracted the reserve pin and initiated the deployment of the reserve pilot chute. Jumpers on the opposite side saw the pilot chute and told the jumper to let go. He managed to un-snag the chest strap and then, after a moment of panic, realized that the deployed reserve meant his reserve cable had a free running end. He let go, fell away from the helicopter, flipped onto his belly before his reserve inflated, and landed without incident.

Why did it happen

Inexperience

At the time, this jumper was relatively new. He had under 100 jumps and had only recently gained his B License. He had learned about snag hazards and the importance of watching his handles, but later admitted he was not fully cognizant of the dangers. The jumper believed that, because he had soft handles and not a D-ring, he wasn’t at high risk. He didn’t believe that the small amount of cable exposed between his handle and the housing could snag.

Lack of Preparation

The jumpers were rushing out to the helicopter (“GET TO THE CHOPPA!”) to make a sunset load, and were not given a familiarization with the aircraft. The first time they had a chance to look at the skids was as they were boarding.

How could it be prevented

Situational Awareness

Had this jumper paid more attention to the skid as he was climbing out, he would have seen the four large exposed connection points that posed a major snag hazard and could have avoided sliding across them as he went to hang.

Briefings

Anytime a skydiver is jumping out of an aircraft for the first time (BEER!) they should be given the opportunity to examine it on the ground. Aircraft familiarization should never be bypassed to save time.

Exit Procedures

Some helicopter operators do not allow jumpers to hang from the skids to prevent exactly this type of incident. These types of exits are fun and provide for fantastic videos, but the inherent dangers should be noted.

Author’s Note

The jumper in this video is actually me, Zej Moczydlowski, one of the writer’s for our Friday Freakout series. I believe sharing these clips demonstrates how strongly we, as a company, believe in the importance of learning from one another. Many jumpers we approach for copies of their videos are hesitant, nervous, or embarrassed. But the goal of Friday Freakout is to provide a tool which assists in the education of jumpers and make the community at large safer. We hope our willingness to show our own freakouts will encourage others to share their experiences.