Friday Freakout: Skydiver’s Sketchy Low Cutaway, Reserve Parachute Open By 500 Feet!

Posted by Zej Moczydlowski

What happened

After deploying his main canopy, this skydiver released his brakes and the right brake line locked up. He realized that the only way for his canopy to fly level was to pull the left toggle down to three-quarter brakes and decided that he would attempt to land that way. At 1,000 ft. (approx. 300 meters) above the ground, he realized that he didn’t have the strength to continue flying in brakes and decided to cutaway (yes, we’re also cringing). Thankfully, without an RSL or Skyhook, his reserve opened quickly at about 500 ft. (approx. 150 meters) and he landed safely.

Why did it happen

Forgetting AFF

This jumper should not have put himself in a situation where muscle failure was forcing him to cutaway at 1,000 feet. He knew this canopy was not flyable thousands of feet earlier and disregarded basic safety precautions.

Packing Error

There are a lot of reasons why that right brake line could have locked up, but without a different view or more information, we’re making some educated guesses. Two different riggers viewed this video and believe that there was a step through and/or a tension knot. Both are typically due to packing error.

How could it be prevented

Better decision making

This jumper should have chopped thousands of feet earlier. Had he relied on the basics taught in AFF he would have gotten rid of his main at a safe altitude and not risked potentially catastrophic results from cutting away at such a low altitude.

Diligent packing

As is the case with a large portion of malfunctions, this incident could have likely been prevented through the avoidance of complacency. When packing it is important to take your time, not rush, and go through every step slowly and diligently.

Additional Notes

We want to reiterate that this jumper put himself into a precarious situation by not cutting away earlier. This reserve opened quickly and perfectly – the rigger who packed it is certainly owed a thank you gift – but had it not, a myriad of situations could have occurred:

  • A snivel in his reserve could have resulted in it not inflating before he reached the ground.
  • Any minor issue, e.g., line twists, could have resulted in him not having immediate heading control and flying towards the hanger, the helicopter that was taking off, or the plane that was taxiing on the ground.

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