During a CRW jump, this videographer was flying behind the stack in order to film their attempts at a maneuver called “threading the needle” when suddenly a freefly group fell between the videographer and the stack. The CRW jumpers then got entangled, resulting in a few cutaways.
Why did it happen
The Surprise Freeflyer Fly-By
How this occurred is a matter of some conjecture, but this is our guess:
- Miscommunication: The dropzone was operating two planes at the same time and the pilot of the second aircraft was not informed that the first plane had put out a CRW jump.
- Spotting failure: The first jumpers getting out of the second plane probably checked under them and saw clear air space. However, if the later groups didn’t check again before exiting themselves, they would have not realized that the aircraft was now flying directly above an active CRW jump that was flying down jump run.
The CRW Canopy Wrap
- Fatigue: The somewhat erratic CRW flyer was attempting a “thread the needle” maneuver for the first time and was having some difficulty making it happen. The videographer who submitted this clip believes the CRW flyer’s arms started giving away due to exhaustion.
How could it be prevented
Anytime there are multiple planes in the air, communication is critical. If there are high pulls, low passes, CRW/XRW jumps, wingsuiters, etc., it becomes even MORE important. Manifest, pilots, ATC, and the air boss all HAVE to be on the same page.
If the dropzone knows that they’re dropping CRW jumpers while operating multiple planes, the CRW dogs NEED to fly offset from jump run and not turn into the regular canopy traffic until after they’re at an appropriate altitude, 2,000ft AGL or so.
Pilots Following Jumpers
When possible, and when advised by ATC, some drop zones have their pilots follow CRW/XRW/Wingsuit/etc. groups to provide a beacon for ATC and ground staff.
Freeflyers sometimes just let belly jumpers check the spot and then only worry about group separation. This is a bad habit that can result in incidents like this one. You should always check your spot! The group ahead of you may have made a bad decision and/or the situation may have changed since they got out. Realistically, these freeflyers may not have been able to see the canopies under them either way, but the point still stands.
Know and respect your limits
In reference to the CRW wrap, we’re not saying to give up… but if a maneuver just isn’t coming together, and you’re fatigued to the point where you’re not flying safely, give it up and try again on the next jump.
It looks like the jumper whose buddy’s main was caught on his leg tried to reel it in. As skydivers, we’re all inclined to help each another out — we’re a family! — but the safer decision in a situation like that is probably to hook knife those lines and let it go. (And we’ve mentioned this before… is your hook knife part of your gear checks? Because it should be!)