This swooper was jumping with 28 lbs of weight on a 69 sq. ft. canopy (3.0 wing load) during the 2019 USPA Canopy Piloting Nationals at Skydive Paraclete XP. During a run at the comp, he opened into some fun tension knots! He couldn’t clear the malfunction on his first attempt due to the high G-forces, so he crawled his hands up the left riser to get above the slinks and pull down to try to collapse the canopy. No go. After exhausting himself, he chopped and landed safely on his reserve. Spoiler alert: he got back in the sky on borrowed gear and took 2nd place in the Advanced category!
Why did it happen
Tension knots happen
These are a hard to predict malfunction. Packing errors can cause them: if lines are not properly stowed, they can inadvertently cinch down on one another as they are drawn taut on opening. One reason less experienced jumpers get tension knots is that their brake lines are twisted. Under tension, twisted up lines can fold under – and lock onto – themselves or another set of lines. Lastly, certain canopies just seem to be more prone and likely to encounter tension knots.
How could it be prevented
The jumper stated he believes there may have been a packing issue. If that was the case then, as always, it could have been prevented through non-complacent, diligent packing. He also said that a contributing factor may have been that his lines were gritty and wet from a previous jump, which brings up gear maintenance. Finally, one note another swooper mentioned, is that jumpers should ensure their slider is firmly seated against the canopy at the bottom of the lines before they cocoon it.
Untwisting Brake Lines
It’s unlikely a jumper at this level didn’t ensure his brake lines were in working order. But, while discussing tension knots, this point should be made. While packing, jumpers should examine their brake lines and – if needed – take the extra 2-3 minutes to straighten them all the way down from the attachment points to the toggles.
Collapsing the Canopy
This jumper attempted to clear the knot by collapsing the canopy to release line tension – a strategy that had worked for him before. He knew his altitude and – even after fighting this malfunction for a bit – he was high enough to regain stability before deploying his reserve. However, jumpers should be cautious about fighting a malfunction like this for so long because, especially under a high-performance canopy, they can be losing altitude very rapidly.
Warm & Fuzzy Note
We normally keep the identities of Friday Freakout submissions confidential. We didn’t anonymize this submission because our boy Brian Redfield is a badass and – with his permission – we wanted to celebrate how this story ended. After this chop, Brian was unable to recover his canopy and it looked like his competition was over. However, the community came together to get back in the air. He wound up on gear borrowed from another competitor and took 2nd place in the Advanced category. (How’s that for a feel-good story!?!) Congrats bud!