Friday Freakout: Uncontrollable Wingsuit Spin + Line Twists + Cutaway

Posted by Zej Moczydlowski

What happened

This was a training jump for the 1st FAI WS World Cup, so both these jumpers were going pretty balls to the wall. When it came to break off, this individual put himself into an uncontrollable roll which then turned into an uncontrollable spin. He had started the jump barely above break off altitude and knew he didn’t have a lot of time to get stable. So, he deployed his main and – predictably – there were some gnarly line twists. After one look he realized that there was no salvaging it. He actually meant to cut away faster, but his head went between the risers and the lines got caught on a comms unit. He (eventually) managed to get that issue resolved, chopped, and rode the reserve in.

Why did it happen

Asymmetry

From the second camera view, it appears that this wingsuit pilot stopped flying symmetrically and put himself into an uncontrolled roll. He doesn’t really appear to attempt to regain stability and winds up having to pitch while rolling and spinning through the sky. Once he made the decision to deploy in that situation, the line twists were somewhat inevitable.

Canopy Choice

This jumper was flying a fully-elliptical Aerodyne Zulu 122, loaded well above 1.5:1. In the words of the wingsuit pilot: “it was a terrible choice of canopy.” Generally speaking, it’s recommended that wingsuiters use a non-elliptical canopy loaded at a 1.3:1 or lower and many experts suggest a 7-cell over a 9-cell.

How could it be prevented

Remember Your Training!

This wingsuiter went from having a bad day to a worse day. As we’ve noted before, wingsuit instructors use the phrase “BANANA, BANANA, BANANA!” to teach students how to react to such situations. From what we see in this video, he didn’t really make much effort to regain stability once he went into that roll. But – as previously noted – he was concerned about altitude and decided it would be better to deploy the main to get out of freefall; never a bad choice. Because he was unstable when he pitched, he knew what would happen next. In his words:

“I knew I was going to chop even before I pitched my main.”

More Altitude

The jumper noted that “An important element of this jump was that it began just above break-off altitude — approximately 4500 feet or so, leaving very little altitude for me to spend trying to sort this out.” Had they started this jump at a more appropriate altitude, he may have remained calmer and had more time to get stable again.

“Dress” for Success

If you’re going to wear a wingsuit, you should be packing a canopy appropriate for that discipline. As mentioned above, it’s recommended that wingsuiters use a non-elliptical canopy loaded at a 1.3:1 or lower and many experts suggest a 7-cell over a 9-cell.

Additional Notes

We rarely reveal the names of the individuals who submit videos, but this jumper said it was okay. So, we wanted to thank Steve Hubbard, the USPA Director of Competition and Records, for having sent it our way. As we’ve previously noted, our Friday Freakout series is intended to provide lessons learned to the community. Getting a submission from someone at USPA – an organization which is similarly dedicated to promoting safe skydiving – tells us that at least some of you recognize what we’re trying to do, haha! 😉

More Videos