Friday Freakout: Surprise! Skydiver Has Snappy Premature Parachute Opening

Posted by Andrew R.

What happened

This 4-way freefly jump could’ve ended badly as one of the jumpers got ejected from the skydive with a snappy premature opening. Yes, a loose BOC can lead to a premature opening. Surprise! Check. Your. Gear. People.

Why did it happen

This premature opening happened because the pilot chute was not fully secured in the container’s BOC, and while it’s hard to tell why it was loose, here are the possible culprits that caused this malfunction:

  1. A loose, no longer jumpable, BOC may have gone unnoticed.
  2. The pilot chute could have been improperly stowed.
  3. The jumper could have scraped their hackey and/or BOC across a hard surface in the plane.

How could it be prevented

All three possible reasons for this loose pilot chute could have been prevented through very basic tasks. Each of these steps is something all jumpers — regardless of skill level or jump numbers — should keep in mind on every jump:

Gear Maintenance

Examining the elasticity of a BOC to ensure it is still jumpable is a basic step in keeping gear in good working order.

Gear Checks

If the jumper improperly stowed their pilot chute on the ground, a buddy check prior to boarding would have caught it. If it came loose in the plane, a handle check should have alerted this jumper of the possible danger.

Proper Exit Procedures

Jumpers should take care to not scrape their containers – and especially their handles – against the aircraft both when boarding, getting to altitude and exiting. A key part is making sure to rotate your rig inwards towards the center of the door (and avoid the sides of the door) while climbing out.

Freefly-Friendly Gear

There is a reason that some gear is called “freefly friendly” and some gear is not. When gear is not freefly-friendly it is typically because, if taken into orientations other than belly, it runs the risk of prematurely opening. Generally, a lot of student and rental rigs are not freefly-friendly and many dropzones have rules against students freeflying for this exact reason.

We cannot stress this enough: if your gear is not freefry-friendly, you shouldn’t be freeflying! We’re NOT being hyperbolic when we say that it can kill you. A neurosurgery PA we’ve discussed this with before noted that aortic dissections, traumatic brain injuries, and diffuse axonal injuries resulting in brain death are all possible when this type of incident happens. The body slows down as the canopy opens, but internal organs keep moving. Having them slam into the body at 180mph is a recipe for a bad day.

 

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