Friday Freakout: Wingsuit Zipper Malfunction, Skydiver Goes From Steep Dive to Flat Spin

Posted by Andrew R.

It’s never a good situation when your wingsuit zipper opens up while you’re in a steep dive. Here’s what this skydiver had to say about his “wardrobe malfunction” incident:

“I’m sharing this video to show what I did to mitigate this incident, which I hope can help educate and inform other wingsuit pilots who might find themselves in a similar situation. This is a learning tool and not intended to be a forum for brand-bashing, so please be respectful and keep any “brand wars” comments to yourselves.

I was doing some performance training back in 2014 and experimenting with different approaches for maintaining a steep dive, but things didn’t exactly go as planned.

The shoulder zipper on the right arm of my wingsuit blew open, which started off as a small opening that only caused minor instability, but I was able to counter-steer and continued flying. As the zipper continued to open, the instability caused me to flip onto my back and induced a flat spin. Once I recovered from the flat spin, I had to stay in a dive to prevent another flat spin (look closely, you can see the stiffener blown out of the gripper as well).

At this point, I know I have to deploy my main canopy, but first my fingers had to climb their way down to the wrist opening of the malfunctioning wing, then I had to get my hand over the wing to deploy. The elbow of my right arm was fully exposed outside of the wing, so I made sure to deploy as quickly as possible to avoid any entanglements with the loose fabric of the depressurized wing.

Immediately after landing, I carefully inspected the wingsuit and found the zipper slider was still all the way down on the back (top) of the suit and the velcro strip was still fastened, as they both should be. After closely examining the wingsuit with the S&TA a few friends at the DZ, we weren’t able to find any physical defects on the equipment or the zippers.

What’s the conclusion? It turns out #8 zippers were not sufficient for the stress, durability and strength required in this application. Additional research I did following this incident also confirmed this conclusion.”