Friday Freakout: Wingsuiter Has Pilot Chute In Tow, Line Twists And Cutaway

Posted by Zej Moczydlowski

What happened

On their 10th wingsuit jump, this jumper pitched at approximately 4,000 feet but their pilot chute caught in their burble and did not extract their main. They twisted their body to allow air to catch the PC and wound up in line twists which they fought until around 1,600 feet. After some struggling, they were able to clear the malfunction and land safely.

Why did it happen

Bad Form

The jumper described their deployment as a “half-assed throw” of the pilot chute. It’s important for all jumpers to perform a strong deployment to ensure that their PC clears their body and their burble, but it’s even more critical for wingsuiters. As noted in the USPA SIM, “Wingsuits create a large burble above and to the back of a skydiver, and may not provide the pilot chute enough air for a clean inflation and extraction of the deployment bag from the pack tray.

Gear Issues

In the details provided with this video submission, the wingsuit pilot noted that he was new to the discipline and did not have an extended bridle. He was flying good equipment for a beginner (an Electra 170 canopy and a Piranha3 wingsuit) but didn’t consider how his bridle – which he had probably been using for regular jumps – would perform behind a wingsuit.

How could it be prevented

Don’t Get Complacent

A LOT of jumpers get lazy about their deployment procedures and just go through the motions. Many get in the mindset that, because freefall is over, the jump is over. However, a skydive isn’t complete until you’re back on the ground. While freefall is what appeals most to many jumpers, the deployment and canopy flight are parts of the jump that still require contemplation and attention.  

Proper Equipment

Different disciplines require different equipment considerations. Freeflyers, for example, place emphasis on their deployment systems and operation handles because premature openings at freefly speeds are dangerous. Wingsuit jumps have their own requirement. The USPA SIM notes that wingsuiters should not use a pilot chute smaller than 24 inches, that their pilot chute handles should be as light as possible, and that “bridle length should be increased as the wingsuiter moves into larger suits that create larger burbles.” This jumper may have not been at the point where they thought bridle length needed to be a consideration but, had they been using an extended bridle, this incident may have not occurred.

Other Notes

Line Twists

Ask ten jumpers how to deal with line twists and you’ll likely get twelve answers. This individual chose to use the pull-apart method. Others may say he should have brought the risers together to get the twists further down the lines. Debating this issue is a time honored skydiver tradition and we’re not going to get into it (again). We did, however, want to mention the importance of maintaining altitude awareness while in line twists. While fighting line twists, many skydivers completely lose track of how high they are and some have cut away dangerously low. This jumper stayed calm, checked his altimeter, and made a conscious decision about whether he thought he had enough altitude to continue fighting or if he had reached his decision altitude for a cutaway. Good job!