Friday Freakout: Crash Landing, Skydiver Hits Helicopter Tail Rotor

Posted by Zej Moczydlowski

What happened

This skydiver set up their final turn passed the main landing area, which put them in a tight spot to land near a parked – and fortunately not running – helicopter. They presumably clipped the tail rotor, or largely forgot to flare (the video submission didn’t clarify what happened), resulting in a hard landing and two compressed vertebrae.

Why did it happen

Congested airspace?

The submission – which was difficult to decipher – suggested that there may have been congestion in the landing pattern. The jumper was possibly trying to avoid other parachutes and could have placed himself into a bad situation where their options were to land by the helicopter, land on the taxiway or turn lower than they were comfortable with.

Bad planning?

Regardless of the reason for it, this jumper set themselves up for failure. They were relatively low and already a bit passed their landing area when they did an aggressive front-riser turn which left them at higher speeds with even fewer options.

How could it be prevented

Earlier – and better – decision making

If this situation was due to congested airspace, the jumper put themselves into a bad situation by getting caught up in it. Early in the canopy flight portion of a jump, skydivers should be looking around and creating vertical and horizontal separation between themselves and others.

Dude! Give up the swoop!

This individual was in a less than ideal spot but, instead of doing a nice brake turn towards the landing area, they hopped on their fronts and made a bad situation worse. Jumpers should always be willing to take a boring safe landing rather than a potentially dangerous one. This issue often pops up at dropzones with a lot of high-performance canopies where no one is willing to land anywhere but super close to the hanger. It’s better to have a long walk back than to compress two vertebrae like this guy did!