After deploying his main canopy, this skydiver got spun up into a messy situation with an aggressively diving canopy. Realizing he was unlikely to recover control, he cutaway within seconds and went to his reserve. The reserve opened quickly but had a fair amount of line twists and a dive of its own. Unfortunately the camera froze up and stopped recording moments later – arguably one of the best "features" of the GoPro 7 – but he says he cleared the reserve line twists by 700 feet off the ground. A “never give-up” scenario for sure!
This jumper noted that this was a brand new main with only 20-ish jumps, but that this was also his second cutaway on that canopy. With a new canopy this could certainly be a factor. However, when downsizing, a jumper can also move onto a more aggressive wingloading at which the canopy becomes more sensitive.
If this was not an equipment issue, this may have been user-error. As the jumper noted, it was a new canopy which he had already previously cutaway within the first 20 jumps. A new canopy is typically purchased because the jumper is downsizing or moving to a more aggressive canopy. Many jumpers do not realize how much more meticulous they may have to be regarding their openings when going through this transition. On an aggressive wing that is loaded heavier, minor issues can quickly turn into this type of malfunction.
Some jumpers may argue that this individual should not have chopped as quickly as he did. However, it was very unlikely that he was going to get out of that malfunction. By chopping early, he maximized how much time he had to fix issues with his reserve. The USPA noted in its 2019 “Don’t Delay; Cut Away” campaign that “Skydivers under spinning, diving canopies must stop looking up at their line twists and assuming they are something they can easily fix.” This jumper probably did the right thing by chopping fast.
An aggressively diving malfunction such as this one is likely to create line twists in the reserve because the jumper’s body is still rotating as the reserve deploys. Some jumpers use this type of scenario as an argument against MARD’s and RSL’s because they believe it is better to take a second (or longer) and get stable before deploying a reserve. However, diving malfunctions like this tend to eat up altitude a LOT faster than jumpers realize and can result in a reserve deployment below a safe altitude. Ultimately, it is better to have a fully inflated reserve like this one than have nothing over your head at a dangerously low altitude.