Friday Freakout: Double Malfunction, Skydiver's Main Parachute Entangles With Reserve Parachute!

Zej Moczydlowski
ago
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What happened

This jumper had been attempting a wingsuit rodeo with a buddy. (Given that he said "attempt," we're guessing it didn't go too well!) When it came time to deploy his main, he pitched his pilot chute, but nothing happened! He reached for his risers, realized they weren't there and went to perform his emergency procedures. It appears he may have pulled his reserve handle, then as it was deploying, pulled his cutaway handle. His main parachute then entangled with the deploying reserve parachute. He ended up having to fight to get back to the dropzone, but fortunately made it and landed on the edge of the grass with no injuries.

Why did it happen

Packing Error

This jumper stated he believes that while packing his parachute he didn't cock the pilot chute all the way and also forgot to check the window to ensure. We're not sure if he was in a rush, got complacent, or just plain forgot, but he believes that's why his pilot chute didn't inflate enough to pull the pin on his main.

Emergency Procedures

There has been a long-standing debate about EP's when it comes to a pilot chute in tow. The USPA SIM states, "For a pilot-chute-in-tow malfunction, there are currently two common and acceptable procedures, both of which have pros and cons." The first procedure is to immediately deploy the reserve and be prepared to cutaway. The second procedure is to "Cut away, then immediately deploy the reserve. Because there is a chance the main parachute could deploy during or as a result of the reserve activation, a cutaway might be the best response in some situations."

How could it be prevented

Diligence and Gear Checks

Over the years we've probably written about these issues a hundred different ways. At the end of the day, it boils down to being diligent in your packing procedures, taking your time, not rushing, not skipping steps, and not letting yourself get distracted while packing your gear. There were also two different times at which diligence should have caught an uncocked pilot chute before the jumper got on the plane. First, he would have noticed it had he taken an extra two seconds to check the window on his bridle. Second, a buddy should have noticed the lack of color in the window during gear checks and asked, "Hey, are you sure you cocked your pilot chute?"

Know, Practice, and Follow Your EP's

As noted before, there are two different options with a pilot chute in tow. If you follow Option 1 (Pull Reserve, Prepare for Cutaway) you increase the chance that your reserve will deploy cleanly but need to be ready to cutaway in case the opening shock of the deployment jostles your main out of the container. If you follow Option 2 (Cutaway and Immediately Deploy Reserve) you lessen the chance of an entanglement between your main and reserve.

Additional Notes

Container Punch

Some jumpers will say — if, and only if, you are aware of your altitude and have time to do so — to try punching the bottom of your container to see if your main will pop out of the container. It's not in the SIM, we're not suggesting people add this to their EP's, but we know that folks are going to see this video and want to talk about that option so we're including it as part of the discussion.

Hook Knife?

It looks like the main was caught within arms reach of the jumper. Arguably, he could have reached up and used a hook knife to safely get rid of it and been able to land his reserve. Some folks don't have a hook knife on their gear, to which we would respond, "You should. And this is a great example of why." Those who do have a hook knife may argue that, once they knew the main was just trailing behind and not at risk of entangling with the reserve, they wouldn't want to cutaway a few thousand dollars of canopy that they may not be able to find later... but your life, or the medical bills relating to your broken legs/hips/neck/etc. are worth more than a canopy, and that not being able to control your reserve to ensure a safe landing in an open area is exactly the type of thing that can cause those injuries.

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What happened

This jumper had been attempting a wingsuit rodeo with a buddy. (Given that he said "attempt," we're guessing it didn't go too well!) When it came time to deploy his main, he pitched his pilot chute, but nothing happened! He reached for his risers, realized they weren't there and went to perform his emergency procedures. It appears he may have pulled his reserve handle, then as it was deploying, pulled his cutaway handle. His main parachute then entangled with the deploying reserve parachute. He ended up having to fight to get back to the dropzone, but fortunately made it and landed on the edge of the grass with no injuries.

Why did it happen

Packing Error

This jumper stated he believes that while packing his parachute he didn't cock the pilot chute all the way and also forgot to check the window to ensure. We're not sure if he was in a rush, got complacent, or just plain forgot, but he believes that's why his pilot chute didn't inflate enough to pull the pin on his main.

Emergency Procedures

There has been a long-standing debate about EP's when it comes to a pilot chute in tow. The USPA SIM states, "For a pilot-chute-in-tow malfunction, there are currently two common and acceptable procedures, both of which have pros and cons." The first procedure is to immediately deploy the reserve and be prepared to cutaway. The second procedure is to "Cut away, then immediately deploy the reserve. Because there is a chance the main parachute could deploy during or as a result of the reserve activation, a cutaway might be the best response in some situations."

How could it be prevented

Diligence and Gear Checks

Over the years we've probably written about these issues a hundred different ways. At the end of the day, it boils down to being diligent in your packing procedures, taking your time, not rushing, not skipping steps, and not letting yourself get distracted while packing your gear. There were also two different times at which diligence should have caught an uncocked pilot chute before the jumper got on the plane. First, he would have noticed it had he taken an extra two seconds to check the window on his bridle. Second, a buddy should have noticed the lack of color in the window during gear checks and asked, "Hey, are you sure you cocked your pilot chute?"

Know, Practice, and Follow Your EP's

As noted before, there are two different options with a pilot chute in tow. If you follow Option 1 (Pull Reserve, Prepare for Cutaway) you increase the chance that your reserve will deploy cleanly but need to be ready to cutaway in case the opening shock of the deployment jostles your main out of the container. If you follow Option 2 (Cutaway and Immediately Deploy Reserve) you lessen the chance of an entanglement between your main and reserve.

Additional Notes

Container Punch

Some jumpers will say — if, and only if, you are aware of your altitude and have time to do so — to try punching the bottom of your container to see if your main will pop out of the container. It's not in the SIM, we're not suggesting people add this to their EP's, but we know that folks are going to see this video and want to talk about that option so we're including it as part of the discussion.

Hook Knife?

It looks like the main was caught within arms reach of the jumper. Arguably, he could have reached up and used a hook knife to safely get rid of it and been able to land his reserve. Some folks don't have a hook knife on their gear, to which we would respond, "You should. And this is a great example of why." Those who do have a hook knife may argue that, once they knew the main was just trailing behind and not at risk of entangling with the reserve, they wouldn't want to cutaway a few thousand dollars of canopy that they may not be able to find later... but your life, or the medical bills relating to your broken legs/hips/neck/etc. are worth more than a canopy, and that not being able to control your reserve to ensure a safe landing in an open area is exactly the type of thing that can cause those injuries.

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Hang tight, our new comments system and community features will be live soon.

to join the conversation.

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