While setting up in the door, this belly group had 3 people outside plus a videographer. As the center float gave the up-down-out count, he rubbed up against the front float’s hacky which pulled the pilot chute out of the BOC and deployed the main canopy. Fortunately no one was entangled with the premature opening and he was clear of the plane.
A well-known, highly experienced belly flyer and coach examined this video and provided us a variety of minor issues that contributed to this incident. They believe it wasn’t a single one of the following issues (see below) but rather the fact that they all coalesced during a single jump. These factors include the way jumpers line up and the timing of the exit count. Additionally, the equipment being used may have played a role in this premature deployment.
The jumpers in this video were stacked right-to-left on top of one another and that creates a higher likelihood of equipment rubbing against equipment and an increased chance of a snag. Many belly jumpers try to minimize the amount of surface area they expose on the step but these individuals were simply just facing the door. Had they been facing somewhat into the relative wind rather than being squared up facing into the door, the center float may not have caught the front float’s hacky that caused the premie.
The center float did a very aggressive up-down-out count rather than what some belly coaches prefer: using the leg for an out-in-out count. The latter count puts a jumper’s body in motion and helps ensure both that the jumper giving the count doesn’t leave late and that the other jumpers clearly see the count and don’t leave early. In this video, the front float may have left early or the center float left may have left late, but what it comes down to is that they didn’t leave together. Had they done so, this probably wouldn’t have happened.
We can’t tell from the video, but two equipment issues could have potentially prevented this incident; if the front float had a tuck tab that hacky may have not come out and – if their BOC happened to be loose – replacing the BOC could have also prevented this from occurring.