Feb 4, 2007, 9:21 PM
Post #1 of 7
My first cutaway
I had my first chop today. I'm still processing everything, but here goes...
The morning started out great. Looked to be a great day to jump. The temperature was rising, the fog dissipated, and I was able to get on the first Otter load of the day. I had jumped last week (recurrency jump), and the plan was to just do a fun jump: some turns, practice my leg extensions a bit, pitch at 5500. Nothing tricky at all. The winds were light, and I was feeling pretty good about my canopy skills. I picked up the rig: Infinity, Sabre2, and as I would find out, PD218 reserve. Since I hadn't jumped the Infinity before, I must have checked the hackey, cutaway, and reserve handles a dozed times on the ground and in the plane. I even remember thinking how the pillow and d-ring seemed a little farther outside than I'm used to with the student gear.
The plane ride was uneventful, and the mood was relaxed. Nice! Finally, it was time to go. Freefall was great. Not too cold, and the turns went fine. I pitched at 5500, and the canopy opened up on heading. Cool! Grab the toggles, and the left one wouldn't budge. That was my first "Oh shit" moment. I looked at it, and tried to get it loose, but nothing worked. I did a riser turn to head towards the landing area, and worked on the toggle a bit more. No joy. I decided to keep trying till I got to 3500, if it wasn't free by then, I'd cutaway and go to reserve. I could turn using the risers, but I didn't want to try landing that way. Sure enough, 3500 came up, the toggle was still stuck, so I cutaway. "Oh shit" moment #2. It was really just like that. No panic, no hesitation. No sooner had I cutaway, than I saw the beautiful white reserve overhead. I did my controllability check, and headed towards the landing area again. In my haste/excitement/nervousness, I never did pull the reserve d-ring. I'll get to that in a minute.
The approach, pattern, and landing were one of my best so far, and I did my first true standup landing. I gathered up everything and headed towards the trailer. I hadn't a clue where the main ended up, though I did try to look for it one time. Luckily, someone else followed it, and it was picked up a while later. Everyone was asking what happened and giving me props for getting down safely.
Once the main was brought back, we could see what happened. There was an extra wrap of line around the toggle, and the tension from the deployed canopy was locking it in place. Of course, today would be the day that I forgot to bring my camera!
After everything settled down a bit, two instructors sat down with me to go over what happened. They brought up the fact that I never pulled the reserve handle, which is directly against my training. I agreed. I think that once I cutaway and the reserve opened, I didn't even think about the reserve handle...I already had a canopy overhead and just wanted to get down on the ground. But that's not how I was taught, and it bugs me that I didn't follow procedures. Luckily, everything turned out OK this time.
Lucky too was that this was a fairly low speed cutaway. I had time to try to sort out the toggle, and was able to decide on what my harddeck would be. I was in controllable flight, at least on the risers, and wasn't spinning or otherwise unstable. One of the guys asked if I remember the sound of the rings letting go, and I do! The entire cutaway was kind of surreal. I looked at the pillow, cutaway with both hands, heard the rings go, and next thing I know, the reserve was deployed.
Lessons learned: 1. Procedures are taught for a reason...I need to practice them more, so that next time, I'll follow them completely, even if the reserve is already deployed. Following procedures can save your life. 2. Stay calm. Once I discovered the problem, I had time to try to sort it out, and decide when Plan B would be implemented. Once you decide on a course of action, stick to it. 3. Maintain altitude awareness. I'm pretty good about this, but was even more so today. I must have checked my alti every other second. Once I hit my decision altitude, I cutaway.
All in all, the jump ended well. I got my first chop out of the way (on my jump #13!). I also know that I need to practice more so that I do the things I've been taught without thinking about them - muscle memory. I'm also VERY appreciative of all the folks who gave me encouragement, and helped to figure out what happened. And especially to the two instructors/riggers who talked with me afterwards. I got down safely, but not following procedures could have a much worse outcome next time. After this jump, I owe so much beer, I think I'll just bring a keg to the DZ next weekend!
The entire cutaway was kind of surreal. I looked at the pillow, cutaway with both hands, heard the rings go, and next thing I know, the reserve was deployed.
1st of all... Listen to your instructors first and foremost. They were there! They know you, and the situation. No matter what is written here, - none of us really do. Although you can get good advice, you can just as easily get bad. Mine included. ALWAYS take back to your instructors, anything you get here, for more thorough further consideration and appropriate feedback.
That said, from what I read out of your account - you looked at your cut-away pillow and pulled it, right? Only a natural reaction then if so, to "wait-n-see" what happens from there. There are several different training methods, and again, I certainly don't want to interfere with any you may be receiving - so take this back to your instructors for QUALIFIED feedback - however, even with either one, or 2-handed operations (EP's training), often times it is trained to: 1. look cut-away, 2. grab cut-away (either one OR 2 hands), ...but then to next LOOK (and lock eyes on) SILVER - and only then to pull cut-away IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWED by PULL SILVER. This way, it ingrains in you an entire EP operation - from start, to FINISH; which if practiced, should become automatic - even if you have already felt your reserve deploy via the RSL.
Congratulations on getting that 1st "big one" out of the way.
Blue Skies, -Grant
(This post was edited by Scrumpot on Feb 5, 2007, 5:39 PM)
Congratulations on landing safely! Congratulations on recognizing that you needed to cutaway and then doing it.
I'm another low number jumper with a low number first cutaway so I understand what you felt and are still feeling. Glad to see that you are processing everything and going over it with your trainers so that you can learn from the experience. Smart!
The instructors who saw it were great. Some talked with me casually, and two of them talked to me in the rigging loft away from the others. We all examined the main and saw the problem with the toggle, and figured out how it could have happened. I knew the procedures inside and out, at least with the practice vests and in the hanging harness. But when it happened, I stopped after cutting away. It's a good lesson for me: practice more and know the procedures so well that you don't have to think about anything. Like you said: automatic.
I must have re-lived that jump a hundred times between yesterday and today. I was nervous about chopping, but at the same time, I knew what I had to do, and followed through. I'll be better prepared for the next one, whether it's the next jump or a thousand from now.
PS. Thanks for the link, Headley! I'm not packing my own canopies yet, but I'm keeping that doc in my gear bag...
This sounds very familiar. I had my first (and only) cutaway on my 13th jump (which also happened to be my low solo). I also failed to pull my reserve handle.
My main appeared to open fine. When I released the brakes, only the right brake released and then I started to spin very fast. I tugged as hard as I could and couldn't release the left brake. I looked up at the lines and couldn't see any problem. I also had very little luck slowing down the spiral, but I'm sure a more experienced jumper could have done a better job. I just knew I was losing altitude fast and I opened lower than usual anyway (because it was my low solo) so I didn't waste a whole lot of time before deciding to chop it.
I looked at my cutaway handle, put both hands on it, looked at my d ring and pulled. Maybe because I was spinning, or maybe it is just the way it always happens, but the change in attitude when the main released caused me to momentarily lose site of the d ring. I reached for it again and by the time I had my hand on it, the reserve was already open. I therefore didn't pull the d ring. I landed uneventfully and then got the same admonition from the instructors that once you start pulling handles, you don't stop, no matter what. I know I would complete the sequence if the same thing happened again.
Unlike your malfunction, I still don't know what the issue with mine was because when we found the main after I chopped it, the left brake was free. Someone suggested a tension knot, but I have no idea.
As one of my instructors said to me...You did great as you got down safely. Experience matters, and you are now probably better prepared than many jumpers who have far more jumps that you but who have never experienced a cutaway.
Believe it or not, I felt alot more comfortable after the experience because then I knew I could handle a cutaway when the time came.