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Facts about the "Reserve Staticline Lanyard"

Posted Thursday, October 15, 1998

By Relative Workshop

Facts about the "Reserve Staticline Lanyard"Lately there has been a big push towards the use of the reserve staticline lanyard (RSL) for experienced jumpers.

Most proponents of the RSL have only been dwelling on the positive aspects of the RSL without considering the negative consequences.

The Relative Workshop wants to educate each jumper regarding the pros and cons of the RSL system so you will be able to make an informed decision about this popular, yet controversial modification.

For those of you unfamiliar with the RSL system, a short description is in order. The RSL is a simple lanyard connecting one or both of the main canopy risers to the reserve ripcord. In the event of a main canopy malfunction, and following a successful breakaway, the reserve ripcord is pulled as the main risers depart with the released main canopy.

In essence, the RSL indirectly connects the breakaway handle to the reserve ripcord handle. Unfortunately, this simple lanyard can easily complicate a routine emergency for those who are more than capable of handling the problem manually.

The RSL has gained much of its notoriety through its use on student equipment. The RSL is ideal for students because the probability is high that a student might breakaway from a malfunction lower than the recommended altitude, and delay longer than necessary before deploying the reserve. Having the reserve deploy in a unstable body position, while far from ideal, is preferential to not having the reserve deploy at all. Waiting for the AAD to fire if the breakaway is extremely low is a chancy situation at best. For these reasons, the RSL is quite compatible for student gear and most instructors would probably agree!

RSL's work great on tandem systems as well. The tandem instructor really has his hands filled during a malfunction so the speedy deployment of the reserve is a big advantage. Stability after a breakaway is generally not a problem as the tandem pair have inherent stability qualities due to the positioning of the passenger and tandem master. If the tandem master has properly prepared the passenger's body position, a tandem breakaway has a greater potential for instant stability than a solo breakaway.

Both student and tandem jumps are carried out at higher altitudes and rarely involve other jumpers in the same airspace, minimizing the chance of canopy entanglements which can complicate matters severely.

RSL's and the experienced jumper - Pros vs. Cons

Remember, the RSL does one thing and one thing only: It will activate (providing it does not physically fail) the reserve container following a main canopy breakaway. That's it! Now lets talk about the disadvantages of the RSL.

1) Most jumpers don't realize that utilizing a RSL correctly requires changing their emergency procedures. Why? The reason is simple: Most RSL systems offer the ability to disconnect it from the riser. If it's disconnectable, then there will be situations that may require a disconnection before proceeding with the breakaway. An obvious one that comes to mind is a canopy entanglement with another jumper. If one or both jumpers have an RSL and they mindlessly breakaway without considering the consequences, they might very well find themselves entangled again, possibly for the last time! Canopy entanglements are happening more frequently now than ever before due to several reasons:

A) More inexperienced jumpers engaging in larger RW formations. B) The recent popularity of ultra-fast zero porosity canopies. The result is: Skies crowded with more inexperienced jumpers flying faster canopies.

Emergency procedures for systems fitted with RSLs would change in the following manner: Before the breakaway, you must ask yourself (considering your present malfunction) if an immediate reserve deployment will be in your own best interest. If not, the RSL must be released before proceeding with the breakaway.

NOTE: Anytime the RSL remains active during a breakaway, the jumper should automatically plan on pulling the reserve handle anyway just in case the RSL connection fails to activate the reserve container for whatever reason. This lack of awareness regarding the need to back up the reserve pull manually is an increasing and disturbing trend among some of today's jumpers.

2) The average jumper will take more than several seconds to analyze and determine if the RSL disconnection is necessary. This can obviously consume valuable time. No doubt the average jumper would be better off handling the emergency manually by pulling both handles, which is not a difficult task.

3) Lets examine the cause of malfunctions in the first place. The biggest culprits are improper packing and rigging, or bad body position during deployment. (Bad body position can be defined as shoulders not perpendicular to the relative wind.)

It's almost impossible to be stable within the first second and a half following a breakaway from a malfunctioning high performance main canopy. Therefore, the typical RSL user is most likely unstable during the reserve deployment.

Instability causes malfunctions and allowing the RSL to open the reserve container for you will increase the chance that the reserve canopy will malfunction as well. One might argue that this would be a rare occurrence, but why would an experienced jumper take the chance? Some would consider this an unacceptable risk!

4) CRW enthusiasts, for the obvious reasons mentioned in point 1, do not want or need a RSL. For those that have one, it should be disconnected prior to boarding the aircraft on a planned CRW jump.

5) Freefall videographers should never jump with an active RSL system. The last thing a camera-person needs is the reserve deploying while they're unstable. Just recently in France a fatality occurred when a RSL-activated reserve canopy entangled with the jumpers helmet-mounted camera equipment.

6) The RSL will not work during a total malfunction of the main container, and do not assume that it can take the place of a functioning, properly calibrated automatic activation device. An RSL is not an AAD.

Summation

The RSL system was developed over 25 years ago and found its proper place on student equipment. Due to the fact the skydiving community encounters several deaths each year attributed to the "no-reserve-pull-following-a-breakaway scenario," we have many individuals who feel the RSL is the answer for the experienced jumper. Our belief is quite simple: If every jumper had a RSL, then the amount of RSL related deaths each year would be many more than we now encounter with no-pull situations.

Naturally we have tremendous concern whenever someone wants to take a simple, 3-handle system and turn it into some complicated apparatus in an attempt to make up for the inadequacies of the poorly trained or ill-prepared jumper. We believe if you stick to the basics, constantly rehearse your emergency procedures, and assume you'll have a malfunction on every jump - you'll be much better off.

Remember: The RSL is not a safety device for experienced jumpers because it takes more time to operate it correctly than to pull the breakaway and reserve handles manually. Now that you have been presented with the all the facts, we hope you'll make the right decision for yourself regarding the RSL.

If you would like to have a consultation on your personal skydiving equipment needs, please call Relative Workshop at anytime during the hours of 8am - 6pm EST. We have a highly experienced staff of riggers and instructors who are anxiously awaiting to assist you. If we don't have the answers to your questions, we probably know who does! Remember, we're here to help you make the right decisions concerning your skydiving equipment and its proper use.

Send comments or questions to aimee@relativeworkshop.com
Copyright 1998 The Uninsured Relative Workshop Inc.
Reprinted with Permission




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