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Emergencies In The Aircraft

Airplane Problems

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Engine and structural failures. If the engine is going to fail, it will probably do so when the pilot reduces power after your full throttle takeoff. If the engine quits, he will attempt the best landing he can, straight ahead off the end of the runway. Since you are helmeted, padded with gear and strapped in, you need only assume the proper position to be prepared. Draw your knees up, tuck your head down, fold your hands across the back of your neck and hold your head down to resist whiplash. As soon as the plane comes to a stop, get out FAST. If you are nearest the door, get moving. There are people behind you who want to get out. There is always the danger of fire, particularly if the aircraft has suffered structural damage on impact. Watch where you step, the plane may have clipped through some power lines. They can zap you and they start grass fires. Remember that the wings of the airplane usually contain flammable fuel.

Occasionally, the jump ship suffers a structural or other mechanical failure. Twisted-on parts sometimes twist off or a canopy may get draped over the tail jamming the controls.

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Depending upon the situation and the altitude, your jumpmaster will select one of two commands: PREPARE TO CRASH or GET OUT (jump). The dividing line is usually set at 1,000 feet above the ground since at this altitude there may be enough time for an orderly exit and the pilot will probably be able to land his glider on the runway. The jumpmaster might tell you to jump and pull your reserve on the theory that it is somewhat more reliable and may deploy faster than the main and/or he may be concerned about the setting of your AAD. His instructions will depend on the circumstances of the situation.

So, if you are below 1,000 feet when the challenge occurs, you will land with the aircraft. If you are over 1,000 feet when the rubber band breaks, your jumpmaster may direct you to make a normal static line jump, but you will do it all a lot faster; swing out onto the step and go. Student freefallers may be directed to make a jump and pull; this is where they will open their mains as soon as they clear the aircraft, or the jumpmaster may sit them in the door, pull their reserve and simultaneously push them out. It all depends on the altitude at the time of the emergency. Licensed jumpers are next, then the jumpmaster and, in the case of severe structural failure, the pilot. The purpose of getting out of the plane is not only to remove you from the area of danger but to lighten the load making the aircraft easier to control. The jumpmaster goes next to last because he must take care of those in his charge. The pilot goes last (he wears a parachute too) so that he may wrestle the jump ship to keep it flying until you are gone.

The above rules are general and are for students. Experienced jumpers may elect to exit lower. For example, if the aircraft is at 500 to 1,000 feet, an expert skydiver may elect to jump and pull the reserve (which presumably opens faster).

Of course you will follow the instructions of your jumpmaster, but sometimes you have to make the decision yourself. In the excitement of solving the engine failure or other problem, the pilot may allow the airspeed to drop, stalling the plane and allowing it to spin. In this condition the aircraft drops fast and the centrifugal force may pin you against the side or ceiling. Now is the time make the decision to scramble and get out.

Depending on the size of your jump ship and the procedure at your drop zone, your static line may be hooked up on the ground, at 1,000 feet, or on jump run. Whether or not your main is hooked up may determine what type of escape you can make in case of an aircraft emergency. For example, if you hook up prior to boarding, and the plane crashes on takeoff, when you unbuckle and get out, you can expect to unpack your main about eight to 15 feet from the door (the length of your static line).

The final point to remember is to watch and listen to your jumpmaster for instructions. When you receive them, carry them out quickly and without panic.

Open Parachute In The Airplane

Several times in the past, jumpers have been pulled through the side of the jump plane when a container opened and a canopy escaped out the door. Rarely does this result in a fatality but usually there is severe damage to both the jumper and the aircraft.

If either the main or the reserve open prematurely in the aircraft, one of two things will happen; the pilot chute and/or canopy will either start out the door or remain in the plane. You have only one course of action for each situation.

The jumper whose reserve escaped out the door of this aircraft was lucky; he survived.

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If the main container opens in the aircraft, it is usually the result of excessive movement by a person in the aircraft. This could happen when you constantly shift positions, rubbing the static line and/or closing flap on an interior surface or snagging the static line on something during movement in the aircraft (from one position to another). With the Instructor Assisted Deployment (IAD) method, these hazards are real because hand-deployed pilot chutes use small closing pins. With long plastic coated cables for a main ripcord, the hazard is much less likely, especially when the ends are tucked into housings on a closing flap. If the main container opens, it is a simple matter to move backward pinning the errant canopy against a wall or flat surface. Show the problem to your jumpmaster immediately. Once satisfied that you have it well secured, disconnect the main canopy from your harness by operating the canopy releases (the method depends on the type of system you are using — your jumpmaster will probably do this for you as well as disconnect your reserve static line device). This is so that if it should somehow get out the door later, you won’t be connected to it. Now sit on the canopy and pilot chute so they won’t get away and ride the plane down.

Sometimes the reserve container will burst open while you are in the back of the plane. The pin works its way out, or perhaps since you are in the back of the plane, you are not vigilantly guarding your reserve ripcord handle and it is snagged out as you move around trying to find a comfortable position. Grab the reserve pilot chute and canopy, cover them and hold them tight. Call the jumpmaster’s attention to the problem immediately. The reserve creates a greater potential danger than the main because it cannot be quickly disconnected from the harness.

The deploying reserved canopy pulled the static - line student off the step.

If, however, either of your canopies start out the door while you’re attached to it, you will follow it out. You have, at most, two seconds, and if you hurry you will experience a near-normal canopy ride to somewhere in the vicinity of the airport. But if you are slow, the developing canopy will act as a giant anchor, extracting you not just through the door but, more than likely, through the side of the aircraft too, causing great injury to you, damage to the aircraft, and exposing others still in the aircraft to great danger.

The best solution is prevention. Always guard and protect your static line and/or your ripcord(s), canopy release handle and pins.




By on 2004-10-24 | Last Modified on 2014-03-12

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