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safety : Gear and Equipment : 10 Things To Note Regarding Malfunctions

10 Things To Note Regarding Malfunctions

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Image by Juan Mayer

When are you going to be alone in the sky with a useless bag of laundry and two little handles?

If it hasnít happened yet, itís going to. Sure, there are skydivers with thousands of jumps who have never had to make alternate nylon plans. But donít be fooled: your first reserve ride is not a question of ďif.Ē Itís a question of ďwhen.Ē If you donít feel ready, youíre not alone. Here are ten proven ways to boost your confidence and safety.

1.Stay current

Long lapses between jumps are dangerous. Time on the ground dulls skills, sharpens apprehensions and weighs down your jump with the clammy fog of unfamiliarity. Most importantly, it unravels the easy muscle memory youíve spent so much time and effort to develop -- and muscle memory is of primary importance in the event of a reserve ride. Especially at the beginning of your skydiving career, youíve got to make the effort to jump at least every couple of weeks.

2. Give Ďer a spin

Do yourself a favor and deploy your reserve for every repack. Youíll learn the unique direction of pull for your gear, and youíll be able to feel out the force youíll need to exert. If your rigger watches the process, he/she can keep an eye on the deployment and identify potential problems. (Even if you have deployed your own reserve, a repack is an unwasteable drill opportunity for a refresher.)

3. Just touch your stupid handles, Mr. Bigshot, OK? Sheesh

Touch your handles in sequence before you enter the plane. It is not beneath you. Being blasť about basic safety doesnít make you more awesome -- it just makes you more blasť. While youíre at it, check that your reserve handle is seated (so you donít end up on a reserve ride without the yeehaw fun of a malfunctioning main).

4. Donít overthink it

Itís simple, really. If you believe that your main is unlandable, youíre going to have a reserve ride. Sure -- lots of skydivers have landed under reserves only to realize in hindsight that they could have solved the problem. However, lots of skydivers have gone in while striving to sort out malfunctions that did not improve. If those are the choices, which would you rather be?

5. Get your priorities straight

Do not worry about stability. This is the very least of your problems. Worry about altitude. cutaway) handle no lower than 1,000 feet. Initiating a reserve ride below 1,000 feet isnít always deadly, but it has an unnerving tendency to be. Donít take the chance.

6. Hold on tight

After you pull your handles out completely, hold on to Ďem. Youíll save some money, and youíll save face when you land.

7. Make sure itís out

This is kinda your last shot at nylon, so youíll want to be sure itís working. Arch and look over your shoulder for the reserve pilot chute. Reserves deploy fast, so this head position is gonna butter your bread Ė but if the pilot chute is somehow caught in your burble, this should either shake it loose or make it clear to you that you need to do some burble intervention, stat.

8. Donít chase after your ex(-parachute)

Iím going to go out on a limb here and tell you not try to run after it and grab it in the air. (People have, yíknow, died doing that.) You broke up with each other for a reason, after all; you can reconcile after everybodyís had a little time to cool down. Instead, get your head together and use landmarks to identify where the gear is headed. Then take a deep breath, leave it to the fates, and work on navigating your meat to a safe landing.

9. Tell the peanut gallery to sit and spin

When you land a reserve, youíre going to be the talk of the DZ (for about five minutes, usually). During that five minutes Ė longer, if the loads are turning slowly Ė youíll probably be approached by a receiving line of would-be mentors. Theyíre gonna question your malfunction, and theyíre gonna be eager to discuss your decision to cut away.

My advice: speak to your trusted mentors and co-jumpers about your little adventure in private, and tell the rest to go suck an egg. You were there. They were not. When you need to save your life in the sky, you are absolutely alone. In the entire world, there exists only you and two handles. Your cutaway is your business.

10. Go to the liquor store

Buy a bottle of posh booze for the rigger who packed the reserve you rode. Itís tradition.

About Annette O'Neil:

Annette O'Neil is a copywriter, travel journalist and commercial producer who sometimes pretends to live in Salt Lake City. When she's not messing around with her prodigious nylon collection, she's hurtling through the canyons on her Ninja, flopping around on a yoga mat or baking vegan cupcakes.

By Annette O'Neil on 2015-06-29 | Last Modified on 2015-06-30

Rating: 12345   Go Login to rate this article.  | Votes: 10 | Comments: 9 | Views: 15316


cassella  2015-06-29
5 out of 5 stars

Hubris is a dangerous thing under most conditions; in skydiving it can be especially problematic‚ÄĒor, most accurately, fatal. Aviation accidents occur as a chain of mistakes that are often the result of pushing established limits with the attitude that "I'm bullet-proof." At least, that's been my failing...

Unstable  2015-06-29

Excellent article! I think #9 is a good point, because it addresses both the safety and training aspect as well as how it merges with the Dropzone culture.
My last malfuction was on a classic accuracy training jump with a Parafoil 282 - and the chorus from the peanut gallery clouded my decisions such that I had to physically take a step back and walk the scenario through step-by-step to take away anything meaningful. Every malfunction should result in a safety improvement, whether it be in gear, training, modifying your decision tree, or some other action that makes you safer in the sky. Gathering the facts and separating the opinions in key in that. Thank you for addressing this!

JohnMitchell  2015-06-29
5 out of 5 stars

I agree with everything you said. My 2 cents? Put your feet on your butt as you reach for the handles. This will help you arch as you cutaway. I've seen too many people chop and flop like rag dolls and then fight to get stable before pulling the reserve. Why not be stable the whole time and get that reserve out quickly? :)

tbrown  2015-06-29

Use a RSL or MARD. The one cutaway I had in eleven years, my RSL had me at line stretch as I was pulling the ripcord handle out of its pocket (an I used the "old school" method of one hand on each handle). I was really impressed with how that worked, pulled the ripcord all the way anyhow (an empty pull), but the peace of mind of being opened so quickly was well worth it. Besides, too many people have bounced from chopping too low with no RSL and then not being able to find the other handle.

jimjumper  2015-06-29

An excellent article! The only thing I would change is the "hold on to the handles" advice. A lot DZ's teach a 2 hands on the cutaway type procedure and unless there is a very specific reason to change, the muscle memory of practice cutaways is more important than trying to save a relatively cheap cutaway handle. We found out in the "old days" that even changing something as simple as a main deployment handle location required extensive retraining.

Douggarr  2015-07-08

Agree with JimJumper. Forget about your handles. In the old days, holding a main ripcord handle could fuse or tangle with the reserve suspension lines (mostly with belly warts). And yes, they did cause fatalities. This, of course, is no longer an issue. But when you cut away, you're not thinking about the 65 bucks for the reserve repack, so why think about how much it's going to cost to replace a cutaway handle or a reserve ripcord handle.

teason  2015-09-23

#2 is in violation of FAA regs and can be unpleasent at terminal. Terminal pulls often result in a "head low" deployment followed by a potentially hard opening.

Also, deploying an f111 canopy increases porosity (which is why PD recommends their canopies should be taken out of service sooner due to use) and also increases likelihood of wear when coming back from the field (seen "pulls" on reserves that come in from the field a few times)
Porosity on an f111 is not your friend when you are low.

Please do not "try er out", manufacturers build tertiary rigs for a reason. You are violating FARs, risking bodily harm, and potentially damaging your canopy.

TitaniumLegs  2015-09-23

Pretty sure for #2 she's talking about on the ground, hence "with rigger watching", but I thought she meant in the air at first too.

teason  2015-09-23

Good point, activation on the ground is encouraged.

It's the terminology that's used that got me. "Deployment" is different from "activation" which is what the EPs achieve. Deployment is what the system achieves following activation. One of those rigger semantic interpretations I guess.

Never the less, I seriously hope no one misunderstands and thinks deployment is a good idea before a repack.

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