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4 Smart Questions That Shut Down The Spin Cycle

By nettenetteon - Read 13254 times

How to Avoid Spinning Malfunctions

Image by Oliver Nöthen

Ah, to be swung madly around the ballroom of the sky.

If you like that sort of thing, of course. Most of us, y’know, don’t.

Even though they’re eminently preventable, spinners remain a very statistically significant cause of cutaways. There’s good news, however: A little attention will go a long way towards making sure you aren’t dancing downward under a misbehaving main. Here’s how to get your body, brain and gear set up right.

1. Are you bungling the basics?

If spinning mals come up more than occasionally for you, consider whether you need to send yourself back to packing (or body-position) school. Might be the case.

2. Are you just being loopy?

Back when side ponytails were sexy and just about everything smelled like Teen Spirit, the skydiving industry used Velcro to secure toggles to risers. When manufacturers made the switch to the velcro-free designs we see now, they forgot about something vitally important: the long, floppy bights in the steering line that were now suddenly exposed to the rodeo ride of the deployment process.

Those mile-long bights took the opportunity to lasso anything they could. A particular favorite: hands. One misplaced toggle grab, and a skydiver could easily find him/herself in a compromising bondage situation with their control lines. The bights happily welcomed guide rings into the act. It was a ready-made recipe for a super-solid spinner, and it was ugly.

Soon, every single manufacturer’s rig designs had integrated line stowing features (“keepers”). There’s a reason the changes were made: as a jumper, you need that line tucked safely away until you’re good and ready to release the brakes. That said: Many of those old risers are still around, unmodified. Even more bafflingly, some skydivers don’t bother stowing the lines during the packing process (presumably, to save 20 seconds or so). If that’s you, you know what to do. And if you have Velcro on your risers, for the love of god check it for airworthiness.

3. Are your cat’s eyes conspiring against you?

Toggles love the cat’s eyes of brake lines. They dive at the chance to snuggle and lock in a spinny embrace.

It’s no wonder that’s the case: after all, their relationship is really hot. The heat that’s generated by the slider’s travel over the lines has a shrinking effect on the system, creating a kind of Chinese fingertrap for your toggle seating. With one toggle in and one toggle out, you’re going to be going for a ride.

A rigger can quickly suss out if your cat’s eyes are in good shape: big enough for the toggle to pull out smoothly, but not so capacious that the toggle’s fat bits can pass through. If they need replacing, do it.

4. Do you know when to let go?

Spinning malfunctions are sneaky bastards. For all their preventability, they have killed people. Make no mistake: Once you’re looking at one, you need to take it seriously.

The most important thing you need to remember is this: a spinning malfunction is not a line twist. When you’re under a docile, level main that’s flying cheerfully along as you swear at it, you’re looking at a line twist. When you’re not directly below a canopy that’s flying level -- when it’s flinging you outwards as it heads for the ground -- you are on the business end of a spinner. The first is an inconvenience. The latter is a mal, and you’d better get on it.

As wing loading increases, so does the violence of the spin, and the likelihood that you’re going to kick out of it quickly dissolves. So: Don’t fight it. Just get rid of it. Take some quality time with your reserve. You’ll be glad you did.


About The Author

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.


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That slider is upside down...

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Skydive Arizona probably has the largest data base of reserve rides in the world -several years of trying to get details on every reserve ride at the busiest DZ on the planet. Two things stand out. One: spinning line twist malfunctions are the single biggest cause of reserve rides. The probability of this malfunction goes up geometrically with wing loading. SLT malfunctions are very rare below about 1.4. Two: the second biggest cause of malfunctions at SDAZ is brake problems. Stuck toggle, brake fire, brake line tied to toggle, guide ring, hand, etc. These often result in SLT malfunctions. Premature toggle release was virtually unheard of before Velcro-less systems. Get a very solid toggle retention system on your risers.
Bryan Burke

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Interesting article but I think it misses some of the most important parts about harness/toggle symmetry that cause the spin in the first place.

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Both cutaways I had were as a result of this. Came back to packing: not enough unstowed line: so the bag lifted off, did not hit the burble properly, spun and that was the result.

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As Annette addressed in her 4th point, a spinning malfunction is not a glitch. A large percentage of skydivers revert back to their primary training with regard to line twists, and think that this is one that they can kick out. It doesn't work! As Instructors, we need to teach at FJC that a spinning canopy is a malfunction, regardless the cause. I've seen way to many folks end up at or below 1000' trying to recover from this, and also one fatality. Brian G has a great example of what is required to "fix" a spinning line twist on Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-17AHJQQ8fA

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijbfIAxqmoI Spinning linetwist fun! A senior instructor told me to Arch when I find myself under spinning line twists. This has gotten me out of a few hairy situations, this being one of them. This changes your center of gravity and you find yourself under a level wing able to kick(variables permitting). This happened bc I free stowed my lines (2 locking stows) in the main tray, got riser slap on my camera which caused the bag to spin bc I was not going terminal. Thought I'd share the knowledge!

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