As you all know I’ve things slide for a few months so I’m going to try and catch up.this spring number one son’s skydiving career really took off. (sorry) He came out to the drop zone almost every day and quickly built up a reputation as a good skydiver and better yet a great kid to hang out with. After getting his A license his next challenge was to get his coach rating. A coach rating allows you to just mp with and teach students that have been cleared to jump solo by the free fall instructors but do not yet have their license. The problem was Connor needed 100 jumps to be eligible to take the rating course and by the time the annual course started he only had…well, let’s just say less. That’s where being the drop zone owner came in handy. I was sure that the boy would make a fantastic coach so I pulled the evaluator aside and told him to give my son the rating or I’d fire him. OK, I didn’t quite do that but I did get him in the course early and he rocked it. Connor spent the rest of the summer teaching students and jumping for fun. Well, it was mostly fun, except for his first malfunction.
It happened while I was on the same airplane taking a tandem student for his first jump. The free fall was over and the two of us were flying the parachute back to the landing area. I happened to look down and saw an all yellow reserve canopy so I knew someone had had a malfunction. I located the rest of the skydivers and came up on son short so I was pretty sure that it had been Connor who’d had the cutaway. I pointed the emergency canopy to my student and told him what it was. He was dually impressed, even more so when I told him that the jumper with the malfunction was my son. What had happened was when Connor opened his parachute it developed line twists, that’s what we call it when the lines get all twisted up, hence the name. Unable to kick himself out of the twists and spiraling towards the ground Connor had no choice but to pull his cut away handle and pull his reserve. Now Connor is a fast learner and has been around skydiving his whole life o he knew how hard it is to find a parachute after you cut it away, particularly if it landed in the corn, where his brand new canopy was heading, so he did what any heads up skydiver would do, he followed it down and landed in the corn next to it. At least that was his plan.
There are a few mistakes a skydiver can make when cutting away from a malfunction.
Panic: or should I say. PANIC!!!!!
You should be opening your main parachute by at least 2500 feet( if you have a “D” or “Master” license) this should give you at least 10 seconds to deal with anything unusual or problematic. That is plenty of time to cutaway your malfunctioning main and open your reserver canopy with plenty of extra feet to spare. Remember any extra altitude below an open reserve is just wasted!
Connor was open under his spinning main canopy by 3000 feet. He tried to fix it for a few seconds (with a few choice words thrown in for good measure) before pulling his handles, just like I taught him.
Pulling your reserve handle before cutting away the malfunctioning main:
If you do this you dump your reserve into the malfunction which is what we call BAD. Connor didn’t do this incredibly stupid thing so he got to move on to…
Dropping your handles:
When you pull the cutaway and reserve handles they come completely free, and if you drop them gravity takes over and they have a tendency to go down. This can be a problem when you are still a few thousand feet in the air because they are impossible to find and cost about $175 or more. Each. I’m sorry to report that Connor dropped his reserve handle, but seeing I dropped my reserve handle on my first cutaway I’ll give him some slack. (still disappointed though)
Not following or at least keeping an eye on your gear:
When you cutaway a malfunctioning parachute it also goes down and seeing it can cost up to $3000 you really want to keep track of where it lands. Ideally if you can you land next to it so as to avoid many hours searching the corn but failing that you should at least have an idea of where to look. Connor’s only cost $500 but he did a good job and circled it under his reserve planning to land right next to it, just like to pro’s do. But he screwed it up, which leads to the next thing you can do wrong when cutting away from a malfunction.
Landing next to your gear but screwing it up:
Ideally you land next to your gear, gather it up, walk out to the road and wait for a ride. But that’s hard to do if you screw up the landing and hurt yourself. Landing next to your gear is a pretty bad ass thing to do. But if your skills at landing in some random location on the spur of the moment don’t match your balls things can get painful. Luckily all that Connor did was to get a little slow and stall his reserve canopy just before landing. Oh wait, that was the stupid part. The lucky part was that he did it over thick tall corn. Which leads me to the last mistake you can do when cutting away from a malfunction.
Screwing up on video:
Now I’ll admit that the boy did a pretty good job on his first major malfunction. Hey, He jumped out of a plane at 14,000 feet, did a shit hot skydive, had a spinning malfunction, dealt with it, landed next to his gear, and walked out to the road with it with a smile on his face. Unfortunately we still get to critique his landing.