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Profusion of Prematures!

Premature opening caused by bad exit position
Premature opening caused by bad exit position

In the last two months we had four premature openings…. One inside the aircraft, three in freefall. One of them ended with major bodily injuries to the skydiver involved. What can we learn from these dangerous incidents?…

Premature # 1 – Wingsuiter

A wingsuiter taking his place behind the pilot in a Cessna Grand Caravan rubbed his rig against the protection of the pilot seat and inadvertently pushed out the pin of his reserve canopy. It was annoying but no harm was done, this happened before take-off, so he just had to get out of the plane.

Premature # 1 – Rookie

2. One skydiver (55 jumps) was part of a rookie coaching team. An instructor and three rookies were jumping together. The rear floater forgot the five dirtdives, climbed out with his back towards the tail and scraped the doorframe with his rig. On the video, the flaps of his main were already open on the exit count. As the group exited, the main bag came out, wrapping the lines snugly around the bridle. The pilot chute came out by the drag of the bridle. The skydiver cut away and sat under his reserve above 10,000 feet.

Premature # 3 – Coached jump

A skydiver (45 jumps) was following a WARP-style course. He prepared for a linked exit as diver of a 2-way formation out of the Cessna Grand Caravan. He stood in the door. As he's quite tall, his main rig touched the door, which was rolled open above him, and his main pin protection flap was opened. On the “up, down, out”, of the count he pushed the main pin out. As he exited the door, the four flaps were open. The main came out, but in this case the pilot chute did not come out…

The flap is already open in the door – get a pin check before exit
The flap is already open in the door – get a pin check before exit
Now he scrapes his flap on the door, pulling out the pin – be aware of your gear in the door
Now he scrapes his flap on the door, pulling out the pin – be aware of your gear in the door

The main flap is open, the canopy is coming out but PC still in pocket – horseshoe malfunction!
The main flap is open, the canopy is coming out but PC still in pocket – horseshoe malfunction!

…This resulted in a horseshoe-type malfunction. Confused and surprised by this unusual situation, the skydiver pulled his reserve ripcord without cutting away. This became a two-canopies-out situation, which he rode down to landing.

Unluckily for him, one of the canopies hit a tree, causing a hard landing with broken bones and spinal injuries.

This video shows the exit from inside the plane:

Premature # 4 – Freefly

During a freefly camp, one skydiver experienced a sudden opening of his main container at 7,500 feet. It turned out his canopy was too small for his harness. Combining this with the high windspeed over the containers due to a sitfly jump resulted in this premature opening.

Learning points

  • When moving through the aircraft, be aware of your main and reserve pins. They are designed to come out, so be careful before leaning on something.
  • As explained in the SDC Rhythm video on spotting, protect your pins and handles on exit.
  • Avoid scraping your rig against the doorframe or against fellow skydivers.
  • Make sure your and other people's pin protection flaps are closed before exit. If you observe an open flap, do not watch, but take action.
  • Make sure your closing loop is tight enough.
  • Make sure your rig is fit for purpose: freefly ready, correct size for you and your canopies…
  • If your flaps open easily, talk to your rigger about tightening them up. It might also be a sign that it is time to look for a new rig.
  • Review and rehearse reserve procedures regularly to create muscle memory: when the shit hits the fan, the correct reaction has to kick in.
  • Include these safety tips in WARP training and in coaching of any jumps, including group exits.

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