RSL, Skyhook or Faith?

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There has been a lot of discussion about whether experienced jumpers should use RSLs. This discussion has actually been going on for years…

Dan BC, image by Gary Wainwright

Throughout many years of my skydiving career I chose not to use an RSL. The logic for this being that if I had to cutaway and only had one parachute left I wanted to be as flat and stable as possible before deploying my reserve. For some 25+ cutaways I did just that and it worked fine. I was always under my reserve plenty high.

Lost a Friend

Some years ago I saw a good friend, and very competent skydiver with over 2,000 jumps, ride a gently spinning malfunction down to about 500 feet and then cutaway. She never got the reserve out. I thought long and hard about this. It occurred to me that there had been several times over the years that I ended up in freefall lower than I had intended. Fortunately those weren’t the times I had malfunctions but they just as easily could have been.

Series of Events

It’s the combinations of problems that get you in trouble. You know, those times when you break off and deploy a little lower than you planned. But you have a hard pull, then a pilot hesitation, then a snivel, then a malfunction, then it takes an extra second to get your hand on the cutaway handle, now you are down at 1,000 or lower and cutting away, then you tumble for a few seconds before getting stable and pulling your reserve.

I came to the conclusion that getting a parachute over your head as quickly as possible was the most important thing to do”

Dan BC

Risk Management

I decided that this type of scenario was more likely, and risky, than using an RSL and cutting away from a spinning malfunction which could then possibly hinder my reserve opening. The RSL deploys the reserve so quickly that this shouldn’t be a problem. And with a SkyHook, which is even better than an RSL, you don’t even have time to get unstable before your reserve is out.

I’ve had three cutaways now with a Skyhook and it is more like a canopy transfer. I didn’t for even a second have that feeling of going back into freefall. After looking at all the different scenarios I came to the conclusion that getting a parachute over your head as quickly as possible was the most important thing to do.

Personal Choice

Everyone needs to make this decision for themselves.

But as far as whether an experienced jumper should use a Skyhook and/or an RSL, I absolutely think the benefits far outweigh the risks.

Both my Javelins have Skyhooks and RSLs in them. And I’m a fairly experienced skydiver.

I’ve had three cutaways now with a Skyhook and it is more like a canopy transfer”

Dan BC

Skyhook Cutaway Sequence

A cutaway and reserve deployment with a Skyhook are shown below

For an explanation of RSL, MARD and Skyhook click here

Skyhook cutaway 2 – reserve starting to open – it’s fast!
Image by Niklas Daniel
Skyhook cutaway 1 – cutaway handle pulled
Image by Niklas Daniel

Related article: MARDginal Analysis

Riley Marshall explains RSLs and MARDS, with details on the Skyhook and other MARDs: MARDginal Analysis

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Meet: Dan Brodsky-Chenfeld

Dan is Manager of Skydive Perris & Author of the highly acclaimed “Above All Else” book. He was a founding member of Airspeed and a multiple 4- and 8-way World Champion, competing for more than 20 years. Dan developed a training system through Airspeed and coaching so many teams. It works. His personal and coached teams consistently performed at their best in competition and often won – three consecutive and different Women's World Champion 4way teams for instance; Synchronicity, Storm and Airkix. He has so much passion for the sport, competing at Nationals every year, organizing at World Records, and trying new areas like Crew and freeflying. As a P3 skydiving organizer, coach and motivational speaker, he is inspirational.

Dan is sponsored by Skydive Perris, Sun Path, PD, Kiss and L&B altimeters.

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