Pack Jamming or Death Jamming?

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Is Pack-jamming a Problem?

Dear Rolls

A friend of mine, who is Tail, had an incident where he was pack-jamming an exit, and it led to a premature reserve opening, which you can see on this video (below) he uploaded to YouTube.

He was kind enough to post this on Facebook, so that others could learn from the incident. This generated a lot of discussion. I was horrified to see a number of people also commenting about pack-jamming. Well, before this I never heard of pack-jamming. Head-jamming, yes. Pack-jamming, no.

I asked if the pack-jamming was taught by the team’s coach. He replied, no, it was a technique he’d learnt from a previous coach, but their new coach ‘was not keen on it’ and showed him a different method. He didn’t explain why he decided to revert to the pack-jam.

I’m a bit concerned that pack-jamming could be dangerous. Is a ‘pack-jam’ a recognized 4-way exit? Have you heard of teams doing it? Do you pack-jam? It sounds inherently risky. I’d really like you to clear this up. Could you either advise how pack-jamming can be done safely, or advise against this method?

Thank you One Scared Lesley

Ooops! Bodyflight Aero’s E launch turns into EEeeeeeeeek! Video by Sam Bemment
Hayabusa K exit

Hi Lesley,

I watched the video online, and luckily things ended up all good and nobody got hurt. But it’s easy to picture a scenario where it could have gone terribly wrong. Surely, we need to learn lessons out of this incident, to avoid it from happening again!

When accidents happen, it’s often not the cause of a single event; it’s a chain of events that causes the incident. We must control all the factors that are possible, trying to avoid putting ourselves in unnecessarily dangerous situations.

Safety

When we’re jumping, we all have the responsibility for our own safety, and those of others!

It starts already with our own gear. Always make sure that everything is well maintained and that it’s functioning as it should be. To give a simple example; how many people you’ve seen jumping with a main closing loop that is almost about to break? How many times, when we notice this ourselves, we think ‘Oh, I’ll replace it at the end of the day’, because in that moment we’re in a hurry to catch the next load. Go to any given drop-zone, and you’ll find people jumping loops that are really worn out. This can be dangerous, and it’s really easy to avoid problems like this if you replace it in time.

It’s important to understand that we must try to behave in a way that we’re not causing any danger to ourselves, or to our fellow jumpers! It’s simply not worth it!

A daily inspection of our gear is the minimum we should do before jumping; it takes just one minute, but it can avoid problems and save lives.

Another example; I know people that rarely ever inspect their reserve loop, pin and reserve flap-cover. I’ve seen people having premature reserve openings, both in exit and in freefall. Gear checks could have saved them quite some trouble, if they had just spent a little bit of time inspecting their gear (not to mention the safety of themselves and others). When your pin is already out of place, and doesn’t have much play, with a little friction (pack-jamming), it’s possible that it opens the reserve canopy prematurely. I strongly recommend; make sure your gear is always in good condition, all the time! If you are not sure, or you have questions, speak to your local rigger or instructor for help and advice.

Behavior

It’s important to understand that we must try to behave in a way that we’re not causing any danger to ourselves, nor to our fellow jumpers! It’s simply not worth it!

Over and over again, I see pilots trying to steal the show under their canopy, not caring if they cause safety problems to other fellow jumpers, as long as they are looking cool

As logical as this all sounds to everybody, why are there still so many incidents and accidents happening every month? Sometimes they are just close-calls or minor injuries, but unfortunately there are also serious accidents with death as a result. Yes, there are of course situations of ‘bad luck’, but sometimes it could have been avoided if we cared more about safety, than about ‘show’ and our own ego. I guess the most common and recognizable ‘show-boating’ we see, is under canopy. Over and over again, I see pilots trying to steal the show under their canopy, not caring if they cause (safety) problems to other fellow jumpers, as long as they are looking cool… With big egos in our sport, it’s hard to exclude these kinds of situations, but we only can try to inform people and make them aware of their behavior.

Pack-Jamming

To answer your questions; have I heard of pack-jamming? Yes, I did hear of it, but I don’t see many teams using it; for sure I never teach it to anyone.

I don’t want to say that it’s really wrong, because in theory if the reserve pin is in the right place while exiting the plane, and there is (almost) no friction on the reserve flap while pack-jamming, this cannot cause a premature reserve opening. But it’s a bigger risk than using the classic head-jam, and therefore I advise teams not to use it.

The reason why people pack-jam, is often to get the grips in a more comfortable way, or to find an easier balance in the door. However, I think that the risk you take while pack-jamming, even if it’s small, can be avoided by standing differently in the door and using a head-jam. By changing a bit the stances of you and your teammates in the door, we’re also able to find comfortable ways of exiting the plane.

I’m flying the Tail slot myself, and I never pack-jam. If I need both hands free to pick up grips, I head-jam (which is a safe and recognized technique), or I stand in balance without jamming my rig against the bar. While head-jamming, you never have the risk of opening your reserve flap and scraping your reserve-pin. Other common alternatives are; using an elbow-jam on the side of the door, or use the side of your container to lean softly against the side of the door just to keep you in balance. Just keep in mind, the less you’re using your rig during exits, the safer it is.

Enjoy the ride – be safe!

Roy

Facebook: FS coaching Roy Janssen

Thanks to the videographer and the pack-jammer for allowing the sharing of their story

Meet: Lesley Gale

Lesley has been in love with skydiving for 35 years. She is a multiple world and national record holder and a coach on 20 successful record events worldwide. She has over 100 competition medals spanning more than 25 years and has been on the British 8-way National team at World events. She started Skydive Mag to spread knowledge, information and passion about our amazing sport.
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