Sport > 2 out of 3 ain't bad

2 out of 3 ain't bad

Published: July 8, 2010

In last week's episode. .. Our bumbling bonehead had just landed a parachute that wasn’t exactly square. If you recall, that canopy had 8 out of 9 cells working. But both the brake toggles were fully functional.

Flash forward to this week. This time another track dive, this time with company. I was sitting behind a guy named Bryce. We did the usual “what are you doing on this dive” bit and when I said track dive south he asked to join. No problem, says I. I don’t like to freefly with other people, but I’m OK tracking as the fall rate is much slower and if things go bad, they tend to go bad in a good way. In skydiving a good ways is where the skydivers get farther apart rather than closer. Jump went fine, he followed me out the door and took up a position on my left. He was maybe 50 feet left and 10 feet above, pretty good separation. I was pulling my chute earlier, so we agreed I would back track at 7k and he would keep on tracking to 5k. All good so far.

I pitch at 5k and then a small problem. My canopy opens to a half twist. Not too bad, I kick out of that and I think I’m OK, left brake is already unstowed. And oh yeah it is knotted around the riser. And oh yeah, I can’t untie the knot as it appears that it is routed through the keeper. Ah, well. This time I did have a square canopy. Yay! But this time it was my smaller canopy, my 150. Gulp.

Of course that Gulp was not a Big Gulp. One of the deals with skydiving is that panic is not really an option. Getting angry is not an option. The only options are how do you deal with the situation before you become one with the ground.

I had to figure out the plan. Either chop of try to land this thing. Now here was my thinking. I had a square canopy.

Ok, that was about the extent of the good news. But it was like this, I could cut this away and if by some freak occurrence the reserve opened worse, I was, um, soon to be dead. So I had a square canopy that was probably not going to make me dead. A wounded bird in the hand, sure, but I had it in hand.

And I was going to land that mother somehow. Now the somehow was going to be one of two ways. Either I try a rear riser landing, or I get creative with what I have. What I have are long arms and a good pair of leather gloves. That means I can grab above the malfunction and just yank on the left brake line with my left arm. I try that and I can get it from where it was frozen at 1/4 brakes down to about half brakes. I can get get a full flare out of the right brake. Ok, its not going to be pretty, but the reality is that I’ve never done a rear riser landing and doing that with one brake locked in the quarter brake position seemed, oh, ill-advised. So I had my plan.

Of course I’m a long way from the DZ. I do so want a clear piece of ground to land. There is no way I’m going to make the DZ proper, but I knew a clear area off the end. There is a break in the ground that I felt I needed to get over, so I pass that and I’m under 1000 feet now. I keep rolling and I make a quarter brake turn a little lower than I normally would, but there was a bit of duress here.

I do line up into the wind 100 feet off the deck and do flare as much as I can. I hit, spin hard to my right and roll about 6 times. It’s not pretty, but I’m in a plowed field. Not broken bones, just a few sore spots here and there.

Overall, I considered this a “success under the circumstances” and head in to find a packer. Inside a couple people ask about my crash, and I show them the toggle.

“Whoa!” I’d have cut that away says guy number 1.

“Oh I had that once and had to rear riser the landing...” says guy 2.

He unwraps the brake line and the packer starts to work. A few minutes later the Drop Zone Operator comes in.

“Do you want to hurt yourself?”

“No” says I.

“Then why such a low turn?”

“Oh that, well I was landing a malfunction, I only had one working brake toggle.”

“What? Did you pack this?”

“No, your packer did.”

“What did tha knot look like, who untied the knot?”

Guy 2 owned up to that.

“Do not do that!"said the owner "You are not a problem solver! When this happens you get me! That is the right answer! Has the packer been told about this?”

“He is over packing tandems.” says guy 2

“I know, and he needs to know he did this, how else are we going to fix the problem?”

He made a lot of good points, I’ll give him that. I think everyone else in the dropzone thought I crashed in because I was a dummy who made a low turn. I walked through the hangar and that was the look on every one’s face as they saw me. Fine, they are not going to feel comfy jumping with me again. I got that message and packed up my gear and called it a day after one jump.

I expect that enough people in the packing area knew the real story and that would eventually work its way through the dropzone. Or not. It really didn’t matter if the lesson they took away was “No low turns” or “The professor is short bus”. It won’t matter because I don’t think I’ll be back for quite some time.

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