stupid me

avbug

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I got off a trip today and decided it was a good time to go wind down. I went to the drop zone. I got on one load and had a good dive with someone, and then signed on for the sunset load.

The dive was fun, but at the conclusion I had a malfunction. A total pack closure due to a "hard pull;" couldn't clear the pilot chute from it's pocket to deploy the main canopy. I managed to get a reserve out by 1,500', which is low for a jumper having an emergency.

Bottom line was a rush to get on the second load. I packed in a hurry, and even though stowing the pilot chute in it's newly modified pouch was a tad difficult, I didn't think twice before getting geared up and in the airplane. I should have checked it more thoroughly. After all...never had a pilot chute hang up before. Much like flying in general...complacency kills, stupidity hurts. Right at the moment, I hurt a lot.

My reserve parachute worked; a Precision Aerodynamics Raven IIb canopy. Ugly pink thing that didn't fly or land very well. But with seven seconds remaining until impact, it worked just great, and that's the main thing. Had it not backed me up, I would be a victim of my own darwinistic tendency toward naturally selective self destruction. That's euphamistic for "he did something stupid and almost bought the farm."

I cleared my dive with the other jumper at five thousand, when we had planned to break at four five. I did a roll, checked altitude and decided to do a back loop. That went okay, and I tracked for another thousand feet, reaching to open at three thousand. The pilot chute wouldn't extract. A second hard tug on it rolled me inverted, and I released the failed chute and arched upright, and pulled the reserve ripcord...got it open at 1,500'. Seven seconds remaining in a best case scenario.

How many times do we read of pilots who overfly fuel stops, or overlook minor squawks, just like I burned up altitude I had available to deal with that malfunction. I thought everything would go fine, and didn't leave myself much of an out. It cost me forty five bucks for a repack, but nearly cost me my life. (Could have; nearly is probably not the right choice of wording). It's a type, however. It's an example of the same aeronautical decision making in microcosm that we execute on a daily basis in the cockpit. How many seemingly innocent and minor decisions do we make daily without truly considering the ramifications...just what could really go wrong. How seriously do we take those possibilities?

Events like this are a wakeup call. Certainly not upsetting, but definitely attention getting. I realize that most folks here don't jump, and most folks don't understand those who do. That's okay. Parachuting is still an aeronautical activity, and it's always best to learn a lesson from someone else, than by making the mistake yourself. You don't have to jump to know that bouncing is bad. My pilot chute hung up in it's sleeve at the bottom of the parachute container. It was a new modification; this was my second jump on that rig since it was installed. I should have taken more time to determine that my method of folding and inserting the pilot chute would work in this installation, instead of assuming that what had always worked before, would work again.

It's no different in the air. Assumptions kill, or maim, or today, just twist your neck into painful positions of discomfort. Weather it's flaking a pilot chute, or performing a weight and balance, or determining takeoff data, or considering the implications of inoperative equipment, very small things become very big things in a short time. Often without warning. For whatever it's worth, let my small wakeup call serve as a quiet heads-up reminder to others who might just consider doing something less than wise today. WAKE UP!!!
 

FL000

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another day, another near-death experience for Avbug. Could someone please pass me the corn flakes?
 

skydiverdriver

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Sounds pretty normal for a sport that is entirely based upon an emergency procedure.
 

Timebuilder

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That reminds me of what happened to a buddy, Philadelphia weatherman Jim O'Brien, back in the early 80's.

On a day off from channel 6, he went out to New Hanover Aiport north of Pottstown to go jumping. He was experienced.

When his chute became tangled with a doctor friend, he cut away and went for his second chute. He hadn't realized that in the time he spend trying to get untangled he had desceded to less than 300 feet.

Jim would be the first to admit his error, and caution others against his mistake in judgement.

Thanks for sharing, Avbug.
 

Stinger6

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A well told story.

Of course, all my jumps save one have been at 1500' AGL or lower. At least divers have a realistic chance to correct malfunctions. But that's another story...

Your point is well taken.
 

DC9stick

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I know that some of you believe Avbug comes across as a know everything been there have the T-shirt know everything pilot.

In this case he was trying to impress on us how fragile the human life can be and how the complacency that becomes part of everyone of us can and will kill us unless we are watching for it.
 

JediNein

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Another day, another decision

Near misses all over today. . .

Sitting in the FBO waiting for my student I heard ATC call traffic to an airline flight. Seconds later the airliner reports responding to a TCAS alert. That traffic was an experimental aircraft that decided to depart straight up. Fortunately, he had his transponder on, otherwise "splat."

Walking out to the aircraft with the student, we hear another aircraft start. It'd run for 5 seconds and cough. 5 seconds and cough. Then 5 seconds of a metal-on-metal grinding noise and cough. Seven minutes of our preflight later, the pilots finally shut down the other aircraft and call it a day. The student and I have a conversation about funny noises of any type.

We're just about to depart, pull onto the runway, and the student stops. There's something wrong here. Back in the runup area, the student still hears something. As we taxi back to parking we see his maintenance shop open, unusual for a Saturday. We see nothing wrong with our aircraft, but put it away for the mechanic to look at Monday.

About to leave we see the mechanic setting up jacks for a King Air with a gear malfunction on landing. The mechanic looks at our aircraft and determines the "sponges" that are the cabin air filters have been sucked all the way to the inside air vents. Any funny noise . . .

Fly SAFE!
Jedi Nein
(the other know-it-all ;-)
 

avbug

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Stinger,

On a static exit at 1,500 AGL, you still have fifteen seconds; the first thousand take then, then five to six per thousand after that.

From terminal at fifteen hundred, it's rapidly decreasing. Vertical speed is approx 120 mph, but if one goes head down or isn't stable belly-to-earth, vertical velocity increases to approx 250 mph+. That can reduce the time to only a very few seconds.

Either way, it really doesn't matter. You have the rest of your life to get it right. How long that is, is up to you.

That said, folks like yourself who jump because you must, and do it under fire, and at combat altitudes, ARE the real deal. Hat's off to you!
 

Lindy

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Have you thought about a book?

I loved Fate is the Hunter, any chance you can do a second edition? I think you might have just as an interesting take on aviation/aeronautical times...
 

bart

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Avbug, 3 questions:

Is that your first function?
Where do you jump?
How many jumps do you have?

I have had two, one a streamer on my rig (slow openings are nice but had rolled and packed the nose way too far back) and the other a lineover on a tandem. Scared the crap out of the passenger, they thought I was cutting them away, and screamed for a grand after the reserve was open...
 

avbug

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No, that was my second reserve ride...but the first was thirteen years ago, and also largely due to stupidity (trend?). I believe I posted some of that a while back.

The first function occured on Halloween. We were doing pumpkin jumps. It invoved an exit at three thousand for a hop-and-pop, deploying the canopy right out the door. Then a descent to two grand or so to drop the pumpkin into a trashcan marked with panel markers. Then the jumper would fly his or her canopy to the gravel "peas" for an accuracy attempt on a 3 cm electronic disc. Who ever got the closest aggregate score between the trashcan bombing and the peas, won the pot. (Ah, that's "money," not actual pot, by the way)

I was concerned about being able to get out of the airplane clutching the pumpkin, and get stable, and deploy. On my load, the first two people out the door were current and former world paraski champions, each with 4,000+ jumps. I had brought a large pumpkin with a big don't-worry-be-happy face carved into it (proudly done late the night before). They carried small orange pumpkin-like gourds that fit in the palm of their hands. They made the exit picture perfect; they made it look easy.

A really big angry gentleman was behind me in the airplane yelling to get out, and I hung in the door long enough to miss the spot. I called for a go-around and a climb to four thousand (AGL). On the second pass, he was still yelling, and out of compulsion, I made a diving exit and decided to figure it out in the air.

I held the pumpkin against my chest with the left hand, and instinctively put out the right as I exited, causing an immediate roll and then tumble. Being unstable, my thoughts turned to delaying opening...and the possibility of trying to hold onto that big pumpkin at terminal velocity when opening my main parachute.

I made a decision to get the pilot chute out quickly, so I tossed it. That was a bad decision, as I was still unstable, and the bridle ended up wrapped neatly around my right elbow about the time I did get stable. I was wearing a thick ski suit, as it was winter and cold at that altitude. The bridle pulled into the fabric of the suit, and it was stuck. I tried falling sideways to pull it off, but I was out of luck.

At that point I was stable, and the pumpkin was resting in my left outstretched palm, with the big stupid don't-worry-be-happy face gawking at me. I didn't like looking at the face, and decided I couldn't keep the pumpkin. I gave it a little shove, and it drifted out of reach and began to head down and away. About that time I observed the rural highway below and ahead of me, with a few cars on the road. I reflected on the possibility that if I survived my own stupidity, I might be the first person to be arrested for killing someone with a pumpkin.

I pulled the reserve with the left hand, and the ripcord jammed half way out. I used two hands and pulled hard, drawing the ripcord clear of the housing. The lower pin on the cord blew upward in the relative wind and broke my front tooth.

I was jumping a 24 foot round parachute for a reserve, and it opened HARD. To ensure that things could indeed get worse, those who jump understand that an important reason for ensuring that legstraps are kept tight is that things can drift under them and become unbearably compressed during opening. Thanks to a sick minded murphy, at least one thing did drift under the leg strap on opening, and made it's presence known almost immediately.

Down below people were pointing in awe. They wondered what that round thing was; didn't they make parachutes like that once, they asked. Nobody down there had ever seen a round parachute jumped before (except me, and I was wearing it). With no real steering capability, I drifted onto and PLF'd the runway, and landed like the proverbial sack of bricks. Murphy being such a good pal, this occured about the time that the jump airplane was touching down. It missed me largely due to the ability to skid on the gravel runway.

I made three more jumps that day to ensure that I was back on the horse. As my last malfunction occured yesterday, I made two more jumps today. Tomorrow if I make it, I anticipate a cream pie in the face...as this is a traditional milestone reward at DZ's around the world. I already had to bring a case of beer to the DZ as pennance for going to a reserve; I'll owe another tomorrow, plus wiskey for the rigger who packed that reserve (traditional, but he doesn't drink, so it's probably a case of diet coke). Such responsibility!
 
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tcoll777

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How long does it take for a rig to open once you pull the (fate) handle?. If you had to ball at 600agl could you survive?
 

avbug

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Possibly. At terminal velocity, if one were stable and spread out for the slowest fall rate, one might have three seconds at that point. Given a bare minimum of 1.5 seconds after the ripcord is pulled for the spring loaded pilot chute to catch air and remove the deployment bag from your bag, unstow all the lines, separate from the canopy, and for the canopy to inflate and push the slider down to you, it would have to be exact and fast.

My main often takes about 500 feet from the time I reach for it until its open.

Part of the problem is that during a malfunction, you're not stable and spred for a slow fall rate. You're often contorted, and this can lead to a faster fall rate. If you've cut away, then you're in who-knows-what position after having been flung from the malfunction you've just cleared. You're falling faster, unstable, and at some point, probably on your back (where you don't want to be when deploying).

Most jumpers today use a small automatic activation device called a "cypress" that will use a very small explosive charge to sever the reserve container closing loop with a miniature knife blade. This occurs automatically at 800 feet AGL if a given rate of descent is detected. Cypresses have saved a numbe of lives over the years. I don't have one on my rig, however, and the only backup is altitude awareness and a willingness to pull the handle. Weather one uses an AAD or not, one should always pull the handle. That's what I do.
 

bart

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I never wore a Cypres til I started doing AFF. It has never deployed but I was worried on one level 4 when the student decided to stand on his knees at pull time... took me until 2 grand to get him under canopy and I pulled at about 1200.
 

TurboS7

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I was just beginning to try and talk my wife into a tandem jump for her birthday present....jeeeeezzzz.
 
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