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stupid me

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Well-known member
Dec 14, 2001
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!!!
another day, another near-death experience for Avbug. Could someone please pass me the corn flakes?
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.
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.
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.
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 . . .

Jedi Nein
(the other know-it-all ;-)

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!
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...

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