Tales from the Bonfire - Newton and Murphy are Jerks

by Anthony Rocco | B-33566
Webster, New York

In April, I was exiting last out of a Skyvan with my friend, Brian Podgurski. We had planned and dirt dived a hanging exit into a sit-fly from the bottom bar. Brian and I had made 110 and 121 jumps, respectively, and both of us had completed this exit a number of times. We were comfortable with how the sequence of events should go.


Podgurski’s helmet received a significant gash when he struck the Skyvan.

Everything was normal as we counted out the six seconds before exiting to space ourselves from the previous group. The spot was good, and we got down on our knees and grabbed the bar under the aircraft. We both rolled into a hang below the aircraft, and I looked at Brian for his three-count head nod (down-up-down). Approximately two to three seconds after getting into a stable hang, Brian gave the nod and we let go.

A microsecond after letting go, and before we could react, we were headed straight back up and onto the Skyvan’s rear door (which was properly fixed in the open or “up” position). Brian hit the door with his head and bounced off. I went in feet first and stayed on the door momentarily, probably because I absorbed most of the impact force with my legs, until I slid off of it and the tail of the plane.

My first thought after clearing the aircraft was Brian. Since he hit headfirst, I was extremely worried he might be unconscious or worse. Surprisingly, Brian wasn’t too far away from me, and we both made eye contact and gave each other two big thumbs up. We jumped the rest of the dive as planned and met back up at the packing area.

Brian showed me a fairly big gash on his helmet as we tried to figure out how we went from letting go to hitting the aircraft in a split second. The drop zone staff was awesome and obviously concerned with finding out what happened, ensuring the aircraft wasn’t damaged and mitigating the chances of something like this occurring again.

After recounting the sequence of events many times with the safety and pilot staff (none of whom had ever heard of this occurring), we came to the most likely scenario.

Theory: As is a routine occurrence, the jump plane will sometimes enter a fairly steep descent after all skydivers have exited and cleared the aircraft. It appears that the moment Brian and I let go of the bar underneath the aircraft, the pilot entered a descent. Newton and Murphy then stepped in and applied their laws.

This situation reminded Brian and me, as well as everyone else at the DZ, of several facts. First, always let the pilot know if you are doing anything other than a standard exit or planning on staying around slightly longer than usual. Second, be sure to include all unfamiliar variables into your dive planning process. (Although this was a routine exit, this was the first time Brian and I were the last ones out.) Third, Newton and Murphy are jerks and will take advantage of any opportunity you give them.

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