Tales from the Bonfire - Slipping Away
by Anthony Peralta | C-15181
March 3, 1981
I decided to stop by my local DZ in DeLand, Florida, showing up just a few minutes before the last load of the day took off. I wasn’t expecting to make a skydive, but my roommate offered me his rig and slot ($10) on Mr. Douglas, a DC-3. The rig contained a free-packed (placed directly in the container without a deployment bag holding the canopy or lines) five-cell Strato Star main and had a funky pull-out pilot-chute deployment system that was located in a large pouch on the backpad of the container. To pull, I had to reach into the 8-by-10-inch pouch that was sandwiched between my upper back and the rig.
Just a few minutes after pulling up to the DZ, I exited the DC-3 at 10,500 feet for a 3-way. The jump never fully came together, and we broke at 3,500 feet and tracked away from one another. At 3,000 feet, my chest strap came undone, and I immediately felt the container sliding down my shoulders and back. I spread my legs and arms as wide as possible to keep the rig from sliding farther off. At that point, the container was sitting on my rear end and the back of my thighs—another micro-second or so and it would have been completely gone. I didn’t want to move from this widely spread tracking position for fear of slipping completely out of the equipment.
Fortunately, the funky pilot-chute system was a blessing in this case. If I had been jumping with any other system, I doubt I would be telling this story. While remaining in a track and making very small movements, I was just able to reach the pilot chute that was located directly above my right knee. Once I pulled a few inches of it out of the pouch, the airstream took over and yanked the pilot chute the rest of the way out. Because the main was free-packed, I experienced a very hard and painful opening... and was happy about it.
Later, after landing safely, I found that the chest strap hardware was badly worn. The faulty friction adapter allowed the strap to slide around, and since the end of the chest strap was not doubled over and sewn, there was nothing to stop it from sliding completely free. This jump taught me that no matter what I’m doing—whether it’s skydiving or another activity—I should be 100 percent familiar with my equipment.
I was 20 years old at the time, but I clearly remember the skydive as if it were yesterday. Now, looking at the logbook entry, I am amazed that I never mentioned anything about the incident in it. We were all so young, and not much bothered us, so there was no emotion or hype on the ground when I told the story. It was just like, “Hey, you lived. What else is there to discuss? See you tomorrow at the DZ.“ If something like that happened to me today, at 50 years old, I would probably start crying.