How to Nail a Gear Check

Let me ask you this: When was the last time that you saw the pilot running down a safety checklist on the jump plane? If you’re paying attention, you certainly have (or at least seen the clipboard stuffed somewhere in the cockpit, lookin’ official). Metal-tube pilots have an actual checklist they run down to confirm the safety of the gear that heaves us all up into the sky. That’s a great idea—it’s a reasonably complicated system, and a checklist ensures that nothing’s forgotten.

Now, when have you ever seen a nylon pilot with a clipboard and a pen, spinning briskly around in front of a mirror and checking things off? Yeah … never. Even though a skydiving system has lots of little safety details that need to be confirmed before every flight, our before-takeoff checklist has a tendency to exist in abbreviated form and only in our heads.

Let’s make that checklist a little easier to remember, hey? A thorough gear check should be the solid foundation behind every foray into freefall, and organizing it into three segments for each element of the system can help ensure that you don’t miss any important detail.


Check that harness.

1. Confirm that your 3-ring system is properly assembled with the reserve static line hooked up and routed correctly (per the manufacturer’s instructions).

2. Confirm that your three operation handles—main, cutaway and reserve—are securely in place with any touch fasteners (Velcro®) in good working condition.

3. Confirm that your assembly is tidy: that the risers are not twisted, that your toggles are secure and that your suspension and control lines are securely seated under their tuck tabs.

Check those electronics.

1. Make sure that your altimeter is set for zero (and not blocking any operation handles).

2. Make sure that your automatic activation device is on and set appropriately.

3. Make sure that your audible altimeter is set for the appropriate altitude.

Check those pins.

1. Make sure the reserve pin is seated deeply enough in the closing loop (per the manufacturer’s instructions, but at least halfway and maybe more). 

2. Make sure the main pin is fully seated. While you’re in there, make sure that the bridle is routed correctly, that the collapsible pilot chute indicator window is nice and colorful, that the closing loop is in good condition and that, y’know, the pull-up cord hasn’t been left in there. (Hey—it happens.)

3. Make sure both pin flaps are securely closed.

Check those straps.

1. Make sure all your straps are routed correctly. It’s very common for jumpers to forget to route their chest straps through the friction adapter. Don’t let this happen to you.

2. Make sure that your chest strap and leg straps are not twisted.

3. Make sure all straps are adjusted for proper fit. (If you have snaps, make sure they’re snapped.)

Check your personal equipment.

1. Make sure your helmet is ready to go: that it fits properly, that the chin strap is routed correctly and that the fastener is working.

2. Make sure those goggles and any other eyewear are clean and secure.

3. Make sure your shoes are snag-point free and securely tied.

Done? Awesome. Now, don’t keep a great gear check to yourself. Help the skydivers around you by keeping an active eye out for the gear gaffes they may have missed. Better yet, offer to perform a complete gear check on someone else in the boarding area with you. Remember: That misrouted chest strap you catch today may someday be your own.

About the Author
FEATURE20149-20Annette O'Neil, D-33263, is a multidisciplinary air sports athlete: skydiver, BASE jumper, paraglider and speed-wing pilot. Location-independent, she travels the world full-time as a freelance writer and producer. In her spare time, she loves flopping around on a yoga mat and carpetbombing Facebook from Instagram.


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John Steele
Sat, 04/22/2017 - 14:22


Regarding the '3-ring system' picture used in this article...

The picture shows both the medium and smallest rings being threaded together through the largest ring.

This is contrary to what I've otherwise seen, where the smallest ring is singularly threaded through the middle ring. And the middle ring is singularly threaded through the largest ring.

Are both configurations correct, either separate or combined through the largest ring?

Thank you,
John Steele

Wed, 04/26/2017 - 10:39

Thanks, John! You're correct. The article is missing an important caption that states, "An instructor caught this misassembled 3-ring (the small ring incorrectly goes through the large ring) while performing a gear check on his student. Reportedly, the person who attached the canopy was in a hurry when he made the error." We'll get it updated. 


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