Bridle Concerns

Q:

 

What can I do to keep my main closing pin from piercing the bridle and locking my container closed?

A:
Since 2009, USPA has received at least six reports of jumpers experiencing pilot-chute-in-tow malfunctions caused by their main closing pins piercing their pilot-chute bridles and locking their main containers closed. Luckily, all the jumpers de-ployed their reserve parachutes, and their reserves successfully cleared the main pilot chutes and fully inflated. USPA posted several announcements regarding the issue and offered packing tips for preventing the pin from piercing the bridle (see “Keep an Eye Out” in the November 2010 issue of Parachutist). USPA brought the matter to the attention of the Parachute Industry Association and asked the container manufacturers to look into bridle design changes. United Parachute Technologies also developed a revised bridle routing that prevents the pin from piercing the bridle.

The bridle-piercing malfunction is not specific to one particular brand of container; it has occurred on several different models, including the Aerodyne Icon, United Parachute Technologies Vector Micron and the Velocity Sports Equipment Infinity. In the most recent case, the jumper had packed the rig herself and checked the pin and bridle just before she exited. She was confident that she had routed the bridle in such a way that the pin should not have been able to pierce it. Yet, somehow it did.

ASKARIGGER20128-1 ASKARIGGER20128-2
A seasoned jumper recently experienced this pilot-chute-in-tow malfunction after her closing pin pierced the type-3 webbing of her main bridle. She deployed her reserve successfully and landed safely despite the fact that her main pilot chute had entangled with her reserve lines. Photos by Stacey Carl.

Strange things can happen during deployments, and jumpers need to do everything possible to ensure their gear works correctly. But, as demonstrated by the example above, packing can’t always solve the problem. USPA has been stating since 2009 that there is a known issue with pilot chute bridles. Yet, here we are, three years later, and there have been no changes to bridle design or materials that would help to eliminate this malfunction. Obviously, the type-3 tape used to make bridles works well; otherwise, manufacturers would not keep using it. But the tape seems to need reinforcement in the area where the closing pin can come in contact with the bridle. Perhaps a simple two-inch-long piece of one-inch-wide type-4 tape or Kevlar® would work to reinforce that area and prevent the pin from piercing through. It would be a quick and easy fix for the thousands of bridles in use today.

Of course, the manufacturers will need to do testing, and at least one manufacturer is already stepping up and working on the problem. Hopefully, someone will make a solution available soon, before a skydiver dies under an entanglement caused by a pierced bridle and a pilot-chute-in-tow. If you are concerned about your bridle design, have questions about your container packing procedures or are interested in finding out how this problem is being addressed on your specific model of rig, contact your container manufacturer.

—Jim Crouch | D-16979
USPA Director of Safety & Training

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