Packed Correctly for a Cutaway

Q:

 

Is My Rig Set Up and Packed Correctly for a Cutaway?

A: Seems like a ridiculous question, doesn’t it? After all, every rig is supposed to work properly when it comes time to release a malfunctioning main canopy and deploy the reserve. But as a few recent incidents show, you could face a real mess if you haven’t maintained or packed your gear correctly.

How often do you pull your cutaway handle and clean the cables? Never? Do you even know if anything will budge when you need to pull that handle during a real malfunction? The amount of force required to pull a pair of dirty cables out of their housings can be surprising. In some cases, jumpers practicing emergency procedures on the ground have had to drag the cables out of their housings by pulling as hard as possible with both hands! A simple cleaning by spraying the cables with silicon cleaner and wiping them dry can dramatically reduce the pull force. Most manufacturers recommend cleaning the cables and flexing the webbing on the main risers every 30 days. Your rigger will usually do this during the reserve repack (or should). But if you aren’t doing it and your rigger isn’t doing it, you could end up with a hard or even impossible cutaway that you discover at the most desperate time: during an actual malfunction.

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Jumpers must follow the instructions when stowing their risers on rigs that have a dual-flap design.
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If a riser is packed below the inner riser cover, it may be trapped after deployment as shown here.

Twisted risers can also add to the pull force required to cut away during a malfunction. Many manufacturers equip risers with metal channels to house the excess cutaway cable. The metal channel prevents the excess cable from being pinched if the risers are twisted tightly together during a malfunction. If your risers are not equipped with metal channels, speak to your rigger or the manufacturer about replacing them.

Some container designs include a dual set of flaps that cover the reserve and main risers when the rig is packed. The lower flap covers the reserve risers, and a label indicates that the main risers must be packed on top. In several instances, when jumpers packed the main risers beneath both flaps, they became trapped after deployment. In one case, a jumper whose main risers became trapped after deployment elected to cut away because she could not reach her main steering toggles. After the jumper pulled her cutaway and reserve handles, the main canopy remained attached on both sides, and the reserve pilot chute—which did not have enough drag to extract the reserve—trailed behind her. She descended under her main canopy, which remained attached where the flaps trapped the risers (even though it was cut away) and landed safely without steering or flaring.

Jumpers can and do experience hard or impossible cutaways, but in every case, the jumper could have prevented the problem. By maintaining equipment properly, replacing outdated equipment and carefully following the packing instructions for your rig, you can breathe more easily when the time comes and you have to execute emergency procedures.

—Jim Crouch | D-16979
USPA Director of Safety & Training and FAA Senior Rigger

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