An experienced jumper purchased a new main canopy and installed it himself, hooking the suspension lines to his existing risers using the supplied soft links. After he landed from his first jump on the new canopy, a parachute rigger noticed him trying to untangle it. Upon inspection, the rigger found the following installation errors:
- The jumper routed the soft links loop through the risers and lines only once (photo 1); they should have been looped through twice. The incorrect routing made the links weaker than recommended and increased the chances that they would detach in the air.
- The jumper hooked three of the four line groups to the risers with 720-degree twists in the lines (photo 2). In the photo, you can see that once the line group was untwisted on the ground, the twists transferred to the risers. In flight, the twists were in the suspension lines immediately above the top of the risers.
- The jumper had installed the lines with one steering line wrapped 360-degrees around the rear line group. (No photo available).
- The jumper had attached the steering lines to the toggles incorrectly, attaching the lines with lark’s head knots over the tops of the toggles. In this configuration, the steering lines could have easily slipped off the toggles (photo 3-recreation). Looping the long end (the handle) of a toggle through the lark’s head knot is the correct installation method (photo 4).
According to Federal Aviation Administration regulations, a non-rigger certificated rig owner may perform main canopy installation and some other routine maintenance items only under the supervision of a certificated parachute rigger. Consulting with a parachute rigger helps to ensure that the components are assembled correctly and the rig is safe to jump. This jumper was very lucky to have completed this jump under seriously mis-rigged gear without injury or worse.
Edit: The first two sentences of the last paragraph have been corrected. The correction will run in the February issue of Parachutist as well.