Y-Modifications to Tandem Harnesses
United Parachute Technologies held a standardization meeting March 31 and April 1 in DeLand, Florida. The company invited all Tandem Instructor Examiners (regardless of which manufacturer’s rating they held), and approximately 50 attended, as well as representatives from Jump Shack, Precision Aerodynamics and Strong Enterprises. The meeting included numerous valuable presentations and discussions among some of the most experienced tandem examiners in the world. The group spent the most significant amount of time discussing harnesses, specifically the Y-modification (an additional section of strapping on the back of the harness) and whether it should be mandatory for all tandem student harnesses. During an informal poll, about 50 percent of the examiners felt that it should be.
An example of a Y-mod on a Strong Enterprises harness. Photo by Ryan McDaniel.
In 2006, after two students came out of poorly adjusted harnesses, USPA and the Parachute Industry Association asked all tandem manufacturers to look at their designs and develop modifications that would prevent students from coming out should the instructors not adjust their students’ harnesses correctly. Shortly after that request, Strong Enterprises introduced the Y-mod, which is now mandatory for all Strong tandem student harnesses. UPT also developed a Y-mod and offers it as an option for their tandem student harnesses, and Precision Aerodynamics designed its new tandem system with a variation of the Y-mod built into the student harness. But there are at least two U.S. manufacturers that are not currently offering a Y-mod for their student harnesses.
The discussion surrounding the Y-mod included a report of a recent tandem jump during which the student nearly came out of her poorly adjusted harness. Had she not held on through the droguefall and deployment, she would have been the third person ejected from a tandem harness since 2005. With this latest close call, all of the manufacturers should see that it is time to make the modification mandatory. Yes, the instructor must adjust the student harness correctly, and that must be the first line of defense, but the Y-mod is a vital backup in case the instructor makes a mistake. Losing another student out of a harness would likely result in Federal Aviation Administration intervention until the agency is assured the problem has been resolved.
The Y-mod has been in use on some tandem systems for six years now with no reported issues stemming from the new harness design. There is simply no reason not to equip every tandem student harness with a Y-mod. If your tandem system manufacturer offers a Y-mod, use it on your student harnesses; if your manufacturer does not yet offer a Y-mod, ask it to create one. If changing all of the tandem student harnesses in the world saves just one student, it will be well worth the time, effort and expense put into upgrading the equipment.
United Parachute Technologies is planning to hold these standardization meetings at a variety of locations so that it will be easier for examiners to attend. UPT considers attending a meeting at least once every two years mandatory for all its examiners.
—Jim Crouch | D-16979
USPA Director of Safety & Training