What Happens If A Parachute Fails To Open On A Skydive?
At this point, you’ve probably watched enough skydiving videos to have seen dozens of parachutes blossom open against the big, blue sky. Over and over again, you hear that signature crisp snap and a square of bright nylon appears, like magic, to drift the grinning pair of parachutists safely down to the grassy field below.
Okay , you say, Those are videos of a parachute opening. Cool. But what happens if it doesn’t? How often does a parachute not open?! How often do parachutes fail ?!
The answer: Hardly ever. According to the USPA (which collects and publishes skydiving accident statistics), about one in every one-thousand parachutes will experience a malfunction so significant that actually requires the use of the reserve parachute. If that idea sends you scrambling for the keys to your getaway car, wait for just a second. First off: a ratio of 1:1000 is ridiculously rare in terms of the real world. Secondly: Even if your parachute actually does fail to open into that familiar flyable configuration, you’re still almost certainly going to be fine. Here’s the straight story.
Q: What can cause a parachute not to open?
A: Okay. First, let’s get something clear.
When you hear on the news of a skydiving accident, the phrase that almost always gets tossed around is that the skydiver’s “parachute failed to open.” That phrase always makes experienced skydivers wince because it is practically statistically impossible that the parachute actually “failed to open.” What almost certainly did happen is that it opened in an unflyable configuration and the proper corrective steps weren’t taken. When a parachute fails to open in a way that the jumper can control back to earth, the jumper has to immediately go to a set of tried-and-true emergency procedures to right the situation. If not, there’s gonna be a problem.
What we’re really talking about here, then, is what might prevent the successful deployment of a flyable parachute . That, as you might imagine, depends on three major factors: rigorous equipment maintenance, correct packing and flying in the correct body position when deployment procedures are initiated. You’ll certainly note that these factors are controllable .
At Skydive Perris, we proudly cleave to a set of strictly maintained standards which ensure that those boxes are checked. First, our parachuting equipment is top-quality across the board; secondly, we rigorously inspect and maintain it; thirdly, we only employ the finest professional tandem instructors in the sky.
Q: What will happen if your parachute fails to open?
A: Of course, skydiving does carry a risk. You know that already. When destiny decides to toss a totally statistically unlikely scenario into our plans, we go straight to Plan B. Every tandem skydiving parachute has a backup parachute waiting in the wings. Interesting fact: the backup parachute is hooked up to a system that deploys it automatically in the one-in-a-million scenario that nobody lifts a finger to get it out.
Usually, though, reserve deployment is a manual procedure. When a parachute opens in a non-flyable configuration, we get rid of it. With the flick of a wrist, the reserve parachute “rides” the swiftly disappearing main parachute to a quick, on-heading opening. The process is so quick and seamless that the tandem skydiving students that experience a reserve ride don’t even know it happened. That said: Want to know what to do if your parachute doesn’t open? See if you can figure out that it didn’t!
Q: Should I worry about a skydiving parachute malfunction?
A: Worry? Um…no.
Tandem skydiving accidents are incredibly rare. That’s by careful design. Tandem skydiving is, overwhelmingly, the method we use in the skydiving industry to introduce new jumpers to our sport, and it’s vital that we keep that introduction a sweet one. Your tandem skydiving instructor is the product of extensive training in skydiving safety procedures. S/he is ready to deal with any situation that might arise.
The skydiving safety statistics numbers are clear that the safety of skydiving is at a higher standard now than it has ever been. Fun fact: It’s far safer to go ahead and take that skydive than it is to drive to the dropzone ! Try that one on for size.
When you make a skydive at Skydive Perris, know this: By far, the biggest risk you’re accepting is that you’ll end up “cutting away” your life as you know it to come and live out with us at the dropzone and make skydiving your everyday adventure. You wouldn’t be the first! Come on out and see.
How Often Do Skydiving Parachutes Fail?
The dream of flight. It captivates millions: just look at the statistics, in 2018, over 3.3 million skydivers were completed. Flight in skydiving isn’t just about the freefall. Your skydive is broken into several parts: the expectant plane ride to altitude, the adrenaline-filled freefall, and, whoosh the fabric unfurls, the parachute flight! Wondering about skydiving safety and what happens if the parachute fails?
According to statistics gathered by the United States Parachute Association, improvements in equipment, training programs, and improved dropzone management have resulted in improved skydiving safety and the lowest number of fatal accidents in the sport to date. Tandem skydiving has an even better safety record. In fact, according to the National Safety Council, you are more likely to die from being struck by lightning or stung by a bee.
How Often do Parachutes Fail?
You might be thinking, “that’s all well and good. But what about the parachute failing?” In skydiving, the failure of the main parachute to operate properly or the failure of the parachute to open is called a parachute malfunction. This case is literally one-in-a-thousand. But what would cause this parachute malfunction to happen?
A successful parachute deployment is the result of the correct packing of the parachute and the body position of the skydiver when they deploy that parachute. Even with both of these elements dialed in, it is still possible for a parachute to fail. This is why skydivers jump with two parachutes: a main, and the backup, which we call the reserve parachute.
What’s the difference?
The design of the main parachute is geared toward performance. This parachute is a lot like a sports car, with both functionality and performance in mind. The main parachute aims to give you a zippy, fun ride to the ground.
The design of the reserve parachute is almost entirely focused on functional reliability. This parachute is something more akin to a top safety-rated sedan. If the main parachute fails or has any sort of malfunction, the reserve can be deployed in three ways: either a skydiver will initiate their Emergency Procedures, the reserve will be deployed by a Reserve Static Line, or the reserve will be deployed by the Automatic Activation Device.
What is done if a parachute fails?
Emergency Procedures are an exact series of actions skydivers will employ to solve problems that may arise during a skydive and the subsequent deployment of their main canopy. The Reserve Static Line is a specialized piece of equipment that is attached to the main parachute’s risers to deploy the reserve parachute if the main parachute is released in the event of an emergency.
The Automatic Activation Device (or AAD) is an incredible piece of gadgetry. These uber-precise computers are capable of calculating the rate of descent and altitude and are set to activate the reserve parachute at a pre-programmed altitude.
What makes the reserve parachute so special?
The reserve parachute can ONLY be packed by a specialized parachute rigger who has received certification and been appropriately rated by the Federal Aviation Administration. These parachute riggers have received in-depth specialty training in order to receive their certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Once a rigger has successfully met the required parameters of the FAA, it will be issued a rigger-specific seal symbol consisting of three numbers, three letters, or both. Each of these triads is directly tied to a parachute rigger. Each reserve parachute that is packed by the parachute rigger will be marked using this seal symbol.
The reserve parachutes that these riggers pack are inspected and repacked every 180 days, without fail. Additionally, in order to be used for skydiving, the gear has received approval in the form of a Technical Standard Order from the Federal Aviation Administration.
Only a stone-cold pro will touch the reserve parachute, and you can rest assured the parachute you jump at Skydive Monroe has our rigger’s seal of approval!
What Happens if the Parachute Fails To Open When Skydiving
Skydiving is an incredibly exciting sport that attracts thousands of people across the US every year. It’s sometimes associated with risk-taking, where jumping from “a perfectly good airplane” (as the saying goes) is seen as risky and frivolous. We want to demystify one common skydive safety concern we often hear, “What happens if the parachute fails to open?”
How Many Parachutes Fail to Open?
The truth about skydiving is that it’s far less risky than you might think. From the military-style in which skydivers are trained to the huge investment in both time and money that goes into creating the equipment, to the basic safety checks we all conduct prior to jumping, skydiving today is safer than it’s ever been. According to the National Safety Council, a person is more likely to be killed getting struck by lightning or stung by a bee than during a skydive.
But we’re not here to talk about safety. We’re here to answer the question of what happens if the parachute doesn’t open on a skydive. And the reason that’s not a question of safety? ‘Malfunctions’, as it’s called when a parachute doesn’t open, are perfectly normal parts of the sport and something we can manage and rectify.
Why would a parachute fail to open?
There are lots of factors that can contribute to a parachute not opening. The successful deployment of a parachute is dependent on the correct packing of that parachute and is affected by any changes to the process or to the body position of the skydiver when they go to deploy.
That’s why all skydivers are fully trained in the correct parachute packing procedures and the body position to adopt to aid the successful deployment.
But with all precautions taken and all training employed, it’s still possible for the parachute not to open successfully, be it through error or simple chance. Typically, one in a thousand parachutes will fail to open.
What is the skydive safety procedure when the parachute doesn’t open?
An essential part of the training undertaken by skydivers is learning how to manage a ‘malfunction’ and how to rectify the situation. Skydiving ‘rigs’ (the ‘backpack’ we wear containing the parachute) are very clever in their design. They contain not one but two parachutes, one being the ‘main’ and one the ‘reserve’.
The main parachute is connected using a ‘three-ring release system’; this system of three metal rings uses basic physics principles to spread the load of the weight of the person on the parachute in such a way that the pulling of one handle quickly and efficiently breaks the connection and allows the skydiver to ‘cut away’ the malfunctioning parachute.
So when a skydiver finds themselves in a position where their main parachute isn’t opening or has opened with an error, they simply remove that parachute and deploy their reserve parachute instead.
Reserve parachute deployment
The reserve parachute is typically slightly different in design to make it more reliable and less ‘sporty’ in the way it flies. It’s packed in a similar way to the main parachute but with some key differences that negate any potential issues to ensure the reserve parachute will always open correctly.
When a skydiver needs to use the reserve parachute, they may be choosing to do so and therefore activating the deployment themselves using handles located on the front of their equipment.
If the skydiver is for any reason unable to deploy their own reserve parachute – for example, if they have been knocked unconscious – an automatic activation device (AAD – most commonly a Cypres) will automatically deploy the reserve parachute for them. There are also support systems including the RSL (reserve static line) and MARD (main assisted reserve deployment) which aid the deployment of the reserve parachute and make it even faster and easier.
Do I need to worry?
You really don’t need to worry about your parachute failing to open. If you’re jumping as a tandem skydiver, your instructor has undertaken extensive training to ensure they are able to deal with any situation that might come about.
If you’re learning to skydive alone or are a qualified skydiver, you’ll know that you’ve been trained to the highest level to deal with all potential eventualities.
If you’d like to find out more about skydiving near Atlanta speak to one of our team members today!