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Malfunction Junction

by Jan Meyer

Has your canopy ever put you in a hard fast spin, right on opening? What was the problem? Could you tell instantly that it was an unstowed brake? -slider Hangup? -torn canopy? -or broken lines?

Hopefully, you did one of threes things:

  1. You INSTANTLY recognized a malfunction, realized you couldn't fix it, cutaway your main and deployed your reserve.
  2. You INSTANTLY recognized a curable malfunction, such as an unstowed brake, and then fixed the problem by releasing the other brake. or
  3. You INSTANTLY recognized that your parachute wasn't right, couldn't tell what the problem was, cutaway your main and deployed your reserve.

How do you instantly recognize malfunctions? You realize that you're moving to fast. Your descent rate may be too fast. You may be turning or spinning too fast. You may be getting shook violently about. Something is different than what normally happens when your main opens.

You must LOOK at your parachute. Are all of the cells inflated? Are there broken lines flapping about? Are the slider, pilot chute or parachute tangled?

A parachute with an unstowed brake will usually inflate properly and the slider will be down near the connector links. All of the lines will have tension. You will have a good turn going and maybe even a fast spin with small parachutes. Quickly unstow the other brake to stop the turn. If your parachute remains uncontrollable after both brakes are unstowed, then cutaway and deploy your reserve. Don't waste time trying to fix a radical spin. it's probably a mega-malfunction.

You can practice a premature brake release malfunction. Right after you open, check for traffic and then unstow and release ONE brake. Let your parachute fly as it will. You'll get the feel for how your parachute flies and learn what your parachute looks like when one brake unstows prematurely. You'll be prepared when this happens by accident.


Originally published in Sport Parachutist's Safety Journal V1, #5 Jan./Feb. 1989.
©Copyright 1989, 1996 by Jan Meyer. Republished with permission.

Dedicated to enhancing sport parachuting safety by disseminating information about equipment, environments and human factors.

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