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Safety Tip

This website is covered with safety tips, in the hope that we can prevent some of the hundreds of accidents that are being repeated year after year.

Here the safety tips are explained and each one is based on a real incident. You can avoid becoming a victim by recognising the mistakes that others have made and prevent further incidents from happening.

Safety Tip - Control lines wear much faster than the canopy suspension lines, and usually cause a bigger problem when they break. Are your control lines in good condition.

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Connector Links - Control Lines - Elastic Bands - Grommets Compressed - Pilot Chutes

Wing Loading - Cutaway and Deployed - Tracking & High Performance Canopies

On Heading Openings - Packing Advice - Flight Line Check - Landing Area

Evasive Action - Landing Direction - Old Habits - Compatible Components

Poor Maintenance - Correctly Assembled - Suitable Equipment - Tracking

Two Canopies Deployed - Premature Reserve - Good Reserve Packer

Riser Correctly Assembled - RSL Attachment - Control Toggles

Correct Risers - Closure Loops - Line lengths - Twists


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Confidential Reports

Flight Line Check

How important is your flight line check? Find out why it can save your life, and what must be inspected prior to a skydive.

A flight line check is an inspection to make sure skydivers are properly prepared and equipped for a safe skydive before boarding the aircraft.

The flight line check has prevented many skydivers from having to deal with a malfunction, and avoiding injury or worse. It has proven itself many time, however, for this system to be effective a checker needs to be taught what to look for on all types of parachute equipment. They also need to know the rules that they have to abide by, which are published by the parachute association. A good flight line checker needs to be conscientious and assume that there is a problem and do a thorough inspection to try and find it.

In 1997 Allan Hewitt, Rick Boardman and Chris Jones set up a flight line test at the BPA AGM. We asked skydivers of all levels to do a flight line check under examination conditions. Everyone was told that we set up our equipment with faults for them to find. They were unhurried and under no pressure and all faults had been duplicated from real skydiving incidents that have occurred.

A full report from Chris Jones is available, however, I have listed a number of serious faults that were missed by a significant number of participants as follows: 40% missed a main pull up cord which was left in the main closure loop which would have resulted in a total malfunction. 90% missed a pilot chute kill line not cocked which would have resulted in a total malfunction.

81% missed a main bridle line which was misrouted around the leg strap which would have resulted in a total malfunction. 90% failed to spot a pilot chute packed inside a leg comfort pad instead of the spandex pocket which would have been a difficult pull or a total malfunction. 40% missed a badly frayed main closing loop which could have caused a premature deployment. 34% missed a main pin which was barely inserted in the main closure loop which could have caused a premature deployment. 45% missed a frayed cutaway loop which could have released one of the risers on deployment.34% missed a three ring system incorrectly assembled and could have resulted in a cutaway failure. 59% missed a miss routed RSL which could have caused a cutaway failure. 23% missed a chest strap not through the buckle which could have caused the skydiver some serious problems. 18% missed a leg strap not through the buckle which could have caused him to spiral or not be able to reach his control toggles.

There were a lot of faults missed which were not as serious but they would have still caused problems for the skydiver. We did the same test again in 1998 after a year of promoting the flight line check system. This test showed a positive improvement. The most experienced skydivers and instructors did better than most, but not significantly as one would have expected. The vital ingredient is training and the care and attention that a flight line checker brings to the job. Because your flight line check is so important, it's up to you as a skydiver to make sure that your flight line checker has been trained and knows your equipment. If you're checking someone and your not 100% sure what you're doing or your 're not familiar with their equipment, do not clear them for jumping.

This safety tip was written by Allan Hewitt

Read some real incident reports about this issue in the confidential reporting system.

Control Toggles

Avoid control toggle failure. It's very common yet very easy to prevent.

There are a lot of variations in control toggle attachments so it's important to know how your system can fail and how you can prevent it. Generally control toggles either release prematurely or completely fail to release no matter how hard you pull. A failure is usually compounded by only one toggle releasing or sticking causing a spiraling out of control canopy.

There are two main types of attachment methods; velcro and velcro less. The later being the most popular but also causing the most incidents. If your toggles are attached by velcro, it required replacing as it deteriates with use. The quality of the velcro used dictates how many jumps you can do before it requires replacing. It's very cheap to replace velcro on control toggles and risers, so don't accept the attitude of "it will be ok for another jump" if you have any doubts as to it's effectiveness get it replaced.

Control toggles that don't use velcro are more likely to release prematurely. The attachment method which is usually a "tuck tab" system relies on all components fitting perfectly so even a slight sign of wear should be tested thoroughly. A poor pack job can also increase the risk of a premature release; the tension from the control line pulls against the brake setting and helps to keep it in place and prevents a premature release. When packing and you're finishing your line stowage make sure you pull any slack control line away from your risers so there is no slack in your control line around the toggle area.

To test for a premature toggle release; stow your toggles and grasp your riser in one hand at the connector link and the other at the three ring point. Bring both hands together so there is a little slack in the riser, then pull away from each other in a quick snapping action. If a control toggle release then it's very likely to happen during deployment. Try this test with and without tension on the control line so you can see the difference that a good pack job makes.

A control toggle that fails to release is usually caused by incompatibility between the control toggle, the type of control line and the attachment method. The biggest problem is when the control line pulls into the soft part of the control toggle close to the grommet.

Don't assume that your control toggle are ok because you haven't had a problem with them. For a failure to happen a chain of events has to occur and this chain depends on the many variations in control toggle attachments. You need to learn about your particular system; learn what's possible and make sure it never happens to you.

This safety tip was written by Allan Hewitt

Read some real incident reports about this issue in the confidential reporting system.

Risers Correctly Assembled

Are your risers correctly assembled?

When assembling a set of risers to a container, there are some easy mistakes that can be made by someone who's not concentrating on what they're doing. It could be that the person assembling them are not trained or qualified on assembly, but my investigations don't support this in the majority of cases. After assembly, a separate inspection must be done to prevent any mistakes. Every skydiver should be able to do a detailed inspection on a 3 ring system and be able to spot any mistakes. If you are not 100% sure what you're looking for ask your rigger or instructor to show you. If your reserve packer gives you your rig back with incorrectly assembled risers, why would you trust the rest of the system?

This safety tip was written by Allan Hewitt

Read some real incident reports about this issue in the confidential reporting system.

Connector Links

When did you last inspect your connector links?

Rapide links have been known to come lose over time and can open up on deployment. Soft links wear and the damage is not obvious without a close inspection. It's the skydivers responsibility to inspect the main connector links, so make sure you know what to look for; if not ask your rigger to show you. If the rapide link thread has been over tightened then the barrel can crack and a hairline split may be visible,this type of damage can cause the barrel to fly off during deployment. The rule is hand tight plus a quarter of a turn. Anything different needs to be investigated.

Soft links are a bigger concern because the damage caused by a slider passing over them is almost impossible to see unless you pull them apart. Soft links can also be installed incorrectly so it's also worth knowing how to inspect the instalation as well. Finally, do you know if your connector links are approved for skydiving? If not then consult a rigger and have them inspected.

This safety tip was written by Allan Hewitt

Read some real incident reports about this issue in the confidential reporting system.

Control Lines

Control lines wear much faster than the canopy suspension lines, and usually cause a bigger problem when they break. Are your control lines in good condition?

Your control lines are the only lines that are in constant motion and they're always in contact with your riser guide ring and your slider grommets. The friction is minimal but it's enough to cause them to wear much faster than the suspension lines. Another concern is the wear from the hook velcro which causes the control lines to "fluff out". The damage from velcro is very visible but even this doesn't give concern to the jumper because the damage is gradual and they get used to what they see. If it was good one moment then fluffy the next moment then it would be a warning sign but not when it appears so gradually. Don't forget that your main parachute is not part of your six monthly reserve inspection and repack so you as the owner have total responsibility for ensuring your control lines don't break in mid flare or when you're trying to avoid a canopy collision. I have personally witnessed three skydivers flaring who uncounted a broken control line resulting in a serious collision instead of a landing. Fortunately, they all got up and walked away and blamed their equipment. Was it really their equipment or was it their failure to spot a warn control line that was ready to break, and all it was waiting for was the right moment to cause as much damage as possible.

This safety tip was written by Allan Hewitt

Read some real incident reports about this issue in the confidential reporting system.

Elastic Bands

Are the elastic bands on your deployment bag, the correct size and type for your canopy suspension lines? Are they effective?

If you use the correct elastic bands, which are compatible with your canopy lines, your deployment bag and the canopy design, then you should always get on heading smooth openings. You need to know how effective your elastic bands are, when they get worn they become a problem and if you pack your parachute knowing that your elastics are worn then you've just increased your chances of having a malfunction or even a canopy collision. It's a small item but it's vitally important. Elastic bands come in many different sizes and the elasticity is also vary varied. Some break extremely easy and others are so thick that they have caused bag locks in the past. I use the microline elastic bands from Performance Designs because I know how effective they are and they are consistently the same specification. When I put a set of scales on my line stowage and do a pull test, my lines release between 10 to 15 lbs. I use these on the deployment bag sides I don't use them to go through the deployment bag grommets because they break too often. Therefore, I use tube stoes for the actual bag lock and the same rule applies my lines release between 10 to 15 lbs. I don't use tube stoes for the sides as they release far to easily This system is right for my complete parachute system but it would not be right for a different parachute system.

This is one reason why elastic bands are so problematic, we can't have one standard option for all systems.The poor old elastic band is probably the most least understood component on your rig and the most neglected, no one takes them seriously, yet they contribute to a great deal of malfunction, this is probably there way of demanding respect, some times they can be the sole cause of a malfunction but generally they have to wait for some help, maybe a bad pack job or a poorly maintained rig. They do, however, make a big difference to having consistent on heading openings.

How you use your elastic bands also make as difference, do you stow 1" of line through them, 2" or even 3" of line through your elastic bands. Do you single stow them or double stow them. Are they set in a fixed position after a pack job? Some deployment bags are solid due to the canopy pack volume while others are soft and squishy allowing the elastic bands to move position during deployment which can change how effective they work. Some people will have a very strong opinion on what you must never do, Unfortunately, this is usually based on their experience on the equipment they've used or worked on. The reality is different, what's definitely wrong for one system can solve many problems on another system. Your first point of call should always be the canopy manufacturer, find out what they recommend, then evaluate your line stowage based on how effective it looks and works on the ground, then test the deployment to find out if it opens smoothly and on heading, then inspect the elastic bands for wear and tear.

Once you have a good system, don't change it but be ready to change your views when you swap equipment, then you have to start all over again until you get the right elastic bands for your complete system.When asking for advice on elastic bands and line stows, always ask your instructor and your rigger and then keep asking until you've heard all the concerns about what's right for your system. Don't be afraid to compare advice and if you get conflicting information, don't be afraid to pass on that information to both parties to double check that advice or learn why the advice conflicts.

This safety tip was written by Allan Hewitt

Read some real incident reports about this issue in the confidential reporting system.

Grommets Compressed

Are the grommets on your container, deployment bag and slider compressed correctly?

Make sure there are no gaps between the grommet and the material. Do a visual check on your grommets at regular intervals, they can separate during use. Poorly set grommets have snagged lines and closure loops and they've damaged them to the point of failure. This is a simple inspection that all skydivers can do and if you find one that's not 100% then have it inspected by a rigger.

This safety tip was written by Allan Hewitt

Read some real incident reports about this issue in the confidential reporting system.

Pilot Chutes

Pilot chutes do fail, when did you last replace yours?

Your pilot chute is vital to a successful canopy deployment,yet it's one of the most neglected and least understood component in your parachute system. A pilot chute deteriates during every deployment and becomes less effective, but it's usually, only replaced when it's failed to do it's job.Your main pilot chute should be inspected by your reserve packer during the six monthly inspection and repack, however, not all reserve packers have the knowledge to do this properly and unlike the owner they don't know how many jumps the pilot chute has done. There are some checks that you can do yourself and if you're not sure then ask a rigger to teach you what to lookout for. Check the attachment of the toggle/hackey sack, if there is any signs of fraying or stitching coming undone then consult a rigger. Check the attachment of the bridle line for the same and that it's "directly" attached to both the tape that going down the centre of the pilot chute and the tape stitched to the netting. Check the material for damage and deteriation.

Many years ago a manufacturer told me that a pilot chute should be replaced every 100 jumps, at that time all pilot chutes were made from FIll material and the quality was not the same on all pilot chutes, some would deteriate much quicker than others. The majority of pilot chutes in use today are made from ZP material and last much longer, but they still deteriate with use. If your pilot chute does not look in pristine condition, have it inspected by your rigger. Check the length of the centre line inside the pilot chute. To do this hold the bridle line and let the pilot chute hang from that point, generally, the pilot chute toggle attachment point should be level with the seam joining the netting and the ZP/Flll material. Some variations do exist by up to 1 to 2" longer but rarely shorter. If you have any doubt consult your rigger to make sure your centre line is correct for your system. Check to see if the mesh has stretched at any point around the circumference, if it has it will be less effective. If you have a kill line bridle line make sure the kill line has not shrunk or stretched, this happens with use on some designs and can reduce the effectiveness of the pilot chute. Is your pilot chute the correct size for your canopy and container? This also depends on what material it's manufactured from. Learn about "your" pilot chute on "your" equipment because they are all different.

This safety tip was written by Allan Hewitt

Read some real incident reports about this issue in the confidential reporting system.

Wing Loading

Do you know the minimum and maximum wing loading recommendation for your canopy? Do you know what your actual wing loading is?

What is wing loading and why should you know what your wing loading is? Your wing loading is a measurement derived from the size of your parachute and your total exit weight. A more accurate calculation should be your suspended weight but the industry standard seems to be the exit weight so this is the best measurement to use for comparison. If your canopy size is 200 sq.ft and your exit weight is 200lbs, then your wing loading is 1.0 lbs per square foot. If your canopy size is 100 sq.ft and your exit weight is 200 lbs, then your wing loading is 2.0 lbs per square foot. Double the load which means a much faster and responsive canopy. Your exit weight includes your body weight, your clothes, your complete rig, your helmet and camera and your lead shot weight belt. When making your calculation don't leave anything out. Another consideration is the type of design of your main parachute. Going from a 1.0 lb per square foot wing loading to a 1.5 lb per square foot wing loading will increase your speed and your canopy reaction by a massive, noticeable difference, this could be compounded, big time, when changing from a medium performance canopy to a high performance canopy. You can't change your wing loading but you can change your flying habits.

The safest progression method is to increase your wing loading gradually over many jumps and change your canopy design at the right point, which should be determined by the skill level you have on your current canopy design. If you've not mastered flying your current canopy in all types of conditions then you're not ready to progress onto a high performance canopy.When you down size try and downsize through a canopy type first then onto a new canopy design. For example if you want to go from a Sabre 170 to a Stiletto 150 then try and go from the Sabre 170 to a Sabre 150 first, if the extra speed is a concern then think carefully about your next move.When deciding on your wing loading and canopy design always consider your environment, if you always jump at the same drop zone with a massive landing area then it's a safe environment but if you travel around and jump in tight areas or where the chances of a DZ miss is high then your higher wing loading and the canopy design might cause you a lot of problems. Take lots of advice from different people but don't downsize just because it's the cool thing to do.

Make use of the skydiving schools that specialise in canopy handling skills. For a more in depth view on wing loading read the article presented by John Leblanc from Performance Designs. He is without a doubt the authority on this subject. Some manufacturers only have a maximum wing loading but some high performance canopies can be problematic if the wing loading is too light. Make sure you are within the canopy manufacturers recommended wing loading charts for your experience level.

This safety tip was written by Allan Hewitt

Read some real incident reports about this issue in the confidential reporting system.

Cutaway and Deployed

Have you cutaway and deployed your reserve prior to a reserve repack? If not, why not?

Good reserve drills are essential because the risk of a malfunction is real. The best practice you can get is on your own equipment. If you've never done this you may be in for a surprise. As a full time rigger I spent years asking my customers to put their rigs on and do their reserve drills. My reasons for doing this was so I could stand behind them and watch the pilot chute deploy. I would catch the pilotchute while I established how good or bad the deployment was.The pilot chutes that shot away from the container were not a concern but those pilot chutes that opened the container and then just fell to the ground meant I had to find the problem and fix it before I repacked the reserve. As an instructor I was amazed at how many of my customers messed up their reserve drills. I am talking about hundreds of experienced skydivers, not just a few. When I questioned those that messed up, they always had an excuse: "oh, I haven't thought about that in a long time" or "Yeah, but it still worked didn't it and I would have deployed it if I needed it". Some were obviously embarrassed and some wouldn't even do it, it was as if it was beneath them.

Unfortunately, it's only when you find yourself in an emergency situation, looking at your malfunctioned canopy spinning past the horizon that you appreciate how important your reserve drills are. Another reason though, is that I have had three customers in a five year period who completely failed to deploy their reserve due to equipment failures that were not obvious until the proper reserve drills were carried out.

This safety tip was written by Allan Hewitt

Read some real incident reports about this issue in the confidential reporting system.

Tracking & High Performance Canopies

A good track and a higher deployment becomes more important when jumping high performance canopies

As people progress in the sport they get better at the majority of skills because they either want to be seen to be good, or the get better because they have to. Basically, the sport is self policing in the majority of cases, for example: Formation skydivers and freeflyers get better the more they jump otherwise people won't jump with them or they get criticised, competition jumpers have to get better otherwise they don't win medals. Tracking, however, is not one of the skills that you use during a skydive to impress people so you very rarely get criticised and there are very few tracking competitions. Because of this situation it's easy to get complacent with your tracking skills and gradually you may start to track less and less and as long as you get an on heading opening you will assume that you did a good track. If your canopy opens off heading you won't always say to yourself that you should have done a better track, it's more likely that you will blame the canopy or the other jumper. As you progress onto smaller and faster canopies it's more important to do a good track because if you get an off heading opening, your collision speed with another canopy is greatly increased which now puts you in a higher danger area.

The combination of being accustomed to doing short track and now jumping a higher performance canopy is something you need to be aware off. In my career I've seen hundreds of near canopy collisions and many actual canopy collisions and one of them ended in a fatality. This is just what I've seen, others will say something very similar, yet, it's rare that a skydiver gets criticised because he's not very good at tracking, therefore the need to improve is not there.Why not test yourself by organizing a tracking dive with a few friends to see who can track the best and cover the most ground in a five second period. If you're not the one leading the track then it's not because the other skydiver is taller or has better booties, it's probably because his body position gives him the best opportunity to cover the greatest distance. Every time you complete a skydive look at the actual distance you have covered and how far away you are to other skydivers. The bigger the formation the more crowded the sky but you should still be a long way from all other skydivers.

When I took part in the Brit 100 I was embarrassed to see another jumper shoot past me during our break off, on the next jump, I was prepared for a better track and determined not to let anyone pass me again as I track off, but he did it again, he shot past me. By the end of the Brit 100 I tracked off with him and over took him. I was a very current skydiver and AFF instructor and I knew I could track well, so this was a complete shock and very embarrassing for me. Fortunately no one noticed apart from me. Prior to this event I can't remember when I last thought about my own tracking ability, we all need to refresh old skills from time to time.

This safety tip was written by Allan Hewitt

Read some real incident reports about this issue in the confidential reporting system.

RSL Attachment

Is your RSL correctly attached?

There are many different types of RSL's currently in use and each one needs to be routed according to it's design. It must never interfere with other components and it should always have a clean deployment, if it's required. Read your rig manual to find out about your RSL system and ask a rigger to show you the common mistakes that have been made in the past so you can spot them during a normal repack or a flight line check. There are rules associated with RSL use and you should know these: If the rig has an RSL and the rig has mini risers, they must be the reinforced type with the long shank grommet. The reserve handle cable must have a ball and shank attachment at the handle end. The type of crimping at the pin end is usually different as well.

This safety tip was written by Allan Hewitt

Read some real incident reports about this issue in the confidential reporting system.

2 Canopies Deployed

If you find yourself with two canopies fully deployed, do you know when it"s safe to cutaway? And when you should not cutaway?

Do you know how to fly two canopies to a safe landing? Canopy formation jumpers know how to fly canopies together in a safe manner and when to not fly them together. Those who don't do canopy formation need to understand how to fly their main and reserve if you end up with both canopies deployed at the same time. Your instructor can advise you if you're not 100% sure what to do. There is general advise but there is also personal advise based on your experience level and equipment type. The questions you should ask yourself are as follows: which canopy do I use to control the two of them. When should I cutaway and when should I never cutaway? Is it good to flare when under two canopies and what is the danger zone if things change during the descent. The best thing you can do though is to prevent this situation by doing a proper daily inspection prior to jumping to ensure that your closure loop is in good condition and that your reserve handle is secure.

This safety tip was written by Allan Hewitt

Read some real incident reports about this issue in the confidential reporting system.

Premature Reserve

Premature reserve deployments are far too common, yet it's one of the easiest malfunction to avoid

A premature reserve deployment is usually caused by a closure loop breaking, or a reserve pin moving during an exit collision or freefall collision. A new reserve closure loop is usually free as part of your reserve inspection and repack because it's such a cheap item. Always make sure that your reserve closure loop is in excellent condition, if it looks brand new then you've nothing to worry about, however, if it's looking warn, frayed then don't jump it. Don't accept the age old saying "it'll be ok" no matter who says it, if there is obvious damage then the risk of a premature reserve deployment is increased. A reserve closure loop that is too long means that it's easy for it to be knocked out or even for the pin to move during use. Also make sure the reserve handle is correct for your container. Neglecting this small but very important item can put you in great danger, if you're lucky when it breaks then your only problem is a long reserve ride, however if it breaks on exit or when another skydiver is above you in freefall then it could turn into a fatality.

This safety tip was written by Allan Hewitt

Read some real incident reports about this issue in the confidential reporting system.

Good Reserve Packer

Do you have a good reserve packer? read the tell tale signs

Your reserve packer is someone you need to trust and the majority are very trust worthy and have your best interest at heart, however, not everyone who qualifies fits into this category and even the best reserve packers can get complacent at times. Because of human nature, no one has your best interest at heart better than you so it makes sense that you remain in control and make sure that your reserve packer is doing a good job.When choosing a reserve packer it helps if you get to know them, find out if they have a good reputation as a good reserve packer.When you hand your rig over for a reserve inspection and repack don't be afraid to ask them questions and get their advice on anything that concerns you about your equipment. How they deal with your questions should give you a good idea of their attitude which should be professional and responsive to your needs. Ask them if they've worked on your type of equipment before and are they current with it. If there are a lot of systems like yours locally then the chances are they will be but if you have a rig that is not so popular in your location then this question could be very important. Ask them if they have a copy of the packing manuals for the container and the reserve canopy. It's mandatory to have these to hand when packing reserves. If they haven't then give them your copy or ask them if they can get a copy for themselves. If they haven't read the manual for your equipment then they should not be packing it.

If someone brings their rig to my workshop I always get them to put the rig on and ask them to carry out their reserve drills. I then watch them deploy the reserve and catch the deploying reserve pilot chute. I then deploy the reserve completely in front of them. The reason I do this is so that I can get to see the reserve deployment from start to finish in their presence so that I can talk to them about any obvious problems before they leave. I would like to see more people doing this because it's good for everyone to practice their reserve drills on the equipment they use and this process has highlighted many problems that's best discussed with the owner before starting the inspection and repack. This is not common practice but I urge everyone to ask their reserve packer if they are ok with you putting on the rig and doing your reserve drills and then watch the complete deployment. If I am traveling then I don't like to deploy a reserve and then transport it to my workshop as it's more prone to being damaged when unpacked in transit, especially the reserve pilot chute. However, I always try and get new customers to do their reserve drills and at least watch the reserve pilot chute deploy with them present. Talk to your reserve packer and get their opinion on this matter. Prior to any work it's more likely that you will be treated well as those you're paying will want your business. The real tell tale signs can be found after the inspection and repack. However, if you're paying "mates rates" and your reserve packer is supposedly doing you a favour, just remember one thing; it's your life on the line so don't treat your reserve packer any differently to a business who packs reserves.

A proper reserve inspection and repack takes approx two hours, if the canopy needs airing for a long period due to dampness or because it's been packed in storage for a long time then the two hours can be much longer. If you're one of those skydiver who complain about paying £30 for reserve inspection and repack then ask yourself a couple of questions: how much do you get paid for two hours work? Are your customers relying on your skills to save their life? In my experience, if you want a professional job then treat your reserve packer as a professional and pay him accordingly. I charge more for a reserve inspection and repack than any other person in the UK but also provide a first class service and my customers keep coming back even though they can pay less elsewhere and they don't have to travel to get to me.

Before you hand your rig over it's always worth seeing where your reserve will be inspected and packed, if possible. If your reserve packer has a controlled working area where he/she can layout your equipment for packing and hang the canopy for inspection, and they have a good tool control system in place then it's a good sign. The working area has to be clean, free from other canopies, equipment and anything that could damage your equipment. The tools they use must be counted for before and after each repack. If you don't have access to the location they pack your reserve in then you have to trust them or find another reserve packer. many reserves are packed in a home environment and there's nothing wrong with this as long as it conforms to the above.

However, if you see a location being used for a reserve inspection and repack that is cluttered and uncontrolled then this is a good sign that should tell you to find a new reserve packer.Your reserve packer should do a search to find out if your equipment is affected by any known safety notices prior to inspecting it. You can rely on them to do this job but it's much safer if you are also aware of any potential safety notice that could affect your equipment. I would recommend that you do your own research and talk to your reserve packer about any safety notice that could affect your equipment. If necessary give your rigger a copy of all safety notices that could affect your equipment and ask for his advice. A knowledgeable reserve packer will gladly discuss safety notices with you but a reserve packer who doesn't treat this aspect of reserve packing seriously will try and avoid this discussion.When you get your reserve back after the inspection you should do a visual inspection of a few areas that bad packers tend to ignore. Prior to a reserve inspection your main should have been removed and deployed. When I give my customers there rig back I hand it over with the main parachute fully packed and ready to jump. I do this to make sure that everything fits and works as it should. Without doing this a lot of things can get missed and even though the main is not part of the inspection and repack I like to know that the whole rig is perfectly assembled with all component parts working as they should do.

Some reserve packers won't pack the main parachute as they either say that it's not what they are being paid for or they don't want to be responsible for the pack job in case the jumper has a cutaway or that they are not familiar with the main parachute or that they don't pack ZP canopies. I've heard many excuses but none of them have convinced me. The fact is that you can' t do a proper inspection without seeing all components assembled to ensure compatibility and serviceability. If a reserve packer is not confident in packing someone's main parachute then why would you trust them with your reserve parachute. It is possible however, to inspect the complete assembly prior to deploying the parachutes so I do accept that this is another option so it's not necessary to do a main repack after the reserve inspection and repack, but personally, I don't like it. Those reserve packers who don't jump ZP or high performance canopies should stay away from packing them for live use. They can always tell the owner that the main has been packed so they can do a final inspection and for transit only, and that the main has to be repacked prior to use, or even deploy it after a complete final inspection.

Now you have your rig back fully inspected and packed do the following checks. have a close inspection of the documents, look at the detail, has everything been filled in correctly? If any work has been done in addition to the inspection and repack, have you got evidence of this recorded on the documentation? Was the person who did the work qualified? Reserve packers can not do any repair work that requires the use of a sewing machine. Basic riggers need their work signed off by at least an approved rigger. Approved riggers can not work on the reserve parachute or anything that affects the harness and reserve relationship. If any modification has been done, was it done by a person who was qualified to modify equipment and if so how did they test the modification. Inspect the main and reserve closure loops, are they in mint condition, if they are frayed, dirty looking then they've probably not been replaced and could even fail before the six month period is up. Check the reserve pin, is it straight and securely inserted. Has the RSL been correctly assembled? check your manual for confirmation. Check that your risers have been correctly assembled, again confirm with your manual. If you are not sure how to do these checks ask your reserve packer to teach you, or your instructor. Check the condition of the chest and leg strap elastics, are they in good condition and do they work as they should? Check the condition and effectiveness of all the velcro on your rig. Is it looking worn and frayed? If so your reserve packer has failed to do a proper inspection. Check the whole rig for any signs of damage or wear that you think should have been repaired, including those items on your main that you can't get to until it's been deployed. Basically, if you have any doubts ask for some help, every skydiver should be able to do a visual inspection to ensure serviceability. Remember, it now has to last you six months.

This safety tip was written by Allan Hewitt

Read some real incident reports about this issue in the confidential reporting system.

Poor Maintenance

Don't try and save on equipment maintenance. poor maintenance is the cause of the majority of malfunctions

Good equipment maintenance is good common sense for two reasons: the cause of the majority of skydiving incidents can be linked to maintenance, secondly, trying to save on equipment maintenance is actually false economy. The cost of replacing velcro, a closure loop, a set of control lines, a pilot chute or even elastic bands is far cheaper than the cost of a reserve ride and reserve repack. The cost of an unplanned reserve inspection and repack is bad enough but when you have to pay for a lost freebag and reserve pilot chute it's even worse. You can even end up paying for the replacement cypres cutter or even to replace a lost canopy.

This safety tip was written by Allan Hewitt

Read some real incident reports about this issue in the confidential reporting system.

Correctly Assembled

Has your parachute equipment been correctly assembled?

Assembling a set of kit is a relatively simple thing to do for an experienced skydiver. Unfortunately, even well qualified and experienced riggers continue to make mistakes. The main reasons for assembly mistakes are as follows: lack of control in their working environment and poor inspection facilities, failure to do a job, walk away and then do a separate controlled inspection, failure to keep up to date with new equipment designs and lack of knowledge or experience. When buying a new rig find out who will be assembling it on your behalf and make sure they are qualified and experienced on your type of equipment. If it's not new you still need to make sure that the person who's doing the reserve inspection and repack is qualified and experienced on your system. Don't be afraid to ask questions and get a recommendation from someone you trust. Try and find out where they work and see if they have a controlled working environment with proper inspection facilities. In other words, do they have space to hand a canopy up for inspection, do they have a clean and tidy space for packing, do they have an obvious tool control system, do they provide you with documentation showing who assembled, who packed and who did any repair or maintenance work or modification. What you shouldn't do is blindly give your rig to a reserve packer just because they are local and available. You have to get to know your reserve packer and test his knowledge, it's your life that's on the line.

This safety tip was written by Allan Hewitt

Read some real incident reports about this issue in the confidential reporting system.

Suitable Equipment

Is your parachute system suitable for your chosen skydiving discipline?

Over the past decade, skydiving has developed rapidely, and it's still developing. The sport has many different skydiving disciplines that have become very specialised. Some disciplines are so specialised that skydivers have to chose one type and stick to it because their equipment isn't compatible for all disciplines. When an experienced skydiver moves into a new discipline they become a student allover again, there skill in a previous discipline may even hinder there ability in the new discipline. This is also be true when it comes to equipment. A perfectly safe rig designed for one discipline can become dangerous in another discipline. The biggest concern is older rigs being used in a new disciplines, like freefly or birdman which requires equipment to be more secure in different body positions. Always make sure that your equipment is compatible with your type of skydive.

This safety tip was written by Allan Hewitt

Read some real incident reports about this issue in the confidential reporting system.


Tracking is not just a freefall skill, it"s a major safety skill which must be mastered. A good track after a skydive will ensure you don't collide with another skydiver during deployment

Every skydiver learns to track during their basic training. The problem is that all, and I do mean all, skydivers get complacent with tracking at some point in their skydiving career. After a group skydive it's the responsibility of all skydivers to track away and make sure they're in clear airspace before deploying their parachute. During a five second track some skydivers can achieve a surprising amount of distance across the ground but others actually believe they've covered a good distance but in reality they've barely moved. This is a skill that should be tested and all skydivers should make sure they can cover a good distance in a short amount of time. While tracking, it's important to keep an eye on other skydivers and if need be do a track turn to get even further away from everyone. Every skydiver, at some point has proven their tracking ability, however, afeter an exciting skydive it's easy to forgert about your tracking ability as your mind is still on the skydive or getting back to the drop zone.

This safety tip was written by Allan Hewitt

Read some real incident reports about this issue in the confidential reporting system.

On Heading Openings

Does your parachute open on heading during every skydive? If not, why not?

An off heading deployment is the cause of many canopy collisions.The best way to avoid a collision is to track away from other skydivers into clear air space before you deploy. Unfortunately, this doesn't always happen. Skydivers may break off too low and not have time for a proper track or end up tracking in the same direction as another skydiver. Basically, everyone can have a bad day and make a quick regrettable decision so it's at this point that you will be glad you took your time on the ground to do a proper on heading pack job. Near misses are far too common and a collision can easily end up in a fatality report. Never just accept that off heading openings are part of the sport, they are a problem that should be given high priority, as prevention is much better than the cure.Ok, now for the complicated part, off heading openings are caused by many different factors, it's not just packing. Your complete system needs to be checked for known causes as well as your own packing skills. Read the "packing advise" safety tip below for more information. When packing has been ruled out then start to investigate all components that can cause off heading openings. pilot chutes, deployment bags, bride lines, line stowage, canopy trim. Be methodical and consistent when looking for the cause of off heading openings. The cause could be a combination of reasons. Talk to instructors and riggers and don't stop until you've solved the problem.

This safety tip was written by Allan Hewitt

Read some real incident reports about this issue in the confidential reporting system.

Packing Advice

When learning to pack don't accept advice from only one person. Confirm what you've been taught from a second or third qualified person. Different parachutes require different packing techniques.

Getting good packing advise should be a simple task, after all everyone knows how to pack, don't they? I suppose a good analogy is "everyone's a good driver, aren't they?". The majority of drivers like to think they are good drivers, but the police, ambulance service and the insurance companies probably disagree. I have spent many years investigating malfunctions and bad deployments, I have taught many students to pack like every other instructor, however, what you might find surprising is that I have also taught many instructors and riggers how to pack. It's true, you can become an instructor, a rigger and even a world class skydiver without really understanding the many different packing techniques. Just because everyone can pack it doesn't make them good packers. The majority of drivers would not make good driving instructors. It's only fair to say then that the majority of packers do not make good packing coaches.The good news, however, is that a parachute, really, wants to open, no matter how badly it's packed. It is because of this reason that skydivers get complacent with packing, after all it worked last time so it will work the next time, right? Every skydiver becomes accustomed to their deployments and may not even realise that it was a bad deployment.

A malfunction is usually caused by a chain of events so removing packing from the chain keeps you much safer. Far too many skydivers accept off heading openings as, just being, part of the sport. This is not true, they can be prevented and if you have a bad track and suddenly find yourself next to another skydiver on deployment you'll be glad that your parachute always opens on heading. Packing advise is a bit like chinese whispers, everyone passes the message on the way they think they heard it, but after a while the message becomes very different. This is probably why there are many misconceptions and myths about packing. In addition to the human factor packing has been further complicated by the massive variations in canopy design and different materials used. The result of this is that a good pack job on one canopy can actually cause a problem on another canopy. Canopies that are all ZP have different deployment characteristics compared to FIll canopies and canopies with both ZP and FIll material are different again. The line type is also a contributing factor, some lines stretch during deployment and absorb shock better than others. The deployment system can also affect the deployment characteristics. The pilotchute, deployment bag, container type and even the elastic bands can all change a deployment as well as the age of the equipment.When learning to pack you must get to know your specific equipment, your deployment system and any advise must take into account your actual opening results so you always get on heading smooth openings. When you change your equipment, start allover again and learn about your new system. Always question every piece of advise that you're given

This safety tip was written by Allan Hewitt

Read some real incident reports about this issue in the confidential reporting system.

Landing Area

Choose your landing area and an alternative landing area as high as possible

If you think about this after every deployment then you won't become one of the many incident reports about skydivers hitting obstacles. There is no reason for anyone to land near an obstacle, Unfortunately, most skydivers don't give this much thought until one appears in front of them. If you can't make your known safe landing area then the higher you make a decision on an alternative landing area the more chance you have of landing in a safe obstacle free environment. This is even more important when jumping at unfamiliar drop zones.

This safety tip was written by Allan Hewitt

Read some real incident reports about this issue in the confidential reporting system.

Evasive Action

Always be prepared to take evasive action on deployment. Take control of your rear risers because this is the fastest way to achieve directional control

While tracking away from other skydivers you should be aware of all their locations. If you spot someone not tracking away from you then, as long as no one is on your other side, do a track turn and get further away. Now you're in clear air space and deploying your canopy you have to keep looking for other skydivers as you check your canopy. Don't get carried away taking off your brakes or setting your slider until your sure your safely away from any canopy that could cause you a problem.You should always be ready to take evasive action and the quickest way to do that is to use your real risers to change the heading of your canopy. If as you check your canopy you see that it's about to head off heading you can correct it very quickly by using your rear risers much quicker than your control toggles. Your drills may have to be different when jumping different equipment and what works well for one person might not work the best for another, therefore, give some thought to your situation and if need be get some advise as to what's best for you and your equipment.

Having said the above, my drills are very different when I jump my small canopy as I've adapted a system where I automatically reach up and take off my toggles as I look around for other canopies while my canopy is still deploying, by the time my slider is down I am heading in what ever direction I choose. I then check my canopy and remove my slider. I have a great deal of confidence knowing that my canopy always opens on heading when I pack it. I never look for my control toggles, they just jump into my hands and I never check my canopy until I know that I am clear of other canopies. If I have a malfunction I know that I will feel it before I see it. My, 9 year old, son can pack my canopy without my assistance but he's not yet mastered on heading openings, when I jump one of his pack jobs I change my drills and use my risers and when I jump borrowed equipment I use my risers. The best system for you is what works best, it's results that count so give this some thought and make sure you don't get caught in a near miss while you're too busy taking off your toggles or adjusting your slider. Finally, don't change what you've been taught without taking a lot of advise, what you do has to depend on the equipment you're jumping and your experience level. being prepared for evasive action is the third deployment survival skill, the first is do a good track, the second is pack for an on heading opening.

This safety tip was written by Allan Hewitt

Read some real incident reports about this issue in the confidential reporting system.

Landing Direction

When visiting new drop zones take note of the landing direction in relation to the sun before you jump.

This will help you make early landing decisions if you have a bad spot and miss the drop zone, or you can't see the wind direction under canopy. When I visited a large popular drop zone I opened my canopy in the middle of a large town with no idea of the wind direction. To add to the problem I was jumping my brand new 110 sq.ft canopy designed for swooping. I had one location that was safe to land on but no idea of the wind direction and all my skills as a seasoned display jumper couldn't help me. The sun was low and behind me, when I landed. I realised I should have been facing the sun for an into wind landing.

This safety tip was written by Allan Hewitt

Read some real incident reports about this issue in the confidential reporting system.

Old Habits

When upgrading to a high performance canopy, it's important to break old habits and learn new skills. Failure to do this could be very dangerous

Having investigated many skydiving accidents, it's frustrating to see an accident that was caused by a maneuver that would have worked on the jumpers old canopy but failed to work on their new canopy. In resent years canopy piloting courses have become available which is an important step when upgrading to a high performance canopy. However, it's not just about high performance canopies, everyone who changes a canopy needs to learn the characteristics of their new canopy, especially if they differ from your previous canopy. This is especially true when down sizing. No matter what type of canopy you're jumping always spend a lot of jump, purely to get to know your new canopy. Learn what you can and can't do in a safe air space and in a safe landing zone away from other canopies. Learn about it's opening characteristics and how best to pack it for consistent on heading openings.

This safety tip was written by Allan Hewitt

Read some real incident reports about this issue in the confidential reporting system.

Compatible Components

When assembling a set of equipment, how can you confirm that the main and reserve parachutes are compatible with the container?

A canopy - main or reserve - that's too small or too big for your container can cause serious problems. The majority of container manufactures have published guide lines to show the maximum and minimum pack volumes that the container is limited to. All canopies have a set volume size which, in theory, should make it easy to ensure compatibility. However, life is never that simple. Manufactures have measured the pack volumes using different methods and in the past it's been difficult to compare canopy volume size against the container volume size. Also, a canopy volume tested in a hot climate will be different to one tested in a cold climate for the exact same canopy. Basically, the numbers are a guide but not an exact science. This has become more accurate with the PIA volume table because they have used the same testing method for all canopies. This makes comparing canopy volumes between parachute manufacturers much easier.

Another way of making sure that the canopy is compatible with the container is to look at which canopies the manufacturers have installed and tested in their containers. Be careful to note the canopy design details, over the years the manufacturers have changed material suppliers and the volume has changed and also make note of whether the canopy has microline or dacron lines etc. The person who assembles the complete assembly is responsible for ensuring that all components are compatible. Canopies that are too small for your container are more prone to premature deployments or bad deployments whichcan cause other problems. Canopies that are too big for your container can put strain on and damage the container causing problems and even prevent deployment. In addition to canopy volume compatibility, all the components on your container should be well integrated and must work flawlessly together. If you change any component part and the new component is not a perfect match, then the complete system is no longer well integrated and a problem will exist and that flaw in the system will sit and wait for the right moment to give you a big surprise.

This safety tip was written by Allan Hewitt

Read some real incident reports about this issue in the confidential reporting system.

Correct Risers

Do you have the correct type of risers on your container?

The 3 ring risers on your container become very important when you need to do an emergency cutaway. What's not so obvious, is that the type of risers you use have to be compatible with the container. Some risers are interchangeable and can be swapped between containers, however, others will fail if the design parameters are not met. There are many containers and riser designs that have been built to very different specifications; materials differ in thickness and width, hardware differs in size and thickness. The design specification for a set of risers are matched specifically to the container hardware and it's location, high mounted or low mounted attachment points. Risers differ in length and some require a specific type and length of cutaway cable. If you own a rig that has it's original risers then you've got no problems, however, if your risers were added to your container and they're not supplied by the original manufacturer then you must consult a rigger to ensure they are compatible, or even better, the manufacturer.

This safety tip was written by Allan Hewitt

Read some real incident reports about this issue in the confidential reporting system.

Closure Loops

Is your main closure loop in good condition and is it the correct length?

A main closure loop gets used and abused at every repack, it takes a lot of strain and wear and tear. Unfortunately, every skydiver becomes very complacent when it comes to replace the closure loop. I'm willing to bet that everyone at some point or another has said "it'll be alright for another few jumps".The reason for this is quite simple, whenever you need to change it the time in never convenient or you don't have a spare one available. Do yourself a big favour; buy twenty closure loops and put some in your rig bag, some in your log book and some in your packing mat so no matter what the situation is you can always swap a closure loop in seconds. Have them pre tied and with washers installed. The next time you need a closure loop, it won't be inconvenient as it will only take seconds to do. At the beginning of the day during your pre jump inspection make sure it's imperfect condition and the correct length or change it before you start the days programme. If you're not sure about the correct length check your rig manual or consult a rigger. Some rigs need all grommets pulled together for a proper closure but others need them offset. Make sure you know what's right for your rig.

This safety tip was written by Allan Hewitt

Read some real incident reports about this issue in the confidential reporting system.

Line lengths

Canopy lines stretch, shrink and break. When did you last replace yours?

Canopies are supplied with many different types of lines. Some lines stretch during deployment while others shrink with each deployment. Both these can happen to your line set at the same time and cause your canopy to become out of trim. The inner A lines usually stretch which is caused by the heavy load placed on them during deployment, while outer lines shrink which is caused by the slider racing down the lines. The results can be regular off heading openings, bad landings or even worse. The smaller the parachute the quicker it deteriates. The thinner the lines, the quicker they deteriate. Some manufacturers recommend replacing control lines every two hundred jumps and a full line set after 500 jumps. If your lines are looking old and frayed then the chances of a line breakage is high. Be very diligent when checking your lines, especially, your control lines, if you have any doubt at all then consult your rigger. Remember that your main canopy is not part of your six monthly inspection so it's your responsibility to monitor line wear. You can always ask your rigger to inspect your main at the same time as your reserve inspection and repack.

Is your canopy flying and opening like it used to? Lines change length over time and use - perhaps you need a new line set

As a rigger and instructor I've known this for years, however, when I changed my lines for a new line set I was amazed at how much difference it actually made. It was like flying a brand new canopy all over again. I had become used to my openings and how my canopy was flying and even though I knew that my canopy was deteriating I altered my packing and flying methods to compensate without realising it. I was like a kid with a new toy I couldn't wait to jump again so I could swoop in to landing and cover a distance that I never expected from my canopy. As a rigger you can only get so much information from a visual inspection and that's why manufacturers set a different line set interval for some canopies. It can be anything from 500 jumps to 1,000 jumps. depending on the line type and canopy design.

This safety tip was written by Allan Hewitt

Read some real incident reports about this issue in the confidential reporting system.


Twists are not just a nuisance factor. many reserve rides have been attributed to twists, and they've also been the cause of many serious incidents, which could have been prevented

When a solo skydiver gets twists in clear air space, they are usually nothing more than a nuisance. However, when you progress through the sport you need to be aware of the consequences of getting twists when it's not safe to have them. Because twists are generally refereed to as a nuisance factor skydivers seem to accept twists as being part of the sport instead of learning how to prevent them. There are many reasons why a canopy can go into twists, packing is the main cause, however, equipment design is also a factor. Some canopies are more prone to twists than others and some deployment systems can cause twists and your body position can also contribute to twists.

If you get twists then the first step in solving the problem is to rule out equipment problems that increase the risk of twists, if it only goes into twists when you pack it then it's more likely your packing method that's at fault. Some times it's just a matter of trial an error to find the cause but the majority can be found quite easily if you know what to look for. Line stowage is a big cause, canopy folding is another, deployment bag elastics contribute in a big way, equipment maintenance or even the pack volume could be the cause.

To find the cause start with body position, then equipment then packing. have someone watch you deploy, are you facing on heading and stay on heading during the whole deployment, are your shoulders square during the deployment. Have your equipment inspected for any thing that is known to cause twists

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