Every skydiving student has had that worrying thought, ‘what happens if your parachute doesn’t open?’ It can quickly fill you with dread and fear, thinking of the permutations. Let’s be honest, while it can and does happen, it is incredibly rare, and you have more chance of having a severe car accident on the way to the jump spot than having a serious skydiving accident.
With that said, skydiving is about fear and courage, and knowing it’s a rare occurrence doesn’t stop the thoughts running through your mind and getting your heart pounding! In fact, it’s good to consider these possible dangers and know what to do in all circumstances, no matter how unlikely.
So let’s take a look at what happens if your parachute doesn’t open. We will also look at why parachutes occasionally don’t open and dare to think about what would happen if your reserve parachute also failed!
What happens if your skydiving parachute doesn’t open?
We’ve said it many times before, and it’s true, skydiving is a lot safer than most people think. However, it does carry some risks. Most skydiving accidents happen with the parachute open, usually due to poor judgment or avoidable risks taking during the landing. Broken legs, sprained ankles, and fractured pelvises are heard of far more than a fall where the parachute is unflyable.
On the rare occasion that a parachute doesn’t open, there is a reserve canopy in place. This backup parachute will deploy if the main parachute doesn’t open. The chances of the main parachute and reserve parachutes both not opening is millions to one.
The reserve shoot is a super solid plan b. If for any reason, your main parachute doesn’t open or is faulty, the thing to remember is to stay calm, and the reserve will come to your rescue; the most significant risk to the reserve parachute not saving you is panic.
In some rare circumstances, the main parachute may open but become twisted or unflyable. You may need to cut away the main chute and then deploy your reserve in this situation. Most modern parachute setups have the reserve parachute in a separate container from the main canopy. A simple three-ring release system will jettison or cut away the main chute, which releases it in a split second. If for any reason, the parachute doesn’t release, skydivers carry a hook knife to finish the job. Once the main parachute is clear, the reserved will deploy.
How do you use your reserve parachute?
If your main parachute doesn’t open, stay calm and take a deep breath. If you are an amateur skydiver, you will already be jumping and deploying at a height that allows plenty of time to correct such issues.
To start, get in the breakaway position. This position ensures you stay stable and your reserve will open clearly and not risk any tangles. The breakaway position involves spreading your legs as wide as possible, arching your back, and keeping your head up.
If your main parachute opened but is unflyable, you should locate and grab the breakaway handle with both hands (usually on your right). Once you have it gripped, fix your eyes on your reserve handle, which will be on the opposite side (it’s important to stare at the following handle and keep calm and focussed). You can then pull the breakaway, which will release your defunct parachute. Once it is clear of you (usually within a second or two), you can pull your reserve handle to open the chute.
If your main chute didn’t open at all, there is no need to use the breakaway handle; you can go straight to pulling your reserve. The reserve handle is usually a metal or red cloth loop on your left. Once your reserve chute is open and you are floating to the ground, take a look down and start preparing for your landing. You may need to brace for a faster or more difficult landing as you have deployed lower than planned. Make sure to find a suitable landing spot and point your feet to the ground with your heels up and with not too much stiffness in your legs.
What happens if your reserve parachute doesn’t open?
It seldom happens, but if your reserve chute also fails to open or malfunctions, you have not to panic and try to think clearly. While this is a dangerous situation, people have survived great falls and skydives without a parachute, and the one thing all these survivors had in common was making intelligent decisions.
Firstly, you should spread your body out as wide and horizontal as possible in an X shape; any speed reduction you can cause will help. Then it would help if you started planning the safest possible landing sport.
Anything that can absorb the impact will be best, such as snow, tree branches, marshy areas, or a freshly plowed field. Stay clear of any hard and solid surfaces such as concrete or hard, flat earth. Water can also be a wrong choice; not only will it cause a significant impact, but you will likely be made unconscious and drown even if you survived the impact.
To move into position, try to tilt with your elbow and maintain the spread position. When you are close to the ground, you need to get into the landing position.
You should adjust to falling feet first, with your heels up and toes pointed to the ground. Keep your knees slightly bent and flexibly, and bring your arms into your body. You will then need to brace for a strong impact.
Don’t worry, the chances of a parachute not opening are greater than one in 1,000, and the possibility of the reserve also not opening or being unflyable is more than one in a million.