Rigs vs. Doors

Recently, one of our licensed jumpers took it upon himself to remind us all about keeping our rigs away from the edges of the aircraft door when rotating out to a floater exit. It’s a great reminder for all of us, because it’s far too easy to get too comfortable and complacent about safety aspects such as this when we’re focusing on a crazy new exit or type of skydive. The trick is to never be complacent!

Why is it important to keep your rig off the door? There are a couple of big reasons, and they are both major safety concerns.

  1. Contacting the door with your rig on climbout can knock your flaps open and even your pins loose, potentially resulting in a horseshoe malfunction or immediate premature deployment of your main or reserve. This has implications for your safety as well as that of the jumpers in your group, any jumpers still in the aircraft, the aircraft itself, and the pilot. A prematurely deploying canopy can rip you off the aircraft and knock your buddies off the plane as well. Entanglements and injuries are possible. Not only that, but a parachute deploying off the aircraft door could also go over the tail, causing damage to the tail and potentially crashing it. This is more of a risk in the Caravan than with the Otter, but neither is immune (and other aircraft with low tails are also at higher risk).
  2. Contacting the door with your rig can damage your rig, especially if there are any sharp sheet metal edges or hinges. Damage could range from a cosmetic scuff on the material to a cut that needs rigger repair to return it to airworthy status. Your rig is a lifesaving device; treat it as such and protect it at all times!

So back to floater exit technique: The wrong way to turn out for a floater exit is whatever way risks scraping your rig on the edge of the door; the right way is to keep your rig towards the center of the door as you rotate out to a floater position. For example, if you’re floating near the front of the door on a left-door aircraft, pivot clockwise as you climb out to float to keep your rig away from the front edge of the door. If you’re rear floating, pivot counter-clockwise to keep your rig off the rear edge of the door.

If you’re in the center of front and rear floaters, it doesn’t matter which way you turn but your front floater will be experiencing more prop blast, so he/she might appreciate it if you rotate your rig toward the rear so you don’t knock them off the plane. 🙂

Keep an eye out on jumpers practicing exits in the mockups; chances are good that you’ll see someone turning the wrong way on climbout before too long. Help them out by reminding them to keep rigs to the center of the door; the life you save could be your own!

Think about protecting your rig on every exit; not just floater exits. See #7 in this article on hop-and-pop safety for more thoughts on keeping your rig clear of the door for other types of exits. And always, always do a thorough gear check before gearing up and before exiting.

Blue skies and fly safe!