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:
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.
Remember: WHEN IT DOUBT, WHIP IT OUT!
Originally published in Sport Parachutist's Safety Journal V1, #5 Jan./Feb. 1989.
Dedicated to enhancing sport parachuting safety by disseminating information about equipment, environments and human factors.