BASE Malfunctions

There are 3 Points of Death in a BASE jump — by Douggs
There are 3 Points of Death in a BASE jump — by Douggs

Following on from last week's rant, 'THINK!!“', below is a word for word extract from my “Learn to base jump” teaching syllabus on MALFUNCTIONS.

We teach this lesson military style and make sure after each malfunction the student states that he/she understands. We add to each malfunction by telling several horror and success stories of how, why and why not as well as video evidence which we are constantly gathering.

It is a critical part of the sport and needs to be addressed in a serious way. I am far from saying that this lesson is perfect but it has been working for our base jumping school and I am happy to open source this to all base jumpers to help keep them and their students alive and to help keep our beautiful but fragile base jumping sites alive.

by Charlie Andrew
by Charlie Andrew

MALFUNCTIONS LESSON

This is the most critical lesson of the whole course. A malfunction can happen on each and every single jump whether it be minor or major, even when everything has been done correctly. The most important way to deal with a malfunction is “PREVENTION”

Prevention

Prevention means to do everything possible before and during the jump to make sure no malfunctions occur. The word ‘prevention’ must be stated after the end of explaining how to deal with each malfunction.

Examples of prevention include, but are not limited to:

  • Packing correctly, paying attention to detail
  • Using properly maintained gear
  • Visualization
  • Over learning
  • Jumping only in good weather conditions
  • Knowing your limits
  • Not jumping at all

If a malfunction does occur, it is critically important to be ready to deal with whatever the malfunction is and the best way to do this is through visualization. It is proven that the brain knows no difference to visualizing something and actually doing it. So visualize as much as possible from your POV and also from an outside perspective. It is critical to saving your life if a malfunction does occur.

There are 3 stages of Points of Death on a BASE jump — by Douggs
There are 3 stages of Points of Death on a BASE jump — by Douggs

Points of death

Another good way to explain how to deal with malfunction is to explain the order in which you will get hurt or killed if you do not deal with a malfunction correctly.

This is called ‘Points of death’. There are three stages of points of deaths. They are: Ground, object, ground. Below is an example of points of death and how to prevent death. This example can be used for all malfunctions:

  • First point of death: Ground
  • Prevention: Open parachute
  • Second point of death: Object
  • Prevention: Turn away from object using risers or toggles
  • Third point of death: Ground
  • Prevention: Flare or PLF

Malfunction Types

Malfunctions include but are not limited to:

  1. Off heading
  2. 180 degree off heading
  3. Brake off
  4. Line twists
  5. Off heading with line twists
  6. Line over
  7. Tension knots
  8. PC in Tow
  9. Can’t find pilot chute
  10. Bridle wrap

Below is how to deal with each malfunction

Prevention – jumping from a bridge means an off-heading is not a danger — by Douggs
Prevention – jumping from a bridge means an off-heading is not a danger — by Douggs

1. Off heading

Definition: An off heading is when your parachute does not open on the desired heading.

Prevention: Pack symmetrical, jump in good weather conditions, good body position, only jump objects where this is not a danger (bridges).

How to deal with it: There are two different ways to deal with an off heading if it does occur. Risers & Toggles. Both of these have advantages and disadvantages.

Toggles:

Pros: Toggles are good if the object is very low, as you will not lose as much height when steering away form the object. Cons: You do have a chance of fumbling and losing a toggle, which will chew up precious time. You can cause your canopy to surge. Chance of a brake lock.

Risers:

Pros: They have a lot larger surface area in which to grab. Can be very quick if done correctly. Cons: You will sink out a lot more. You can grab the wrong riser group. If not pulled correctly you can chew up precious time.

How to deal with it: If an off heading is less than 90 degrees then, depending on the jump you can most likely just pop your toggles and fly away as normal. But if your off heading if more than 90 degrees off heading then you must deal with it. The most important thing to know is that you only need to correct your off heading enough to avoid the second point of death, which is the object.

You can either:

  1. Pop your toggle and steer away from the object
  2. Pull down on one rear riser and steer away from the object
  3. Pull down both rear risers to stall canopy and then pull one rear riser down even more to steer away form the object
  4. Pull down on both rear risers to stall canopy and then pull one down further and let one up to steer away from the object
180° off heading — by Dominik Loyen
180° off heading — by Dominik Loyen

2. 180° off heading

Definition: When your parachute opens completely the opposite way that it should be facing

Prevention: Pack symmetrical, jump in good weather conditions, good body position, only jump objects where this is not a danger (bridges)

How to deal with it: The most important thing to know is that you only need to correct your 180 off heading enough to avoid the second point of death with is the object. This is a critical malfunction though and MUST be dealt with.

You can either:

  1. Pop your toggle and steer away from the object
  2. Pull down on one rear riser and steer away from the object
  3. Pull down both rear risers to stall canopy and then pull one rear riser down even more to steer away form the object
  4. Pull down on both rear risers to stall canopy and then pull one down further and let one up to steer away from the object

Note: It may be possible to continue turning your 180 off heading and making it a 360 degree turn thus putting your canopy back on heading.

3. Brake off (Toggle fire, slider down)

Definition: When your toggle either dislodges from its keeper or comes out of your hands on opening.

Prevention: Set your brakes correctly. Grab your toggles tightly and at the right moment.

How to deal with it: If you have a toggle fire you can either:

  1. Steer with one rear riser and one toggle and flare with one riser and one toggle. It is best to set up your landing using your toggle for ease of steering and then PLF on landing.
  2. Throw the remaining toggle and fly and land on rear risers.

Note: be very careful when flying and flaring with rear risers as it is easy to “panic” flare, which is where you pull down too much on the rear risers causing the canopy to stall. You only need to turn your fist / wrist 90 degrees to initiate flare and then finish off with a PLF.

Line twists — by Mick Knutson
Line twists — by Mick Knutson

4. Line twists

Definition: Where your lines have twisted and you are unable to fly your parachute.

Prevention: Pack symmetrical, jump in good weather conditions, good body position, only jump objects where this is not a danger (bridges)

How to deal with it: If the parachute is on heading or only slightly off heading and is not in danger of hitting any objects all the way until landing then simply kick out of the twists just like you would on a skydive.

If the parachute is off heading and there is a danger of hitting any objects then you must climb above your line twist and grab the correct line group and steer away from the object. Once you are clear of the second point of death then you can kick out of the line twists just like you would on a skydive.

If you are unable to kick out of your line twists before landing you must PLF.

5. Line over

Definition: When a line, most likely a brake line has gone over the front of the parachute causing a bow-tie effect either on one side of the canopy or in the middle of the canopy.

Prevention: Pack correctly; use a tail gate, tape gate or slider gate. Jump in good weather conditions.

How to deal with it:

Slider down: If your toggle is outside your rings then simply throw that toggle and it will clear the line over. Then go to rear risers and PLF on landing.

Slider up: If you don’t have WLO toggles then you need to attempt to stop the canopy from spinning and away from the object. Then you must grab your hook knife, identify the correct line and cut the line.

If you have WLO toggles then you need to attempt to stop the canopy from spinning and away from the object, then pop your toggle and pull on your WLO toggle release.

You can also do this in the opposite order where possible.

Tension Knot — by Douggs
Tension Knot — by Douggs

6. Tension knots

Definition: When your line(s) create a knot during the opening sequence and remain until the suspended weight tension is released.

Prevention: Maintain your lines and replace them when they begin to wear. Pack neatly. Jump in good conditions. Do not BASE jump

How to deal with it:

  • Tension knots are the Russian roulette of BASE jumping still to this day. They are hard to deal with, if at all.
  • You can try to stop the spinning by grabbing the correct riser group and then try to shock load the line group in hope that you will release the tension. This may cause you to stall your canopy.
  • You may also try popping the appropriate brake line and pulling the WLO toggle but this may or may not increase the spin.
  • You may try to cut the appropriate line group to release the knot.

Note: realistically you will not have enough time to do any / all of these so it is best to try to average out the spin / stall and try to head towards the softest landing area. Possibly a tree, water, soft ground or a downward sloping area.

Tension knots are the Russian roulette of BASE jumping still to this day

7. PC in Tow

Definition: Where your pilot chute is dragging behind you preventing your parachute from opening.

Prevention: Route your bridle correctly, do a gear check, get your buddy to gear check you.

How to deal with it: You can either turn your shoulders and look back at your pilot chute to disrupt the air flow or you can go into a sitting position which will disrupt the airflow and this will also sit you against the bridle so you can reach up above and behind you and pull on the bridle to release the pins.

8. Unable to find pilot chute

Definition: When you cannot locate your pilot chute at the beginning of the opening sequence

Prevention: Pack your pilot chute correctly, do a gear check, get your buddy to gear check you. Get yourself familiar with the position of your pilot chute.

How to deal with it: You deal with this the same as skydiving. Either:

  • Reach around on the far side of your BOC and run your hand back to where to the BOC.
  • Reach up your torso and run your hand down to your BOC.
  • Reach down to your leg and run your hand up to you BOC
Never give up!
Bridle wrap
Bridle wrap

9 Bridle wrap

Definition: When you wrap your bridle around a part of your body or gear

Prevention: Route your pilot chute correctly, ensure you have no snag points on your gear, helmet etc, jump in good weather conditions

How to deal with it: If wrapped around your hand you need to identify the direction of the wrap and either unwrap it with your other hand or shake it off. If it is wrapped around your gear then you need to physically unwrap it. Never give up!

Previous article by Douggs THINK!!

Articles originally published in Blue Skies magazine

This article was originally published on skydivemag

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