What to do if your parachute fails

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2017/11/14/what-to-do-if-your-parachute-f.html


A close relative had his main parachute fail (collapse) in the desert. He managed to disengage and open the backup chute, but very close to the ground. Multiple fracture of one leg, quite a lot of hospital time (but more or less full recovery). The guy in the next bed had medical insurance that did not include painkillers. He was much less fortunate.
Years later I mentioned this to an ex-RAF pilot of my acquaintance. He made the standard remark: Anybody who jumps out of a fully functional aircraft not under enemy attack has to be crazy.

(In the same way an ex-Navy colleague once told us of his experience at Dartmouth. They went out into the Dart in a boat and the petty officer told them they had to jump in the water and swim back to the boat. So they jumped in - and he engaged the outboard and started to move slowly away. By the time they got back on board they were exhausted.
Then the CPO says “What did you gentlemen learn from this lesson?”
“Well,” says one of them, “I think I’ve learnt not to fall in the fucking water.”
“That is correct, Sir. That is indeed the thing you have learned today. If at all possible, do not fall in the water.”
This arose after I mentioned that my father, who went through D-Day and the Japanese war, said that the most dangerous thing that happened to him in the Navy was falling in the water after the Admiral’s party to celebrate victory over Japan. He was fished out by a CPO.)


In a comment containing several astonishing things, that is the most jaw-dropping! :open_mouth:


As I understand it the US military advice is to assume a head first position. You’ll die in any case, but at least it will be quick, not a slow agonizing death looking at the remains of your legs sticking out through your shoulders.

Otherwise Philip José Farmer had an interesting idea for the real macho man (Tarzan): when you fall down towards the ocean throw a hand grenade ahead of you so it bursts under the surface. This will create a nice cushion of bubbles to break your fall if you get the timing perfect. At least in theory. And if you have a hand grenade but no parachute.


If my parachute failed, I’d probably try to break every bone in my body while leaving a reddish smear on the landscape.
Traditions exist for a reason, folks.


Start flapping.

While they say that the only thing that falls out of the sky is bird crap & idiots etc - this was a bucket list experience that I was really glad to have done.

Unlike military jumps where they try to bring you in as low as possible so people have less time to shoot you - civilians jump really high up to maximize your experience- which means plenty of time to use a back up.

It’s not without risk, of course. Then again- some neighborhoods I’ve lived in were really dangerous back in the day- being trans can be really dangerous- bacon :bacon:- not safe. You check out in a box whatever you do - a little fun along the way ain’t so scary.

“According to the United States Parachuting Association, there are an estimated 3 million jumps per year, and the fatality count is only 21 (for 2010). That’s a 0.0007% chance of dying from a skydive, compared to a 0.0167% chance of dying in a car accident (based on driving 10,000 miles).”


“If you go parachuting,
and your parachute doesn’t open,
and your friends are all watching you fall,
I think a funny gag would be to pretend you were swimming.” - Jack Handey


Don’t panic,

Roger That!


I only know one skydiver, and he does things like jump out of a plane while not wearing a parachute, or exit the plane in a car, or jump out of one plane and climb into another plane. But he’s never had to land without a parachute, because he repacks his own parachute as if his very life depends on it, which it does.


But not 100% reliably. Fall through fir trees into snow and you might survive, as happened to someone in WW2.

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I remember seeing on Discovery or somewhere else where a guy had both parachutes fail and he ended up accidentally falling on a tree. The tree somehow saved the guy’s life and he survived, i’m sure he took extensive damage but still… crazy to live through something like that. Still it seems to me that if everything fails you’re just screwed.

That being said, i still want to skydive. Something i’ve always wanted to do and i’m hoping to be able to do so next year.


Nah. People have survived falling thousands of feet without a parachute.

A couple decades ago someone landed in a cornfield downstate, and hit spreadeagled back down in a furrow. The soft tilled earth between the rows prevented any significant damage to head, pelvis or spine, but the skydiver’s legs and arms were impaled by the corn stalks. Anecdotally, the searchers just followed the sound of the cursing, which could be heard from a fair distance.


This is in line with my first thought after reading the headline. The scenario would probably go like this:

  1. Someone convinces me to travel by plane.
  2. The plane begins to crash.
  3. Everyone else jumps (including the jerk who convinced me that it would be safe).
  4. I try the controls myself ('cause hours spent playing flight simulator games might save me).
  5. Plane is still descending (thanks for nothing, EA).
  6. I jump, too.
  7. Upon discovering that my parachute won’t open, I begin screaming and cursing the rest of the way down until…SPLAT.

Hopefully, I would die from acrophobia-induced heart attack before the end of my solo flight! :fearful:


A small critique of this plan: This sounds like it would take a lot of practice to get the timing down pat.

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On the way down… finally say naughty things about the chute manufacturer.

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Being pedantic, I’m sure lots of people have.
It’s the last couple of metres that seems to be the problem.


Oh screw all you naysayers. That’s like the best reason ever to panic.


There was a bloke called Pilot Officer Pat Brophy who survived hitting the ground in a blazing, fully laden Lancaster. Some people have such weird lives.

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