Don’t get complacent when setting your brakes properly

Out of the 19 licensed skydivers who had malfunctions in a 2-month period between consecutive British Skydiving STC meetings, six of them had a similar lesson to learn: be careful when setting your brakes!

  1. A skydiver with 96 jumps had a spinning canopy caused by a jammed right toggle
  2. Someone with 305 jumps had a toggle release on deployment that tangled with the lines and could not be cleared
  3. The third chop was a jumper with 1,925 jumps whose toggle jammed on a removable slider ring, caused by not stowing the steering line excess
  4. A skydiver with 1,000 jumps had a brake fire causing the canopy to spin
  5. The fifth cutaway was  a skydiver with 4,000 jumps whose steering line excess jammed with the toggle
  6. The sixth skydiver had a brake fire on their 2,357th jump, causing line twists

The STC minutes note “It is likely that all six cutaways could have been prevented by carefully stowing steering toggles and securing the excess”.

Are you sure you are stowing your excess steering line correctly? Have you checked the packing manual for your specific container? Most of them are available online. As a general rule, the excess line should be stowed from the top keeper downwards. Some risers have one keeper and some have two, made of either nylon or elastic, but a general rule is that stowing from the bottom upwards is a recipe for a jam!

“But I’ve always stowed mine the ‘wrong’ way and it’s always released?” – unfortunately this is not a guarantee that it will continue to release smoothly every time, but it pretty much is a guarantee that you are causing excess wear and tear to the brakeline, riser and keeper. This could cost you money if it snaps on the ground, or it could cost life or limb if it snaps as you flare for landing.

Main image: On this malfunction, the culprits were brake lines that were too fuzzy and needed replacing. Double stowing fuzzy lines caused a bulk and then led to a tension knot. It was still a factor that could have been prevented. Photo by Alex Potter.

 First published in the October 2021 issue of Skydive the Mag.