lundi 12 juillet 2010

Always pack your own parachute

Disclaimer: This story probably won't make you want to skydive. (But I do have many MORE stories that WILL make you want to skydive!)

Last weekend was a busy one. I did ten organized group jumps at a dropzone (skydiving centre) north of Montreal, one of which was a two-plane, 27-person formation (my biggest yet!). (Poor MB, he's going to be so jealous...)

It was an amazing weekend, but unfortunately, it ended on a sour note...

It was unbearably hot all weekend. Up in the air, we were quite comfortable -- I hate it when it's cold! But even if we tried to stay out of the sun between skydives, by the end of the afternoon yesterday, we had no energy left to keep packing our own parachutes (which is pretty much the most labour-intensive part of skydiving). So my friend JL and I decided to have our parachutes packed by the staff at the dropzone. Letting someone else pack my parachute always makes me nervous, especially when I don’t know them, but we just couldn’t bear to do it in the heat anymore (and we wanted to keep jumping!).

Usually "packers" are very experienced -- they pack parachutes all day and can do it faster and better than I can. But while JL’s parachute was being packed, she overheard one of the instructors go, “hey, what the hell are you doing?” He had just walked through the packing tent and seen the kid who was packing JL's parachute apparently doing a really botched job. This kid apparently grumbled something, started over, but finished up in a matter of minutes and then brought JL her parachute.

Obviously JL was really nervous, so we opened up the pack just a bit to see what the inside looked like. It was messy. The lines (the cords going from the risers to the fabric portion of the parachute) were all uneven and looked like they had been stuffed any which way into the bag. Some people have a very carefree attitude about packing their parachutes (saying "oh, it'll open up no matter how you pack it" -- which isn't exactly true), but JL is rather the type to always pack her parachute in a neat and tidy fashion (so am I, for that matter). Seeing JL so panic-stricken, on the verge of tears, we all told her that she should sit out the jump and take the time to re-pack that mess, but she didn’t want to “mess up our dive”. (We would have had to quickly plan another freefall routine without her, but so what?)

Finally, her boyfriend just helped her straighten out what he could without completely unpacking the parachute. He tried to reassure her that it would be fine, that this kid had packed his parachute all day and he hadn't had any problems. But the whole time we were walking to the plane, I was looking at her, seeing how anxious she was, and telling myself I should insist, and tell her she shouldn’t take the chance. Finally, I didn't go any farther. I figured she was an adult and I couldn’t tell her what to do.

Well, unsurprisingly, the parachute didn’t open properly. The lines were all tangled and it spun her out of control, so she had to use her reserve parachute for the very first time (after about 800 jumps without a single problem -- probably because she always packs her parachute so well!).

Now obviously, that's what the reserve parachute is there for, and all's well that ends well. JL is fine -- physically at least. But I felt sick to my stomach for not having insisted she sit out the jump –- it could have ended much worse. What would you have done in my situation??

Not a great ending to a fun weekend.

2 commentaires:

  1. Moi je suis cheap. Nonobstant les dangers de ne pas se plier soi-même, voici l'équation qui me hante : 6 packings jobs @ 6$/packing job = 1 saut.

  2. Eek. :( I am glad she is fine. That sounds super scary. What happened after this with the guy who packed the parachute? Did he find out that it didn't open???

    Also....did you see yet today? :)