While exiting as part of the base group from a Skyvan during a big-way formation skydiving event, this experienced jumper’s container rubbed against the door, which caused the main closing pin to dislodge. When the jumper reached the bottom of the hill, the main deployment bag was still in place but the container flaps were open. Two other highly experienced skydivers who were on the jump immediately recognized the problem and realized that a horseshoe malfunction—a very dangerous malfunction in which a parachute deploys but is attached to the jumper in more than one place—was developing. One of those jumpers flew up and—after some animated “this is bad” pointing—held the main deployment bag in place in the container. The other jumper then swooped in and deployed the main pilot chute. The main parachute opened properly, and the jumper landed under it safely (albeit after a long and cold flight from approximately 14,000 feet).
Although there were 60-plus jumpers on this skydive, none were directly above the center of the formation since they used a “stadium approach,” where the jumpers spread out in tiers surrounding the formation.
This jumper had performed a pin check while in the plane. The jumper had oriented the pin to the left, possibly allowing the pin to dislodge more easily than it if it had been in the manufacturer-recommended vertical orientation with the bridle coming from the bottom. However, the proximate cause was rubbing against the door on exit. Groups exiting an aircraft should keep the formation centered in the door. When exiting a Skyvan, it’s also best to try to position yourself with your rig perpendicular to the wall.
The jumper had positioned the pin using an older method, which leaves the bridle more exposed.
A newer method, in which the pin is vertical and the bridle routes from the bottom, keeps the pin more secure.
If a group exits to one side of the door and a jumper’s rig is parallel to the wall, it is easy for the flap and bridle to snag.
It’s safest to exit a crowded Skyvan with the rig perpendicular to the wall (and even safer to have the exit group in the center of the door).