Worst-Case Wednesday: How to Survive if Your Parachute Fails to Open

Posted by Courtney Daniels

Photo by Ryan Harvey

Every Wednesday, we offer advice and strategies to survive all of the most dire and urgent circumstances, as well as some of the more common scenarios we all deal with.

This week we’ve got an excerpt from the original Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook. If someone had shown me this before I went skydiving, I am not sure I would have done it at all! But it’s better to be prepared if you’re going to do something as insane as jumping out of a plane.

How to Survive if Your Parachute Fails to Open

From the Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook

1. As soon as you realize that your chute is bad, signal to a jumping companion whose chute has not yet opened that you are having a malfunction. Wave your arms and point to your chute.

2. When your companion (and new best friend) gets to you, hook arms.

3. Once you are hooked together, the two of you will still be falling at terminal velocity, or about 130 miles per hour. When your friend opens his chute, there will be no way either of you will be able to hold on to one another normally, because the G-forces will triple or quadruple your body weight. Be prepared for this problem, book your arms into his chest strap, or through the two sides of the front of his harness, all the way up to your elbows, and grab hold of your own strap.

4. Open the chute. The chute opening shock will be severe, probably enough to dislocate or break your arms.

5. Steer the canopy. Your friend must now hold on to you with one arm while steering his canopy (the part of the chute that controls direction and speed). If your friend’s canopy is slow and big, you may hit the grass or dirt slowly enough to break only a leg, and your chances of survival are high. If his canopy is a fast one, however, your friend will have to steer to avoid hitting the ground too fast. You must also avoid power lines and other obstructions at all costs.

6. If there’s a body of water nearby, head for that. Of course, once you hit the water, you will have to tread with just your legs and hope that your partner is able to pull you out before your chute takes in water.

How to Prepare

Check your chute before you jump. The good news is that today’s parachutes are built to open, so even if you make big mistakes packing them, they tend to sort themselves out. The reserve chute, however, must be packed by a certified rigger and must be perfect as it is your last resort. Make sure that:

• The parachute is folded in straight lines—that there are no twists.

• The slider is positioned correctly to keep the parachute from opening too fast.

For more information on the Worst Case Scenario Handbook, visit its official book page.