What Happens If A Parachute Fails To Open On A Skydive?

At this point, you’ve probably watched enough skydiving videos to have seen dozens of parachutes blossom open against the big, blue sky. Over and over again, you hear that signature crisp snap and a square of bright nylon appears, like magic, to drift the grinning pair of parachutists safely down to the grassy field below.

Okay, you say, Those are videos of a parachute opening. Cool. But what happens if it doesn’t? How often does a parachute not open?! How often do parachutes fail?!

The answer: Hardly ever. According to the USPA (which collects and publishes skydiving accident statistics), about one in every one-thousand parachutes will experience a malfunction so significant that actually requires the use of the reserve parachute. If that idea sends you scrambling for the keys to your getaway car, wait for just a second. First off: a ratio of 1:1000 is ridiculously rare in terms of the real world. Secondly: Even if your parachute actually does fail to open into that familiar flyable configuration, you’re still almost certainly going to be fine. Here’s the straight story.

Q: What can cause a parachute not to open?

A: Okay. First, let’s get something clear.

When you hear on the news of a skydiving accident, the phrase that almost always gets tossed around is that the skydiver’s “parachute failed to open.” That phrase always makes experienced skydivers wince because it is practically statistically impossible that the parachute actually “failed to open.” What almost certainly did happen is that it opened in an unflyable configuration and the proper corrective steps weren’t taken. When a parachute fails to open in a way that the jumper can control back to earth, the jumper has to immediately go to a set of tried-and-true emergency procedures to right the situation. If not, there’s gonna be a problem.

What we’re really talking about here, then, is what might prevent the successful deployment of a flyable parachute. That, as you might imagine, depends on three major factors: rigorous equipment maintenance, correct packing and flying in the correct body position when deployment procedures are initiated. You’ll certainly note that these factors are controllable.

At Skydive Perris, we proudly cleave to a set of strictly maintained standards which ensure that those boxes are checked. First, our parachuting equipment is top-quality across the board; secondly, we rigorously inspect and maintain it; thirdly, we only employ the finest professional tandem instructors in the sky.

tandem student feels pull of parachute opening

Q: What will happen if your parachute fails to open?

A: Of course, skydiving does carry a risk. You know that already. When destiny decides to toss a totally statistically unlikely scenario into our plans, we go straight to Plan B. Every tandem skydiving parachute has a backup parachute waiting in the wings. Interesting fact: the backup parachute is hooked up to a system that deploys it automatically in the one-in-a-million scenario that nobody lifts a finger to get it out.

Usually, though, reserve deployment is a manual procedure. When a parachute opens in a non-flyable configuration, we get rid of it. With the flick of a wrist, the reserve parachute “rides” the swiftly disappearing main parachute to a quick, on-heading opening. The process is so quick and seamless that the tandem skydiving students that experience a reserve ride don’t even know it happened. That said: Want to know what to do if your parachute doesn’t open? See if you can figure out that it didn’t!

skydiving landing under parachute

Q: Should I worry about a skydiving parachute malfunction?

A: Worry? Um…no.

Tandem skydiving accidents are incredibly rare. That’s by careful design. Tandem skydiving is, overwhelmingly, the method we use in the skydiving industry to introduce new jumpers to our sport, and it’s vital that we keep that introduction a sweet one. Your tandem skydiving instructor is the product of extensive training in skydiving safety procedures. S/he is ready to deal with any situation that might arise.

The skydiving safety statistics numbers are clear that the safety of skydiving is at a higher standard now than it has ever been. Fun fact: It’s far safer to go ahead and take that skydive than it is to drive to the dropzone! Try that one on for size.

older woman in skydiving freefall for the first time

When you make a skydive at Skydive Perris, know this: By far, the biggest risk you’re accepting is that you’ll end up “cutting away” your life as you know it to come and live out with us at the dropzone and make skydiving your everyday adventure. You wouldn’t be the first! Come on out and see.

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