This past weekend we lost a fellow jumper during a Mr. Bill attempt. It could easily have been a double fatality, but thankfully the other jumper involved should make a good recovery. After any incident like this, the initial reaction is often a bit knee-jerk, along the lines of “ban Mr. Bill’s!” or “we need a special Mr. Bill rating!”. But maybe that is not necessary. The fact is that these types of jumps have been around a long time, and have been done quite successfully at times. They’ve not worked out just as often (probably more often), but usually it just involves the hanging jumper falling off, maybe not so gracefully.
Let’s learn from this one. Keep yourself safe, keep your friends safe. Read on.
By Karl Meyer
– PERFECTLY GOOD CANOPIES KILL SKYDIVERS.
Don’t worry – this is not some rant about flying yourself into the dirt with a perfectly functioning canopy above your head. This is a rant about how as skydivers, we tend to have this belief that we have “mad skills” and that every jump we do is the same, that they carry the same level of risk, and same level of needed skill sets. That’s a very deep and dark rabbit hole to fall into.
This part weekend we all took one step closer to the front of the BSBD line, when a jumper went in doing a Mr Bill. Based on information available when this is penned, it’s clear that a series of very bad decisions were made, and maybe a bit of bad luck came into play as well.
For those of you who are not familiar with a Mr Bill, it’s basically two skydiver exiting while holding onto each other, both wearing their own rigs. The idea is that one jumper deploys his docile main canopy and the other jumper if smart, lucky, strong, or dumb enough will stay holding on. After deployment, they both will fly around under a single canopy, before the second jumper will let go and deploy their own canopy.
This type of jump bring it’s own interesting list of “No shit there I was” possibilities, and the likelihood of puling it off successfully is marginal. Here are some tips and tricks to get somewhat closer to success:
1. Like my AFF Instructor always drilled into my head: PLAN THE DIVE, DIVE THE PLAN. – Once you have the dive planned, stick to it, each cog (skydiver) in the plan needs to stick to their plan, don’t change it up if shit goes south.
2. Use a student rig as the primary canopy, the bigger the better, for a few obvious reasons i.e. canopy size, docile flight characteristics, wingloading.
3. Deploy as soon as possible out the door. The longer you remain in freefall the harder the opening could be, and the harder it will be to have someone hold onto you.
4. Best exits have been the “holder” to face back to prop wash, the jumper to face into the prop wash and exit poised, head high. Practice, the exit, practice the exit, practice the exit …. Get my point?
5. For the love of all things “silver and bold” watch out for all the god damn handles. Last thing you want is a two out at 11k, while shit gets weird.
6. Practice, the exit, practice the exit, practice the exit …. Get my point?
7. Have a hard deck, stick to the hard deck, for when the hanger will let go of the jumper.
8. Look below you, around you, don’t just let go, you never know when tandems, students and other jumpers, might fly under your line of flight a few thousand feet below you.
9. Let the DZO, Pilots know what you planning …. Nothing worse for a DZO is to see a possible incident nearly happen, and them being clueless to the events.
10. If you have anyone following you out STOP right there. Make sure they have experience following people out who are about to deploy a parachute, and most important, make sure they know to stick to the plan, if they are to pull right out the door, make sure they understand to do just that, and not dive after you. Communicate!
11. If a jumper is following you, make sure they have the skills needed to fly in close proximity with other open canopies and position themselves during and after exit. You’ll be too busy to avoid them if they pull a “mad skills” move under canopy and try kill you.
On a side note, you could try get some piano wire, tie it to a fleshy (nipple, ball sack, ear lobe, nose ring) part of your body, and tie the other end to the jumpers chest strap, I promise you, you’ll have extra incentive to hold on.
In the end, it’s important to have fun, and enjoy our time in the sport, just remember to not let the excitement overwhelm, leaving you in freefall for the last time.
If we don’t learn from the mistakes of others, we’ll need comfortable shoes to take those steps closer to the from of the line ….. it might be a short or a long wait, the choice is yours to make.
About the author:
Karl Meyer has mad skills (in more than one area) and can usually be found around Skydive Elsinore, doing his thang. He has a slew of ratings, lots of years in the sport and may or may not have unrecognized 4-way talent. Time will tell.