Lessons learnt from my first chop

On Sunday the 29th of May my husband and I decided to get a few more jumps before going overseas to visit family. Great day, little wind and blue sky, what more could one ask for. The first jump went well enough, uneventful if you forget that I found my altimeter out of battery – how did that happen?! I wore an analog and my N3 altimeter on that first jump, wouldn’t want to miss out on the numbers here. We had fun and I finally got my accuracy on landing right, happy faces.

The second jump went better, we got the points we wanted, separated at the agreed height, 5,000 because that is the way I like it. My canopy opened as usual and then I found myself surging to the right, facing the ground, not at all like my usual openings. I pulled the rear riser, checked the toggles, I thought I saw both of them stowed and let go of the risers again, back to facing the ground at height speed. The long and short of it, I did not like it, could not work it out, did not think to go back on rear risers buy some time and work it out, I decided to go to my emergency procedure.

I looked, located, gripped – no issue here, peel punch – not so good, so out came the left hand to peel and punch with the right and because I have an RSL the reserve was out before I could change over to the left.

And from here on I was in utter unchartered territory. When was the last time I even thought about what happens next?

Great relief, nice clean reserve chute over my head, checked size, shape and slider. Turned into the wind or maybe not, I definitely checked where my main was floating to. Then I remembered that this one too needs to be checked further, toggles right same place as my main, I pulled. Not such a good idea, jerking on the rear risers = no fun. Not sure how, but they finally came out. I did my checks and started to set up my landing pattern, with a halfway decent idea where my canopy might be.



Gratitude to my instructors who taught me to practice my emergency procedure and myself for actually doing that, for PA who not only sold me a beautiful but also functioning rig and packed my reserve well, I believe that gratitude usually goes to the packer.

What have I learned? Dirt Dive Everything. I just completed my 138th jump, I am a novice, my body has some muscle memory by now, but by no means am I a seasoned jumper.

My emergency procedure now looks like this:

  • Look – locate – look – locate – peel punch – peel punch
  • Look up – check – shape – size – slider
  • Peel the toggles 🙂
  • Practice flare – turn right – turn left
  • Set up landing pattern
  • Keep breathing
  • Land as per usual

Someone else in the sky or on the ground will have my canopy and free bag covered. And when I practice my emergency procedure I also dirt dive malfunctions. They might never happen but the few seconds I gain because my body will remember might be all I need to land that reserve safely.

Written by Sula Whitmore, social media manager at Coffs Skydivers

Coffs Skydivers is proud to train skydivers like Sula to deal with these situations calmly and professionally.

Interested in learning to skydive? Read about our AFF courses – held at Australia’s only dedicated ‘learn to skydive’ dropzone.


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