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Pre-flight Your Rig!

by Tony Domenico


Yes, you are a skydiver, but after deployment you are also the pilot of a low performance, gliding aircraft. As a pilot you are responsible for the airworthiness of your aircraft. To insure this airworthiness an inspection of the aircraft must be made before each and every flight. This is called a pre-flight. Pilots of all different types of aircraft perform pre-flights routinely and, as a skydiver, this is a good habit to develop.

Over the last ten years of skydiving I have developed a pre-flight system for my rig. This pre-flight takes only a few seconds to perform and insures that my equipment is in sound operating condition prior to my flight. There is no way to tell whether my pre-flight system has saved me a reserve ride or prevented a possible problem in the past. I have seen, heard of, and read about numerous reserve rides and even fatalities that this pre-flight system would have prevented. So, by adopting this system you will become a much safer skydiver and lower your chances of ever having a problem with your equipment.

This pre-flight is a simple inspection using your eyes and hands to insure all accessible parts of your equipment are in proper operating condition.

The Pre-flight

Part One

Before you put your rig on, prior to each and every jump, do the following:

  • Uncover your reserve pin, look to see that the pin is at least half to three quarters pushed into the reserve loop.
  • If possible, grasp the reserve cable between the reserve pin and the reserve cable housing (not possible on a Racer), move the cable in and out of the housing, visually inspect the other end of the reserve cable at the ripcord and insure that the cable moves freely through the housing. This helps insure there are no small pebbles or other foreign objects in the housing that could prevent you from pulling your reserve.
  • Insure that the ripcord is seated securely in the ripcord pocket.
  • Insure that the cutaway handle is securely fastened to the harness and see that the ends of the cutaway cable housings are securely tacked to the harness or that the housing ends are routed through the chest strap like on a Vector, Javelin or Talon.
  • Inspect the three rings to see that they are assembled correctly. Insure that the little loops pass through the hole on the end of the cutaway housings and that the ends of the cutaway cable pass through the little loops.
  • Uncover and expose the main deployment pin, insure the pin is one half to fully into the main closing loop. Insure that the pin is pointed either horizontally or upwards with the small end of the pin pointing towards the reselve and the hole in the pin towards the bottom of the container. Avoid having the deployment pin pointed downward. This reduces the chances of the pin being pushed out while sitting or moving around in the aircraft.
  • Using your fingers, follow the bridle both directions insuring that the Velcro is mated securely and that the bridle is tucked in its proper place. Then follow the bridle to the pilot chute, again insuring the Velcro is properly mated and there is no loop in the bridle material that could snag and catch something in the aircraft, during exit or in free fall.
  • Insure that the pilot chute handle is exposed and that all the extra bridle material is neatly stowed in the pilot chute pocket. Insure that the pilot chute will come out easily by gently pulling it out part way and then pushing it back in.
  • Close your pin protector flaps and you are ready to put your rig on.

Part Two

Perform this quick inspection directly after putting your rig on and in the aircraft prior to jumping.

  • Check both the ripcord handle and cutaway handle to see that they are both seated securely in their proper place and are not hidden from your view or grasp.
  • Check to see that your chest strap is routed correctly and the end is stowed.
  • Check to see that your leg straps are routed correctly through the hardware.
  • Check to see that your pilot chute handle is exposed and is easy to grasp.

Develop the Habit

Safety is a habit; get in the habit of performing a good pre-flight on your equipment before each and every jump - especially any jump on which you are rushed while dirt diving and/or getting to the airplane. I double check my gear on those jumps.

With practice, this pre-flight literally takes seconds to perform and gives you added confidence in your equipment.

Note: The pre-flight above was written for a rig with a throw out deployment system, it can easily be adapted to a pull out deployment system.

Safe jumping!