An AFF instructor was with a student who was making his 24th jump. They were on a truck taking them to the aircraft boarding area, where the instructor planned to give the student a gear check. The student—who had been briefed for this jump by another instructor—was making his first jump of the day wearing a rig provided by the DZ. Although the student had not packed the rig, he had geared himself up and had presumably checked his gear or had someone else check it before putting it on. On the ride, the instructor noticed that the hackey-style main-pilot-chute handle was hanging low. On further inspection, the instructor saw that the fabric tape attaching the hackey to the pilot chute was significantly frayed and twisted, with one end broken and the remaining end tied loosely to one of the internal tapes of the pilot chute. The instructor immediately stopped the truck, went back to the hangar and outfitted the student with an undamaged rig. They proceeded to have an uneventful skydive.
It’s unknown how the pilot chute had gotten damaged or how long the damaged pilot chute had been in service in that condition. It’s disconcerting that no one—the packer of the rig, the skydiver himself or anyone who may have performed a gear check—caught the problem. If the student had jumped the rig in that condition, the hackey may have pulled off of the pilot chute during extraction, resulting in a high-speed total malfunction requiring reserve deployment.
Good gear checks prior to donning equipment and also prior to boarding the plane are critical for a safe and successful skydive!