Saturday, November 27, 2021
Menu

DOWNLOADS

Skydiver's Competition Manual
Chapters & Archives

View also in the ONLINE VERSION or FLIP BOOK.
Read more about the SCM...

Loading...
    Filter and Search Results

    Published on Wednesday, January 1, 2014

    The RSL: Separating Fact from Fiction

    by Jim Crouch

    There is probably no other piece of skydiving equipment more misunderstood than the reserve static line (RSL). If you want 10 different opinions on why you should or should not equip your container with one, simply ask 10 different skydivers. Unfortunately, most jumpers choose their positions and make their decisions based on raw opinion and contrived scenarios rather than facts. To separate fact from fiction and make a truly informed decision on whether to use an RSL, we need to look at a little history and actual data.

    The reserve static line is a very simple device. A releasable snap shackle attaches to one main riser (or both main risers on the Parachute Labs [dba Jump Shack] Racer) on one end of a lanyard, and the other end connects to the reserve ripcord. The various manufacturers use different materials and designs to achieve this connection. The outcome of each design is the same: Once the jumper pulls the cutaway handle and the main risers release from the harness, the RSL immediately pulls the reserve ripcord as the jumper drops away from the main canopy. This initiates reserve deployment before the jumper physically pulls the reserve-ripcord handle. However, a jumper must still be prepared to pull both handles in the correct order after a main-canopy malfunction and only consider the RSL a backup device.

    HISTORY

    Now, in addition to standard RSL designs, jumpers can choose main-assisted-reserve-deployment (MARD) devices such as the United Parachute Technologies SkyHook, which uses the cutaway main canopy to extract the reserve freebag from the container. The designs of these systems produce even faster reserve deployments than standard RSLs. They have grown in popularity over the last decade, and most manufacturers now offer some form of a MARD device for their containers. However, even with improvements over the years, many licensed skydivers still shun the use of RSLs or MARDs, even though jumpers continue to die from failing to pull their reserve ripcords after cutting away.The RSL is certainly not new technology. According to “The Parachute Manual” by Dan Poynter, Perry Stevens developed the Stevens Cutaway System (what we now call the RSL) in the early 1960s while working for Security Parachute Company. The company incorporated the system into its Crossbow “piggyback” container, the first dual-canopy container system to have the reserve located above the main on the jumper’s back. However, it would be another 10 years before companies adapted it for the front-mounted-reserve container systems that students (and most jumpers) commonly used at that time. Manufacturers developed this system primarily to simplify emergency procedures for students: Once a jumper jettisoned his main canopy, a lanyard pulled the reserve ripcord on the belly-mounted reserve, which launched a spring-loaded pilot chute to begin deployment of the reserve canopy. The lanyard was largely thought of as a backup safety device only for students, and many licensed jumpers chose not to use them even when designs improved and all manufacturers switched to selling back-mounted, dual-canopy containers. But USPA began requiring students to use RSLs until being cleared to solo freefall. (Once a student is cleared to solo freefall, an instructor may waive the requirement for an RSL for one jump or a series of jumps.)

    ENTANGLEMENTS

     
     

    It is hard to say why jumpers continue to have concerns about using RSLs and MARDs. Although some jumpers say they are concerned with post-cutaway reserve entanglements caused by RSLs, the statistics certainly don’t support this argument. Looking at the U.S. data from 1999 through 2013:

    • 14 jumpers without RSLs died after cutting away their main canopies and manually deploying their reserves too low for full inflation.
    • Five jumpers without RSLs died after cutting away main-canopy malfunctions and not pulling their reserve ripcords, resulting in no deployment of their reserve canopies.
    • Five jumpers without RSLs entangled with their reserves after cutting away and deploying their reserves manually while tumbling and unstable.
    • One jumper died after entangling with his reserve canopy, but the report contained no information about whether the RSL deployed his reserve or whether he deployed it manually.

    A functioning RSL would have prevented a vast majority of the 25 fatalities listed above, although at least three of the cutaways were at such low altitudes that even had the jumpers immediately activated their reserves, they would likely not have inflated in time for survivable landings. The experience level of the 25 skydivers ranged from 28 jumps to 6,500 jumps.

    During the same time period, how many jumpers who used RSLs died after cutting away their main canopies and entangling with their reserves? Four jumpers, each of whom had made fewer than 20 jumps. And of those four, two entangled with their main canopies before pulling their cutaway handles, which greatly increased the chances that they’d entangle with their reserves.

    Additionally, there were two RSL/MARD-related incidents that are difficult to categorize, both involving tandems. In one, a tandem pair died after the instructor cut away the malfunctioning main parachute, which stayed attached to the container due to a misrouted RSL. The instructor did not deploy the reserve, and the pair landed hard under the spinning main canopy. In the other incident, a tandem pair died after a low main canopy deployment led to the automatic activation device cutting the reserve closing loop and initiating reserve deployment. Shortly after the reserve pilot chute launched, one main riser disconnected when the Collins Lanyard (which ran between the two risers as part of the MARD system) pulled the cutaway cable on one side while the main canopy remained attached by the other riser. The tandem instructor released the remaining riser at a low altitude, and the tandem pair struck the ground without an inflated reserve. Investigators were not able to determine the exact sequence of events leading up to the riser release.

    Looking farther back, the statistics on entanglements remain consistent. An article in the November 2005 issue of Parachutist entitled “RSL: A Second Look” listed data from 1990-2005. In that time period, there were 30 fatalities involving jumpers cutting away main canopies but failing to deploy reserves in time compared to five jumpers who died after reserve entanglements following cutaways and RSL-initiated reserve deployments.

    SPINNING MALFUNCTIONS
    Some jumpers who are flying moderately to highly loaded canopies state that they are afraid of an RSL complicating reserve deployment following a spinning line-twist malfunction. However, the statistics don’t support this fear: USPA has seen no documentation of a fatality attributed to an immediate reserve deployment after a cutaway from a quickly spinning main. In fact, cutting away from a rapidly spinning main canopy followed by immediate reserve deployment via an RSL or MARD system proves to work well, even under very highly loaded canopies. Most result in fast, clean reserve deployments. And although some jumpers have reported experiencing line twists on their reserve canopies, the reserves flew stably, and the jumpers were able to kick out of the twists and land uneventfully.

    Jumpers under spinning canopies may actually have a greater need for an RSL. In high-speed spinning malfunctions, jumpers often discover that their harnesses are very distorted from the forces caused by spinning rapidly around the canopy. Emergency handles are nowhere near where they were when the jumpers were wearing the rigs on the ground. And even though most, if not all, jumpers were taught to look at their cutaway and reserve ripcord handles before grabbing and pulling them, some have found that during violent spins, the handles were difficult to see and locate. More than once, witnesses have observed jumpers groping for their reserve ripcords during the final seconds of freefall.

    In “RSL: A Second Look,” Derek Thomas, then co-owner of Sun Path, and Bill Booth, president of United Parachute Technologies, listed several reasons why jumpers—even those who moderately or highly load their canopies—should consider the use of an RSL or MARD:

    • Violently spinning malfunctions rapidly draw blood away from the brain, affecting coordination and thinking ability, as well as slowing down reaction times.
    • Spinning canopies lose altitude quickly, usually 100 feet or more per revolution at moderate wing loadings and several hundred feet per revolution at higher wing loadings.
    • On average, a jumper takes six to eight seconds from the time he decides to initiate a cutaway to the time he actually releases the main canopy, losing a large amount of altitude.
    • Test jumps have shown that once a jumper releases his main canopy, it takes an average of six seconds—or approximately 1,100 feet of altitude—to regain a stable, belly-to-earth body position (and this is when the test jumper was prepared for the cutaway before making the jump).
    • Locating the cutaway and reserve ripcord handles while spinning rapidly is difficult during an actual emergency and nearly impossible to simulate on the ground for practice.

    OTHER CONSIDERATIONS
    Is the RSL a good idea for all jumpers? Not necessarily. For the canopy formation skydiving crowd, if a jumper becomes wrapped or entangled, the standard practice is to cut away and fall a short distance to get clear of the main and other jumpers before deploying the reserve. For jumpers who are not intentionally participating in canopy formation skydiving, an RSL can also add an extra step (disconnecting the RSL) to consider in the case of an inadvertent canopy collision.

    Some camera flyers also worry about entanglements with their camera equipment if their reserves deploy via an RSL. However, cameras have gotten smaller and helmet designs have improved, so this is much less of an issue than it once was. Since 1999, when it began gathering data, USPA has not documented a single fatality due to an RSL- or MARD-initiated reserve-camera entanglement, although it has seen many documented cases of RSL- and MARD-initiated reserve deployments that occurred without entanglement even though the jumpers wore helmet-mounted cameras.

    Some jumpers worry that if the riser equipped with the RSL breaks during deployment, it could pull the reserve ripcord while the main is still attached to the harness by the opposite riser and increase the chance of a main-reserve entanglement. However, riser design and manufacturing has improved to the point where failures are almost unheard of anymore. Worn or misassembled components caused the few recent incidents of riser-system failure, none of which resulted in a fatality. And some systems (including all MARDs) release both risers if one riser breaks. The last time a fatality occurred from an entanglement after riser failure was in 1997 (a tandem jump in which the instructor was killed and the student injured after landing hard under entangled main and reserve canopies).

    Some jumpers mistakenly think that an automatic activation device is a suitable substitute for an RSL. Although AADs have saved some jumpers by re-arming and cutting reserve closing loops after the jumpers cut away from main malfunctions, they are not designed for this purpose. In order for an AAD to re-arm and activate after a cutaway, the jumper needs to be high enough to accelerate to at least 78 mph after dropping from the main canopy. And there still needs to be enough altitude remaining to allow the reserve to deploy and fully inflate. RSLs simply provide a different function and can be a valuable safety device whether or not you jump with an AAD. The important thing is to be sure you have a thorough understanding of your equipment so you can make an informed decision about its limitations and use.

    RSLs have been quietly working in the background for decades, initiating countless successful reserve deployments. Whether you decide to use one or not, make sure you make an educated decision based on facts and data.

    Rate this article:
    3.8
    Comments (1)Number of views (21742)

    Author: Jim Crouch

    Categories: Homepage, Features

    Tags: January 2014

    Print

    1 comments on article "The RSL: Separating Fact from Fiction"

    1
    0
    Avatar image

    Nigel

    10/21/2020 7:50 AM

    Great review of the stats for and against RSLs. Though I've always had one as I suspected the stats backed this up, nice to see its true.

    Please login or register to post comments.

    Manuals

    Forms

    2021-2022 Instructional Rating Manual (IRM) Evaluations Forms PDF (fillable)   (Mar 2021) Downloads Manuals Forms Instructional & PRO Ratings
    2021-2022 Instructional Rating Manual (IRM) Forms PDF   (Mar 2021) Downloads Manuals Forms Instructional & PRO Ratings
    A-License Proficiency Card (1 page) PDF   (Mar 2021) Forms Licenses & Proficiency Cards
    A-License Progression Card (ISP; 2 pages) PDF   (Mar 2021) Forms Licenses & Proficiency Cards
    Application: B-D License PDF   (Mar 2021) Forms Licenses & Proficiency Cards
    Application: Canopy Formation Award PDF   (Apr 2021) Forms Awards
    Application: Judge Rating PDF   (May 2015) Forms Judge Rating
    Application: PRO Rating & High Performance Endorsement PDF   (Mar 2021) Forms Instructional & PRO Ratings Demos
    Application: Tenure Award PDF   (Apr 2010) Forms Awards
    Application: USPA Membership & Rating Renewal PDF   (Mar 2021) Forms Instructional & PRO Ratings
    Application: Wings & Badges Awards PDF   (Apr 2021) Forms Awards
    Canopy Piloting Proficiency Card PDF   (Sep 2019) Forms Licenses & Proficiency Cards
    Demo Insurance Application and Notification Form PDF   (Nov 2020) Forms Instructional & PRO Ratings Demos
    Incident Report Form PDF   (Apr 2019) Forms Incident Report
    Initial Application as a Foreign Affiliate Group Member (Non-U.S. Only) PDF   (Apr 2019) Downloads Forms Group Membership
    Initial Application for College Clubs (U.S. Only) PDF   (Oct 2021) Downloads Forms Group Membership
    Initial Application for Group Membership (U.S. Only) PDF   (Feb 2020) Downloads Forms Group Membership
    Proficiency Card: AFF Instructor PDF   (Mar 2021) Forms Instructional & PRO Ratings
    Proficiency Card: Coach Rating PDF   (Mar 2021) Forms Instructional & PRO Ratings
    Proficiency Card: Examiner PDF   (Mar 2021) Forms Instructional & PRO Ratings
    Proficiency Card: IAD/SL Instructor PDF   (Mar 2021) Forms Instructional & PRO Ratings
    Proficiency Card: Military Transition PDF   (Sep 2021) Forms Licenses & Proficiency Cards
    Proficiency Card: Tandem Instructor PDF   (Mar 2021) Forms Instructional & PRO Ratings
    S&TA Waiver Form PDF   (Apr 2018) Downloads Forms Waivers
    Waiver Request PDF   (Nov 2019) Downloads Waivers

    USPA Meeting Minutes

    BOD 2021 Summer Meeting PDF   (Sep 2021) USPA Meeting Minutes Board of Director Meeting
    2021 General Membership Meeting PDF   (Sep 2021) USPA Meeting Minutes Gen. Membership Meeting
    BOD 2021 Winter Meeting PDF   (Mar 2021) USPA Meeting Minutes Board of Director Meeting
    BOD 2020 Summer Meeting PDF   (Dec 2020) USPA Meeting Minutes Board of Director Meeting
    BOD 2020 Winter Meeting PDF   (Feb 2020) USPA Meeting Minutes Board of Director Meeting
    BOD 2019 Summer Meeting PDF   (Jul 2019) USPA Meeting Minutes Board of Director Meeting
    BOD 2019 Winter Meeting PDF   (Feb 2019) USPA Meeting Minutes Board of Director Meeting
    BOD 2018 Summer Meeting PDF   (Jul 2018) USPA Meeting Minutes Board of Director Meeting
    BOD 2018 Winter Meeting PDF   (Mar 2018) USPA Meeting Minutes Board of Director Meeting
    BOD 2017 Summer Meeting PDF   (Jul 2017) USPA Meeting Minutes Board of Director Meeting
    BOD 2017 Winter Meeting PDF   (Feb 2017) USPA Meeting Minutes Board of Director Meeting
    BOD 2016 Summer Meeting PDF   (Jul 2016) USPA Meeting Minutes Board of Director Meeting
    2016 General Membership Meeting PDF   (Jul 2016) USPA Meeting Minutes Gen. Membership Meeting
    BOD 2016 Winter Meeting PDF   (Feb 2016) USPA Meeting Minutes Board of Director Meeting
    BOD 2015 Summer Meeting PDF   (Jul 2015) USPA Meeting Minutes Board of Director Meeting
    BOD 2015 Winter Meeting PDF   (Mar 2015) USPA Meeting Minutes Board of Director Meeting
    2015 General Membership Meeting PDF   (Mar 2015) USPA Meeting Minutes Gen. Membership Meeting
    2014 General Membership Meeting PDF   (Jul 2014) USPA Meeting Minutes Gen. Membership Meeting
    BOD 2014 Summer Meeting PDF   (Jul 2014) USPA Meeting Minutes Board of Director Meeting
    BOD 2014 Winter Meeting PDF   (Feb 2014) USPA Meeting Minutes Board of Director Meeting
    BOD 2013 Summer Meeting PDF   (Jul 2013) USPA Meeting Minutes Board of Director Meeting
    2013 General Membership Meeting PDF   (Jul 2013) USPA Meeting Minutes Gen. Membership Meeting
    BOD 2013 Winter Meeting PDF   (Mar 2013) USPA Meeting Minutes Board of Director Meeting
    2012 General Membership Meeting PDF   (Mar 2013) USPA Meeting Minutes Gen. Membership Meeting
    BOD 2012 Summer Meeting PDF   (Aug 2012) USPA Meeting Minutes Board of Director Meeting
    BOD 2012 Winter Meeting PDF   (Feb 2012) USPA Meeting Minutes Board of Director Meeting
    2011 General Membership Meeting PDF   (Aug 2011) USPA Meeting Minutes Gen. Membership Meeting
    BOD 2011 Summer Meeting PDF   (Jul 2011) USPA Meeting Minutes Board of Director Meeting
    BOD 2011 Winter Meeting PDF   (Feb 2011) USPA Meeting Minutes Board of Director Meeting
    2010 General Membership Meeting PDF   (Aug 2010) USPA Meeting Minutes Gen. Membership Meeting
    BOD 2010 Summer Meeting PDF   (Jul 2010) USPA Meeting Minutes Board of Director Meeting
    BOD 2010 Winter Meeting PDF   (Feb 2010) USPA Meeting Minutes Board of Director Meeting
    2009 General Membership Meeting PDF   (Sep 2009) USPA Meeting Minutes Gen. Membership Meeting
    BOD 2009 Summer Meeting PDF   (Jul 2009) USPA Meeting Minutes Board of Director Meeting
    BOD 2009 Winter Meeting PDF   (Feb 2009) USPA Meeting Minutes Board of Director Meeting
    BOD 2008 Summer Meeting PDF   (Jul 2008) USPA Meeting Minutes Board of Director Meeting
    2008 General Membership Meeting PDF   (Apr 2008) USPA Meeting Minutes Gen. Membership Meeting
    BOD 2008 Winter Meeting PDF   (Feb 2008) USPA Meeting Minutes Board of Director Meeting
    BOD 2007 Summer Meeting PDF   (Jul 2007) USPA Meeting Minutes Board of Director Meeting
    2007 General Membership Meeting PDF   (May 2007) USPA Meeting Minutes Gen. Membership Meeting
    BOD 2007 Winter Meeting PDF   (Feb 2007) USPA Meeting Minutes Board of Director Meeting
    2006 General Membership Meeting PDF   (Nov 2006) USPA Meeting Minutes Gen. Membership Meeting
    BOD 2006 Summer Meeting PDF   (Jul 2006) USPA Meeting Minutes Board of Director Meeting
    BOD 2006 Winter Meeting PDF   (Feb 2006) USPA Meeting Minutes Board of Director Meeting
    2005 General Membership Meeting PDF   (Aug 2005) USPA Meeting Minutes Gen. Membership Meeting
    BOD 2005 Summer Meeting PDF   (Jul 2005) USPA Meeting Minutes Board of Director Meeting
    BOD 2005 Winter Meeting PDF   (Jan 2005) USPA Meeting Minutes Board of Director Meeting
    2004 General Membership Meeting PDF   (Sep 2004) USPA Meeting Minutes Gen. Membership Meeting
    BOD 2004 Summer Meeting PDF   (Jul 2004) USPA Meeting Minutes Board of Director Meeting
    BOD 2004 Winter Meeting PDF   (Feb 2004) USPA Meeting Minutes Board of Director Meeting
    2003 General Membership Meeting PDF   (Aug 2003) USPA Meeting Minutes Gen. Membership Meeting
    BOD 2003 Summer Meeting PDF   (Jul 2003) USPA Meeting Minutes Board of Director Meeting
    BOD 2003 Winter Meeting PDF   (Jan 2003) USPA Meeting Minutes Board of Director Meeting
    BOD 2002 Summer Meeting PDF   (Jul 2002) USPA Meeting Minutes Board of Director Meeting
    BOD 2002 Winter Meeting PDF   (Feb 2002) USPA Meeting Minutes Board of Director Meeting
    BOD 2001 Summer Meeting PDF   (Jul 2001) USPA Meeting Minutes Board of Director Meeting
    BOD 2001 Winter Meeting PDF   (Feb 2001) USPA Meeting Minutes Board of Director Meeting 2000-2005
    BOD 2000 Summer Meeting PDF   (Jul 2000) USPA Meeting Minutes Board of Director Meeting 2000-2005

    Miscellaneous

    2013 DOT Opinion on Taxes PDF   (Jan 2014)
    Advanced Aerospace Designs Issues Reminders to Vigil Customers   (Dec 2019)

    On October 23, Advanced Aerospace Designs issued reminders of approaching deadlines for compliance with its last two service bulletins.

    After-market Tandem Risers MANDATORY – REPLACE BEFORE THE NEXT JUMP   (Sep 2020)

    PIA released Service Bulletin PSB-10092020 affecting after-market tandem main risers constructed with obsolete RW2 rings. All sport tandem main risers produced with RW2 rings, or equivalent sized rings, are affected regardless of the hardware manufacturer, the date of manufacture, the material type or the forging process used. This PSB does not affect "solo" main risers that use RW2 rings. Compliance is MANDATORY – REPLACE BEFORE THE NEXT JUMP.

    Article: 9/11 Aftermath Report PDF   (Aug 2016)
    Article: Angle Flying PDF   (Nov 2015)
    Article: Ches Judy Award PDF   (Oct 2015)
    Article: Gear Fear PDF   (Sep 2015)
    Article: Landing in a Tree PDF   (Mar 2015)
    Article: Safety in Numbers PDF   (Jan 2011)
    Article: The RSL PDF   (Jan 2014)
    Article: Water Landings PDF   (Mar 2015)
    Canopy Risk Quotient PDF   (Oct 2015)
    Canopy Risk Quotient LINK   (Mar 2020)
    Dermody Letter PDF   (Jul 2012)
    Dunn Letter PDF   (Jul 2012)
    DZO Memo PDF   (Jul 2012)
    FAA AC 105-2E PDF   (Dec 2013)
    FAA AC 90-66B CHG 1 PDF   (Feb 2019)
    FAA Airworthiness Directive for certain UPT reserve pin covers PDF   (Apr 2021)

    The FAA is adopting a new airworthiness directive (AD) for certain Uninsured United Parachute Technologies, LLC (UPT) parachutes. This AD results from reserve pin covers (RPCs) catching on the parachute container flaps and preventing the reserve parachute from deploying. This AD requires modifying the RPC before the next parachute jump and replacing the RPC at the next reserve parachute packing. The FAA is issuing this AD to address the unsafe condition on these products.

    FAA Proposal (07/03/12) PDF   (Jul 2012)
    Flight Planner   (Jan 2019)
    Huerta Letter PDF   (Jul 2012)
    Insurance Policy Summary   (Mar 2021)
    ISP Grid PDF   (May 2012)
    Parachute Landing Area Update PDF   (Aug 2012)
    Skydiving Makes the Perfect Experience Gift   (Dec 2019)

    It’s no secret that more and more people are turning to giving gifts of experiences instead of material things.

    Strong Enterprises Issues Service Bulletin for Tandem Drogue PDF   (Apr 2021)

    Strong Enterprises issued Service Bulletin #35 mandating inspection of the 3-ring attachment on tandem drogues manufactured between June 22, 2020, and February 2, 2021 whose last three digits of the serial numbers between 625 and 714. Status is MANDATORY. Compliance is IMMEDIATE – before the next jump.

    USPA Hangar Policy Comments PDF   (Jun 2016)
    Wingsuit Instructor Draft PDF   (Sep 2012)