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Ask a Rigger | If I Lose or Damage My Cutaway Cables, Can I Replace Them with a Set That is Similar?

By Jen Sharp

Ask A Rigger | May 2020
Friday, May 1, 2020

Cutaway cables are not universally interchangeable. The most important factor is to have the proper amount of cable extending past each retaining loop, since a riser will release as soon as the end of the cable clears it. When the cable is too short, the cutaway handle does not need to travel very far to cause a release. This increases the danger of an unwanted cutaway, particularly if the handle gets snagged or dislodges from the pocket. You should always consult with your rigger or the rig’s manufacturer when replacing a cutaway handle to make sure that the cables are the correct length.

It’s important not to just eyeball it. At first glance, your cables may seem long enough for safety, but your flexible cable housing (the channel that the cables run through inside the container) expands in length to accommodate the movement of a jumper wearing it and, when the rig is at rest, can make the cable look like it has more excess than it does. When the housing stretches to its greatest possible length (e.g., when a jumper reaches their arms out fully in celebration of a skydive, reaches for the toggles or wears heavier clothing) the amount of cable extending past the housing is shorter. It’s possible to stretch the housing enough to cause the end of the cable to come out of the retaining loop and cause an unwanted cutaway.

Additionally, the amount of cable extending past the retaining loop must be correct on each riser to ensure that both risers release at the same time during a cutaway. This is important on all rigs, but particularly those equipped with reserve static lines. If the excess cable is shorter than recommended on the riser that has the RSL attachment, that riser would release first during a cutaway. If the jumper does not pull the handle far enough for the second riser to release, the RSL would still pull the reserve cable and cause the reserve pin to extract, even with only one riser released. This leads to a high potential for an entanglement of the main and reserve canopies.

How long should the cable extend beyond the loop? As always, don’t make it up … look it up. You can easily find your container’s owner’s manual online, and it will specify the length of the cables. You could also ask a rigger to look it up for you. Read the manufacturer’s instructions on how to measure … oftentimes they’ll recommend taking the measurements while the rig is on. For example, a typical correct measurement might be approximately 7.5 inches of excess on the RSL side and 5.5 inches on the non-RSL side.

That’s the long and short of it!

Jen Sharp | D-17516, Coach Examiner, Tandem Instructor Examiner, AFF and Static-Line Instructor, PRO
FAA Master Rigger

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