Ask a Rigger | Reserves, Part 2: Knowing Your Gear
By Shauna Finley
When jumpers take on the responsibility (and that’s precisely what it is) of getting their licenses, they are pledging to conduct themselves safely. Doing so also sets an example for others. But sport jumpers often miss their 20-minute calls, rush to make their loads, skip their gear checks and get themselves into binds. Why? Complacency, plain and simple.
It’s time every one of us recommits to the “check of threes.” The check of threes consists of performing these three checks three times (before donning the gear, before boarding the plane and before exit):
- Three rings (The two 3-ring releases are configured properly, and the reserve static line is attached and unentangled.)
- Three points of attachment (The two leg straps and chest strap are properly routed through the friction adapters, not twisted and secure.)
- Three handles (The main-deployment, cutaway and reserve-deployment handles are properly stowed and secure.)
Your gear checks should also include a fourth check of three—two pins and the automatic activation device—which consists of checking that the main and reserve pins are in place, secure and properly routed, and the AAD is on and set to the correct setting for the jump. Some jumpers also add their accessories (often the helmet, goggles and altimeter) as a fifth check of threes.
Even if you perform gear checks for yourself, do you help others perform them? Do you continuously look at your fellow jumpers’ gear when you’re waiting for the plane? What about while you’re in the plane? No? Shame on you. Performing gear checks and helping other with safety awareness isn’t the exclusive province of instructors and coaches. We are all on the same team.
When performing gear checks for your sky family:
1 | Open your eyes (not awkwardly wide, normal is fine).
2 | Get your hands on their gear. A chest strap can be misrouted and look right, but if you actually tug on it and physically follow the webbing through the friction adapter, you will find the problem.
3 | Use a consistent pattern each time. A common choice is to go from top to bottom, starting with the left and right 3-ring systems. Check your handles in the order you would use them (main deployment, cutaway, reserve). If you get interrupted, start at the beginning.
4 | Use mnemonic devices (such as “fabric, metal, fabric” when checking the chest and leg straps) to remind yourself what to look for.
5 | Check the entire component. For example, be sure to check both the front and back of the leg straps, since a twist could be anywhere along their lengths. (A twist in a leg strap is not only uncomfortable, it can cause the strap itself to slip and loosen.) When checking the main pin, check the pilot chute bridle to ensure it is correctly routed and—if the pilot chute is collapsible—make sure it is cocked. (“Color in the window” is a good mnemonic for this.)
6 | It can be more effective to look for what is right versus what is wrong. There are countless ways for a component to be configured incorrectly, but usually only one way for it to be correct.
Even when you’re not performing a formal gear check, stay watchful. Scan chest straps in the plane; check left wrists for altimeters. See something, say something. If you notice something unfamiliar or strange on someone’s gear, ask them about it. Either you’ll learn something new or you’ll bring a critical error to their attention. We all need to look out for one another.
Shauna Finley | D-34907 and FAA Master Rigger
USPA Eastern Regional Director