Unusual Situations

Lesson Objectives

  • Respond to Aircraft Emergencies following your instructor’s commands.
  • Preventative routines and solutions for accidental activations of the container inside the aircraft.
  • Minor Freefall Emergencies.
  • Two Canopies Out Situations
  • Canopy Entanglements and Collisions

The following situations may occur, but have a very low probability and/or are not serious and just need advice to inform and prepare you as the student. During AFF programs and some static line programs, the instructors monitor and control most of these situations and are able to direct you with commands and advice when or if they occur.

Aircraft Emergencies

 The probability of experiencing an aircraft emergency is low probability.  An aircraft problem is usually something that is not extremely urgent but requires the pilot to either:

  1. Have jumpers exit the plane, or 
  2. Land the aircraft.

If a situation arises, the pilot is in command of the aircraft and will make the decision as to what he would like everyone to do.  When you have instructor supervision the “chain of command” would be pilot-instructor-you, or once graduated it would be the pilot to you.  The following commands may be given:

Aircraft Emergency!  Prepare to land!

If the aircraft is 1500 feet or lower the pilot will land the plane with everyone on board.  Your actions would be to keep your helmet and seat belt on, place your head between your knees with your hands over your head.  The purpose of doing this is to eliminate being thrown around in case of a hard landing.

After the aircraft stops, go immediately, but in an orderly manner, to the door.  Touch nothing on the aircraft, and walk at least 300 feet away from the plane at a 45-degree angle outward from the aircraft tail.

Aircraft Emergency!  Exit! Exit!

  • Between 1,500 and 3,000 feet; move to door, place left hand on reserve handle, exit clearing aircraft and pull.
  • Above 3,000 feet you will exit the aircraft solo and immediately pull either the reserve or main pilot chute.  Your instructor will indicate which you are to pull.
  • Above 4,500 feet you will either exit solo pulling the handle dictated by your instructor, or launch with an instructor who will pull for you.  

After performing an emergency exit, once under an open canopy locate the instructor’s parachute and follow it to a clear, open landing area.  If you can’t locate instructor, select any clear area for landing.

Accidental Activation in the Aircraft

This type of problem can be avoided by moving into and out of the aircraft carefully and deliberately.  Key preventative steps are: 

  • Cover handles whenever anyone is moving near you,  
  • always get an inflight pin check prior to exit,  
  • be careful when moving in the aircraft; rehearse your exit climb out well at the mockup prior to boarding in aircraft.

If your rig, or anyone else’s is opened in the aircraft, notify an instructor (and the jumper) immediately and do what you can to contain the pilot chute and bag.   

If your rig or anyone else’s is opened during exit (by the door) and: 

  • the pilot chute or parachute (bag) deploys in the door and you know it is yours you MUST jump immediately, 
  • you are standing in the door and realize you have an open container you must exit immediately,  
  • you are in the door of the aircraft and see anyone else’s parachute deploying, jump and take them with you.

 Minor Freefall Emergencies

Unstable exit    

If you are not presented to the wind properly and you and your instructors find yourselves unstable after the exit launch, your response is to simply arch and relax.

Loss of one instructor   

If for some reason one of the instructors is not there, just carry on with the planned jump responding to any signals from the remaining instructor.  

Loss of two instructors    

You are to PULL.

Goggles dislodged    

If your goggles were to get knocked across your eyes simply return them to a good position with your hand(s).

Altimeter problem  

If the altimeter does not seem to be working or you cannot see it, check with your instructors and indicate there is a problem by pointing at the altimeter or showing them the altimeter.  The instructors will show you their altimeter to allow you to maintain altitude awareness and pull on time.

If you see the pull signal given by your instructor, activate the parachute system immediately.  “Arch-relax, reach, pull, Arch-relax!”

If you see your instructor deploying his/her parachute, activate the parachute system immediately.  “Arch-relax, reach, pull, Arch-relax!”

Floating Reserve Ripcord Handle  

If the reserve handle comes out of the pocket it is not a problem.  Reach for the housing end by the ripcord pocket and hook your thumb around the cable, slide your hand to the handle, and pull.  Remain calm and realize the handle MUST be there.  It is.

Your priorities during freefall are always:

  1. PULL
  2. PULL at the proper altitude
  3. PULL at the proper altitude and STABLE

Two Parachutes Out

Two canopy situations can occur due to a few possible scenarios:

  • Misfire of the Automatic Activation Device.
  • Low pull coinciding with the AAD firing
  • Some high-speed deployment problems with the main resulting in the necessity to pull the reserve followed by an immediate unexpected deployment of the main parachute.     

There are a few deployment configurations that are possible. Each situation dictates the best course of action for landing safely. Let’s take a look:

Stable Biplane

 A stable biplane occurs when the two canopies are stacked one directly behind the other.  Regardless of which canopy is leading, release the toggles on the lead canopy only and steer the canopy gently in small increments (i.e. 8 point turn).  Keep the two canopies together in the plane configuration.  Land without flaring and keep the feet and knees together (PLF).

Side By Side

 If the canopies are side-by-side check for any entanglement and if clear and altitude permits cut away and fly the reserve canopy to a safe landing.

If you chose not to release the main, steer a side by side by releasing the toggles on the main canopy only and steering very gently or incrementally.  A side by side can be landed but ONLY without flaring.  Use PLF on landing.

 Down Plane

If the canopies split to a down plane (diving towards the ground) you MUST release (cutaway) the main.  Cut away the main canopy and steer the reserve to a normal landing.

Main-Reserve Entanglement 

If for some reason the two canopies have become entangled attempt to clear the problem by retrieving the less-inflated canopy.  Do a PLF for landing.

Canopy Collision

  • The most important practice with other traffic is to; 
    1. Be aware of traffic around you
    2. Fly predictable in traffic, green zone turns only
    3. Look before turning, look back and down
    4. Follow a structured flight plan 
  • In most cases, jumpers avoid colliding if they both steer to the right; however, depending on the situation, they must also use their judgment.
  • If collision with lines is imminent, spread your arms and legs to prevent passing through the other canopy.
  • If you collide and entangle, you must communicate your intentions before taking further action. Communication is critical!

If it is too low for a safe cutaway (below 1,000 feet) and the canopies are uncontrollable, both jumpers should deploy their reserves as the last resort.


In the event of an aircraft emergency the pilot is in command and will give instructions to your instructor/coach or to you directly.  The three options to an aircraft emergency are, land with the plane, jump and pull your reserve, and jump pulling your main.

The preventive routines are the most important practices to follow: 

  • Always receive a safety check prior to exit.
  • Protect your gear when moving around in the aircraft.
  • Practice exits in the mock up when planning a jump.
  • Always select airworthy well-maintained equipment.
  • Practice your emergency procedure method – Two hands on one handle, or One hand on each toggle. Commit the motion to memory by practicing many times.

Two canopy situations can be easily avoided by being altitude aware.  If you do experience two canopies out you will perform one of the following three solutions. 

  • Bi-plane: steer front canopy only. 
  • Side by side: cutaway if clear or, steer with dominant canopy only. 
  • Down-plane: cutaway.