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You are Here: Parachute History.com >> Malfunctions >> Pilot Chute in Tow

Pilot Chute in Tow

A pilot chute in tow malfunction occurs when the pilot chute cannot pull the curved closing pin from the closing loop. It can only occur on a throw out deployment system.

Many of the causes of this malfunction can be detected in a pin check, prior to gearing up:

  • Stitching and webbing, that fastens the closing pin to the bridle line, should be checked for airworthiness. A pilot chute in tow will occur if the closing pin breaks free from the bridle line.
  • A closing loop that is too short can trap the closing pin.
  • A main canopy that is too large for the container may put too much tension on the closing loop, preventing pin extraction.
  • An uncocked or worn pilot chute may not have enough drag to open the container.
  • A straight closing pin in a throw-out system is highly susceptible to a pilot chute in tow.
  • A nick or groove in the closing pin or container grommet may prevent the pin from being extracted.
  • The bridle line may become entangled with a jumper's arm. Waving off with pilot chute in hand is also another excellent way to wrap the bridle line around your arm.
  • The bridle line may do a half hitch around the pilot chute as it rotates 180 just after a jumper lets the handle go.
  • The most common way to get a pilot chute in tow on belly-band or ROL throw out systems is to put the gear on wrong. Twisted belly bands and leg straps looped through the horizontal adjuster strap are the most popular ways.

A proper pin check after donning gear is crucial too. An extremely dangerous scenario arises when a jumper with a pilot chute in tow pulls the pin by hand, opening the container, and then realizes the bridle line is misrouted around part of the harness. He must now deploy his reserve into canopy and lines above his back.

USPA recommends that jumpers maintain stablity and pull the reserve ripcord immediately if faced with a pilot chute in tow. Do not waste valuable time and altitude by pulling the cut-a-way handle.

There is and has always been a great debate as to whether or not a cutaway should be done when faced with a pilot chute in tow. Both ways work and both ways have not worked.

CutawayNo cutaway
Pro: the main may separate if it happens to come out of the container during reserve deployment the jumper is under the reserve at a higher altitude
Con: the main may entangle with the reserve as it separates if it happens to come out of the container during reserve deployment the main might deploy simultaneously with the reserve. The two parachutes our scenario can be harrowing also.

A fail safe way to avoid a pilot chute in tow is to use a pull out or ripcord activation system.

Fatalities and Pilot Chute In Tow

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