Parachute club urged to develop packing protocols

Student’s parachute got entangled in tail of aircraft during incident in Offaly in 2015

The Cessna aircraft was badly damaged in the skydiving incident in August 2015 Photograph: Air Accident Investigation Unit

A parachute club in Co Offaly has been advised to develop procedures to prevent variances in packing standards for parachutes after an accident involving a student skydiver last year.

The Cessna 182L plane used by the Irish Parachute Club, with a pilot and three skydivers on board, took off from Clonbullogue airfield on the morning of August 8th, 2015. The pilot had already completed two similar trips that morning, a report by the Air Accident Investigation Unit of the Department of Transport said. He intended to climb to 3,500ft to release the two students and the "jumpmaster".

But after the first student climbed out to jump and released from the right wing strut of the aircraft, he was “jerked back” and saw that his main parachute canopy was entangled around the right-hand side horizontal stabiliser of the aircraft.

At the same time the aircraft pitched up suddenly and went into a spin. The student had to act within seconds to cut away from his main canopy, the investigation found.


Reserve parachute

He reserve parachute deployed and he landed within the drop zone at the airfield.

The investigators said the pilot performed a spin recovery, reaching recovery at an altitude of 1,000ft, and landed without further incident. Significant damage was found on the aircraft’s tail area and to the student’s main canopy. There were no injuries.

The pilot (36) had 279 hours of flying experience, of which 26 were on the same type of aircraft. Chief air accident investigator Jurgen Whyte said in his report that the plane was manufactured in 1968 and had a valid certificate of airworthiness issued by the Irish Aviation Authority.

An examination of a random selection of the club's parachuting equipment identified "some variances" in the standard of packing, including in how they were secured. Mr Whyte said it was the first reported/recorded occurrence in Ireland where a main parachute canopy had become entangled on the empennage, or tail area, of a parachuting aircraft.

“Had the controllability of the aircraft been compromised further, it is likely that the outcome of this event would have been far more serious,” he added.

The club held a seminar for members to emphasise general packing standards and other safety issues after the incident.