Emergency Procedures: Staying out of the Danger Zone

January 8, 2020

We’ve all been there. That moment you land your parachute and think “I shouldn’t have done that”. Do you think about your emergency procedures before each jump? Or know what to do if something goes wrong when you’re too low to cutaway? We’ve adapted a great article by Robbie McMillan that asks those difficult questions. We all want to stay out of the danger zone. Read on to see why Robbie talks about Humble Pie.

Adapted from Australian Skydiver Magazine Pull the Strings. Issue 11 2002. ‘A Piece of Pie’ by Robbie McMillan


A wise man once said that the key to success in this sport depends solely on how you hold your mouth.

“You can tell a lot about what is going through a persons mind by the way they hold their mouth”

If someone has a confident grin, then they are probably in control of their actions. If they looked shocked, then they have probably done something for the first time, or they just realised that they’ve done something that they probably shouldn’t. However, the most important thing about how you hold your mouth is how big it needs to be if someone asks you to swallow a piece of… Humble Pie.


Definition of humble pie:
: a figurative serving of humiliation usually in the form of a forced submission, apology, or retraction often used in the phrase eat humble pie [Merriam-Webster Dictionary]

There are many ingredients in Humble Pie, the most flavoursome being pride. You will definitely taste the pride as you swallow your first piece. The remaining ingredients are like the eleven secret herbs and spices, mysterious though a recognisable flavour.

As life goes on, you’ll grow accustomed to the taste and might learn to savour the flavour. If you live to be older and bolder, normally it becomes your job to pass on the recipe to the younger generation. When someone tells you that they’ve eaten it before, believe them, it is true. Everybody eats Humble Pie, sooner or later!


Get up, get dressed, Drive to the DZ. Gear up and get in the plane. Get out of the plane! Fly fast, fly together, track away. Get open, fly to the DZ, land safely, pack your parachute and go again. Simple? This sport isn’t simple! If it was simple then anyone and everyone would be doing it. Some people recognise this by following a simple rule: “Don’t fuck up!”

Unfortunately, on most occasions, simplicity is more complicated than that. Some might argue that devices such as AADs and RSLs are built to complicate a simple procedure. Some might argue that devices are used for when shit happens. Many will testify to that. Old Mother Hubbard went to the cupboard to fetch her poor dog a bone. When she got there the cupboard was bare. Distracted already? Why aren’t you concentrating? Procedure is very simple if you concentrate and not let the monotony of the procedure stop you from being prepared and seeing the big picture.

Check your rig, every time. Make sure your passenger is connected, every time. Have a plan, exercise common sense, and stay alert. Every time. The list goes on. Keep. It. Simple.

Gear checks before boarding the plane. NZA’s (now JYRO) New Year’s Boogie at the Blondes. Photo Credit: Rob Pine


So if the procedure is simple, the execution of the procedure may not necessarily be. For instance: A brake-line breaks on opening, what would you do?

If you listened to your first jump course instructor, they probably told you to release the other brake and then to land on your rear risers. Could you or would you land the canopy that you have now in the same way?

Could you land on your rears if you had to? Martin Cressey landing his JFX. Photo Credit: Craig Poxon

What might happen if you have a spinning malfunction? Perhaps, altitude permitting, you could reach for the opposite rear riser to slow and then stop the turn to assess the situation. Larger more docile canopies will still lose a lot of height in a tight spin. A smaller canopy that is loaded will spin very quickly, and subsequently, the severity and force required to pull the cut-away handle may increase. When you cut-away, it will feel like an Olympic hammer thrower releasing you as his hammer. Disorientation would probably already have set in as you’ve likely been spinning for a few seconds. How many seconds have you got?

Another way to find yourself in this predicament is to do a sharp, fast turn in one direction and then do another in the opposite direction. This is likely to result in line twists and a steep dive. In other words, not something we would recommend trying. However, you can practice what it will feel like to be disorientated by releasing one brake at altitude and let it revolve a few times. Practice straightening the canopy out by applying opposite rear riser to the direction of your spin. Realise how much height you can lose very quickly.


Do you have a procedure that you follow after opening? Does it include locating your handles and practising your emergency procedures? We all check our handles before exiting the plane (some more than others), but how many have practiced under an open canopy?

For many of us, it is pretty standard to loosen our chest straps after opening. It improves the canopy’s performance and makes it easier to flare, so why wouldn’t you loosen your chest strap? What if you had a malfunction though? Suddenly your handles aren’t where they normally are, would you still be able to locate them?

Need help locating your handles under an open canopy? Find your hip rings and run your hands up from there. Photo Credit: Dani Roman


Ever find yourself in a tight spot? Someone has cut you off on landing or you’re coming back from a long spot – what is your plan? A flat turn can get you out of many difficult situations. Practice how much altitude you can lose – and how much you can’t. Knowing how much altitude your canopy looses with different types of turns could make the difference between walking away from your landing or being driven away in an ambulance.

Tomas Juozaiti using his rear risers and harness to turn his Leia. Photo Credit: Craig Amrine

Invest in canopy coaching. You have probably heard this before, but we will say it time and again. There are so many great instructors out there offering canopy skills courses that there really is no excuse not to get coaching. Knowing your canopy and practicing those drills could save your life one day. And if there aren’t any courses, arrange one!

Our blog post 25 Ways to Become a Better Canopy Pilot has more in-depth details on good practice drills.

Our Chrisssss put together some safety tips in a video for the party season, but they are relevant at any time of the year.

Matt Munting and Christian Whyte put together a Universal Skydiving Matrix. It’s a funny video, but knowing your skills and your limits will keep you and your mates safe – the Danger Zone is real people.


Our Head Test jumper, Chris Brook, is an experienced jumper with thousands of skydives and has been test jumping all kinds of parachutes for NZ Aerosports (now JYRO) over the years. However, even he has tasted humble pie. Back in 2008, when he was still a fresh faced skydiver, he was learning to do turns on his 150sft canopy for the first time. He decided to make a 180 degree turn, misjudged how low he was to the ground and ended up saving himself on toggles. Sound familiar?

What about this one: Two years ago, he was test jumping our Kraken and decided to do a hop and pop with a wingsuit on. After pulling low, the canopy opened in line twists. He didn’t think it was a problem to start with, however, it soon became apparent that he wasn’t going to kick them out. He wasn’t under a fully functioning canopy until 600ft.

Make no mistake, our procedures may be simple, but it’s no guarantee that it will be simple to complete them.


So you can see from a simple problem, you have a lot of things to think about. How many other situations can you and your jump mates think of? So in addition to spending 20 minutes dirt-diving your next skydive, think about some of the situations that you as an individual or team may find yourselves in. In conclusion, if you don’t like Humble Pie and aren’t prepared to eat it, then the next time you are in a situation which warrants eating another piece, you might be wishing that you had a taste. Just for good karma.

A frosty cold beverage aids digestion. Obey your thirst… SIMPLE.

Fly Smooth, Blue Skies.

Beersies with mates at Skydive Auckland. Photo Credit: Kian Bullock


Join the Teem‘s Friday Freakout has plenty examples of skydivers eating some Humble Pie. Step into the rabbit hole here.
The School of Fast Progression and Radical Downsizing can give you a good insight into what happens when the pie is too large to eat.
Adapted from Australian Skydiver Magazine Pull the Strings. Issue 11 2002. ‘A Piece of Pie’ by Robbie McMillan


Strong Enough to Flare or Not? Myths Busted
10 Examples of Skydiving Mistakes
Flying Habits for Highly Effective Canopy Pilots
If I was a Beginner Skydiver Again…

we’ve got after parties and free shit