Parachute Malfunction

“How to survive a parachute failure,” by Justin Parkinson, BBC News (Internet).

Life Magazine, 1947

This article appealed to that little boy still living inside of me. Suppose you jumped out of an airplane and your parachute did not open. Suppose then your emergency chute did not open either. You are done for, right? Probably, but not necessarily. People have survived. “According to the Guinness Book of World Records, flight attendant Vesna Vulović lived on after he (or she) was thrown from a DC-9 at an altitude of 33,333 feet in 1972. (The famous photo at left was a suicide jump of a 23-year-old woman from the 80th floor of the Empire State Building in 1947. She landed on a car. Her name was Evelyn McHale.)

After a point, the height from which a person falls won’t make a difference to how fast they are going when they hit the ground. The human body in free fall reaches its terminal velocity after dropping about 2,000 feet, which usually takes 13 to 14 seconds.

So Vesna fell 33,333 feet? Pshaw! Resourceful Roger would know what to do. Studies of survivors have suggested several procedures, although though plain old luck is a big factor. But, while falling, trying them will at least distract you a little from the situation at hand.

This is your best hope:

Form what skydivers call the box position: face down with head up, arms and legs extended. This creates the most air resistance. But you want to land on your back, so the last moment before you hit the ground, you need to roll over. This can be tricky because as you roll over, you will lose the maximum air resistance, and your fall will speed up.

You have nothing else to do, so you might as well try it. But don’t despair if it doesn’t work. Most parachutes are warrantied, so keep your receipt and you may get your money back.

What? You don’t care?


About Roger Walck

My reasons for writing this blog are spelled out in the posting of 10/1/2012, Montaigne's Essays. They are probably not what you think.
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