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Should experienced skydivers use RSLs?
There has been a lot of discussion recently about whether experienced jumpers should use RSLs. This discussion has actually been going on for years. Throughout my skydiving career I chose not to use an RSL. The logic for this being that if I had to cutaway and only had one parachute left I wanted to be as flat and stable as possible before deploying my reserve. For some 25+ cutaways I did just that and it worked fine. I was always under my reserve plenty high.
A couple of years ago I saw a good friend, and very competent skydiver with over 2000 jumps, ride a gently spinning malfunction down to about 500 feet and then cutaway. She never got the reserve out. I thought long and hard about this. It occurred to me that there had been several times over the years that I ended up in freefall lower than I had intended. Fortunately those weren’t the times I had malfunctions but they just as easily could have been.
It’s the combinations of problems that get you in trouble. You know, those times when you break off and deploy a little lower than you planned. But you have a hard pull, then a pilot hesitation, then a snivel, then a malfunction, then it takes an extra second to get your hand on the cutaway handle, now you are down at 1000 or lower and cutting away, then you tumble for a few seconds before getting stable and pulling your reserve.
I decided that this type of scenario was more likely, and risky, than using an RSL and cutting away from a spinning malfunction which could then possibly hinder my reserve opening. The RSL deploys the reserve so quickly that this shouldn’t be a problem. And with a Skyhook, which is even better than an RSL, you don’t even have time to get unstable before your reserve is out. I’ve had three cutaways now with a skyhook and it is more like a canopy transfer. I didn’t for even a second have that feeling of going back into freefall.
After looking at all the different scenarios I came to the conclusion that getting a parachute over your head as quickly as possible was the most important thing to do.
Everyone needs to make this decision for themselves. But as far as whether an experienced jumper should use a skyhook and/or an RSL, I absolutely think the benefits far outweigh the risks. Both my rigs have skyhooks and RSLs on them. And I’m a fairly experienced skydiver.
Thanks for putting up with all my safety tips. I hope they’re useful.
By the way, if you have any interest please check out my blog and web site at
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