Since the dawn of time, humankind has striven to place itself into environments where it doesn’t belong - including the skies. But with every feat of engineering achievement comes the inevitable list of people who get it wrong and pay the ultimate price. Skydiving accident survivors belong to that fortunate club whose members have avoided a horrific demise. But how did they manage to live through something so seemingly un-survivable?
Remembering what to do if your parachute fails may seem like a fool's errand, but in case - for whatever reason - you need to know how to survive a fall from an airplane, these tricks may allow you to live long enough to tell the tale.
First Thing's First: The Chances Of Malfunction Are Slim
The chances of being involved in a skydiving accident are extremely low. In fact, you're 24 times more likely to perish in a car than become the victim of a failed parachute, and the stats are only improving.
The rate of skydiving mishaps has been cut nearly in half since the advent of new backup chute options in the past 40 years.
Modern Parachute Packs Are Virtually Mistake-Proof
When a skydiver experiences parachute failure, the first course of action is to perform a “cutaway” maneuver. This involves pulling a reserve handle which removes the original chute, and in most cases, simultaneously deploys the backup chute for a safe landing.
The technology even accounts for unconsciousness: modern equipment will automatically deploy your chute if you reach a certain altitude without doing so.
Avoid Landing In Water, If Possible
One of the most dangerous myths about surviving a great fall is the assumption that landing in water is any less dangerous than landing on solid ground. In truth, falling into water from high altitudes can put you at an even greater risk.
Water can be just as hard as concrete when hit with intense velocity. This impact alone may prove devastating, but if you are knocked unconscious from damage to the head or spine, being left underwater could also spell the end. Rocks or other obstructions just beneath the water's surface may also cause harm.
Snowbanks And Swamps Are Ideal Landing Surfaces
A study performed by Swedish surgery professor Ulf Björnstig indicates a human body reaching terminal velocity when falling needs a minimum of half a meter of deceleration distance between them and the ground to survive.
Several types of natural terrain could possibly provide such a cushion, including snow mounds, marshes, and plowed farmlands. More urban options include high-tension wires or RV-type vehicles with large, collapsible roofs.