Malfunction leads to wingsuit falling apart in flight!

ridlerontheroofPublished: December 20, 2017Updated: December 21, 2017
Published: December 20, 2017Updated: December 21, 2017

While doing some performance training back in 2014, I was trying different approaches to maintaining a steep dive when things didn't exactly go as planned ...

During the dive the right arm wing shoulder zipper blew open. I assume it out fairly small as it initially only caused some mild instability, which I quickly countered and continued back into training. From there the blown zipper must have continued to open more, which caused me to flip onto my back and induced a flat spin. After I recovered from the flat spin I had to stay in a dive to prevent myself from immediately going back into another (if you look close in the video, you will see the stiffener blown out of the gripper as well). All the while, I used my fingers to climb their way up to the wrist of the malfunctioning arm wing, then focused on getting my hand over the wing to deploy my pilot chute. At this point the elbow of my right arm was fully exposed, so I was sure to deploy as quickly as possible to avoid an entanglement with the loose fabric of my depressurized, malfunctioning wing.

Immediately after landing, I carefully inspected the suit and found the zipper slider was still all the way down on the back (top) of the suit and the velcro strip was still fastened, as they both should be. After closely examining the wingsuit with the S&TA at the drop zone and a few friends, we were not able to find any physical defects on the equipment itself, or specifically on the zippers. We concluded #8 zippers were not sufficient for the stress, durability, and strength required in this application. Additional research I did following this incident also confirmed this conclusion.

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