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After a brief respite, special operations parachute deaths are up this year
Old 08-10-2018, 07:11   #1
SouthernDZ
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After a brief respite, special operations parachute deaths are up this year

It's easy for many to forget that MFF is inherently dangerous because so few mishaps actually occur.


Following a record number of special operations airborne-related deaths in 2015, the military services saw a sharp drop from five down to one in both 2016 and 2017. But so far in 2018, the number has creeped back up to two ― both seasoned senior NCOs with dozens of jumps in their logs.

The Army didn’t initially announce the July 1 death of SGM Christopher Nelms, likely because he was serving in the elite Delta Force organization, as reported by Yahoo News, but he is the second Army SGM to die in a parachute accident this year. An investigation into Nelms' death, which came after a June 27 jump in which his parachute failed to open, is ongoing. SGM Samuel McAllister, a member of the 75th Ranger Regiment, died in January after another free-fall accident, in Arizona. Though specific causes for the accidents were not immediately available, U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) has for years been grappling with the risks associated with free-fall parachute jumps, in which a service member leaps from a plane and plummets for a short period of time before manually opening the chute.

A review of accident investigations by Military Times found that training shortfalls and lapsed qualifications contributed to some of the deaths over the past decade, but that at least in some cases, the overconfidence of operators and trainers also played a part.

“Being ‘special’ shouldn’t be an excuse to cut corners or accept needless risk in either training or operations,” a retired senior special operations officer told Military Times in 2016. Several years ago, it was the SEALs who had clocked multiple deaths in a year. In 2017, it was down to one, a member of the elite Leap Frogs demonstration team who plummeted during a New York City fleet week exhibition. And earlier in 2017, the Marine Corps suspended some of its static line jump ops ― when a line is hooked inside the aircraft and the force of a jump causes a parachute to immediately open ― after a student died during a Multi-Mission Parachute Course.

For its part, the Army’s 2017 safety program assessment does not specifically call out improving airborne ops as a high priority, but mentions a program called the Parachute Suite of Sensors. “The PSS will leverage current technology to recreate the sequence of jump operations events and be used for training, life cycle management, and mishap investigations,” according to the assessment. In effect, it will act as a black box for parachute jumps, recording altitude, body position and deployment (or not) of a parachute and beyond. That way, rather than relying on witness statements, incident investigators could have some more precise data to analyze the narrative and cause of an accident.

“Any time we lose one of America’s sons or daughters in an accidental mishap, that’s a grave concern to all commanders,” said BG Jeffrey Farnsworth, then the head of the Army Combat Readiness Center, told the Fayetteville Observer in 2016. The Natick Soldier Research, Development & Engineering Center was not able to provide an update on the program, other than to confirm that it is ongoing.

https://www.militarytimes.com/news/y...20Bird%20Brief
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Old 08-10-2018, 09:11   #2
CSB
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I am frustrated by the lack of actual facts about these deaths.

Perhaps a dissenting view, but when I see a thread that XXX died in a parachuting accident, and the only response is a series of "RIP" and "blue skies" and similar posts, my first question is What the Hell really happened?

Sure, sometimes the full accident investigation drifts months or years later, but
some uncontested facts should be available immediately:
- Total malfunction (container remained closed)?
- Partial malfunction (failure of canopy to deploy / inflate)?
- Hollywood or CE?

Sometimes it really is the jumpers own fault (remember the SEAL who jumped from a 259 foot cell phone tower a while back?)

And for a "cause" to be "lapsed qualifications" is bullshit. What, as if the jumpmaster went through refresher seven months ago
instead of six months ago "caused" a parachute fatality?

Like I said ... a dissenting view.

Last edited by CSB; 08-13-2018 at 13:34.
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Old 08-10-2018, 10:19   #3
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^^^CSB

I agree that the process is broken and have always wondered why the knee jerk response to an individual death before more in known.

Hundreds or thousands of jumps are completed every year without mishaps and yet the one or two that result in death or serious injuries are examined through the lens of a microscope.

Jumping out of an airplane hundreds or thousands of feet up in the air has inherent risk. Any of a dozen things can go wrong resulting in certain death.

If the military investigation board treated a vehicular accident as they do a parachute accident no one would be allowed to leave the motor pool - ever!

Seniority doesn’t account for experience or proficiency. RIP to both SGMs but were you both really current or just hate static line? Could happen to anyone at anytime so I’m not laying blame just citing the obvious. I personally jumped (MFF) with and JMPI’d unit SGMs to participate in International fun jumps and opening/closing ceremonies and prayed each time that nothing bad happened. The paperwork trail would always be the first place everyone would look - because if it’s not the jumper, or the Jump Master, then maybe it was the rigger? The equipment is pretty straight forward...there is a problem found or there is not. Everything else is documented from storage to last inspection and packing. Even repacking by the jumper is inspected by a second set of “qualified” eyes.

Seen some crazy shit but never saw the equipment fail.
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Old 08-11-2018, 12:02   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Old Dog New Trick View Post
^^^CSB

I agree that the process is broken and have always wondered why the knee jerk response to an individual death before more in known.

Hundreds or thousands of jumps are completed every year without mishaps and yet the one or two that result in death or serious injuries are examined through the lens of a microscope.

Jumping out of an airplane hundreds or thousands of feet up in the air has inherent risk. Any of a dozen things can go wrong resulting in certain death.

If the military investigation board treated a vehicular accident as they do a parachute accident no one would be allowed to leave the motor pool - ever!

Seniority doesn’t account for experience or proficiency. RIP to both SGMs but were you both really current or just hate static line? Could happen to anyone at anytime so I’m not laying blame just citing the obvious. I personally jumped (MFF) with and JMPI’d unit SGMs to participate in International fun jumps and opening/closing ceremonies and prayed each time that nothing bad happened. The paperwork trail would always be the first place everyone would look - because if it’s not the jumper, or the Jump Master, then maybe it was the rigger? The equipment is pretty straight forward...there is a problem found or there is not. Everything else is documented from storage to last inspection and packing. Even repacking by the jumper is inspected by a second set of “qualified” eyes.

Seen some crazy shit but never saw the equipment fail.
I have been on the Board of Enquiry of a number of freefall fatalities and one thing stands out. Not one of the deaths were caused by a single error or equipment failure. Every one was caused by at least two errors by the jumper or one error and an equipment failure.
The worst was a fatality where the jumper was unfamiliar to new gear and he first pulled the cutaway handle, then deployed the main. When that flew away, he deployed his reserve in an unstable position, had a horseshoe malfunction with the reserve bridle cord wrapped around his wrist. This reserve was one of the new Safety Flyers square reserve that had a broad bridle cord designed to still deploy the reserve from a free bag. The reserve did not deploy because the canvas bridle cord snapped along the fold-line where it was folded under the pack-closing loop.
That jump had so many errors and an equipment failure that the real cause, unfamiliarity with equipment was nearly lost in the detail.
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Old 08-12-2018, 08:19   #5
Old Dog New Trick
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^^^So human error X2 which led to the discovery of a potentially deadly flaw with equipment design - that may only exist in a cascade of issues caused by the jumper.

Sort of like the potentially catastrophic events following a non-vigorous or poor exit during a static-line jump? (Possible decapitation/avulsion injury, jumper routed through risers or suspension lines, towed jumper, horseshoe malfunction, etc..)

My concern is that the military always tries to place blame somewhere besides the human element and (like you said) goes to great lengths to absolve the individual jumper of his/her fault or the fault of his/her training or proficiency.
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Old 08-13-2018, 13:33   #6
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Quote:
Not one of the deaths were caused by a single error or equipment failure.
I concur. Over decades we have engineered virtually all "S[ingle] P[oints] O[f] F[ailure]" out of the systems. It's almost always of the form:

"A" Happened. That would not have caused the mishap. But then
"B" Happened. "A" and "B" together would have placed the jumper in distress.
"C" Happened and death was then unavoidable.

When I read "He was fighting [the canopy] all the way" so many questions
come to mind, starting with "why was he "fighting" a canopy? If it's bad,
cut it away and deploy the reserve.
Why did the main fail to deploy and inflate correctly?
Why wouldn't it jettison? Or did it?
Why didn't the reserve deploy and inflate?
And so on.
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Old 08-13-2018, 16:35   #7
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Was it an 02 jump?

Making a bunch of daytime hop and pops is not the same as a high altitude 02 jump with equipment.
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Old 08-13-2018, 20:53   #8
CSB
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Pete, I concur.

O2, at night, full CE, ...

vs.

at a civilian DZ, packing, jumping, burgers and fries, repack, jump ...

but Mother Army closes ranks and refuses to release even minimum facts.

And the absence of facts leads to speculation, rumor and conjecture.

I'm all for the facts, wherever they may fall.

And sometimes, the facts are that the deceased was 100% "at fault."

Bravery and a sense of adventure can lead even the best soldier, sailor, airman or Marine to stray into error.

Quote:
25 APR 72


CW2 Howard W. Blanton Jr [P]
CW2 David A. Green [CP]
2LT William R. Groce
SSG Mifflin Tichenor Jr

Kentucky


HHC/101 AVN
UH-1H
#64-13900

A/C crashed while on a parachute drop mission near the Corregidore Drop Zone due to mast bumping. At the time of the crash non-rated 2LT Groce was in the pilot's seat flying the A/C.
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