Beware the Mae West.

I tried it years ago and fell in love with it.

I took the ground training, and put in seven solo, static line jumps before I was permitted to free fall:

Jumped.  Bad form. Tumble. 

Count to five (master got to two). 

Pull.  Mae West.  Ground training says cut away.  Fear says maybe it will clear. 

Count to five, grab the second cord, look up and - it's clear.

Thank you, lord. 

Let's enjoy the silence and the view. 

Funny, I'm pulling left.  Toggles are clear and up.  Let's look again.

Pilot chord wrapped around left steer lines.  Uh-oh.

Am I high enough to safely cut away?  Dunno - student jumpers not allowed altimeters because they aren't allowed long free-falls and it only distracts.

"Jumper One - if you can hear me, circle left."  I can hear you - I wish you could hear me (one way radios because student yipping and yelping  on the channel can interfere with instruction to other jumpers).  Circle right - he'll figure it out.  I always do exactly what he says.

"Jumper One - if you can hear me, circle left." Circle right.  Come on - get the hint.

"Jumper One - if you can hear me, circle right." Circle left.  Come on - PLEASE get the hint.

"Jumper One - the wind has shifted, aim straight for the peas and keep yourself over the field.

OK, I'm on my own.  This was a last flight quickie so I could get my free fall.  They dropped me at three thousand, it takes eight to twelve hundred for the first chute to clear and the second to open.  Have I dropped eighteen hundred?  I DON'T KNOW.

Alright.  I have most of my control.  I won't be able to flair. This is going to hurt.  I'm probably going to break a leg, or two, but I'm going to survive this.

Pilot slipping further from main - pulling harder on steers.  Counter with more on right - keep it away from the trees.

Drifting closer to trees, can't turn right to get away from them.  Let up on right some and circle. 

OK. facing away from trees now.  Pulling harder to left, pilot has slipped further away and is catching more air.  

Drifting left.  Loosing strength in right arm.   Can't lock right elbow - can't risk a stall. 

Right arm gives.  Hammer throw.  I'm the hammer.  I can still see tree tops.

Hit in tall grass.  Helpful, though.  I finally get the tuck and roll right instead of slipping and sliding on my butt.  Stop.

OK.  I'm alive.  I can wiggle my toes.  I can wiggle my fingers.  Man, my back hurts.  Take off the helmet and goggles.  do a visual.

My leg isn't supposed to be bent there.  I think I'm going to be sick.  Roll to your side so your leg is supported by the flat ground.  Ouch.  Good job, boy scout, forget some of your training?

"Dave.  You alright"


Bumpy ambulance ride - don't they know my back hurts and I'm riding on piece of plywood? 

Broken right femur.  Broken coxis.  Compression fracture of two vertebrae.  Hey, I'm a celebrity, they've never brought in a trauma like mine where the patient was still breathing, let alone conscious.

Two weeks in the hospital.  Two more weeks in a wheelchair. Six additional weeks with a walker.  A year with a cane.  One more operation in a year to remove the rod from my leg that has painfully carved a groove in my hip.  Years of wishing I could jump again, but even a good jump could paralyze me.

Now, what was it he said in ground training?  Oh, yeah - if you get a Mae West, there is only one thing to do - CUT AWAY.


dcwsaranac dcwsaranac
36-40, M
2 Responses Jun 29, 2007

Hey, I read your story and signed up cause I HAD to comment on it. I'm a skydiver who has bit it on a hard landing too. I was in high winds and couldn't make it to a big enough landing area. I had the choice of landing down wind into a brick wall or trying the dreaded low 180. This moron chose the 180 and smacked herself hard. I broke a foot, both femurs (one shot through my leg the other crushed at the hip) a humorous, and my face was smashed into 80 peices... and I was wearing a full face! Anyways, I too was concsious... I'm on crutches for at least 3 more months (it's been 4 with 3 in a wheelchair since the accident) and the main reason why I'm writing you: It kills me being away from my home dz. I lived there. I can't wait to jump again. It's all I think about and it makes me happy to know that there is someone else out there who's kinda going through the same thing cause the wuffo's I'm now surrounded by just think I'm nuts.<br />
<br />
Blue Skies

that sucks! I'll spare you my horror story of what I witnessed while paratrooping in the army. Suffice to say, I landed once really hard myself - thought I had broken everything as I was completely numb but miraculously not broken anything - haven't jumped since.