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steamforged
04-03-2012, 11:28 PM
So by the end of my first chapter my two MCs jump off a dying dirigible with one parachute between them, in a raging thunderstorm, over a forest. It's a bad time, but they need to survive it so there can be a rest-of-the-book. I've googled around a bit; perhaps understandably, skydiving websites don't like to go into worst case scenarios. Bad for business. So here I am!

1. Taking into account adrenaline, is it possible for two people to successfully use one parachute without a harness attaching them? Could the person wearing the parachute hold onto the other when the chute snaps open, or is this one of those scenarios in which arms would get dislocated?

2. Are there any special considerations to jumping in a thunderstorm? We can safely assume they don't get struck by lightning (I'm the writer, and I say they don't get struck by lightning), but what about wind and rain?

3. I've found some scant info on paratroopers and smokejumpers, so I know it's possible to parachute into rough terrain and forests. I'm betting it's unpleasant. Any insight?

If someone bites, I may follow up with questions about altitude and time spent in freefall, etc. I'm cursed with endless curiosity.

DrZoidberg
04-04-2012, 01:32 AM
1. Yes
2. Them not getting hit by lightening would be bizarre. The rain is not a problem. It just messes with visibility.
3. It's dangerous for obvious reasons. You don't want to find yourself dangling from the top of a tree.

chartruscan
04-04-2012, 02:39 AM
I think it might be important to decide if you are using "civilian" parachutes, or military. Beyond the Army's Golden Eagles and brass (officer) jumps, "parachuting" military style is a whole different beast than other skydiving/tandem jumping.

For the military side of things, training is done with the same old 'chutes as you'd see in say, Band of Brothers (which did a bang up awesome job of depicting what the process and experience was for modern training). You have a rip line attached from the hood of the parachute pack to the inside of the plane. When you step out the door, you have four seconds of freefall before the 'chute is ripped open. And generally you are 800 feet off the ground and hit hard. Brass training flights were the same, but instead of being packed like cattle in a C-130, we sat just a half dozen of us in a Twin Otter and scooted out the door. Still 800 feet, still only four seconds of actual freefall, but we had fancier 'chutes that you could actually navigate (the rectangular ones that more resemble civilian skydiving 'chutes. The round WWII ones are beasts and movement is minimal, I could be doing full pullups and not affect the movement of my fall one lick).

I can't speak for actual combat jumps and what types of parachutes are used, and sadly can't speak to civilian skydiving or Golden Eagle jumps, but there is a huuuuuge difference between military and civilian parachuting. Military is low, so that you're not hanging out in the air making yourself a target for a longer period of time. Parachute is opened by the act of stepping off the plane. Freefall is mere seconds. You do jump with a reserve parachute strapped to the front of your waist. Civilian and Golden Eagle jumping (the latter of which is the showy bit that gets suckers like me to sign up, not realizing I'd have to dedicate a couple decades of my life to make it high enough to stand a chance at getting in) is higher (thousands of feet vs. a measly 800), different 'chutes with more navigability, opening of the 'chute is up to the operator, etc.)

So, questions to ask yourself: are you in a combat/training situation with military equipment, and that will dictate what circumstances you'll find your characters in. What may be feasible for a combat jump may not be realistic for a civilian set up.

(I may be wrong about the brass flight using a rip line, but I don't remember having to pull the shoot itself. Just that it was the sweetest, easiest jump I ever did).

And I'll leave the actual skydiving answers to those lucky sumb****es who have actually done it!

Otherwise all I have are funny stories of combat jumps (lots of nose tracks in the sand and freak updrafts).

Additionally, to at least try and answer one of your questions: wind can be an issue if there is a strong updraft. Parachutes can can flipped inside out (imagine an umbrella on a windy day) which can lead to the parachute collapsing and pure freefall, requiring the release of the parachute and activating the reserve 'chute, if your character is lucky to have one, but would be impossible if there were two people clinging to each other chest to chest (imho).

One other note: military landings --there are no standing landings like with civilian 'chutes. It's feet-ass-head. That said, if you were having difficulties with a civilian 'chute, and were falling faster than normal, it's still possible to land without breaking anything. Or if you had to open the 'chute closer to the ground closer than was standard (but compensate for there being twice the weight).
Hope that helps!

steamforged
04-05-2012, 01:52 AM
I have some leeway to work with, since my genre is steampunk and the setting is alt-history Victorian London. The goal is to not shatter immersion, rather than to be 100% true to reality. It's important to me to know what the rules are so that when I break them, it's on purpose.


1. Yes
2. Them not getting hit by lightening would be bizarre. The rain is not a problem. It just messes with visibility.

My fault for asking two questions on one line -- which one are you answering "Yes" to? I'm also curious what being struck by lightning would be like, with no grounding.

@chartruscan, it is a military chute, just not in the sense you mean for the setting reasons listed above. They're pretty high up when they jump, cruising altitude (for an unpressurized steampunk airship -- oh darn, pressurization, I forgot about that...), but since it's not a modern warfare situation there's less worry about being shot while they fall. The information about military jumps is fascinating! Sounds like a blast.

chartruscan
04-05-2012, 02:25 AM
Sounds like a blast.

It was awful! The only thing getting you out the door was knowing that anything was better than the agony of flying around in an overheated/icy tin can and being walked on by the sergeant airbornes!

While shooting isn't an issue, the higher up, the longer that the wind and rain would be an issue, which could make for some excitement narratively. Our training jumps always got scratched if the windspeeds were too much or if it looked like rain. But I don't know if that's because they didn't want to endanger us during training, not that it meant it wasn't possible.

Are the two characters coming out with the parachute already engaged? Are you choosing an alternative opening method so the main 'chute is opened well after leaving the airship? Are they together leaving the plane, or find each other in freefall and then have to open the main 'chute or a reserve? I could see the 'chuteless person on the other persons back after the main chute was deployed, then abandoned so the 'chuted person could divebomb and catch the 'chuteless person, get them to weave their arms through the harness straps, and then they deploy the reserve.

steamforged
04-05-2012, 02:45 AM
Okay, now it sounds like less of a blast. :e2salute:


Are the two characters coming out with the parachute already engaged? Are you choosing an alternative opening method so the main 'chute is opened well after leaving the airship? Are they together leaving the plane, or find each other in freefall and then have to open the main 'chute or a reserve? I could see the 'chuteless person on the other persons back after the main chute was deployed, then abandoned so the 'chuted person could divebomb and catch the 'chuteless person, get them to weave their arms through the harness straps, and then they deploy the reserve.

As it's currently written, MC1 has the parachute strapped on her back. She and MC2 are clinging to each other for dear life. They jump out, MC1's back leading the way, into the storm. MC1 has her arms full holding onto MC2, so MC2 has to reach the manual trigger for the parachute -- it's not fancy enough to trigger automatically. That's the point at which I'm concerned about MC1's shoulders and whether they get dislocated. Then they have a few moments to enjoy the greatly reduced speed of falling before they hit the treeline.

I'm not following what you're saying about a reserve parachute. Do you mean they'd need two parachutes deployed simultaneously to handle the additional weight of a second person?

thothguard51
04-05-2012, 02:49 AM
I am a firm believer in never jumping out of any aircraft capable of landing on its own.

As to two jumpers using the same chute, if the one without the chute is approaching wrong, someone is going to get knocked out from the impact. If this occurs just as the chute is deployed, the the person is also going to tangle the lines or chute if the other person does not hold onto him/her.

In a thunderstorm, you get updrafts and downdrafts, the same as a plane does in a thunderstorm. A down draft can cause the chute to collapse. Its not a pleasant ride, depending on the severity of the storm.

Steam punk, late Victorian period? I wouldn't think the chutes would have the capability of guides, the lines you pull on to make a chute turn. They would have been pretty basic and large chutes...

chartruscan
04-05-2012, 02:59 AM
I'm not following what you're saying about a reserve parachute. Do you mean they'd need two parachutes deployed simultaneously to handle the additional weight of a second person?

Nevermind me. I'm just riffing on standard military equipment for one person, which is the 'chute on their back and the reserve at their waist, and the possibility that if the back one failed, there would still be the reserve. But your story may not have or need that.

Also, as far as the shoulders go: military parachutes are meant to hold grown muscled men carrying at least 75 lb. rucksacks. So I don't think weight would be an issue for MC1. Also, the jerk of the parachute opening is felt in the leg straps. The only arm injuries I could see happening are if they hit the side of the ship coming out the door (one of the dangers we were always warned about) and one time my M-16 came untied from my side, rotated up under my arm (which was raised above my head) and when I landed, the buttstock bruised the underside of my arm.

Landing is where you'll have injuries with legs getting tangled and possibilities of headbutting or elbows in the eye, and the force of the landing and the inability to land in a proper controlled way leading to potential broken bones. And if they're not wearing helmets, hard knocks on the head (I got whiplash while training where we had to practice our jumps from ten foot high platforms).