What happened:

In not jumping out of the airplane in exactly the same way as I was instructed to do, I twisted my parachute risers (lines which connect the harness to the canopy).


Workability is not a chance or random quality. Neither do things work because of luck. In fact, the harder I work at anything, the luckier I get (as Gary Player may have said). There is a particular way in which any given thing or event works, which may or may not be the same way as how I believe or would prefer that thing or event to work.


      When my parachute opened, the risers were twisted in a tight spiral so that for the first twenty seconds or so of the skydive, I sat in the harness spinning around untwisting. At first I called this a malfunction (anything less than the flawless opening and inflation of the canopy). I noticed myself wondering why this should 'happen to me, especially on my first jump', and I noticed that when I related the episode on the ground, how an element of relish had crept into the tale, how there was suddenly something noteworthy about getting a malfunction on my first time skydiving.

      The plain truth about that, as I realized later, was that I did not follow instructions correctly. The instructions were to jump out of the plane parallel to the fuselage. Even though my jumpmaster had promised me a case of Dom Perignon if I could jump to within a millimeter of touching the wing, I decided that I would hit the wing if I jumped the way he instructed me to. In fact, by the time you reach where you think the wing ought to be, you are about twenty feet behind and below the tail of the plane. There is not a ghost of a chance that you could get a hand to the wing, let alone hit it with enough force to do yourself some bodily damage. So I jumped my way and assumed the classical spreadeagle, full drag, arched skydiving posture perpendicular to the fuselage.

      However, my harness was then parallel to the slipstream instead of perpendicular to it as it would have been had I followed instructions correctly. As the canopy inflated it spun in the slipstream. Given the way I had jumped, the twisted risers malfunction was in fact not an accident at all but an entirely predictable result.


Following instructions is a good beginning to having things work. There are no accidents. The situations in my life turn out exactly the way they do as a result of the way I engineer them.