Parachute Snag Leaves Russian Soldier Dangling Perilously From Helicopter

Whatever went wrong here, this particular parachutist seems to have had a very lucky escape.

via Telegram

In a scenario that will make nightmarish viewing for anyone for whom jumping out of an aircraft already doesn’t seem like a good idea, a parachutist became entangled with the helicopter they were leaping out of, high above an airfield in Russia. Fortunately, in this case, the helicopter seems to have safely returned them to the ground.

Videos began to circulate today showing the immediate aftermath of the parachutist’s ill-fated jump from the Russian Aerospace Forces Mil Mi-8 Hip helicopter, by which time both their main parachute and the pilot chute used to deploy it were already seemingly snagged somewhere around the rear door, as they dangled helplessly below. It is unclear if the soldier was using a static line method, in which the parachute opens automatically, or if they were attempting to jump freefall, in which they would initiate the pull sequence.

via Telegram

Other personnel gather around on the airfield as the paratrooper returns to the ground, still dangling from the helicopter.

According to an account by a user who posted one of the videos to the Russian Telegram social media site, the incident took place at around 10:30 AM local time today.

“I look up and see a chopper 2,000 meters [around 6,500 feet] above the ground, but very strange — with a line and a dot at the end,” the same account continues. “The speed of the chopper is about 200 kilometers per hour [124 miles per hour]. Outside is minus 20 degrees Celsius [minus 4 Fahrenheit] for sure, and this is serious frostbite.”

Exactly how the incident happened is unclear, since the parachute should not start to open until the parachutist is well clear of the aircraft. It is even conceivable that the unfortunate parachutist might have jumped from one of the side doors at the front of the cabin, rather than from the rear, before becoming entangled somewhere around the rear fuselage. It could also have been the case that the pilot chute became snagged on leaving the aircraft, a scenario you can see occur in this video, also involving a Mi-8, but with multiple parachutists.

It was, in fact, probably very lucky that they did get entangled on this occasion, since their parachute was likely no longer operable once it had become caught up with the aircraft. It is unclear if it was good fortune alone that kept them attached as the helicopter slowly made its descent to the airfield, or if there was some other way of securing them, perhaps using the bridle — the cord used to connect the pilot chute to the canopy. Since they would presumably have had a back-up parachute, it would suggest that they were so firmly entangled that there was no way of releasing themselves and using an alternative canopy.

Certainly, however, the incident could have been much worse. In one tragic Indian Air Force Mi-17 accident in 2007 a parachute used to deliver a cargo load came adrift and became entangled in the rotors, leading to a crash that killed all seven soldiers on board. 

Today’s incident occurred in Chita, in Zabaykalsky Krai, in the Russian Far East. Chita Cheryomushki Air Base, also known as Chita Northwest, is home to the Russian Aerospace Forces’ 112th Independent Helicopter Regiment that operates two squadrons of the latest Mi-8AMTSh assault transport helicopters and another squadron of Mi-24P Hind attack helicopters. However, the helicopter involved in the incident appears to be an older Mi-8 model, lacking the characteristic “dolphin nose” of the Mi-8AMTSh.

Mi-8s and Mi-17s of all types regularly used by both military paratroopers (as seems to be the case here) as well as private skydiving clubs around the world. With capacity for up to 32 parachutists, the Mi-8 is a popular choice for this kind of activity and is regularly used for delivering airborne troops and special forces paratroopers in Russia, although the latter also use other, less conventional means of delivery, too. 

While an investigation will now surely be taking place to find out exactly what went wrong in this scenario, we should be thankful that the parachutist apparently escaped serious injury and the helicopter crew was able to return them to the ground before anything much worse might have happened.

Contact the author: thomas@thedrive.com