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Checking your 3-ring setup for proper assembly is (or should be!) part of your check-of-threes before every jump. Aside from the need to understand how to assemble a 3-ring so you know what you’re looking for, there are a few other considerations to take into account. This month’s Safety Tip will cover all of these.
1. Correct assembly
While we are all taught as students how to assemble a 3-ring (SIM Section 4 Category H), it is common at dropzones where there are readily accessible packers that, upon getting their A, new jumpers simply drop off their rented gear with a packer for assembly and packing and quickly forget how to hook up a canopy to a container. By the time they get their own gear, if they have continued to use a packer throughout, only their rigger will ever see the system disassembled (during the twice-yearly reserve repack). Aside from the fact that the cutaway cables are going to get mighty grungy if the system is disassembled for cleaning only every six months, if a jumper doesn’t know how to assemble a 3-ring system, how can s/he effectively check it?
In December 2017, SunPath released an excellent article and accompanying video detailing the process of cleaning cutaway cables, including correct reassembly of the 3-ring system. Take a look at that here.
Parachutist also presented a shortened version of this article with pictures in the March 2018 issue; view it online here.
To summarize, check out these photos of correct 3-ring assembly:
Each ring goes through only one other ring: the middle ring goes through the large ring, the small ring goes through the middle ring, and the white Type IIA loop goes through only the small ring. Another way to look at it is that from the bottom-center of the large ring, you can go up the middle of the system noting “metal-cloth-metal-cloth-metal-cloth.” On the back of the riser, the white loop passes through the cable-housing’s grommet before the yellow cable goes through the loop. The RSL snap-shackle is connected to the RSL ring and the RSL lanyard is routed cleanly.
A final note: sometimes jumpers choose to disconnect their RSLs for a jump or series of jumps (e.g. canopy flocking or CRW). If you choose to disconnect your RSL, make sure to stow it properly by clipping the snap-shackle to the cutaway cable housing as pictured below. If you notice a jumper’s RSL snap-shackle stowed in this way, it is alright to ask if s/he intended to jump with the RSL disconnected. Sometimes you’ll get a “yes” answer – but sometimes you’ll get a surprised “no.” The jumper may have disconnected and stowed the RSL snap-shackle when the main canopy was disconnected and forgotten to reattach it.
2. Checking your 3-ring includes more than just a glance at the rings on the front of the riser
When you check your 3-ring you should look at the ring routing on the front of the riser, check that the RSL is securely attached to the correct point… and then tip the riser up to look at the underside. You are checking for two things: the condition of the white loop, and the routing of the yellow cable on the back of the riser.
Wear. The white loop on your risers is made out of Type IIA sheathing – the same material as most main container closing loops. As with main closing loops, any more than 10% wear is an indication for replacement. Wear typically occurs where the white loop passes through the grommet on the riser; some risers have been subject to recall over the years due to sharp-edged grommets. You will only see this wear if you examine the underside of the riser!
Routing. The white Type IIA loop needs to pass through the grommet of the cutaway cable housing before the cable goes through the loop. Failure to make this simple check killed an experienced instructor in NC in 2016.
Finally, when you’re done messing with your risers, run your hands back along each riser over the shoulders of the rig to make sure the riser covers are firmly closed.
3. We see what we want to see
The Law of Neural Habit states that the more times a neural pathway is engaged, the less resistance is found on subsequent engagements. This can be summed up in one word: HABITUATION. This means that the more times we see something correct, the more we come to expect that it will be correct the next time we look at it, and the more likely it is that we won’t notice when it is not correct – our brain has become conditioned to see it as correct.
You can short-circuit the effects of habituation first by being aware of it, and then by changing the way you look at your 3-rings every month or few. For instance, if you normally are looking for metal-cloth-metal-cloth-metal-cloth, start checking specifically to see that each ring passes through just one other ring and that the white loop passes through just the topmost ring.
4. So what does incorrect assembly look like? All of the pictures below are of incorrectly assembled systems.
a) flip-through – happens most often with larger 3-ring assemblies (as opposed to standard mini-rings), and typically occurs when the rig is put down for packing. This can happen on both tandem rigs and sport rigs.
b) misrouted rings – each ring should pass through only ONE other ring
c) misrouted white loop (front – through the rings) – the white loop should pass ONLY through the top (smallest) ring. Note that this may present as a flip-through of the top-most ring through the middle ring at a glance; look closely!
d) misrouted white loop (back – with the cutaway cable) – the white loop MUST pass through the cutaway housing before the yellow cable passes through the loop.
e) incorrectly attached or routed RSL – the RSL snap-shackle should be attached to the RSL loop on the riser; if disconnected, the snap-shackle should be fastened to the cutaway cable housing and the excess tucked away. The snap-shackle should NEVER be connected to any of the rings of the 3-ring system! The RSL webbing should run in a clean path from the riser attachment point to the reserve cable; it should not pass around the riser or wrap around the cable housing.
Now that you know what to look for, you’ll have an easier time checking your own 3-ring assembly. But don’t stop there. Take a scan around the rigs you can see on the tram and on the plane. If you notice an incorrect assembly, say something. You might save a life!
Video showing a 3-ring release in action, real-time and slow-motion (note there is no cutaway cable housing in the demonstration so no grommet present for the white loop to pass through before the yellow cable goes through the loop): Watch Video