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by Bill Newell


The only time I've used a hook knife was also the only time I've ever cut away - at Arvin, California in 1965 on my 300th jump. Don Bradley and Bill Stage came up with the idea of attaching a second reserve above our regular belly mounted reserve. 1500 lb test tubular nylon loops were tied to each harness "D" ring and then connected to the butterfly snaps of the second reserve riding atop the regular reserve. The idea was to experience what it was like cutting the second side loose while under a streamer. Our hook knifes were tethered to our right hand with 550 shroud line.

The cut away reserves were old worn out 24' twills and we just wadded them up and crammed them in the containers, dirt and all, not bothering to tuck in the end flaps. We went up to 4500' in Dave Keaggy's Cessna 195, exited a couple of seconds apart and dumped right away. I was last out and watched Don Bradley's reserve streamer for real right off the bat. Bill Stage's and mine opened normally. I watched Stage cut one side away and streamer and then it was my turn. Talk about second thoughts!

Before I cut the right loop I grabbed the reserve's left riser with my left hand so I wouldn't lose it in freefall. Good idea, because after I cut the right loop - ZING - all kind of bouncing and shaking went on. I was able to cut the left side away a few seconds later and then dumped my main. I think we all opened at a legal altitude, too, which in those days at Arvin was 1000'. Eight hundred would get you a warning and 500' was a grounding offense.


Published in Skydive Magazine