It was Sunday, August 6th, 2017–a gorgeous summer day at beautiful Skydive Klatovy–when Dr. Hartmut Göbel’s CYPRES saved his life. The heat of that summer day was so intense, in fact, that he didn’t wear a complete jumpsuit; just a freefly jacket.
He was taking a nice weekend away from his job teaching math and physics to secondary-school students. He had 307 jumps at the time.
When the altitude reached 300 meters, Dr. Göbel was still in a sitfly position, and time had pretty much run out.
He was doing a 4-way with friends–a very normal jump for him. The jump went well, and he tracked away without event. When he reached back for his hackey, however, something was very, very wrong.
“At my planned time of 1000 meters, my hand-deploy was not findable,” Dr. Göbel remembers. “I couldn’t feel it. It was possibly hidden by wind pushing the bottom edge of my freefly-jacket over it, but the fact was that it wasn’t tactile.”
“There were a lot of things running through my mind as I was trying to find that hand-deploy,” he says, wryly. “First: ‘Oh sh*t, this has never happened to me before!’ Secondly, ‘Keep calm! Go on feeling around for it…strike against the container…the reserve-pull isn’t needed quite yet.’ The third thing, of course: ‘Try to get it right.’”
Suddenly, Dr. Göbel realized that his altitude had dropped to just 750 meters. He imagines now that he had sped up his descent rate as he was fumbling for the hackey. He’s sure that he lost strict belly-to-earth orientation and had begun accelerating beyond the 125 mph descent rate he was used to. His hackey was still missing.
When he reached his decision altitude of 500 meters, he realized the time had come.
“I thought, ‘No longer! Time to cut away! Reserve!,’” he says. “I changed my body position to sitfly in order to see handles in front of me, so I’m certain I accelerated even more. I pulled the cutaway handle but I did not pull the reserve right away. The canopy didn’t leave the tray, so it didn’t trigger the SkyHook. I already had the experience of successful SkyHook reserve deployment last year, so I was expecting to see a canopy after I cut away. I looked up and thereby lost one precious second of time.”
When the altitude reached a 300 meters, Dr. Göbel was still in a sitfly position, and time had pretty much run out.
“I reached to my left,” he explains, “And in this last moment, my CYPRES fired.”
Dr. Göbel estimates that his canopy time was about five seconds–”just long enough to take [his] toggles”–but he landed safely on the dropzone.
“If I could do it again, I wouldn’t hesitate to go for my reserve handle,” he adds. “And not to rely on my SkyHook. Just as it’s taught in Skydive-education! But I am full of thankfulness that my CYPRES saved my life. That’s the most important thing!”