The US Army has suspended the use of its new style of parachutes following the death of a soldier during a training jump. Staff Sgt. Jamal Clay, of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, died at Fort Bragg on June 25 when his T-11 parachute malfunctioned during a training exercise. Fort Bragg, the Army base located in Fayetteville, N.C., began using the square parachutes two years ago after tests showed they provided a more slow and stable descent than their mushroom-shaped predecessors.
According to an internal army memo, investigators found that Clay’s death was due to “potential packing, inspection, quality control and functionality problems” with both his main and reserve parachutes. The memo said: “The observations are significant and pervasive enough to indicate potential systemic shortfalls.” Following the incident, Secretary of the Army John McHugh last month ordered the suspension of all use of the T-11 parachutes until a thorough safety investigation could be completed and any problems with the system corrected. Internal investigations into Clay’s death are also being conducted.
It appears this accident is the first fatality with the new parachute. It was first used at Fort Bragg in 2009 after testing reportedly showed it to be safer than the traditional rounded parachutes. I understand that the T-11 chute is also designed to support the bulkier load of today’s soldier, which can be up to 400 lbs. with equipment. The T-11 parachutes are expected to take the place of the older T-10 parachutes in about five years. The 82nd Airborne Division currently uses the T-10 model. Hopefully, this incident doesn’t signal a problem with the new parachute, either in the design or in the manufacturing process.
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