Before a jump, paratroopers spend a lot of time waiting around. The airborne timeline is notorious for having you show up at 0300 for a 2359 time on target, and most of the time inbetween is spent talking with the guys next to you.
Invariably, talk will turn to how much jumping sucks, and how to make it suck less.
A myth that I heard over and over from “senior” E4s and junior NCOs was that if you unhooked the chest buckle of the T-10D parachute during your descent, your canopy would get a little extra inflation. On more than one occasion I heard that it would give you 10% “more lift.”
I remember being skeptical upon hearing this at first. I understood the theory, that by unhooking the chest buckle it would theoretically allow the risers to expand out more, thus allowing the canopy to also expand, letting in more air and slowing the descent.
I dismissed their claims, and they dismissed my dismissals as naive.
The only way I’d know for sure, they said, was to try it out myself.
New paratroopers are unlikely to risk touching any of their equipment during descent out of fear – better to just ride it all in than to touch something you shouldn’t touch and risk a gory way to die.
After making a certain number of jumps and feeling confident that I kind of knew what I was doing, I decided to finally test the claim for myself. During a “hollywood” (no equipment, day time) jump on a pleasant day, I unhooked my chest strap during my descent to see if it would do anything.
I fell to Earth, at more or less the same speed as I was before I unhooked the buckle.