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Jul 09 2015

BD recalls first year JetForce® packs

BD's Halo28 JetForce airbag pack

BD’s Halo28 JetForce airbag pack

A voluntary recall has been announced by Black Diamond, Inc. of all first generation JetForce® avalanche safety airbag packs sold under the Black Diamond, Pieps, and POC brand names. According to a letter by Peter Metcalf, the CEO, President and Founder of Black Diamond Equipment, the recall affects all packs using BD’s JetForce® technology sold during the 2014-15 ski season.

The recall, though voluntary on BD’s part, is strongly advised for all current owners of JetForce® packs. Although no one has been injured or buried as a result of a flaw in the firmware controlling how the airbag inflates, BD estimates the problem affected less than one percent of the JetForce® systems manufactured prior to this notice. The nature of the JetForce packs combined with BD’s long standing reputation for quality and their recognition of the importance of reliability with safety oriented products made the recall necessary.

According to Black Diamond,

“There are two product defects that may pose a safety risk for the user once the system is armed and ready for deployment. The first is a loss of synchronization between motor control and the electric fan motor, which creates a system error that shuts down the fan motor. This can result in the failure of the system to deploy when the handle is pulled. The second defect is very high-voltage electrostatic discharge, which resets the system to the ‘off’ position. This can result in the JetForce® Controller disarming after the system has been successfully armed. Both these problems can be resolved by an update to the firmware.”

Packs affected by the recall were sold between November 15, 2014 and July 7th, 2015. If you bought a JetForce® pack this past season your pack is probably affected.

To confirm, check for a date code on the back of the largest label located inside the front pocket. If the date code is within the range from 4275 to 5077 your pack should be returned to update the firmware. If your pack does not exhibit this date code you should find a serial number/barcode on the inside of the back panel. The lack of a date code on a tag in the front pocket AND the presence of a barcode on the sewn in instructions on the back panel indicates your pack has up-to-date firmware and is not subject to the recall. In other words, it has the fixed firmware already.

The following models of JetForce® packs are affected by this recall, subject to the date restrictions mentioned above.

  • Black Diamond Pilot 11 JetForce® Pack 
  • Black Diamond Halo 28 JetForce® Pack
  • Black Diamond Saga 40 JetForce® Pack 
  • PIEPS JetForce® Tour Rider 24
  • PIEPS JetForce® Tour Pro 34
  • POC Thorax 11 Backpack

JetForce customers should cease using their packs immediately and go to jetforcerecall.com to obtain a recall submission form to return their pack for the firmware upgrade. Black Diamond will cover the cost of shipping and the firmware upgrade. Customers are encouraged to send their packs now so they will be ready long before the next ski season begins in the northern hemisphere.

Commentary

For those who were reluctant to endorse the concept of the JetForce® avalanche airbag system due to its dependence on software, this recall reinforces the validity of that fear. On the other hand, the cure is a relatively simple fix. Of course, updated firmware does not eliminate the dependence on computer code to function properly, but it can improve its reliability. For skeptics, such proof may take years to manifest. For believing users, this ability to upgrade the firmware may allow improvements in functionality and reliability that are not readily available with mechanical airbag systems.

Let us not be ignorant of the fact that the purchase of an avalanche airbag pack is done in full recognition that the real software that affects the likelihood of being caught in an avalanche is between our ears, not the products we buy to temper that risk. Nonetheless, products designed to help in case the decision making process in our own heads causes us to get caught should be as reliable as possible, to help overcome our inherent fallibility. Hats off to BD for implementing this voluntary recall of the JetForce® packs sold prior to this announcement. As ever, be careful with the risks you take out there.

To initiate a recall, click here.

© 2015