On Thursday, Black Diamond Equipment announced a proactive, voluntary recall of avalanche airbag packs that use its JetForce technology—including models from Black Diamond, Pieps, and POC—due to a firmware malfunction.
JetForce, which won an Outside Gear of the Show award when it launched last fall, is the first avy airbag system that uses a fan to inflate and deflate instead of a gas canister. You can’t fly with avalanche airbag packs that have canisters (the TSA prohibits compressed gas), nor can you redeploy them after one use. The JetForce fixes both of these issues.
Of the approximately 1,600 packs Black Diamond produced last year (1,200 of which were sold in North America), 0.7 percent have firmware issues that cause the pack to fail either to deploy or to shut off after it’s been activated. Updating the firmware, which controls all the JetForce’s electronics, will resolve the problem, says the company.
To determine if your pack is affected, look for a four-digit manufacturing date code on the back of the largest label inside the front pocket. Units with date codes from 4275 to 5077 are being recalled. If your pack doesn’t have this four-digit date code, look for a serial number located on the inside of the back panel (on the bottom left corner of the sewn-in instructions). If your pack has a serial number in this position, it has the current firmware and is not included in the recall. JetForce packs shipped after August 1, 2015, will have the latest firmware.
If you need to return your pack, follow the link on Black Diamond’s homepage for instructions. Reprogramming takes about 10 business days once the company receives the bag, although Black Diamond claims it will work with users who need their packs sooner. Black Diamond will cover all shipping costs.
If Black Diamond’s numbers are right, only about 11 bags actually have firmware issues. But I can say anecdotally that two out of three JetForce packs I tested last February were faulty, turning off automatically as soon as I turned them on. One of the packs had already been returned once to the Black Diamond factory to be fixed. So it’s possible the problem is more widespread than just the 11 packs.
That said, the recall likely won’t be the ruin—or affect sales—of the JetForce. The pack had almost sold out before it even hit retailer’s shelves last fall, and Black Diamond plans to produce a far greater number of packs (although they won’t tell us exactly how many), this upcoming season. And there have been other similar cases—including BCA's 2013 recall of its avalanche packs due to a faulty trigger assembly—that haven't seriously affected the perception of the products.
It’s not uncommon for a first-run product, especially an innovative one like the JetForce, to have issues. Black Diamond has an excellent reputation for customer service and standing behind its products, and it’s earned respect from backcountry users worldwide over the past 26 years for those policies. In a letter addressed to “the winter backcountry community,” Black Diamond founder Peter Metcalf expressed his appreciation for the early adopters of the technology and their patience with Black Diamond. “Our commitment to our users’ safety leads us to issue this recall,” he wrote.
For more information on the recall, visit the Black Diamond website.