May 30, 2002, 3:33 PM
Post #1 of 92
My Thoughts on Jumping AADs
A picture of five friends gathered around the memorial for our friend Jon, who died as a result of a free fall collision in 1991, sits over the water fountain in my office. I see it every day. I look at it every time I get near it. I think about what Jon meant to me and what he meant to his mates in the picture - it is reflected in their faces. I rest easy now, knowing that we learned a great lesson from his death, and personally implemented measures to keep something so senseless from happening again. The reason I bring Jon's incident up: assuming the collision hadn't killed him already, a properly functioning AAD would likely have brought him safely into a doctor’s care for treatment and a couple of weeks convalescence. He would still be here, putting his daughter on the bus in the morning.
Two fatalities in the past month re-opened the feelings I have about jumping AADs. Here are the incidents in brief, so all of us are on the same page:
1) Brad Foster, 4000+ jumps, former Navy SEAL, former DZO @ Skydive Chesapeake, VA -died striking his head on the aircraft after exit -he was not wearing an AAD
2) Name Unknown, 5000+ jumps, 26 years in the sport, very senior @ CPIT -died @ Connecticut Parachutists, Inc (a very old DZ) -AFF Level III, small female student -tumble tumble tumble on exit, eventually recovered -during the pull process, she became unstable again, sucking the two instructors in on top of her -instructor A flushed, the other two continuing to tumble -the video man pulled at 2000 FT -instructor A pulled at 1000 FT -instructor B pulled the student's ripcord as the CYPRES was firing -instructor B rolled over, then impacted the ground -he was not wearing an AAD
I choose not to speculate about details, nor do I choose to judge them for their action or inaction. Rather, I choose to pass this on to all of you, with hopes that I may find these words welcome among some of you.
I used to be very anti-AAD. Admittedly, that was partly because of the opinionated company I kept. Add to that two personal experiences with a Sentinel firing high. I had also seen a video of a Sentinel firing high, sending the reserve into a deploying main. All of those incidents turned out fine. Neither of my first two rigs had AADs. If I borrowed a rig that had one (an FXC or Sentinel at the time), I turned it off.
Then along came the CYPRES. I saw Helmut Cloth's presentation in January 1993 and was impressed with 1) what motivated him to design it, 2) the list of current AAD issues he set out to solve, and 3) the final design. My attitude changed about AADs that day. Then at Yuma Proving Grounds in 1994 I saw Jose Aguillon's CYPRES save him, unconscious, upside-down and spinning like a top. It kept him around long enough to be with us for a few more hours. I was a believer that day.
Until this week, I would have had no problem at all jumping a rig without a CYPRES. While I have ordered one for my new rig, I would previously have been completely comfortable jumping a rig without one, or packing a rig for someone after removing the CYPRES for service. I am now re-thinking that. I am no longer sure it is worth the risk . . . if I ever jump a rig without one, I will be sure that I have evaluated the risk, taking into account what is at stake if something goes wrong. I am not paranoid, but seeing these two highly experienced jumpers - especially Brad, who had a reputation for stressing safety - die needlessly this past week, I have a new respect for just how inherently dangerous our sport is.
This note will be passed to many people, not just here in this forum. I simply want to create the possibility for everyone to benefit from the wake-up call this has caused in me. I do not intend to get on a soap box, or campaign for mandatory AADs as some countries have. I am not asking you to be just like me. I will continue to jump with others who have no AAD, and yes, I am sure there will be a situation in which I will not be wearing one. My request of you is that you think about what you mean to your family, your friends, and your mates from your history in the unit. All of you mean more to me than you may realize. If you are still jumping, think about what that adding an AAD would do to the odds of your being here for the next holiday weekend.
My take on the issue is this. I believe the AAD issue will become a non-issue in the future. I think the skydivers who jump without them probably never had them. And are resisting the change why should they probably have 1000s of skydives and haven't had the need for them. On the other hand most new students have them on the student rigs they are taught about turn them on and forget about them. In the future most ppl will be familiar with having them vs. not having them.
Well SP While I agree with you on much of what you said and I personally wear an AAD there are many other factors to look at. First the problem of going low or loosing altitude awareness. This just should not happen. There is nothing more important on your jump then altitude awareness. Education in this area is critical. Second if your counting on a cypress to save you when you're unconscious you're counting on a lot of luck. Most of the time if you are not conscious under canopy you're going to die. Unless you jump out in the middle of nowhere the likelihood of striking a building, tree's power lines or some other structure are very high. The only fatality at my home DZ was just that an unconscious jumper hitting a fence post. Also a first jump student ( very conscious ) at Dallas just last year under a very large canopy struck a hanger and was killed so don't think that jumping a large reserve is going to save you either. The best thing is somehow preventing the situation from happening in the first place. Now I'm not sure how to go about that and I guess until then the AAD is a good second. But I have heard so many people talk about their cypress saving them if they are unconscious and its not very likely. Also just this past weekend in Chicago the jumper that cutaway low and went to his reserve, I believe it was reported that the cypress would not have saved him. So its not a cure all by any means. Then the big question; is that one in million chance worth $1000? For many people its not. The cost is getting more reasonable but its going to have to change quite a bit more for many people to start thinking AAD. Just some other thoughts on the subject.
i think that they are great. yes i have jumped without them. i had even considered not getting one for my backup rig. but as far as it goes no matter how much comradere we see in this sport it is still very much individualistic (sp) and their will always be someone who is jumping without. look how many people still jump with out helmets. just my 0.02
Its true, landing unconscious under a reserve is most likely going to cause serious injury or death. But a cypres can buy you some time to regain consciousness. You can get hit hard enough in freefall to knock you out or daze you enough that you can't pull your own main or reserve. Doesn't mean you're down for the count, maybe you just need a few seconds. A cypres gives you those seconds to come to your senses. I got knocked out in freefall last year, only for a couple of seconds, and came around in time to pull my own main for a very short canopy ride to the ground. (and yes, if I was thinking clearly I might have (should have) gone for the reserve) But another second or two? Who knows? I'd hate to come to just before I hit the ground.
The situation at SDC last weekend? The jumper fought his mal through cypres firing range BEFORE he cut away. The cypres rearmed itself and fired, but luckily the jumper beat it because he was out of altitude.
Altitude awareness is definately the key here, but I like having a little backup in case someone decides to kick me in the head during freefall.
Thanks, Cloud9! These are great points. I have replied to many other posts talking about prevention being the best emergency procedure. You are right on the money (excuse the pun) in saying that one-in-a-million is not worth the extra expense for some people. I respect their decision and I will gladly skydive right along side them.
For me, having a CYPRES that one time in a million gives me a chance - not having one gives me no chance at all. Jon's wife was pregnant with their first child. She will never know how great a human being her father was. I choose to make every effort to be there to wake my kids up tomorrow.
I agree that the risks do not end once the cutter shears the loop . . . buildings, fence posts, etc. are there waiting. And now I am right back to prevention once again: I know what would have prevented Jon from dying, and I have been taking those steps and teaching them to others ever since. Jose's death also resulted in measures that made us all safer skydivers.
The other person involved in both collisions survived. The first only banged up, the second disabled for the rest of his life. To my knowledge, both are still skydiving today.
I realize that this is an unpopular opinion nowadays, but if there are people out there in the sport who would not, under any circumstances, jump without an AAD, I don't they should be skydiving. Skydiving is a sport where you can get killed even if you do everything right, and there has already been at least one person killed whose AAD usage kept him in a sport he was not competent to participate in. I don't think that AAD dependency is OK in skydiving.
I often recommend people make a hop and pop without any unusual safety gear - no RSL, AAD off, no helmet, even no goggles if they've never done that. That does two things. One, it gives you experience what a bailout is going to be like, one that happens at an altitude that does not allow you to get your helmet on or your AAD to arm itself. Two, if the jumper refuses, I ask them to consider very carefully why they think the lack of an AAD makes such a jump so much more dangerous. If they truly think their AAD will do that much for them, they are relying far too much on a piece of safety equipment to save their lives for them.
I don't think that AAD dependency is OK in skydiving. [snip]If they truly think their AAD will do that much for them, they are relying far too much on a piece of safety equipment to save their lives for them.
I agree 100%. I recently added a Cypres to my rig after 800+ jumps without one, but if it ever has to save me it will be time for me to take a very hard look at my participation in this sport. Having an AAD does not make skydiving "safe." It's up to me to make skydiving "safe" for me - and I've accepted the fact that I can do everything right, have every piece of safety equipment, and still die because I chose to jump out of airplanes. I strongly feel that if someone can't accept that fact, they shouldn't be jumping. Period.
pull & flare, lisa
"Try not. Do or do not. There is no try." - Yoda sez
I will never say never, as the saying goes, because I know better than that. I see your point, and I appreciate your sharing it here.
I do not depend on my AAD. It is just another redundancy that I choose to have at my disposal. I do use other safety devices, specifically an RSL (except jumping my high-profile camera helmet), a hook knife, and an audible altimeter. I don't depend on any of them, nor do they give me a sense of security. They are used as a result of careful and conscious choice, from my own experiences and those of others.
I will also skydive with those folks who choose never to jump without an AAD. I respect their choice, just as I respect the choice of those who choose never to jump one. Like, you, I share my thoughts on this issue so that others who are perhaps indecisive, or maybe less informed, can benefit from them.
Training for emergencies is a great idea. Those who have done a hop-and-pop from a lower altitude simply for training value on a blue sky day will have less difficulty doing a real bailout. I actually have two of them . . . one solo and one tandem. I was very well prepared - I think about and rehearse what I am going to do in those situations quite often. I also do not normally sleep on the ride to altitude.
Training is prevention, and prevention will likely never require use of all of the safety devices I carry. I hope it stays that way.
I personally beleive in AAD's - I also beleive in other's choices- I ride without a helmet, but wear a seatbelt in the truck. If some one wants to jump w/o an AAD it's thier choice, this is a free country. Same for hook knives, audibles, and RSL's. But I don't take anything for granted and nothing is foolproof - ever. .02 worth of MHO- -D
Training is prevention, and prevention will likely never require use of all of the safety devices I carry. I hope it stays that way.
I think that sums it up very well.
Also just info last year at my DZ there was a cypress save. A skydiver with over 800 jumps had trouble finding his hackey. He is a little over 60 years old and a good friend and normally a good skydiver. He searched for it until his cypress fired. He stated on the ground he was just thinking about going to his reserve when the cypress fired. I don't think he would have made it. But of course in his words " Man I fu#$ed up really bad" I concur, and reiterate it should never happen! By the way I'm really glad to see that this thread has not degenerated into flaming, its good to see pro's and con's with intellect
I agree with Billvon, I think everyone should have some experience going out low. Several people I have jumped with have not been (what I would call) 100% comfortable with getting out at 2k. Hell some don't like 4k and they sure as hell don't like rel from this heights! :-)
Occasionly I think that its good for everyone to have a low one or two.
Ditto that thought, if someone were to collide with me and render me unable to pull, then the $1,000 I shelled out for that AAD just rendered a priceless return. It's all about mitigation of risk (not removal of risk), because there is always that 1 in a million (or greater) chance that something beyond your control occurs that your only chance at survival may depend on that little piece of electronic wizardry on your back. I do not depend on it, I hope I never need it, but I will not jump without it in the rig and turned on, just in case (as we sadly saw at SDC very recently). As others have said, and I will mirror, it's all about personal choice and I will respect the choice others have made as well.
One of my whuffo co-workers asked (she is our company safety rep-) what the most important piece of safety equipment we skydivers use - I told her our brains and our training - I'd like to think I wasn't off track on that- (at least not too far- ) --D
Back when I had between 200-1000 jumps or so, I had a Cypres in my only rig at the time. I ended up selling it when I started doing almost exclusively CRW. What did catch me by surprise however is that after I sold my Cypres, I became much more wary of what jumps I did - I found myself turning down jumps - "I don't have a Cypres." Which worried me because what it made me realize was that I might have been doing jumps which may have been "questionable" with the rationalization (that I didn't even know I was doing) that I had a Cypres.
These days I own 4 rigs. One is exclusively for CRW and I'll never have a turned on AAD in it. Most CRW jumpers don't want to use an AAD because a misfire will almost certainly kill you. (Much less chance of that in freefall). And Brad's accident is pretty much the only conceivable way it will help you (a Cypres is designed NOT to fire if you have any canopy out - CRWdogs usually die because they have too much shit out/around em, not too little.)
I'll probably put a Cypres in one of my 3 rigs before the summer is out. But probably only 1. 1 rig I rarely jump - it hardly seems worth the expense for maybe 5-10 jumps a year on it. Another rig is like Sandy Wambachs - a Power Racer - you can conceivably squeeze a Cypres in there if you're a great rigger, but it wouldn't go easily. The rig is just too small. And I do enough CRW, I don't want to do anything which would make my pop-top stick out and possibly cause a wrap - I see a wrap on that rig as a higher possibility than being unconscious. Yes its a wager - but I'm wagering I'm less likely to need the Cypres than a tightly packed reserve in that rig.
So I expect I'll have a Cypres in 1 of my 4 rigs before the year is out, but I don't plan on making a decision about which rig to jump because of whether or not there is a Cypres in it.
billvon (D 16479)
May 31, 2002, 1:44 PM
Post #19 of 92
> but I will not jump without it in the rig and turned on . . .
If that is the case, I think you may be relying on it for far more than it can give. If there is a dive that you would not do without a cypres, I would suggest that it is too dangerous to do _with_ a cypres, as well. As Wendy mentioned above, a cypres in your rig that lets you get on loads where you risk "getting knocked out" is doing you a lot more harm than good - and may well be one of the things that contributes to, rather than prevents, injury or death.
About eight years ago a jumper had to bail out of a plane. He jumped at 1000 feet, pulled his cutaway handle, waited 5 seconds, then opened his main. It departed, his RSL opened his reserve, and it was just beginning to deploy when he impacted. He had a cypres but it had not reached arming altitude yet. He had admitted to his friends that he had a cypres because he was very nervous about all the things that could happen, and the cypres gave him enough confidence to jump. Had he not bought that cypres, he would be alive today.
quade (D 22635)
May 31, 2002, 2:00 PM
Post #20 of 92
>This skydiver didn't die because he had a Cypres.
Of course not. He died because he didn't open either parachute in time. Had he not had a Cypres, he would not have been jumping to begin with, which would have been a better idea. I hope there are not other people in the sport in that situation.
CYPRES is like any other piece of skydiving equipment. You must know its operating parameters in order to use it properly. CYPRES is a machine, it does not think. When a set of parameters are matched in its memory, it fires. No more, no less. It will not magically save you.
Read the following scenarios. Pick which selections that CYPRES will "increase" your chance of survival.
1. Bailout from 1400'. You freeze or are unable to locate your reserve handle.
2. Student CYPRES: A student is sitting by the door (low solo) and at 2000' the pilot calls back that he's headed back down due to cloud cover. The plane is a King Air and the pilot puts it into a steep dive.
3. Birdman jump. You are wearing your brand new GTI suit and having an awesome time with it. After a couple of minutes that little voice goes off in the back of your head. You look at your altimeter and to your dismay, the needle is passing through 900'.
4. A great 4-way jump. No one is wearing an audible altimeter. You look at our wrist altimeter and see the needle swing through 1500'. You turn track and reach for your main.
5. You are at 800' sitting peacefully under canopy after a great skydive, then WHAM! That idiot with 200 jumps and the Velocity 97 rips the three middle cells out of your Spectre. The ravaged Spectre collapses and you reach for your cutaway, just as you remember that you disconnected your RSL and haven't practiced those emergency procedures for a while.
The answer is scenario 5, CYPRES will probably increase your chance of survival. CYPRES will NOT increase your chance of survival at all in any of the other scenarios. As a matter of fact, in scenario 2 the entire aircraft is at extreme risk as a student CYPRES will fire at the vertical velocity the plane will achieve returning to the airport.
CYPRES is a great device built by a great company. However, it is still a machine that must be studied and respected. Never forget that it is back there and PRACTICE THOSE EMERGENCY PROCEDURES!!!
Reasons why CYPRES will or will not function in the above scenarios:
1. CYPRES does not arm itself until 1500'
2. Student CYPRES's will fire at vertical speeds as low as 42ft/s (2552ft/m which nearly all aircraft can attain while descending.)
3. The Birdman GTI suite can slow the decent rate well below what will cause even a student CYPRES to fire.
4. A CYPRES can fire high. Remember it is AROUND 750' that a CYPRES will operate. By the time you turn, track and dump from 1500' you can be in the range for CYPRES to fire. (I have seen this happen once.)
5. CYPRES will fire as low as 130ft AGL, POSSIBLY saving you.
In skydiving as with anything, you are only as safe as the expertise you employ while engaging in the activity.
Remember, going in without all your handles pulled, is VERY embarrassing...
Had he not had a Cypres, he would not have been jumping to begin with . . .
How can you be so sure?
I wonder how many students take up the sport even knowing that something like a Cypres exists? Sure they should know that it exists at some point during their first jump course, but I'm talking about before that.