Forums: Skydiving: Safety and Training:
Gear choices and safety

 


Chris3D

Jun 27, 2012, 8:52 PM
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Gear choices and safety Can't Post

I did a search and couldn't find a discussion on this question specifically. And I'm not sure if this would be better placed in the gear forum, if so, feel free to move it. But since the overall theme is safety, I'm posting it here.

Anyway, I'm curious to what degree and in what ways gear choices effect the overall safety of skydiving and the likelihood of experiencing a malfunction. In looking at the web sites of various manufacturers, certain features seem to be either more prevalent or standard equipment on student gear, for example, ripcord deployment instead of BOC/throw-out pilot chutes, the use of RSLs, etc. If these features are thought to increase overall safety (I'm assuming, please correct me if I'm wrong), what is the advantage of alternatives that justify the assumed loss of safety?

What are people's opinion on continuing to jump "student" gear after someone is off student status?

I've done two tandem jumps and would love to learn/continue to skydive, but with a wife and child, I have to consider more than simply my desires. So I'm interested in knowing how much of the risk can be mitigated by using conservative gear and jumping in a conservative manner. Years ago, when I became interested in motorcycles, perhaps foolishly, I went out and bought a 1300cc sportbike (a Hayabusa) for my first street bike. I justified the decision because that bike in particular fit the type of riding I was ultimately interested in - more touring than outright sport riding. I knew the risks involved and was committed to taking a very careful and conservative approach to learning to ride. Over the first 5 years, I put over 50,000 miles on the bike, never had an accident, consider myself to be sufficiently proficient, and still enjoy riding the bike today.

In different ways, that both is, and isn't, the approach I would take to skydiving, if I ultimately end up perusing it. In the respect that I can already see what my long-term interest would be, I would want to choose gear specifically suited to that interest from the start. But unlike my choice in motorcycles, I have really no interest in the "high performance" end - just jumping in itself would be more than enough for me. From the incident statistics I've read, it seems swooping is the primary cause of roughly 1/2 of all fatalities, so if the statistical risk can essentially be cut in half just by avoiding that one activity, then I would absolutely do so. So gear suited to the performance requirements of activities like swooping would be of no interest to me. Almost to the contrary, in my two jumps, I've found I enjoy the flight under canopy as much as the freefall, and so if a big canopy with a low wing-loading would translate into a slower descent and more time between deployment and landing, all the better.

Small pack size and small containers also seems to be prominent in gear today. I get that a small rig looks cool, but cool and/or fashionable isn't something I've ever been, and at 38, married with a kid, it's not something I have any interest in attempting to be. So if a big canopy stuffed into a big container would equal lower overall risk, I would be perfectly fine with that.

So, to avoid this post getting too long-winded, to sum it up, I'm saying that if my absolute only interest in gear would be to get from point A (being deployment) to point B (being the ground) as safely as possible, would there be any reason NOT to continue jumping with student gear? And if that's the case, could anyone offer suggestions on what a good student setup might be?

Can you still get non-spectra lines?
Can you still get a non zero-p canopy?

I've seen a number of discussions on injuries caused by hard openings, and this is something that I would be interested in avoiding as well.

Thanks for your time.
-Chris


davelepka  (D 21448)

Jun 27, 2012, 9:12 PM
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Re: [Chris3D] Gear choices and safety [In reply to] Can't Post

 
If you jump modern equipment (less than 10 years old), selected with your experience in mind, and keep it properly maintained, the equipment side of safety is going to be the least of your worries.

The other side of safety is the choices you make as far as where, when, and with whom you choose to jump. You can negate the safest rig choice by taking in on the wrong jump, in the wrong conditions, and with the wrong people.

A rig, when packed, assembled, and maintained properly, is a highly reliable system, and can provide years of trouble free operation. Other jumpers, the weather, and your own actions, however, are far less reliable.

Equipment choices are easy - buy modern stuff and choose main and reserve canopies that are sized for someone of your weight and skydiving experience, and that end of it will be fine. The tougher task is learning to make good choices outside of what equipment you jump, and then sticking to those choices.


Premier NWFlyer  (D License)

Jun 27, 2012, 9:12 PM
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Re: [Chris3D] Gear choices and safety [In reply to] Can't Post

You don't have to jump "student gear" per se to still jump a conservative setup. I'm like you - 41 and have no interest in going super-duper fast or having a tiny pack on my back, so I still jump what many consider a "student size" canopy. But it's not student gear; I have an AAD that's set to "Expert" skydiver mode, and my canopy is one that, while not at all aggressive, is a bit more sporty than student gear.

You'll find that a majority (I'd even venture to say an overwhelming majority) of skydivers do choose the safety features (such as AADs, helmets, RSLs) that are standard for student gear but optional for licensed skydivers. There are certain types of skydives or skydiving where there are pros & cons of AADs and RSLs, but for almost all skydiving situations, they'll improve your odds of survival.

All that said, after you're licensed, it's still (largely) a matter of personal choice what you choose to use (or not use).


pchapman  (D 1014)

Jun 27, 2012, 9:50 PM
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Lots of issues brought up in that post; but since I'm bored late at night I'll touch on a few of the issues.

Some aspects of student gear are not about safety but are there just to accommodate multiple users -- like the extra weight & bulk of harness adjustment hardware. Some features apply to particular student training choices -- like ripcord gear (not very common these days), or a static line setup. Some things are 'safer' in a given context. A static line system will be safer for a complete novice who would tumble on an unassisted freefall, but be unnecessary for someone who knows how to fall stable. So it can have its place if other training methods are not available. It is also assumed that freefall is a very desirable part of the sport, so one wants to go beyond static lines.

There can be different ways to achieve similar training goals, such as IAD vs. static line. The debate on which is better has continued over the years as there is no clear answer. IAD has in some areas won out as it allows for less specialized gear, and being able to use the same gear for different student experience levels. IAD has more potential dangers if the jumpmaster staff are less experienced, but it can also be said that training can compensate for that. There are always lots of tradeoffs.

So it can be difficult to make a linear scale of the level of safety of a particular design.

After being a student, you would generally get away from student gear with extra adjustment hardware, or specialized systems for particular training types like static line. Still, you can choose to use an RSL (as some experienced jumpers do), or use fairly big canopies. Maybe not as big as ab initio students, for that would get very boring very quickly, and maybe take more force to fly, and be more difficult to fly to one's target in high winds.

Basically you don't want student gear. But you could still be conservative in your choices -- particularly in the size & design of canopies.

A fair number of canopies can be ordered with dacron lines, if you don't care about a little bulk and want slightly improved openings.

F-111 style canopies do still exist, but not many, and most modern student canopies are also ZP, at least for the top skin (hybrid). ZP is just superior for flying characteristics, and longevity, especially for anything except light wing loadings. F-111 designs have traditionally had harder openings than modern ZP canopies, but also tend not to have the very occasional slammers like ZP designs can. Still, the disadvantages of F-111 usually outdo whatever advantages they might have.

You can also improve your safety a lot through choices in how to jump. That's not to say "never sitfly" or something like that, but more like, "avoid the temptation to allow a planned 2 way sitfly turn into a 6 way sitfly zoo load when your and the others' experience suggest that both safety and learning would be improved by doing a 2 way sitfly". No need to go swooping hard either. One can learn a variety of skills including mildly accelerated landings, without aggressively getting into swooping.

While new jumpers often express complete satisfaction with some large canopy they are now flying, realistically, most people will get bored with them and find not quite so huge canopies much more enjoyable to fly, navigate, and land. Doesn't mean one has to get into swooping, but some degree of downsizing from student days is normal.

So in the end there's a lot of gear available between the extremes of tiny swooping rigs and bulky student gear.


Bluhdow  (B 37052)

Jun 28, 2012, 11:06 AM
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Re: [Chris3D] Gear choices and safety [In reply to] Can't Post

"I've found I enjoy the flight under canopy as much as the freefall, and so if a big canopy with a low wing-loading would translate into a slower descent and more time between deployment and landing, all the better."

Ever consider paragliding?


Chris3D

Jun 28, 2012, 6:19 PM
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Re: [Bluhdow] Gear choices and safety [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for the replies everyone. So there's nothing inherently "safer" about student gear. I was just curious to read that certain manufacturers choose certain features (like rip cords over alternative deployment methods) specifically for student gear and wondered what that was based on.

As far as decisions on where/when/who to jump with, that wouldn't be an issue. There's a rule in scuba diving that anyone can end any dive at any point for any reason, no questions asked. Sometimes things just aren't "right" and there should never be pressure for someone to make or continue a dive if he/she isn't completely comfortable with the plan or conditions. And I've never been one to give in to the pack mentality, so...

In reply to:
"I've found I enjoy the flight under canopy as much as the freefall, and so if a big canopy with a low wing-loading would translate into a slower descent and more time between deployment and landing, all the better."

Ever consider paragliding?

Yea, I considered it, but I've watched a number of videos of seemingly spontaneous canopy collapses and it just seem like those things drop out of the sky left and right. I assume the size and relatively light wing loading of the canopies would make them pretty susceptible to winds/gusts causing problems.

Honestly, I'd be much more interested in hang gliding than paragliding. I've actually wanted to hang glide since I was a kid and my wife and I will be taking some tandem flights this summer to see what we think. Skydiving just came up because my wife wanted to try it and we both did tandems. It just reminded me what an incredible experience it is and how much I enjoyed it. Statistically, it seems to be a toss-up between skydiving and hang gliding safety-wise, but skydiving wins in ease of participation - it's a lot easier to store/transport skydiving gear than a hang glider and we live literally 10 minutes from a local DZ.

We'll see. My father had a small Cessna when I was growing up, and I used to fly with him everywhere. I've always loved flying and would love to be able to enjoy some type of aerial activity. Just grappling with the risk factor...


texascrw  (D 18006)

Jun 28, 2012, 7:35 PM
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Re: [Chris3D] Gear choices and safety [In reply to] Can't Post

If you enjoy long flights under canopy, you need to look into CRW. Very relaxing.


airtwardo  (D License)

Jun 28, 2012, 7:39 PM
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In reply to:
If you enjoy long flights under canopy, you need to look into CRW. Very relaxing.

LaughLaughLaugh


Hellis

Jun 28, 2012, 10:28 PM
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Re: [Chris3D] Gear choices and safety [In reply to] Can't Post

About ripcord style.
Whatever gear you use, if you use it wrong it could be dangerous.
Thats it, really.

But if you are talking about chestmount ripcord, you could/will be unstable at pull.
BOC mounted is better.
But ripcord style activations have a springloaded PC, that could stay in the bubble behind you.
They are heavy and can fall in front of the canopy, and in some cases entangle with lines.
The only bennefit I see with springloaded ripcord activations is that once you pull you have done everything you should, but on throw-out you must also let go of the PC.

The big bennefit of throw-out (and pull-out) is that you let go of the PC in clean air giving the PC best possible chance to do it's job.

If you are that worried, maybe you should learn how to flatpack?
When you flatpack it's easier to keep everything perfect.
Stand up Propack usually gives you more than enough, but not perfect.


airtwardo  (D License)

Jun 28, 2012, 10:46 PM
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Re: [Hellis] Gear choices and safety [In reply to] Can't Post

But if you are talking about chestmount ripcord, you could/will be unstable at pull.
BOC mounted is better.
But ripcord style activations have a springloaded PC, that could stay in the bubble behind you.
They are heavy and can fall in front of the canopy, and in some cases entangle with lines.
The only benefit I see with springloaded ripcord activations is that once you pull you have done everything you should, but on throw-out you must also let go of the PC.


In reply to:

LaughLaughLaugh

My 1st 5 or 600 jumps were on a rig with a 'chest mounted' ripcord...it's actually easier to be stable with a ripcord because you don't drop a shoulder when reaching.

Bubble? or Burble ... yeah maybe it was a big problem when the wing-wars were raging...we learned how to sit up and pull.

And IF a chest mounted ripcord is such a safety factor...why is your reserve there?


davelepka  (D 21448)

Jun 29, 2012, 4:41 AM
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Re: [Chris3D] Gear choices and safety [In reply to] Can't Post

Quote:
As far as decisions on where/when/who to jump with, that wouldn't be an issue. There's a rule in scuba diving that anyone can end any dive at any point for any reason, no questions asked. Sometimes things just aren't "right" and there should never be pressure for someone to make or continue a dive if he/she isn't completely comfortable with the plan or conditions. And I've never been one to give in to the pack mentality, so...

The only pressure would be from yourself, and your desire to jump or be included on a jump. It's not that others will push you into something you're not ready for, it's usually the jumper improperly estimating their skills and ability.

Take weather for example, at what point do you stand down? How much wind is too much? You can't stay within student wind limits forever, so sooner or later you're going to decide that you're ready to jump in conditions with higher wind speeds, but how high?

What about when you decide you can handle the winds as they present themselves at the time you take-off, but they kick up another 10% during the climb to altitude? Or maybe the gusts that were blowing from 12mph up to 15mph have increased, and by the time you're under canopy are gusting from 12 to 18? You can't just stop the jump, once you leave the plane, you're going to land, one way or the other.

In terms of jumping with others, you cannot always account for anothers jumpers performance throughout the entire jump. You might have several 'good' jumps with a guy, and then he makes a critical mistake on the next jump.

Barring that, did you notice the other jumpers on the plane with you? Even if you're doing a solo. one of them could skip a gear check and have their canopy come out while they are in the door of the plane, which can result in it wrapping around the tail. It's taken entire planes down in the past, and even though you weren't jumping with the guy, you still have to ride in the plane with him,

Or how about if you do a solo, and the jumper who goes before or after you manages to drift into your airspace. We try to leave enough time between jumpers so everyone has their own space, but shit happens. How can you do anything if that guy comes freefalling through your canopy right after you open?

Beyond all that, you might open a good canopy and be 90% of the way to a safe landing, and then have another jumper run into you with their open canopy. This usually results in both canopies becoming tangled, and spinning to the ground.

I'm not tyring to scare you, just tyring to educate you. You can do things to mitigate these types of dnagers, but it takes thought, effort, and dedication to learning and educating others.


Joellercoaster  (D 105792)

Jun 29, 2012, 5:56 AM
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Re: [Hellis] Gear choices and safety [In reply to] Can't Post

In reply to:
But if you are talking about chestmount ripcord, you could/will be unstable at pull.

This is just not true.

The first time I went through AFF the deployment system was right-sided chest-mount ripcord, and it was fine.


Chris3D

Jun 29, 2012, 1:21 PM
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Re: [airtwardo] Gear choices and safety [In reply to] Can't Post

In reply to:
The only benefit I see with springloaded ripcord activations is that once you pull you have done everything you should, but on throw-out you must also let go of the PC.

I've read about people not letting it go of the PC, and it just seems crazy that you'd forget. On the other hand, I always thought it was crazy to read about people hopping off their motorcycles while forgetting to put the kickstand down... until I did it myself! Crazy

In reply to:
The only pressure would be from yourself, and your desire to jump or be included on a jump. It's not that others will push you into something you're not ready for, it's usually the jumper improperly estimating their skills and ability.

Yea, I definitely get that, and that's why I mentioned my motorcycle experience - that my choice of bikes meant that I'd have to be much more cautious and willing to invest the extra time it would take to learn, and I did exactly that. I'm in absolutely no rush.


(This post was edited by Chris3D on Jun 29, 2012, 3:44 PM)


wolfriverjoe  (A 50013)

Jun 29, 2012, 2:23 PM
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Re: [Chris3D] Gear choices and safety [In reply to] Can't Post

Lots of good answers here, but I'll throw in my $0.02 (which is about 2 cents more than it's worth).

Student gear has features designed to make it easier to operate by students.
Once you know what you are doing, it has more disadvantages than advantages.

Many DZs use throwout from the first jump. They feel that training with ripcord and then transitioning to throwout isn't worth the hassle. Others use ripcord because the instructors are "old guys" and teach the way they were taught. Nothing wrong with either option.
Ripcords, for example, are easier to find, you don't have to let go of the pilot chute, have a harder (not impossible though) time getting tangled in the bridle if you are tumbling and a few other things.

Throw out is easier to pack, not any harder to deploy, and has no chance of losing the ripcord.
Once you have adequate experience throwout is more appropriate.

Dacron lines are still available on just about any canopy and offer a "shock absorber" in case of a hard opening.

ZP is mostly better than F-111. It lasts a lot longer, flies better, and tends to open better overall.

As has been said, if you jump a canopy sized to your skill level, fly it sensibly, make jumps appropriate to your skill level, jump with people who you know are safe (both in freefall and under canopy) and jump with an AAD then you have removed yourself from well over half of the statistics.

I use an AAD, jump a Sabre2 loaded at about 1.2, usually jump at a one Cessna DZ (only 3 others in the air at once) and don't do anything radical under canopy below 2000'.
I am also not in the least hesitant to sit down if I don't feel right. If the winds are getting strong, or even just getting "wonky", if I'm getting tired after a long day, if I had a harder opening and I'm a little sore, anything.

And I've never gotten any shit over it.

I really want to jump, but the jump I most want to make is the next one.
And I can't make that one if I don't make the last one safely.

I know perfectly well that I can't eliminate all the risk. But I make choices that minimize it, and I stand by those choices.
I know people who make choices based on the idea that "it'll be ok this time."

Some of them walk a little funny these days because their choices bit them fairly hard.


Chris3D

Jun 29, 2012, 4:45 PM
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Re: [wolfriverjoe] Gear choices and safety [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for the added info regarding student gear. When I had read about the differences, I assumed it was that student gear was designed to be overly conservative and reliable. Obviously no piece of skydiving gear should be "less" reliable, but my thinking was that I would happily choose conservative/reliable over performance. But it seems all containers/deployment systems are equally reliable if used/maintained properly.

In reply to:
I am also not in the least hesitant to sit down if I don't feel right. If the winds are getting strong, or even just getting "wonky", if I'm getting tired after a long day, if I had a harder opening and I'm a little sore, anything.

And I've never gotten any shit over it.

I really want to jump, but the jump I most want to make is the next one.
And I can't make that one if I don't make the last one safely.

That's pretty much my approach to activities with inherent risks. With scuba diving, I trained through divemaster and mild technical diving (decompression diving) not because I indented to get into that, but just so I was more comfortable/competent in the standard recreational diving I was interested in. I've always thought it better to be trained a few levels beyond that which you intend to participate in a given sport.

So another question regarding conservatism is deployment altitude. Standard is around 2500 feet, with student's up to 5000 to 6000? (I think tandem is 6000?). Is it discouraged to continue to deploy moderately high once off student status? I would assume exit order takes into account intended deployment altitude so as to avoid potential collisions? While I enjoy freefall as much as anyone, I would happily trade 5 to 10 seconds of it for more altitude with which to deal with potential malfunctions...

Thanks again everyone for all the information and advice. I still need to win the wife's approval and make sure she's comfortable with the idea of my taking up the sport. And honestly, I have to address my own concerns and comfort with the idea as well, and these questions are all part of that process. Had I still been single and without a child, I'd have already begun training, but that decision isn't so easy when there's a family to consider. At minimum, we could always just do the occasional tandem, but man, it's such a tease... it just makes you want to do it that much more!


(This post was edited by Chris3D on Jun 29, 2012, 6:47 PM)


JohnMitchell  (D 6462)

Jun 29, 2012, 9:45 PM
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You'll need to get more comfortable with lower openings if you want to jump much with other people. Even with fairly novice jumpers I expect to break at 4500 and have them pull by 3500, which is only 5-6 seconds later. Most of them end up taking 7-8 seconds, though, because they track longer than they need to for a 2-4 way. Wink

If you want to stay safe, keep your wingloading under 1:1 for the next hundred jumps and get canopy instruction. Even just asking experienced jumpers to watch your landings and critique can be very helpful. Not breaking your leg will make you enjoy skydiving much more.

Practice your EP's until they are like a reflex.

There are many gear systems on the market. They are all pretty damn good designs. It's the choice of canopies and the actions of the operator that make them safe or not. So don't worry too much about brands. Get something that fits- your budget, your body, your ablilities. Wink


Premier skybytch  (D License)

Jun 30, 2012, 7:21 AM
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In reply to:
If you want to stay safe, keep your wingloading under 1:1 for the next hundred jumps and get canopy instruction.

Canopy instruction is great. More importantly, plan to actually PRACTICE what you learn after you learn it. It doesn't become muscle memory after doing it once in the course and never practicing it again.

If you want to stay safe, don't fly a wingloading over 1:1 regardless of how many jumps you have, and don't let others pressure you into downsizing if you have no desire to go faster. At 1200 jumps, I fly at about a 1:1 wingloading. It only limits me from jumping in windy conditions, which I choose not to jump in regardless of what size canopy I fly. So far, choosing a conservative canopy and wingloading has helped keep me from breaking bones in the landing area.



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