Jan 21, 2013, 7:28 AM
Post #1 of 6
Thoughts on safety for 2013
Some thoughts on safety and self policing for the upcoming season:
Hi. Lurch here. I never thought I'd be much for public service messages, but the wingsuit community has sort of let its guard down lately, judging by recent events, and I've been contacted by a few other birds and asked what my thoughts were about it.
A quick review: I might have some details wrong but here's the gist of it-
2 fatal-Australia and Washington State.
2 AAD fires, Sebastian.
2 water landings, Sebastian- Neither bird had water training or navigation training and both were under 10 WS jumps... what the heck were they doing out over the ocean?
2 2-outs. (Lodi/Byron)... Poorly rigged Apaches, got Apaches banned at Lodi
A couple loads landing out, one bird ended up in a tree.
At least one bird reportedly doing rodeos at under 15 ws jumps... (With what skills? I hate to be a dick here but at 15 jumps, how is the bird going to know how to recover or control instability, navigate, cope with the jacked up fallrate, or have any sort of Plan B? They won't. A Rodeo is a highly challenging and very complex skydive, a little judgement on display wouldn't hurt here.)
A Rodeo, with a costume involved, being launched from 3500 feet. (Facepalm.)
One bird being taught to fly a huge suit some 70 jumps lower than Robi's recommendations for Phoenix-fly suits,
And Spot tells me of at least 3 birds he's run into who were given First Flight Courses at under 100 jumps. What the hell? I thought we quit that after Dan's incident.
So far I haven't heard anybody say much about all this except Chuck Blue and DSE. Chuck's comment appeared to be ignored and as usual Spot gets attacked for speaking up or being an alarmist.
But they're right.
We're supposed to be self-policing. I don't know what the heck is going on lately but whatever it is, it isn't THAT.
I'm not going to throw stones or play "holier than thou" about it. I've done more than my fair share of silly stuff up there myself, badly thought out poor judgement calls, landed out, you name it. The enthusiasm of the moment grabs you, next thing you know everything's gone weird the flock is scattered everywhichway and you're punching a hole at low altitude dodging canopies to land in some field somewhere. Hell, a few years back I let my guard down, pulled a stupid jack move approaching a flock and scared Scotty Burns bad enough that he flew up to me and started chewing me out for it, tearing me a new asshole, in flight, with a lot of english, while we were still at like 9,000 feet. I couldn't exactly hear what he was saying and didn't really need to. The content was pretty clear: "Lurch you crazy Fxxker watch what the F you're doing you almost killed me..."
Being bitched out by Scotty B in midflight was quite the experience. I bloody well earned it. "Sorry about that, man" doesn't really help.
I spent the rest of the skydive feeling like a complete idiot. On review of the video later I felt like even more of an idiot because yeah I definitely screwed up, having pulled an extremely unpredictable high energy arrival and braking maneuver WAY too close. From his blind side, above and behind. What the hell was I thinking. 900 MPH from 10 feet away. Not my brightest moment up there.
And I had about a zillion jumps already and I knew what I was doing. I took the lesson to heart and never repeated the error, (Scotty, thanks for forgiving me for that one bro) but the error was made and it was mine.
What I'm saying is experienced birds are not immune to airborne stupidity. Sometimes our better judgement takes a day off. Or we miss something.
Flying with an experienced bird doesn't absolve new birds from responsibility for their own judgement and safety, either. If you're a jumper with 98 jumps and some experienced bird is offering to teach you to fly a suit here and now, that bird is being reckless and irresponsible and has no business teaching and the only person who can save you from imminent life threatening stupidity is YOU. We settled on 200 jump minimum years ago for a damn good reason. If you don't know that reason, look it up. Its enlightening.
If you're about to get into wingsuiting, have you done your homework and read up thoroughly on it, or are you just planning to start from zero and fly the same day? Might want to step back and take another look at what you're about to get into. We make it look simple and easy. Its not.
I'm not saying its a good idea to challenge or second-guess everything you see the veteran birds doing, but if you think you see a safety hazard or a detail we might have missed, ASK. The more well-informed you are the better the decisions you can make. If you think maybe this isn't such a good idea, ASK. You might be right. If it becomes obvious the guy leading the thing hasn't thought it through, ASK! Maybe he did, and its just a detail you didn't know about, maybe he didn't, and will thank you for bringing it up. I've changed plans on dives I was leading before, because of the uncertainties expressed by a newer bird that I hadn't thought of myself. If you have doubts, speak them. I'll listen, as will any senior bird who knows what they're doing.
Anyway my point is, it'd be nice to get through a season without any serious incidents in our community. I think we've started showing some improvements, for instance its been awhile since our last tailstrike. I think the decentralized community awareness campaign thats been underway since last season has had a lot to do with that. If we can successfully keep awareness high, it may BE our last tailstrike. But we need to pay attention to more than just tails... navigation. Canopy pattern. Breakoff discipline and separation. Pull altitudes. Complex jumps and more. It can't be just one or two "Safety Nazis" keping an eye out for trouble... and that label itself communicates a certain contempt for caution thats a really, really bad idea. With more birds every year, we need the Safety Nazis more than ever, and if this little speech makes me a Safety Nazi, well, go ahead and call me one.
Never let your guard down. Watch out for the other birds around ya. Plan ahead. Think it through. If you think you see me or anyone else about to do something stupid, say so. Your vigilance might save one of us from making a mistake we'd regret.
nice post lurch. Funny to say at at least the same person was involved in some two of the items you listed. Also launching a rodeo at 3500 is not a good idea, especially when in reality it was under 2800. They took a long time in the door (over 30 sec) and the pilot got frustrated trying to get them out and then started to descend.
What you decide to do in a Ws on an average jumping day at any dz around the country affects us all. Be smart.
(This post was edited by Buried on Jan 28, 2013, 7:54 PM)