AAD'sPosted Wednesday, March 1, 1995
By Bryan Burke
After following the discussion about AADs, I thought I would throw my own opinions in. I'll try to stick to facets of the issue that haven't been widely considered.
The only DZs I know of that are requiring an AAD are those run by Jamie Woodward. He started in the business in Issequah, WA years ago and moved to Snohomish when Issequah (one of the most scenic DZs of all time) was killed by developers. He now operates Snohomish, the Desert Skydiving Center in Arizona, a place near San Diego, and a tandem operation in Palm Springs. His focus has always been on students, and some of his jumpers say the mandate for AADs is not only to increase safety but to "run off" the higher level people to make room on the Cessnas for students. Regardless of the true reason, he has a good reputation and from what I have seen his opinions are worth consideration and respect.
However, I would resist a trend in the sport to make RSLs and AADs mandatory. As was pointed out, it should be something you buy if you can, but I wouldn't tell someone they couldn't jump if they didn't have one. I learned on garbage gear (200 round jumps between 1978 and 1981) when everyone else jumped squares because I was just too poor to buy gear. I was aware of the limitations of my gear, but that never justified continuing to use it once I could get better stuff. Jumping without an AAD or RSL is not unsafe; it's just that those items reduce your risk.
By the way, I would not recommend FXCs for experienced jumpers, and Sentinals I have serious reservations about. Experienced jumpers distrust these AADs with some justification. They were originally designed for the military with a very different mission in mind. CYPRES AADs are designed for sport parachutists, using modern technology. I feel they can be trusted beyond reasonable doubt. The only dangerous scenario is pulling low, especially with a high performance main that might not fly well with the reserve. But the low pullers are dangerous anyway - adding an AAD doesn't make being in freefall at a grand more dangerous. Deadman's
arguements scare me because he seems to be implying that being in freefall at 1000 feet without an AAD is perfectly safe as long as he is aware of the situation.
The fact is that most of us have been caught unawares at some point. A few months ago I recieved a very interesting study entitled "Possible Solutions to the Problem of Cutaway Failure" (failure to do it right, not failure of equipment) by R. Maire, published by the Technical Committee of the International Council of Military Sport (CISM). Although the specific focus was parachuting accidents, the paper was an investigation of the cause of people failing to act correctly under stress, examining human information processing, stress induced incapacitation, and medicophysiological factors. The medical/psychological evidence, and not
just from parachuting, is that just because you didn't freak out in one case doesn't mean you will act correctly in every case. I firmly agree based on my personal observation of hundreds of accidents. A CYPRES is in effect an outsider looking on that can step in if and when the human operator has let a chain of events build that has put them in deep shit. You're crazy not to have one if there is any way you can get one, just as you are crazy not to have a modern rig if you can afford one.
Now, what if you are one of those perfect experts who will not only never need an AAD. The reasons you make this choice also assume that someone else's AAD could kill you. Does this mean that no one else should have one because they expose you to risk? (Of course, Deadman seems to assume that AAD misfires all result in death, I guess, to consider them such a hazard.) What are you going to do, search everyone before the load gets on the plane to make sure no one sneaks on with an AAD? You'll be doing a lot of jumps alone. My guess is that the porportion of AAD equiped skydivers will only increase as the price drops and modern competative designs come on the market. I will say that CYPRES showed a pretty keen understanding of the old skydiver's psychology when they made theirs completely invisible.
There are still some people who feel that if you need a helmet, RSL, or CYPRES to save your life, you deserve to die. Philosophically, I don't have a problem with this, but as the guy who actually has to pick up the bodies I'd rather they had AADs. Our sport has become easy enough to get into to attract people who might not exactly be fighter pilot material. It is a little to late to shut the door on them. They are here among us, and they need protection.
I don't think there will be a drive to mandate AADs any time soon, but expect peer pressure for them to increase. I don't mind people discussing the problems associated with FXCs and Sentinals. They do have severe limits for experienced jumpers that people need to be aware of. But anybody who thinks they are safer without a CYPRES than with one is just plain ignorant.
As an aside, Russia has the longest tradition of sport parachuting in the world, dating back to the 1920s. Years ago they started putting AADs on mains and reserves. I believe the reserve AADs are sort of like our older types. The main ones were basically a stop watch. You set it for the length of delay, changeable up to the moment of exit. It was activated when you left the plane. Very simple and reliable. And you know what? The last statistics I read, about eight or nine years ago, their fatality rate was a tiny fraction of ours. Seeing how somewhere from two thirds to three quarters of all fatalities are low/no pulls, this makes sense. Keep in mind, however, most of these were style and accuracy type jumps. I don't think main AADs are a good idea for any kind of RW at this state of the art. To be safe, you would have to set them so low they would overlap the reserve.
Thanks for your time,
Bryan Burke, Danger and Training Advisor at Skydive Arizona, CYPRES yes.
Date: 1 Mar 1995 18:21:51 -0500
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