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Flight Planning for Safety

In any aviation activity proper flight planning is critical to safety, and skydiving is no exception. If you take the time beforehand to plan for various eventualities, you don't waste precious time making decisions when they arise.

Preflight

  • Familiarize yourself with aerial views of the DZ and surrounding area, if they are available. Note locations of obstacles and pick likely outs for bad spots in various directions.
  • Check weather reports, if possible, and note forecast winds at altitude, cloud conditions and any approaching fronts. You are less likely to be blindsided by rapid changes in conditions when informed of their likelihood.
  • Turn on your AAD, if so equipped. Make sure your hook knives are accessible.
  • Find out who on the formation has audible or visible altimeters, AADs and RSLs; make sure they are all operational and properly initialized.
  • Check your and your partners' gear.
  • Make sure you are in agreement on breakoff and opening procedures and altitudes.
  • Face into the wind and see where the sun is. Its position should be the same when you are on final and there is no wind indicator available.

Exit

  • Know what groups are around you, what they are doing and what delay is planned between groups (ask around before and after boarding). The Skydive Arizona policy of large to small slow-faller groups, followed by large to small fast-faller groups, followed by students, followed by tandems is the best all-around approach in the business.
  • The more of a delay between groups you can arrange, the better. DO NOT assume that any reasonable delay is reason not to pay attention to other groups in the air - LOOK AROUND!

Freefall

  • Dock gently, from the level of the formation. DO NOT swoop into a formation, but make the final approach smooth and deliberate.
  • DO NOT EVER get above or below a formation. Inadvertent deployment can become fatal fast if people are above each other.
  • If low, stay near and to the side of the formation until breakoff. Do NOT begin tracking before breakoff altitude, and DO NOT do anything to increase vertical separation..
  • Track flat at a common level. DO NOT drop out of a formation vertically. If you have an inadvertent deployment when you are below the formation, the likelihood of someone getting killed is significant. The greatest likelihood of an inadvertent deployment is right after exposing the pilot chute pouch to direct air stream - like when dropping out of a formation in a stand-up.
  • Track to a clear sector while watching the people on either side. While flat tracking, it is easy to split the difference between the people to either side by looking under your arms.

Canopy Flight

  • Open at an appropriate altitude. Between two and three thousand feet is reasonable for a high traffic event; any higher opening (for CRW or whatever) should be arranged with the pilot.
  • Do NOT spiral down through a high traffic area. If spiraling to lose altitude, get well off the wind line to stay clear of the spot for other groups, and LOOK AROUND. In a turn, the direction of most likely collision is at the leading edge of the canopy in the direction of the turn, and there is a blind spot where a collision may occur between jumpers whose canopies blocked their view of each other until right before the collision. I reiterate - SPIRALING IN HIGH TRAFFIC IS DANGEROUS!
  • The safest flight path when opening above the landing area is to fly the canopy away from the landing area, perpendicular to jumprun, until far enough out to allow a long, shallow approach to the landing area (leave enough room for obstacle clearance).
  • LOOK AROUND NEAR THE GROUND! Don't fixate on your landing, but pay attention to who is in the area. Keep your head on a swivel, and periodically scan for potential traffic.
  • Do not execute unplanned turns near the ground. If you are cut off on final, executing an avoidance turn must not be a possible response.

Landing

  • The safest landing areas are the least popular ones with the most outs. Landing in congested areas or where ground traffic is allowed (e.g., the camping area) can be an invitation to disaster.
  • If you must turn for traffic or obstacle avoidance while setting up to land, use a FLAT TURN. If you don't know how to do so, find out from someone experienced in the maneuver and practice at altitude until you have the procedure wired.
  • Keep your head on a swivel after touchdown. Even if you land under complete control, you might want to dodge someone who is swooping where they should not.

If landing out is inevitable, or if safely making it to a designated landing area is in doubt:

  • Pick an open area in which to land by 1,000 feet (300 metres). Corn can be over 12'(4m) tall (a cornfield is NOT like an unmown lawn), so landing between rows and preparing for a PLF will reduce the likelihood or extent of injury.
  • Any changes of color on the ground probably have barbed wire along the boundary. Land parallel to any area changes.
  • Locate any telephone poles or other wire supports by 500 feet (150 metres), and set up to avoid the wires that are sure to go between them.
  • Identify the lay of the land by 500 feet (150 metres), and set up to land alongside any hills. Do NOT land uphill or downhill, REGARDLESS of what the wind is doing.
  • If there is any doubt about the landing surface, or if you are sure to have excess speed on touchdown (like when stuck with a downwind landing) execute a PLF and roll out the landing. Keeping feet and knees together, and not using hands or elbows to break the fall can greatly help avoiding injury.



By Winsor Naugler III on 2004-08-07 | Last Modified on 2014-07-24

Rating: 12345   Go Login to rate this article.  | Votes: 1 | Comment: 1 | Views: 9574

1 Comment

ChrisD
ChrisD  2014-09-22

As long as we are speaking about "planning and safety" how about making sure our first aid needs are being met, before something happens,....

From another rant:

Kudos to anyone who is willing to tackle a much neglected issue that is prevalent at the majority of Drop Zones throughout the world.
But what do you do when there isn’t anyone to use this medical kit?

First Aid and CPR continue to be hotly debated subjects, when any discussion turns to this subject. Unfortunately common sense and patient advocacy go out the window when the subject of liability and responsibility come up. WHY our safety and health take a back seat to the pencil pushers and naysayers is beyond me. It’s our safety when we are injured. This should be a concern of every jumper, everywhere. Why isn’t it, is the question?

Perhaps when faced with our own mortality this is a subject that we would rather not face? Perhaps it’s the widely held belief that someone, some yet un-named person or organization has this issue covered. They have a plan or policy in place that has these issues covered? Well, UNFORTUNATLY the vast majority of Drop Zones do a very poor job of assisting you, if you suffer a casualty. The vast majority of Drop Zones do not have a plan, shy away from training their personnel, and frequently stop trained personnel from ever knowing the severity of an incident, never mind the idea of rendering the most basic and simple first aid. At the best the policy is to pick up the phone and call someone else.

If we look at the big world around us; just about every person in a public setting, is required to have a mediocrity of first aid training and CPR training. From every Bus driver, school teacher, lifeguard and public servant this is and has been a job requirement for many years now. What about our organization? How do we set an example?
Not very well I’m afraid. We generally leave this to someone else. We have the Safety and Training Advisor. I mean the very word implies that they know something about safety, Right??? WRONG. How about spending a few hours to learn a valuable skill? Unfortunately the very people that we place our misguided trust in are not required to have any credentials or experience in this area whatsoever. That’s not the public perception however. The vast majority of skydivers are running around thinking to themselves that the majority of Drop Zones have the injury issues solved, that they have a plan in place and in the event of an injury they will be promptly and expertly covered. They do not and this should be a major concern of every jumper worldwide.
Leadership is sorely lacking. From the top down the subject of first aid is ignored and or passed on to someone else. The USPA has continually shirked their responsibility in this area by allowing Drop Zones to continue to do whatever the local custom is. In other words it’s a free for all out there and frequently this translates into no care whatsoever by anyone. I find this “Ostrich” behavior disturbing. It is unconscionable to me that skydiving has no casualty safety requirements, no first aid training requirement, and no CPR training requirements whatsoever. And it is the epitome of hypocrisy to not require our S&TA’s to at least have the same level of training as required of my children’s kindergarten teachers. A couple of hours of training could save someone’s life, but apparently this is too much to ask of those charged with overseeing our safety. This isn’t an academic discussion. A number of recent incidents has painfully illustrated that the total lack of training and knowledge has deprived many of better medical care, or at least a chance at life. How these people sleep at night is beyond me? As it stands this notion that the DZ protects itself by not requiring trained personnel, liability wise is insane. Looking at this another way is saying the equivalent that you’re not going to receive any first aid, regardless of trained personnel being present or not because our business is more important than a human life! The worst are those Drop Zones that actually interfere with the first responders and actively try to control the “scene” to the fatal detriment of the injured person. Again, this is not an academic discussion; this is how the sad state of affairs currently exists. This is the definition of “gross negligence,” is borderline criminal behavior, and is not protected by any legal waiver. Never mind the fact that this inaction is morally reprehensible.
So again Kudos to you for preparing a “Kit” now find the people that know how to use it, and a Drop Zone that will let them.


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