Phoenix-Fly Revamps Wingsuit Instructional Programs
Phoenix-fly announces a new Coaching program to replace the Phoenix-fly Instructor Program. Rising up from out of the ashes is the Phoenix and the latest re-start at Phoenix-fly is the dismantling of their “Instructor” program and the birth of a new Coaching program, making room for a gradual move towards a more official training standard.
“With the recent rise in wingsuit-related incidents and the tremendous growth in the wingsuit discipline, we felt it was time to re-examine our roster of manufacturer-endorsed instructors and determine a path for instruction that not only provides the best methodologies for training, but also provides an accessible, consistent system that Phoenix-fly can firmly stand behind,” says Jarno Cordia, Global Marketing Manager for Phoenix-Fly.
Phoenix-Fly’s history is well known; president and founder Robi Pecnik was one of the first and easily the most innovative wingsuit designer in the early days of wingsuiting. Paired up with Jari Kuosima, they formed Birdman. Pecnik kept the company on the leading edge of suit design while Kuosima sold suits. Together they built a powerhouse product line, and over time they instituted a training program to help skydivers get their wings into the air. The program was primarily authored by Chuck Blue and Henny Wiggers.This was known as the “Birdman Instructor” program.
In 2004, Pecnik grew dissatisfied with the direction Birdman was taking, and so left to form Phoenix-fly.
Many Birdman Instructors (BMI) automatically received Phoenix-fly instructor ratings when the competitive company was formed, and the Phoenix-fly program moved forward and grew from that base of early instructors. It was later discovered that some of the BMI’s had received their ratings via email. In short, some of the new PFI’s had never received formal training of any kind.
“We’ve found over the course of years that instructors were going uncurrent or teaching First Flight Courses to skydivers that didn’t meet the industry-recognized recommendation of 200 skydives in the last 18 months,” said Jarno, “We needed to address this, and with the spate of recent fatalities, we wanted to address it before someone was killed or injured during one of our training jumps. A high percentage of the recent fatalities fall well below the 200 jump minimum required by Phoenix-Fly and now by the new USPA BSR.”
With this in mind, the old PFI or “Phoenix-fly Instructor” program has been dismantled and the replacement program being steadily brought online. “We made four Phoenix-Fly Coaches (PFC’S) this past June, with others lined up to obtain their rating in the fall months,” says Douglas Spotted Eagle (DSE) Director of US training. “With the new additions to the SIM that myself and a team of wingsuiters authored, the recent changes in the program Robi and Jarno wanted to make, and the USPA adding a Basic Safety Requirement related to wingsuiting demonstrated that now is the right time to change up the program.”
Holders of the Phoenix-fly Instructor’s patch now hold a souvenir of the time they taught beginning wingsuiters. The Phoenix-Fly Instructional rating does not automatically translate to the newly founded Coach rating, and requires some re-training to merge into the new methodology of the PFC program, as well as a USPA Coach rating (USA-only).
“The new program parallels the USPA Coaching program and in fact we now require, rather than recommend, that Phoenix-fly Coaches in the USA hold a current USPA Coach instructional rating,” says DSE (who also holds a USPA Coach Examiner rating). According to Cordia, “We’re looking at requiring something similar for our non-USA Coaches. We’re already in the process of training up a Coach/Examiner for South America and he’s a USPA AFFI, TI, and just finishing his Senior Rigging rating. These are the kinds of people we want teaching and evaluating potential coaches.”
The newly developed program fundamentals came from the coaching techniques initially developed by Skydive University, discussions with other wingsuit coaches, and weaknesses observed over hundreds of student jumps.
Kinesthetics, isometrics, visual imagery, and student repetition are all part of the revamped PF First Flight program. First Flight Courses take slightly more time and provide improved and up-to-date information regarding navigation, deployments, and emergency procedures. Scotty Burns of Z-flock points out, “We’ve been teaching wingsuiting based on methods developed in the early days of wingsuits but the suits of today are much bigger, faster, and potentially more dangerous than they were ten years ago. This new program arms students with the knowledge they’ll need as they undergo the wingsuit journey. I’m really excited about it. I’ve taught dozens of wingsuit students over the years and know what to expect in an average First Flight. Since I’ve started training with this new program, my students somehow have been flying better. This thing works!”
“Having watched numerous wingsuit first flight courses, I can say with confidence that the PF coach program takes instruction to a completely new level, using various well thought-out techniques that deliver the best training I could think of,” commented recent PFC graduate Andreea Olea. “It's amazing how well it works with all kinds of students, from the most distracted to the most clumsy to the most cocky ones. Quality wingsuit training at its best - major kudos to Phoenix-Fly for setting such an excellent standard!”
Phoenix-fly coach candidates that have obtained their USPA Coach rating should plan on attending a Phoenix-Fly Coach training session at Skydive Elsinore, Skydive Utah, Skydive City/Zephyr Hills, or at Raeford Parachuting School with Douglas Spotted Eagle, Scotty Burns, or Chuck Blue. There is one half day of classwork, some of which will recall training received during the USPA Coach rating process. The second half day is a jump day, in which students must receive two satisfactory scores in three possible jumps. The jumps are scored using criteria very similar to the USPA Coach evaluation form. Candidates are also required to pass a written test before receiving their Phoenix-Fly Coach patches.
“Phoenix-fly Coaches must teach a minimum of six First Flight Courses per year and 15 coach jumps in order to remain current,” says DSE. Phoenix-fly Coaches receive special discounts on PF wingsuits, access to the PF training fleet for special events, and other unique discounts and opportunities via PFpartners.
“Truly, we’ve changed up our program so it meets a standard consistent with the USPA methodology of training and coaching, and so that the new program is consistent with the new wingsuiting additions to the USPA SIM. We’re looking to insert additional Coach/Examiners so that there are more geographical points in the USA where potential Phoenix-fly Coach candidates can more readily receive training and pass the course,” says Cordia. “We believe we’ve built a new training program worthy of even the most challenging students.”
“From the USPA perspective, we’re thrilled to see Phoenix-fly step up their training to prepare skydivers for bigger suits, low-tail aircraft, and overall safety. The fact that the program is consistent with existing USPA standards and training programs is a bonus for all, ‘ says Jay Stokes, President of the USPA.
Former Phoenix-Fly instructors wanting to update their Phoenix-Fly rating, or anyone qualified to challenge the PFC course may contact one of the PF Coach Examiners to arrange for a training class.
Phoenix-fly Coach Courses are currently available at:
~Skydive Elsinore (Douglas Spotted Eagle)
~Skydive Utah (Douglas Spotted Eagle)
~Raeford Parachuting Center (Chuck Blue)
~Skydive City/Z-Hills (Scotty Burns)
-The Parachute Center, Lodi, CA (Ed Pawlowski)
Contact Jarno Cordia for other countries/regions
Dropzones are encouraged to check Phoenix-fly.com for information regarding the active status of Phoenix-Fly Coaches.
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