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Streamlining Ratings: UPT Adopts Sigma

by Laura Jane Burgess
Shuffling paperwork, missing signatures, and problematic postal services: with so many moving parts issuing UPT Tandem rating cards has been a time-consuming process. Key word: has. United Parachute Technologies has led the charge in gear manufacturing for many years, and now, it’s leading the way into the digital age of issuing tandem ratings.
We spoke with the director of UPT’s Tandem Program, Tom Noonan, to get details on the exciting partnership between UPT and Sigma.
Background
For those of you out there unfamiliar with Tom Noonan, Tom made his first skydive in 1999, and in the nearly 20 years since then, has acquired around 8000 skydives—6,500-7,000 of which are skydives with him as either the tandem instructor or passenger training someone to be an instructor!
Having previously worked for Strong Enterprises and Performance Designs, Tom is now in his sixth year of employment with UPT working as their Tandem Program Director.
How Sigma Entered The Picture
Tom met Dylan Avatar of Sigma when he presented their Merit issuing platform to the USPA board several years ago. At the time Tom was on the USPA Board of Directors and had a front seat during USPA’s adoption of Sigma to issue licenses and ratings digitally as Merits. 
Tom says:
“USPA’s success with [Sigma] with their membership of 40,000 people gave UPT a comfort level that Sigma could handle the…8-10,000 instructors around the world and 400-500 examiners (current or past) or national federation safety officers who we work with. After seeing that the USPA database migration and subsequent user interface was successful, I had high confidence that we would be able to do the same thing on our side with the tandem ratings we issue.”
Why did UPT elect to move forward with Sigma? 
After a slight pause, Tom kiddingly replies “[Sigma] gave us free t-shirts…No the real reason/the tipping point for us was when Dylan met with Sheryl Bothwell, our Office Administrator, who is in charge of the rating issuance. Dylan was able to sit down and demonstrate the portal and the process and show how efficient it was going to be from the front office side, and that was really the “closer.”
How Sigma Will Help
What problems/pain points will Sigma solve for UPT as it relates to issuing ratings?
Without hesitation, Tom responds “international delivery.”
“We probably have 30-40% of our users that are international, which means we’re sending out anywhere from 200-400 international rating cards each year, and we’ve been doing it… as an analog process (postal) in a digital world.”
Issues with international delivery were multifaceted: “Our international mailing was incredibly problematic. One in that the customer often didn’t receive their card in a timely manner or other times they didn’t receive it at all. It doubled and even sometimes tripled our workload to reproduce these again and again. From a cost perspective, while it wasn’t happening every day, it became more and more of a cost issue and a workflow problem. We were spending too much time re-issuing ratings that otherwise could be digitally accessible.”
While forgery or someone misrepresenting their ability hasn’t really been the problem, Tom says “there has been an issue with candidates finishing the training process, and their rating application ending up in limbo somewhere, due to application correction issues.”
“Individuals were going through courses and filling out the appropriate paperwork, which was then sent in. The problem was typically a mistake made on the paperwork. Either the examiner or the instructor failed to sign a necessary line on the log book or were missing a witness signature. Attempts to get additional information in from our instructors, in that capacity, can be challenging at times. So, someone will finish a course and have a paperwork problem, and whether they ignore it or neglect it, then they and the dropzone are missing confirmation that the rating has been issued. The adoption of Sigma’s platform will hopefully facilitate an easier remedy for the drop zone owner and the instructor to know for sure that they have their rating and that it has been issued.”
Will UPT continue to mail out hard copy cards or do they anticipate phasing these out? 
For those of you looking to garner UPT tandem ratings in the future, physical cards will be offered as an “a la carte” option and only ad hoc as requested.
 “We will always provide them for the customer if requested to do so. There are people that have always wanted the tactile experience, to have a driver’s license in their pocket or a pilot’s certificate in hand, so we can always provide that. But now that we have the digital format, the workflow on [physical cards issued] will be less than 10%. But for that 10%, we will format the cost as shipping and a small processing/maintenance fee of $10.”
What about Sigma excites UPT the most? 
“UPT’s front office is thrilled at the implementation of Sigma issued Merits for UPT tandem ratings. The excitement, in part, comes down to reduced workflow. And any time, we can reduce workflow, we can be more efficient, and if we are more efficient, we can then do more things for the customer and for the instructors. We’d rather spend our time thinking about ways to improve the process…and having more time to do that because we are spending less time dealing with processing issues and mailing ratings. It gives us more time to focus on other parts of the rating application process.”
Looking to the Future
Tom sees two potentials for further utilizing Sigma in the future: “one is going to be once the system is in place and running smoothly, we are going to look to use the Sigma platform to institute a hand cam proficiency Merit.” 
This will ensure instructors have “met the 200 tandem jump minimum, they have filled out our proficiency checklist, and sent it into us. First, before they start using hand cam and every two years as they renew, and two, so [drop zones] will be able to track [instructors] hand cam currency as a Merit.”
Within the next two years, Tom and UPT are hoping to roll out “some form of a bi-annual review [for tandem instructors] that can be updated, whether it’s a proficiency card or a practical evaluation with an examiner—we haven’t hashed any of that out. But we’ve recognized there is a need to implement something similar to what pilots go through, where every two years the instructors need to validate their credentials. This can absolutely be an additional future merit that would end up living in the Sigma database”
Tom even had an idea for how Dropzones could further utilize the Sigma platform and Merits.
“I could foresee Dropzone Owners taking advantage of a Camera Flyer Merit, where it’s simply a qualification card that they are validating they have met the minimum requirements 500 RW jumps 100 camera jumps as one example, so when they have people flying video with their tandem instructors, they have some kind of validation that they have met the minimums”
The practical takeaway here? 
These measures and issued Merits are a “liability prevention mechanism for everyone involved in the tandem jump process…making sure you have met those credential verifications only helps assure you have better liability protection in case of an incident or accident”
Well put Tom, well put. 

Girl Gear Blues? Problem Solved (and Then Some)

Aeronautrixx Literally Has Your Back
Life in the sky just keeps getting better for the 13% of us who fly under the influence of two X chromosomes. The latest development? Aeronautrixx -- a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, founded by skydiver//adventurist Karen Woolem. The org’s goal, as Karen puts it, is “providing education, guidance, sponsorship and resources to help women pursue their aeronautical dreams in a fun and safe manner.” Those are lofty goals, indeed, but Karen -- who is as well-organized as she is dynamic -- isn’t the type to shoot low. 
To understand where Aeronautrixx is coming from, of course, you first have to understand a little bit about its founder. Karen started jumping 28 years ago, led by the example of her skydiver father. She was 15, and they’d make the long trek down to Skydive Paso Robles from the Monterey Bay Area because Paso was the only driveable DZ that would let such a young pup jump. She made a few less than 100 jumps in that first phase and stopped jumping in 1993, when her rig was grounded.


“The question was,” she remembers, “Do I buy new gear, or do I go to college?’
Objectively speaking, it wasn’t really a question. Karen was the first in her family to go to college, and she wanted to place her focus there. As it turns out, a full 15 years passed before she got back into the sport, though she made a few feints in that direction. Finally, in 2009, she got recurrent -- at Hollister, where her dad learned to skydive back in 1988 -- and she’s been jumping ever since. Mostly, Karen describes herself as an RW kinda chick. (Fun fact: When I talk to her, she has just returned from skydiving over the Egyptian pyramids.)
Aeronautrixx, interestingly enough, was born of that other major step forward in female-focused skydiving: the Women’s Skydiving Leadership Network. Back in 2016 (when the WSLN was first officially formed), Karen was selected for the first WSLN leadership symposium. She spent a week at Raeford with the event, soaking up the skills, the vibes and the connections. As part of that program, Karen designed a logo for a WSLN t-shirt. The image was strong, feminine, colorful and balls-out bold. She loved it.
While a different logo was selected for that original purpose, Karen couldn’t help but realize that she’d created the logo for an effort that was gathering steam in her own imagination. Specifically, she was pondering a personal challenge she’d faced as a female, coming back into the sport: Finding a used container that fit both her and the canopy size she was comfortable with. She’d found it damned near impossible.

“Finding a used container that fit me was no problem,” she mueses, “but they were all made for sub-100s; for super-swoopers. When I first came back, was under a 170. I ended up having to rent for what seemed like forever. It was so expensive.”
She realized that there was a solution -- and that she could catalyze it.
“I knew there were plenty of people out there that have gear to donate,” she adds, “And I thought -- hey! -- if I set up a non-profit, it can be a win-win. People can donate gear that fits smaller people jumping larger canopies -- or any gear they have gathering dust in a closet. Then I can give those guys a tax write-off and get that gear out to women who need it. Now [the recipient is] paying $25 a jump instead of $50 and can take her time to either wait for a long delivery on custom gear or piece together a used setup that fits.”
“It’s so expensive getting started in this sport,” Karen adds. “Aeronautrixx aims to make the potential financial burden less of a deterrent for women.”
So far, it’s a home run. Aeronautrixx just got a complete setup donated and matched it with a woman who just graduated AFF. Boom.
It’s not just containers, either. Karen has partnered up with a craftsman who completely refurbishes and repaints helmets with airplane-grade paint, and those helmets have been gracing the sky in larger numbers with each passing season. In addition to that, Karen is currently working on getting a few complete demo systems co-sponsored with manufacturers.

Of course, it’s not just gear that makes a skydiver — so Aeronautrixx covers the skills bases, too. These days, Karen is a WSLN mobile mentor, dually based at Skydive Sebastian (near her current home) and Skydive California (near her west-coast roots). For the past three years, she’s been using Aeronautrixx as a platform to host female-focused skills camps and boogies on both coasts. In October, there’s the Unicorn Boogie at Skydive California; in April, there’s the Mermaid Boogie at Skydive Sebastian; this February (coming right up!) there’s going to be a gold-lamé-festooned disco party at Z-hills. 
The boogies’ shared core value? Bring women together -- from all over -- and encourage growth and fun in equal measure. The response so far has been phenomenal. 
“I try to get an all-female roster of organizers,” Karen adds, “to show the newer jumpers that it’s not only men that are leading the pack. And I always try to bring in non-local organizers to give the ladies the chance to jump with other females in the sport that they might not get a chance to jump with.”

The formula is certainly working. At the first Mermaid Boogie, Karen was standing in a packed hangar. Stopping in the middle and looking around, she suddenly realized something amusing.
“I looked around and it occurred to me, there were no men. We’re turning the Otter with all chicks.” They turned 22 loads that day.
At the end of the day, Karen insists that Aeronautrixx is about inclusion. Men are welcomed at Aeronautrixx events -- even issued cheeky “man cards” -- and the sea of costume onesies now includes a fair number of male humans. That’s not at all surprising, considering the unequivocal language of the Aeronautrixx mission statement: “We believe that women can be just as, if not more, badass as our male counterparts.” Well-put and well-proven, no?
----
To donate to Aeronautrixx (or get involved with an event or two), visit the org’s website or Facebook page:
https://aeronautrixx.com/
https://www.facebook.com/pg/aeronautrixx/
 

By nettenette, in News,

Why Aren’t You Wearing Earplugs?

Not wearing earplugs on every skydive? Hear me out (while you still can): It’s pretty damn important to add a pair to your every-jump kit, and your excuses probably don’t hold up to expert scrutiny.
What expert? A lofty one. Last week, I got to talk to Dr. Anna Hicks* at length about the thorny matter of skydiving with a cold (watch the February issue of Parachutist for that one). At one point, our conversation took a slight diversion towards hearing damage. The content of that more than deserves its own moment in the sun: Our delicate soundholes, and the damage we don’t have to do them.
So: Why aren’t you wearing earplugs on every jump?
1. Because it’s not that big a deal.
If you like listening to things other than phantom roaring, then sorry. It kinda is.
Each of us is born with 15,000 sound-sensing cells per ear. (I like to think of ‘em as magical hearing hair, because that’s kinda what they look like.) Hearing loss occurs when they die. It’s not just noise exposure that kills them; certain medications and other environmental factors and do it, too, but those are freak deaths by comparison. Once they’re gone, they’re gone. Birds, fish, and amphibians have the ability to grow back magical hearing hair. Mammals, like your average skydiver, lack the ability to regenerate these cells. All we can do is stick in a hearing aid and hope for the best.
You don’t have to take my word for it. Talk to anybody who suffers from tinnitus and ask them if they’d have taken precautions to prevent it.
2. Because I don’t jump that much.
Dr. Hicks begs to differ.
“I see so many skydivers that have damaged their hearing,” she notes. “Even if you’re just doing 100 jumps a year, every time you jump, the engine is noisy, and the freefall is noisy, too. Over your skydiving career, that adds up to a lot of noise exposure.”
“I still find some people that can’t be bothered with ear plugs even in the wind tunnel,” she adds, “but our hearing is too important not to take ten seconds to put them in every time. You don’t want to end up not able to hear your friend at the pub because you knackered your hearing from too much noise exposure.”**
3. Wearing earplugs in freefall is dangerous.
If it’s not just laziness that’s keeping you from protecting your hearing, it might be a misplaced sense of safety. Dr. Hicks wears hers from ground to ground, and she recommends that you do too, even if it’s just on the way up to altitude.
“I am a big advocate with any patient I see,” she says, “especially those whose job is skydiving, to wear ear plugs at least on the way up and ideally on the way down as well. Earplugs do not prevent situational awareness, stop you from being able to talk to your students, or to hear shouts under canopy.  You can hear what you need to hear, usually you can actually hear your audible altimeter better because the background freefall crackle is reduced, and vitally, [wearing earplugs] reduces the longer-term damage we can experience from our sport.”
Some people discover that they find a problem equalizing if they have earplugs in on the way down. Dr. Hicks’ advice: If equalizing is a problem for you, try using the  vented plugs (which you can buy from a pharmacy for a few dollars) to better equalize during descent.
4. I can’t afford the nice ones and the foam ones cause ear infections.
According to Dr. Hicks, that is not a thing. As long as the plugs are rated, they’ll provide the protection you need.  “You can wear posh ear plugs or the cheap foam ones like you get in the tunnel,” she says. “Either-or.”
According to a study of sixty long-range patrol-aircraft crew members, the idea that disposable foam earplugs cause ear infections is a total myth. The crew members were randomly divided into three groups: one wearing fancy custom-molded earplugs, the second using foam earplugs that they washed after each use, and the third group using foam earplugs washed only once per week. The study lasted eight weeks and included examinations by a medical officer as well as skin scrapings for bacterial culture and fungal examinations. The results indicated no fungal infections or clinically significant bacterial infections, and no differences in positive bacterial culture between the groups.
Moral of the story: roll ‘em up and stick ‘em in. They’re going to prevent a heck of a lot more damage than they could possibly cause, and 50-year-old you (who doesn’t have to have the TV on FULL BLAST ALL THE TIME) will thank you.
*Dr. Hicks is a certified badass. An active-duty Aviation Medicine specialist in the British Regular Army, she has logged more than 4,000 jumps over 15 years in the sport, many of which as the Outside Center for the multi-medaled British 4-way team NFTO. Dr. Hicks is also a British Parachute Association Accelerated Freefall Instructor and formation skydiving coach, as well as a Skydiving Instructor at Britain’s legendary Skydive Netheravon. Oh: and she was Tom Cruise’s personal aviation doc during the filming of the latest Mission: Impossible reboot. ‘Nuff said.
**Confused? Ask a British person for a translation.

By nettenette, in Safety,

How Sigma & Burble’s Tech Are Changing Skydiving

Written by Laura Jane Burgess
There’s excited chatter on the mat, the rustle of nylon fabric being packed, the buzzing hustle and bustle of a busy day. Canopies zip overhead. Squinting, mesmerized, though you’ve seen it near a hundred times, you watch the initial glide across the grass, the slide of flat-soled swoopers, and the quick-legged staccato steps as each jumper comes to a stop. You’ve never seen a more perfect day to skydive.
Waiver signed you file in line behind a queue of shuffling feet and exasperated sighs—a 15-person traffic jam. Daylight’s burning. Loads should be turning. What’s the holdup?
It’s the fellow at the front. A jumper far from his home drop zone (558.9 miles, ± .1 mile to be exact). His innocent intent was to check in and manifest. Except, he doesn’t have so much as a shred of physical documentation to his name. No logbook to verify currency and no physical, tangible evidence of USPA credentials.
What’s to be done? His lack of documentation dismissed or ignored? Certainly not. Exhaustive, time-consuming attempts made to secure a paper trail. Undoubtedly.
If everyone’s lucky, the ordeal will take 10-20 minutes. However, if you consider that at a busy drop zone you’re likely to encounter the same issue any number of times on any given day. The wasted daylight adds up, cutting into profit margins and the amount of time jumpers spend in the air.

Imagine for a moment that the futile task of trying to sleuth down credentials could be avoided, and the check-in process could be made significantly easier—for everyone involved. As luck would have it, this is precisely what the Sigma / Burble integration aims to do.
In the late spring of 2019, when the integration launches, skydivers who frequent any one of the many drop zones utilizing Burble software can grant those drop zones access to view their Merits on Sigma. In case you’ve been ignoring those emails the USPA sent you or still feel a little in the dark, Merits aren’t patches to be stitched on a Cub Scout sash. Rather, Merits refer to things like USPA credentials, UPT ratings, corresponding coursework and even your most recently completed skydives. At the close of the day, drop zones taking advantage of the newly integrated systems can send out shareable Merits for completed jumps, whether it be to tandems, fun jumpers, or staff. For jumpers, the Merits can serve as a “digital signature” to verify their most recent skydive. Instead of relying on illegible, potentially forged, physical logbook entries, there will be a traceable, authenticated digital entry.
Drop zones can also attach video clips and other media to the merit badges. This creates hefty possibilities for Merit use with student training programs. No matter where a student roams (or if their logbook follows suit), instructors at any Burble drop zone can see exactly who and what they are working with.
For jumpers, the integration process requires no real technical finesse. In around three minutes, skydivers can link their Sigma account to their BurbleMe profile. Jumpers can then authorize the Burble drop zone(s) of their choice access to their Sigma Merits. Every time they check in at the preferred Burble drop zone(s), their Merit information auto-populates into their jumper profile. The result? A streamlined shortcut from check-in to freefall.
The first time a jumper grants a Burble drop zone access to view their Sigma Merits, they can enable an auto-update feature. From thenceforth, whenever changes to Merits occur, it automatically uploads into the drop zone’s Burble DZM Account and the jumper’s BurbleMe profile. Practically applied, this looks like convenient, real-time access to see as credentials expire, are renewed, or are updated, without the need to request additional physical documentation.
After the Sigma / Burble integration, drop zones can have instant access to verified information without having to waste time or manpower on multiple sources. After the integration takes effect, staff will no longer need to manually input jumper information or search the USPA database with the Group Member lookup tool. Fewer steps and less manual data transfer mean less opportunity for error. The instant access to verified, up-to-date information, makes it much easier for drop zones to verify the standing of visiting jumpers and instructors in a shorter amount of time. For DZO’s, in particular, this integration offers untold peace of mind: no more worrying about the legitimacy of jumpers on your aircraft, fears of forgery, concerns over invalid credentials, or issues with input errors.
Come spring 2019, you might catch the audible sigh of relief coming from the staff buried underneath the mountain of (soon to be obsolete) paperwork, see the sheer joy of jumpers spending less time at check-in and more time on airplanes, and agree, with the Sigma / Burble integration, t here’s something for everyone to celebrate!
Featured image credit: SkydiveTV Vimeo

By admin, in News,

Introducing the JFX 2 from NZ Aerosports

“SAME SAME, BUT BETTER-ER”. The JFX 2. She's kinda familiar, but she has that shiny new kid appeal with her modern flair and style. Powerband, mini-ribs, all the bells and whistles. Take her for a ride, baby!
We’ve done it again! We released the new version of our beloved JFX canopy, the JFX 2, on the 17th of January 2019. The original JFX was already a great canopy to fly with beautiful openings, great flight and the opportunity to land it gently or with a full-blown hissing swoop. Version 2.0 has not been a radical redesign: the JFX 2 stays true to all the things a canopy pilot loves, but now has all the kickass features they know and want in a modern cross-braced canopy: a powerband, mini-ribs and sail loaded ribs. This canopy is all about cross-braced performance with ease: cranking turns, raging swoops, gentle touchdowns!
The JFX 2 is the go-to canopy for someone wanting to start their swoop journey, or for someone who wants a “do-it-all” wing with power which will maximise the good times and minimise the risk with plenty of playfulness. This canopy is the smoothest transition into flying high performance, cross-braced wings from an elliptical wing. It can be loaded light of heavy for consistent delivery in flight.

JFX 2 | Icarus Canopies NZ from NZ Aerosports Ltd on Vimeo.
The original JFX was the last of our canopies to be designed purely by Paul “Jyro” Martyn’s keen eye and 35+ years of experience. With the JFX 2 we’ve added a touch of fancy French Aerodynamic genius to the mix from our head designer Julien Peelman, and the result means incredible aerodynamics, refined performance and uncompromised aesthetics. Key features of the JFX 2:
Powerband: debuted on the “Petra”, the Powerband lets us control the shape of the top surface of the wing more accurately, especially at the crucial leading edge where around 90% of lift is made Mini-ribs: These little additions in the tail are also a legacy from the “Petra” and “Leia” canopies. They decrease trailing edge drag, which has the function of increasing glide and flare performance - both things you can never get enough of “Minybrid” construction: A low-pack-volume take on our hybrid construction “Leia” canopies, the JFX 2 pioneers the minimal hybrid (Minybrid) wing. The loaded ribs - the ones the lines are attached to that experience the highest amount of stress and distortion - are made of sail fabric. This reduces rib distortion, helping the wing maintain its shape through all flight profiles, increasing glide, stability and responsiveness 21-chamber design: The JFX 2's sleek fully elliptical 21-chamber design captures the smoothed staged openings of the traditional 7-cell. She's crisp and responsive, yet it does not feel tense and edgy and packs some punch at the bottom end Closed Center Chamber: Inherited originally from the “FX” and “VX”, then redesigned for the “JVX”, the closed center chamber nose was the innovation that allowed cross-braced canopies to become popular by softening the openings, controlling distortion and improving aerodynamics. It's not the latest but probably one of the most important of Jyro's contributions to modern canopy design!
Images by Chris Stewart/NZ Aerosports
Key flight characteristics:
Openings: JFX 2 openings are predictable, soft and not scary! Reliable, consistent and stunning as always, openings are the ace card of this canopy Harness inputs: inputs are light and instinctive, and very responsive. She can be flown entirely on harness with ease - we actually prefer to fly a lot of harness with the JFX 2 Toggles: Powerful and responsive even at the bottom end - even more so than the original JFX Stall point: The slow flight characteristics are hugely improved from the original JFX. The stall point is slower and lower - get plenty of feedback and warning, both on toggles and rears Fronts: Loaded high, lightly and even underloaded; the feedback of the fronts will be great. A bit of slowing down needed before a bigger turn to reduce the pressure on the fronts, but they are very effective for getting into the dive Dive & Recovery: The dive on the JFX 2 is longer than the original JFX, but not as long as on the Leia. With a slow, predictable (and easily adjustable) recovery arc, the JFX 2 is ideal to get those bigger rotations dialled in.

Skydiving + a New Baby? Sure Thing

Catherine Bernier of Skydive Vibes Shares Her Strategies
There are as many different kinds of skydiving women as there are women, of course, but -- at least, for me -- there’s something extra-compelling about someone who balances quite as many pursuits as Catherine Bernier, best known for her skydiving information channel on YouTube, does. Of course, she produces all the content for Skydive Vibes as one of Canada’s 14% of female skydivers. She’s also a mechanical engineer, specializing in robots. She’s been a farmer’s partner for 14 years -- they were married in 2016 -- and so lives deep in rural Canada, working on a dairy farm. And, as of May 2018, Catherine is the new mother to a very little tiny peanut. (Her video series about being a skydiving mom is worth a watch.) At the time of our interview, Catherine had decided to use Canada’s “hide inside” season to train for the next Canadian indoor skydiving championships. She’ll be logging an hour of tunnel time per week until the comp in March for the “10-in-10 challenge,” as she calls it.
Overachiever. much? Maaaaybe. I interviewed Catherine for a Dropzone Marketing blog piece. I didn’t know a single damn thing about her beforehand, but before that conversation was over I was already asking her for another interview. 

"All my life, I have been pushing my limits,” she explains, “and never stop myself from doing what I wanted, even if it was a predominantly male environment.”
... such as, y’know, being a mama. Catherine had been skydiving for six years when she and her now-husband decided to have a baby. Dropping the sport, for her, was never an option -- but she knew she had to frame early motherhood a little differently to make it work.
“I never second-guessed myself,” she says. “Not for skydiving, and not for building a family, and not for doing both at the same time. I want to prove that, even when you become a mother, you can still aim for your dreams. That being a women -- even a mother -- should never be a blocker to what you wish to accomplish. I have never stopped myself, but I realize that a lot of women do. So I want to use my experiences to share and empower other women to go for it."

“As soon as I knew that I was pregnant, I decided to stop jumping temporarily,” she explains. “It was the end of the season, so I must say the decision was easier. It also gave me the chance to build the content on my YouTube channel.”
Catherine kept shooting Skydive Vibes content throughout her belly bump hiatus. Baby Nathan arrived in May, at the beginning of the next skydiving season. While Catherine jumped and shot videos around the dropzone, her mother, her husband or one of her four sisters watched him for her. (Fun note: Her home dropzone has seen so many of its community members become new families that it’s considering adding a child care component.) Catherine plans to use the same general child care strategies for Nathan during the 10-in-10 Challenge, which requires a three-hour drive to and from her closest tunnel.

“I won’t start working again until after the challenge,” she notes. “During the weekdays I can go up and spend the day there, so I have some breaks between tunnel sessions to make it doable. Right now, it looks like the plan for each day is to fly for 20 minutes, take a half-hour break, fly for another 20, take a half-hour, then fly for a final 20, to make it doable.”
“Doable,” as it turns out, is the key word. Catherine proves that “doable” is a matter of collaboration, focus and flat-out hard work. So far, she’s managing to pull it off: Balancing helping out on the farm, taking care of a less-than-one-year-old, a challenging career and a progression-focused passion for skydiving.
“It is so rewarding to be a skydiving mom, for all the aspects of it,” she smiles, “so why would someone stop themselves? Just go forward. That’s all.”
---
To follow Catherine Bernier, check out her channel, Skydive Vibes, on YouTube.

By nettenette, in General,

Looking Back at the 2019 PIA Symposium - Part 1

Unfortunately, we weren't able to attend the recent 2019 PIA Symposium which took place in Dallas, TX from the 4th until the 8th of February. However, our friends over at Skydive TV did an amazing job at the event, creating a number of videos from the various stalls. We've put together some of these videos in a quick collection, allowing you to recap what was going down at the PIA Symposium if you were like us and unable to be there, or whether you're just interested in hearing what some of the vendors and stall managers had to say.

PIA Symposium 2019 | EPISODE 1 from Skydive TV® on Vimeo.
 
Sigma & Burble
The video kicks off with an advert for the direction that Sigma has gone with their new partnership with Burble. An interview with Dylan Avatar from Sigma then commences to discuss the way in which the two companies have eased the pains of manifests when working with the software. The software focuses on syncing data between the jumper's Sigma profile with that of the manifest. By doing this, the dropzone is able to receive the necessary certifications from the jumper without the exercise of excessive forms or card management. The software is set for release in the Spring, with additional development work still in progress.

Franz Gerschwiler from Burble then discusses how the system works, the desire for a March release date and gives a short demo of how data that is contained on the app, as well as the success that Burble has seen in recent years being adopted by more than 100 dropzones.
NZ Aerosports
Next, Skydive TV talks with Attila Csizmadia from New Zealand Aerosports who initially discusses the loss of company founder Paul ‘Jyro’ Martyn, who passed away in 2017, and how his visions shaped the company. With a memorial to Jyro, placed at the stall in his honor. Attila confirms that there won't be any new NZ products unveiled at PIA, however the company has recently launched the JFX II, which is discussed in its advances to the original JFX. The discussion then shifts to a new wingsuit canopy that the company have in the works and is currently undergoing testing, though no specific release date is mentioned. The interview moves to Julien Peelman, who discusses the future of the company and what's on the horizon for NZ Aerosports. He mentions the "Anna" which is a high performance canopy that fits between the JFX II and the Leia. Peelman then goes on to discuss the move from 2D to 3D software for the company and the advances in the development software being used.
Sun Path Products
At the Sun Path booth, Rob Kendall talks passionately about the company's new Javelin Odyssey design, which draws heavily from feedback received by customers of the old Odyssey. He talks about several new features on the container, from the adjustments to the side panel to enhanced safety aspects, though states that the design is still a prototype and will be further tested before launch. Doug Baron then takes over to discuss the adjustments made to the back piece of the container, a feature which will offer enhance ergonomics to the user, as well as briefly discussing the new single lateral padding.
 
 
Revl
Revl provide a product of interest mostly to dropzones, as they offer an intelligent hardware and software solution to video capture, editing and publishing. Eric Sanchez talks to Skydive TV about how their product will capture each jump in high quality video, then use AI technology to process the video and edit it in such a way that it removes the need for video editors. Their product will then automatically upload the edited video to the cloud in, and in a matter of minutes one is able have the video automatically edited and uploaded to the cloud for each client. They use a QR code system to tie each video to the client. Not only does this product edit automatically, but it also goes through the process of charging the battery and erasing the previous data after cloud syncing, by itself. It also has the ability to merge multiple videos together during the editing process, so outside and inside videos will be merged into a single final edit. Definitely an interesting product, and we'll be watching to see whether this does get picked up at dropzones.
Elite Rigging Academy
Derek Thomas, with more than 50 years of rigging experience, discusses a bit of his back story and how Elite Rigging Academy came about. He explains his desire to create a rigging course that isn't just a week long experience, but rather a comprehensive 3-week course 

By Meso, in Events,

Your Skydiving New Years Resolution: Get Coaching

New skydiver? Not-so-new skydiver? Rusty skydiver? Supple, current little tiger of a skydiver? Doesn’t matter. If there’s only going to be one skydiving item on your list of New Years’ resolutions, better make it this one: Get coaching. Real coaching. Pro coaching. Regularly.
Getting coaching to “be a better skydiver” is like going to the gym to “be a hotter human.” Done properly, it’s gonna work--but it’s worth much more than that shiny face value. Which is to say: There are off-label benefits. Professional, reasonably regular coaching is bound to brush up your skills, advance you into new disciplines and polish your performance--and it’ll have some other benefits you might not even see coming.
It might just keep you in the sport.
If there’s a jumper who’s immune to recurrency nerves, I haven’t met them. (...Just watch the comments below fill up with bluster. Just watch.) Anyone who’s spent a tall stack of weeks hiding on the ground from the lapse rate is likely to find themselves at least a little at a loss. 
The USPA defines recurrency by its own criteria, sure--but personal recurrency is often a different beast altogether. No joke: it’s rough to head out for that first jump after your own personal currency threshold has passed, whether yours is two weeks or two months. The most reliable way to avoid the recurrency jitters is by never getting recurrent, and lots of ex-skydivers have done just that.
The hack: Spend that whole recurrency day--not just the first jump--with a coach. Don’t do it because you have to. Do it because you know that, with a coach alongside you, you’ll feel professionally supported in your effort. Do it because you’ll be able to rebuild your skills much faster than if you were just out there on your own, trying to remember what goes where and how and when.
It’ll help you to better manage your time.
Managing the limited time you have available on any given skydive doesn’t come naturally to most people. Evidence: What happens when most jumpers fail to nail the first part of the skydive? They end up confused. Do they go back and work on the first part, or move on to the next part regardless? Everybody usually ends up just making cow faces at each other for a few precious seconds, then rushes to make something happen before *ping!* break-off.
Working with a coach helps with that. Their job is to help you to pick one thing to work on, polish it up and move on with confidence. (There’s a financial factor here, too: Because you’ll learn more on fewer jumps, you might just end up breaking even, despite adding the cost of coaching into the equation.)
It’ll help you get into that elusive zone.
Jumping buddies are wonderful. Obviously. That said: Great coaches are actually magic, and that magic is focus. When you’re working with a coach, you’ll brief the jump beforehand, visualize it together, dirt dive it together, review it in the plane on the way up, jump that h*ckin jump and brief it again in the afterglow. Because you’re paying for the privilege, you’re highly unlikely to be scrolling, winking at manifest or doing acro yoga when you’re supposed to be paying attention to the dive flow.
The careful, procedural work you do with a coach often defines the difference between a skydive that feels rushed and out-of-control and one in which a lot of learning and growth has taken place. Bonus: Your ability to focus is likely to get a bit more muscular as your flying skills develop.

Freefly coach Joel Strickland jumps with Zack Line at the Oklahoma Skydiving Center.
It’ll boost (and/or perhaps change the flavor of) your confidence.
Just like you, your insecurity loves to prance around in costume. Insecurity can look like fear; like nervousness; like indifference. It can also look like a vaudeville performance of its opposite, true confidence.
The still, deep waters of true confidence are the source of all the fun skydiving has to offer. Problem: Those waters are well-guarded. Working with a competent, professional skydiving coach often provides the key: because suddenly s/he realizes that they not only can indeed improve but that they are indeed improving on every jump.
It’s kinda a fireworks show from there. Once a student believes in their ability to make positive changes in their skydiving performance--that everything, from their physical reactions to their fears, can and will be modified and updated when they get guidance and put in the work--it suddenly becomes possible for that student to make mad progress on a shorter timeline than they imagined. 
It’s a more scalable, check-offable resolution than you might think.
The more coached jumps you do, the better. (Obviously.) Equally obviously, doing loads of coached jumps isn’t financially feasible for most rank-and-file skydivers. Instead of discarding the idea altogether, make it feasible. Saddling up for a pile of coached jumps every weekend would be spectacular, but making the commitment to yourself to make a couple of coached jumps per month is better than not committing to any at all. 
Getting regular, professional advice and feedback will contribute mightily to your life in the sky. You’ll be able to pass the knowledge on to the folks you jump with on the regular. And 2019 might just be the year you bust through that next skydiving goal! Bonne chance.
 

By nettenette, in General,

Tandem Skydiving

What Is Tandem Skydiving?
Tandem skydiving is an extremely popular form of skydiving and an excellent introduction into the sport, it allows one to experience the adrenaline and excitement without having to commit excessively to the activity at hand. While AFF training and static-line jumping consists of hours of training prior to the jump, going tandem only requires around 30 minutes of ground preparation prior. The reason for this is that while both AFF and static-line skydives require you to learn how to control your canopy and establish a deep knowledge of maintaining specific body positions in free fall, with tandem skydiving you only need to know the basics about how you should position your body relative to your tandem master. The fact that your tandem instructor will be responsible for your chute leaves you with the ability to spend more of your effort focusing on the sheer excitement of the jump, as opposed to what procedure who'll be doing next.
You, the tandem student, will be strapped to a tandem instructor by use of a secure harness system which makes use of a shoulder strap on either side, a chest strap which secures across your chest, as well as leg straps. You will be strapped onto the chest, or front side of the tandem master, so you can be sure that you'll have the best view in the house.
While tandem jumps are most common as once off introductions to skydiving, they are also sometimes used in conjunction with training courses, specifically in the early stages of a course. Using tandem jumping in training methods when you want to learn how to skydive can be extremely effective as it allows the student to experience both freefall and canopy flight without the feeling of being thrown into the deep end, so to speak. There are also students who look to perform several tandem skydives prior to their training course in order to familiarize themselves with the environment.
A tandem freefall generally lasts between 45 and 60 seconds, followed by a four minute canopy ride to the ground.
Where To Start?
For starters, you want to make sure that you are going to be skydiving at a drop zone that has a good reputation. There are over a thousand drop zones around the world and each offer a different experience, some good and some poor. Dropzone.com has been developed around helping you to find the best drop zone in the area of your choice, and providing you with user ratings and reviews to help you make your decision. Look for drop zones with large volumes of positive reviews, and take the time to read through them and see what issues other users may have experienced at any particular drop zone. Unlike static-line progression for example, tandem skydiving is done at almost every drop zone, so you should be fine in that area, but be sure to check and make sure.
When comparing drop zones it's vital to make sure you that you understand what you will be receiving with your jump. A tandem skydive can take place between altitudes of anywhere from 10 000 to 14 000ft, if free fall time is of importance to you it's certainly worth querying this topic with the drop zone. Another important question is, if you're paying a lot for your jump, are they offering you the best services for the amount you're paying? Does your jump include video footage or still photography, most have this as an extra cost - so be sure to check what the drop zone is charging for their video services. And if it does offer video services, is this filmed from a mounted camera attached to the tandem instructor or are they pulling out all the stops and having a separate photographer joining the jump solely to take some quality photographs of your jump. These are all aspects which should be examined and considered when you're scouting for the best drop zone in your area.
Once you've located a drop zone near to your destination, give them a call or send them an e-mail, they should be more than willing to address any questions you may have about your jump and guide you through the booking process, setting you up with a date to jump.
Some Advice To Consider Before Making Your Tandem Jump
While you're likely to be walked through the correct dos and don'ts during your pre-jump ground briefing, it doesn't hurt to prepare prior to the day for what you should be doing and what you shouldn't be doing for your jump.
Remove jewelry and accessories prior to Tandem Skydiving. At 120mph, it begins very easy for loose jewelry or accessories to come loose during free fall and get lost. It's a good idea to leave the jewelry at home on the day of your jump.
Remove piercings, specifically nipple rings. When the canopy is opened during flight, your chest strap will pull against you, and there have been cases where people have had nipple rings pulled when this occurs - learn from their mistakes. Remember that there are also harness straps around your legs, so be sure to remove all piercings that may be impacted. Removing all piercings leave less gambling for something getting snagged, but nipple and surface piercings are definitely best removed.
Tie up your hair. Whether you're male or female, if you have long hair it is a wise idea to tie it up in a manner that makes it least likely to get caught in the harness at any stage - and also remain out of the TIs face. Tucking it into the helmet once tied is also not a bad idea.
Stick close to your tandem instructor. Once you're leaving the manifest for your jump, be sure to remain close to your tandem instructor.
Always listen to your tandem instructor. They are the ones that know best, despite what you think you know - as an inexperienced tandem skydiver, your tandem instructor should not be questioned when it comes to anything related to the procedure of, or the jump itself.
Be respectful and polite. While you may be frustrated at things like weather holds, it's important to remain calm and realize that these events are often out of the control of the instructors and the manifest staff.

Image by Lukasz Szymanski Tandem Instructors
The tandem instructors or tandem masters are going to be the ones in control of your skydive. The fact that the tandem instructor has control over the safety of the jump has prompted strict rules and regulations, especially within the United States, as to who can lead a tandem jump. The current requirements set in place go a long way in providing peace of mind that you're going to be in excellent hands when in the air. Before a skydiver is able to be the tandem instructor on a jump, he has to go through several procedures.
First he has to be an experienced skydiver with a minimum of 500 jumps and 3 years of skydiving experience to his name, secondly he must possess a 'master parachute license' which has to be issued by an FAA-recognized organization, such as the USPA (United States Parachute Association). Furthermore, they are required to undergo training and acquire a certification related to the canopy they are going to be flying. On top of these requirements, the USPA has a few more of their own. Up until late 2008 in the United States, one was able to either be a tandem master with a manufacturer's rating or a tandem instructor which required the USPA training, though this was changed and now requires all those leading tandem jumps in the United States to hold a tandem instructors rating. The details of the ratings systems and the requirements vary between countries.
One thing that separates the best drop zones from a bad drop zone for those doing a tandem jump, is the attitude and behavior of their tandem instructor. Luckily, if you've done your research and found yourself a good drop zone, this shouldn't be a worry and you may well end up making a new friend in the process. A good instructor is one that is able to answer any questions you have, while at the same time making you feel comfortable and relaxed. The best instructors find a perfect balance between safety and professionalism and humor, after all the jump is pointless if you don't enjoy yourself.
Should I Be Nervous About Tandem Skydiving?
It's completely normal to feel nervous about skydiving, even those of us who seek adrenalin constantly have some level of nervousness at times. Jumping out of a perfectly good plane, whether it is while experiencing a tandem jump or even the thrill of wing suiting, is not something natural to us as humans, and you can be sure that you're not alone in what you feel. With that said though, as with many areas where what you're facing is foreign and unknown, your fear often tends to turn to excitement once you're in it. I have seen a countless number of first time tandem skydivers being a bit unsure in the beginning but once their feet touch the ground their mind set changes completely. These are often people performing a bucket list jump with no intention of ever skydiving again, but after they've experience the feeling of free fall, they are hooked - and often end up booking their AFF courses to become a licensed skydiver just a few days later. Tandem skydiving has an excellent safety record for most parts of the world and you can take comfort in the fact that according to the United States Parachute Association, around half a million people each year choose to tandem skydive in the US alone.
How Much Does A Tandem Jump Cost?
The price of tandem skydives vary between drop zones, generally you're looking in the price range of about $70 to in excess of $300. This cost can either include or exclude the cost of things like a camera man and a DVD copy of your skydive. We highly recommend that you look into the prices and the specifications at each drop zone. For more information read below...
Things To Know About Tandems
There are typically restrictions on age when it comes to performing a tandem jump, the exact age varies depending on country and drop zone. The typical requirement from most drop zones is 18, though some drop zones do allow for 16 to 18 year olds to perform a tandem jump as long as they have parental consent. It is best to speak to your local drop zone about their age policies.
When booking a tandem skydive it's important to know what to expect, often once off tandem jumpers go in without knowing what a skydive entails, how drop zones operate and what to expect.
Understand that skydiving hinges on the weather conditions, when the winds are too strong or it's too cloudy, or if there's fog - you may well find yourself on the end of a weather hold. This is an aspect of skydiving that no one is free from, and the experienced jumpers get just as disappointed when they don't get to head out. Weather holds can last anywhere from 5 minutes to 5 days, depending on the conditions.
Because of this it's best to plan your skydive around your local weather, if you're in an area with lots of summer tropical rainfall - it may be best to book in the autumn or winter months when rainfall is less likely, otherwise booking for an earlier time in the day before daytime heating causes the development of thunder showers.
In areas of winter rainfall, summer is obviously your best bet, though nothing can ever be guaranteed. There are areas where weather holds are rare, and if you're in one of these areas that sees little annual rainfall, you're likely to see your jump happen without any hassles.
It's highly recommended that you discuss deposits and payments with the drop zones prior to booking. While most DZs will gladly discuss openly and honestly with you their rules and restrictions in regards to deposits and refunds, many fail to bring up this topic prior to finalizing their booking and they end up upset when they find out that there is no refund issued for deposits on jumps that are postponed due to weather holds.
How Safe is Tandem Skydiving?
A common question asked by those intrigued by the idea of a tandem jump, is whether or not it is safe. And just how safe it truly is. We've long tracked fatalities in our database and can help in easing some of the anxiety you may have around tandem skydiving safety. The reality is that as with any high risk sport, there is the potential for death, though with that said - tandem skydivers remain the least likely to suffer at the hands of a fatality than other jumpers. Between the years 2005 and 2017 there were less than 100 tandem fatalities, with our records pointing closer to around 60. In that same time frame, our records indicate a total of just more than 700 fatalities, meaning that less than 1 out of 10 skydiving fatalities were tied to tandem skydiving.

The important thing to remember is also that tandem skydives are extremely popular and on average there are an estimated 250,000 tandem jumps performed each year in the United States. So while calling tandem jumps safe may be a bit of a subjective statement, the truth is there are a number of aspects of your daily life that hold more risk than completing a tandem jump.
The Technical Side And Skydiving Gear
There are a few things you should remember when you are looking at the more technical side of your skydiving gear.
Skydiving canopies are designed specifically for certain disciplines of skydiving, for speed and immediate response smaller canopies are used - such as those designed for swooping, these smaller canopies are also more dangerous, allowing for less margin of error. For tandem skydiving, where safety takes priority, the canopies (parachutes) used are much larger than those that you find in swooping for example. This is both because the canopy is going to need to carry twice the regular skydiving weight and because of the desired gentle nature of the canopy flight.
The rig that is used by your tandem instructor is set up so that it will provide optimum safety for you on your jump. The rig contains an AAD (automatic activation device) which is a safety device that is designed to automatically fire the main chute after a skydiver descends past a certain altitude and has not yet fired the main canopy. There is also the special tandem canopy, which will be the parachute that is deployed during freefall, also known as the main. There is also a reserve canopy, this is a backup that exists in case of a failure on the main, an example would be, if a main canopy opens with a line twist and one is not able to recover from it - the main would be cut and the reserve deployed. These are packed into what is known as the container, the backpack looking item on the back of the tandem instructor. The instructor will also be carrying an altimeter on him, usually around the wrist, which can provide visual or audio information on the progression of the descent, so that he can release the main canopy at the correct time.
During free fall, you can expect to reach speeds of up to 120mph (180km/h).
Once you've done your skydive, remember to come back to dropzone.com and let us know what you thought of your experience, by rating the drop zone you jumped at.
Safety and Training Forum

Find a place to jump in your area.

 

5 Things You Didn’t Know About The PIA Symposium

Regina from CYPRES shares information about the CYPRES unit, 'WSC' designed for the wingsuit community. Images by Randy Connell If you’ve never attended the Parachute Industry Association Symposium, you may not know what to expect. Maybe, you aren’t even sure what PIA is or why you even need to make the trip. If you’re afraid of sitting in stuffy rooms with an atmosphere as uncomfortable as a timeshare tourist trap, you can relax. PIA is nothing like that. The PIA Symposium is a time when the different branches of our particular segment of aviation all come together under one roof.
Rather than draw things out, let’s get to it. Here are 5 things you didn’t know about the PIA Symposium.
Just How Big the Skydiving Circle Is
When you arrive at the PIA Symposium, get ready for a warm welcome: there is an entire booth set up to greet you. Get your swag bag, name tag, and seminar schedule, and be ready for a great time. Like a drop zone on a sunny steady summer Saturday, the air is nearly buzzing with energy. In one space, jumpers current and retired, drop zone owners and managers, and military personnel and skydiving teams are all gathered together. You’ll see people from around the world. We know our circle is a somewhat isolated one, but boy, it sure doesn’t seem like it at the PIA Symposium. It’s also not just jumpers and drop zone owners from the United States that are present. You’ll walk past groups speaking languages from around the globe: military teams from Poland chatting, fun jumpers from South Africa mingling by the complimentary refreshments. Nearly every continent and country is represented.
Exponential Business Connections
At the PIA Symposium, you have the chance to establish meaningful industry contacts. Top gear manufacturers both military and civilian, set up impressive interactive displays and booths to give PIA Symposium attendees the chance to see the most cutting-edge innovations in the skydiving industry. Whether you are looking for training equipment or student gear, you will find what you need here. The EXPO Hall isn’t just for managers and drop zone owners either, there is gear on display that is perfect for weekend warrior skydivers too.
85 Year Old British Skydiver, Dilys Price was the Keynote Speaker at the 2017 PIA Symposium.  
Ways to Improve your home Drop Zone
 
They say a ‘smarter skydiver is a safer skydiver.’ Well, the PIA Symposium is the perfect place to learn. The PIA Symposium facilitates knowledge sharing through seminars which are teeming with information. During the symposium, you have daily opportunities to sit in on seminars dealing with rigging, skydiving, management, government and skydiving interaction, and BASE. If you want to run a better, safer drop zone, attending PIA is a great first step. However, fostering safe drop zones isn’t just a job for managers and drop zone owners: the community as a whole is responsible. Whether sport jumper, manager, or drop zone owner, when you leave PIA, you leave armed with a noggin full of knowledge to take back home to your drop zone and improve everyone’s experience.
Everyone Feels Like a Potential Friend
You wouldn’t assume that you would leave any sort of symposium with some lifelong friends, would you? Well, you might just leave PIA with a few more telephone numbers programmed in your cell and a long list of drop zones to visit. No matter the level, ethnicity, or country of origin, it seems skydivers click. The PIA Symposium is basically a melting pot of like-minded people all connected by a love of skydiving and a passion for the sport and industry.
Sandy Reid of Rigging Innovations stands with his team. At the 2019 Symposium, RI introduces their new Mojo MARD.  
Opportunities to Explore New Places
 
You don’t have to sit in seminars from sun up until sun down. Throughout the day, there are plenty of breaks and opportunities to explore. The PIA Symposium each year is held in charming cities with their own little secret niches and neat places to tour. This year is no different. The 2019 PIA symposium will be held in Dallas, Texas. So, grab a group of your new friends and do some sightseeing.
They say everything is bigger in Texas, and we bet this PIA symposium will be one of the best yet!

By Meso, in News,