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Reviewing Larsen and Brusgaard's New Ares2 and Alfa

I will always leap on an opportunity to do some work for Larsen and Brusgaard, yet when squaring up to a review of their newest releases - the Ares2 and the Alfa - I found myself wondering exactly what I could contribute that people don’t either already know or could easily find out for themselves with a quick trip to the LB website. Sure - I could publicly express my admiration for both the quality of the units and the constant enthusiasm with which Larsen and Brusgaard support the skydiving community at large, and I could dutifully list the features and functions of the gadgets in question - but without finding something with which I can contextualise it’s usefulness I would likely feel guilty of journalistic hackery.
The Ares2 is the civilian version of the Alfa - an upscaled and ruggedised visual altimeter designed for military use that includes some extra functionality specific to jump operations. With a little luck I will never be faced with parachuting into combat - but what relevance can I apply when approaching these devices from the other direction? Year upon year of freefly competitions - where beeps alone reign supreme - have programmed me to view at my altimeter much less frequently than I really should - and possibly therefore am not in the best position to elaborate the many qualities of the new visual thingumys. However - serendipitously, I was actually right on the doorstep of an ideal testing environment where I would need to reverse my instincts and operate a visual altimeter with a level intensity such as never before - an accelerated freefall instructor course. Perfect.
1. Along with all the functions available in the Viso2, Larsen and Brusgaard’s new units are bigger and tougher - constructed form aircraft grade aluminium and hardened glass. The buttons cycle the menus and options as normal, and at the front end act directly to speedily set an altitude offset and operate the backlight. Also, it feels really nice to hold.
As well as a bunch of other stuff on the ground and in the plane, to earn an AFF instructor rating you need to pass three out of four evaluation jumps. The most crucial part of each of these descents is the procedure from the altitude at which the evaluator-as-student finishes their freefall practice and moves through the deployment process. During this ‘bottom end sequence’ the instructor candidate must act precisely and accurately within very specific altitude windows - stacked one upon another - that last less than three seconds each. Get things in the wrong order? Fail. Too low? Fail. Too high? Fail. Maintaining altitude awareness throughout the whole jump is important, but for the bottom end sequence it is absolutely crucial.
2. The Altiset is the required gizmo for military jumpmasters to batch adjust the altitude offset of Alfa units between take-off and landing. Fancy. Also probably important.
Much of the writing I produce for the airsports industry involves the recurring theme of utilising anything and everything at your disposal to squeeze the most you can from each and every jump. Skydiving is expensive and happens fast - so every area in which you can find even the smallest physical or mental advantage has real value. Aside from the odd freefly competition nail-biter, these AFF evaluation jumps were the most pressure I have ever felt on a skydive - and as such, saddling up for the test with a bigger, more visible altimeter made me feel a little more confident both on the way in and throughout the course.
  3. Also available is the Echo. This is an audible altimeter that follows the same design principals that is also controllable via the Altiset. While it has been created for military concerns - the interesting part is devices that communicate with each other are looking increasingly like the very near future across all of skydiving.
I didn’t need that fourth jump. Maybe because of experience, possibly due to practice and perhaps simply down to good tuition. Most likely a combination of all these things. But also just maybe because I could see my altimeter a bit better, from a little further away and at a slightly wider angle. It takes no stretching of one’s imagination to feel if that day had played out differently, a small advantage like this could well have meant the distance between passing the course or not.
4. It might not seem that much bigger, but I found myself surprised at how much easier it is to see - both directly and peripherally - when I needed to know.
A quick scan of any modern group freefall picture underlines the majority vote and market share Larsen and Brusgaard enjoy, with the familiar stretchy arm band wielded upon the forearm of a great many jumpers. While the new Ares2 is likely not going to replace their most popular digital altimeter - the Viso2 - after using it a in high pressure situation I can fully embrace its value and relevance as a thing that exists as an option for those who desire or require such utility. It also looks a little bit like it was designed by Batman. I am quite tough on things too, an effect created from equal parts bigness and clumsy. I am trying to be better about it this but have trashed more that a few gizmos and gadgets over the years by being a lummox, and something that is more likely to resist getting smashed from me being stoopid is quite appealing.
5. Success! Jay Stokes (right) is a man who has done 640 skydives in 24 hours.
Thanks to Larsen and Brusgaard, Jay Stokes and the staff of Skydive San Diego.
You can view and download the complete list of functions for all LB’s technology at www.lbwebstore.com
 

By joelstrickland, in Gear,

Aerodyne Semi-Stowless Deployment Bag Service Bulletin

Subject: Exchange of Aerodyne semi-stowless deployment bags supplied for Icon harness & container systems.
Status: Mandatory.
Compliance: Completed by April 30th, 2018.
Authority: Gordon Sellers, President Aerodyne Research LLC
Date of issue: December 18, 2017
Identification: All semi-stowless deployment bags, with side tuck tabs and magnetic mouth closure, sold with our Icon containers or as a spare part from June 2015 until October 31st, 2017.
This bulletin does not affect the semi-stowless deployment bags delivered after Nov. 1st, 2017, which have red stow pockets for the magnetic mouth closure system.

Background
In 2015, Aerodyne began to offer a semi-stowless deployment bag as an option. In the last year there have been reported irregularities with premature releasing of lines (known as a line dump) where this bag has been in use.
Aerodyne has thousands of Icons in the field for many years with regular deployment bags using rubber stow bands with no known issues regarding line control during deployment.
Based on these reports, Aerodyne has performed additional tests on the design of the semi-stowless bag in different conditions. These conditions accounted for a wide variety of variables such as canopy sizes related to the bag size, types of canopy fabrics, types of lines, opening speeds, and more importantly, a variation of canopy packing techniques that we understand are used in the field.
Through this additional testing we have determined that some of these conditions can exist, causing a premature release of lines from the bag. This uncontrolled deployment of lines may cause variations in opening characteristics, and could lead to lines being caught on the container or jumper.
As a result of continued development of Aerodyne’s products, an improved semi-stowless deployment bag has been designed which better addresses these issues. These bags are delivered with all new Icon containers where this option is required.
To increase safety for everyone using the semi-stowless design, Aerodyne wishes to offer every Icon owner to have the latest version of this bag.
Thus, Aerodyne has decided to offer an exchange program and upgrade all the original semi-stowless deployment bags, and remove the first version of bags from further use. This replacement bag and return shipping to you will be at no charge to the customers, and will not distinguish if the bag is in a rig that is sold second hand. Simply put, if it’s an Aerodyne semi-stowless bag, Aerodyne will exchange it to the new version free of charge.
Until users have received their new bags and wish to jump their equipment, we recommend that the packing instructions for the semi-stowless bag be noted and followed. We have experienced a variety of packing methods on the semi-stowless bags in the field, and would remind users that free stowing lines in any type of a semi-stowless bag is a technique that requires understanding and attention.
Action Required
In an effort to minimize disruption for our customers, we are in the process of manufacturing the new replacement bags and the practical exchange can start from the second week of January 2018. New semi-stowless deployment bags will be exchanged upon return of the original semi-stowless bag.
To prepare the exchange of these bags, and for Aerodyne to manage the program in the best possible manner, customers must register on Aerodyne’s website. This can be done as soon as possible.
Actions for customers to take:
Visit https://www.flyaerodyne.com/registration/ and register your request for exchange. Please note this is important, even if you don’t send in the bag straight away. You will receive an email acknowledgement of your registration. Please keep this for your records. Please print and include a copy of this document when you return your bag for exchange. We will start the exchange process from the second week of January. With about 500 bags in 10 different sizes in the field, bags will be manufactured and made available in the order they are requested. The sooner you send your bag in, the earlier it will be replaced. Bags will only be exchanged upon receipt of old bag. If you have no need for a new bag immediately, please wait a while and let your skydiving friends who are active and maybe in a more jumpable climate get their bags first.
Exchange Centers
To aid in the process of distribution, after registration old bags – with a copy of the registration – can be returned to the nearest exchange center to you. Once received we will process a replacement and send within two weeks.
North and South America (USA Canada, Mexico, South America)

Aerodyne Research LLC,

1407 Flightline Blvd, Unit 14, Deland FL 32724
Europe

Aerodyne Research Europe c/o Herman Landsman

Hoofdweg 101, 1795 JC De Cocksdorp, Holland
Australia

Mee Loft c/o Koppel Solomon

84 Park Rd, Woolloongabba, QLD 4102
Rest of World (Africa, Far East)

Aerodyne Research Manufacturing

115 Marshall Drive, Crawdord Factories, Mount Edgecombe, South Africa 4300

By admin, in News,

Load Organizing Basics


Image by Serge Shakuto
Relying on the default method is unsatisfying because you may find yourself being the only ‘experienced’ jumper on a load of tandem pairs and AFF students, the odd skydiver on an aircraft with an organized group that you haven’t been invited to join, or one of a few miscellaneous jumpers. In any case, you’ll probably end up with limited choices: punching a hole from 14,000’ or attempting to put together a jump with people whose level of skill and experience you don’t know.
Whether you become a load organizer by necessity or by choice, remember that the process of actively organizing a formation skydive is not the same as passively manifesting an aircraft load. The organizing process precedes manifesting and requires you to assume a leadership role over a group of jumpers; it is just like herding cats. “Do I really have to tell people to talk through or walk through the dive flow more than once?” Yes, you do…
The first task is to figure out who is willing and able to participate in the jump — record names and evaluate who you are inviting on the load based on their experience level (not just number of jumps) and their competent ability to perform as the dive flow demands. Pay close attention to the number of relatively inexperienced jumpers on a load; the desire to develop the skills of new skydivers should never compromise the safety and well-being of the entire group. Every jumper must be aware of the time required for the pre-jump dirt dive and post-jump debrief as well as the timing of the jump, whether it is the next fuel load or the last load of the day.
Inevitably, at least one person will ask “So, what are we doing on this jump?” The answer has more to do with the purpose of the jump and less to do with the specific formation(s) to be built. The purpose affects every aspect of the plan – it may be to develop a new jumper’s skills; to practice for a larger or more complicated formation; or to qualify jumpers for the SCR or SCS award. Sometimes, it may just be to decompress with a no-stress jump after a long day.
Based on the purpose of the jump as well as the number and skill level of the jumpers, determine the formation(s) to be built — remember, not every jump has to have multiple transitions. Keep it simple or make it complex by adding variations that stretch the flying skills of the participants; whatever you plan, whether it’s no-contact dives, docking dives, or flying ‘pieces’, focus on orchestrating a safe, enjoyable skydive. You can use a variety of sources to plan formations but you may have to rely on your imagination; one resource is the Wild Lava app, Skydiving Formations, which contains more than one-thousand 2-way to 20-way formations.

Image by Serge Shakuto
At this stage, you must decide on the exit method and order to facilitate a fast exit in order to maximize working time and to minimize horizontal and vertical separation between jumpers. Consider if the purpose and plan call for a linked or unlinked base piece and how many jumpers are going to be outside the aircraft. While there is a tendency to refer to everyone outside the aircraft as a ‘floater’, true floaters are flyers that will enter the formation later, rather than sooner. Finally, don’t neglect thinking about the location of the videographer — if you relegate the camera guy to the back of the exit order, you may not get the video record of the skydive that you had hoped for.

Your capacity for organization and leadership will be tested when it comes time to practice exits and entry order. As the load organizer, you establish flying procedures such as the base / pin combination and whether the plan requires slot-specific docks or not; to prevent traffic jams, you may specify quadrants or sectors to be flown. Preliminary dirt dives can be accomplished wearing jumpsuits without equipment while the last ‘waiting-to-load’ practice has the advantage of allowing everyone to key on jumpsuit and gear color combinations. An often overlooked opportunity during dirt dives is to emphasize flying the formation and the importance of good reverse grips on grippers rather than wrists (or ankles). If there are going to be transitions, ensure that everyone understands the signal and who gives it.
The conclusion of the initial dirt dive is probably the best time to brief jumpers on the break-off and deployment altitudes based on experience and/or formation size. Also, depending on the conditions, it may relevant to discuss jump run and exit and opening points as well as who will be spotting the load. Reinforce the landing pattern based on current conditions. If you haven’t done so already, manifest the load and coordinate exit order with other groups / individuals onboard the aircraft:

Formation skydivers (belly-to-earth). Free-flying formations (head-down, standing, or sitting). Freefall students with instructors. Tandem pairs. Tracking or angle flying groups. Wingsuit flyers. Once everyone has landed, account for all jumpers on the dive, debrief jumpers, and view the video of the jump. Even if your fellow skydivers don’t specifically thank you, most people do appreciate the work that the load organizer takes on and how the effort adds to the value of the jump. Throughout the process, be willing to accept constructive suggestions and make appropriate changes but know when you’ve reached the good idea cut-off point. Any time that a safety issue arises, address it directly.
The process of developing the skills required to structure a formation skydive in a systematic way will test your organizational and leadership abilities; you will find that the results are worth the effort. One final thought, not everyone will agree with your decisions so don’t take any disagreements personally…
Load Organizing Checklist

Evaluate who you are inviting on the load based on:

Experience level (not just number of jumps).

Ability to perform as the dive flow demands.

Commitment to the time (pre-jump dirt dive and post-jump debrief) required.

Reputation for safety and air awareness. Establish the purpose of the jump:

Developing new jumpers’ skills.

Practicing for a larger or more complicated formation.

Qualifying jumpers for the SCR or SCS award.

Decompression. Determine the formation(s) to be built. Decide on the exit method:

Linked or unlinked base piece.

Number of jumpers outside the aircraft.

Use of true floaters.

Location of videographer. Determine exit order. Brief jumpers on:

Jump run and exit / opening points.

Transition signals.

Break-off and deployment altitudes.

Landing pattern. Manifest load and coordinate exit order with other groups / individuals onboard:

Formation skydivers (belly-to-earth).

Free-flying formations (head-down, standing, or sitting).

Freefall students with instructors.
Tandem pairs.

Tracking or angle flying groups.

Wingsuit flyers. Designate a spotter. Conduct dirt dives to practice exits and entry order. Establish flying procedures:

Base / pin combination.

Slot-specific.

Not-slot-specific.

Quadrants. Account for all jumpers on the jump. Debrief jumpers and view video of the jump.

By cassella, in Events,

Recommended Safety Articles for Safety Month

March is safety month, and what better time than just before the Northern Hemisphere's summer season to refresh yourself on information you may be rusty on, or just become more educated in the various safety aspects. Last year we published an article with what we felt were some of the most important safety related articles published on Dropzone.com at that time. Since then we have had several new pieces of information published, that may help you in staying safe out there, from canopy control to exit separation. We've also included several safety day events that are happening around the world later this month.
Here's a list of what we feel are 5 of the most important articles submitted over the past year:
Teaching Students To Navigate The Landing Pattern

In our most recently published safety article, coach and IAD instructor rated Corey Miller discusses some of the core aspects of landing patterns and how students are taught to navigate them. The article focuses specifically only the way instructors relay landing information to students over radio, while perhaps not allowing the students to truly learn for themselves what is important to look for and more closely address the subject of learning to land as opposed to being told how to land.
Staying Current During Winter

While this article may be a bit late for the northern hemisphere, winter is approaching down south and many useful tips can be learned. In the article, Brian Germain discusses the benefits to staying current during the off season and provides readers with a number of useful exercises that can be done to ensure optimum efficiency when you return to the sky. There's numerous images included to help you understand the setups and how they work, as well as exercises that addresses specific individual disciplines.
Exit Order Safety

Another article by Brian Germain, on the topic of exit order safety. The main focus of the article revolves around establishing and discussion the different types of jumpers and how their time under the plane may vary, and in turn to establish who should jump when and why. Not only is the direct exit from the aircraft addressed, but the article further discusses exit order importance with regards to exit timing and landing area. In the comments section, Brian goes on to acknowledge the possible ambiguity in the term "prop-blast penetration", used in the opening paragraph and says that the term can be replaced by such terms as "forward throw", "relative wind penetration" or the more self-explanatory "horizontal distance traveled".
When Should You Upsize Your Canopy

The first of two very useful articles on the topic of canopy size, this article was a combined effort by Melissa Lowe, Barry Williams and Jason Moledzki. It uses numbered points to address 10 factors that one should look at when considering canopy size. Most of the time the thought is on downsizing, as one feels more comfortable with their current setup, but for some people - the solution to many of their problems may actually be to head in the other direction and consider upsizing their canopy. There are numerous variables involved that could prompt one to require an upsizing, from gaining weight to even jumping at a higher elevation. At the end of the discussion, there is a Canopy Risk calculator (created by the USPA), which is intended to act as a guideline for you to see how much of a safety risk you are with your current setup and skill level.
It's Not Only Size That Matters - Thoughts on Canopy Upsizing

The other canopy upsizing article we featured was submitted by Dave Kottwitz and focuses more on retelling lessons learned when he upsized from a Triathlon 210, to a Spectre 230. On his third jump on the new, larger canopy Dave ended up breaking his leg in six places as well as dislocating his shoulder. In the article, he looks at what caused the problems and why one has to realize that upsizing your canopy is not an immediate guarantee for an increase in safety.

By admin, in General,

Boogie Turmoil Survival Tips

Introduction
Boogies, skills camps and destination events are now available in the farthest reaches of the globe - taking place in countries that range from reassuringly orderly to exhilaratingly shambolic. Wherever you are heading, be sure to bone up on all the information you might need before you go - and prepare accordingly. Background research both specific to skydiving and for travel in general will aid your journey under any circumstances, favourable or otherwise, but the more you know in advance the better off you will be when things get complicated. Somewhere that is putting on a skydiving event might simply operate very differently to what you are used to, and the more you can do in advance to set yourself up for success the better. If any appropriate information has been overlooked by the event organisers and you are left in the dark without adequate briefings and knowledge, then ask around - skydivers love to quack on about stuff and those that have previously attended a particular location will tell you the things you really need to know.
Skydiving events of any size contain a lot of moving parts that must all work harmoniously to keep people jumping safely. Myriad financial and logistical puzzle pieces require being carefully pulled together over the course of many months to successfully stage a gathering above and beyond the scope of a dropzone’s usual activity. These numerous variables mean there is a lot that can potentially go wrong - the weather might totally crap out and leave everyone fighting for whatever slots that might become available, a broken thingumy may ground an aircraft and significantly reduce lift capacity (or even scratch it completely) or someone can easily enough pick up the kind of injury that demands all jumping operations be shut down for a bit. The list of things that can cause problems and inefficiencies is long and unpredictable - and while the likelihood of the event organisers doing anything other than their very best is slim, they simply might not have the available mental power to stay on top of a snowballing situation.
So, what should you do when you are at an event where the wheels are coming off?
Buddy Up:
If you are used to jumping in a country with lots of rules that must be adhered to while parachuting you can quickly land well outside of your comfort zone in the sketchier corners of the map. Teaming up with another human who can watch your back, both during jump procedures and on the ground in more general ways can provide a measure of reassurance not formally provided. Someone more experienced is good, but anyone who can objectively and reliably keep an eye on you is a solid plan. Check in with each other before and after every jump and at various points throughout each day. Also let one another know how to access vital documents and important personal items should anyone end up taking a trip to the hospital or the police station or the loony bin.
Use Your Skills Wisely:
Always keep both eyes on your own safety. At any boogie it is very easy to get swept up onto jumps where you are really less than comfortable. If a boogie is running away from itself it is more important than ever to correctly asses and manage the jumps you are doing. Nobody is going to do that for you. Remember that the real rewards are in the endless journey. A nicely formalised and arranged skills camp is the time and place to stretch your legs. Understanding you current limits and working sensibly with them is the path to a great time and safe jumps. Wisdom is calling things to heel when everyone around you is getting looser by the minute.
Take Responsibility For Your Data:
You can pretty much guarantee that by the time the boogie kicks off any dropzone internet will be down for the duration. Whatever reliable bandwidth the facility has available will likely be reserved for the running of crucial operations, and not for you to WhatsApp photos of each other of someone with a bottle of Jaegermeister duct-taped to their face. A local pre-paid mobile bundle is often the most reliable and affordable choice, but whichever way you want to sort it out some personal phone data is well worth the money. The more overwhelmed an event becomes, the higher the chances are of someone going missing or taking a trip to hospital - you can use the navigation and location tracking services of modern smartphones to find your way back to the airfield or to help look for a lost person. A active messaging group for all of your party can enhance a group experience but can also provide a valuable safety net for communication when everybody is getting shitfaced and things are getting weird.

Be Ready:
Impending chaos will likely first show itself as wildly inaccurate call times. A twenty-minute warning might mean you will be jumping either right away or hours from now - so the best plan is to always be ready. If your group can rock and roll at a moment’s notice not only will it aid the quality of your jumps, such exhibitions of professionalism will possibly ooze out of you and influence those close by who are less coherent.
Help Out:
If things are frantic, offer to help. If you have some local knowledge and are surrounded by disgruntled people who have travelled far to attend, then perhaps round them up and show them a good time. Chipping in even with seemingly insignificant things such as making the tea might free up other people better positioned to get stuck in with that broken aeroplane problem or downed computer network.
Patience:
A spoonful of patience goes a long way. If things are devolving into chaos aim to ease through it rather than throw wood on the fire. Try to remember that planning and executing a boogie takes a lot of work from all the people involved with the DZ and they rarely (if ever) make any money - and certainly not more than the usual daily business of the place. Not getting all up in people’s faces might help things to run smoothly again and shouting at the staff will help no-one.
Speak Out:
However! Don’t be afraid to speak up if you can see that something is dubious or outright dangerous. Stick your chin up and your chest out and say “What the fuck is this, you clueless morons?” Those responsible for an event that is going to shit may well be under fire from all angles, but if something is wrong they are required to honour everybody’s safety and fix it.
Conclusion:
All told, if your life allows you to own a parachute and use it recreationally then things are pretty good. Any kind of skydiving jamboree you attend will most likely be filled with treasured experiences you will talk about for years to come. If the odd one does not pan out exactly as you were hoping, then attempt to handle it in the most positive way possible - try not to make things worse, help others be safe wherever you can, and wring every bit of knowledge and experience you can from it to apply going forwards. If you do find yourself at an event that devolves into the kind of chaos where you are genuinely worried about making though with your personage and sanity intact - you can always simply walk away.

By admin, in Safety,

Brent Chandler Discusses Dekunu's Feature Filled Altimeter

Australian start-up Dekunu Technologies have spent much of 2017 teasing the release of a new breed of altimeter. A cool, but somewhat cryptic marketing campaign has generated a great deal of excitement but so far is light on actual details. Why? Behind the project is Brent Chandler - entrepreneur, skydiver and life-long coder. He joins us to shed a little light on the Dekunu project - how it got started, and where it is going.
Can you begin with a little bit of personal background?
“Without going into too much detail, I created a technology-based business within the hospitality industry in Australia, and over the last nine or ten years developed it to the point where it now runs itself. Once I reached the point where I had successfully built myself out of the company I found myself looking for something that ticked all the right boxes - a tech project that I was passionate about and would allow me to retain a lot of freedom to travel and skydive. After about six-months of conceptualising various different ideas, Dekunu stood out as the obvious choice. I have been passionate about technology my whole life, and although I have always struggled to ever learn say - a second spoken language, computer languages stick with me. For me programming is logical and makes sense. I can see it.”


What were the first steps in making this idea into a real project?
“Hardware technology. It was a tech genre I had never experienced before. Tech for me had always been software, writing code onto a screen - whereas with Dekunu we are creating concepts, schematics and then a physical product. This was super exciting for me to sink my teeth into, but admittedly intimidating as well. Before we got started I had little idea about what was involved. We got some electronics kits, and a year ago I made the first prototype. The first four prototypes were really just experiments in my understanding. We were using off-the-shelf components and writing code to get them to talk to each other. One of the biggest hurdles was when we moved on to writing our own complete board - where every wire, component, capacitor, resistor and transistor needed to be meticulously arranged. I wasn’t aware of how complicated that process was going to be - even now most days I will have hour-long conversations with our hardware engineers about the placement of one little half-millimetre sized component.”


What challenges have you faced creating hardware that needs to work reliably in a skydiving environment?
“Earlier in the prototyping process we didn’t have much consideration for things like operating environments - large temperature differentials, humidity requirements, impact resistance or anything like that. We just wanted it to work and then figure out where it was going to break. Being meticulous through all the various versions means that now we can very be specific about our requirements. We need to know what happens if someone leaves their device in the front of the plane under the engine bay and it gets to seventy degrees, or if it gets left outside somewhere below freezing. We have to be very thorough. The devices currently have 285 individual components - if any one of them goes wrong it could potentially harm someone. For Prototype 10 we did a lot of testing ourselves. All of the devices were jumped and the data compared before they were sent off to our team of testers and friends around the world - our Dekunu ambassadors. We decided to run the ambassador programme for a couple of reasons - it is a great marketing opportunity to have influential flyers from around the world running our equipment, but the vital part is exposure to testing environments that highlight things we simply cannot learn from jumping in Byron Bay every day. We have the luxury of being able to make mistakes with the prototypes, but cannot once we start selling the devices. We receive a lot of emails from people voicing their frustration that they cannot yet get their hands on one, and sure - we could capitalise on the engaged audience but to do so too early could very well result in shooting ourselves in the foot.”

Everyone wants to know what it does. What does it do?
“Without revealing some big, soon to be announced, functionality, the device is going to be all encompassing due to the infrastructure we are creating. Imagine that you come down from your jump and have not plugged into a computer or anything and you have access to all the information it has recorded - a lot of which at the moment without a SmartAlti is dominated by guess work, ego and bias. People will be able to answer a lot of questions with complete accuracy and answer them in the landing area. What was the exit separation? Exactly how hard was that opening? Why did people land off? What was the wind doing? Did we track in the right place? Did we open too close to each other? We want it to be so intuitive and connected that it works seamlessly with every type of device. You don’t have to be plugged into a computer for hours afterwards - you can be in the bar with your friends and have the whole experience on your phone. Also not just your information - a single dot on a screen. All your mates on the jump as well. The entire experience.
For many things in skydiving, simple is best. Does a device that is packed with features run the risk of over complicating things to the point of distraction?
“This is something we have discussed at length. No matter what happens - as soon as you jump it switches mode and there is nothing you can do on the device except see the altitude on a massive screen. At the moment the device enters a Plane Mode showing heading, ground speed and some other neat features like simple safety tips and reminders on the way to altitude such as when to remove your restraint, check your gear, get a pin check - things like that. We also have a version of the software that includes a student mode - which removes any unnecessary complications. Student mode could, for example, include the important things they need to remember about their jump plan. We are working on making this the best possible device for all users. We’ve saved the complications for our number crunching servers behind the scenes”

Brent is more guarded about some of the far reaching potential that fully networked, intelligent altimeters might have for the future of skydiving - sensibly circling back to the importance of the unit itself being success before the big plans happen.
“We have done an enormous amount of work on the backend and the visualisation systems - this data that people will have access to is going to allow them to learn so much more from their jumps. It is important for everything to be as intuitive as possible - if we create a system that is good but time-consuming for people to use, then they are not going to use it. We haven’t created this just for the technologically adept - we want it to be the default choice for all skydivers and not just those who like gadgets and want their altimeter to have a touchscreen. Our core ethos is about how this is going to bring more awareness to the sport of skydiving. More data, more transparency - that is really the focus. We see things progressing to the point where, such as with an AAD - if you don’t have a networked altimeter then you are not jumping. The idea being that this will become as normalised as owning any simple altimeter in the way you are required to now - the pricing is not much different, and the information will be so valuable that this is absolutely the way forward for the sport.”
The more elaborate details of what the Dekunu device does, and could do, remain to be seen and proven - but anyone who uses a modern phone is able to imagine the prospective gains that one of our mandatory pieces of safety gear becoming fully networked and similarly sophisticated could mean. Within recent history mobile technology has profoundly altered the way our daily lives operate, and transporting this potential into the skydiving environment is a very exciting prospect that could well have an amazing effect on how well we do what we do - how quickly we learn and how safe we all are. Brent and the Dekunu team are hard at work turning these ideas into reality.

By admin, in Gear,

All About Naked Skydiving

Advice From Jeff Dawson, The World Record Holder for Birthday Suit Skydives
Milwaukee might seem like an odd place to rack up a truly epic number of naked skydives. You might expect conservatism and bitter winters to, y’know, get in the way. However, that’s exactly what Jeff Dawson--based at Sky Knights, near Milwaukee--has been doing for more than two decades. Of a little under 4,000 skydives, Dawson has done 722 of them naked, which is the world record by a long shot. Along the way, he has founded the Society for the Advancement of Naked Skydiving, or “SANS,” which keeps track of the world’s current naked skydiving records. (See what he did there?)
At any rate, Dawson presents a wealth of hard-earned wisdom for skydivers eager to strip down before they jump out. Whether you’re doing the traditional birthday-suit huck for your hundredth or a way to pass the time while your jumpsuit is at the cleaners, Dawson has you (un)covered. We reached out with our most pressing questions.
Q: Why is it that you love jumping naked so much?
Dawson: It started off it was a naughty thing to do. I am a fairly conservative person, and it was naughty, so it was fun. Then it got to be the thing, and now it has become a creature all its own.
The fact is that I’m not really a group-skydiving guy. I like just to get out of the airplane and enjoy the world around me by myself, just enjoying the awe of the situation. Naked skydiving makes that just so much better. You are just hanging out there. Nobody can see you. There isn’t a care in the world. That, to me, is pure freedom.
I never set out to be the world record holder for naked skydiving. It just happened. I don’t go out to see how many naked skydives I can make; it’s just that I like doing it and the club I belong to is very naked-jumping friendly. I have made naked skydives where nobody has said one word about the fact I was naked. They are just so used to it.
I have made at least one jump in every calendar year for almost 21 years, and I have made at least one naked jump every calendar month for 16 years. I did three naked jumps this past December when it was maybe 20 degrees Fahrenheit. At Sky Knights, they call [a wintertime naked jump] a “Dawson Pop” because I’ll be doing a hop-and-pop naked.
Q: Okay--some basics. Since we all quite obviously have to wear some gear when we jump out of a plane, what is actually considered a “naked jump”?
Dawson: Everybody has their own idea of what qualifies. For the purpose of the Society of the Advancement of Naked Skydiving, we say wrist to wrist and neck to knees. That allows safety equipment: a helmet, goggles, gloves, altimeter, shoes and socks if that’s what you choose to do. I have done only one jump where I was completely, 100% naked (with the rig, of course). No helmet, goggles, shoes, altimeter, socks...they called it a “naked naked” jump.
Q: Did you start doing the naked thing before you started jumping or did you start doing the naked thing after you started jumping? Have you always been into naturalism?
Dawson: Absolutely not. I made my first naked jump on my 100th skydive, but as far as the rest of it goes, no. I don’t even wear shorts in the summertime; always pants. I have nothing to do with nudism, naturalism...anything like that. Except for the naked skydiving.
Q: What was it about that first naked skydive that got you into it?
Dawson: Actually, it wasn’t that first one that got me going. Actually, it wasn’t that first one that got me going. I didn’t do another naked jump for probably 3 or 4 years afterward. A young female jumpmaster who liked to skydive naked put together a 4-way for a jumper’s hundredth jump, and she asked me to be a part. I think that was September 2001.
The same thing happened a month later in October. We decided that we would see if we could make at least a 2-way every month for a year. We did, and of course there were several other people involved at different times. After a couple of years, she moved away, but I just kept going.
Q: If someone is visiting Sky Knights on any given weekend, how likely is it that at least one person is going to be naked at some point?
Dawson: Pretty likely. I do it more than most people, of course. If the conditions are right, I usually do my last jump of the day naked.
Q: What’s the first step to doing a naked skydive right?
Dawson: The first thing you have to do is to see if your dropzone even allows naked skydiving. I travel a lot and have been to a lot of different dropzones and talked to a lot of people about this. You have to understand that there are plenty of dropzones that actually can’t facilitate naked skydiving; where if there is any nakedness going on of any kind, the dropzone will get kicked off the airport because that’s in their contract, or charter, or whatever.
Then you have to decide how public you want to make it. Cameras and social media are out there in such prevalence today that you have to be careful that someone’s livelihood could be endangered if this type of thing got out in the way that things do now. Unless you want the entire dropzone out at the landing area with cameras, you’ll have to have help to keep it quiet and under wraps. I blame social media for the fact that naked jumping isn’t as popular now as it used to be.
Q: How can you set about controlling those variables?
Dawson: If you want to do a naked jump stealthily and not have the whole dropzone watching, you can make that happen by arranging for a separate pass or landing area--or just talking to the people who are on the jump and asking them to turn off their cameras. People should understand that it’s a very legitimate concern.
Q: How do you go about preparing for a naked skydive?
Dawson: First off, I would definitely suggest doing it with someone who has done at least one before.
You will want to decide what you are going to do about clothes. Sure, you’ll have a 200-square-foot toga to wear, but what next? Personally, I have a set of shorts that I wear over my leg straps, and then I have a pocket on one of the leg straps. When I am in the plane, I take the shorts off and put them in my leg pouch to put on after I land. I have seen people tie shorts onto a leg strap with pull-up cords. I knew one person who actually stuffed his shorts in the tail of his canopy. Amazingly, it didn’t affect the opening. You can always stash clothes at the landing area, of course.
When you’re gearing up, make sure that your straps are relatively tight. We have a saying for the guys: Make sure that you have your junk in the right spot, because you can always cut away from a line-over but you can’t cut away from a nut-under.
Nipples can be a problem, too. You can deal with that by either locating the chest strap above the nipples so that they’re out of the way or use band-aids to reduce the snag hazard, especially if you wear jewelry there. I have never seen it myself, but I’ve heard of at least one person who had jewelry ripped out of her nipple.
Q: What’s different about the jump itself?
Dawson: What tends to happen is that, after one person decides they’re going to do a naked jump, a bunch of people get on it. It can easily turn into a big zoo, with a dozen people on the jump who have never jumped naked before. That’s not a good idea.
Naked jumping is entirely different from clothed jumping in that it changes the amount of control you have over your bodyflight. There’s a whole different dynamic: for instance, coming into a formation. If your mode normally is to come in fairly hot and slow down last minute to enter the formation, you’ll soon discover that that doesn’t work as well with a naked jump because you don’t have the drag. People often find they can’t stop. So if you can do it with 2 or 4 people--something like that--it usually works out better.
When you’re in freefall, you’ll feel like the container is falling off of your back--or is not centered--because it’s touching your skin and you can actually feel where it is. Don’t freak out. If you’ve done your straps up nice and tight, it’s not actually coming loose; it just feels different.
Also: You don’t want to get too wrapped up in the naked part of the skydiving and forget about all the other parts, which brings me to probably one of the most important parts about naked skydiving. This goes for any kind of extraordinary skydive. You’re still making a skydive, and you still have to do it safely. You have to make sure your equipment is right, and you do all of your checks. It is really easy to get caught up--especially if we’re talking about a 100-jump person--in the excitement of what’s going on, and forget about the things that are necessary.
One more word to the wise: Choose a day when the conditions are right for a stand-up landing. If you slide in even a little bit, you are going to know it. Even grass acts like sandpaper.
Q: Any final words of wisdom?
Dawson: Do everyone a favor and be cool about it. If you go out and flash unsuspecting tandem students and airport authorities, then you’re crossing the line.
Sky Knights operates a PAC in the summertime and when I’m ready to make a naked skydive, there will usually be tandems on the load. I won’t surprise them with my nakedness. Before they are even manifested, I’ll find out from manifest who they are, introduce myself and ask if they’d mind if I’m on the same load. I’ll also do that with other jumpers I don’t know. Most people are fine, especially when I tell them it’s going to be a world record--because every time I make a naked skydive, it’s a world record.
I try to be sensitive about who is on the load and not make anyone feel embarrassed. Being polite about it has allowed me to do all those jumps.
Got at least one naked jump? Join SANS! It costs a whopping $5 dollars to join, and with that membership fee you get a member number, a certificate for the wall of your cubicle, some stickers and a refrigerator magnet.

By admin, in General,

Is It Time For A Reline: Here's How to Know

Do your suspension lines have a noticeable five-o'clock shadow? Maybe it’s time for your gear to spend the weekend with your friendly neighborhood rigger. If you’re unsure, you’re not alone--plenty of skydivers hem and haw about this particularly important aspect of canopy maintenance.
Looking for a little more convincing? Here’s a brief education on line maintenance by Karen Saunders, one of the few (and one of only two women) to hold the lofty Advanced Rigger ticket from the British Parachute Association. Karen has seen enough fuzzy line sets to give any sane canopy pilot the night sweats, and she wants to make sure it’s not you that gets to live the nightmare of a mid-swoop snap.
1. Go with your gut.
“Trust your instincts. If you think that maybe your lines are looking a bit shabby, they probably are. Most people will look at their line set and say, That looks a bit shit, but I’ll do something about it tomorrow. Tomorrow turns into a week, and then a month. Before you know it, you’ll have a line snap or an off-heading opening. Fix it before you create yourself some problems.”
2. Know what you’ve got.
“The most important thing is to know what type of line is on your parachute. Most people don’t--and if they don’t, then they won’t know how many jumps they can expect to get out of that line set before it needs to be replaced. And they also won’t know whether to expect to have line shrinkage or whether it is going to go the other way and simply snap when it reaches the end of its life cycle. Vectron and HMA will do just that if you don’t take care of them: Snap. They won’t give you a warning aside from the fact that they will start to fray as they age.
The other thing to think about is where your line set actually comes from. Most people will buy their line sets from manufacturers, but there are riggers out there that will make cheaper line sets themselves. I can spot a manufactured line set from anything else in a flash, but most people couldn’t--and maybe that’s the line set have got on your canopy that you bought from somebody in good faith. It is always best before you buy anything to get it checked out.”
3. Get some visual reference.
“Once you know what line type is on your parachute, look at Performance Designs’ line wear charts for your lines to get an idea of what wear actually looks like. It may surprise you. Using that reference as an example, you can see how deterioration looks over a given period of time and what percentage of strength you lose.
You can test your new knowledge immediately by looking at the bottom part of your brake lines and the stabilizers. Those lines are always going to take the brunt of the wear. Generally, having the bottom part of your brake lines replaced at the first sign of wear is going to save you a whole world of problems.”
4. Watch for the warnings (if you have a line type that broadcasts them).
“If your lines are made of Spectra or Dacron and you need a reline, you can expect to get some bad openings: an off-heading or big surges after opening. That’s generally because the slider is moving up and down your lines, heating them up and shrinking them.
If your parachute opens and it is not on-heading, then it is generally an indication that it is going out of trim. You need to get somebody to look at that. When you do, they might look at it and tell you that the lines are okay; maybe it’s just your body position causing the problem. If they look at your lines and go holy shit, man, you need to replace straight away, then you have your answer. Either way, you’ll have peace of mind.”
5. Don’t get tunnel vision.
“Don’t just look at your lines. Your lines are suspended by some binding tape which needs checking as well. Especially after a hard opening, be sure to look at the tape where each line is attached to your canopy, as well as the fabric around it.
Kill lines are another thing. Everybody forgets that a kill line wears out in the same way as a suspension line, except a lot more quickly. If your kill line is made out of Spectra and has shortened, then you’re going to start having problems with your openings. The dead giveaway is finding that your pilot chute is turned virtually inside out every time you land.
A kill line wears throughout the bridle. The weakest point doesn’t have to be at the bottom or top--it can snap right in the middle--so make sure you pull it through from both ends when you check it. Pull it as far as you can from one end and then pull it as far as you can from the other end to have a good look.
Finally: If you’re getting a new line set, please, please, please replace your slinks as well. Don’t put a new line set on it and put an old set of slinks on it. That defeats the object of this exercise. They are not infallible. They do fail, and the last thing you want is for a slink to fail at 200 feet, because you’re not going to survive that.”
6. Remember: The integrity of your lineset isn’t a good place to save a few bucks.
“The costs to reline aren’t as bad as you might think. I can tell you roughly what I charge, but I can’t speak for other riggers. That said, I will always look at something for free, and if someone asks me for it, I will always give my advice for free, and that’s also the way most of the riggers I know like to work.
I charge 15 pounds, which equates to about 20 U.S. dollars, to replace both lower brake lines. If the lowers go from the cascade all the way to the toggle, I charge 40 pounds--which is something like $60. If you compare that amount of money to losing a brake line when you’re flaring--or when you are at 100 feet--you see the value. You have to weigh the cost of your own safety.
If you don’t happen to have a rigger on your dropzone, then go to an experienced jumper. See them and say, Hey, I’m a bit worried about this. What do you think I should do? If they look at it and start laughing, you have your answer.”

By admin, in Gear,

A Guide To Traveling With Your Gear

Anything precious in your bag, sir?

Introduction
Getting into skydiving opens up many opportunities for travel. You might live somewhere where the weather is shit all the time, or simply want to take advantage of the beautiful places available to jump around the world. Traveling with your gear can be a worrisome experience. If you are at all sensible, you should already own both a standard travel insurance policy for your belongings and some additional cover that concerns your physical being and any event in which it smooshes into something unforgivingly solid. However, unless you either arrange additional extended insurance (or jump some wonky old contraption built of very dubious elements), the coverage you are paying for is unlikely greater than the value of a set of modern skydiving gear. Your magical backpack is precious to you, and while traveling abroad you will likely feel most inclined to keep your eyes and hands on it at all possible times.
Checked or Carry On?
Once successfully embarked on your career as a skydiver, sooner or later someone will share with you a horror story involving airport security and a parachute. The exact details of this tale are variable, but it will usually involve massive injustice on the part of very ignorant and uncool staff against an innocent and harmless skydiver who just wanted to be perpetually within four feet of their gear by taking it into the aircraft cabin as carry-on luggage - only to be harassed, hassled and sometimes ultimately denied. Situations that escalate this far are rare, but they happen enough among a relatively small community of people to then hang in our collective consciousness as a potential problem - prompting the anxious conundrum of either checking-in one’s rig and thus entertaining the very slim but real possibility of it vanishing forever, or sending it forth through the scanner and risk having to cause a scene because some jobsworth insists on popping your reserve and causing a hundred people in the line behind you to all miss their flights.
What Is This Thing?
What is it about a parachute system that draws the attention of security personnel? It seems logical it would be your AAD that is the most curious element: a mysterious little box complete with a with a couple of protruding wires, a numeric display an activation button (eeek!). In fact, the Cypres unit (the AAD everyone should own) does indeed utilise a very small amount of gunpowder in its design (30 milligrams) - although you should not say this to anyone in charge of aeroplanes. It is up to you to not say this and it is important not to say this. Despite being officially harmless according to all the aviation authorities that matter, try explaining away this nugget of information well enough to be allowed to continue on your journey.




Official looking visual aids can occasionally be very useful.
Over many years of traveling as a freefly team, we eventually realised that frequently enough one of us would have to explain how a parachute does (and more importantly - does not) work that we began to rotate who went first through security, therefore being the one to get their rig out and do the explaining. We discovered that it seemed not to matter. Sometimes both the first and second rig would pass unassumingly through the scanner, only for the third to be set aside needing the guided tour - thus leaving the two initial team members on their way into the terminal, chortling at the unlucky third and musing about how mystifying and stupid the process is - as if a single rig is but 33% suspicious and only the cumulative effect of several examples passing by in succession is enough to make the final one stand out as suspect.
Each time an inspection was required we began to quiz airport staff in turn about what they see that makes one’s gear a thing of interest to them. Although as of yet we have received no definitive answers as to exactly why, it appears that the combination of the reserve cable and pilot chute spring that draw attention. A metal cable spiralling into the centre of things just looks unfamiliar enough to be potentially wrong and bad.
What Are The Rules?



The gentleman on the left thinks it is cool to go through the airport like this. He is wrong.
As far as all the major aviation authorities are concerned, there is nothing about a complete parachute system that categorises it as forbidden to travel in either the cabin or the hold of any commercial aircraft. Individual airlines might have their own rules for various types of sporting equipment (which you should remember to look up before you go anywhere), but these are much more likely to concern weight allowances and excess baggage fees than any specific security rules.
There are various formal documents available that concern skydiving equipment, but I am yet to meet any airport staff in the world that have actually read them. As such, each transit situation will depend entirely on the personal experience of those charged with viewing your bags - and can range from cow-eyed unconcern (most common), through mild curiosity (sometimes) all the way to haughty indignation that you would dare attempt to take such a thing onto an aeroplane and put everyone’s lives in immediate danger (sucks to be you).
What Happens If You Need To Explain?
Be nice. Always, always, be nice. Airport staff at any step of the way can very quickly ruin not only your travel day - but you whole trip if they feel it is necessary - and smile-kill you while they do so. If you are required to give a presentation, usually a quick explanation while they swab your harness for naughty residues will suffice and you will be on your merry way. If their concern does persist past this point it will probably be because whoever you are talking to is somewhat (possibly very) convinced that your canopy can suddenly and dramatically fully inflate in the cabin, thus freaking everyone the fuck out and covering the windscreen or something. The best course of action here is just keep repeating in a soothing tone “That is impossible” and “It doesn’t work like that” while remembering to be nice. If that doesn’t work you can even have the employee in question deploy your main pilot chute limply onto the floor. Go nuts! Have them pop the pin and send your deployment bag down to join it. Not matter what happens through this interaction try to make it as fun as possible and educate the staff a little bit about your gear and doing your bit for those that come after. You never know - the difference you make here might mean as much as the next person who passes this way meeting their connection or not.


Success

Conclusion
Many people have traveled with their parachutes as carry-on many times, to many places, for many years, with no problems. Every now and then someone just has shitty luck and another tale of woe spreads it’s wings. If things do go badly for you and there is now way out other than to pop your reserve and/or get everything out in exquisite detail, just get it over with. The best play regardless of how far you have to go down this road is always make security personnel feel that they are doing the right thing. Inside you will be seething with rage but if you are a dick to them in even the smallest way nothing good will come of it other than a long conversation in a windowless room. So be nice.
Things To Remember:

1. Put Your Rig In A Bag
You will look super cool wandering around the terminal with your straps all dangling and your G3 clipped to a hip ring like a six-gun. Right up until someone spills sub-standard guacamole all over you.
2. Get Some Paperwork
Airtec produce a nifty credit card thingy that you can whip out to look like a stone-cold professional. It shows an x-ray of a rig that explains why Cypres units are fine for travel and does not mention gunpowder at all. Other AADs are possibly available. For the extra careful there is also a selection of formal documents available in different languages that you can print out and keep in a ring-binder.


By admin, in Gear,

Freefall Data Systems LLC Launch New Altimeters

Freefall Data Systems LLC launched two brand new skydiving altimeters on December 18, 2017. SonoAlti an audible altimeter that can be set using Bluetooth® wireless technology. ColorAlti is a patent-pending reconception of the peripheral vision LED altimeter. It can also be set using a free app called FDS Altis that is available on Apple’s App Store or Google Play.
SonoAlti


SonoAlti was conceived to remedy the classic problem many jumpers have of trying to set—or remember how to set—their audible altimeters. It has three different types of alarms (ascent, freefall, and canopy) and up to eight of each type can be set. The volume of each type of alarm can be set individually and the user can select from a sound bank of 64 different alarms. The unit is always on and has a rechargeable lithium polymer battery with a life of approximately 200 jumps or three months. Although it is not its primary function, SonoAlti also includes a speed tracker feature, which allows the user to get real-time feedback during a jump of vertical descent speed via beeps. In addition, SonoAlti tracks jump numbers as well as freefall and canopy time. Using the app, one can obtain information about the last recorded jump and view altitude and vertical speed graphs (up to seven minutes of data). These graphs can be saved as photos to the user’s mobile device.
ColorAlti


For ColorAlti, Freefall Data Systems LLC took the idea of peripheral vision altitude awareness and started from scratch. Unlike Elemental Technologies’ now defunct Chroma, ColorAlti contains a color LED, enabling it to display up to 256 different colors. The altimeter can be used in two different modes: continuous and discrete. In continuous mode, the light on the altimeter gradually blends through the colors of the rainbow according to two altitudes and colors of the user’s choice. In discrete mode, the light abruptly shifts to user-defined colors at altitudes of the user’s choosing. Up to eight of these discrete alerts can be programmed for ascent, freefall, and canopy. The unit has a flexible yet rigid gooseneck housing that is able to stay in place even at very high freefall speeds.
Freefall Data Systems LLC
CEO and Senior Engineer Casey Mongoven (D-33972) founded Freefall Data Systems LLC in 2016 in Lompoc, California. Casey designs all hardware and software for FDS products. He is also an active USPA Coach Examiner, AFF and Tandem Instructor with over 3000 jumps.
http://freefalldatasystems.com/

https://www.facebook.com/FreefallDataSystems

By admin, in Gear,