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Gear

    Cookie G4 Skydiving Helmet Review

    Review by Joel Strickland
    Cookie Composites are quick to admit that there was a fair element of luck involved in their success with the G3. At the time of release in the early teens, the tunnel industry was exploding - and the full face helmet was crossing over from the province of close-in disciplines where you need to be extra careful about catching a knee or an elbow in the face - to pretty much everyone. Flyers were after a greater level of comfort while training for extended periods of time indoors while retaining a level of communication akin to open helmets. People wanted to be able to see each other’s whole face - and with the G3 you could. Skydiving soon followed suit, because you could now wear your cool sunglasses underneath your lid and see all the big grins in the pictures and video.
    While lucky with the timing, Cookie had purposefully pulled off a crucial victory with their product - it occupied a particular sweet spot between form and function that appeals greatly to skydivers. The G3 was desirably fancy - but not too posh or too shiny to the point where it stood out as worthy of mockery. A few scratches and a couple of stickers later, and it had become (in the most positive of terms) part of the furniture of skydiving. While there were functional alternatives available, the G3 became iconic - as much so as the L+B device on your wrist or the Cypres unit in your rig.

    Over the last few seasons there has been a growing grumble in our sport about the level of protection offered by helmets specifically designed for flying. The biggest and most successful company is always going to be the softest target for conversations about the actual value a helmet with no impact protection material has for your brain in an accident, and the G3 has come under fire against new offerings from competing companies that have been through tests and carry a certification. The concerns over safety are certainly valid, yet these conversations would often neglect that for a very long time we were all basically completely fine with what was on offer, and from day one - if we had been genuinely more concerned about safety over comfort and style - everyone single one of us always had the option of wearing a $20 Protec just like we all did when learning to skydive in the first place.
    In the meantime, Cookie Composites have quietly and diligently created the G4 - extensively researching every single material and design element to give us what we have been asking for. Instead of rushing something out, Cookie worked alongside others in the industry to help develop a brand new rating with the specific requirements of both the skydiving and tunnel environments in mind.

    While purposefully retaining the same balance of form and function, up close it is clear that it is a complete redesign - applying many lessons learned from its predecessor. Here are the main differences that you likely care about the most:
    Recessed Visor: High speed flying combined with any looseness in the springs could create a distracting visor vibration on a G3. The new design has the visor recessed to fit flush all-round with the shell to eliminate this effect. It also looks great.
    Audible Pockets: While perfectly fine for a lot of people, many of us with funny shaped faces were squeezed by our audibles despite any amount of wiggling. Cookie have rebuilt the pockets - and now they fit into the shell with zero intrusion into the space where your head is supposed to be. Now I can jump with two sets of beeps, hearing them perfectly yet feeling nothing - unthinkable for me previously with even the largest G3.
    Metal Springs: With the old design, over time the rubber springs would stretch out and require replacing - a process that even the most generous can only describe as a pain in the ass. While Cookie took steps to remedy this with good post-purchase support, they were always going to be searching for a new system. The G4 visor mechanism has done away completely with the rubber and now uses a metal spring arrangement that should eliminate the maintenance routine.
    Rear Protection: While maintaining the same general look, the new shell goes down a little further at the back to offer some more coverage in a sensitive area. This does make the hole where you put your head a wee bit smaller, and changes slightly the familiar back-forward motion of putting on a G3, to something more akin to donning a motorcycle helmet.
    Impact Rated: Now there is deformable material inside. The big design battle Cookie faced was to create a helmet that would pass the crash tests while always remaining something sleek and light that skydivers would embrace as the right thing. The G4 is a little bit bigger and a little bit heavier than the G3 - but comparing them with one in each hand there is really not much in it. With the redesigned interior allowing a bit more space around the ears, it does feel like a bigger helmet when you first wear it - but that is coming from someone who has been wearing a G3 for work since the day it was released.

    The unsolved problem (for now) is that while the Cookie G4 as sold qualifies for this new rating specific to skydiving, the tests are very precise indeed. As soon as you make any modifications at all to the weight or shape you are no longer using the helmet that has been qualified - you are using something else. The truth is that the myriad what and where of how we mount cameras makes practical testing out of reach. Along with impacts, a part of the new rating are thorough snag tests - and adding even the smallest, sleekest camera mounts would fail them.
    The question we now face is that is it safe to assume that a helmet designed from the ground up with impact protection in mind going to provide a greater level of protection in a crash regardless of where you stick a camera on it? I know what I believe.

    The driving force behind Cookie Composites - Jason Cook and Jeremy Hunt - speak passionately about their company and their products. A quick hello turns into two hours of sharing their experiences creating the G4. The lessons from the previous design have been studied, revised and thoroughly applied - along the way investigating and investing in all manner of materials, theories and processes to make it the best it can possibly be. Cookie’s success this decade has given the company the knowledge and the practical means to deliver a new product that should occupy the same place in our sport that its predecessor has done for many years. Their visual presence and the level at which they support our sport can make Cookie Composites can seem like a big company, but at a basic level it is still a handful of skydivers tinkering around in a workshop, putting in a great deal of time and effort to make something that works the best for their friends and their community around the world. Long may it continue.
    Does the G4 live up to the hype? Yes. Yes it does.

    By Meso, in Gear,

    Introducing The Kraken

    “She’s a wing of legends. The Kraken is the ultimate 'party in the front and business at the back', she's super responsive and holds tight when pushed hard. She is the canopy equivalent of Che Guevara, Marilyn Monroe and Brian Jones all in one. The Kraken is a must have for any wingsuiter and will have the pilot grinning ear to ear as they fly back to whatever landing area they can make it to. Kidding. Kinda.”
    We have released the Kraken, finally! Designing the Kraken was a long process because it was new to us: the Kraken is our very first wingsuit specific parachute. Traditionally NZ Aerosports has focused more on flight performance than on opening a canopy in a wingsuit wake. So it took us a few years, but ended up with a very technical end result: a canopy full of cool features and ideas that makes it very different from any existing wingsuit canopy. The result is a low bulk, long lasting canopy with very reliable and stable openings that lands like a dream.
    Typically, canopies low(er) in aspect ratio and ellipticity (fat 7-cell canopies) have better heading performance, and stability in flight. The problem with this is that wings shaped like this are not exactly renowned for their glide performance and sharp handling. The solution to this problem was a combination of ideas floating around the head of NZ Aerosports’ aeronautical engineer Julien Peelman, and the production and test jump team. We looked to our deep understanding of modern day wings, aerodynamics, and type of ingenuity that produces world class skydiving parachutes – our trademark.
    Key features of the Kraken
    3D Designed: We are now using Catia V5 to design canopies. This is one of the most advanced 3D CAD softwares available. It gives us more freedom to design the canopy down to the finest details and helps generate the most accurate panels possible. The result is a more accurate shaping, a smoother surface, and better aerodynamic efficiency.
    CFD Tested: The Kraken shape has been tested using CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics), which gives us, among other things, a better understanding of her behavior in turbulence and during recovery.

    Photo Chris Stewart
    Anticipating the zag: First debuted in our Crossfire 3, The Kraken is designed so its panels are designed directly in the shape they will have during flight by taking into account the Zig-Zag distortion. This spreads the load evenly through the fabric and makes the wing more structurally efficient.
    New Rib Shape: The Kraken has benefited from research on rib shaping that was originally used to design our new range of hyper-performance wings, Petra and Leia.
    New Crossport Design: Crossports have been strategically placed in the Kraken to have the least influence on the upper surface shape while allowing a good air circulation between the chambers. They are bigger toward the center of the canopy to help with symmetrical openings. They have also been designed with an elliptical shape that optimizes their area while reducing the upper surface distortion.
    Powerband: We've added the split leading edge Powerband to all our new canopies since we pioneered it with Petra. It allows us to better control the aerodynamic shape in the nose area, which prevents parasitic drag.
    Curves in the right places:
    We’ve realised that by sewing our reinforcing tape in parabolas (arcs) on the ribs, we spread the load applied to the top surface more efficiently, meaning less distortion and a more efficient top surface.
    Don’t say slit:
    We’ve put a vent on the lower surface to help promote fast center cell inflation. This means better, more on heading openings in the messy wake of a wingsuit. It’s not a gaping hole like a BASE vent, it’s a… horizontal opening... that seals after full inflation.
    There’s a hole in my slider?!:
    We became so fond of vents that we put one in the slider! We found that by creating a channel for the air to go straight through, we reduced the crazy oscillation often seen during parachute openings. Those oscillations can contribute to off headings etc, so that’s nice!
    Big holes:
    To help out its closest neighbors, the crossports leading from the center cell to the closest outboard cells are enlarged. Promoting symmetrical central inflation means promoting on heading openings!
    Keeping it short:
    Shorter lines mean more flight stability, and easier rectification of any pesky line twists – both good things for the whole wingsuit deal!
    High-tech, low bulk:
    Because it’s 2019, we haven’t used untreated cloth (F-111) for our wingsuit canopy. Instead, we’ve tracked down a low bulk ZP (treated with silicone) fabric, and used that for the majority of the wing, with the Powerband and top center panel made out of standard ZP for extra longevity.
    Riser equality:
    We’ve included a bit of internal structure that means your bridle will load both your risers more evenly during the early stages of deployment. Because of how it looks, we’ve called it the ‘Bow-tie’ – and as we all know, equality is classy!

    Photo Chris Stewart
    Little tail thingys:
    Mini-ribs in the tail of a canopy sharpens its profile, which reduces drag and increases glide performance by “a lot more than we thought”.  This translates to more fun in the sky, and a better flare on the ground. 7 cells are not usually known for their amazing flare power, so it all helps!
    Improve your pull-out game with a snatch:
    Symmetry is good, and so it is with your pilot chute. We’ve discovered that using snatches help with our wingsuit openings, so we have stocked up on them and highly recommend to purchase one with all Kraken purchases!
    Inward Rotated end cell:
    While most ribs are perpendicular to the lower surface, the end rib is rotated inward to reduce the size of the end cell and prevent it from losing its shape. This reduces tip vortices and induced drag.

    Photo Chris Stewart
    New line trim:
    Despite being a relatively docile canopy, the rectangular planform has been compensated with a trim just a notch steeper than you would think. This helps with up wind penetration, fun and is one of the reason for the great flare.
    New Stabilizer shape:
    The shape of the stabilizer has been modernized to prevent it from flapping too much in flight. It also helps the slider to sit in the right position. Custom Sizing The Kraken is available in any size between 119 and 189 so that you can get the perfect wing loading for you at this stage in your canopy progression.
    See the Kraken’s key features interactively on Emersya: https://emersya.com/showcase/5GFIH0C9Q0
    Key flight characteristics of the Kraken
    Openings The modern day wingsuit is capable of  incredible glide, but this efficiency brings its own set of complications when designing a parachute to match. The biggest factor is the turbulent wake formed behind the wingsuit – right where the parachute is deployed. Kraken openings are quick but not hard – you’ll feel inflation immediately. The vent helps control the heading. Once the center cell and adjacent cells inflate, the canopy slowly pressurises with a predictable reliability. The Kraken will sail on level seas even with linetwists! Inputs Intuitive and precise, each input delivers a predictable response. From opening to landing the Kraken is a confidence builder. Toggles Big inputs will produce an immediate response - the pilot will feel in control from first point of contact.
    Stall point
    The slow flight characteristics were a very important design factor for the Kraken, so there is plenty of warning before she stalls, and will recover to normal flight in an easy and stress free transition when slowly letting the toggles back up.
    Rear risers
    There’s lots of feel and response – the Kraken has fantastic glide! Milk those rears and disprove the myth that all wingsuiters land off! Front Risers F is for fun! Yep, the Kraken can dive!
    Performance
    The Kraken has loads of zip! Fly her nice and slow for those busy landing patterns when you want lots of vertical separation. Or dive her at the ground and drag some turf. There’s plenty of fun to be had!
    Recovery Arc
    The recovery arc is longer than typically experienced with similar 7 cell designs. For someone who wants to have their cake ( a nice sensible wingsuit canopy) and eat it too (swoop the shit out of it), then go go go! Flare The Kraken has a wide range of performance, the flare is one of the most important aspects - she wont disappoint. Those nil wind tiptoe landings will feel very natural. More information available from:
     

    By Meso, in Gear,

    Cookie Releases G4 Helmet

    After years of research and design, the Cookie G4 helmet is now available for sale. The full-face helmet is certified to Skydiving and Wind Tunnel Helmet Standard XP S 72-600. To achieve this standard, helmets must pass impact and snag resistance testing.
    New features
    - Ventilation control: The user can now adjust airflow into the helmet using the chin bar actuator (two switches inside the helmet).
    - Additional head coverage: The G4 offers more coverage at the back of the head compared to the G3. This is especially appealing to dynamic tunnel flyers.
    - Quiet: The new design seals the visor to the helmet for a much quieter flying experience.
    - Easy maintenance: The closing mechanism is similar in operation to the G3 but designed to offer little or no maintenance for the life of the helmet.
    - Cool: Two rear ventilation ports allow hot air to leave the helmet and the liner is a breathable material, providing a cooler experience.

    Color and customization options
    The G4 is available for sale in the following matte colors: black, white, dark blue, red, charcoal, tactical green, royal blue, lime green, electric blue, orange, purple, yellow and pink.
    Several side plate color and engraving options are available. The G4 side plate has a slightly larger footprint, ideal for custom engraving. G4 visors are tested and certified for optical qualities. They have an anti-fog inside and anti-scratch outside and are available in clear, tinted, and blue-mirrored colors.
    Sizing
    The G4 is available in sizes x-small through xx-large. Sizing varies slightly from G3,so users should review the sizing chart or try one on before purchase. The G4 retails at $439 USD and is available for purchase at www.flycookie.com or from your favorite Cookie dealer.

    By Administrator, in Gear,

    Reviewing Vertical's Viper Elite

    The amount of suit designs there are to choose from continues to grow, and selecting the right one to meet your needs can be a confounding process. Why are there so dang many and what are they all for?
    The simple truth is there are a lot of ways to fly your body. Our sport is divided by both line-in-the-sand disciplinary boundaries, such as wether-or-not you require booties and grippers to ply your trade - but also on macro levels inside sub-disciplines that have evolved together with the modern freefly scene. The ultimate grail quest of any company that designs suits is surely to come up with something so exquisitely crafted and manufactured that it should eclipse all else, transcending choice altogether by being totally awesome at all the things. The reality is that there is no single combination of pattern and material that serves all areas of a flying career as well as something focused on and aimed at a particular niche. The result of this is it can be difficult to choose one from a toolbox of designs when you are pushing at the edges of you skillset in all directions at the same time - hungry to get good everywhere right now. What you are left with is having to make a wise and honest choice about the kind of suit you really need.
    Up to the point where you might be seriously considering investing multiple jumpsuits to apply where and when you need them, you should be approaching an expensive purchase with practicality in mind. A slinky squeezy suit might be all the rage right now, but if you are continually sinking out on all your mates then you have not chosen wisely. The opposite of this is also true - if you are prioritising the time, money and effort on some quality tunnel time then a fitted design that will help build good technique and feels like a second skin might be just the job. When assessing which suit is best for you, the right kind of eyes are the same ones you should be using to choose a parachute: a smaller, more advanced canopy will not make you a better pilot - the path to success is getting the right thing for where your skills are currently.
    The Viper Elite is a further refinement of Vertical’s flagship Viper template - already previously tweaked into the Viper Pro. While it is possible to simplify these iterations as each being more advanced than the last, to do so would be disservice to the thoughtful work and overall consideration that Vertical have put into their range. If you do find yourself tumbling down the freefly rabbit hole - ultimately reaching the level where you are coaching, competing, or simply flying enough that the only real way forward is to own more than a single suit, then Vertical has all your needs covered, from the specifics of bendy freestyle to powerful lines, static shapes and everything in-between.
    At this point in my flying career I have utilised all the styles and types of suit - from back-in-the-day Talsan bagginess, through the first generations of tunnel-is-a-sport-now rethinks and all the way up to the damn-I-should-eat-less looks of right here and right now. The Viper Elite is my favourite out of all the suits I have owned. This is not because Vertical have created a better suit or some kind of revolutionary design, but because it represents the best intersection of materials and design characteristics with my personal abilities and the specific requirements I have for it. The place that this suit occupies on the spectrum of performance characteristics has, for me, the widest band of usability - it feels equally as good both indoors and under a parachute harness, and I love putting it on either at the dropzone or the tunnel. When flying in either environment, any concessions made to the other are as small as I have encountered - leaving the suit feeling tailored to both the tube and the big blue.
    Pros and Cons
    As stated above - there is no single suit design that covers every aspect of flying. Here is a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of the Viper Elite.
    Spandex: This super stretchy material is at the central compromise between power and mobility, and its use and placement is often the most important consideration when creating a new design. The Viper Elite has spandex in the areas you would expect to see on a pure-bred tunnel suit, with additional panels for underneath where your parachute harness goes. Even the best quality spandex will shift and flap when put under pressure from the wind and in the tunnel you might feel this in a few places at certain angles, but it does allow for full, unrestricted mobility in both environments.
    Squeezy Fit: The closer a suit fits your body, the more you are relying on your true shape to fly. The better you understand how your true shape flies the more graceful you look and feel. The Viper Elite is very much a squeezy suit so all the extra stuff has been removed, such as the mesh lining and any pockets. This is good for the fit of the suit around your body and subsequently your technique, but it does mean you will need to wear some kind of base layer for comfort and find another solution for the things you like to take with you while skydiving - such as your phone, lip balm, bungees, pull ups etc. etc.
    Reinforcements: In line with it’s two Viper siblings, the Elite has Cordura covering the elbows and knees. In an ideal world none of us would ever crash or wear out our suits by dragging our limbs about on various surfaces - like the net or the glass at the tube, the floor/wall/roof of the plane, or whatever your landing area is made of, but we do any they do. The plus here is that the Viper Elite will last longer in those hard-wearing areas than if it was made without Cordura, the minus is that every extra of fabric used in the construction of a suit moves it a little bit away from the actual shape of your body.
    If you, like many, are buried up to the eyeballs in the possibilities of flying your body, and are committed to the rewards of getting it right across both environments - Vertical may well have created the best single tool produced thus far.

    By joelstrickland, in Gear,

    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,

    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,

    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,

    Todd Shoebotham Talks Pilot Chutes

    Todd Shoebotham, Owner and President of Apex BASE, Helps Jumpers Get the Details Right
    Note: This article discusses pilot chutes in a BASE environment and should not be used in relation to skydiving.
    Ah, the pilot chute.
    Our beloved little workhorse, it’s the first thing we take out and the last thing we put in. It gets dragged around. It gets abused. For all the obsessive fawning we do over our canopies, our pilot chutes get surprisingly little love.
    If you’re looking to change that--and learn a little more about the sizes and styles of pilot chutes that you should invite on your BASE jumping adventures--then you’ve come to the right place. We pinned down the inimitable Todd Shoebotham and picked his brain about it in order to share his infinite wisdom with our beloved public. We’re pretty sure you’re going to learn a few things, so lean in and listen!
    1. Keep your fingers out of harm’s way.
    Does your pilot chute have a tube handle? According to Todd, the data suggests that fingers have an uncanny tendency to make their way into that little tunnel at pull time, which can make for some seriously awkward Chinese-finger-trap deployments. “A few people have reported reaching back and going up to the knuckle into the PVC,” Todd says. “Or getting their fingers underneath the handle. When you’re reaching back, that’s certainly not what you want.”
    This problem can be solved in multiple ways. If you do have a PVC-style handle with a potential finger trap, Todd recommends taping over the ends in order to eliminate this possibility. Apex pilot chutes forego the tube for handles that wrap rubberized, textured fabric around a solid foam cylinder.
    “Compared to the old-style PVC handle, this is much lighter, too,” Todd explains, “And that lightness helps the pilot chute get orientated properly.”

    2. Travel with a well-curated collection.
    Since pilot chutes are available in everything from little 32-inch versions to behemoth 52-inchers, it can be challenging to determine what you really need to carry in your gear bag as a traveling jumper. Todd suggests that carrying a quiver of three to four will reliably cover your bases.
    “On the smaller end, we typically set people up with 36-inch pilot chutes,” he explains, “But we still stock the 32s. The 32-inch PC is probably the least-popular one in our range, because we believe they only belong on the lightest parachutes.”
    “We used to see 36s on wingsuit-specific rigs,” Todd adds, “But we’ve been seeing a lot of people with wingsuits favor bigger PCs because of their lower airspeed at deployment.”
    From there, Todd suggests having a 42--”the workhorse in the middle”--which covers your standard Potato Bridge jumping, and a 46- or 48-incher, depending on the size of your canopy, for objects more along the lines of a low cliff or structure.
    If you have a little more room in your luggage and you’re looking to jump a lot of subterminal objects, Todd suggests a 38-inch pilot chute. “Most people aren’t going to be using a 36 or a 38 handheld,” he says. “If you’re in that 5-to-6 second range, it’s a nice pilot chute to have, the 38. It is a slightly different pilot chute. It is not as strong of a pull, but you still have plenty of room there. I might not use it on all 400-foot objects, but definitely on some of them, and it is a little nicer flying with a slightly smaller pilot chute.”
    3. Make adjustments to compensate for your choices.
    According to Todd, there are mistakes to be made here in both directions. On one hand, unnecessarily oversizing is an easy mistake to make. While it’s not necessarily dangerous, it can negatively affect your jump if you don’t keep your delay relative to your PC choice (and create unnecessary distortion to the canopy during extraction, to boot).
    “If you don’t have the appropriate pilot chute for your jump and you don’t adjust your delay accordingly,” Todd says, “You might not like the results. If you were going to extremes in exposing a big pilot chute to a lot of airspeed, you would be stressing out parts of the canopy and your body. For instance: if you should really be using a 42 but you have a 46, you’d better go a little short on this one and enjoy the view from under canopy a little longer rather than taking your normal delay for that jump. I know you don’t want to, but that’s the pilot chute you’ve got.”
    “Also keep in mind,” he continues, “That we have seen peculiar behavior when some large pilot chutes are jumped slider-up. You can get some pretty weird interaction if you do that; the slider just seems more reluctant to come down. Personally, I think it has to do with the distortion that the canopy went through during line stretch; at any rate, we do not recommend it.”
    Take object familiarity into consideration.
    Since larger pilot chutes generally provide snappier openings, Todd asserts that object familiarity is a major factor to consider when choosing a pilot chute.
    “If it is your local object and you’ve really got things dialed in, I can see downsizing,” Todd says. “But if you’re a visiting jumper, you’re going to probably need to treat it a little differently. For example: If all the locals are using a 46, I’ll probably be using a 48 to stack the cards in my favor. If I make enough jumps there to become comfortable with the surroundings, I can see transitioning down to the 46.”
    “At the end of the day,” he insists, “You have to remember: In BASE jumping, really small changes in performance do matter. Make sure you’re prepared.”

    By admin, in Gear,

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