The RSL and Skyhook Debate

    Image by Mike Barta So…you just crushed an 8-way angle jump, stacked tight and flying fast. Damn that feels good. Or maybe it was a Sunday night sunset BFR with all the sky-fam that stuck around till the very end of another awesome weekend at the dropzone. Perfect! Or maybe you’re six jumps into a busy day, flying camera for tandems, and you’ve just finished break-off and are watching that giant tandem wing smack open as you sink away. Whichever it is, if what happens next involves a turbulent mess of canopy flapping and flailing above you, or spinning-you-up violently beneath it, its decision time…and fast.
    But, if you’re anything like me, and find that in that moment your brain is still rapidly processing the various factors in play (as opposed to immediately switching into survival mode and initiating an instinctual, muscle-memory-based set of EPs), it’s possible that one of your first thoughts will be “is my RSL connected”? And, if so, “if I chop this, is my reserve headed directly into this bag of shit as it deploys”?
    I’ve only personally dealt with this scenario twice. The most recent occurred under a rapidly spinning mal while wearing a (small-ish) wingsuit and flying what most would consider an inappropriate canopy for wingsuit skydiving (my bad, I know). And while my canopy choice may have been shameful, I’m not ashamed to say that this experience had my heart rate pounding…but not because of the malfunction. And not even because of the violent spinning and inevitable disorientation. I quickly realized that I hadn’t disconnected my RSL – which I typically do when flying my wingsuit – and was afraid that if I employed my standard emergency procedures my main and my reserve were about to get really friendly with one-another.
    Luckily, that didn’t happen, and I lived to fly another day (under a much safer and more suitable wing I might add). However, since that experience, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about and discussing the use of RSLs and Skyhooks with jumpers of all ages and disciplines, wherever I fly. And while there is no debate that both RSL and Skyhook technology save invaluable time and altitude in many malfunction situations – and there is ample data available to prove just that – their use remains a polarizing issue, with certain skydiving disciplines disproportionately biased for, or against, the use of these now-standard safety features.
    If you don’t believe me (or perhaps had never given it much thought) take a look around the next time you’re at a big dz and take note of who’s using RSLs and who isn’t…and what type of flying it seems like they’re doing. You may be surprised at what you observe. Or, if you’re even braver, try bringing it up around the campfire or at the bar after a few post-jump beverages. Warning: be prepared for the shit-storm you may have just lit.
    At any rate, to better present both sides of this debate, I asked a few friends to share their views and their own reasoning as to why they choose to use, or shun, RSLs and Skyhooks. What follows is a series of brief quotes and explanations from these conversations.
    Justin Price – Justin is a PD Factory Team member, a Flight 1 instructor, and a world-class canopy pilot who competes at the pinnacle of the sport.
    JP: “I think the Skyhook and RSL are great backup devices for the everyday skydiver. However, if you are jumping a highly loaded canopy (2.8 range or higher) having a skyhook could lead to some unforeseen malfunctions. I don't believe the manufacturers have done any real testing with canopies loaded this much having spinning malfunctions with the Skyhook. I have seen 1 skyhook reserve deployment from a spinning canopy loaded around 3.0 where an entanglement could be present.”

    Image by Mike McGowen Think about the configuration of a skyhook deployment, you have the malfunctioning canopy at the apex attached to the bridle with a free bag, still with the locking stows, on one side of the bridle and the spring loaded pilot chute on the other side. Now as the spinning main is deploying the system there seems to be the possibility of the main spinning violently enough to have the reserve pilot chute wrap underneath the free bag trapping the locking stow from coming out. So until some real testing has been done proving that this is not possible I’m not going to be the first skydiver to have that malfunction while doing hop n pops or if jumping something loaded that high.”
    Sandy Grillet – Sandy is a very prominent sales rep for UPT, who’s also recognized to be among the best belly organizers in the biz. He has decades in the sport and his skydiving resume speaks for itself.
    Sandy: “OK - in the last 5 years I lost two really good friends because they had the same thoughts as you. One of them had a spinner out of control and before he could get cutaway hit another jumper under canopy. He ended up cutting away still high enough to get a reserve but not high enough to reactivate his AAD. He pulled just high enough to go-in at line stretch. We believe the body-to-body collision under canopy dazed him enough to slow his reflexes on both the cutaway and the reserve pull.

    Image by Henrik Csuri The sad thing is that he and I had an hour long conversation about Skyhooks and RSLs 10 days before. The guy he hit was another friend of ours and he is convinced a Skyhook would have saved him. I've lost a lot of friends over the years but that one was tough to wrap my mind around.
    I truly believe that if more people understood the physics behind what happens during normal cutaways without RSLs - cutaways with normal RSLs and then cutaways with Skyhooks - everyone would use them. As you said, it’s personal preference. I would be happy to have another conversation with you to give my perspective of the physics.”
    Scotty Bob – Scotty likely needs very little introduction. His exploits in wingsuit BASE are accessible and heavily viewed online by skydivers, BASE jumpers, and whuffos alike. And his current involvement with wingsuit skydive coaching (both as a load organizer, private coach, and now most recently with Squirrel’s ‘Next Level’ program) has him bouncing from one dz to the next – along with his crew of usual suspects – to help raise the next generation of little birdies right.

    Image by Dan Dupuis Scotty: “They are a great idea, and have definitely added to the safety net, especially for younger jumpers. That being said, their use should not be mandatory due to the ever changing aspects of our sport. The option to be in direct control of one’s emergency procedures from start to finish should be in the hands of each individual jumper, not a blanket rule.

    I currently do not use an RSL. I want to activate my reserve opening with my reserve handle. Just a personal preference.”
    Anthony TJ Landgren – TJ is an all-around badass. There is very little at which he doesn’t excel in the worlds of canopy sport and body-flight. He’s an OG swooper, a wingsuit ninja, an elite tunnel coach, and now a highly sought-after XRW guru.
    TJ: “Over the years a lot of people asked me would I, or have I ever, jumped with an RSL? My answer is yes I have jumped an RSL, but only for 1000 jumps or so. I had an RSL back when I jumped a Sabre. I was told that RSLs are great when you are new in the sport and as an extra safety precaution.
    Once I started jumping a Stiletto, I was told they can cause more harm than good. Stilettos were the first fully elliptical canopy and they were awesome. The only problem was that if you got line twist it was a bitch to get out of them because the canopy will dive and pick up more speed. I had a really low chop when I had 2000 jumps on a stiletto 135, I was spinning hard once I cut away I needed to get away from the canopy and open my reserve. I was so happy not to have an RSL because two weeks prior to that my friend Cris cut away a stiletto 150 with an RSL and he had 4 line twist on his reserve and barely time to get out of his reserve line twist before hitting the ground. That's when I knew I would never use an RSL ever again.

    Image by Raymond Adams I believe in pulling a bit higher so that I have more time to deal with a malfunctioning parachute. I feel RSLs and Skyhooks give people false security in pulling low, which I try to avoid. I was told that when dealing with a malfunction: check your altitude, deal with the situation, and always have hard deck that you know you can't fix this malfunctioning parachute and it's time to get rid of it.
    I have 16 cutaways in over 26,000 jumps and 1 was an RSL save (not by choice).
    I Believe people that have over 1000 jumps or jump a high performance canopy should really think about whether an RSL is going to help, or if it will only make things worse. I hope this help you to make an educated decision about RSLs and Skyhooks.”
    Will McCarthy – Will is the closest thing here to an “average” skydiver. Although, having grown up on a dz, and grown into the DZO of my favorite dropzone in Canada (Skydive Gananoque), he’s been around the sport long enough to know and have seen a thing or two. Most days, Will is hucking drogues and/or flying camera, but he’s done it all over the years – from AFFI, to belly big-ways, to wingsuit, to CRW and swooping.
    Will: “As a DZO and our S&TA;, my reply is always, it depends. For people learning to skydive, including tandem students, I think they're a great legal out, as in "we use every piece of safety equipment available". And if you're going to use an RSL, spend the extra money and get a MARD/Skyhook. For experienced skydivers, I personally feel that the use of an RSL or MARD/Skyhook system unintentionally promotes complacency.

    Image by Justin Dempsey The number of times I've personally seen an incorrectly routed/assembled RSL leads me to believe that the complacency is getting worse. People are afraid of doing anything to their gear, (assembly or even packing it, in a lot of cases) and a blind faith in the technology increases the risk that when something outside a "normal" malfunction occurs, it won't be handled correctly.
    I don't use one unless I'm jumping a tandem rig. But we also don't allow them to be used on paid camera slots or CRW jumps, either.”
    My final thoughts on this reflect much of what was said above. Both of my rigs have an RSL because I like to have the option of using it for specific types of jumping. While I hate to admit it, there are certain jumps where I know that I’m going to be pulling lower than usual – flying my tracking suit solo on a hop-and-pop is one such example. And in situations like that, where I’m under a Sabre 150 and feel pretty confident that it’s not gonna spin-up-on-me or toss-me-around violently, I like the comfort of knowing that if I do have to chop, my RSL will likely save me some valuable altitude. However, when I slap on the big wingsuit, I feel far less comfortable having the RSL connected. In that instance, I make sure to disconnect it and secure it (safely and correctly) to the cable housing. Also, as TJ similarly pointed out, I’ll be deliberately pulling higher on big wingsuit flights so that I have ample altitude to deal with, and separate myself from, any malfunctions that might arise.
    Hopefully reading this will have given you cause to consider where you’re at in your own jumping – taking into account an honest self-assessment of your level of skills and experience – but also your specific discipline(s) of choice and, thus, what makes the most sense for you. To borrow a mantra from wingsuit BASE, a safe-bet for many styles of jumping is fly fast and pull high. If you can abide by those two tenets, regardless of your choice as to whether or not to use an RSL, you’ll be all-the-better for it.
    Stay safe folks.

    By admin, in Gear,

    Hybrid Valkyrie Available Now!

    “Performance Designs has once again raised the bar. The flight characteristics seem even sharper than my standard Valkyrie. The canopy has amazing acceleration with complete confidence in the power of the rears or toggles to change directions or level out if needed. If you are serious about your chosen discipline and serious about canopy choice, for me, there is no better swoop machine to allow you to maximize both freefall and canopy time.” - Brian Vacher
    You love your Valkyrie. You've been jumping her for the past two years. She gives you the buttery smooth openings, with the responsiveness and power you crave! Now you're wanting more...and we're ready to give it to you!
    Introducing the Hybrid Valkyrie - everything you love about the Valkyrie but more. We incorporated sail fabric into the Valkyrie's ribs to give her more power, more responsiveness and longer swoops than an all ZP constructed Valkyrie. Think of her as a "Valkyrie on steroids" with more sensitivity in the harness and more stopping power than ever before. Available as an option when purchasing your next custom wing, the sail ribs are a great addition for the seasoned Valkyrie owner. And it gets even better, the Hybrid Valkyrie option is only $100.
    When choosing between the all ZP and Hybrid Valkyrie, keep in mind that the sail ribs will increase pack volume by about a half size in comparison to the all ZP Valkyrie. The overall lifespan of the canopy is similar to that of an all ZP wing.

    Photo by: Wolfgang Lienbacher The Hybrid Valkyrie is available to order now, contact your dealer and get your custom Hybrid Valkyrie ordered.
    Demos and stock canopies will be available in the coming weeks.

    Flight Characteristics and FAQs available here.

    By karlm, in Gear,

    Introducing the PD Horizon - The easy ‘off button’ to end your wingsuit flight

    The wait is over! No one is more excited than we are here at Performance Designs. After years of development, hard work, and dedication we are delighted to announce our first wingsuit specific canopy, Horizon, is ready to order.
    In 2013 Performance Designs began development on a wing with emphasis on eliminating deployment problems caused by the large burble of wingsuits without sacrificing a great flare or responsive handling. When you have been making canopies as long as we have here at Performance Designs, this process is always evolving. The one thing that never changes is our high standard for quality, performance, and our focus on providing excellent products to everyone in our skydiving community.
    The result, we think the Horizon has the best openings and the best landing power of any canopy in its class! Best of all the Horizon gives you the ability to upsize as many as two full sizes compared to a non-crossbraced ZP main. This means you can fit a larger canopy in your existing rig for wingsuit jumps. No need for a new container!
    The Horizon features

    7 cell construction
    Hybrid ZP and low-bulk 30 denier fabric
    consistent and reliable openings
    efficient glide when it counts
    responsive handling and a powerful flare
    slider presentation snaps
    HMA or Vectran Lines
    packs 1-2 sizes smaller than a similar ZP main
    Introductory Retail Price- $2100
    Available in sizes 120-135-150-170-190 Horizon’s openings are stress free and comfortable, but they don't eat up a lot of altitude. Although this canopy was not designed to win any swoop meets, the response in flight is quite a pleasant surprise. With its agile response to control inputs, the Horizon is a joy to fly. It has a fairly long control range with excellent slow flight characteristics. Its dynamic response to braked flight turning inputs makes it an excellent canopy to conserve altitude as you fly back home from a long spot. The Horizon continues to uphold the landing performance that Performance Designs customers have come to expect. With a quick response to proper flare input it is easy to predict the “sweet spot” for a nice easy shutdown no matter what the wind is doing.
    Pack volume has been reduced significantly by combining our proprietary low-bulk fabric technology with our well known Zero-P fabric. In fact, the Horizon typically packs two(2) sizes smaller than a similar non-cross braced ZP main. The incredibly small pack volume easily facilitates easy upsizing for safety.
    In short, the Horizon is an easy off button to transition from wingsuit flight to canopy flight stress free.

    Pablo Hernandez landing at Skydive Dubai.
    Photo by: Ivan Semenyaka  
    Do you have any questions? We might have some answers below!
    When can I get one?
    A: We will be accepting orders from PD’s Authorized Dealers as of today! (May 10th 2017). Standard production time will apply to the Horizon. These lead times are posted on the PD website at www.performancedesigns.com
    How do I buy one?
    The Horizon will be sold through PD’s Authorized dealer network. Interested customers should contact their local dealer to discuss if this canopy is right for them.
    Can I jump this without my wingsuit?
    We can’t tell you what to do with your canopy. Most people like the way the Horizon opens in freefall at terminal speeds when properly configured and packed. However, in order to get the most bang from your buck we recommend saving the Horizon for its intended wingsuiting purpose.
    How long will this canopy last?
    Putting a specific number on the lifespan of any canopy is quite difficult as it is impossible to consider all of the ever-changing variables that affect that canopy. A person who does 1000 jumps a year will go through equipment a lot faster than a person who does 100 jumps a year…and that is just one small piece of the puzzle. Our proprietary low-permeability, low-bulk fabric has proven to be more forgiving when subjected to the wake turbulence of a wingsuit deployment. We have added ZP to the center top skin and across the leading edge to enhance the performance and longevity of the Horizon. However, it does not possess the same durability that a canopy constructed of all ZP material would have. Following our recommendations for wing loading and taking the proper care of your equipment will go a long way toward getting the most out of your wing. With proper care the Horizon should bring you joy and happiness for several hundred jumps.
    What size should I buy?
    The fabrics utilized in the Horizon’s construction are part of what make this canopy so well suited for wingsuit skydiving. Because the characteristics of this fabric combination are different from traditional ZP, jumping a Horizon that is too small or loaded too high could demand a little more from the canopy pilot to ensure comfortable landings (when compared to an all ZP canopy in a similar size and design). Size your Horizon one (1) or 2 (two) sizes BIGGER than the smallest ZP canopy you are comfortable with.

    Roberta Mancino flying over Perris Valley Skydiving.
    Photo by: Sebastian Alvarez  
    Your Wing Loading is also a critical factor in the performance of your Horizon canopy.
    Check out our Wing Loading chart on the Horizon page of our website.
    When considering what size wing is best for you, the size of the reserve in the container that you intend to use should also be strongly considered.
    It is always advisable to consult a certified wingsuit coach/ instructor when selecting a canopy to optimize your wingsuiting experience. For more information visit the Horizon page on our website www.performancedesigns.com
    Additional Information:
    Horizon Packing Manual

    Horizon Flight Characteristics

    Horizon FAQs

    By karlm, in Gear,

    Introducing UPT's Mutant Swoop Rig

    The Mutant is a purpose-built swoop harness and container system that is a swooping game changer!
    Designed by Vince Reffet and Blikkies Blignaut, the Mutant is significantly different than a standard sport rig. The risers connect at the hips, similar to that of a speed flying harness, and control is initiated more by weight input than toggle pressure. The laid back, supine position of the pilot reduces drag which ensures a super long and fast swoop.
    This innovation significantly changes the flying dynamics of the canopy which means the Mutant is not suitable for all flyers. Jumping the Mutant requires training and a high level of experience; those with speed flying harness experience will realize an easier transition than those with no supine harness experience.

    Here's what some of the early testers have to say about the Mutant:
    It only took me a few seconds under canopy to realize that the increase in performance with the Mutant was phenomenal.
    The performance envelope is increased and the sensitivity through the harness is shocking. After a couple of jumps I up-sized to give me time to get used to the increased in control.
    I feel like the harness adds another dimension to the canopy, like it's on steroids!
    -Pete Allum

    The biggest benefit from flying a MUTANT harness is that you can control your pitch angle just by using weight shift , there is no need to pull the front risers to dive neither to use the rear risers to recover if done right, just leaning forward makes you dive and leaning backwards helps you to recover with less wing distortion as you barely apply any input on the rears.
    -Pablo Hernandez

    This harness is so awesome! It is the most comfortable harness period.
    It's the next step up in high performance parachute flying. Relearning to fly using the hip attachments is fun and challenging. The mutant harness automatically makes you feel like you just down-sized. It turns your katana into a velocity and velo into a peregrine.
    -Jarrett Martin

    "I think the name says it all :D Mutant. A hybrid between a paragliding harness and a skydiving one. I have been intrigued by it since the first time I heard about it and when I saw it I realized it is the obvious step ahead. It is very fun to fly but because it is so different, we will have to relearn and redefine a lot of what we know about swooping. The skydivers with a paragliding/speedflying background will have an easier transition to it. I am excited to figure it out even though I know it might take me some time. It is definitely worth the effort. The next generation of skydiving harnesses is finally here!"
    -Cornelia Mihai

    My bro and teammate Vince Reffet has been working on it for a long time and I can only thank him for putting all these efforts into it!! This harness is a door open to a new era of skydiving, it's been a long time that I didn't have that much fun under canopy!!! I did a lot of speed riding and paragliding and the mutant is a way to get the power of the canopy control that you can have under a paragliding wing but in skydiving! such a blast to go from a position that is standing up to seating and then be able to use the weight to move so fast and so powerful!! it is really a new world. thank you vine and thank you UPT!!!
    -Fred Fugen

    Stay tuned for updates about the Mutant release.

    By admin, in Gear,

    Safire 3 - Jill Grantham's First Impressions

    Jill Grantham is a travelling gypsy from Australia with 1900 jumps and 12 years in the sport. She has hair like Rapunzel, a penchant for lords and ladies and is as sweet as her favorite candy.
    What is your canopy flying experience?
    I have historically been a consistently terrible canopy pilot due to low confidence (slid in on my butt for 11years). Before I got Lady Safina (my new Safire 3 129 from NZ Aerosports) I was flying a Safire2 139, for 800 jumps. I have now done about 150 jumps on Lady Safina at a bunch of different dz’s with weather etc. But I am loving flying this canopy.
    Lady Safina, how I love thee, let me count the ways:
    Amazing flare! No matter what sort of things I do with regards to my landings (I’m currently learning to do a front riser approach) there is always a good enough flare to stand me up. This is giving me the confidence to try and progress to higher speed landings rather than straight ins and not worry about getting dumped if I come out too high.
    Slightly easier to get on the front risers
    Slightly faster opening than the Safire 2, which is not too fast and helpful to not be hanging up a slow opening canopy in amongst traffic.
    More responsive to harness turns.
    Feels more solid in bumpy wind conditions
    Heaps and heaps of range to get back with the rears from a long spot.
    Plus she is really pretty. Is there anything you don’t like about the Safire 3, sorry, Lady Safina?
    She is a Beta test canopy that was built for me before the Safire 3 was released to the public. I was having inconsistent openings to begin with. After filming some openings and sending some feedback a mod was made to mine and all subsequent Safire 3 models - and now she opens great!
    What do you notice different in the Safire 3 to your previous Safire 2?
    I feel like the Safire 3 is just overall more responsive. I definitely feel like I am more in control and can actively fly her. We work together a bit more. With the Safire 2 I felt more like a passenger. Could have been the difference in size a little too of course!
    The rears are better for getting back from a long spot and the fronts are a bit easier to get on than the Safire 2. She still pulls out of a dive pretty quickly - you can’t hold the fronts down too long before they’re pulled out of your hands.
    Who is the Safire 3 suitable for in your opinion?
    I think she is suitable for beginner and intermediate canopy pilots. Especially good if you are a bit nervous or don’t want to push it, you can have a lovely safe easy flight to the ground.
    You have heaps of range to set yourself up in the pattern, which helps you not become cornered by having too small or too big a canopy...and if you don’t want to do much other than float down softly it will allow you to do that.
    If you do want to start flying it more, and seeing what you can do with it, then it is a really responsive wing and awesome to try out some new things on. But because the flare is so good it doesn't matter soooo much if you don’t nail the landings while you’re learning, because the canopy sort of fixes your little mistakes up :)
    What's the main benefit or advantage to you personally of having a Safire 3 rather than another canopy?
    Aside from her being the prettiest Lady I have seen?
    When I’m flying her I feel comfortable enough that I can choose what is appropriate for the situation and group and fly her how I need to to be safe and keep everyone else safe too.
    The increased responsiveness and flare have made me confident to try more when flying her.
    She has really changed my attitude towards skydiving. I feel more in control of how I am flying her rather than feeling a little bit exposed to the elements. She is basically all those empowering girl songs in canopy form!.
    ** Jill Grantham received early access to the pre-released version of the Safire 3 gratis from New Zealand Aerosports. The article above was Jill's unpaid opinion on her experience with the canopy.

    By admin, in Gear,

    The Slickest Rigs From PIA 2017

    Each year some of the manufacturers show off some unique and exciting rig designs at PIA, sometimes these rigs are actually able to be put into use, while others are simply demo rigs to show off some really cool design concepts.
    This year saw a couple of really awesome looking rigs, with a transparent rig from Sun Path and an amazing "steam punk" rig from the guys at United Parachute Technologies.
    United Parachute Technologies

    Sun Path

    Which of these rigs would you most like to be flying?

    By admin, in Gear,

    The ProTrack II - A Detailed Look

    With the release of the new ProTrack 2 we have a look at exactly how many more things it offers.

    ProTrack II Design When falling through the sky it is not only a jolly good idea to have a little gizmo the beeps in your ear to remind you to do stuff - in many situations it is mandatory. For some people the simplest set of warnings are sufficient - one distinct electronic chirrup for each of break-off and deployment, then an angry screechy one for being lower than is safely acceptable/possibly getting told off about what you just did. However, even the most rudimentary electronic devices now come packaged with a tiny computers buried inside that have enough computational power to perform orbital mechanics and help serve the purpose of pacifying your life’s need to do anything much other than binge watch old episodes of Deep Space Nine on Netflix.
    Original ProTrack Design I bought an original ProTrack as my first set of beeps back in 2007 as I am a big nerd and it was the most fanciest audible altimeter available. I remember being tremendously excited about how it allowed me to download the accumulated digital data from my skydives and then produce graphs from the correlated information to share on my MySpace page - thus proving beyond all doubt I was both cooler and smarter than the people who laughed at me in school for my ongoing interest in toy soldiers.
    Technology moves fast and our insatiable appetite for mobile phones that do more and more has led to some mind-boggling miniaturisation in our daily lives. We are now very used to tiny electronic doodads with little screens that do many things. So - we some beeps to remind us of a few important things in freefall, but how much more is it possible or necessary to do with an audible altimeter if we apply the technology we have available now?
    With this update of the ProTrack, what Larsen and Brusgaard have done is smoosh together the features of the original device with those of their flagship audible altimeter - the Quattro - then sprinkle it with some modern goodness that we recognise from things we see every day in phones and such.
    If we break it down the ProTrack 2 can be divided into categories as follows:
    Things ProTrack Did Already:
    Mass Storage: It records the details of your jumps. Including accumulated freefall time, which is nice - especially if you find adding up units of time a pain in the ass.
    Connectivity: There is much to be said for a digital record of you achievements. A meticulously crafted pen and ink logbook is beautiful artefact of your skydiving career (and still a requirement for advancement in many places), but equally splendid in a different way is a lovingly curated online adventure zone that enjoys all the fruits of modern computing.
    Exit/Deployment Altitude: With time one learns that the altitude advertised by a Dropzone is not always what you get. Many variables determine your precise altitude when you are when you are in the right place to get out of the plane and mostly it is not a big deal. It is nice to have proof if you find you are getting fleeced though.

    Things The Quattro Does That The ProTrack 2 Does Too:
    Low Speed Warnings: These are the swoop alarms we know and love. They are programmed to register low freefall speeds too, which can be right useful if you are into complex wingsuit flocking where they can be set to signal points along a flight path or breaking into groups or stuff like that.
    Beeps Going Up: Having settings to signal certain altitudes in the plane is a convenience that can be beneficial. Efficiency with your jump preparations leads to safer and better skydive and good awareness is crucial.
    Always On: You don’t have to remember to switch it on and off. Unless you want to.
    New Things The ProTrack 2 Does Now:
    Micro USB: Which seems so normal but is new and exciting as the old model came with a cradle thingy that had required you to have a serial port (a serial port?) or, for Mac users - some kind of laborious solution. The JumpTrack software offered by Larsen and Brusgaard has been around a good while and although due for an overhaul it is still used around the world.
    Live Jump Playback: With 2MB of internal flash memory the unit is able to replay the speed profile of your jump in real time. (Approximately 200 jumps with 2 minute profiles or 26 jumps with 15 minute profiles). If you are prepared to put in some effort (like watching side-by-side with video) there are things you can learn from this.
    Economy Mode: These devices don’t use very much energy and if you get the batteries from somewhere sensible instead of a dropzone shop then they don’t cost very much. However, If your jumping is random or infrequent then the ability to actually switch it off properly means your battery will last a while longer. A modest boon, but nice if you gain satisfaction from managing the small things.

    Useful but very 90s looking software. Note the attached videos and images While there are undoubtably people out there who just desire some beeps that beep at the right time and nothing much else, devices like the ProTrack 2 offer extra information that can be very valuable for those that are inclined to manage and study it. Skydiving represents a huge investment in your own skill and experience, and the ability to analyse accurate, reliable data relating to trends in your performance is another way of squeezing a little a little more from your jumps.

    By admin, in Gear,

    What's New - The Latest Gear at PIA 2017

    We're at the PIA symposium this year, scouting out what the manufacturers have lined up for release this year, and we've managed to grab some images to show you what has just arrived on the market and what is coming soon. Check out the following items and let us know in the comments section which ones you're most likely going to be picking up once they hit the shelves.
    Alti-2 - Chronos

    Cookie Composites - M3

    Larsen & Brusgaard - Pro-Track II

    Sun Path - Aurora

    Airtec GmbH - Wingsuit Cypres

    By admin, in Gear,

    Preventing Camera Snags

    Image by Ralph Turner
    Remember when getting a camera onto your helmet required power tools, soldering irons, hot knives and makeshift camera mounts? Um--probably not.
    It wasn’t so long ago, really, that you had to have access to a workshop to get a camera on your head. Back then they were, like, really big, too. And it was obvious that cameras were problems waiting to happen. Those behemoths could--and regularly did--snap the stuffin’ out of the jumpers’ necks, making jumpers literally painfully aware that the camera posed additional safety considerations.
    With the advent of the GoPro, jumping with a camera started to seem, well, obvious. Just peel off the little sticker on the mount, slap it somewhere on your helmet, clip in the little plastic doohickey and away you go. Set it and forget it! You won’t even know it’s there!
    ...until it decides to get all uppity and grab a handful of your lines at an inopportune moment, that is.
    Here are the key questions you oughta be asking yourself before you end up in a spiderweb of your own making.
    1. Should I even be jumping this thing?
    The USPA actually recommends that you be the proud bearer of a C license before you jump a camera, and that you’ve jumped everything else on your person at least 50 times before. If that causes you to make a big, exasperated noise, consider this: your overall bodyflight and canopy skills need to be beyond reproach before you add the risks and distractions of a camera.
    2. What am I actually going to do if it all goes pear-shaped?
    You’ll need to make a decision about what the exact steps you’ll take if part of your system ends up snagged on your camera. Go through the individual components: bridle, pilot chute, lines, etc. Talk to your S&TA; about these details to check your intuition.
    Perhaps, if your helmet allows, you’ll fit it with a cutaway system so your helmet doesn’t impede your life-saving efforts. That said: Talk to someone who has actually had to use a quick-release chinstrap setup under duress. Yes, it’s great that they exist. No, they are not failsafe.
    If you don’t install a cutaway system, you’re going to have to be able to get that helmet off your head yourself. This is, suffice it to say, not the easiest thing to do while spinning and plummeting and stuff.
    If you’re convinced your flimsy-seeming little mount will pop right off when it counts, think again. It seems that, at least when you don’t want them to come off, those GoPro mounts are tougher than they look. (A lot tougher.)
    3. What’s it worth to me to buy a safer mount?
    The free mounts that come with your camera have that one thing going for ‘em: They are, y’know, free. You don’t have to buy anything else. They are gratis. No more exchange of funds involved.
    Free, however, sometimes isn’t the way to go.
    As ubiquitous as they have become, the venerable GoPro was not invented for skydiving. Check out the array of sky-specific aftermarket mounts that aim to eliminate that looming snag hazard. Ask the camera flyers you admire what mounts they prefer (and why).
    4. Can I anti-snag myself in the absence of after-market parts?
    If you just don’t see yourself buying an alternative mount, you shouldn’t just throw up your hands and leave it to the fates. You should still make the effort to reduce your snag hazards. The SIM has some advice for industrious DIYers:
    All edges and potential snag areas should be covered, taped or otherwise protected.
    Necessary snag points on helmet-mounted cameras should at least face away from the deploying parachute.
    A pyramid shape of the entire camera mounting system may deflect lines better than an egg shape.
    Deflectors can help protect areas that can’t be otherwise modified to reduce problems.
    All gaps between the helmet and equipment, including mounting plates, should be taped or filled (hot glue, etc.).
    Protrusions, such as camera sights, should be engineered to present the least potential for snags.
    Ground testing should include dragging a suspension line over the camera assembly to reveal snag points. That last one is key, so I’ve gone ahead and put that sucker in bold.
    5. What’s my decision altitude?
    There is very little in this life that’s more distracting than getting a dangly brake line looped around your helmet camera and whipping into a brutal spin. The wha huh OH CRAP OH NO moment turns into GET IT OFF GET IT OFF GET IT OFF and, before you know it, your dytter is giving you the business.
    So: it’s a smart idea to bump your deployment altitude up a little big to give you more time to extricate yourself. More variables require more buffer and, make no mistake, that light little fluff of a sports camera is an additional variable to be reckoned with.
    6. Is this thing going to put me on the facepalm-inducing-incidents list?
    ...Because that, at the end of the day, is a more important question than “is it on?”

    By nettenette, in Gear,

    Performing a Great Wingsuit Gear Check (The Easy Way)

    Let me ask you this: When was the last time that you saw the pilot running down a safety checklist on the jump plane?

    Photographer: BatCam
    If you’re paying attention, you certainly have--or at least seen the clipboard stuffed somewhere in the cockpit, lookin’ official.
    Metal-tube pilots have an actual checklist to run down to confirm the safety of the gear that heaves us all up into the sky. That’s a great idea -- it’s a reasonably complicated system, and a checklist ensures that nothing’s being forgotten.
    Now: when have you ever seen a nylon pilot with a clipboard and a pen, spinning briskly around in front of a mirror and checking things off? Yeah--never. Even though a wingsuit has lots of little safety details that need to be confirmed before every flight, our before-takeoff checklist exists only in our heads--and it’s significantly more complicated than a standard skydiving gear check.
    Let’s make that checklist a little easier to remember, hey? A gear check should be a mantra. Here’s the abbreviated checklist to add to your “standard” skydiving gear check:
    The Four-Three Wingsuit Check

    3 Checks
    3 Straps
    3 Handles
    3 Zeroes
    Here’s what it means.
    Three Checks
    This will be familiar to any skydiver, since it’s been a recommendation since the dawn of the sport: you should perform a pre-flight gear check three times. Perform one in the hangar, one before hoppin’ on the plane and one before you exit. Also: Never underestimate the value of another pair of eyeballs during this process.
    Three Straps
    Two leg straps and one chest strap are the only things that keep us skydivers from being skyfallers. All wingsuits cover up two-thirds of those vital bits of webbing; some wingsuits (in BASE mode) obscure the chest strap as well*. As you might imagine, fatalities--and many close calls--have resulted.
    Check them with your eyeballs before you’re zipped in. Some suits fit snugly enough that the straps seem tightened when they’re not (gulp!), and once those straps are out of sight, they can easily slip out of mind. After you’re zipped in, you can check your legs by lifting your shoulders and feeling for the pull of the leg straps.
    Three Handles
    Make sure you know exactly where all three of your handles are, and that they’ll be available to you while you’re flying. Your cutaway and reserve handles must be readily accessible and visible to you in flight -- so make sure your suit is fitted and attached in a way that puts those handles on proud display.
    Switching from BOC to leg pouch? Switching from leg pouch to BOC? Best be damn sure you know which one you’re wearing.
    Three Zeros
    Zero Holes
    When you’re fully zipped in, every zipper on the suit should be zipped and every cable should be properly routed. If a zipper is down, you’re in for a rodeo.
    Your wingsuit closure zippers aren’t the casual affair at the front of your pants, either, my friends. Check: Are the female and male ends mated properly so that each tooth of the zipper alternates? This is checked at the fitting end of the zipper. If that’s not done properly, you risk losing that wing in flight (or potentially shifting the zipper during deployment, which can cause jamming and possible damage).
    Eminent wingsuit athlete and coach Matt Blank has additional advice. “I have my students zip their arms all the way closed,” he explains, “Then touch their handles and then open both arm zippers. This insures that the clothing they have on under their suit does not inhibit the student from reaching his or her handles--or is a risk for being caught in zippers if they need to rapidly unzip after deployment.”
    Look at your pressure zippers, too. Are the pressure relief zippers in the appropriate place for the flight, and symmetrical from arm to arm? For beginner flight, we quite often unzip the pressure zippers, which naturally comes at a cost to performance. As we advance in the sport, we may zip them partially closed or closed all the way. In either case, check for symmetry. If one arm is zipped differently than the opposite, the suit will have an asymmetric inflation--causing an unbalanced flight.

    Image submitted by bruno.ferrazza
    Zero Dangles
    Check for dangly anything: cables, webbing, half-stowed pilot chutes, camera bits, etc. As a rule, dangly bits are bad.
    Oh. and another thing: Never disconnect your RSL for wingsuit jumps. Take it from Richard Webb, one of the discipline’s most experienced and respected athletes (as well as the founder of the science-forward, no-nonsense human flight information source Top Gun BASE).
    “I've been saved by an RSL when my reserve pillow got sucked into my wingsuit on a spinning malfunction,” Webb explains. “It literally saved my life. I didn't have an AAD at the time. Now, I will never wingsuit without an RSL. Ever. I strongly endorse RSL use for all wingsuit ops. The data is conclusive. Even on spinning malfunctions on tiny cross-braced canopies, RSLs and Skyhooks work remarkably well at getting you under an inflated reserve safely with minimal line twists.”
    Zero on Your Altitude Indicators
    Make sure your AAD is on (and reads zero), as well as your other altitude indicators -- and that you can see your visual alti while you’re in flight mode.
    If you wingsuit with an AAD, you need to know this: most AADs will not fire at even modest wingsuit speeds. That said, they have saved wingsuit pilots who got little-bunny-foo-food on the way down, so don’t let that dissuade you from turning yours on.
    The Rest of the Recipe
    A good gear check requires that you know your gear. As a wingsuit pilot, it falls on you to become intimately familiar with the design, operation and function of the suit you’re whizzing around in. If you’re checking your flocking buddy and you’re not familiar with his/her particular equipment, ask. (If your buddy doesn’t seem to know what the hell he/she is wearing, take that as a warning.)
    Allow your intuition some room to breathe, here. Check for a comfortable range of motion, that the configuration makes sense to you and that you feel good in the suit. You can rest assured that if you don’t feel good in the suit, you’re not going to have a good time.
    *Sound confusing? Yeah. Well. It is. Wingsuit design varies widely by brand and model--sometimes, with some manufacturers, even within the model. Wingsuits are often built to be configured differently, depending on the jump specs, the container design, pilot preference and--I dunno--current mood. You are likely going to have questions. Ask them of your mentors and the manufacturer of your suit.

    By nettenette, in Gear,