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Gear

    How To Clean Your Container

    A Spa Day For Your Skydiving Rig
    Image by Andrey Veselov Charlie Chaplin has nothing on you. That landing was nothing less than *art*.
    You managed to use that doofus downwind setup to milk every last opportunity for comedy out of your return to earth. You nailed the exaggerated “uh-oh” expression. You executed the perfect shortbus flare. You transitioned majestically from a banana-peel touchdown to a ten-foot skid through the one spot of mud in the landing area.
    You, my friend, are awesome.
    Now, you’re going to have a nice laundry day. Here’s how.
    Wait for it.
    If you’ve managed to drag your beautiful gear through the mud, you’re going to have to stare at it in shame for a while before you make a move. Wait for it to dry completely -- which may take a couple of days -- then scrub off what you can with a dry brush.
    Take it apart.
    Remove both canopies from the rig. (Do this after performing a practice reserve deployment -- as you always do before a repack, right?) Remove your AAD from the rig. Remove all hardware: reserve handles, risers, RSL, hook knife, etc. If you’re not comfortable doing this yourself, ask for help from a rigger.
    Treat your rig like a dog.
    ...or, at least, like you’re administering a doggie bathtime. Gather a big plastic tub, gentle detergent (such as Woolite or castile soap) and a nylon scrub brush. Fill the tub about halfway with lukewarm -- not hot -- water. Dunk your empty rig and agitate it in the soapy water, but don’t let it sit and soak. After the container is fully saturated, go at it with your scrubber. Repeat the dunk-and-shake cycle. Once your rig is good and scrubbed, empty the tub and refill it with soapless, lukewarm water. Dunk and dunk and dunk, emptying and refilling the tub as necessary, until not even the tiniest hint of soap remains. (Dried-on soap is a filth magnet.)
    ...Or treat your rig like fine lingerie.
    You can machine-wash a rig, but you’d better make sure you act like it’s a set of ridiculously fancy, spendy underthings. (Ridiculously fancy, spendy underthings with hip rings, of course, that need to be strapped up with athletic tape to keep them from denting the inside of your machine…) Put your empty, hardwareless, Velcro-mated rig in a mesh laundry bag and run it with gentle detergent on the delicate cycle.
    String it up.
    Hang your wet skydiving container in a dry place that isn’t exposed to direct sunlight. As you get it set up, straighten every flap and fold to prevent wrinkles from locking in. Keep tabs untucked. If your rig has Cadmium hardware, you’ll need to do a thorough hand-drying pass with a towel at the very beginning to prevent rust.
    Stop time.
    Okay. You can’t stop time. You can, however, encourage the time between cleanings to maybe slow down a little bit.
    After your rig is spotlessly, white-glove-test-ready, make-your-mama-proud clean -- and as dry as the beer truck at the end of the Skydive Arizona Christmas Boogie -- you can apply a single coating of fabric protection, such as Scotchgard, to shield it against redirtying. Check the manufacturer’s recommendation for application before you get all spray-happy. That said, the general advice is to apply three whisper-light coats of protectant, making sure each coat is dry before applying a new one. Make sure you do this in a well-ventilated area (lest you waterproof your lungs).
    Get out, damned spot.
    Keep a baggie of stain-removing wipes in your skydiving gear kit. They’re a lifesaver for little oopsies.
    Take a canopy course.
    ...or start working at a laundromat to save money. Your call, Charlie.

    By nettenette, in Gear,

    What To Ask Yourself Before You Mess With Your AAD

    Image by Ralph Turner You probably have one meaningful interaction with your AAD: you chase the red light.
    Poke, poke, poke, watch. ...Zero. Okay. Off you go.
    Just a quick note, friend: you might want to poke a little deeper. According to the USPA, there have been no less than nine fatalities related to AAD fires at designated firing altitudes that did not result in fully inflated canopies before impact. The point is that these guys chased the red light just fine, but there was likely a difference between what the AAD was told to do and the actual conditions of the jump. A couple hundred extra feet could have made the difference between nine annoying repacks and nine funerals.
    Food for thought, y’know.
    If your equipment is new-ish, your AAD probably has a feature that allows you to change its activation altitude. It’s good to know that feature exists, and it’s good to know how it works -- because it helps you understand that mysterious little whatsit in your rig a little better when you do.
    If you’re ready to explore, do a little introspection first. Here are the important questions to ask yourself before you change the activation altitude on your AAD:
    1.Do you want this to be forever, or just-for-now?
    Most currently manufactured automatic activation devices let you offset the device’s activation altitude to allow for a one-time altitude differential between takeoff and landing area. This will be a factor for you only if you’re making a single wahoo at a dropzone with a significant altitude differential between takeoff and LZ -- or if you’re doing a demo jump with an offset. This method resets when the device turns off.
    If you need a change that sticks around a little longer, don’t despair: both the Cypres 2 and Vigil 2+ have a way to increase the activation altitude until you change it back again. Your owner’s manual will explain how to do this.
    2. What’s the difference?
    The Cypres 2 adjusts in increments of 100 feet, from 750 up to 1,650. The Vigil adjusts in 150-foot increments. For example, if you have a Cypres you’ll add increments +100 feet for a higher landing zone compared to the take-off and increments of -100 feet for a lower landing zone.
    3. When’s it going to give the all-clear?
    When you make a positive altitude correction, the AAD will still disarm at its standard number of feet above the ground zero reference -- the exact same altitude as it does when no altitude correction is set. When a negative altitude correction is applied, however, it will disarm at its standard number of feet above the preset negative altitude correction -- the new landing zone.
    4. How forgetful are you?
    If you’re the type of person to run into sliding glass doors at full clip, wear your shirt inside-out all day and/or infuriate your spouse/partner/lover by brainfarting every single anniversary, beware: Adjusting the activation altitude on your AAD might not be the best idea for total space cadets. To avoid a two-out, you’re going to need to remember that setting and ensure that you’ve got an open, functional main no lower than 1000 feet above it.
    Remember: a slow opening messes with that margin. Think about density altitude, and think about your packing choices.
    Another liability for nutty professors: turning on your AAD in the landing area of one dropzone and driving to another dropzone with a different altitude without resetting the AAD. (Work out how much of a kerfuffle that could be.)
    Finally, balance your know-how with your need. Bryan Burke, Skydive Arizona S&TA; (and über-adventuring renaissance man) has this to say about it: “I’m willing to bet that, for most skydivers, messing around with an AAD is likely to cause more problems than it’s going to solve.”
    5. Which way are you pointing your belly button?
    You may be surprised to know that your body position directly affects your AAD’s activation altitude. AADs work using the metrics of measured air pressure and measured time. Those two parameters allow the little guy to calculate your pretty-much-exact altitude (±3 feet or so) at any given moment as a function of the registered air pressure, as well as your vertical speed related to a pressure variation within a certain period of time.
    But wait! Does that air pressure change depending on where your body has oriented that little AAD? Why, yes. Yes it does, smartypants.
    A belly position puts your AAD in a burble. This changes the atmospheric air pressure registered by your AAD by up to 10 millibars. Interestingly, that works out to a difference of ±260 feet. In an AAD activation scenario, 260 feet is y’know kindof a big deal. The AAD senses that the belly-to-earth jumper is higher than they actually are -- kinda like a policeman working the exit road of a music festival. Be aware.
    6. Why do you even have this little gadget?
    If you have an AAD in order to make your skydiving life painlessly safer, you need to know that it’s not the foolproof set-it-and-forget-it piece of furniture you might think it is. You put so much faith in that thing that you really ought to get to know it a little better. There will, after all, likely be a fatality number ten...and it doesn’t have to be you.

    By nettenette, in Gear,

    Safety in the Sky: A Skydiver’s Defense

    The world of skydiving offers those who choose to take the leap of faith a rush like non-other. The sport has grown far beyond anything its pioneers could have ever imagined. This growth has raised the demand for the establishment of advanced safety protocols in drop zones around the world. Container systems, main and reserve parachutes and basic safety procedures have all made this sport safer for all its users. One particular invention however, stands out above the rest and it is the automatic activation device or AAD for short.
    An AAD is a small, technically advanced device which activates a cutter that severs the reserve closing loop when the user is falling at or greater than a predetermined speed (roughly 78 MPH) and at or lower than a predetermined altitude (roughly 750 feet AGL). The device is equipped with a small computer designed to compute the skydiver’s speed of travel by using the surrounding air pressure. AADs have been common to skydivers for decades but recent years have brought about amazing change to this industry.
    CYPRES and Vigil AADs have become two of the leading manufacturers of AADs in recent years. When turned on, the AADs computer chip uses an advanced pressure monitoring system to determine a skydiver’s altitude and fall rate. If a skydiver passes the predetermined altitude at a faster than predetermined fall rate, the system sends a signal to a small cutter built into the parachute’s container. Once activated the cutter severs the reserve line retaining pin, causing the reserve chute to immediately deploy. Essentially, both CYPRES and Vigil AADs are meant to perform in very similar ways. Historically, each company has built and fine-tuned their respective devices to fit various disciplines in the sport.
    Cypres 2 AAD CYPRES which is short for Cybernetic Parachute Release System was developed by AirTec, a German company founded in 1990. Company founder Helmut Cloth decided to replace the old and faulty technology for opening devices of the time with a more reliable device. The result was revolutionary: the first CYPRES was ready in 1991 and became the first electronic opening device in the skydiving world. Shortly after hitting the market the CYPRES AAD sales grew to nearly 5,000 units per year. Developers continued working hard on making sure all the feedback from its users was implemented into their new products. In a little over a decade, CYPRES AAD sales rocketed to over 80,000 units. Airtec saw the overwhelming demand for their product and in 2007 developed the CYPRES 2. Within two years the CYPRES 2 broke the magic barrier of 50,000 units sold. The successes and reliability of the CYPRES 1 and 2 were celebrated throughout drop zones worldwide in 2011 during CYPRES’ 20 year anniversary. Since then the company has continued to provide a great piece of equipment with the backing of thousands of saved lives all over the world (CYPRES, 2014).
    The Vigil AAD shares many similarities to its competitor and was also designed to add a wider range of safety measures for skydivers. Nearly a decade after CYPRES’ great successes, Vigil was introduced. Immediately after being marketed the Vigil began flying off the shelves in record numbers. Designed by the Belgium company Advanced Aerospace Designs in 1999, the Vigil AAD system offered its users unique patented features. Features such as: a patented cutter device (circular knife) that cuts the reserve loop twice, water resistant technology, and a multimode option which allows for three different modes: PRO – STUDENT – TANDEM, all make the Vigil unique. These features make the Vigil a highly sought after piece of equipment for skydivers of all disciplines but even more so by drop zone management staff wanting to use one AAD for multiple modes of operations. In addition to calculating a skydiver’s rate of travel by using the surrounding air pressure, Vigil also uses an additional activation technique. Once the door opens and you leave the airplane, the Vigil AAD will calculate the time left over before reaching the activation altitude (Vigil, 2014). Since its appearance, the Vigil has sold upwards of 70,000 units and continues to increase sales annually.
    Vigil AAD Aside from their successes, the overarching factor in this equation is the consumer, as is in any supply-demand industry. The initial cost of purchasing an AAD unit is about the same, approximately $1,400. Many consumers view this as a steep price to pay especially when also calculating the maintenance costs throughout the lifecycle of an AAD. The additional cost of ownership includes battery replacement and scheduled maintenance, which calculates to be roughly $75 per year. The Vigil AAD claims to have a 20 year lifespan with no mandatory service requirements. The CYPRES AAD, however, is said to have a 12.5 year life expectancy with required maintenance at the four and eight year marks after activation. Many skydivers take these two factors well into consideration before committing to any purchase.
    Thankfully the CYPRES and Vigil AADs are readily available to ship to locations worldwide. The ease and effortlessness involved with purchasing an AAD makes it very convenient for anyone in the market for one. The decision of which one is the better choice is strictly up to the buyer’s personal preference and skill level. Both CYPRES and Vigil have been tried and proven over many years and thousands of documented lives saved. All in all, the sport is lucky that jumpers have a good choice of automatic activation devices. Few jumpers wore them before they came to their present level of accuracy and reliability, and members of the gray-haired set who still remember friends they lost when no-pulls/low-pulls dominated the fatality reports will mostly agree that the added cost of skydiving due to AADs has been worth it (Parachutist, 2010).
    Thanks for reading,
    Blue Skies!

    By EMarte21, in Gear,

    Fly Gear: The New School of Tracking Suits

    The first tracking suit was a humble thing indeed.
    Invented by pioneers of the tracking discipline in the unforgiving terrain atop Norway’s bigwall exits, the first suits were resourceful repurposings of the stuff they already had on-hand – the rain gear required by Norway’s reliably inclement weather, and the cigarettes they used to while away the time as they waited for it to pass.
    The “big idea” was simple: increase a tracker’s surface area, and he/she can use it to fly longer, flatter, faster and farther from the danger posed by the solid object behind him. With this in mind, someone -- no one quite remembers who -- burned cigarette holes in their waterproofs, positing that enough air would enter the holes to afford meaningful inflation. Somewhat miraculously, it worked. The rest, as they say, is history.
    The first purpose-built version, the original Phoenix Fly tracking suit, was introduced in 2004. Until recently, it has seen little serious competition: suit tracking was born by and for the BASE environment, and non-BASE-jumpers had little interest in it outside of its contested, folk-wisdomy usefulness as a stepping stone to wingsuiting.
    The past year has changed everything. Skydiving and BASE have both seen an unprecedented boom in participating athletes -- as well as a notable rise in tracking as a specialization. Whether the boom owes to a sharp increase in wingsuit-related incidents or to a renewed interest in tracking subdisciplines such as angle flying is unclear, but the empirical evidence speaks for itself. In any case, suit manufacturers have responded with an explosion of new technologies and designs. The new range aims for lighting-fast inflation, foolproof pressurization, optimized lift-drag ratios and multi-orientational usability. In a couple of cases, the designs even introduce wingsuitesque one-piece construction into the mix.
    I five brand-new suits through their paces in both the BASE and skydiving environments to find out which provide an optimum performance in different circumstances. Here’s the rundown on my findings.*
    *You will note that I am one human, and that, while I have quite a lot of time in tracking suits, I am not any kind of god, savant or superwoman. Your experience may vary from mine. Heck, it’s likely to.
    By Joel Strickland
    The Suits
    Phoenix-Fly Power Tracking Suit
    Currently the most popular tracking suit on the market, Phoenix Fly’s Power Tracking Suit is the more powerful baby brother of Phoenix Fly’s venerable and much-beloved Original Tracking Suit. Along with a bigger general profile, the new suit integrates thicker stiffening fabric, additional gear pockets on the jacket, tougher construction, mesh lining and inlets redesigned to deliver quicker pressurization. Aerialists love its forgiving transitions, and the power zone is relatively easy for lower-experience trackers to find (though Phoenix-Fly suggests a minimum of 120 jumps on the Original Tracking Suit before putting on the Power).
    I found the Power Tracking Suit to be instantly comfortable, and its construction to be thoughtful and solid. While the suit doesn’t have the raw power of some of the other new offerings, it’s accessible, predictable and confidence-inspiring – which is probably why so many personal-best tracks have been performed in it.
    Pressurized Tube 4
    The Tube 4’s predecessor, the Tube 3, was a polarizing piece of gear. Trackers either loved or hated it, citing distinct roll-and-yaw wiggliness and unpredictability during the transition. In response, Pressurized redesigned the Tube 4 from the ground up. Features include inflation-staging leg inlets, zipper safeties and a thicker arm profile. Long, strong stiffeners at the front of the calf effectively smooth the leg profile. Backfly inlets are available (though not standard), and zippers aside the leg open up a sizeable extension to the leg volume.
    Given my previous experience with the Tube 3, I was expecting a rodeo when I tested the new suit in the BASE environment. I was shocked by the new suit’s ease of use: it was a baby-smooth ride from the get-go. Though it took a bit of trial-and-error to find the power zone, the Tube 4’s transition was among the smoothest I’d ever experienced.
    I had a couple of nagging issues with the Tube 4’s construction. For one, I found the vent-stiffening material easily malforms – and quickly “learns” the new shape – when the suit is folded for packing. (Overnight storage on a wide-shouldered hanger reduces the problem, but doesn’t solve it; after all, the suit has to go into a stash bag sometime.) Beyond that, I was constantly fighting my suit’s sticky zippers.
    Tony Suits Masai
    There’s no denying that the Tony Masai, wingsuit manufacturer TonySuits’ first tracking offering, is a head-turner. I was the subject of several baffled stares as I marched across Skydive Empuriabrava in it – probably, because the one-piece Masai looks neither like a tracking suit nor a wingsuit but an idiosyncratic combination of both. Where other tracking suits are distinctly baggy, aiming to inflate across the entire body, the central body of the Masai is unusually trim. This decidedly anomalous design inflates via both front and back inlets on a set of tubular fabric “rails” that run from armpit to ankle and down the inseams. The jumper’s rig zips in just like a wingsuit. The Masai comes standard with Cordura booties, stealth-rubber soles, backfly inlets and a humorously roomy zippered pocket positioned right on the seat.
    When I first geared up in the Masai, I was worried about inflation. In other, far looser suits, a slight bend in the limbs doesn’t noticeably deform the inflating portion of the suit; on the Masai, however, slight changes in the articulation of legs and arms pulled the fabric unnervingly taut to the body. When I jumped it, however, my worries were instantly dispelled. While the Masai tended to misbehave in a steep dive, the suit kept its inflation admirably through the rest of the test maneuvers, achieved solid marks for distance and delivered the crispest transition to and from backfly of any tested suit.
    S-Fly Cruise
    Fly Your Body’s first addition to the field, the Cruise, is getting a lot of attention, and not just because it’s the suit that Fred Fugen and Vince Reffet used for their record-breaking freefly-tracking jump from the Burj Dubai. The Cruise is massive, it’s intelligently designed, and it’s delivering eyebrow-raising results from trackers with low jump numbers.
    The suit features several industry-first advancements. Internal airlocks maintain pressurization. Thumbloops on both sides (so they remain available whether you track with palms up or down) keep the arm stable. An integrated deflector improves airflow around the jumper’s rig. The Cruise comes standard with both front and back inlets and removable booties (as well as the option to order rubber with a BASE tread).
    The wide, one-piece design inflates centrally -- very differently from a two-piece design, which is necessary cinched around the waist. (Jumpers can expect this to result in yaw instability during the first few jumps.) The Cruise’s optimal flying technique moves closer to that of a wingsuit than a born-and-bred tracking suit, and it’s a lot for a newer jumper to handle. However, an athlete with some experience -- and the time and willingness to put a few skydives on the suit -- will likely have the same take-away I did: something akin to jaw-on-the-floor disbelief.
    Squirrel Sumo
    The Squirrel Sumo is aptly named: it’s a very burly suit. It’s so voluminous, in fact, that it’s likely to be mistaken for a small wingsuit in a stash bag. The Sumo comes standard with a bevy of thoughtful details: loads of oversized, difficult-to-deform Mylar inlets, a close-fitting collar and cuffs to prevent air escape, three Mylar-reinforced toe tension settings, Cordura reinforcements and brawny industrial-grade zippers. Uniquely, Squirrel’s suit also includes Velcro-fastened stabilizers on the inner leg to prevent its abundance of fabric from jostling out of position on exit.
    All that fabric, flown correctly, delivers rocketship power. My first skydives on the Sumo were gainers from the back of a military Casa over the open ocean off the coast of Panama, and the suit ferried me back to the island landing area with room to spare. I was pleased to see that it was racking up similar distances to smaller flocking wingsuits without much dialing-in.
    In full flight, the Sumo felt rock-solid. As with any other large suit – especially one that inflates as quickly and sizeably as the Sumo – BASE exits proved a trickier proposition, though the field-leading start speed is well worth the effort to workshop. Note: Squirrel purpose-built the Sumo to maintain solid internal pressure in order to outfly aggressive exits in the BASE environment. Because of that laser focus, you won’t find backfly inlets on the Squirrel.
    [Originally published in Skydive Dubai’s now-defunct Dropzone Magazine, Fall 2014]

    By admin, in Gear,

    How to Buy New Skydiving Gear

    (With The Minimum Hit To Your Credit Rating)
    Image by NZAerosports You want it. Bad.
    And you want it your way.
    In your colors.
    And nothing’s gonna stop you.
    If you’ve already done your time at the rental counter (and put some more mileage on a set of used gear, as you must), you’re well within your rights to be ogling the hot new nylon. Custom fit, hotshot technology and all the look-at-me embroidery a jumper could want? Just take my money.
    You’re no doubt aware that this purchase is going to rival car-buying in the cash outlay -- there’s really no way around it. That said, there are some steps you can take to get the best possible deal on your new skyrig.
    1. Use the best brains you know (including yours).
    Start by asking your mentor’s opinion. Then ask your rigger’s opinion. Then ask your hero’s opinion. Ask the very smartest people you know to make their recommendations before you start the conversation with dealers and factory reps (who are, naturally, highly persuasive folk). There’s a labyrinth of pricey options to consider. Expert advice will help you navigate it without losing your shirt on poshity-posh back pads and tie-dye.
    You’ll have to be very honest with yourself about your skill level, your height and weight, the discipline you’ll spend the most time practicing, your annual jump numbers and your (realistic) total budget.

    Spoiler: this is not the fun part.
    2. Be a brand snob.
    Y’know those skydiving gear brands that buy front-fold real estate in all the parachuting association magazines? The ones that always seem to have a pop-up and a smiling face at the major boogies? The ones that place their logos like the tap of a knighting sword on the fine shoulders of the world-champion teams?
    Those are the brands you want.
    This might feel a little like selling out to snazzy marketing. It’s not. If you play your cards right, you’ll have plenty of time in your career to experiment with fringe gear; for now, you need what a top-of-the-food-chain manufacturer brings to the table, namely:
    1. Well-tested components, created in a well-established factory, and the attendant safety track record.
    2. Equipment that’s familiar to any given rigger, thus easier to fix -- with parts that aren’t hard to replace
    Later on, you’ll have the requisite knowledge and experience to branch into buying specialty equipment, experimenting with less-tested technology and trying out the offerings of lesser-known manufacturers. At this point, however, you don’t know what you don’t know – and that can be dangerous. It can also be very, very expensive.
    3. Try before you cry.
    Another benefit of buying from a major manufacturer: the ubiquitous demo.
    The cardinal rule in airsports gear-buying is a simple one: never buy it until you’ve tried it.
    Another note: you’ll certainly see demos on-hand at any major skydiving boogie, but do yourself a favor and evaluate gear outside the frantic context of crowded airspace. (When you’re not constantly chasing a hangover. Yes. You. I know this.)
    4. Blend it.
    *Everything* doesn’t have to be new, you know. In fact, it’s a really good idea to save money by blending new components with old, if you do it intelligently.
    If -- after weighing the value benefits -- you decide to go all-in, try to buy everything together for a package discount. Shop the large gear shops to compare their (often attractive) package offerings. Since they’re all assembling their deals from the same major-manufacturer components, you can feel perfectly confident purchasing the one with the lowest price.
    5. Repeat after me: dolla dolla bill, y’awl.
    Cash, if you can scrounge it together, is going to net you the best price. It’ll give you the best position to negotiate around taxes and shipping fees, and might just let you wiggle out from under the credit card charge that most dealers fold into to their baseline pricing.
    6. Slow your roll.
    Take your time as a buyer on the market -- it pays off. After a couple of seasons, you’ll start to pick up the rhythm of yearly and seasonal sales. Go to as many boogies as you can, browsing the gear and sniffing out event discounts. (Don’t forget to stay for the raffle! Major gear giveaways land in lucky laps.) Get to know your local dealers, who might cotton to you and let you know when there’s a price shift on the horizon.
    Soon enough, all that waiting will pay off -- and you’ll be swaggering to the plane in a shiny new kit that just screams “I will cry like a tiny child if I don’t stand up this landing.”
    7. Buy a stiff-bristled Brush of Shame.
    Just do it.

    By admin, in Gear,

    Toggles Matter

    It is often the little things in our skydiving day that change the way things go. Paying attention to the details can make all the difference when it comes to preventing malfunctions, and when we get lazy, tired or complacent, our attention gets fuzzy and unfocused. That is when we make mistakes that we regret. One area that often results in malfunctions is errors in stowing our toggles, and there are quite a few ways in which we can perform this seemingly simple act incorrectly, only some of which will be discussed in this article.
    The most obvious aspect of this necessary part of packing that we can mess up is the depth of the toggle in the keeper. If we do not push the toggle sufficiently into its fabric keeper, the toggle will eventually unstow during deployment.

    Premature brakes releases result in countless cutaways each year. Each time we chop, we risk losing our main canopy and our freebag; a very expensive mistake.
    Another facet of stowing our toggles that can result in a premature “brake-fire” is insufficient tension on the portion of the brake line that leads to the canopy.
    This slack can allow a sharp tug of the brake line near the toggle, causing it to pop out of the keeper, and even snap the line itself. A healthy practice when setting your brakes is to pull upward on the brake line above the toggle, ensuring that everything is loaded against the toggle properly.
    Yet another common error when stowing the steering toggles is to pass the toggle through the brake line above the guide ring.
    This will almost always result in a premature brake release. It will also usually result in damage to the fabric toggle keeper, as the load on the brake line will go directly to the keeper rather than to the guide ring. I see this one quite a lot, and the jumper is always blown away when I point it out while they are packing. Better a moment of embarrassment on the ground than a premature brake fire in the sky.
    On that note, if you experience a premature brake release, or snap a brake line during deployment, your canopy will turn. On many parachutes, this turn can be quite fast, and it is likely to increase in both airspeed and rate of rotation. This means that time is of the essence when dealing with this kind of malfunction. This, however, does not mean that the correct response is to claw for the stowed toggle like a crazed monkey. Yes, you do need to unstow the remaining toggle, but having this singular goal in mind has resulted in many cutaways, AAD fires and even some fatalities. When you open up in a spin, your first job is to try to stop the spin, while remaining aware of your altitude. If you apply opposite harness input or simply pull the rear riser on the side of the canopy that has experienced the toggle release or broken line, you will slow the situation down. By holding a heading, you will be losing much less altitude, and will afford yourself the time and brain power to properly execute whatever procedure is next.
    Also key to your safety is the condition of your equipment. For instance, if the toggle keeper has become loose due to wearing over time, even sufficiently stowed toggles will unstow prematurely. Since we stow the toggle in the same way every time, the toggle eventually becomes deformed, narrower at the load point, which can cause the toggle to jam when you try to release it.
    Also contributing to this possibility is the inevitable shrinkage of the “cat’s-eye” hole in the brake line on spectra lined canopies. This is caused by heating of the line due to friction as you unstow your toggles. The melting point of spectra is 297 F and the material’s response to heat is shrinkage, unlike George Castanza. Most cat’s eyes begin at about 25 millimeters on new canopies, and by 3 or 400 jumps, it reduces to a 19 or 18 millimeter passage. When combined with a narrow point in the toggle, a brake-lock malfunction is quite likely. This problem can easily be avoided through regular replacement of the mid and lower brake lines, and pinching of the toggle with plyers to create a uniform width.
    When the tip of the toggle fails to extract from the cat’s-eye, it is possible that the jumper unstowed the toggles in a gentle, slow motion, allowing the friction to hold the toggle in place inside the brake line. This phenomenon can often be avoided by making it a habit to always unstow the toggles with a sharp, snapping motion. This method has served me well for many years, and has totally eliminated the “stuck toggle” malfunction for me.
    On the topic of toggles that do not want to release, we have another malfunction that shows up from time to time. There are many things you can do with your excess brake line, depending on your particular riser design and your personal preferences. Some skydivers choose to pass the excess line through keepers on the opposite side of the riser. This is perfectly acceptable. If, however, the free end of the brake line is passed down through the keepers and then around the bottom of the toggle, a complete failure to release is possible.
    This occurs when the upward relative wind blows the brake line up over the toggle during opening.
    The jumper then can grab the toggles below this loop of line and unstow, causing an irreparable knot around the keeper loop on the opposite side of the riser.
    Another way that jumpers sometimes cause a toggle-lock is by passing the excess brake line through the soft links, and then securing the end of the loop through the tip of the toggle. Although this method has proven to be perfectly safe, and may make it easier to pull the slider down after opening, a serious danger exists. If the soft links are not sewn in place with tack-cord, the loop of brake line can get caught on the tab or ring on the soft link, causing a locked toggle malfunction.
    It is true that a toggle-lock does not need to result in a cutaway. If the jumper cuts the brake line with a hook knife, the parachute will fly straight. Nevertheless, this fix requires the canopy pilot to land with a rear riser flare, something that many are not prepared to do. If you have never performed this maneuver in premeditated circumstances, you are not likely to perform the task well in an emergency. As I often say, there is no such thing as an emergency if you have practiced the solutions; it is just a change of plans.
    The last toggle-related problem that I will discuss is failure to stow the excess brake line at all. It is true that many jumpers have been leaving “free range” brake line for many years without incident. In most cases, these are jumpers with small canopies who have very little excess brake line to deal with due to the size of their parachutes. Regardless, it is my experience that it is just a matter of time before this free line snags on something. It might be your GoPro. It might be someone else’s GoPro. It might be the door of the airplane or something even worse that I can’t even think of. The bottom line is, the procedure of stowing your excess line costs you only a few seconds, but it can save your life. Deal with it, please.
    It is the smallest of details that usually result in the worst and best experiences on the dropzone. Skydiving is a sport of tiny issues that add up to big consequences, and if we continue to enjoy the process of paying attention to these little particulars, we can continue to enjoy the sport for a very long time. If we flippantly skip off the tops of the waves so-to-speak, and pretend that the danger does not exist, this sport will prove us wrong in the most painful and terrifying ways. We are always at risk when we skydive, but fear is not what keeps us safe. It is attention to the details, and the positive emotions that come as a result of knowing that we are doing everything we can think of to stay alive. If we are happy, we are more skillful, and skill definitely increases the chances of a happy landing.
    About the Author: Brian Germain is a parachute designer, author, teacher, radio personality, keynote speaker with over 15,000 jumps, and has been an active skydiver for 30 years. He is the creator of the famed instructional video "No Sweat: Parachute Packing Made Easy", as well as the critically acclaimed book The Parachute and its Pilot. You can get more of Brian’s teaching at Adventure Wisdom, Big Air Sportz, Transcending Fear, and on his vast YouTube Channel

    By admin, in Gear,

    A helmet that fully integrates GoPro 3 and 4 series

    The issue of helmets with cameras interfering with the deployment sequence is well-trodden, to include on dropzone.com. In France, new safety regulations produced by the Federation Française de Parachutisme, the sole, recognized sports authority for leisure skydiving, have become extremely stringent regarding camera mounts, and in particular, the way they protrude. So a French skydiver, Olivier Hiolle, developed a helmet specifically integrating the most current cameras of the day, i.e., GoPro 3 and 4 series. The result is astounding. The GoPro is fully inside the helmet, which has a frontal window. The top of the helmet is flat in order to accommodate other cameras. Of course, that would be a departure from the initial idea of having no protuberance, but there is no other way to carry larger devices. The helmet itself is a "true" helmet, in the sense that it is made of strong, resilient fabric and serious cushioning that will effectively protect the head in case of shock. We are well beyond the degree of protection afforded by basic helmets, in moulded plastic, whose protective function does not go much further than just providing a convenient attachment for a camera. I have ordered one and flown with it a dozen times. The fit is extremely comfortable and natural. I have a GoPro 3+. I purchased, as an extra, a USB cable that remains coiled inside the helmet. That way, I never manipulate the GoPro directly, apart from activating the bluetooth by slipping my little finger into the lodgment of the camera. From then on, I use the remote control. When I wish to download the pictures or load the battery, I just pull the cable out of its lodgment and plug it where it needs to go. The angle is perfect, no vibration whatsoever, and good sound under canopy (in the sense that I can hear myself grumbling and commenting on the approach). This is a new one-man firm, who makes each helmet by hand, to include the color. Prices are reasonable, including options such as color (other than white or grey for the fiberglass version), cable, chin strap. By design, the strap, whether chin or basic, has a quick release handle. This is the website: http://www.skyvisionpara.com/index.html, which, at present, is only in French. Be aware that the photos I lifted from the webpage are not as good as the current product. It is a much more polished work than that. But the photos do give an idea of the design.

    By elreg, in Gear,

    Why Your Canopy Is Slapping You Around

    Image by Lukasz Szymanski Ah, your canopy.
    When you first got together, everything was great. A few tussles over crispy, slippery fabric were the biggest issues you two had. You packed carefully -- lovingly, even -- or you were at least habitually spying on your packer. And after freefall, it was a joy to reach for that pilot chute.
    Now, things are horribly, horribly different.
    What happened?
    Maybe it’s because you stopped paying attention -- or maybe because you’re both getting older -- but something has changed. There have been some bad moments. Violent moments, even. There was that time that you landed from a jump with a three-ring mark and a stunned expression on your face. Your friends asked what happened to you. You started to wonder if it’s time to say goodbye for good.
    Don’t thumbtack that “for sale” sign to the corkboard too quickly, friend. You can save this relationship. Here’s how.
    1. Wrap your head around the dynamics involved.
    When a ram-air canopy opens in freefall, the dynamics of that opening are controlled by two processes: cell inflation (air pressurizing the airfoil through the nose inlets) and bottom-skin spreading (the side-to-side spreading action that takes place as relative wind rushes against the bottom of the canopy). You might not be aware of how separate these processes are, but they are quite distinct.
    Even without cell inflation, bottom-skin spreading is such an efficient phenomenon that a canopy can open entirely by this method, before the cells have a chance to inflate and pressurize. Since the force of that kind of opening is brutal enough to be quite literally fatal, square skydiving canopy designers invented a system to put on the all-important brakes -- the humble slider.
    That funny little square has a single function: to sync up bottom-skin spreading with cell inflation. A correctly packed slider stays at the very top of the lines during the early part of inflation, kept there by the same forces that would smack the canopy open with bottom-skin inflation.
    2. Help your slider help you.
    Make quartering your slider the most important part of your pack job. Be thorough about it. Draw the folds evenly between each of the four line groups, then tug the center of the slider straight down to settle the grommets snugly against the stops. A slider that’s sorted out in this way is a slider that is most likely to present itself correctly to the relative wind (and therefore do its job optimally).
    3. Avoid getting dumped.
    Optimizing your slider is only the first step in the process. The second, as you might imagine, has to do with your tangled handfuls of marionette strings. Incorrect line stows can release prematurely -- or, colloquially, “dump” -- resulting in a configuration wherein the canopy inflates before line stretch. When the lines catch up to the nylon, the jumper gets one heckuva headbanger. (Picture a Great Dane running at full tilt to the end of a long, long leash.)
    4. Keep the right amount of pressure on.
    It should take roughly 8 to 12 pounds of pressure to pull your lines from the stows. If you’ve gotten complacent (or too tired to be trusted), you’re probably going to pay for it.
    5. Use the rule of thumb.
    The loops of line on the outside of each rubber band stow (technically called “bights”) should be approximately two inches long. If that’s longer than you’re used to, that’s normal -- but know that right-sized bights keep about a quarter of the stowed line on the outside of the stow, minimizing the lines’ ability to dump. Luckily, two inches is about the size of the average human thumb, so you have a ready reference when you’re on the packing mat.
    If you happen to have stowless gear, your line dump issues are probably related to uneven folding of the lines (or lazy bag closure). The same pressure principle applies to the closing bands on your system: close the bag with 8-12 pounds of pressure, equal on each side.
    6. Get professional help.
    If you go through all those steps and you’re still not on good terms with your canopy, look elsewhere for guidance. Take your canopy to a rigger for inspection. You may discover a deeper problem -- and he/she might just be able to fix it right up. (There’s no shame in a little counseling, after all. Love is worth it.)

    By admin, in Gear,

    Squirrel Reveal Wingsuit Targeted Epicene Canopy

    The guys over at Squirrel have just released a video for their latest canopy, the Epicene. The almost 4-minute long video, which includes a "Rick Roll", also discusses why the Epicene is a great canopy for wingsuit pilots.
    While Squirrel have historically focused primarily on BASE orientated products, the Epicene is focused towards the skydiving community, though wingsuit flyers in particular. Squirrel have stated that while the Epicene is the best choice for wingsuit flying, it is also perfectly adequate for free flyers as well.
    The Epicene is built with wingsuit openings in mind and is made in such a way that it reduces the risk for line twists and unpredictability, while at the same time opening quickly and also catering to the responsiveness.
    The video also puts focus on the pack size of the canopy, with both TJ Landgren and Mike Swanson praising the F-111 hybrid canopy's pack volume.
    While Squirrel first began releasing information about this canopy mid-2014 it only fairly recently went on sale to the public, and you can find more information on the Squirrel website.
    Editor's Note: Adjustments were made to this article regarding previously misstated information relating to time of release.

    By admin, in Gear,

    How To Buy Used Skydiving Gear (The Smart Way)

    Image by Trigger
    Hey, new skydiver! Congratulations. That A-license stamp looks great in the middle of your forehead. Very flattering.
    Now that you’re in the fold, do yourself a favor: don't dally at the rental counter. It’s an investment (and somewhat counterintuitive) but trust me: you will find it much more cost-effective to buy your first set of gear than to keep renting, but If this is your first set of skydiving gear, you should buy used -- and spend the money you save on jumping. Here’s how to do it right.
    How to Buy a Used Reserve Parachute

    Get comfortable with the idea. Picking up a used reserve -- if it’s in spotless shape -- is a smart place to save a lot of cash. Riggers tend to agree that the cost of a brand-new reserve isn’t justified.
    Choose a damage-free reserve -- no patches, please -- with less than ten rides. Less than five is better.
    If your reserve is old enough to vote, it’s too old to jump.
    How to Choose a Used Main Canopy

    Look for a main with as few jumps on it as you can afford. Newer canopies fly better -- and, importantly, flare better -- than older canopies, because the passing seasons make the fabric more porous. As a rule, you can expect a harder landing from an older canopy.
    It can be tricky, but your best move is to choose a used main with its original line set. Even honest resellers don’t often know for certain the canopy’s actual jump numbers, and the condition of the line set is an inspecting rigger’s best clue.
    Find out where your canopy used to live. If it was jumped seasonally at grassy drop zones, it’ll be in much better condition than a year-round desert dropzone. That silicate desert dust chews up the fabric’s protective coating. Beware of beach DZs, too: seawater landings can result in very serious, sneaky damage.
    Be picky. Do your best to find an undamaged main canopy -- even one that’s been meticulously repaired. These are hard enough to resell that it’s rarely worth the up-front savings.
    Image by Halldor92572

    How to Buy a Used Harness/Container System

    Do not look for a container first. There are so many reasons why this is the case. You must know the exact sizes of both of your canopies before you can choose a harness/container to fit them.
    Have a rigger measure your body. Don’t go it alone. Harnesses are sized and carefully proportioned to both height and weight, and you’ll save yourself time by eliminating the guesswork.
    Ask the seller for the serial number. Then contact the manufacturer with your sizes. Ask the rep whether it’s a good fit for your body and canopies.
    Impossible to fit? Don’t worry. As you’ve undoubtedly noticed by now, non-standard body types are not uncommon in skydiving. However, new A licenses with unique body types sometimes face an uphill battle. Resizing a harness is almost always an option, but it’s can be so expensive that buying simple, new gear may make more sense. If this is you, research the basic, no-bells-and-whistles container systems available: for instance, the Dolphin, the Genera and the Shadow Racer.
    How to Buy a Used AAD

    Be sure that the used AAD meets your basic requirements. Determine that the AAD on offer is within its service life, has met the proper maintenance schedule and is approved for your container system. (Note that both the Cypres II and the Vigil II are waterproof, but the earlier (I) versions are not. Beach/lake dropzone? You know your answer.)
    Determine your timeline. When you buy an AAD – whether used or new – you’re paying a fixed cost per year. The quality of the AAD doesn’t change over time within its approved lifespan, so don’t worry about snagging a unit within a couple years of expiration. (Just save your pennies while the time runs out.)
    Buy new, if you can afford it. AADs are very easy to resell. Purchasing a new one is not a bad choice if you have the cash.
    General Advice for Buying Used Parachuting
    Equipment

    Keep an open mind. It’s unlikely that you’ll find a container that matches all the other criteria and comes in your colors. Accept that fact early.
    Pay a trusted rigger to conduct a pre-purchase inspection on any used gear you buy. The inspection will run you about $25 (or a matching amount of beer). Ask him or her to write down a list of issues – including potential ones – and the cost to remedy them, as if you’re buying a used car.
    Trust your instincts. If you don't like any potential component of your new skydiving kit — even one that has been suggested to you by a skydiving friend or a rigger or a boogie rep – do not buy it. You'll never be happy with it, and starting out with gear you dislike will adversely affect your entire skydiving career. Love the gear you’re in, and you’ll be a better skydiver for it.



    By admin, in Gear,

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