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General

    Jen Sharp Talks About Healthy Skydiving Culture

    It’s Not What You Do (Or the Size of Your Dropzone): It’s How You Do It
    Jen Sharp -- since 2017, the Director of IT for the USPA -- is a woman of note for a long list of reasons. Jen’s a font of wisdom, a truly badass skydiving instructor and a businesswoman of uncommon strength and clarity (proof: she spent 21 years owning a successful small drop zone in Kansas). When she speaks, one should do themselves the favor of listening.
    If you don’t already know her story: Jen has been jumping since she was 18 years old. She opened Skydive Kansas directly after her college graduation, when she had a full-time teaching job and only 300 jumps. (Even then, she’d already been working as a static line jumpmaster, instructor, packer, rigger and radio-wrangler. Supergirl, basically.) Since then, she has traveled extensively as a jumper, an instructor and a public speaker.
    It was 1995 when Jen opened her dropzone: the days of saving up your vacation days for the World Freefall Convention; of spending Friday night to Sunday dinnertime on the dropzone; of single-plane 182 dropzones all over the place and, like, eight places you could go to fulfill a turbine craving.
    The close knit of those intimate little club-format dropzones has, of course, steadily unwound since then in most places. Adding skydiving to the schedule has become much more of a surgical strike: you get to the DZ at 10am and manifest immediately so you can make it to Crossfit by 4. You sift through regional skydiving events on Facebook, few of which require more than a handful of minutes’ worth of planning. You drive hours for a turbine.

    Jen takes on her alter ego, “Stu,” as a student (get it?!) on an AFF eval jump.
    It would be easy to mourn the loss of the small dropzone as an entity -- there are precious few of them left, proportionally to their previous numbers -- but Jen refuses to. For her, the “small dropzone feel” is the culture we should all be striving for, even if there happen to be seven Skyvans in the hangar archipelago.
    “The best vibes are at the places that keep the actual perspective, not just the party line, that we are all just people and all just want to have fun,” she begins. “The ones that embody safety in the active choices to care for each other. The places that assume the best in people. Luckily, that’s really simple to do.”
    Simple? Yes. Easy? Not necessarily, but according to Jen, that’s what we are really going for here: an inviting culture. Example after example proves that business success will follow that beacon significantly more reliably than it will follow volume.
    “What that culture is not,” Jen clarifies, “is the culture of the burned-out tandem instructor, hauling meat; a culture where an instructor never connects with their student; where they don’t even call them students, but passengers. If you call them a passenger, they are one-and-done. They know their place with you. But if you call them a student -- and you truly think of them that way -- the whole dynamic is going to be different.”
    How do you change the dynamic? By changing the way you see the person in the harness.
    “The public we meet is awesome,” she continues. “And we forget that! We totally forget this as instructors -- especially, tandem instructors. We forget that the person we’re taking is amazing. Why? Because they are not on the couch. A normal person is just sitting there on the couch on the weekend or maybe vacuuming or making snacks, drinking beer and watching TV. But this person is okay with being uncomfortable; with putting their life in your hands. They are excited about it, and they are trusting you. That already makes them a really cool person.”

    Doing an interview at PIA 2015.
    “If you want to see the average person, go to Walmart,” she laughs. “That’s the ‘average person.’ The person walking on a dropzone for the first time is not the average person. They are already living on a level that we should resonate with, especially since they’re new and they need our guidance.”  
    For Jen, in fact, the “passenger” moniker is no less than a dishonor.
    “Homogenizing everyone who walks in the door into a ‘passenger’ has a couple of outcomes,” Jen explains. “It burns tandem instructors out. It burns the public out against skydiving when we make the assumption that they don’t know anything. Where did we even get that idea in the first place? Sure, they don’t know anything about skydiving, but they probably know a lot about something else.”
    “When I would take tandem students, I didn’t know who they were, necessarily,” she muses. “I would always ask ‘why are you here today,’ but they weren’t always going to tell their life story. I would find out later that we had just taken a brain surgeon, or the senator from some western county in Kansas. You never know who that person is. They’re just walking around in their sweats because you told them to dress comfortably. So -- if you’re starting to feel the burnout, try allowing yourself to be curious about them. And, if you’re a dropzone owner, strive to instill that curiosity in your instructor staff.”
    Who knows: That curiosity, manifesting as totally authentic friendliness, could end up defining a regional dropzone’s niche.
    “If drop zones realize how many kinds of niches there are to occupy,” Jen says, “I don’t think we’d ever talk in terms of ‘small,’ ‘medium’ and ‘large’ dropzone. You can occupy a really strong, functional cultural niche without being the biggest DZ around, or having the most airplanes, or doing the most tandems. As a dropzone, your niche really comes from whatever it is that you want to bring to the table -- and your resources and your passions -- and you succeed when you fulfill that to the max. I think a lot of places are figuring that out, and that’s contributing to the fact that we now have more of a variety of dropzones than we ever have before.”
    Y’know that bit about a cultural "niche"? Jen insists that it’s not just about feels. It’s about returns, too. A strong niche can turn into a marketing advantage. 
    “Not every dropzone should compete on price,” Jen notes. “It's conceivable for a smaller DZ to actually make more profit by doing less jumps. Profit is not the same as gross.”
    “It’s as straightforward as reaching the fullest manifestation of what you’re capable of doing,” she adds, smiling, “and, of course, always trying to get better.”
     

    By nettenette, in General,

    A Different Way to Boogie

    Will Penny and Johannes Bergfors Want to Take You Places
    First, let’s get one thing straight: Johannes Bergfors and Will Penny don’t necessarily have, like, a problem with tent camping, beer trucks and zoo loads. They like that stuff just fine -- they just do things a little differently, is all. And they do them differently in very interesting places.
    Will and Johannes met at a FlajFlaj event in California a few years ago. Johannes’ video chops attracted Will’s attention. Will invited him to Paradise Portugal to film him and his Flynamic teammate, Yohann Aby, as they trained for the World Championships.
    “I’d never been in a [skydiving] team,” Johannes muses, “And I was interested in how a team at that level went into the training process.”
    True to eager form, Johannes didn’t just film the jumps. He started bringing the camera into the teammates’ daily lives and started interviewing them incisively about their process. He made a documentary about it. (It’s called Work. It’s great. You should watch it.)
    As you might imagine, Johannes and Will worked really well together, right off the bat, and the scope was bound to expand sooner-or-later. That flashpoint moment came along when Johannes saw a photo of a beautiful beach dropzone in Kenya.
    “It was beautiful,” he remembers, “And I wanted to organize an event there because I was pretty sure it was the only way I was going to be able to go.”
    Up until that point, Johannes had been hired by lots of other events as a videographer and coach. He’d even organized “some smaller stuff” in his native Sweden. Along the way, he’d seen what had been done well and poorly. He knew for certain that he needed a co-organizer to pull it off; Will, with their established rapport and Will’s deep connections in skydiving, was the natural choice. Since he’s a South African with extensive connections around the rest of the continent and parents in the hospitality industry, Will had even more vital bona fides for the task -- and, happily, he was keen.
    The pair kept the first event intentionally small -- a beta test, right-sized for a home run. Participants stayed together in a beachside villa, steps from the dropzone. The skydiving was calibrated to be decidedly quality-over-quantity. A top-shelf chef was on-hand to cook every meal. (Johannes was once a chef himself, so he knows a thing or two about that.) They called it “Skyfari”: a nod to its African venue, for certain, but also to its emphasis on exploration over logbook-stuffing. 
    Unsurprisingly, the event nailed its goals. There were already plans being made for the next one by the time the first one wrapped.
    “These are all all inclusive events,” Johannes explains, “where we are focusing on giving inspiring experiences to participants. That is something we are super grateful to be able to do.”
    Since that first Kenyan foray, Will and Johannes have done four other events in this style. The first three shared the Skyfari name; the fourth and fifth, held on Will’s home turf, the southernmost point of South Africa, was called Skydive South Africa: Southern Tip. (Hashtag: #justthetip. Of course.)
    For a little descriptive flavor: the Southern Tip event was a pop-up drop zone in the picturesque little Afrikaaner hamlet of Arniston, where Will’s family connections to hospitality are strong.
    “It is not a place you drive through,” Johannes explains. “It’s a special place, especially for Will, because as he was growing up, when his parents were working in tourism, they traveled around Africa and lived in different places, but they always had their house in Arniston as a getaway.  They would go there for the weekend and spend time there and just enjoy this little gem of a place.”
    “It is also a very special place in the world for many reasons,” he continues, “Did you know that Table Mountain alone has a larger variety of plants than all of Great Britain? The Western Cape plant kingdom takes up the area of ½ a percent of the African continent but it hosts 20% of the species. All of that is mind-blowing to me. On these events, we fill the days with extracurricular activities to enjoy what’s special about the places we travel to. Our participants are really into it.”

    The event logistics, of course, look very different than those of a standard boogie. For Arniston, for example, the event took advantage of a cute little dirt-strip airfield. They brought in a 206, a pilot and ground crew. There were six participants, making a ratio of 1.75 staff to each participant. Accommodation-wise, the event rented a beautiful two-level villa with sweeping sea views from almost every room, facing the sunrise every morning. A private chef cooked for the group three times a day.
    When the group wasn’t jumping onto the most pristine beach of Arniston, they were marauding around the Western Cape with great big smiles on. They went surfing; out for dinner a few times; out-and-about in Cape Town. On one memorable morning, they went horseback riding together on an empty beach. After they cavorted down the beach for an hour or so, they took the saddles off the horses and swam with them. Magic.
    “It is all inclusive from the moment they arrive until they leave,” Johannes notes. “All the experiences are included. Because the conditions in a situation like this are very hard to guess ahead-of-time, we don’t stipulate a certain amount of included jumps -- we say you are going to do up to 8 jumps, but it is not decided if we are going to 6, or 5, or 2, because we cannot guarantee it.”

    “We also tell the participants they have to be ready to go at any time,” Johannes adds. “Because we have a very small margin to play with in terms of weather, airspace limitations and surrounding logistics. We have to be dynamic in decision making. We are constantly armed in the sense that when all of the parameters are on our side, then we are going to strike. As a jumper in that situation, you have to be ready all the time. We are super transparent with all this and explain this very well to the participants, because in a group this small, everybody’s buy-in really matters. And we get it.”
    To roll with those variables, Skyfari participants can’t be fresh off the AFF boat. The event requires each jumper to have at least 500 jumps -- and, on account of the inn-hopps, at least 50 jumps on the canopy they’re flying. Due to the group’s small size, Will and Johannes are able to flex their strategy to fit.
    “The last time it was quite an experienced group; this time a bit less experienced,” Johannes says. “We adjusted our plan. In general, the beaches around Arniston are quite long and wide, but they are super windy.  We can’t $&*% up because there are sharks in the water.”
    These days, Will and Johannes are expanding their horizons yet again. They’re heading to the Maldives for the next one -- and launching an educational project called High School together (an extensive, professional post-jump-course education targeted to the jumper with 20-500 jumps who’s looking to find and fill skills and knowledge gaps). For these two, it’s all about going places -- in the world, in your sports and in your own personal scope -- and the thing they want most is a cadre of keen fellow adventurers along for the ride.
    Take it from Skyfari participant David Beneviste, who has done two events so far:
    “The group and the chemistry we had were incredible,” David says. “We were laughing all the time. And it was an adventure! The more I get to know Will and Johannes, the more I want to go travel with them. Whenever I can swing it, I will certainly do it again.”
    Curious about participating in an upcoming event? Check out https://www.johannesbergfors.com/events for more details.
     

    By nettenette, in General,

    100-Way Canopy Formation World Record Team to Receive 2019 Path of Excellence Award

    The International Skydiving Museum & Hall of Fame is proud to honor the 100-Way Canopy Formation World Record Team with the museum Path of Excellence Award. The presentation will be made at the 2019 Hall of Fame Celebration at Skydive Perris, Perris, California, on Friday afternoon, October 18, prior to the Welcome BBQ. There will also be a tribute jump honoring the awardee.
    Many groups, companies and teams have played a prominent role in the growth and development of our sport with their exceptional contribution in the form of innovation, performance and/or competitive excellence, leadership, education, safety, sponsorship and/or philanthropy, aviation, design/invention and/or manufacturing, sport promotion, and photograph/videography. The Path of Excellence Award is specifically for entities – groups, companies, organizations or teams for significant contribution(s) of enduring high value to the world of skydiving and is a prestigious award in both name and distinction. Award nominees are voted on by supporters of the museum including ambassadors, counselors, trustees, members of the Hall of Fame, and major donors. 
    On November 21st, 2007 the world’s largest canopy formation was built over the Florida Skydiving Center in Lake Wales, a record that still stands today. The formation was so large that the Miami Air Traffic Control Center monitored the formation on radar to keep other aircraft from coming into close proximity to the formation. The formation weighed 20,388 pounds and was 290 feet tall and 175 feet wide. In comparison, a 747-400 jet is only 231 feet long and the Wright brother’s first flight was not quite one third the distance as the formation is tall. Even though the 100 way formation was built in 2007, the journey to this record started 6 years earlier.
     It all began at the end of 2001 when Chris Gay was talking to a couple of friends about the last world record of 46 skydivers back in 1994. The conversation started with questions of how difficult it is to organize such an event and ended with an agreement to organize a 50 way canopy formation the following year. Little did they know this would lead to a 5 year road to the 100 way Canopy Formation Largest Formation World Record.
    The first event was in 2002 with the goal of setting a new US record. With the help of Betty Hill of the Florida Skydiving Center and Paul Fayard of Fayard Enterprises, the organizers had an outstanding place to host the event and a great fleet of aircraft to jump from. When not only 1, but 5 50-way canopy formations were built during the same day and an unofficial world record 56-way, it was realized with proper design, training and organization that the elusive triple digit 100 way canopy formation could be possible. The most difficult part would be convincing the canopy formation community that these ideas were necessary. However, following such a successful event gave the leverage and credibility that was needed to convince the community that changes were needed in technique and equipment. Even so it was an uproar when the announcement was made for standard slick jumpsuits, line sets and a given wing loading of 1.30-1.375 based on your position in the formation. It was explained for the safety of the group anyone wanting to be on the 2003 64 way world record attempts would have to sign and abide by a contract. This event was, once again, a complete success of not only multiple 64-way formations in the same day, but a 70-way formation the following day as well. After that success, the group saw the importance of correct engineering of the formation, proper techniques and standardized equipment.
    During the next couple of attempts, the design and engineering of the formation was critical in order to have a stable formation upon its completion. This meant it maybe quasi stable during part of the build and would require the jumpers to learn to fly it during this phase. This was achieved by using tight jumpsuits in the center of the formation and baggy jumpsuits on the outside of the formation. Also, standard line trims and lengths were required. Lastly, learning where to place the older and slower canopies versus the newer or faster canopies. A better way to communicate the starburst breakdown to the jumpers was also needed and for this task Kirk Vanzandt volunteered. Performance Designs help in keeping their PD Lightning demo parachutes available and also assisted with quick turnaround for repairs that were critical over the years and during training and the actual events. Rusty Vest inspected and assessed each Lightning parachute at these events to place each canopy in the best place in the formation based on wear and age. The above changes along with newer training and docking techniques and standard wing loading helped build great flying 81 and 85 way canopy formation in 2005 and a 100 way canopy formation in 2007.
    The 100 Way World Record utilized five aircraft, the first aircraft dropped 9 jumpers from 20,000 feet. The second dropped 27 jumpers from 18,000 feet. The third dropped 29 jumpers from 16,000 feet and the final two aircraft dropped the remaining 35 jumpers from 13,000 feet. The formation took approximately 11 minutes and 30 seconds to build and was held for 12 seconds. It was completed on the fifth attempt and captured on HD video by seven videographers from around the world. The formation consisted of jumpers from 14 countries including 56 from the United States, 7 from Australia, 7 from Germany, 6 from the Netherlands, 6 from Great Britain, 5 from Russia, 3 from Canada, 2 from Brazil, 2 from Egypt, 2 from France, 1 from Argentina, 1 from Belarus, 1 from Belgium and 1 from Finland.
    Special thanks to Kirk Vanzandt, Betty Hill, Paul Fayard, Rusty Vest, and Performance Designs for their support and assistance with this journey to the 100-way. The videographers that captured the incredible images that showcased the 100 Way CF World Record to the world were Bruno Brokken, Gustavo Cabana, JC Colclasure, Norman Kent, Keith MacBeth, Pam Pangburn, and Bryan Scott.
    2002 US Record 50Ways and Unofficial World Record 56Way
    Organizers: Chris J. Gay, Dave Richardson, Mark Gregory
    2003 World Records 64Ways and 70Way
    Organizers: Chris J. Gay, Dave Richardson, Mark Gregory, Mike Lewis
    2005 World Record 81Ways and 85Way
    Organizers: Chris J. Gay, Brian Pangburn, Dave Richardson, Mike Lewis
    2007 World Record 100Way
    Organizers: Chris J. Gay, Brian Pangburn, Christophe Balisky, Mike Lewis
    Since 2010, as part of the International Skydiving Museum & Hall of Fame awareness and fund raising efforts, the museum has held an annual weekend event celebrating the sport and history of skydiving.  “The Celebration is an exciting and prestigious three day event that brings generations of skydivers together. The celebration honors the glory days of our past and showcases the marvels of today’s equipment and skydiving skill of today’s superstars and inspires younger jumpers to make their mark,” said James F. Curtis III, President/CEO of the Board of Trustees for the museum.
    This year’s celebration will feature a 10-Way Speed STAR WARS competition, forums featuring Luke Aikins and Alan Eustace, a Pioneers Lunch sponsored by Strong Enterprises and much more. After a weekend of skydiving activities and non-skydiving activities that has something for everyone, the International Skydiving Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will take center stage continuing the tradition of honoring legends, leaders and pioneers of our sport.  This year’s inductees are Irena Avbelj (Slovenia), Chuck Collingwood (posthumous) USA, Kate Cooper-Jensen USA, Patrick de Gayardon (posthumous) France, Alan Eustace USA, John P. Higgins USA, Andy Keech Australia, Tom Sanders USA, Deke Sonnichsen USA, and John “Lofty” Thomas (posthumous) Great Britain. More than 400 skydiving enthusiasts from around the world will be in attendance at the fundraiser which is expected to raise more than $100,000 for the museum.  For more information about the International Skydiving Museum & Hall of Fame and the Celebration Event, visit www.skydivingmuseum.org or contact museum administrator, Nancy (Kemble) Wilhelm, at 407/900-9997 (direct line) or nkemble@skydivingmuseum.org
    Photo by:  Keith MacBeth

    By Meso, in General,

    Shredding the (Adaptive) Gnar

    Rosie Manning Breaks Down Accessibility Barriers in the Tunnel

    Raise your hand if someone you know has been seriously injured on a skydive. Everybody? Right. Now -- keep your hand raised if that inspired you to invent a whole new apparatus to get your friend back into flight mode. I’m willing to bet that very, very few hands have stayed raised. One of them is Rosie Manning’s.
    The first thing you should know about Rosie Manning is that her lissome form and noon-in-July demeanor might easily fool you. She’s sweet almost to a fault -- but then you start to realize that she has you direly outgunned in the brains department. This mechanical engineer can think in circles around most folks (and then take you to the tunnel and fly in circles around them -- but more on that later). If you ask her, she delicately shrugs it off as a survival instinct. 

     
    “When you study engineering as a girl,” she notes, “You’re already in an uphill battle. There were 200 guys and 9 girls in my degree. From day one, I was going against the wind.”
    As it turns out, Rosie thrives against the wind. She and one of the other nine girls in the program (Emily Whatton, a dynamo in her own right) joined the university’s skydiving club. At first, it was a lark, but by year two, both girls were hooked. Time flew. For the fourth and final year, the program participants were tasked with an individual project which made up the bulk of the students’ final grade -- and Rosie knew exactly what hers was going to be. It was that year -- 2016 -- that UK skydiver Ben White injured himself during a swoop. He came out of it alive, but paraplegic. Rosie figured she could use her project to help.
    “I was heavily addicted to skydiving at this point,” Rosie remembers, “and I really wanted to do a project that was skydiving-related. I had an idea.” Rosie sent Ben a message: How interested would you be in letting me design something for you to help you fly in the wind tunnel again? Unsurprisingly, he was entirely up for it. Bonus: Ben himself had studied robotics at university, so the process was uniquely collaborative.
    So far, so good: But there was still a baffled academia who had to buy in.
    “The first time I pitched the idea of the project to my tutor,” Rosie laughs, “He said, ‘Okay, so you’re telling me you want to throw a paraplegic person out of an airplane?’ Um...no. Then I spoke to quite a few of my other teachers about it to get some advice. They all told me it wouldn’t be possible.”
    “I just didn’t listen,” she grins. “I went and did it anyway.”


    Rosie, with Ben’s collaboration, set about designing a brace that would support Ben’s lower body for the purpose of tunnel flying. First problem: the university only allowed for a total project budget of 100 pounds.
    To solve her problem, she asked for help. Rosie went to a long list of orthopedic and prosthetic companies. Finally, she had a lucky break: she got an email back from a company in the UK called TruLife, whose Head of R&D, Shane Nickson, was a keen skydiver. He offered funding and help with manufacturing. TruLife ended up custom molding the carbon-fiber-and-titanium brace to Rosie’s design.
    The second challenge: tunnel time. This wasn’t too tough, luckily, as the owner-at-the-time of the UK’s Bodyflight Bedford was a super-cool guy who was happy to donate tunnel time to the project. Score.
    The third big roadblock was, again, academia. And it was a whopper.
    “We struggled making the project fit the specifications the university wanted,” she explains, “because the university wants you to show your preparation; the calculations; the justifications for all the choices.” In order to meet the requirements, the team had to build an external sensor system that would measure the angle of the wearer’s legs in different orientations: belly flying; back flying; free flying. From that data, they worked out the forces that would act on the wearer’s legs in each position to determine the required strength of the brace.
    “That actually took up a lot of the project,” Rosie notes. “And Ben was a huge help with that because he was a robotics guy, so he knew loads about the programming that was required.”

    After they finished the project -- after Rosie had left university -- she, Ben and two other friends entered the World Challenge in the rookie category.
    “There were only four teams in the category,” she remembers, “but it ended up being this huge battle with another team for third place. We just beat them, and I think the fact that our team beat another team that was completely able-bodied was probably the best day of this whole thing. We went up to collect our medals -- Ben, in his chair -- and we got the biggest cheer.”
    Such a triumphant, happy moment, no? But it came at such a confusing time.
    “To be honest, when I finished my degree, I honestly had no idea what I wanted to do,” Rosie remembers. “I knew that I pretty much hated the first three years of my degree but absolutely loved the final year. If knew that, if I was going to do engineering, it needed to be something I wanted to do -- something sport related -- because that’s what I love doing.”
    “I knew that going into a scheme with a huge company wasn’t for me,” she continues. “It would have been a super easy thing to do. Pretty much everyone in my degree went and did that because it’s the next step in the system they’ve set up for you. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, exactly, but I know I don’t want to do that.”
    So: Rosie and her friend Emily Whatton took off. The pair went traveling for a year with their partners -- also skydivers -- and the tiny amount of money the foursome had managed to save up. While on the road, Emily and her partner were offered jobs as tunnel instructors at Sirius Sport Resort in Finland. Six months later, Rosie got the call and joined them. While there, Sirius backrolled Rosie’s build of another tunnel mobility brace and started welcoming even more adaptive athletes into the bodyflight community, a fact of which Rosie is understandably proud.
    “Currently, there are two separate frames --” she explains, “a smaller one and a larger one, with different-sized straps that can be fitted with either one. If you have someone tall and skinny, you can use the longer frame with the shorter straps, and vice versa. For kids, we use the small frame and the smaller straps.”
    “It was quite hard to build it without really knowing what sizes of people we were going to get,” she adds, “but I was pretty pleased because the system can accommodate anyone from a tiny 8-year-old up to a fairly massive guy.”
    Users report that the biggest challenge for the adaptive flyer is fitting the brace to the body, because it has to go underneath their legs while the flier is seated in their wheelchair. Once they’re assisted from the chair into the airflow, it’s pretty much a snap.

    “[The brace] is at a set angle,” Rosie says, “so fliers with shorter legs have more forward drive and fliers with longer legs have more backward drive for him. That’s easy to manage; we just make sure that, when we brief them, we emphasize that they need to be really relaxed in the arms because we’re going to need to adjust the arm and hand position to counteract any drive that produces. Every [adaptive athlete] we’ve flown with so far seems to take that on board really well, and they fly beautifully.”
    The photos of Rosie’s adaptive athletes really speak for themselves.
    “I mean, it is fantastic,” Rosie enthuses. “I think that flying and skydiving is the greatest sense of freedom you can experience in this life. For an adaptive athlete -- someone that, maybe for their whole life, has been confined to a wheelchair -- it is a feeling that is like no other. Sharing that is super rewarding. I want to do a lot more of it.”
    Rosie recently relocated to work at a wind tunnel in Canada, but she certainly hasn’t abandoned that dream. Currently, she plans on taking her design in two different directions: continual development on the first-timer model, as well as a model designed for the specific needs of adaptive sport flying.
    “We got [Ben White] belly flying and back flying in the current design,” she explains, “but I want it to be able to do more. Ultimately, we want a design that makes freeflying possible. I’m thinking in baby steps -- take it to some low-speed back carving and belly carving; work up from there. I want to give anyone who wants to get involved in this sport  the opportunity to progress in it as well.”


    By nettenette, in General,

    Skydiving + a New Baby? Sure Thing

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

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

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

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

    By nettenette, in General,

    Your Skydiving New Years Resolution: Get Coaching

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

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

    By nettenette, in General,

    Tandem Skydiving

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

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

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

    Find a place to jump in your area.

     

    By admin, in General,

    Lessons Learned with Amy Chmelecki

    Images by Amy Chmelecki  
    When we catch up with Amy Chmelecki, she’s getting ready for what is, for her, a pretty normal travel schedule. From her Eloy home base, she’s heading out for one week on the coast of Barcelona, and then two weeks in Portugal’s Algarve, and then one week at a pop-up drop zone in Sicily.
    “I’m not sure of the details of where I’m going to be off the top of my head,” she laughs, “mostly because I couldn’t pronounce any of the names.”
    At this stage of the game, Amy’s own legendary last name is the one that needs the most emphatic pronunciation. She’s at the top of her game, after all: a flagship athlete with Red Bull, and certainly one of the most sought-after skydivers in the world. With head-to-toe branding, of course, comes great responsibility. Amy is no stranger to high-profile skydiving--she’s been a leading athlete in the sport for many years. Even so, her career’s constant up-level trajectory wouldn’t be a great fit for just anyone.
    “I’ve debated the ‘sacrifice’ question on a philosophical level with some of my friends,” Amy muses. “Sure, there’s a level of financial insecurity involved in this kind of career, but I don’t mind it. You have to be comfortable with the constant unknowns and have faith that it is going to work out. I get it that some people wouldn’t be comfortable with that, but speaking for myself, I don’t feel like I’ve sacrificed anything. Like having children, for instance. A lifestyle like this would be difficult with children, but I’ve never really wanted them--so it just fit.”
    It doesn’t hurt that Amy has had some pretty awesome female mentors along the way.
    “I actually talked to [Rigging Innovations Co-Owner] Brenda [Reid] quite a bit about this,” she continues. “I don’t know if she remembers those conversations, but they meant a lot to me when I was starting off in my career. The ‘kids’ question was something that I was nervous about, because there was this fear in the back of my head, like, am I going to regret my choice? Brenda has never had children, and I sat her down and talked to her about it extensively. She really filled me with a calm that I needed. Here was this extremely successful woman in the sport of skydiving. Since then, she has been put in the Skydiving Hall of Fame. She and [husband and Rigging Innovations Co-Owner] Sandy [Reid] have this beautiful marriage; life; career. And she has zero regrets about not having children. It was nice to hear that from someone that I admire so much.”
    “People still tell me I’m going to change my mind,” she laughs. “It’s happening less and less, but it still happens. The other day in Atlanta, a taxi cab driver told me I’d want kids one day, just wait and see. I’m like, dude, I’m 41. I’ve been all around the world this month. He had no idea what he was talking about. It was funny.”
    As any woman in airsports knows all too well, that cab driver’s oafish mansplain certainly doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Even for us girls in the rank-and-file, misconceptions abound. Amy, however, gets the rarified opportunity to blow them to bits. For instance: recently, Amy was hearing a murmur in the press bemoaning the fact that Red Bull only hires teenage girls to be its star athletes.
    “So then Red Bull puts out this video on Women’s Day,” she grins. “And I was, like, hey! Guess what! I’m in that video, and I’m 40. I like representing this new part of me, being a woman in her 40s and still an extreme sport athlete and still getting better, and evolving, and doing more and radder things. Sometimes, like everybody, I get a little bit of an impostor syndrome--but I’m really proud of that video and what it meant for females. This is really still happening. I’m still doing this. This is possible.”
    The idea of “possibility” is one that Amy gets to play with quite a lot in her daily life as a top-shelf airsports performer. If you’ve seen any of the jumps she does in that shiny silver helmet with the bull on it, you know just how far she (and the rest of the team) are able to push possibility on any given day. I’m sure we can all agree that it’s inspiring for a tidy stack of reasons.
    That said: Not all impossible feats are what they seem. For instance: Most people probably assume that the hardest demo Amy has ever done was the landmark wingsuit flight over the New York City skyline. Surprisingly, Amy insists that it wasn’t.
    “Honestly, it was relatively easy,” she insists. “There were no obstacles on the entry to the barge, first of all. We had space all around. We could approach from any direction, so we were able to go favorably into the wind.”
    “There was a moment when I was coming in for the landing,” she adds, “where I thought I was going to go a little long. I just let my wingsuit fall from up on my chest down on my legs. In hindsight, I was okay already, but that little bit of added drag slowed me down just a touch. That was easy to manage. There was lots of room for forgiveness on that one.”
    It is not, as you might imagine, always that way.
    “Compare that with some of the other demos we do,” she says, “where the only possible approach is to, for instance, make a right-hand 180, get close to something in the turn, avoid the crowd lined up all along one side and slip in somewhere. Those are a lot harder, even if the landing area might appear to look a lot bigger. Or, of course, a stadium demo.”
    And what about Amy’s dream demo? If “possibility” didn’t have to figure in anywhere? Her answer comes in record time.
    “I’d jump off a rocket,” she laughs. “No one has done that, have they? I should do a two-way with Jeffro out of a rocket.” She pauses to think. “I wonder if Elon Musk drinks Red Bull? He must. It says he sleeps only 4 to 5 hours a night. There has to be something keeping him up. I’m sure we could get him involved. Anyway. who doesn’t want to go to Mars?”
    “Seriously, though,” she leans in, “for me at this point it’s mostly about continuing to do what I’m doing--and taking care of myself more, because as you get into your 40s you have to make changes physically, and you have to work harder at being able to keep up with this type of lifestyle. My goals are to keep this sustainable for as long as I possibly can. To me, that means caring for myself physically and emotionally, and just continuing to do the hard work and evolving as a sponsored athlete.”
    Wise words, indeed. We wanted to know: From all that wisdom, what would 40-year-old Amy have to say to 20-year-old Amy if 40-year-old Amy walked into the Bent Prop on her kid counterpart’s very first shift?
    “Buy bitcoin,” she deadpans. “Okay, right. If I could go back with the knowledge and the experience and the brain that I have now, I would nurture a plan B along the way more. I would save money earlier; budget a little bit more wisely; invest. Now: The reason I say ‘with the mind I have now’ is that, honestly, I wasn’t capable of that kind of thing in my early 20s. Living this lifestyle, that’s one thing. Harnessing and nurturing a Plan B as well as saving money along the way? That’s something else entirely. When you’re younger, you’re thinking, ‘what if I die tomorrow?’ Then you get to a point where you’re, like, ‘what I live until my 90s?’ Living is way harder.”
    Anyway, with this kinda life--why would Amy want to do anything differently? In all honesty: she doesn’t.
    “Even with my own advice,” she chuckles, “I would probably do everything the same.”
    Good choice, Amy.

    By nettenette, in General,

    Small Dropzone + Turbine Aircraft - Boogie = Totally Doable

    Get Ready: Here Comes the Turbine 206
    When Joel Strickland and I jumped in all fifty states this summer for our Down For 50 project, we saw the insides of a lot of 182s. A lot. That’s no surprise, of course--the 182 is the undisputed workhorse of our sport. It could be argued that the valiant little 182 keeps our sport going.
    But what if there were a better way?
    As it turns out, there is. I found out about it when Joel and I made our Oklahoma stop. Understandably, we fully expected to see another 182 out there. Instead, when we wandered across the hangar of the (super tidy, spacious and impressive) Oklahoma Skydiving Center to see what was parked outside, we had to double-take. There was a 206 parked out there. A 206 with a very funny face. A turbine. For reals.
    Our first look at the toothy open grin of that jumpship was to start something of a minor obsession for me. First of all, it became apparent that its presence there had engendered the healthiest sport community of any smaller dropzone I’d ever visited. No wonder: that thing gets six jumpers to 14,000 feet in less than half the time it took the DZ’s old 182 to huff four folks up to 10k. The door is big. And this thing -- for lots of reasons -- puts turbine power within the reach of dropzones that never dreamed they’d be able to get there. I’ll let its champion, Andy Beck, cover all that. (Andy Beck is Co -DZO of the Oklahoma Skydiving Center, a small DZ between Tulsa and Oklahoma City, as well as the co-owner of BAM Aviation, which has been specializing in this conversion since Andy himself discovered its existence.)
    Pretty cool, right?
    I’ll leave the explanations to the expert. Below follows the conversation I had with Andy about this beautiful beast. If you’re not as enchanted with this plane as I am by the time we’re done here, I’ll be very surprised.

    Q: What’s your love story with this plane?

    Andy: My dropzone [the Oklahoma Skydiving Center] is somewhere between a small and a medium-sized DZ. For years, we were, like, man, we want a turbine airplane, just as instructors and fun jumpers.
    It’s easy to relate to that. I grew up on a single airplane drop zone. That’s where I started; that’s how I learned to skydive: A single airplane 182 drop zone. When you’re in a situation like that, you spend your whole life sitting around, watching people skydive, doing tandems and AFFs, just praying that there’s an airplane load that has empty slots. And that’s okay, because that’s all you know. But then you go somewhere and you suddenly realize there’s a different model that means you can skydive more than once or twice a day. you see how much more time you have for the fun part of the sport in a turbine, compared to what you can get out of the 182 that’s waiting for you back home.
    Since my wife Alyssa and I bought this dropzone four years ago, we wanted to bring that other model to our own DZ. The first thing we did -- immediately -- was to bring in a second 182, so we could have one for tandems and AFF and one for fun jumpers. I understand why people don’t want to mess with fun jumpers, but to me the reason that I think that you need the experienced-skydiver scene is because -- if you don’t -- then how do you convince anybody to do more than one jump? If all they ever watch is tandems, they’re one-and-done. They think that’s all there is.

    If they have to go somewhere else to jump after AFF, that’s not good either. People want to stay where they learned. They know the people. They want to travel and visit, but they love their home. That’s where they want to be. That’s their home base -- their friends -- the people they like to jump with. To teach people to jump and then tell them to go somewhere else just seemed dumb to me. So you have to grow to support your experienced skydiver community.
    Q: Why not just get an old King Air like everybody else?

    Andy: Long story. As a DZO, when you start looking at turbine airplanes, yeah, you think, maybe I can afford a King Air, but the only ones that anybody sells that any small-to-medium DZ can afford are about worn out, and worn out King Airs are a huge maintenance situation.
    Then, you think: I really love the Caravan. And that’s a cool plane. It is one of the starter-type turbine investments. But most of the Caravans worth having cost between $1.2 and $1.8 million dollars, and you’ve got 16 to 20 slots to fill. At a smaller DZ, you just can’t reliably fill it. That’s just not a very doable business model. And before, there really wasn’t anything that was, basically, half of a caravan.
    So I kept looking. The 206 has been around forever as a skydiving plane, but it really has a bad reputation because -- with the standard configuration -- it’s super slow. In the Oklahoma summer, you can hardly get to 10,000 in one, even if you’ve got the turbo version. For our purposes, it’s just not much of a plane.

    Then, one day, I heard about the new Pratt Whitney PT6 turbine 206 conversion from a fun jumper. It sounded like a myth, but I was intrigued, so I called the aircraft conversion inventor, Van Pray, who was partnering with Turbine Conversions on the Turbine 206 concept. Van has been around dropzones, skydiving, and airplanes all his life and turbine conversions has been modifying agricultural aircraft to turbines for decades. I asked Van to bring his plane down for a weekend so I could see if maybe this was going to be the answer to my problem. Turns out, it was better than I could have ever imagined.
    Anyway, Van and Emiko Pray brought their plane down, and we basically rented it like a boogie for two different weekends to try it out. I wanted to see how it cash flowed; how much fuel it used. There is no way anybody could tell you that information without seeing it for yourself. Since I paid all the bills, I could really see how economical it was. After that, I just knew that’s what I had to do. We had to build one.
    Q: What do the numbers look like? What does the turbine 206 specifically bring to the table here?

    Andy: Well, you can get a 182 for about $60,000 dollars. The Turbine 206 goes for around $600,000 depending on airframe, engine, etc... So of course it’s expensive when you look at it like that. But you have to remember that what you’re actually getting for that is half of a Caravan. Depending on your airframe -- engines and all that -- the fuel burn is half of a caravan or less too.
    Before I got the turbine 206, we had an average of three planes at OSC. We would always fly two, but on a lot of really busy days we would fly all three.
    In the summer, with a 520, or a PPonk, or a higher-horsepower 182 that actually can go to 10,000 feet in a reasonable time, you burn 7 to 8.5 gallons of fuel alone. Obviously, when they’re full, heavy and hot, it’s more like 8 to 8.5 gallons, but when you’re flying cool, light loads you could do a little over 7 gallons. That’s what my average was, at least. The turbine 206, on the other hand, will average ten gallons consistently to 14,000 feet AGL.
    The other big thing is that AV gas is getting a little bit harder to find in the first place, and the price of it is consistently higher than jet fuel pretty much anywhere you go, especially in more remote areas -- but if there’s a commercial airport anywhere around, no question, you can get jet fuel.
    So: When you look at expenses, the turbine 206 doesn’t burn very much more fuel per load, and the fuel it burns costs less. You also get the industry standard Pratt Whitney PT6 dependability and reliability.
    With the high-horsepower 182, I could count on two loads an hour: four people per load, to 10,000 feet. With the turbine 206, you get six people per load and you can do three loads per hour -- to 14,000 feet -- with one plane. Every hour throughout the day, you just keep getting farther ahead, because the plane doesn’t slow down with the heat. The density altitude doesn’t affect it the same way. It just goes and goes. On a good Saturday we do 30 loads in the 206 -- three loads an hour for 10-plus hours. We just fly and fly and fly.
    Q: The fun jumper community here seems to be seeing some real benefits. These guys have crazy healthy jump numbers for being based at a small dropzone.

    Andy: Yeah, we’re proud of that. The quality of every skydive is better, and that makes a difference to the bottom line, too. We wanted to offer the best possible experience to all of our jumpers!

    In the last two years, we’ve finished way more A licenses and created way more fun jumpers, because on each skydive they’re not getting 25 to 30 seconds of freefall, they’re getting from 50 to 60 seconds on every jump. It’s like trying to ride a bike. If your parents let you ride a bike for 10 to 20 seconds, take your bike away, then give you another 10 to 20 seconds on it the following weekend, it is going to take a long time to learn how to ride a bike. Skydiving is way harder to learn than riding a bike. If you give them more time on task and more jump availability, people are going to learn and be better and safer skydivers. They’re more current. They’re more excited. They make more jumps. It just gets better in every direction.
    Fun fact: We do 18,000-foot jumps occasionally, and we could even go higher than that if we wanted to. This plane climbs just as good at 18,000 feet as it does at 10,000 feet. It’s just a whole different beast. We have a lot of fun here.
    Q: So when did BAM Aviation start doing the conversions?

    Andy: That’s a funny story. When we built the first one, we had absolutely no intention of building more airplanes. That wasn’t why we did it in the first place. We did it for our dropzone. But, in the process of figuring out how to do it, we partnered up with Turbine Conversions and they made us an authorized installation center. They came and took a tour of our facilities, saw what we had and asked if we wanted to take on some more. This conversion is not crazy-hard, but it’s not just a straight, bolt-on modification and it takes real skill to do. It is a lot of sheet metal work. And I was lucky enough to have access to some real talent with Mike Palmer and Brian Wattenberger.
    I myself am learning, but the two guys that work with me really are master mechanics. They’re very unassuming, but when you get in the shop and watch their creativity, it’s incredible. They are true masters of the trade; true craftsmen. There would be no airplane business if it wasn’t for Mike and Brian. That’s a fact. I mean: I’m the skydiving business owner, and the guy that came up with the idea to convert the first plane, but without the mechanics, there would be no BAM Aviation (which stands for Brian, Andy, Mike). That’s for sure.
    At this point, it’s busy here. We have another one that we’re more than halfway through and several others in the works. We’re prepared to scale up, depending on need. I’m sure that the more people that know about it, the more people are going to be interested in it, because it the turbine 206 is a real option for that small/medium drop zone to be able to expand without going a million and a half dollars in debt. I do it because it’s good for my dropzone and it’s good for the sport.

    By nettenette, in General,

    Why and How to Stop Believing in Talent

    Your Mindset Matters, In the Sky and On the Ground
    Usually, when someone tells you that there are “two kinds of people in the world,” you’re either in for a bad joke or a cringeworthy platitude. That said, here you have it:

    Illustration by Nigel Holmes So: Are you blue, or are you green?
    If you’re a skydiver, there’s a good chance you’re green--and that’s a good thing. (We’ll get into that later.) The above graphic, and the decades-long body of research behind it, derives from the work of Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, Ph.D. In Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol goes into some depth regarding how the belief in our ability to change over the belief that we just kinda *are* one thing or another conspire to create us. Here’s her TED talk summarizing the work:
    https://www.ted.com/talks/carol_dweck_the_power_of_believing_that_you_can_improve#t-106915
    While Carol’s TED talk revolves around this mindset dichotomy in the context of childhood development, make no mistake: This is by far not a kid thing. This is an everybody thing.
    According to Dweck’s research, a “fixed mindset” insists that our character, our intelligence and our abilities are carved in stone from the start. They’re static. We can’t change them in any meaningful way. If a fixed mindset person enjoys a success, it’s because they are successful and talented. The flipside is that fixed mindset people feel like they must avoid failure, no matter what the cost, because if they fail they are a failure, and that they’ve proven wrong the people who praised them for being smart and being good at things. Every challenge, then, is a gladiatorial trial whereby they’ve gotta prove themselves or wear the cone of shame. When the pressure is on, fixed mindset would much rather lie and cheat than ask for help.
    A “growth mindset,” on the other hand, doesn’t look at it that way. A growth mindset sees failure as a heavier weight to lift so it can develop a heretofore weaker muscle. Failure isn’t failure. Failure is simply the state of not having succeeded yet. And, instead of running from challenge (academic, interpersonal, developmental, athletic, and onward), growth mindset runs toward the empty spaces. When growth mindset meets success, it says “Okay, then. What else ya got?”
    Growth mindset wants to be better where fixed mindset wants to look better. Ironically, growth mindset has an uncanny knack for scoring on both counts. Growth mindset, as Dweck puts it, “luxuriat[es] in the power of ‘yet.’” Fixed mindset is “gripped in the tyranny of ‘now.’”
    There’s more. Disquietingly, whichever mindset looms predominant tends to act as the motor for our entire lives. It drives not only our functional relationship with success and failure, it drives our behavior, our choices, our relationships and, in the endgame, our happiness.
    So, now, to the sky.
    Look around you for the good news. The lion’s share of skydivers, most of the time, are growth-mindset people. Y’know that graphic that pops up on Carol’s talk at about 07:40? The one that shows electrical activity in the brain when subject students encountered an error? I’m willing to bet that’s every skydiver’s brain on pretty much every jump. As a group, we just love to build out our neural networks, and our culture helps us along that delightfully meandering uphill path.
    First off, we see and we honor the work. We watch the hard-charging learning process of the athletes we acknowledge to be good at what they do. We share the workshop where they make their refinements. The exact measurements are up for debate, but we still rattle off jump numbers and tunnel hours and years in the sport when we calculate our expectations. Our licensing system, even, reflects that deference to workmanship and walking the long path over showmanship and cutting corners.
    Secondly, our sport has a pretty stark way of showing us the danger of operating out of a clearly deterministic mindset. Generally speaking, jumpers who consider themselves talented tend to behave more recklessly than jumpers who consider themselves lifelong learners. Right?
    Finally, our sport’s podiums are consistently graced with teams who bootstrapped themselves into shiny medals. We inherently know that, if we put the time and effort in, we can get there too.
    Here’s the cool part: For all that focus on growth, we can still get better. There aren’t “two kinds of people in the world,” after all--and Western culture has doused us in such a steady stream of fixed-mindset malarkey for so long that it’s really hard to get the stains out.
    First, we can rinse the idea of “talent” out of our collective hair. “Talent” is a fixed-mindset classic. It describes an ingrained quality, not a hard-won achievement. “Talent” is limiting, and it tends to keep the athletes under its banner from trying anything that might leave its fingerprints on their carefully burnished shine.
    Secondly, we can use every available opportunity to praise more wisely in situations where we’re called upon to give feedback. Instead of praising talent (“You’re a natural!”), we can praise process (“I saw you working to control that spin. It was much better this time.”).
    Finally, we ourselves can learn to love “not yet.” We can stop laughing off forged logbooks, pay-to-play ratings and the practice of egging ourselves (and other jumpers) on into extralimital skill situations. We can continue the tradition of our forebears in the sport, who carved out enough deep space for growth that we can sink our roots in deep before repotting. The space they created for us is a cherishable gift.
    As Dr. Dweck puts it:
    “Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better? Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them? Why look for friends or partners who will just shore up your self-esteem instead of ones who will also challenge you to grow? And why seek out the tried and true, instead of experiences that will stretch you?
    The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.“
     

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    By nettenette, in General,

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