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,

    You Know Nothing About Seatbelts - Part 4

    You Gotta Do It Right, Every Time
    Lead image by skydivegirlpl In the Frankenstein world of skydiving aircraft--where the original innards have been ripped out and kinda-sorta replaced here and there with lighter components--we’ve had to rethink this whole “seatbelts” thing with an eye to minimalism and ease of use. (For contrast, check out the amount of webbing with which aerobatic pilots festoon themselves.) In almost every case, skydiving has had to invent new procedures to maximize the utility of restraints while lacking the backing support of a seat.
    Hear this, dear readers: These “new procedures” vary in effectiveness. Very few skydivers are properly educated. The details matter.
    Belts for Benchwarmers
    Are you sitting in a comfy, capacious aircraft with side benches? Lucky you! You can enjoy the proven-safest restraint configurations available to modern skydiving. Hooray!
    The reason that lap belts should only be used by side-facing skydivers is that they are maximally effective when there is a solid support surface behind the occupant: a seat back, an aircraft sidewall or a bulkhead. (A particularly burly swooper doesn’t count.)
    Already bored and sure you know how this lap belt thing goes? Hold up. Did you know that you should be routing your lap belt between your main lift web and body when you’re sitting on a side bench?**
    “Whoa,” you say. “This means that the restraint belt does not simply go over the top of my glorious lap, as I am used to.”
    You, dear reader, are correct in that observation. Routing the male end of the lap belt between your belly and main lift web as it’s on its way to the latch on the other side is the way to go. It’s proven to make you less likely to slide out of it in the slippery, bucket-seatless context of a jump plane.
    Restraints For Floor Folks
    If you’re on the floor, this is your huckleberry: A single Hooker belt, wrapped around a single hip, close to the ring. These aren’t as good as the big-plane lap belts, because single-side belts have a disconcerting tendency to impose massive, twisting, sideways loads on a jumper's spine. There’s also a huge flail arc for the head, which can result in significantly reduced thinking for the rest of the jumper’s natural life. That said: if it comes down to it, at least your meat stays put, inside the plane, and you don't end up suffocating your buddies at the front of the cabin.
    “What fresh hell,” you are probably wondering, “Is a Hooker belt?” Calm down--you’ve totally seen one. A Hooker belt is what we call single-point skydiver restraints. They’re ‘Hooker belts’ because they were invented by Jack Hooker. (If you recall, we mentioned him earlier in this series; he’s the fellow who developed restraints in response to the multiple-fatality crash in Hinckley, Illinois that claimed many of his friends.)
    To see how it’s done, take a little journey with me back to nineteen-ninety-something, when the FAA last took photos for its Sport Parachuting Advisory Circular. Play some Ace of Base and put your hair up in a side ponytail so the photos aren’t so jarring, then take a look.
    1. Sit close to the attachment point, facing the back of the plane.
    2. Pass the male end of the restraint under the upper part of the leg strap closest to the attachment point.
    3. Pass it under the main lift web*.

    4. Latch it close to the hip ring.

    5. Aim to sit so you have a 45-degree angle between the point the restraint attaches to you and where it attaches to the floor.
    6. Tighten until there is little slack. The more slack you have, the further you will travel before impacting something in the cabin in a no-bueno manner. A short leash also minimizes twisting and flail arc.
    Once you’ve got those methods down, it’s not over. There are a few more points to keep in mind, besides:
    Restraints don’t work if you can slide out. Ask the jumper who was ejected out the left door during a forced landing in Oklahoma. She was sitting with her back to the pilot and the belt only over her lap. Routing it through the harness would have kept her inside the plane, which is an excellent place to be when the plane is bouncing and crunching all over the ground.
    Beware the leg-strap-only method. In a tiny plane? Tempted to just tug a belt through your leg strap and fuhgettaboutit? Think twice. Crash tests have proven that single point, single tether restraints are not very effective.
    The direction you’re facing is actually important. Research has shown that, in order for the restraints to work properly, parachutists must face the tail (“aft”).
    Never ever ever share a restraint with another skydiver. Everyone on the aircraft needs to be secured individually. Yes, this is just as true for tandems. Tandem students should never be restrained by just clipping to the tandem instructor. If the tandem instructor is incapacitated during a crash, the student cannot unhook. This has killed at least one tandem student in Australia (by drowning).
    Don’t double up. You must have a single point of detachment to begin egress*** in an emergency. Panicky flailing, fear, fire and smoky visual impairment can all play into the ability to get out. Two attachment latches is one too many to work out in that kind of environment, as has been proven over and over again.
    Curb your camera. In the event of an impact, make no mistake--your flimsy little G3 is a projectile weapon, as is every loose bit and/or bob that’s rattling around your person. The length of a Twin Otter is plenty of space for them to reach ramming speed. Don’t let them get the opportunity.
    Leave your chest strap the hell out of this. Chest buckles are only rated for 500 pounds, while most other harness buckles are rated for five times that. If it does hold, it’ll flail you around like a demented cowboy misusing a lasso.
    Been in a cra...uh, forced landing? Get your gear checked out. Even though it’s a key part of how we protect ourselves from aircraft oopsies, a parachute harness was developed for deceleration from freefall, not partnering up with a restraint belt. Most manufacturers have not tested their harness configurations to see how they weather the jangling, multi-directional abuse of a forced landing. If you’ve been in a plane that’s gone down unexpectedly, send your rig to a rigger to check its airworthiness.
    The “tight cabin” theory simply ain’t true. Tightly packed loads do no better than their emptier counterparts during forced landings. The only thing that will protect you is a restraint system, not being shoved in like a sardine.
    You’re not buckling up for yourself. If you take one thing away from all this talk of restraints, remember this: When you do up that belt, it’s not for you. It’s for everybody you might crush if that plane smashes in. It’s for everybody you might fall on from the apex of your surprised-face zero-g levitation to the cabin roof. It’s for the pilot, who needs to be able to count on a certain balance of weight when shit is actively hitting the fan. And it’s for your friends--so they don’t have to stand around a bonfire in tears, wondering how to prevent it all from happening again.
    * The main lift web is the vertical part of the front of the harness--the webbing that your cutaway and reserve handles live in.

    By nettenette, in General,

    You Know Nothing About Seatbelts - Part 3

    You Probably Aren’t Aware of All These Oopsies
    Screengrab of the 12th May 2016 Lodi incident Seatbelts help. You probably get the picture by now. But do you know just how many lives they’ve saved in the past couple of years alone? Oh, man. Loads.
    At time of publication, USPA dropzones use seatbelts. Even the legendarily non-USPA maverick dropzone at Lodi had seat-belt use essentially imposed on it--which resulted in all souls walking away from that dropzone’s 2016 Cessna Caravan forced landing in a vineyard. The pilot suffered a bloody nose. (He was not wearing a shoulder belt--nor his emergency bailout rig. Tsk tsk.) They were shaken, but okay--and they haven’t been the only ones.
    Over the last couple of years, forced landings all over the world have seen most of the jumpers survive, in great part because of that friendly webbing.
    On December 4, 2014, A Cessna 205 out of Sussex, New Jersey suffered a total loss of engine power during its initial climb. The in-cabin video shows the forced landing going smoothly until the nose wheel dug into a muddy field and flipping the plane onto its back. All five seatbelted souls on board survived with minor injuries.
    Also in December of 2014, a Cessna 182 in Beromunster, Switzerland lost power shortly after take-off. The aircraft broke its nosewheel in a field, but all five occupants--seatbelts fastened--made it out with bumps and bruises.
    On May 10 of 2015, an Antonov out of Azov, Russia experienced high engine temperatures that forced an immediate landing. While the crash was severe enough that a post-landing fire destroyed the fuselage, all 13 (seat-belted) occupants got out in time, and survived with minor injuries.
    On June 29 of 2015, a Cessna 182D out of Oak Harbour, Washington lost engine power. It struck a tree during the forced landing, which was short of the runway. The impact split the fuselage in two at the instrument panel. Unsurprisingly, the pilot was seriously injured (but survived). One passenger was injured after being ejected from the open fuselage.
    On July 12 of 2015, a Cessna took off from Barnegat County, New Jersey. The crankshaft failed shortly after take-off, forcing a landing right on the highway. The traffic camera shows the plane landing on the right lanes and rolling onto the grass median towards the end. The pilot and all four passengers survived with hardly a scratch on them, thanks to their seatbelts.
    On July 7 of 2015, a Cessna Caravan lost engine power shortly after taking off from the desert dropzone in Dubai. The forced landing into the sand dunes started a fire that consumed the airframe, but everyone--including the pilot--was able to unfasten their seatbelts and get out before it burned up.
    In August of 2015, a Turbo Finist carrying a pilot and ten skydivers crashed shortly after taking off from Casale Monferrato, Italy. The impact of the landing bent the wings, broke the main undercarriage legs and smashed the engine compartment. Everybody wore seatbelts. Everybody walked away.
    In October 2015, a Yak-12 carrying three skydivers force-landed in Poland, hard enough to break the main undercarriage. The video starts with a glance at their fastened seat-belts and ends with them running away from the wreckage.
    Later that October, one of Dubai’s Twin Otters crashed on landing. Only a pilot was onboard. He survived, despite major damage to the airframe, thanks to his handy webbing.
    On April 28, 2016, an antique biplane lost power and force-landed near Osage in the American midwest. The pilot plus two skydivers put the airplane at gross weight, and both skydivers stood on the lower wing, grasping the front cockpit edge. This created more drag than usual for what was originally a two-seater trainer with only 220 horsepower. The plane never climbed very high and force-landing in a field, hard enough to break both main undercarriage legs. The "safety straps," as sketchy and unofficial as they must have been, kept those skydivers onboard during what must have been one hell of a clenchy forced landing. (For comparison: a couple of years earlier, another skydiver was incapacitated by carbon monoxide--because he had been holding on right behind the exhaust--and fell from the lower wing of a PT-17 biplane at an altitude too low to open a parachute. If that jumper had had a safety strap, they’d be alive today.
    Thanks to rockstar Sebastian Alvarez’s video, most of us are familiar with the May 12, 2016 crash of a Cessna 208 Caravan at Lodi. Engine failure shortly after takeoff forced a landing. During the roll-out, the plane struck a truck and rolled into a ditch, inverting at low speed. When the airplane ground to a halt, the entire load was hanging from the ceiling. All 17 skydivers exited uninjured. The last frame of the video shows the pilot washing blood off his nose--which shoulder belts would have prevented.
    On July 3, 2016, a Cessna 206 out of Gilchrist, Texas had to land when an engine broke a connector rod shortly after take-off. The pilot landed upright on Crystal Beach. There were zero injuries.
    On August 3, 2016, a Cessna TU206 lost power 1,000 feet after its takeoff from Skiatook, Oklahoma (which, coincidentally, sees more than its share of aviation mishaps) and had to come down in a grassy field. The impact buckled the airframe in a major way, but everyone was belted. All seven occupants survived with minor injuries.
    Quite recently to this publication--In September of 2016, in fact--a plane out of DC Skydiving had to land right after takeoff. All 11 skydivers and the pilot wore seatbelts, and all walked away uninjured. The plane didn’t fare so well. The thing about seatbelts, of course, is that they don’t work if you don’t use them--or if you use them wrong. In the next installment, we’ll talk about how to use a seatbelt on a skydiving plane, ‘cause there are some sketchy little myths floating around.

    By nettenette, in General,

    You Know Nothing About Seatbelts - Part 2

    A Seatbelt’s Job Goes Beyond The Crash

    Think your seatbelt only helps you when the metal hits the dirt? Nope. The magic of seatbelts goes far beyond the prevention of injuries and fatalities during actual impacts. Seatbelts also help the plane fly better and move more safely during maneuvers, sometimes preventing that impact from even occurring.

    The first way seatbelts do this is by helping to moderate the weight and balance of the aircraft. Limiting the numbers of jumpers on board to the number of seatbelts limits the risk of overloading the plane, which we all know is a bad scene (slower acceleration, sloth-like climb, stall danger due to higher stall speed, and the like). It also keeps the wiggly weight of the passengers pinned in place, helping the pilot maintain control.

    Take an example. One day, a Cessna 205 aircraft ran out of fuel just after takeoff from Celina, Ohio. (Everyone on board--the pilot and five parachutists--perished in the incident, so witness reports and NTSB investigation reports are all we have to explain what happened.) DiverDriver.com explains that, of the witnesses that reported hearing the airplane during climbout, each “described smooth engine noise, brief ‘sputtering,’ and then a total loss of engine power. The airplane descended straight ahead at the same pitch attitude, then the nose dropped, a parachutist exited, and the airplane entered a spiraling descent.” That first jumper left from the student position--as the door was under the wing and not in the rear like the Cessna U206. His exit abruptly shifted the weight aft, rendering the aircraft uncontrollable. Two more jumpers attempted to exit. The all three jumpers who exited the aircraft were unable to deploy parachutes. Everyone left in the aircraft perished in the violent resulting crash.

    Another sacred duty of the seat belt: to help the pilot maintain precious, tenuous drabs of control during violent maneuvers in the lower end of the altitude spectrum. Belts hold skydivers in place during the top-gun shit that pilots have to pull sometimes in order to avoid mid-air-collisions, stopping meat from rattling around the cabin and coming down unbalanced.

    Note: As skydivers. we’re at pretty serious risk for these, because this kind of incident is statistically most likely to happen in the crowded, lackadaisically-controlled airspace around the small airports we tend to frequent.

    When two planes go head-to-head, pilots are taught to pull power and dive to the right--which slams un-belted jumpers right up into the ceiling. The landing is a mystery, but if too many of them land too far aft, the airplane will be unbalanced, stall and spin. Whee. Ugh.

    “Sure,” you say, “But that shit hardly ever happens.”

    Au contraire.

    In the next installment, we’ll take a look at the long list of recent incidents you haven’t even heard about--and meditate on the totally-coulda-been-you aspect of the thing.

    By nettenette, in General,

    You Know Nothing About Seatbelts - Part 1

    The History Lesson You Never Got
    Image by
    Lukasz Szymanski If you look at the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reports, DiverDriver.com, our own Dropzone.com and the world’s newspaper reports, you’ll notice something interesting: the last couple of years were bad for forced landings, but good for survivors. Since December 2014, the total has been 18 forced landings, involving more than 100 occupants--but only one fatal crash (the May 2016 tragedy in Hawaii, the circumstances of which were too violent for safety restraints to have helped). Every incident is, of course, multifactorial, but there’s a simple reason that more skydivers haven’t been grievously injured or killed in these crashes: correctly installed, correctly used seatbelts. In an incident that involves a loss of power after takeoff and forces a landing, it’s seatbelts that save the jumpers’ (and pilots’) hides.
    It hasn’t always been this way. Seatbelts for skydivers used to be just as casual as seatbelts for motorists used to be, in the good-old-bad-old days. In the late 1970s, very few jump planes had seat belts. Single-Cessna DZs flew third-hand airplanes that were gutted to reduce weight, while large "destination" DZs flew World War 2 surplus DC-3s and Beech 18s. These war-surplus airplanes had been through so many different owners, and gutted so many times, that the original seat belts were an ancient memory. A few rare jumpers counted themselves lucky if they had a frayed cargo strap to hold onto.
    A Change in Policy
    Then a series of bloody accidents in the early 1990s forced the FAA to enforce its preexisting FARs requiring seatbelts for everyone in the sky. These FARS require all skydivers to be seated and belted in for taxi, take-off and landing (as and when that eventuates). It’s easy to forget why this maybe-sometimes-silly-seeming rule was set down, but there’s lots of scar tissue to back it up. Our POPS mamas and papas learned the hard way, so we don’t have to.
    The first tragedy in this particular series struck at Perris in April of 1992. Contaminated fuel caused a Twin Otter--containing two pilots and twenty jumpers--to lose power at 200 feet over the runway. The engine failed, and the pilot feathered the wrong prop, causing a total loss of thrust. When it came back down, the aircraft over-ran the runway into a drainage ditch. The airplane slammed to an abrupt halt. The fuselage collapsed all the way back to the bulkhead at the rear of the cockpit, killing both pilots instantly and sliding the unbelted skydivers to the front of the cabin, crushing or asphyxiating each other in the process. Six skydivers were taken to the hospital with serious injuries. Sixteen died. (For a detailed account, read survivor Dan Brodsky-Chenfeld's book, "Above all Else." Make sure you have Kleenex available when you do.)
    The second pivotal crash occurred Labour Day 1992, in Hinckley, Illinois. That day, a Beech 18, full of holiday tandems, lost an engine shortly after take-off. They never climbed high enough to bail out. The pilot prepared to force-land in a farmer's field, but got too slow when he reduced power on the good engine. The Beech stalled, flipped and dumped the unbelted jumpers on their heads. Everyone on board was killed.
    At one of the many, many Hinckley ash dives, Jack Hooker brought a keg of beer and told the gathered mourners that he had been working on a solution. He had installed prototype seatbelts in the Cessna 182 that hauled jumpers during slow days at Hinckley. He sewed custom seatbelts for aerobatic, glider and warbird pilots.
    It’s a good thing he was on it. Over the winter of 1992/1993, the Federal Aviation Adminisration laid down the law for the USPA: either make seatbelts fashionable, or suffer industry-crushing regulatory consequences. From there, the USPA did a commendable job of popularizing seatbelts among skydivers. During the first AFFI course of January 1993, candidates were told to belt themselves in before taxi or they’d fail the evaluation dive. At the time, it was revolutionary, but the policy was vindicated a few months later--in the spring of 1993--when another Twin Beech crashed near Xenia, Ohio and everyone onboard survived. Soon, seatbelts became the new norm almost everywhere.
    No Guarantees
    “Almost everywhere,” unfortunately, hasn’t been able to save everybody.
    In July of 2006, a Twin Otter crashed in Missouri. There were some seatbelts involved, but they were incorrectly installed and incorrectly used. Unrestrained skydivers slammed into belted skydivers at high speeds. All but two skydivers were killed; the two survivors were critically injured. One of those survivors, an American Airlines pilot, was paralyzed in the accident, therefore losing his career. He took his own life.
    On August 3, 2008, a Lodi, California-based King Air had a forced landing near Pitt Meadows, Canada. Because the plane had been fitted with just enough seatbelts to satisfy the FAA, but versions that were too short to wrap around the jumpers’ waists. As a result, only the pilot wore a lap-belt--and he was the least injured, because he had a proper seat and seatback. In the hard landing, all seven skydivers slammed forward in the cabin. Nobody died, but everyone on the load suffered grievously, and the jumper on the bottom of the pile ended up with a life-changing list of brain injuries.
    These days, seatbelts are de rigueur on non-sketchball dropzones around the world--and that’s a relief, because their importance goes well beyond their stopping power in the event of an actual-factual crash. In the next installment, we’ll talk about how seatbelts affect everything from general flight efficiency to wild evasive swerving.

    By nettenette, in General,

    Word of Mouth Marketing and Skydiving

    Thanks to social media, word of mouth marketing has become the most powerful marketing tool in the industry. This approach to marketing is exciting for some and a nightmare for others because the message cannot be controlled. Word of mouth spreads like wildfire by a few keystrokes of an individual who either loves or hates your service.
    For a business to thrive in today's tech savvy world, an owner must view opening the doors each morning as a theatre company on opening night…you're putting on a show. Each day businesses are putting on a performance for each customer who are armed with amazing technology to tell the world about the performance. It's time to start dancing!
    Perhaps no image is more synonymous within skydiving as the famous 'infidel' tattoo that went viral on social media bringing
    attention to a drop zone that no business owner would desire.
    Through the Eyes of the Consumer
    Imagine if you were invited to be a secret shopper. Your assignment would be to take a date to the nicest, most expensive restaurant in town. This restaurant would only be visited on the most special of occasions because of its high price point. Excitedly, you accept the offer and look forward to enjoying a quality meal in a romantic setting with that special someone in your life.
    In consideration of your assignment, what would it take to rate the restaurant a perfect five stars? One would think that the rating centers around the meal, but with more thought there are several interactions that take place before the food reaches the table.
    Consider these eleven judgement points that lead up to the presentation of the food:
    Website - In preparation for your meal, you elect to review the menu online. This is the first interaction with the restaurant. What image and feeling does the site convey? Hopefully it's positive as you send the link to your date to show where you're going... we want her to be impressed!
    Directions - How easy or difficult is it to locate the restaurant? There's nothing more frustrating than getting lost!
    Parking - Is parking readily available or are you circling the restaurant trying to find any opening?
    Greeting - What is the greeting like when you arrive? For the price point and experience, we hope it's positive and warm!
    Cleanliness - What is the appearance of the restaurant? This will set a tone. Hopefully, the soles of your shoes aren't picking up tons of dirt because the floor hasn't been swept in days.
    Wait Time - How long does it take to be seated especially as you have a reservation? If you've made arrangements ahead of time, the wait should be minimal.
    Interaction - What is the interaction like with your server? The gratuity will be high after the cost of this meal…we hope it's good!
    Beverages - Having placed an order for drinks, how long does it take for them to arrive? If this is a first date, you may need that beverage to arrive sooner than later to ease the awkward silence!
    Bathrooms - While awaiting drinks, you visit the bathroom. No one likes a dirty bathroom...anywhere.
    Food Order - How long does it take for the server to take your order for food? Do you like to wave at a server when it's time to place the order?
    Food - How long does it take for the food to arrive since you made the order? "Maybe the lamb is being flown in from New Zealand?"
    Once the food has arrived there are more interactions with the server, an offer for dessert and the bill. If the food was perfect, and the eleven interactions prior to the meal were average, would you award the restaurant five stars?
    Though all of the interactions leading to the meal are all small details, when added together become significant. To receive a true five star review, no detail is too small.
    Above: excessive waiting is a major issue at DZ's around the world which only lessens a customer's experience. Between the price point and high expectations, this will not win any five star reviews.
    As other businesses have had to adapt, so must our industry. As in the secret shopper example above, replace the meal with the skydive. We must strive for five stars and examine every interaction a customer has with our DZ's to ensure it's never average, but always exceeds expectation. Our customers are not just our tandem or AFF students, but fun jumpers and the staff that work for us as well.
    The key to harnessing word of mouth marketing is to allow service and professionalism to be as important as the skydive itself. No detail too small when offering the single greatest experience life has to offer.

    By admin, in General,

    Why You're Normally Deviant (And Why You Shouldn't Be)

    “This particular aircraft doesn’t have seatbelts, but we only have it for this one boogie--and we’ve never had a forced landing, anyway.”
    “There’s no AAD in this rig, but I’m only going to jump it this once while my regular rig is being repacked. It’s just so I don’t miss the record attempt. I’ll be back on my regular rig on the next load.”
    “We always jump in cloud here. Otherwise we’d never get to jump! The pilot has GPS, anyway, obviously, and he’s never been wrong.”
    The final sentence--which always follows, right?--is the kicker:
    “I’m sure it will be fine.”
    Are you? Really?
    USPA Director of Safety and Training Jim Crouch introduced a really important concept in April’s Parachutist (‘Safety Check’; April 2017). In it, he brings up The Challenger Launch Decision, written by sociologist Diane Vaughan. Vaughn very usefully summarized the kernel of this human tendency. She even coined a term for it: the “normalization of deviance.” Normalization of deviance comes up pretty much everywhere in life (foregoing your helmet just to bike down to the neighborhood park; speeding; not bothering with the condom). High-variable, high-pressure, high-safety-requisite circumstances breed the normalization of deviance like bunnies at a bunny swinger’s convention.
    For some insight into how the normalization of deviance affects you in your airsports career, let NASA Astronaut Mike Mullane bend your ear. Mullane was a fighter pilot in 1978, when he was selected as a Mission Specialist in the first group of Space Shuttle Astronauts. He chalked up three space missions (aboard the Shuttles Discovery and Atlantis), spending more than 350 hours in the void. And, solely in the years after he celebrated his 60th birthday, Mullane summited Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mt. Rainier and 35 of Colorado’s 14,000+ers. You can safely assume that Col. Ret. Mullane is an expert in managing his own risk envelope and that of those around him--and, yet, even he is still influenced by the normalization of deviance. How ‘bout that.
    Why is it so tough to fight immunity to unacceptable risk? Cause damn, it’s hard. It’s cultural; it’s about preserving a certain quality of relationship. It’s personal; it’s about preserving a certain self-image. Finally, it’s transactive; it’s about trading off a potentially good experience now for the chance to have more good experiences later, in the absence of much data at ****all.
    “The natural human tendency,” Mullane notes, “Particularly in pressured circumstances, to want to take a safety shortcut. [You say,] ‘I’ve done a [jump] like this a thousand times in the past, and nothing bad has ever happened. I can certainly do it this one time [...] and nothing bad is going to happen. [...] The absence of something bad happening when I took this safety shortcut means that it’s safe to do so again.’”
    There will always be a next time. And you’re going to be mightily tempted to do it again. When you do it--whatever ‘it is--enough times, the shortcut becomes the norm. The loop is reinforced. In Mullane’s words, “The deviance is now invisible to you.”
    And when invisible deviance leaves a very visible mess? Well, Diane Vaughn coined another term in her book for that eventuality: a “predictable surprise.” Those involved in the Challenger debacle readily admit that the explosion (and the resulting deaths) constituted a predictable surprise. So does a catastrophic wingsuit collision in the absence of one jumper’s AAD. So does a plane full of broken jumpers after a forced seatbeltless landing (of which--make no mistake--there are very many). So does a double tandem fatality at a dropzone with an it’ll-be-fine attitude towards instructor training.
    Image by Brett Kistler The itchy issue we face as airsports athletes is that we’re not under pressure from the government, as Mullane and NASA were. We’re not under pressure from the market. The pressure you’re under on the dropzone is your own. If you think it’s a good idea to scratch, you can damn well go ahead and scratch. You can roll your eyes at anyone who gets after you for it--the manifest; your buddy; your team at the Nationals. Most of the time, though, you don’t. You stay on the load, and--probably significantly more than nine times out of ten--you build another nanolayer on your normalization-of-deviance callus.
    The old triusm that familiarity breeds complacency makes a little more sense, no? That newbies are generally more risk-averse than intermediate-to-mid-career jumpers (a trend which tends to reverse as the jumper amasses significant empirical data)? That you’re more willing to do--well--gloriously stupid shit at a dropzone you know really well, as opposed to one you’re just visiting?
    Take it from Richard Feynman, compared the practice of predictive reasoning to Russian Roulette: “The fact that the first shot got off safely is little comfort for the next. [...] Nature cannot be fooled.”
    In real life, of course, it’s more uncertain than that. He was talking about binary predictive reasoning (with an either-A-or-B result). We’re not playing a binary game when we’re jumping and flying; we’re not playing Russian roulette. Honestly, we don’t even know how many bullets are in that gun. But we’d better remember that it is a gun, and it is loaded, somewhere in there--and the safety culture we’ve inherited is a desperate attempt to introduce proven failsafes in the face of our old nemesis, randomness.
    Walking out to the pointy end is fun. Randomness is fun. Deviance is fun. That’s a big part of why we do this, right? That said: understanding why we make the decisions we make--and, perhaps, even learning to make better ones--can do much to extend a career.
    For more, do yourself a solid and check out Vaughn’s The Challenger Launch Decision, which originally coined the phrase. It’s a riveting read--and I bet you’ll readily recognize the culture which worked to create the conditions for the tragedy.

    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:
    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.“


    By nettenette, in General,

    When Right is Wrong

    By Bryan Burke, Safety and Training Advisor
    Image by Serge Shakuto In March of 2017 I posted a review of a canopy collision that took place at Skydive Arizona on December 30, 2016. The post included two videos, one shot by a participant in the collision and one shot by an outside observer. The videos make it pretty clear what happened and I hoped they would spur discussion about traffic management. If you have not read the thread in the Incidents Forum and watched the videos it might be helpful to do so before reading on. Before going on, though, let me caution the readers about a few things. One, some of the comments to my post are stated in a way that suggests the commentator knew what was actually going on in the heads of the two who collided. We don't know, and this kind of baseless assertion seriously diminishes the usefulness of the Forum. Two, if you watch closely there was traffic to both right and left of the overtaking canopy. Lens distortion makes it hard to know just where it was in the final seconds before the collision, but it may have affected the decision making of the top canopy pilot. We could argue endlessly about whether or not the top pilot could have avoided the collision. The fact is that he did not come up with a solution to the problem fast enough to avoid it. Three, the landing area is tight even without heavy traffic. Nevertheless, this collision could have occurred anywhere because it essentially was caused by one parachute turning into the path of another, which is the ultimate cause of almost every canopy collision. Finally, Skydive Arizona does have a lot of guidelines because we have a lot of visitors from drop zones that apparently don't. Breaking the rules isn't a grounding offense in most situations. In this particular case I doubt if either collision participant was actively thinking about those guidelines. In all likelihood the bottom jumper let established habits override the guidelines, and the other was trying to deal with that.
    I found it worrisome that several people staunchly defended the concept that "Low Canopy has Right of Way" overrides all other considerations under canopy. In this case the low canopy was almost entirely responsible for the collision and the event never would have occurred if that person had flown in a safe, predictable manner. I want to review the concept of Right of Way and challenge whether it is even a useful or safe idea to teach in skydiving when expressed as an absolute. If we are going to retain the concept we need to understand the origins and the exceptions.
    Technically the term Right of Way has nothing to do with navigation by boat, car, parachute, or other conveyance. It is a legal term to describe access to property. For example, if my land is surrounded on all sides by someone else's land, I can be granted a legal Right of Way to my land. Similarly, if tradition allows the public to cross private land at a specific place, a Right of Way exists.
    At some point the phrase was adopted to nautical traffic, although technically the proper phrasing is "give way" as "In situation X, vessel 1 gives way to vessel 2." But to be absolutely clear, the rules about who gives way in traffic have a lot of exceptions, all based on common sense. Ultimately they are intended to minimize confusion and de-conflict traffic problems, but they are not in any way absolute rules. Here are some examples:
    A powered vessel gives way to a sailing vessel. Unless the powered vessel is actively fishing, or needs a deep channel that the sailboat does not. And any sailor with an iota of experience and common sense knows that sailing a yacht in front of a massive container ship is a sure way to be run down, regardless of your unpowered status.
    Between two sailboats, the default rule is that a vessel on a port tack gives way to one on a starboard tack. For those who aren't sailors, that means if the wind is coming over your left side, you give way to a boat that has the wind coming over its right side. In fact this is probably where the phrase "right of way" comes from because the boat on the starboard tack is to the right of a line drawn back to front through the boat on the port tack, and vice versa. Eventually this was applied to cars: if two cars were approaching a crossroads, the one to the right had ‘right of way.’

    Obviously this didn't work very well with cars, or we would not need four-way stop signs or roundabouts. But for the purposes of this discussion, we're much more like sailboats than we are like cars or powerboats.
    To further confuse things, if we go back to sailing there are many more exceptions to the rule. A windward vessel gives way to leeward. Shallow draft gives way to deep draft in a narrow channel. An overtaking vessel gives way to the slower vessel, ideally passing to the rear if they are on different courses. But most importantly for applying these guidelines to skydiving, the vessel being overtaken is obliged to maintain course and speed, or if it must maneuver, clearly signal its intention!
    Parallels in skydiving would be that a canopy over open area should give way to one over obstacles, higher to lower, and so on. But regardless of the guidelines, it is understood that the root rule is all flight in the landing pattern must be predictable! Without predictable flight no set of guidelines or rules can prevent collisions. This collision came down to that: an unnecessary and unpredictable turn into the path of an overtaking canopy.
    Let's also get over the idea that all parachutes are similar in handling characteristics and therefore a blanket rule can keep them safely separated. For example, USPA asks Group Member Drop Zones to separate "high performance" landings from - presumably - ordinary landings. What does that mean? A Valkyrie at 2.4 on a straight approach is going as fast as a Sabre 2 at 1.2 coming out of a 180. It's too much to ask skydivers to sort themselves by canopy type, wing loading, and flying style other than by a general designation of high performance landing areas. In Skydive Arizona's case, we limit one landing area to turns of 90 or less, and nowhere do we allow turns over 180. (Except when the jumper exits on a pass dedicated to HP landing.) However, we do ask that people refrain from S turns or flying at an angle across the final approach. This is something we should expect of everyone, and if everyone does it, there should be minimal problems with a fast parachute finding a clear lane next to a slow parachute. In the collision in question, the low parachute failed in the most basic of navigation duties: maintain course and speed and make your intentions clear.
    This is a cultural issue. Older skydivers or those taught by older skydivers may have been taught that right-of-way is absolute, taught without the essential caveat “maintain course and speed, make intentions clear.” It may also involve drop zone culture; wide open DZs without much traffic seem to neglect canopy control skills and DZs where people don't travel much may spend little time teaching their jumpers what to look out for when they visit a big DZ. We used to teach people to fly in deep brakes and perform S turns to fine tune their landing point. Now we know this is dangerous in traffic and we don't teach it any more.
    There is no reason a big seven cell can't safely land in the same area as a tiny, ultra-high performance canopy, but not when using obsolete rules of the road. The low person does not have the right to turn into the path of an overtaking canopy, period. Finally, low or high, never assume you know where all the traffic is. The assumption you should make is that there is overtaking traffic above and behind, in your blind spot, and you must fly predictably to minimize the chances of them colliding with you.

    By bryanburke, in General,

    What You Should Really Know About the First Global Indoor Skydiving Summit

    What Happened? And Why Is It Important That It Did? Here’s the Beta
    The First Global Indoor Skydiving Summit, which took place in Skydive Empuriabrava’s hometown of Castelló d'Empúries, just happened. If you fly in the Windoor tunnel, you almost certainly know that it did. Right? But you might not yet be clear on why that’s important -- or how what happened over those two days in Castelló is going to affect your life as a flyer. 
    Let’s be clear: It was, and it will. When a bunch of profit-minded business competitors and stakeholders with divergent views on how indoor skydiving should develop start building industry consensus for the very first time -- with technologists, engineers, energy experts and athletes in the room -- it’s only a matter of time until that far-off wave hits.
    To understand where this is going, it’s important to understand where it came from: and that’s Roland Hilfiker, CEO of Support Air International, who organized the event. If you think you recognize the name, you’re right: Roland has been in and around skydiving since 1975 in a flurry of different capacities.

    “I was professional at one stage,” he laughs. “I ran the School of Human Flight in Zephyrhills and the Skydive Empuriabrava dropzone afterwards, until the mid-90s.” From there, Roland embarked on a new adventure: in sports communications. He worked within a number of different sports shuttling between international governing bodies, event organizers and rights holders, “basically providing communication support in all its different facets, from television production to communication strategy,” he explains. Among plenty of other things, he’s done quite a bit for the FAI. As chair of the Olympic Coordinating Committee he represented FAI in the Global Association of International Sports Federations and similar umbrella bodies, all the while pitching parachuting/skydiving for inclusion into the Olympic Games from Barcelona 1992 through Beijing 2008. He was on the Olympic Rings jump in Seoul 1988, too. Something which he considers the pinnacle in his active career.
    Even though his lobbying efforts failed to produce results with the International Olympic Committee, Hilfiker managed to get air sports admitted to The World Games back in 1995. He assumed the lead in organizing the first two appearances of skydiving/parachuting (he insisted on the slash to allow for the side-by-side of canopy and freefall events on the program) in The World Games Lahti and Akita. After getting elected Vice President of the International World Games Association, he decided to reduce his engagement for FAI. He received the FAI Bronze medal in 2001 (“for his exceptional and dedicated work in promoting the FAI in the wider sports community and amongst the public at large by campaigning for air sports to be admitted to the Olympic Games”). 
    For all that involvement in air sports, Roland is still relatively new to the tunnel. In fact, he saw his first indoor competition during The Wind Games 2019.
    “I was convinced this is a good way of presenting skydiving,” he muses. “It has a lot of advantages over the traditional sport. Something that could make it a stronger contender for an Olympic bid. But after a little more research, I perceived not just the sport’s strengths - but its weaknesses too. I saw a lack of consistency across a number of areas.”

    What’s the best path to consistency? Well: In the case of a sport that’s fractured across continents, philosophies and party lines, getting everyone together in a room is a great first step. In all those years of working in sport organizations, specifically in the field of communications, Roland had logged a lot of time at sports congresses (“about five in an average year, over 25 to 30 years,” he says), both big and small.
    “After receiving encouragement by the President of the International Skydiving Commission (ISC), Gillian Winter, I thought, ‘why don't you try to organize one yourself?’ 
    “And that's how it came about,” he smiles
    He dove right in, calling the project the Global Indoor Skydiving Summit. Going into it, Roland certainly had a vision.  
    “Obviously, I had my own opinions on virtually all of the different topics I felt needed addressing,” he explains. “I definitely picked these topics based on my 25 years of professional experience. What I was trying to achieve was a more complete analysis of the situation, and to get partnerships going between the most different parties.”
    But not all of it was sailing the calm waters. From the outset, Hilfiker had sought the approval of not only the ISC, but of the FAI as well. In fact, he had met with the highest FAI charges for discussions on three occasions and a final version of a co-hosting agreement was ready for signature in late October 2019. The precise moment the ISC President announced the withdrawal from the project of the body she presides. The disagreement was over the choice of summit topics and the lineup of panelists. 

    “The silver lining of that,” he adds, “is that not being associated with commercial organizations or the world governing body, it gave us a certain freedom to act and speak and go about our business. On the other hand, I did feel bad for FAI and ISC. Both bodies are in dire need to reinvent themselves, passing up on an opportunity to be in on important conversations seems somewhat wasteful.”
    The summit was held alongside The Wind Games, one of the premier indoor skydiving competitions on the world calendar. The Wind Games had attracted 180 competitors from more than 30 countries to the Windoor wind tunnel, right next to Skydive Empuriabrava, and plenty of them were more than keen to join the conversation taking place just down the road.
    The venue was pretty special, too: an old convent, converted into a cultural center. Over two eight-hour days, packed to the gills with sessions, discussions and breakout sessions, participants across the sport -- from manufacturers to owners to representative athletes -- came to collective grips with everything from oversaturation to safety standards to the cost of flying (with a potential BlaBlaCar-style proposal from an enterprising Frenchman). Experts took the stage to talk about how operators can negotiate preferential rates for energy, and technologists (such as the Tunnel Tech EU team, who occupy the very leading edge of advances in tunnel engineering and materials) jumped into the conversation with about new methods to keep energy consumption down. Carbon impact came up, too, of course.
    “People are making efforts to offset the carbon footprint of indoor skydiving,” Roland says, “we need to provide the operators and manufacturers with good data, obtained through a number of channels we have identified so far. That’s the process - and it should continue.”
    “It was not a vacation,” Roland says. “It was for sure a debate. And it was positive! In the end, everyone agreed that we achieved great things.”

    A great example of one of those “great things” that came as a surprise to plenty of tunnel folks: Tunnel Instructor and the International Bodyflight Association made a public announcement of their forward-going cooperation and intention to coordinate their respective work. In essence, what that means is that it’s suddenly going to be significantly easier for a licensed, rated instructor to transfer co-validated ratings between IBA and Tunnel Instructor facilities.  “That was a major breakthrough,” Roland affirms.
    “We’re still working towards a mission statement to guide our continued work from here,” he adds. “We don't know where this is going to take indoor skydiving as a sport, but I personally see this as an open-ended process that provides plenty of space for it to be continued. We could think of it as a think tank -- as a permanent forum for discussion -- and we’ve created venues on the web which will allow us to keep the dialogue going until the next event gets us all in the same room again.”
    There will, then, be a sequel.
    “I've been doing this for well over 30 years,” Roland laughs. “It will take quite a bit more to burn me out.”
    “People at the inaugural Summit said they are looking forward to the next one. I am confident that we will see a lot of progress in the industry and the sport before it takes place,” Hilfiker said. “Indoor skydiving has huge potential to grow and evolve as a sport, a fun activity and as an entertainment for all. In any case, it can be a viable proposition without being part of the Olympic program any time soon.”
    All images courtesy Support Air. For updates on the next Global Indoor Skydiving Summit, visit www.indoorskydiving.vision and/or www.indoorskydiving.stream

    By nettenette, in General,