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General

    The Horizontal Flight Problem

    By Bryan Burke, S&TA; at Skydive Arizona

    Identifying the Problem
    All of the following events took place during our spring 2013 season here at Skydive Arizona. Some have been repeated several times. Since I started to look into this subject and inquire as to what other drop zones are seeing, several similar incidents have been brought to my attention. In addition, there are several reports of serious freefall collisions that have resulted from tracking, angle, and wingsuit dives around the world.
    Example One

    Angle flying dives, also known as atmonauti or tracing dives, are recording fall rates comparable to freeflyers. They not only fall faster than true trackers, they do not cover nearly the horizontal distance that true tracking dives do. (Inexperienced trackers, especially on their backs, often have essentially the same flight characteristics, much faster down than experienced trackers and not much horizontal travel.) In one case, a group of very experienced angle fliers insisted on exiting first, saying they were trackers. They fell at freefly speeds, about 170 miles per hour. The dive was planned to go roughly 90 degrees to the line of flight, but they didn’t go very far, covering less than half the distance a real tracking dive would. This type of dive tends to include a lot of highly experienced freeflyers experimenting with new stuff, so they were jumping very fast canopies and opening between 3,000 and 3,500.
    A conventional belly flying group followed them out. They had a long climb-out, about 15 seconds, broke off at 4,500 feet, tracked, and deployed between 3,000 and 2,500. All of them were experienced and competent trackers in the conventional sense of the word.
    There was nothing unusual about the conditions. Up on the jump run, the airplane was covering ground at 150 feet per second (about 90 knots) and the horizontal distance between Group 1 and Group 2 at exit would be about 2,250 feet. Because of the longer freefall time for the second group, about 500 feet of that was lost to freefall drift in the winds aloft. This leaves their hypothetical center points at opening about 1,750 horizontal feet apart, still adequate separation for two conventional belly flying groups opening within a few seconds of each other.
    However, because of their fast freefall speed, followed by the climb-out time for the second group, the angle fliers deployed their parachutes nearly thirty seconds before the second group, but also 500 to 1,000 feet higher. They immediately turned towards the landing area under canopy; otherwise they would not get back, at least not with enough altitude for a big swoop. During that thirty seconds, they only dropped about 700 - 1,000 feet or so vertically, but they covered between 1,500 and 1,800 horizontal feet in that time. This does not even take into account the ground covered by tracking at break-off from either group.
    Canopy winds were light. In thirty seconds, a modern fast canopy in normal straight flight will do 60 feet per second horizontally. That puts them 1,800 feet back towards the DZ and line of flight. Mentally, skydivers tend to think freefall separation is an exit problem, not a canopy problem. Once they have a good canopy, they are conditioned to think about canopy traffic and their landing – not about what might be in freefall overhead, because in the past this has not been a problem since we figured out that fast fallers should follow slow fallers out in the exit sequence.
    So, at about 2,500 feet the two groups effectively merged into a single large mix of deploying freefallers and people already under very fast parachutes. The only reason there were no collisions was blind luck. Mind you, every one of these jumpers was experienced, current, and well trained within the existing paradigm.
    Example Two

    A very experienced jumper with a cutting edge wingsuit was logging freefalls of over three minutes and opening at about 3,500. We had three aircraft flying. Our procedure is to leave a minimum of two minutes between drops for conventional freefall loads, three with wing suits or students, and four after a load with tandems. The wingsuit jumper exited. The plane behind started a three minute clock. Although the wingsuiter opened about half a mile away from the jump run, he then made a riser turn towards the landing area and left the brakes stowed as he fiddled with his suit. A minute later, he was just under 2,500 when canopies were opening around him.
    Example Three

    Taxiing out from the loading area, the pilot called me to ask which way trackers should go. This piqued my curiosity, trackers are supposed to know this when they manifest. I told him “east” and asked if he could tell where they were in the exit order. Meanwhile I checked with the manifest to see if anyone on that load had reported they were planning to track or asked for information about which way to go. None had. A bit later the pilot replied that they would be exiting first. I got out my binoculars to watch.
    The three-way tracking group exited and flew straight up the line of flight, opening between the next two groups in the exit order. Naturally I noted their canopies and rounded the three up in the landing area for a discussion. Initially they were confused about what the problem was, although they did acknowledge that there were other canopies in the sky closer than they had expected.
    The leader of the dive had seventy jumps. It was his first tracking dive, and he was leading it on his back. He had planned to turn off jump run and fly east and was completely unaware of his failure to do so. The other two had about 150 and 200 jumps, not enough to be aware that he had failed to turn. Even if they had been, there was no plan on how to signal course corrections to the leader, and they were not close enough to do so in any case, due to the lack of experience. Two of the three, including the one with 70 jumps, had GoPros on, which no doubt distracted them from the navigation problem as they tried to video each other. It was a de-briefing nightmare as I learned more and more about how much they did not know. It was their first time at a large, busy drop zone. They had never received any coaching or advice on tracking. They had no idea about USPA’s recommendations for jumping with a camera.
    This episode made me realized that the manifest in-briefing that had served us well for years, with minor modifications now and then, was no longer adequate. In the past we never felt the need to screen for camera use or horizontal flying, merely informing them that if they were planning to track or wingsuit they would need to get a daily update from the safety officer.
    Example Four

    A total of twelve wingsuit jumpers landed out, the nearest almost half a mile from our normal landing area, the farthest over a mile out. After I rounded up the entire group (not one of them local jumpers) I made it plain that this was unacceptable, not just from a safety point of view, but also because many of them landed on private property or public roads, not a good thing in terms of our relations with the community. Questioning them about their flight planning, I learned some very interesting things. First, it was two groups, not one. The less experienced group was planning to take an “inside track” while the second, more experienced group was planning to fly a wider course, both of the tracks parallel to the original jump run. (This is a fairly common practice at DZs with a lot of wingsuit activity.)
    To make this easier, the individual who had taken charge of planning asked the pilot to turn 90 left at the end of the regular skydiver jump run. In theory the two wing suit groups would then simply exit and turn 90 left, paralleling the normal jump run back to the DZ and gaining horizontal separation from the climb-out time on jump run.
    Unfortunately this plan did not take into account that the winds aloft were about 30 knots out of the west, and the standard jump run was south. Thus, a left turn gave the plane a ground speed of about 130 knots, and each group took quite a while to climb out. Once in flight, they were already well down wind of the planned flight area and would have more cross-wind push the entire flight.
    Clearly this plan was doomed from the start, and anyone who had the slightest idea what the winds aloft were doing would know this. Winds aloft are very easy to find on line these days, or someone could have simply asked the Safety Officer what his observations were. Not one of those twelve wingsuiters questioned the incredibly bad plan the group leader had come up with, which was based on completely wrong assumptions. Even if anyone had looked down, they were already committed and had no Plan B.
    Example Five

    I picked up a wingsuit jumper who landed over a mile off the dz. (Nearly 1.5 statute miles, in fact.) The only reason I even knew about him was a bystander saw his canopy in the distance and pointed him out. I never would have seen him, his opening point was well beyond our first exit group on the normal jump run! His story? With very little experience on his new high performance suit, he was jumping a new helmet and camera set-up for the first time. He reported that he had problems with the helmet throughout the flight (shifting and vibrating) and forgot to pay attention to where he was going, flying downwind and away from the DZ the entire time.
    Example Six

    Trackers landed out, on the approach to the runway. When I inquired about the flight plan they said that when they got to the airplane, there was another tracking dive. The two groups decided to exit first and second, each going 90 degrees to the jump run in opposite directions. This put the out-landing group exiting at the extreme early end of the jump run, tracking downwind, then faced with penetrating back into the canopy winds. They had no chance to make it to the normal landing area and their opening position put them in a canopy descent to a clear area directly on the extended centerline of the runway.
    These are real world examples at one drop zone over the course of a mere couple of months. Along with similar problems reported from other drop zones and the incidents of actual and near-miss collisions associated with horizontal dives, it seems clear that training in these fields is completely inadequate.
    Before Freeflying came along in the early 90s, the skydiving environment was very simple. Everyone fell almost straight down and parachutes flew about 25 miles per hour. In the 90s, we had to figure out how to deal with a new, much faster fall rate in some groups, and canopies almost doubled in horizontal speed. In the last decade, even more variations in skydiving have popped up. These didn’t really show up much on DZO’s radar because so few people were doing them, but now they are increasingly common.
    Approximate Speeds of Various Forms of Skydiving Activity*


    Activity  Vertical Speed Range  Horizontal Speed Range  Freefall time (13,000)
    FS   120 – 130 mph 0 – 20 mph** 00:60 - 65
    Freefly   150 – 180 0 – 20** 00:40 – 50
    Tracking   120 – 140 30 – 60*** 00:55 – 65
    Angle   140 – 160 20 – 40*** 00:45 – 50
    Wingsuit   40 – 70 50 – 80*** 01:30 – 3:00
    *Approximations derived from videos and recording altimeters.

    **Random drift due to things like backsliding, one side of the formation low, etc.

    ***Best guess, based on distance covered in freefall time.
    Thus, on a single load there might be freefall times from exit at 13,000’ to opening at 3,000’ as little as :40 seconds and as much as three minutes. Horizontal speeds will range from zero to 80, with distances of up to a mile on tracking dives and flights of several miles possible for expert wingsuit jumpers. Note that these speeds will vary considerably. For example, experimenting with tracking myself and observing tracking contests, I could get well over a mile in 60 seconds and many people can out-track me by a significant margin. However, actual tracking dives are usually not done in a max track position because it doesn’t lend itself to maneuvering with others. On a calm day, a tracking dive going 90 off the line of flight usually only covers about half a mile.
    Identifying the Risks
    Collisions within Groups

    Within groups, tracking, wingsuit, and angle dives are showing a disproportionately high rate of collision injuries. Even the best planned dives can still involve high closing speeds as the group forms and breaks up. And, as Bill von Novak has pointed out:
    On a tracking dive there is no focal point; no base you can dock on or, failing that, at least keep in sight for break-off. Everyone tracks in effectively a random direction at the end of the dive and hopes for clear air. In some cases they even barrel roll just to add some more randomness to their directions. To a newbie a tracking dive sounds lower pressure than a big-way; you don't have to dock, you just have to go in a similar direction as the leader. This tends to attract lower experienced jumpers, and those jumpers often shed the jumpsuit they are used to for a freefly suit or no suit at all - resulting in new and hard to predict fall rates/forward speeds.
    To that I have to add the potential for huge closing speeds, sometimes due to lack of skill but often due to poor organizing. Tracking dives in particular have a history of being “loose” or “pick-up” loads. Many times I have seen people “organizing” a tracking dive by making a general announcement to give a ticket to manifest if you want to come along. There is often very little screening for experience and ability.
    Then, it is common to group the more experienced people close to the leader, and that person is often in a floater position on exit. Anyone who can remember learning to do larger formations knows that novice divers tend to dive too long, even if they have been forewarned about the problem. (If you dive out two or three seconds after the base, that base is way ahead of you on the acceleration curve, so they appear to be getting further away – which they are. You dive more aggressively, something you don’t have much practice at. Then, when the base hits terminal velocity, they suddenly rush up at you because you are now going much, much faster than the base. You then go low, or collide.)
    Now add to that the significant horizontal movement, burbles that aren’t directly above the lower jumper, multiple vertical levels, and huge blind spots since you are looking ahead, not around. The potential for collisions is incredibly obvious once you think about it, but apparently few people doing tracking dives are thinking about it.
    Collisions Between Groups

    Although these are still rarely found in the accident record, I have seen many near misses, which suggests that it is only a matter of time. This is particularly disturbing to me because in a group-to-group collision, it means someone was exposed to an extreme hazard that they had no knowledge of, expectation of, or control over. Skydiving is risky enough with the known hazards. As drop zone operators and safety professionals it is morally wrong to expose our customers to a risk where their only real control would be to look at who else is on the load, and pull off it.
    Landing Out

    Out landings have two problems, one a risk to the jumper and the other, to the drop zone itself. The record shows that out landings have a high risk of landing injuries, especially from low turns to avoid obstacles or turn into the wind. This risk is exacerbated by the fact that the drop zone staff might not even know of an injury, and if they do, the response can be complicated.
    The second risk is aggravating the neighbors or airport authorities. Every drop zone has at least some neighbors or authorities who are opposed to skydiving. As long as these are a small minority a DZ can usually get by. Once skydivers start dropping into neighborhoods, landing on runways, and otherwise drawing unwelcome attention, the political balance can change. A classic example of this is the tracker landing on the roof of a two-story house 1.3 miles south of the DZ at Longmont, Colorado early in July of 2013. He not only broke his leg, he damaged the roof and required a complex rescue. At the time of the incident, he had 64 jumps in over a year in the sport. The wind was blowing from the north, but he tracked south, towards a heavily developed suburban area. In his own remarks, he accepts no responsibility for the incident, blaming it entirely on the winds rather than his extremely poor planning.
    Changing the Paradigm

    What do these activities all have in common, from the standpoint of skydiving culture? There is very little expectation, or even definition, of quality. Success is defined as mere participation and survival. Near collisions, actual collisions, landing out, and other problems do not seem to be perceived as failure. The video evidence alone is proof of this attitude. Just randomly browse YouTube for tracking, wingsuit, and angle dives and you’ll see some really bad, sometimes frightening, flying. Yet the comments are almost never critical. In order to turn this around, drop zones will have to set higher standards and change the definition of acceptable.
    This is not the first time we’ve been down this road. I started skydiving in 1978. Sequential FS was really starting to take off, but for the typical jump group there was no reason to plan a second point. As an old friend of mine said of those days, “I remember when a good 8-way was a 4-way!” It was learn by doing, and we had a lot of accidents from the hard docks, funnels, and collisions on the way to and from the funnels. But we learned a lot, and fifteen years later, when freefly came along, RW was at a pretty advanced, safe stage of technique.
    Those who were around in the early days of freeflying saw history repeat itself. Freeflyers didn’t want to dirt dive, debrief, or set goals. That was for RW jumpers, and anything to do with RW wasn’t cool. It was simply “Let’s jump together and do some tricks.” Eventually, they came to realize that just led to a lot of wasted jump tickets, AAD fires, and hard knocks in freefall. Now freeflying uses exactly the same philosophy as FS: train, set goals, set standards, and most of all, plan dives appropriate to the experience and ability of the participants.
    Now we see a new discipline emerging. On the one hand, angle flying is somewhat like freefly, where the recruits are already fairly experienced skydivers. Tracking is often more like early RW, where there was not a lot of skill among many of the participants, and not much meaningful leadership from the ones who had managed to survive.
    Wingsuiting seems to be in a class by itself, a population split between regular skydivers wanting to try something new, and BASE jumpers who feel that rules are a curse. One thing most of them seem to lack is good training about the surrounding environment.
    Training

    The general lack of training, supervision, and experience in this field is part of the problem. For example, although most wingsuiters take a first flight course of some type, I have visited web sites naming instructors with as few as 300 total jumps and only 100 wingsuit jumps! Based on the quality of some wingsuit jumpers, clearly some instructors have pretty low standards as well as low skills. All of the training materials I have seen make some mention of navigating and awareness of wind conditions, yet not one of the wingsuit jumpers I have spoken to after they land out has reported that their instruction included specific details on how to plan an effective flight path. After debriefing countless wingsuit incidents including malfunctions, traffic problems with other jumpers, out landings, and so on, I have come to conclude that a USPA Wingsuit Instructor Rating is a good idea. Training should included a detailed syllabus and written and practical tests, including flight planning, before they receive a wingsuit endorsement. At present it cannot be assumed that any wingsuit jumper has adequate training.
    Tracking attracts people with very little experience and has even less formal training than wingsuiting. It is perceived as something anyone off student status can do, since there is no need for enough skill to dock on a formation or turn points. In fact, some tracking dives are put together with the clear expectation that some participants won’t even be able to keep up. Since tracking itself is perceived as easy, I believe this translates into a mind-set that there is nothing to worry about. Hence we see very poorly organized dives with little or no screening for ability or experience, and often no meaningful flight planning.
    Angle flying also requires better screening for skill. Initially this activity was mainly undertaken by highly skilled freeflyers, but now that it has been popularized on media sites a lot of less experienced jumpers want to get involved. Like tracking, these dives require a flight plan that takes into account the rest of the load, and the high descent rate. In my opinion angle flying is more akin to freeflying than to tracking, and should exit in conventional freefly order with great attention to flying 90 degrees off the line of flight but not into the same airspace that slower falling trackers may also be heading for.
    Standards for Experience and Participation
    Unlike Freeflying and Formation Skydiving, horizontal flying cannot be learned in a wind tunnel. The only way to acquire skill is to actually do it. As everyone knows from learning Formation Skydiving or Freeflying, you don’t take people with 70 jumps up on large formations with mixed experience levels and minimal planning – at least not with a reasonable expectation of safety and success. We also know that you don’t develop skills very effectively if you have no expert coaching - or at least competent leadership. This should include goals set for the skydive before you are on the way to altitude, a useful dirt dive, and then a good post-dive debriefing, ideally with a video that is useful, not a sloppy, shaky GoPro video with constantly changing reference points.
    After giving it extensive consideration, I’m planning to screen new arrivals much more aggressively and have minimum standards they will have to adhere to.
    Just as most skydiving associations feel 200 jumps is a good minimum for wingsuits and cameras, fifty is a good number for a night jump, and so on, I feel that tracking dives should not be undertaken, except as one-on-ones with an experienced coach or instructor (or approved solos after consulting with an I or STA) until 100 jumps. At that point, the jumper can go on slightly larger tracking dives led by a coach, instructor, or approved organizer.
    For those with more jumps just taking up tracking, I feel that regardless of experience your first ten tracking dives should be with an approved Coach, Instructor, or organizer and these individuals should have an understanding with the dz about keeping the dives small and simple, just as we would with an expert FS jumper exploring freeflying.
    To lead a tracking or angle flying jump, I am thinking about a minimum of five hundred jumps, including at least 25 tracking jumps (and 25 angle flying jumps for that activity, not a total of 25 combined). The minimum skill set to lead will include awareness of collision risks and how to mitigate them, the importance of staying away from the jump run, how to make a flight plan that guarantees everyone will get back, how to plan with other groups on the load to ensure adequate separation, etc. Leaders must screen all participants for skill and have a well planned dive from exit to opening. Dives for which anyone can sign up by bringing a ticket to manifest are not allowed. Leading on the back is not allowed unless paired with another skilled tracking leader as a co-pilot flying face down.
    Information, Screening, and Guidelines

    Skydive Arizona’s plan to get better information out and establish our intentions and expectations with the horizontal community is simple. Once our procedures are established, or whenever we change them, the procedures will be posted on our web site, displayed near the loading area on a multi-sided “Safety Kiosk,” and available as flyers or hand-outs at manifest. As jumpers arrive they will be asked if they have any intention of participating in horizontal jumps. If so, they will receive the hand-out and a special briefing, in addition to the usual DZ briefing. Depending on their experience level they may be limited in what they can do, or directed to our coaching department. (Although the GoPro problem is only peripheral, we’ll be adopting a similar strategy there.)
    Drop Zone SOPs

    Besides improved training, screening for skill and experience, and better coaching and organizing, drop zones can also implement standard operating procedures to mitigate some risks.
    Exit Order

    The phenomenon discussed in Example 1, above, indicates that angle flyers should never go before belly flyers. If they do, we not only have the well known problem of differential freefall drift in winds (the faster fallers drift less, the slower ones, more) but we then combine that with fast canopies having 20 or 30 seconds of flight to eliminate any remaining horizontal separation. This has already happened here, at Elsinore, and on the east coast that I know of; doubtless it has happened elsewhere.
    Trackers can leave just about anywhere in the order, provided the flight plan works with the overall scheme of things. If they have a slow fall rate and a fast horizontal rate, leaving first works fine, providing the leader takes a course that does not put them too far away. In practice, the pilot is always trying to get the first group off the plane at the earliest possible point from which they have a reasonable chance of getting back. This creates the best opportunity to get the entire load out on one pass. If the trackers leave first and fly 90 off the jump run, they are now further out than that “earliest possible” point. Leaving first, they must do a minimum of 45 off the line of flight, or 90 for half the jump followed by 45 for the rest, or 60 the entire time - something that gains a little ground back towards the dz while at the same time getting well clear of the jump run.
    Clearly, any exit position still presents the possibility of a tracking group flying up or down the jump run. The only way to mitigate this risk is to limit tracking leadership to experienced, well trained skydivers.
    Flight Planning
    I will be asking everyone in the horizontal community to take much more responsibility in flight planning. As I see it, the proper planning procedure has several steps.
    Get a clear understanding of the overall DZ geography. If, for example, going to the right of the line of flight will put you over the ocean while going left will put you over a safe, open field, left might be the best choice if winds allow.
    Get current wind conditions, exit to surface.
    Find out if there are any other special concerns, such as a second plane dropping military or CF jumpers in an airspace box adjacent to the normal jump run.
    Plan an opening point from which everyone can safely get back to the DZ.
    From that point, reverse engineer the freefall portion taking into account never flying under or over the jump run and avoiding other horizontal groups on the plane.
    In the event that winds, geography, other DZ activity, or some other issue makes it unlikely that all points of the flight plan will be successful, cancel the dive until conditions are more favorable. On every dive we will hold the flight leader responsible for devising such a plan and executing it properly. Any safety infractions or out landings will result in grounding until they can prove they understand the situation better and have devised a strategy to prevent a repeat.
    Per Load Limits

    Depending on whether or not the DZ and jump run offer the option of flying to both sides of the line of flight, it is possible to get up to four horizontal groups out of a plane safely. If the airspace is limited to just one side of the jump run, three seems to be about the limit. I’m more concerned with keeping everyone safe than with pleasing everyone if significant risks are involved, so we will start limiting the number of horizontal jumps on any given load. On this subject of pleasing customers, the situation is analogous to the HP landing problem. If the risk is to the participant only, then a little extra risk might be considered acceptable. However, when other skydivers have no control over the risk, it is completely unfair to expose them to it. Just as HP landings don’t belong in the normal traffic pattern, horizontal flight that might endanger other groups on the load is not acceptable.
    Minimum and Maximum Opening Altitudes
    I am not a great believer in relying on vertical separation, since a stuck pilot chute, premature deployment, or spinning malfunction can erase it in seconds. However, there is no reason not to add it to the arsenal. Some drop zones are mandating a minimum 4,000 foot deployment altitude for wingsuits and a maximum 3,000 for trackers and angle flyers. I haven’t made a decision on this yet, but it makes sense in some situations.
    Enforcement
    After the alarming close calls in our last season, and looking back on the canopy discipline problem that plagued the sport for years (and still does, in places) Skydive AZ recognizes that modifying behavior requires both positive guidance and, when necessary, some penalties. We’ll be asking horizontal flyers who create safety problems to stand down from their activity until they can demonstrate a better understanding of our concerns.

    By admin, in General,

    Implications of Recent Tracking, Tracing and Wingsuit Incidents

    By Bryan Burke, S&TA; at Skydive Arizona
    I’ve been taking notes on incidents related to the risks of horizontal freefall activity. Browsing the Incidents Forum on Dropzone.com leads to some interesting information. I went through the first six pages of the Incidents Forum to mine the following data. There are eight instances in the past year where an AAD fired after a freefall collision or related incident incapacitated a jumper, and a ninth in which the victim’s fellow jumpers pulled for him. The reference date is that of the first post, not date of accident.
    1: July 31, 2013. 9-way tracing (angle flying) jump, reportedly very experienced jumpers. Collision at break-off due to back tracking blind into another jumper. AAD fired. Collision injuries followed by landing injuries, including skull fractures. 113 reserve, wing loading not stated. He jumps a Velocity 90 for a main, which suggests a fairly high experience level. If we assume a typical Velocity wing loading is 1.8, that would put the reserve wing loading at 1.6. PD recommends that expert skydivers limit wing loading on the PD113R to 1.4.
    2: July 15, 2013. On a tracking dive, a jumper with 1,000 jumps was hit by one with 300, hard enough to lose awareness and probably unconscious for a few seconds. Two skydivers docked AFF-style and one opened his main for him. Fortunately the main, a Crossfire 2 119, opened without incident and the jumper recovered high enough to take control and land it safely. This was a 12-way dive according to the Youtube post, but you can never see more than ten people and they are at multiple levels. The collision occurs during the early stages of the dive, as the trackers are forming up, which gave two expert jumpers the opportunity to dock on him and pull for him. Had the collision happened lower, or had the jumper not recovered to land his parachute it could have been much worse. If he is jumping a Crossfire 2 119, he probably has a pretty small reserve, too, so an AAD deployment of the reserve might not have ended well.
    3: July 10, 2013. 12-way tracking dive at a boogie results in a freefall collision that knocked out one jumper. His AAD deployed the reserve (estimated at a conservative 1.1:1 wing loading). The jumper had some teeth knocked out and fractured three vertebrae, C1, C5, and T5. His reserve was reportedly distorted by line twists or perhaps a knot or line over which might have been the result of deployment on his back. He was fortunate to land in an open field. The jumper later posted that he would recover. His profile says he has 325 jumps in two years. There is no explanation of who or what caused the collision.
    4: May 27, 2013. On a 3-way RW dive, an experienced jumper with 3,000 plus jumps was laying base while two other jumpers, one with about 150 jumps and one with about 100, dove out after him. The one with 150 jumps dove too aggressively (a very common mistake when learning to dive out) and collided with the experienced jumper, hitting him in the head with his legs. The experienced jumper was knocked out and stayed that way through the freefall, the AAD activation, the reserve ride, and the landing in a tree, under a reportedly conservative wing loading. The experienced jumper died, although it is not clear if from the trauma from the collision or the landing.
    5: May 20, 2013. A fairly experienced jumper, last out on a tracking dive and diving hard to the formation, hit the foot of another jumper and was knocked out. The AAD deployed the reserve as designed, which was followed by a safe, unconscious landing on a PD 160R which was loaded at 1.25. A later post by the jumper himself says it was an 18-way tracking dive. His profile says 700 jumps in six years. He apparently overtook, horizontally, a jumper who was above and ahead of him and never saw the jumper he collided with. The other jumper would not have seen him coming, either, with all of their focus ahead.
    6: February 17, 2013. A skydiver was knocked out on a 10-way tracking dive. Their AAD activated but they were injured from striking a fence on landing. The injured jumper had 180 jumps and it was her first tracking dive. The injuries include a neck fracture but no paralysis. Her full-face helmet showed some damage. The reserve was lightly loaded, an Optimum 193 but no exit weight reported.
    7: February 14, 2013. A skydiver with 60 jumps had a shoulder dislocated while participating in a 12-way Formation Skydiving jump. Apparently this was the result of a hard dock from another jumper docking on the injured jumper. There is very little detail, but apparently the jumper could not open a parachute and the AAD did the job. No report of landing injuries.
    8: December 7, 2012. On a 17-way wingsuit jump, a participant with 250 jumps struck another participant in freefall and was knocked out. His AAD worked but he remained unconscious under canopy, crashed into an obstacle, and died from that or a combination of the landing and freefall injuries. The other jumper had unspecified back injuries.
    9: October 22, 2012. On a wingsuit rodeo jump, witnesses reported that the jump tumbled unstable from exit. At some point fairly high, reportedly around 10,000 feet, the rodeo rider left. The wingsuiter never deployed a canopy. Their AAD fired but the reserve did not deploy. With no witness to the lower part of the jump it is impossible to say if the wingsuit jumper was struck by the rider, or had a stability issue such as a flat spin.
    Of nine incidents in ten months where a jumper was incapacitated in freefall and their AAD fired (or in one case, was deployed for by another jumper), seven out of nine involved trackers, tracing, or wingsuits. That’s 77%.
    Eight of nine, or 88% were definitely due to collisions. The final one is uncertain but possible, if it was also due to a collision, that brings us to 100% of the incapacitations being due to collisions.
    Almost all of the incidents involve some degree of inexperience. Just how much experience is required to participate in this type of jump is relative. For example, is 300 jumps enough to be on a 12-way tracking dive? Is 250 enough to be on a 17-way wingsuit dive? Is 180 enough to be on a 10-way tracking dive, with no previous tracking experience? Is 700 jumps over six years (117/year average) enough to be on an 18-way tracking dive? Is 325 jumps in two years enough to be on a 12-way tracking dive?
    If your jump numbers are low (say, below 500 jumps) you may have answered “yes.” The correct answer is “no.”
    In every case except 9 and 1, it’s pretty safe to say these dives were too big and too poorly planned for the experience levels involved. In the case of the wingsuiter with 250 jumps, for example, if he was in compliance with his national club’s policy, he could not take up wingsuiting until he had 200 jumps. Even if all 50 of his next jumps were wingsuit jumps, did he have had the experience and skill to be on a 17-way flocking dive? What if only ten or twenty of those 50 jumps were with a wing suit?
    Go to Youtube and search “skydive tracking dive.” Here is a glaring example of the issue:
    This took place at a big US drop zone with plenty of experienced skydivers. Pause this dive every couple of seconds. At various points you can see that up to fifteen (maybe more) people are on the dive, but throughout the dive you’ll see people flailing unstable, going low, unable to close on the formation, way above it… and at break-off time, it’s really down to a six-way with a couple other skydivers in the distant rear.
    For some reason – and here, logic completely fails me for an explanation - some people seem to think it is cool to go on a skydive on which at least half the participants lack the skill to manage the simplest goals such as approaching in control, staying in proximity with the leaders, and breaking off in a controlled fashion. Now with all those bodies scattered around the sky, many of them without the experience to have developed good air awareness, what do we expect would happen? Of course there are going to be collisions, although apparently there were none on the dive used as an example. The experienced jumpers at that drop zone, and every other one, need to change the tune. These jumps should be hard to get on, not easy. Participants should prove themselves on small dives before they go up on big ones, just as in any other freefall discipline.
    We don’t have a very big data set to go on, but let’s say that tracking, wingsuit, and angle dives are 10% of all skydives made. That would probably be pretty generous, my instincts would put the number at under 5%. Yet they account for about 75% of all AAD saves from incapacitation in the past year, and 50% over the past six years. (Half of all the saves due to incapacitation in freefall that show up on the CYPRES web site in the past six years occurred on tracking, angle, or wingsuit dives.) So if a subgroup making 10% of all skydives generates 50% of the AAD activations due to freefall injury, is that a problem?
    Tracking dives have become the most dangerous form of freefall there is. Wing suits are in second place. Tracing/atmonauti/angle dives appear to be determined to compete for the distinction. I hate to load my staff and myself up with more work, but self-policing simply isn’t working in this situation. Skydive Arizona is going to start holding the horizontal element of skydiving to much higher standards. We expect to have minimum experience levels for participation at different levels of complexity established soon, and our web site already lists our expectations. See www.skydiveaz.com, click on “Experienced” and review the safety materials.
    As a business, we need to protect ourselves and our customers from skydivers who don’t have the experience, training, or sense to stay out of trouble. As the variety of freefall and canopy choices expand, it appears the number of skydivers fitting that description is expanding too. Drop zone operators can’t simply turn a blind eye to the problem, especially since the poor planning combined with lack of experience and training expose all skydivers on the plane to a significant risk, not just the individual participant.
    Related Reading: The Horizontal Flight Problem

    By admin, in General,

    Action Therapy: When Skydiving Saves Lives

    Adam Martin and David Winland are here to tell you that skydiving saved their lives: from self-destructive tendencies, depression, drugs, and possibly even the emotional quicksand of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They call it “Action Therapy”, and it’s the working title of a grassroots documentary they are creating on an iconic summer road trip to as many dropzones as possible before their money runs out. Their mission is to highlight the sport’s everyday stories of beauty and personal meaning: no high-profile stunts here, just tales of transformation.
    These two friends, who met through skydiving, have different but equally harrowing stories. Three and a half months after his father committed suicide, Martin decided to go skydiving. His family assumed that the grieving son had a death wish. On the contrary, the idea of taking a previously unimaginable risk was a way of pulling himself out of a self-destructive spiral. Winland, on the other hand, speaks freely about surviving childhood abuse: “Everyone has dysfunction in their families and lives, but mine was really bad. I had cigarette burns on me. There were some terrible people. Instead of getting counseling, I bottled it up and started using drugs and fighting. I’d go out and just raise hell.”
    Martin, 30 years old, and Winland, 38, both largely credit skydiving with their recovery. Winland, a single dad, says he was burned out and worried about his ability to sustain relationships: “When my daughter was born, that just kind of got better. But I still had that really severe issue of, I didn’t communicate well and I didn’t trust anyone. I love my daughter and she was the focus on my life, but I was still angry. Once I started jumping, I was just able to let everything go. I’m a single dad. I have custody of my daughter. I don’t know if I would have been able to do that if I was the same person I was before jumping. I got custody right as I started in the sport, and it has helped. That’s why we have the name Action Therapy. Both of us have been helped so much just by exiting that plane.”
    The duo hopes that sharing real stories will reach people in a dark place. “I hope someone watches our documentary and says, that kid was going through a shitty time in his life, and he did something to pull himself out. So if it helps someone get out of a bad time, whether through skydiving, or something else – go do it,” says Martin. He goes on, “My father was a medic in Vietnam, and there’s no doubt in my mind he had PTSD. But he was raised on a Montana ranch where men kept their feelings bottled up, so we never really talked about it. Maybe this could have saved my dad. Maybe if my dad had something like skydiving, he wouldn’t be gone right now.”
    In addition to Martin’s father’s service, Martin and Winland were deeply inspired by a meeting with Todd Love, the triple-amputee wounded warrior who has refused to let his circumstances prevent him from skydiving (as well as wrestling alligators, going white-water kayaking, and completing the challenging Spartan Race). Along the way, they hope to raise awareness and funds for the Wounded Warrior Foundation.
    These two newer jumpers (Martin has 230 jumps and Winland 296) have the easy banter of friends who have spent too much time in a car together already. They are an odd couple: a tattoo artist who hates golf (Winland) and a golf pro (Martin), now living and working together towards a shared dream. “Skydiving is a great equalizer, a crazy group of people,” says Martin.
    They can almost finish each other’s sentences, and the words of encouragement flow easily. When Martin talks about his father (“I can’t bring him back – I have to move forward in the right way”), Winland chimes in: “He’s so proud of you and your accomplishments!” And when talking about how skydiving has helped ease his fatigue with the world of golf, Martin adds, “I know it’s helped David with his tattooing, too.”
    The philosophy is simple: no matter how heavy the burden, skydiving will lift it. “It’s not the adrenaline rush every time,” says Martin, “It’s just fun and it puts a smile on my face, so I keep doing it.” Winland adds, “I was always quick to pull my roots up. The people I’ve met jumping feel like home.”
    If you want to get some Action Therapy, share your story, or just give this enthusiastic two-man team a high-five, you can find them at Skydive Chicago’s Summerfest boogie or on the last stop of their tour, the Lost Prairie boogie in Montana.
    Keep up with them online at the Action Therapy Facebook page. They have already visited: Skydive Arizona, Skydive San Diego, Tsunami Skydivers (Oceanside), Skydive Perris, Skydive Elsinore, Monterey Bay, Bay Area Skydiving in Byron, Skydance Skydiving in Davis, Sacramento, Lodi, and Oregon.

    By admin, in General,

    How Green Is My Skydive

    by Bryan Burke
    Images by Serge Shakuto Friends, co-workers, and visitors to Skydive Arizona often comment on my interest in environmental topics and my rather restrained consumption of goods and energy, at least by American standards. This is in sharp contrast to my job, which is helping to run the biggest drop zone on the planet. I freely confess I have probably pumped more jet fuel into jump planes than anyone on earth. My fuel supplier is on speed dial and I order 8,000 gallons of jet fuel with a 15 second phone call. When things are busy I make that call two or three times a week. National Championships or Holiday Boogie busy? Every other day.
    Yet we strive to keep our operations as efficient as possible. This is good business: burn less fuel, save money. Over time, every incremental gain in efficiency saves a few gallons of fuel here and there, just as people who plan their weekly driving to minimize miles and maximize efficiency will see huge savings over time, in thousands of small increments.
    I reconcile my environmental leanings with my job in this manner: if someone else was doing it, a lot more fuel would be wasted. On a busy day I figure my expertise and commitment to efficiency saves Skydive Arizona at least two Otter loads worth of fuel consumption.
    Just how much does our sport consume, and how does that compare to other ways oil is used or wasted? The numbers that follow are rough - sometimes very rough. Comparisons are difficult because as numbers get bigger and bigger, they tend to get harder to evaluate for accuracy. Even rough numbers will give the curious reader something to think about.
    A Twin Otter burns about 30 gallons of jet fuel per load. If a drop zone operates at high efficiency, meaning most loads are close to full, that works out to about 1.4 to 1.5 gallons per jumper through the door. Other jump aircraft can be assumed to come in somewhere near that figure. A Cessna 182 burns a lot less per load in volume, but in terms of jumpers per load and time flown, they aren’t that different. Single engine turbines are probably about as efficient as it gets. But on the other hand, if you lose an engine on an Otter, you’re still in an airplane. If you lose the engine on a PAC or Caravan, you’re in a glider. That’s the main reason Skydive Arizona likes to run twin engine jump ships.
    Gasoline turns into Carbon Dioxide at a rate of about one gallon into 20 pounds. Jet fuel is a little less clean, coming in at 21 pounds per gallon. Therefore, for every 100 jumps you make, about 140 gallons of fuel are burned, and 2,940 pounds of carbon dioxide are emitted. That’s one and a half tons. Does your log book suddenly feel heavier?
    If you are having trouble wrapping your head around this figure, think about the raw energy involved in getting to altitude for a skydive. Imagine climbing 13,000 feet on foot, say from the lowlands around Mt. Rainier to the summit, which is 14,411 feet above sea level. Skydive Arizona is 1,500 feet above sea level, so when your altimeter says 13,000 on jump run, you’re at about the same height as the summit of Mt. Rainier. It would take several days, lots of meals, and enormous effort to get to that summit on foot. We do it in 15 minutes using a jump plane. How? By turning long dead plants and animals into explosive energy funneled through a turbine engine.
    By USPA’s figures, approximately 3 million jumps per year were made in the USA between 2007 and 2016, which works out to 4,200,000 gallons of fuel and 88,200,000 pounds of CO2. That’s 44,100 tons of CO2 emitted by skydiving in America each year. Multiply that by ten years and we’re talking about a lot of emissions!
    Let’s look even further back. Based on the jump estimates published in the April 2013 edition of Parachutist, annual jump numbers were at or below 2,000,000 until the late 80s, then climbed steadily throughout the 90s to their current levels. This makes sense. Prior to 1990, turbine aircraft were few, equipment less reliable and “one size fits all,” and training less sophisticated. People packed their own rigs. The pace was just a lot slower. Improvements in all these areas allowed the sport to reach out to a much broader demographic, resulting in more jumps made.
    Driven by curiosity I started pulling numbers off USPA’s bar graph estimating number of jumps per year through 2013 and then added on through 2016. I made my best rounding-off estimate, coming up with about 70 million jumps in the history of US skydiving through 2016.
    Obviously as data gets harder to read, or scarcer, numbers get fuzzier. Rough numbers suggest that about half of all jumps made in the world take place in the USA, so globally the skydiving total might come to about 140 million jumps made in the entire history of the sport.
    That would mean that since 1960, the sport has burned through somewhere around
    196,000,000 gallons of fuel, sending about 2,058,000 tons of CO2 out the exhaust pipes.
    How do we stack up against other fuel figures?
    The State of California estimates that 26,221,917 gallons per year are burned by Off Highway Vehicles, including motorcycles, ATVs, and snowmobiles. That’s almost six times the total national fuel consumption for skydiving. Put another way, OHV recreation in California alone burns more than twice as much fuel as the entire world’s skydiving.
    The Department of Defense is the world’s single largest buyer of fossil fuels, with an estimated consumption as high as 14 million gallons per day. That’s more than all skydivers in the world use in a year and a half.
    To fly Air Force 1 to Hawaii and back is about 50,000 gallons of fuel, or about 36,000 jumps – enough fuel to run a mid-sized seasonal drop zone for a year.
    So much for motorized comparisons. Let’s look at some other fossil fuel uses.
    In my home state of Arizona coal-generated electrical power produced 33,402,462 tons of CO2 in the year 2016. In just one year, that works out to 16 times the entire skydiving fuel burn, globally, in all of history.
    The Earth Policy Institute estimates that America’s bottled water demand requires 714,000,000 gallons of oil annually for materials, packing, storage, transport, and cooling. That works out to more than 80 years of jumps for the entire skydiving world at current levels of jumping.
    In a more graphic image, the Pacific Institute says each bottle of drinking water would have to be filled about ¼ of the way up with oil to represent the energy it used! A gallon is 3.8 liters (which makes one jump about 5.3 liters, don’t you love math?) so you only need to drink about twenty-one 1-liter bottles of water or other beverages to waste as much oil as one skydive. Of course, this doesn’t count the energy used to get you to the DZ and make your rig, jumpsuit, and accessory equipment. Or make the airplane, pave the runway, and put up the hangar.
    Then comes the most disheartening element of fuel of all, the waste.
    The Exxon Valdez spill released about 11,000,000 gallons of fuel over the space of a few days, enough to supply the entire global fleet of jump ships with fuel to fly for over a year. Exxon Valdez pales compared to the ten largest spills in history, all of which amounted to more than 45 million gallons each. The Deepwater Horizon spill alone was estimated to be approximately 200 million gallons, which would cover all the skydives ever made in the world, with about 30 million gallons left over for rigs and jumpsuits, and shipping them to customers.
    Here’s my favorite. Around three billion gallons of gasoline are estimated to be wasted annually in the USA by cars idled in traffic congestion. If that amount was used for skydiving, the entire world could keep jumping at current levels for another 350 years. Daily fuel wasted in American traffic jams is the equivalent of almost six million jumps, or an entire year of the entire world’s estimated skydives.
    I didn’t bring up all these very dark comparisons to make skydiving look green against a black background. There’s just no way we can rationalize skydiving into being green. To visualize just how much CO2 you generate on each jump, take that 29.4 pounds of CO2 and visualize it as six five-pound bags of charcoal briquets. Every jump, piling up on the DZ. If a bag of briquets is about one cubic foot, even a small drop zone would have a big pile out back. Skydive Arizona would have enough to fill four structures the size of the Colosseum of Rome, plus one Parthenon.
    On the other hand, clearly skydiving is a small element of the whole picture. At the personal level, if you are the average American your annual car emissions are the equivalent of 340 skydives per year.
    Even so, how can it be justified?
    Philosophically, I do it this way. Play is a fundamental need coming in right after food, water, shelter, and security. Skydiving is high quality play, as good as it gets, but it comes with a cost. We can’t eliminate that cost, but we can mitigate it by simply focusing on eliminating waste and inefficiency throughout our society and off-setting the damage through environmental restoration.
    Wasteful use of oil, such as bottled water, cars stuck in traffic, industrial scale agriculture, consumer culture in general, and incredibly fuel consumptive military adventures around the globe are examples of where savings could be had. These require some personal and political commitment to steer away from a system that practically glorifies waste. Why not take that lesson skydiving with you? Maybe carpool to the DZ with a friend. Take an apartment closer to your job to avoid that wasteful commute or use mass transit to get to work. Buy a couple re-useable five-gallon water jugs to fill at a local water filtration facility, then refill smaller bottles from that rather than buying a pack of one-liter bottles for the weekend at the DZ. Set your air conditioning a little higher in summer and a little lower in winter. Make your driving as purposeful and efficient as possible by planning your errands carefully and buying a car that is practical rather than a statement about image.
    Buy less stuff. Not only does stuff need to be moved from source to consumer, it must be mined, refined, transported to manufacturing plants, and so on. An I-phone 5S has a carbon footprint of 150 pounds - five skydives worth of fuel.
    I find that visualization really helps me make immediate choices. If you visualize the bottom quarter of that throw-way beverage bottle as filled with bitter jet fuel that you must drink, you’ll never want to touch it again. Sodas, same way. All that high fructose corn syrup was grown on highly mechanized farms before it was heated, treated, dyed, stuffed into a plastic bottle, and trucked to its air-conditioned home in a machine! When I contemplate a road trip, I visualize chucking a five-pound bag of charcoal out of my window every five miles and ask myself just how important that trip is to me. It’s harder to hide from the truth this way. I’ll still make the trip, but I allow myself only so much total annual fuel consumption – a budget, if you will – and making that trip will require that I tighten up consumption in other areas. Most Americans could reduce their overall consumption of energy, goods, and services by at least a third with a little thought and better practice.
    Finally, don’t waste money and fuel on lousy skydives! Focus on well planned jumps that have a high probability of success and the feeling of reward that comes with that. You’ll learn faster, be safer, and maybe be just a tiny bit greener too! There’s an old saying, “Dirt dives are free.” Use your time on the ground wisely and your time in the air will be well spent.

    By admin, in General,

    Almost 25 Years Later: Some Hazards of Resurrection

    After almost a 25-year hiatus, I came back into the fold, enabled by the last child having gone off to college, and prompted by arthritic hips that were making it too painful to play tennis. I figured some things may have changed, but that I had been aware of them, having kept up my USPA membership and subscription to Parachutist. Well, it’s one thing to be aware of something, and quite another to learn to handle it in real time. In my first year back, I jumped at 5 different dropzones in three countries, so that I saw how the changes have been implemented in some different environments. Here is a list of the things that had changed that awaited my return, and had implications for my safety and the safety of others.
    1. There are seatbelts in these jumpships—a good idea in the event of an unanticipated landing, but one has to learn where they are, remember to take them off, to stow them (especially in small aircraft), and be aware of where they are to avoid entanglement on exit.
    2. Spotting is a thing of the past in many dropzones—just keep your eye on the colored lights! Still, it is a good idea to check where one is, in the event a pilot was tracking the wrong line.
    3. Turbine aircraft now have doors! No more freezing on the way to altitude, or clinging to one’s neighbor to avoid falling out. However, one has to learn when they go up and down, how to secure them, how to close them gently.
    4. Everyone wears their pilot chute above their butt—making deployment a little slower, if one manages to find it (remember the advert in the Parachutist: “Looking for something?”), but avoiding a few other problems. Be sure to practice deployment with the gear you will be using many times on the ground, in a prone position, to develop some muscle memory before going up. And check it constantly—my too-loose BOC pouch let out my pilot chute when I rose from the floor and caught it on something, much to the consternation of the planeload of jumpers whose lives I had just endangered.
    5. Parachutes come in many flavors, and many sizes—gone are the days of one canopy fits all. Most of today’s canopies are very touchy, and downright skittish, react to the slightest input, and take far more concentration in the last few hundred feet of descent. Everybody swoops, to some degree, and some DZs have abandoned upkeep of their pea gravel because nobody uses it. I found it easier to land an original Sabre 170 than a Sabre II 190, and I am sure I will not be going for a fully elliptical canopy—at my age, I have to avoid the 1-in-500 jump mishaps that can maim one for life. Essentially, skydivers have invented a whole new way to die—turn low, and drive into the ground at 60mph.
    6. There are many minor innovations in skydiving gear, too many to mention—just make sure you know how everything works on your rig, and why it is the way it is.
    7. Everybody PRO-packs, or uses some variant—although I had had several people show me how to do it, and watched all the videos, etc., in my first dozen attempts, I packed one malfunction, and had to get more private instruction in a quiet place.
    8. People fly landing patterns—e.g. left-hand, with turns at 1000, 600, 300 feet--in the old days, even with 20 jumpers in the air, we all did pretty much what we wanted and hoped for the best; now, even a 4-way requires paying attention to the landing pattern.
    9. Breakoff for belly-flying is much higher—instead of separating an 8-way at 3500, now 4500 or even 5000 is the time to say goodbye. Coupled with the higher minimum opening altitude of 2500, this makes for a much more reasonable margin for error—and as humans, we are prone to error.
    10. There are now many different skydiving disciplines, and you have to learn about them, and pay attention to exit order, as one jump run may let out belly flyers, freeflyers, angle flyers, trackers, wingsuiters, and tandems, as well as people who haven’t made up their mind before boarding exactly what they are planning to do.
    11. AADs are now required most places—no longer shunned as devices that might blow up in your face. RSLs are also ubiquitous—both systems have saved many, many lives.
    12. There are lots of old jumpers now—few old bold ones—and they have learned a lot about how to be safe over their last quarter century, while I’ve been taking kids to soccer practice. Pepper them with all sorts of questions, and do not rush to emulate the 22-year-olds out there. They likely have gone through a much more comprehensive training program than you have, including courses on canopy control and instruction on equipment safety.
    My personal rule, which I have not seen enunciated elsewhere:

    On any given jump, DO NOT INTRODUCE MORE THAN ONE NEW PIECE OF EQUIPMENT, or new way of using a piece of equipment. Of course, your first couple of recurrency jumps will necessitate breaking this rule—but don’t go out of your way to put a camera on, or add anything other than what is absolutely necessary. Example: If you get a new jumpsuit, don’t also try a new helmet on the same jump. Or, if you do, go out on a solo jump.
    Addendum: Do your homework. I recently was caught in a dust devil at 100ft or so, which completely collapsed my canopy, and I credit my reactions and walk-away landing to a video and a book, both by Brian Germain, which I had studied in detail.
    Larry Moulton, C-11371, EET #22, is a professor of international health and biostatistics at Johns Hopkins University.

    By lhmoulton, in General,

    Line of Flight Explained

    The topic of “Line of Flight” seems to be a mysterious, yet cool term that is often misused and/or misunderstood. As a freefly load organizer and instructor, I’ve realized the lack of knowledge about this subject so I figured we can take a moment and break it down:
    Jump Run – the direction of flight and configuration of the plane while jumpers are exiting
    Line of Flight – The 3-dimensional profile of Jump Run
    The Line of Flight is essentially the same “line” as Jump Run, however in skydiving, the Line of Flight is discussed in terms of three-dimensional space.
    Next, where Jump Run begins (or the point where the first group exits) is known as “Down the Line of Flight” and where Jump Run ends (towards the last group exiting), is called, “Up the Line of Flight.”
    According to these illustrations, note the compass rose and which direction the plane is flying. You can determine that the plane is flying from the South, towards the North. This establishes Jump Run and Line of Flight.
    So, what makes this “Line of Flight” important? To avoid collisions!!
    Potential Collision Hazards
    Freefall Drifting (outside the given exit separation and given column of air)
    Break-Off & Opening
    Canopy Opening and the First 10-15 seconds On every jump, in any axis, we all experience freefall and canopy drift. (Reference http://www.melissaairheart.com/winds-aloft/) Therefore, pre-planning the spot, Jump Run, Exit Order (reference http://www.melissaairheart.com/exit-order-of-business/), and Exit Separation (reference http://www.melissaairheart.com/exit-separation-time-really-matters/) turn out to be important elements of safety for Line of Flight.
    Taking into consideration the day’s Jump Run, the Exit Order for the load and Exit Separation for the day’s conditions, each group (assuming they are a traditional RW, Freefly, student or Tandem group) is given a “Column of Air” for freefall. If a group is moving towards the boundaries of their given column, there now exists a potential for a collision.
    How does one get towards the boundaries of the column if they exited in the right Exit Order and given the appropriate Exit Separation?
    Example 1: New Freeflier

    Freefly speeds are increased from 120mph to roughly 150mph. Typically, new sit flyers have a tendency to lean forward which causes a dramatic backslide, which can cover a great distance. If that jumper is facing Up or Down the Line of Flight, they are increasing their chances of converging with another group.
    A solution is to have newer freefliers identify themselves in the loading area, and let others know they’ll be taking the Line of Flight into consideration. Then make sure to face perpendicular to the Line of Flight during freefall.
    Example 2: Break-Off

    To avoid collision on break off, it is suggested to track perpendicular to the Line of Flight.
    Let’s say there is one 4-way RW group (no video), and three 2-way freefly groups exiting from a caravan – given Exit Separation 6 seconds, Jump Run South to North, and each group exited appropriately. To assure avoiding running into groups, the 2-way freefliers are able to track perpendicular to the Line of Flight, allowing more separation between themselves and the other groups.
    However, in a 4-way or larger, inevitably, part of the group may track Up and Down the Line of Flight. There are 3-options to this variable:
    1: The 2-jumpers tracking Up or Down the Line of Flight may reduce their tracking speed so as not exit their Column boundaries, yet still gaining an appropriate distance; and the 2-jumpers tracking off the Line of Flight do a max track to assist in maximizing group separation
    2: The 4-way could adjust their break-off and off-set their trajectory by at least 45° so as to break-off, off the Line of Flight
    3: The group exiting after a group of 4 (or more), leave a little extra time before exiting to account for enlarging the Column of airspace for the previous group’s need space for break off
    [Larger groups will absolutely need more time between groups to account for a larger distance covered on their break-off.]
    Note: Angled, tracking and wingsuit groups are exceptions to the “Column of Air” example as they fly in a broader airspace and need special consideration for their flight paths. This requires communication and awareness from the entire load, including the pilot.
    Why is Line of Flight important for canopy?
    Example 1: Canopy’s Flight Path

    The canopy’s forward movement after opening still increases the distance towards the boundaries of the prior or previous group’s Column of Air.
    Therefore, after ensuring a functioning canopy, it’s important to fly OFF the Line of Flight for approximately 10-15 seconds after opening. In theory, you should be able to look Up the Line of Flight and see the group after you breaking off or just opening; and look Down the Line of Flight and identify the group Down the Line of Flight under canopy and slightly below (depending on opening altitudes).
    Example 2: Landing Area and Opening Point

    This will vary depending on Jump Run’s direction, surface winds, freefall drift, etc. However, if the landing Target Area is under Group 3 shown in the next Illustration, then Group 1 and 2 will have to fly Up the Line of Flight. If you find yourself in Group 1 or 2’s situation, fly off the Line of Flight and identify the groups that exited after you before you fly to the the Holding Area and Landing Pattern.
    Try this at home:

    1. Figure out Line of Flight (or Jump Run) for the day’s conditions and identify landmarks for specific directions

    2. Make sure you note if your group is drifting up or down the Line of Flight; then assure you track accordingly

    3. After deployment and opening checks, fly your canopy off the Line of Flight (if safe to do so) for 10-15 seconds.

    4. Identify a safe flight path to Holding Area and Landing Pattern
    Another great resource is USPA’s Power Point presentation on “Canopy Collisions” found here http://www.uspa.org/USPAMembers/Downloads/tabid/84/Default.aspx (scroll towards bottom, under “Miscellaneous” topics.
    There are always exceptions to the norm and many variables. Therefore, maintain awareness and use your best judgement in each situation.
    Note: If this does not make sense, please consult an instructor at your Drop Zone for further explanation. This is not meant to be a sole training tool for skydiving or parachute flying. Full instructional methods will be provided at your skydiving school.
    Drawings are not to scale

    By MissMelissa, in General,

    Preventing Subjectivity From Destroying Your Dropzone

    Over the holidays, my girlfriend and I drove from Charlotte, North Carolina to Raleigh, North Carolina to visit her family. What we encountered on our road trip was something that every traveler has to contend with - dirty bathrooms. With full bladders, we chose an interstate exit which offered a choice of four different fuel stations. We picked the one that looked the most modern in hopes of discovering that rare, road-trip find: the gas station with a clean bathroom.
    Walking into the station, we noticed that the owner had a sign crudely taped to the door that said restrooms were not for public use. Only "paying" customers could have access to the bathrooms.
    Accepting this 'must-buy-something-in-the-store' condition, we walked in, used the filthy facilities (the women's room neither had toilet paper nor soap), purchased a Starbucks Frappuccino, a very burnt tasting coffee and vowed to never return again.
    I wish this gas station would hire me for a marketing consultation. I would transform this business to a level of success, once believed to be unimaginable. In fact, my client would change the way the competition does business just to remain competitive.
    My input would result in lines queuing off the exit ramp as if there was a gas shortage.
    How would I do this? I would satisfy the pain point of travelers by providing a clean bathroom. Not just a clean bathroom, but AMAZINGLY clean bathrooms that are designed for high volume and easy maintenance. I would advertise these amazingly clean bathrooms to the masses, exclaiming to every traveler on the interstate of how clean they are.
    So what does this have to do with the skydiving industry?
    EVERYTHING
    Few industries have as much bathroom traffic as the skydiving industry. Looking for your student on the 20 minute call?
    They're in the bathroom! I've often said that you can tell how a business feels about its customers by looking at the bathroom.
    This is a point that must not be ignored, but there is a bigger message here.
    This article is less about bathrooms and more about addressing the obvious points that DZO's miss because of subjectivity. The time investment that a DZO puts in during an average summer weekend day is usually 12-14 hours. It's easy to lose sight of the obvious and become blind to what your customers are actually experiencing.
    What are the pain points for your customers?
    Directions?
    Cleanliness of Bathrooms?
    Cleanliness of the Hangar?
    Cleanliness of the Packing Mat?
    Hospitality of the Manifest Staff?
    Dirty jumpsuits?
    What are the pain points of your staff?
    Maintaining equipment?
    Clean goggles for students?
    Frap hats in good condition?
    Laundered jumpsuits?
    9 Steps to Exceed the Expectations of Customers
    1. Identify. Identify every customer point of interaction with the business.
    2. Evaluate. Answer the question, "Are we providing 5 star service at each point of interaction?" If you’re not, you need to be.
    3. Gather Feedback. Poll your customers. If possible, e-mail your customer database requesting they take a brief survey about your company. Each question in the survey should request an evaluation at each point of interaction.
    4. Listen. Listen to what your customers are saying. Don't blow the feedback off as trivial. This feedback is critical to a business' survival. Make appropriate changes based on the feedback.
    5. Set Goals. In order to exceed the expectations of your customers, a measurable goal must be set for everyone in the company to work towards and achieve.
    6. Measure. Create a statistic that charts progress based on the new goals.
    7. Recognize - Recognize pain points employees endure when trying to deliver excellent service. Make it as easy as possible for your staff to amaze the customer. Also, identify team members who are unable to deliver the level of service management requires. Try to coach employees wherever possible, but be ready to remove team members who do not buy-in.
    8. Establish Culture - Delivering amazing service does not happen by simply announcing "Let's give better service!"
    Employees need to be happy in order to deliver great service consistently. Establish core values with employee input and hold the company to that standard from the CEO down.
    9. Communicate. Communicate and over-communicate. Give as much feedback to employees as possible. People wish to feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves and will take more pride in their work if they know their contribution makes a difference. Praise publicly and always punish privately.
    Powerful marketing focuses on how a customer feels about a company. Exceed the expectations of your customers to gain the advantage in your marketplace.
    The details matter. Above, the before and after pics of the bathroom facility at Triangle Skydiving Center. When customers are paying a premium price to use your services, a premium experience should be given. The industry must remember that we are operating million dollar + operations. Make it a million dollar experience from start to finish at every point of contact.

    By admin, in General,

    Teaching Students To Navigate The Landing Pattern

    A skydiver at the Oklahoma Skydiving Center pointing out their landing pattern. Image by Corey Miller
    When we teach students how to skydive, the lessons do not just stop after the first jump course. One important skill all skydivers need to know is how to navigate through the landing pattern. I have heard instructors refer to talking to students on the radio as “remote controlled skydiving” because they guide the student where they want them to land, and they tell the student every turn to make. If we are supposed to teach our students how to pilot their canopy, then we must ask ourselves, “How is this enabling the student to learn?” In this article I will discuss a method of teaching the student how to pilot their canopy that is not only easy to use, but also allows the instructor on the radio to remain in control if the student needs additional guidance while descending under canopy.
    Teaching the student piloting skills starts in the classroom. Of course we teach the students the SOPs and to make sure they have a canopy that is Square, Stable, and Steerable; but now what? Do we just give directions to the student over the radio? Realistically, for the student who just opened their canopy for the first time we, as instructors, will probably have to do that. The student has emotions of excitement and fear going through their mind while adrenaline is going through their body. This mixture can make anyone confused, so don’t be surprised if the first time in the landing pattern you are flying a “remote controlled skydiver”. Having said that, let’s discuss how we are going to teach the student to navigate the pattern and eventually, be removed from radio status. I like to start this process with a laminated picture of the landing area and a grease pencil.
    With a laminated picture the instructor should sit down with the student and first, have the student draw an arrow showing the direction of the wind. Now we know that the student is aware of the wind direction and we do not have to assume that they do. Next, have the student point out where their “playground” is going to be. For those who do not use the term “playground” that is the area where the student can fly their canopy, while they are descending to the proper altitude to enter the landing pattern. Next, have the student make a mark showing where they will enter the downwind part of the landing pattern and at what altitude this is supposed happen. This is the time the instructor can discuss at what altitude to leave the playground and to start thinking about the landing procedures they covered during the first jump course. Additionally, let the student know that next time things could be different due to wind direction and speed. Next have the student show where, and at what altitude, to make their turn for the base leg of the landing pattern.
    Since an aerial picture of the drop zone is be used, the instructor can point out hazards and landmarks at this point. For me, I like to point out a grass runway at the drop zone and to tell students not to go pass it figuring it is better for them to have to walk back a little bit than to risk getting too close to the hanger or the active taxiway. Finally, have the student show where, and at what altitude, the final turn would be.
    At this point the instructor should reiterate the importance of the wind sock, what altitude to stop turns and to do only small corrections, and of course, when to flare. Since the student is making marks on a laminated picture, it is a good training aid to keep and to use when debriefing the student after the jump. The instructor can point out how the plan and the actual landing pattern were different. The instructor then can talk about how safety could have been affected and discuss a plan for improvement. After the debriefing the student, just wipe the photo clean and use it for the next student. Now, let’s talk about our first jump student some more.
    When teaching a first jump student, I do not advocate going through all of this in great detail on their first jump. Instead, have them look at the picture. Ask them about where they would want to be at 1,000 feet. Where would they turn for the base leg and final leg of the landing pattern? If we, as instructors, get into too much detail for the first jump the student can have a sensation overload and forget everything. Additionally, a sensation overload could make the experience less enjoyable and possibly hinder the chances for repeat business and some good word of mouth advertising. By just showing them what will be happening we can reduce the student’s anxiety by reducing their fear of the unknown. Additionally, if there should be a radio failure while the student is under canopy, having shown them on a photo of the landing zone and discussed where they should be in relationship to various ground features we have just increased the chances for the student to land safely.
    Author Bio:

    Corey Miller is a C rated skydiver who held both coach and IAD instructor ratings. He holds a Master in Aeronautic Science degree with specialties in Teaching and Human Factors. He currently works as an Instructor/Quality Assurance Inspector in the Aerospace Industry. He calls the Oklahoma Skydiving Center his home DZ.

    By coreyangel, in General,

    Hey Bro, Check Out my Go Pro

    The sleek, low-profile design, an easy-to-use system, so small it’s hardly there, and it’s oh-so-glorious high quality images – the Go Pro, Hero. In this social media society, the Go Pro is seductive, yet it’s oh-so-risky. For all you rebels at heart, those willing to learn, and especially those with less than 200 jumps - let’s lay down some tracks about being courted to don the camera.
    As an AFF Instructor and having been in the sport for nearly two decades, I have developed a hearty outlook about jumping a camera. But let’s slip on a bit of perspective mixed in with a bit of old school and new school thinking. So to round out this discussion, I interviewed two well-respected and well-known camera flyers about the topic – Norman Kent and Brian Buckland.
    Norman Kent, a life-long photographer and artist has been jumping a camera since 1975. Norman only wanted to try skydiving once. However, he experienced something so captivating, he saw an opportunity to capture the moments of beauty that was so different and so freeing in the sky. He admitted to be a fast learner, however he first strapped on a camera only having 24 jumps – it was a Kodak Instamatic with 126 cartridges.
    Norman didn’t have a skydiving photographer mentor. In fact, there weren’t many people strapping cameras on their heads in those days. It was an arduous and expensive venture for those willing to try. And for Norman, he made his own contraption by using a motorcycle helmet with no chin cup, wired a mechanical plunger, and confessed he didn’t know anything. So as he jumped his equipment, the air pushed the helmet up and the buckled strap choked him as the helmet moved all over his head and he fumbled in the sky. While these set backs were disappointing, it did not detour him. Instead, he was motivated to invent something that worked better - this approach lead to many camera helmet and jumpsuit innovations over his career, leaving a legacy of pioneering in camera flying.
    I asked Norman what he thought of today’s USPA’s current regulations for jumpers to wait until they had 200 jumps to fly a camera. “Regulation is a good idea, a good guideline,” he says. “It sounds hypocritical to say because I started with the ‘yahoo’ approach, but it’s wise to wait.”
    I’ve known Norman for a long time. I’ve seen him jump enormous contraptions carefully constructed upon his head. He’s a proficient and a well-respected camera flyer and we talked how different it is today with the Go Pro being so small. I ask him if he sees any dangers. “It all comes down to the attitude of the jumper,” he begins. “Because the Go Pro is small, it’s inviting people to use it who aren’t even in photography. It’s [jumping a camera] not so simple and there are dangers involved.”
    Norman and I both agreed that there is a shift in thinking in skydiving from the renegade days of the past. The development of tandem jumping and social media have greatly changed the image our sport, attracting more types of people to experience skydiving that the thinking of the past has to change.
    Norman elaborates, “People learn so differently that I’m not pro-regulating, I’m pro-educating. We need to develop a training or an awareness program [about jumping a camera.]” Although he recognizes the dangers happening, he also sees this as an opportunity for the sport. “This is an opportunity for coaches and instructors, for inventors, for schools…” Norman is currently working on a project for a You Tube production geared towards camera flying educational purposes coming out later this year.
    Let’s bring it back in the day where these young lads photographed below are sporting some serious state-of-the-art camera gear in 1988.
    Brian Buckland comes from an entirely different background. Brian made his first jump in 1994 and didn’t jump a camera until 5 years later and racked up about 500 jumps. Brian’s philosophy was to become a proficient flyer first; so he logged about 200 belly jumps, then learned how to freefly. During this time he notes that he was becoming more aware of his routine with gear checks, canopy skills, and landings. Finally the time came and he strapped on his first camera – a Canon Rebel 2000, with film.
    Brian went to Radio Shack after buying an off-the-shelf flat top camera helmet to wire up a shutter release. He admits to being nervous since his routine greatly changed with having to be concerned with battery life, clean lenses, and correct camera settings, in addition to checking his gear and high fiving everyone. When he landed from his first jump, he looked over his wares and was surprised how well they turned out. He submitted them and they were published.
    “I learned about photography after the fact [of getting the first photo published]. So I went to a continuing education course for photography and started translating that to the sky.” Over the years Brian has developed a systematic routine and is busy the entire flight making sure everything is in order prior to jumping. “It’s important to be comfortable with gear, build good habits, and safely skydive with others.”
    Brian also didn’t have any skydiving photography mentors. However, he looked up to the likes of Norman Kent, Joe Jennings, Mike McGowan, Tom Sanders, Craig O’Brien and later, Jason Peters. Now with established photographers in the sport, I asked Brian what he thought of USPA’s camera regulations. “The numbers are decent because the time in sport and time in the air are important in building a comfort level. Adding something new when you’re new and not comfortable with the everything else, something like a camera becomes a distraction.”
    Both Norman and Brian elaborated how the common attitude is, “it’s [Go Pro] not a camera, it’s so small, you-don’t-even-notice-it” attitude. Brian conveyed a story how, against his advice, a tunnel instructor with about 100+ jumps had lost two Go Pros! And we’ve all seen the photo on Facebook with an AFF student’s pilot chute wrapped around an instructor’s Go Pro. The Go Pro is a snag hazard and most people who wear them use non-cutaway helmets and screwed on mounts.
    This is an excerpt from USPA on September 1st, 2011:

    Adhering to Camera Recommendations
    USPA has been receiving an increasing number of calls and e-mails from Safety & Training Advisors and instructors regarding what to do about inexperienced skydivers who want to jump with small-format video cameras, such as the GoPro. Many new jumpers seem to feel that the small camera does not pose a risk, and they simply want to wear the camera while jumping. For that reason, the new jumpers do not consider this to be a video jump that falls under the 200-jump recommendation in the Skydiver’s Information Manual [SIM].
    The truth is that even though the camera itself may be small, it still represents a significant snag hazard to any jumper. This is especially true considering the various camera mounts jumpers use. In addition to the snag hazard, no matter how much a jumper thinks the camera will not become a distraction during the jump, it will. There are plenty of cases of newer jumpers forgetting to fasten chest straps or creating dangerous situations in freefall, etc., that were directly attributed to the distraction of the camera.
    USPA’s camera recommendations appear in Section 6-8 of the Skydiver’s Information Manual. Be sure jumpers at your drop zone are following these guidelines. They exist for very important reasons.
    The SIM is an excellent outline about camera safety and requirements, but it doesn’t educate. I agree that too many people have a careless attitude about the jumping camera equipment too soon and that we need more education. We’re fortunate to have an organization that mediates our government relations, memberships, insurance, etc. However, they do not govern, they suggest and that gives us the freedom to self-police safety amongst ourselves. If we want to see change for the better, we need to take it into our hands and pass on good information.
    Allowing newbie’s to jump camera equipment just because they’re “heads up” isn’t a qualifier to allow them the privilege to wear one. I visited a DZ and asked the S&TA; about their policy of jumpers with sub 200 jumps wearing a Go Pro. The answer I received was, “If their heads up, it’s ok.” I quizzically looked at him and said, “How do you know he’s heads up? Have you jumped with him?” Two hundred jumps is, although not the best, a measure of experience. At least I can assume they’ve earned their B-license (including the canopy progression) and have a bit of time and experience. I don’t have a chance to jump with everyone to qualify someone with sub 200 jumps “heads up,” and who’s to judge whose heads up anyways?!
    There’s so much more to just jumping a small-little-thing like the Go Pro. Because of social media, there are ethics that ought to be tied into this conversation. Excited newbie’s may use their footage unjustly and this effects more than the person jumping it. For example, Gerardo Flores – an uncurrent, 30-jump wonder sneaks a camera on his jump and has a “near death experience” that goes viral on the web. This situation affected the skydiving community negatively and gave a sneak peak to the public how “reckless” skydivers can be. Not to mention other videos that go live streaming on the web.
    I asked Brian what advice he’d give to those thinking about jumping any kind of camera and he said, “Be comfortable with yourself well before strapping on a camera. Be proficient under the parachute, build your awareness, know your emergency procedures, know your gear and wear the proper gear. Then, learn about the camera prior to jumping it.”
    Although Norman and Brian didn’t have mentors, both have been a huge help and inspiration to aspiring camera flyers over the years. Both have made themselves available to help give direction and may be reached through their websites, www.BrianBuckland.com and wwww.NormanKent.com. And stay tuned for Norman’s upcoming video on You Tube, "The Dangers of Being a HERO".
    Now, for all you rebels at heart and those willing to learn, I cannot tell you what to do but share my experience. However, when you meet the camera flying requirements, it’s like earning the rite of passage to don a camera on your head. Throw in a bit of education in there and believe me, it’s totally cool and absolutely worth the wait.

    By MissMelissa, in General,

    The Business Behind Skydiving

    Short of going to the moon, skydiving is the greatest adventure life has to offer. Everyday lives are changed & comfort zones blown wide open! Skydiving is therapy and a respite from the grind of life. Having a bad day? Make a jump and see if it's as bad when you land.
    An Activity or an Experience?
    So, what are DZ's offering? Many DZs sell the experience while others sell an activity. We have all seen these things: Instructors who look as if they just got out of bed, ripped or dirty jumpsuits, staff arriving late, foul language within earshot of students, sexual innuendo or inappropriate jokes about death, the list goes on. We've witnessed it, yet we're not surprised by it. The expression "It's skydiving" is the blanket phrase that's thrown over this behavior. Let it be made clear, It's NOT skydiving, it's a mentality.
    The mentality derives from the origins of our sport when DZ's were built on an individual's passion to continue to jump post military service versus the creation of a DZ with a viable business plan. The introduction of tandem skydiving created a sustainable business model which has allowed for major skydiving centers like Chicagoland Skydiving Center, Skydive Spaceland, Skydive Carolina and Skydive Elsinore to thrive. The reality is the sport is still extremely young relative to other sports and we are still finding our way into the mainstream. To get there we must break the mentality that excuses poor service.

    Skydiving has evolved from barnstorming DZ's to multi-million dollar facilities

    Breaking the Chain
    The majority of DZ decision makers hire by plugging in an individual's experience level into the position while forgetting a more important consideration: a passionate personality. If greater significance was placed on one's personality first and years in the sport second, there will be a major shift in the business of skydiving. Having an instructional staff that is passionate about pleasing the customer will benefit the DZ with additional business- GUARANTEED. I'm not suggesting safety be compromised by hiring less experienced instructors. I'm suggesting that DZO's be more selective in the people they hire by weighing personality as heavily as experience.
    Customers want to have a relationship with a person not with an organization. Personal touch is what takes a company from good to great. Happy customers will create a word of mouth marketing campaign more valuable than any mass media expenditure from a DZ. Great customer service is a DZ's greatest marketing plan.
    All of us are consumers. If we spend more than US$300 for a service (tandem plus video and stills) what would the expectation be for the kind of service we should receive? Add the variable of a high risk activity and we'd like to feel that we are being well taken care of. Negative attitudes cannot coincide with the business side of the sport. Our sport is too good, too fun, too pure, too life changing to be anything other than the greatest experience in the world with the greatest people.

    By admin, in General,

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