6 Tips To Boost The Bottom Line

    In an industry where everything costs a lot of money, creating opportunities to maximize on customer expenditure is essential. Many of the DZ's I visit focus solely on tandem and video sales and are merely satisfied with any other purchases made in the gear store. Let's be more strategic by increasing peripheral sales to help boost your bottom line. The margins on tee shirts are too substantial to ignore. Also, guests who purchase a second tandem become part of your marketing team by recruiting others to join them on their skydiving adventure. Are you doing everything you can to boost these sales?
    Understanding What We Have
    The skydiving industry has something that retail companies, salespeople, and corporations crave….no, WISH they had with their customers. That word is connection. Ever been to the Gap during its heyday in the 90s or even the Apple Store of today? Millions of dollars have been spent by these companies to mix the right elements to make the retail environment inviting enough to make a connection. Selling has been turned into a science focused on stimulating the consumers senses.
    Walk in to an Apple Store and pay attention to what you're seeing. Visually, the store is appealing with clean lines, lighting that isn't harsh but illuminates and is soft. The colors in the store window are vibrant. Audibly, the music is up with an energy-induced, toe-tapping beat. The music isn't an ipod on shuffle but is part of a science known as multi-sensory branding. Everything is by design to connect with customers and create an environment that is inviting, warm and allows no obstacle for consumers to react on an impulsive purchase. The energy felt within the Apple Store is palpable as the throng of people within the store creates a vibe that makes the price of the products not seem so incredibly expensive. Touch - having all the products out and available to touch and play with is part of the Apple Store's brilliance and pushes the connection between user and product. Playing with an ipod is much more powerful than simply
    looking at one. Smell - Think there isn't a smell at the Apple Store? You won't notice what you're smelling, but instead notice what you're not smelling. There is no musty smell from hundreds of people crammed into its tight quarters, but rather a smell of newness that matches the vivid environment. Undoubtedly, the store is cleaned very well at the end of each day. Everything involving the senses is calculated and by design.
    Whether you're an Apple lover or hater, Apple has created a retail model that spares no expense to create a connection with the consumer. When a connection is made, sales are made. The skydiving industry has conquered the hardest part of selling: we have the connection. Now, let's make some sales!
    Closing the Sale
    The moment a tandem student lands from their skydive is SALES GOLD. The reserved person who arrived at the DZ who hemmed and hawed about upgrading from video to video and stills is now primed to spend a little more money…at least $18 for a tee shirt. The connection the student has with the tandem instructor and the organization is now sealed as serotonin surges through the veins of an individual who has just completed "The best experience of their lives." The consumer WANTS to share their experience showing off a tee shirt or product that says, "yeah, I jumped out of an airplane and loved it." Be sure we're creating the right environment to make the sale.
    NOTE: You don't need to have an amazing facility or retail space to accomplish this.The minimum requirement is that your sales area is clean and feels organized.

    6 Power Tips To Boost The Bottom Line

    The Closing 1. The Tandem Instructor
    The tandem instructor is the gateway to an easy sale. The student has entrusted his / her life to the instructor while facing their biggest challenge and they lived! Big time connection here. If your DZ is meeting instructors in the landing area with a rig, then you're negatively affecting your sales. Great that you're busy, but if there is not enough time to complete the experience, then you're clearly understaffed. A great book has a strong beginning, middle and end. Too often, we end the tandem experience improperly without an instructor:
    a). debriefing the tandem student with encouragement about how well they did during the jump
    b). the presentation of a certificate of achievement signed by the instructor with a shake of the hand or hug and the signing of log books (instructors and student's)
    c). presentation of sales opportunities that the customer has become eligible for having completed their first jump as well as the next steps to becoming a solo skydiver.
    A Word on Instructors: Passionate instructors will buy-in to this. A DZ's success is everyone's success and job security for all!
    2. Placement
    Where the closing takes place is key to driving sales. Ideally, have the presentation of the certificate of achievement take place in the store. Once the instructor shakes hands and departs, the student is left with feelings of exhilaration and happiness in the retail space.
    3. The Store
    The gear store, regardless of size should feel clean and organized. If the store is poorly lit, has worn out carpeting, and is bulging at the seams with product then make the correct changes. Offer less product if needed to make the sales environment more friendly. All products should be neatly hung or folded. 

    4. Displays
    Be sure your customers can touch tee shirts. If tee shirt designs are simply on display behind the counter with sizing in drawers, then you are not maximizing sales. As with all retail stores in the mall, people want to see how tee shirts will look on them. The interaction of touching the product is very important.
    5. Offer a Deal
    Even if it's perceived. There is a euphoria in shopping when people feel like they've received a deal. Observe the madness of Black Friday in the US as shoppers quite literally feel a 'high' when getting amazing deals even at the cost of getting out of bed at 4:00am, fighting traffic and huge crowds for the opportunity to spend money in a crazy environment! When presenting the certificate of achievement, offer an exclusive discount in the form of a coupon (preferably on card stock, so it feels substantial) for those that have completed their jumps to receive a discount on purchasing their next tandem, a discount for beginning AFF and a discount on a tee shirt). Even a $2 discount off of a US$20 shirt feels good to a shopper. You don't have to give the house away to see a jump in sales.
    6. Create an Urgency
    Don't give customers options to get a deal after they leave the DZ. There is no better sales environment than the moment after a jump. During my time at Skydive Carolina, I offered my guests who had paid full retail the opportunity to purchase a gift certificate for a tandem at half the price. The discount would be valid for that day only, pushing the student to make an on-the-spot decision. (The strategy is not to force the student to jump the same day, but to leave with the discount in hand in order to recruit others). Once the customer leaves the DZ with an option to buy later, the percentage of sales decreases dramatically. If someone called within a few days begging to cash in the offer…I would always honor it.
    The psyche of most people doing a tandem skydive is to share in the experience with others. My basis for good marketing is to convert happy customers into 'talkers' for your DZ. Anyone leaving with a half off tandem promotion becomes a marketing mouthpiece. They will try to recruit others to join them for their next tandem experience and of course you will capture them at full retail. Some people return alone, but that is the minority. This is part of equipping your guests to become the marketing machine for your DZ and the best part is they're paying you to do it.
    Owning and running a DZ is harder than most people can imagine. The lists of to-dos and responsibilities are endless and being ahead on anything is typically short-lived. My thoughts are geared towards working smarter, not harder and to convert your happy customers into marketers.

    By admin, 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?
    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?
    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,

    The Daily Deal Dilemma - Dynamite Marketing or Industry Destruction

    The daily deal discussion has become the latest irritant on par with the topic of SkyRide and often leads to vein-popping, heated discourse similar to any US political exchange between Democrats and Republicans. It can get heated!
    Generally, there are two positions held about daily deals:
    Position 1: Strongly Against: Deeply discounting the product while a third party profits on your hard work is not sustainable and does not make sense.
    Position 2: In Favor: It's a great way to expose your business and bring a lot of traffic through the door.
    Many businesses, both in and out of the skydiving industry, have found the daily deal to be a dreadful experience. The deal has been misused by offering too many deals, too often, without creating a proper strategy for its implementation. Think of the daily deal like chocolate. Eat it in moderation and it can be enjoyed. Eat too much of it and it will make you sick.
    The application of the daily deal can be either positive or negative dependent on several variables and is not universally a good idea for all.
    Three Variables that Dictate Daily Deal Success or Failure:
    A). Motive - Revenue Generator or Marketing Vehicle?

    B). Competition in the marketplace.

    C). How the deal is structured.
    A. Your Goal for Offering a Daily Deal
    What is the motive for creating a daily deal? If the motive is to create an infusion of cash to get through a winter or to generate a major profit, then this is a red flag. Offering daily deals annually for a prolonged period at high volumes is unsustainable.
    If the motive is to use the daily deal as a vehicle to increase awareness about your DZ, then this is a better approach. I view the daily deal more as an advertising expense as opposed to a revenue generator - a big difference. The key baseline is to never lose money on any deal.
    Creating an intelligent deal limits volume, guarantees a sell out promotion and goes away quickly. The purpose is to maximize exposure based on the size of the database of the daily dealer. Whether you offer 500 vouchers or 2000, your exposure to the database is the same. So, offer a lower volume.
    B. Competition in the Marketplace
    If there are multiple DZ's competing in the same marketplace who offer promotions at different price points, volumes and times of year, the marketplace will erode and operators will be forced to cost-cut as profit margins become razor thin resulting in a lesser product. Consumers will refuse to pay the full retail price knowing that if they are patient enough, a deal will soon appear.

    C. How To Structure a Deal
    If you elect to offer a deal, how you structure it is most important. If the fine print does not benefit you entirely then it could be detrimental. Below are important keys to structuring a deal:
    1. When to Offer Your Daily Deal - Don't (Ever) offer a daily deal during the beginning or during the busiest months of the season. Basic economics teaches that one can charge the most when demand is high, but pricing will slip if a great deal is offered in great supply. A daily deal should only be offered at the end of the busy season when transitioning into the quieter time of year when demand is low.
    2. Expiration Dates - Ideally, allow for a lengthy expiration date as opposed to a shorter one. Pushing for a short-term expiration date (six months) puts pressure on certificate holders to redeem, causing high volume in a short period of time. If the weather is particularly poor, rescheduling these deep discounted customers can interfere with availability during the peak season.
    Here's an example:
    Many DZ's offer a high volume deal (more than 1000 vouchers) in the month of December (Northern Hemisphere) with an expiration date for May or June of the following year. The purpose is to generate a high volume of business during the cooler months as winter transitions into spring. Conceptually, it's a good idea to maximize being busy and creating work for DZ staff when it's normally a bit quiet. The consequence occurs if the weather is poor during the spring season forcing these discounted jumpers to reschedule into the busy months thus reducing availability for full-retail price paying customers. Offering a longer-term deal (a year) doesn't push so many people en masse in such a short period of time.
    3. Deal Pricing
    a. Know Your Cost. Know exactly what a tandem skydive costs you. Round up when factoring in variable expenses like the cost of fuel.
    b. Price for Profit. Know the number you would wish to receive before beginning talks with a daily dealer. Profit margins are not significant,
    but the number MUST result in a profit. If it's at a loss….DON'T ACCEPT IT.
    4. Negotiate. Negotiating a daily deal is not unlike purchasing a car from a salesman. Don't show your hand, but let the offer come from the
    daily deal representative first and build the margin up from there. Remember, there is competition for daily dealers. Several years ago, GroupOn was the only dealer in the space. Today many are fighting for your promotion. Pit one against the other to maximize profit margins. Never pay for credit card fees. Dealers will try to have you pay them. This can be negotiated and should be a show-stopper. Tip: Address this detail last after you're happy with the amount received for each voucher sold.
    5. Limit Vouchers - Setting up a good deal should create a vibe or a rush from the consumer base by offering limited quantity over a limited time period. Many DZ's offer too many vouchers to generate cash flow. Again, if the motivator is for a cash infusion (which it often is in this cash flow industry) then becoming cash poor is inevitable once current debts are covered and instructors are paid resulting in an unhealthy cycle of continuously ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul.’
    6. Deal Parameters - Have you ever noticed that popular restaurants or hotels put in their conditions that the deal cannot be redeemed on Valentine’s Day or some other big holiday event? Be sure that your deal doesn’t impede on customers wishing to pay you full retail during boogies or traditionally high volume weekends. Be clear how to handle vouchers after a certificate goes beyond the expiration date.
    7. Be Prepared - This is not part of structuring the deal, but it should be part of your mindset. Be prepared for high traffic on the phones when your deal launches and most importantly offer VIP service to these coupon holders. A marketer's challenge is to create a vehicle that drives traffic through the door. Once there, treat them with amazing service in order to wow them. Too often, companies treat people who redeem their vouchers as second-class citizens because of the deal they have. The ultimate purpose of good marketing is to drive traffic and convert customers into loyalists.

    Suggested Alternative: A More Beneficial Daily Deal
    Skip the middle man. A more beneficial deal is creating an in-house deal to your customer database. Capitalizing on a customer base that already loves you allows for an easy sale. Offer a deal to your own customer base and offer it for three days only (ideally on Black Friday or Cyber Monday in the USA). In order for this to occur, DZ's must be collect e-mail addresses from all of their customers in order to launch a successful in-house program.
    If implementing a daily a deal use caution, apply a strategy and execute in moderation. Generating traffic and building your business at an acceptable price point is a process that begins with treating guests like a VIP at every point of interaction. Too often, drop zone operators focus on the skydive to wow the customer as opposed to amazing people by offering a clean facility, high communications and staff who are passionate about service. Building a business without these foundations will create the need for quick cash resulting in a cycle that is damaging to all.

    By admin, in General,

    Coaching in the World of Skydiving

    A self-taught man usually has a poor teacher and a worse student. -Henny Youngman
    Skydiving is a sport in which all all participants seek improvement in skill and confidence in their skills. Coaching plays a significant role in setting goals, testing the goals, and reviewing the tested goal. The illustrations in this article are from wingsuit students, and this conversation is predominantly directed towards coaches beyond Cat G/H USPA standards whether they’re teaching canopy control, freeflying, RW, wingsuiting, CRW, freestyle, accuracy, or any other aspect of the skydiving culture.

    This article predominantly speaks to advanced coaching, yet the principles also apply to ISP coaching.
    Students have a right to expect a quality experience. Students also have a right to expect that they’ll complete a training investment with greater skill, competence, knowledge, or a combination of abilities. Not only should coaches/instructors be well-versed and trained in how to instruct,they also must keep current in the sport using resources available via USPA, community education, advanced instruction, and reading books benefiting both the coach/instructor and the student in the long run. The USPA provides an excellent primer in the basics of training, yet it’s extremely beneficial if additional resources are pursued.
    In short, being an effective coach/instructor involves continuing education and seeking the best methods and practices in teaching vs finding the fastest way to receive and keep a rating. A good coach or instructor creates the foundation upon which a student makes conscious decisions throughout their skydiving career.
    A proper program provides kinesthetics, muscle memory training, horizontal and vertical training positions. Well-spent time on the ground provides for a much better in-air experience.
    Unfortunately (as in any educational setting) there are coaches in skydiving who are good in the sport yet cannot skillfully teach. Many coaches do not understand the methodology behind practical training. Instead, students are taught using the theory of “this is how it worked for me, now you go do it.” A skilled trainer/coach/instructor, on the other hand, should be able to teach on virtually any topic to anyone, because they properly understand the process of breaking down a task or objective into a series of attainable goals that eventually combine into a skill or greater self-empowerment.
    When one is seeking out a coach, identifying the person most naturally skilled in the objective you wish to achieve seems intuitive. However, selecting someone who is a world champion in this or an award winner of that, may actually be counter productive. The champion has spent most of their time refining the final 2% of their skill necessary to put them above another competitor. Further, they may not have the skill set to properly pass along their skill set, simply because it is self-contained, self-trained, and misses the logic and requirement to understand the skill from a no-knowledge starting point.
    When one is making the decision to become a coach, having an instructional background or seeking training from a coaching professional or attending a few instructor-skills classes will make a significant difference in your effectiveness as a teacher. Most USPA Coach Examiners offer a basic level of instructional technique, yet it’s recommended that coaches receive additional training from outside educational resources.
    Coaching isn’t about you. It’s about the student. Too much information too quickly is overwhelming and students are unable to retain key points. This is easily the number one mistake rookie coaches and instructors make when trying to help someone reach a goal. It’s especially true when helping someone new in their discipline or activity. While it seems like the right thing to do, it isn’t. Refrain from teaching about hips, head, arms, legs, feet, shoulders, elbows, knee pressure, stomach/core, and angular motion all at once.

    It’s just not going to work.
    A good coach understands biometrics, understands how to improve poor body position with a single (at most two) changes, and can process the cause of body position issues very quickly.
    Additionally, a good instructor knows how to assess individual learning styles by asking a few short yet revealing questions. By applying techniques targeted for each person’s individual learning style, the training session becomes even more effective.
    A capable and professional coach/instructor:

    Has a series of goal-identifying questions.
    Uses multi-layered listening skills.
    Has learned both tactical and strategic coaching methods (do they have multiple methods to achieve a specific result?)
    Discovers in-the-moment coaching opportunities that ignite an effective and fun dialog.
    Crafts coaching approaches that lead to student success.
    Understands the importance of “centering”.
    Recognizes what levels of information are “TMI” at an individual level.
    Can demonstrate flying skill to provide in-air feedback and proximity. In the below video, a skydiver attended different wingsuit schools wanting to achieve the same objective. The two jumps are back to back. The video on the left is a coaching jump at School “A” and the right half of the video is the next coached jump/same task trained at School “B.”
    School “B” uses a “pro-active coaching” method including kinesthetics/proprioception based on standard sport instruction.
    The results demonstrate very different results for an identical task. Quality coaching does make a significant difference in speed and quality of advancement.

    An “instructor” must determine whether they are a “Coach” or a “Counselor.” A coach provides direction to orient and train for a specific skill set agreed upon by student and coach. Coaching is a mentorship process. A counselor, on the other hand, is a supportive process where the student is largely responsible for self-training and obtains feedback from a peer more skilled in the task or discipline.
    Using the above video, note the proximity of the coach to the student in the “B” side of the video. The coach knows in advance of where the student will be (In skydive coaching, the student is virtually always the base of the coached skydive). The student has specific tasks to perform that are tested on the ground prior to boarding aircraft. The coach has specific responses to perform when the student performs their portion of the objective. During the debrief, challenges to achieving the task are identified and discussed by the coach and student, with both parties providing input and feedback during the debrief process.
    The coach is causing a poor body response/result via their position relative to the student, and providing incorrect hand signals. The student is forced to look up, creating a brake. The end result in this instance is deep potato-chipping and instability (as seen in the video).
    A coach’s foremost responsibility is to the safety of the student. A primary motivation for students is to not only progress in their discipline of choice, but to also be safe in the pursuit of excellence.

    In the above video, the coach intentionally flies into a hazardous situation where both he and the student are at risk (Left side of display. Aside from a violation of the FARS (in the USA), diving after a student into clouds is not something any coach should be doing. A coach should never add risk to a jump but rather, take all available steps to decrease risk to a student and themselves.

    The coach/student combination on the right side of the image demonstrate proper proximity, keeping both student and coach in a safe environment.

    Coaches/instructors must possess appropriate skills that ensure safe practices are at the fore of every jump.

    In the above video (FFC-4) the coach intentionally flies into a high-risk situation. This is unacceptable. Aside from a violation of the FARS (in the USA), diving after a student into clouds is not something any coach should be doing. A coach should never add risk to a jump but rather, take all available steps to decrease risk to a student and themselves. Coaches/instructors must possess appropriate skills that ensure safe practices are at the fore of every jump.
    New coaches often discover where they may have lacked in communicative skills during the initial training process (although these errors typically make themselves known in the ground test/dirt-dive phase) and find themselves improving as a result of beginning from a consistent training/debriefing method. A debrief session usually begins by asking the student for a self-assessment of the jump, and finishes by showing video after the coach has provided observations. This is also where professional instructors summarize the experience using the GROW method (Assess the Goal vs the Reality of the jump, identifying the Obstacles/Options challenging the task, and what our Way forward to success should be) or some facsimile of the process.
    On the left is School “A” and on the right is School “B,” both being First Flight Course/wingsuit training examples. In the video on the right, the coach is flying to the student (student is base) and maintains proximity in order to best provide hand signals and responses to the student’s maneuvers. For video debriefing, the instructor should be close to best identify body position changes and how they affect flight.
    Not being near the student also creates an unnecessary risk to everyone on the jump.

    When choosing a coach, look for;
    Reputation for quality of instruction/experience in the discipline
    A long-term safety record
    Measurable tasks and progression that achieves a specific, desired outcome or finishing point.
    Access to supplemental or specialized equipment (if necessary)
    Availability, flexibility, and ability to create a program suited to individual needs
    Cost of training/Value compared to cost When meeting with a coach:

    Set goals. A good coach will help define what’s achievable.
    Define exactly how you and the coach will attain the goal. People are unique, and have different ways they learn, different paces at which they learn. Can the coach tailor their program to meet your needs?
    Be sure that each jump includes a comprehensive debrief. This is critical to any progression in any discipline.
    Remember that all training is not equal. Quality coaching may cost a small bit more, particularly discipline or activity-specific training. If it’s skill advancement or safety-related, it’s virtually always worth the minimally extra cost. Receiving and providing coaching should be a win/win experience for both parties . Adding to a skillset benefits everyone in the sport, and improves the skill and safety culture within our sport.
    Blue skies!

    Further Reading:






    About DSE:
    Douglas Spotted Eagle/DSE (D-29060) is a trainer, producing and developing training systems and curricula for software and hardware developers and manufacturers such as Sony, Adobe, Canopus, Avid, Ulead, Panasonic, and Apple. He has developed standardized teaching methods specifically targeted to the skydiving environment, and is a full-time instructor at Skydive Elsinore as a Coach Examiner, AFFI, and PRO-rated skydiver.

    The Skydive Elsinore Wingsuit School has instructed nearly 800 First Flight Courses, and over 4000 Wingsuit training jumps, and has developed a standardized training program used by many dropzones around the world.

    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,

    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.

    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.
    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,

    Beginners knowledge on skysurfing

    The competitor with the lowest total time at the end of the 5 rounds of competition is the winner. The performance is recorded using a very high powered camera on the ground, the competitor leaving the aircraft at 2200 mts and after a few seconds to build up speed commence their sequence. The world record time is currently 5.18 sec (Male) and 6.10 sec (Female). In skysurfing, a jumper attaches a board, similar to a snowboard or wakeboard but made specifically for skydiving, to his feet and performs aerial acrobatics in freefall, including flips and spins. Lew Sanborn and Jacques Istel started the first commercial drop zone and training center in 1959. While skysurfing is visually appealing and has been included in events like ESPN’s X Games, few jumpers still pursue this challenging discipline.
    When leaving an aircraft, for a few seconds a skydiver continues to travel forward as well as down, due to the momentum created by the aircraft's speed (known as "forward throw"). The perception of a change from horizontal to vertical flight is known as the "relative wind", or informally as "being on the hill". Each event has a “working time” within which to repeat the sequence as many times as possible. During the tandem jump the instructor is responsible for emergency procedures in the unlikely event that they will be needed, therefore freeing the student to concentrate on learning to skydive. Skydivers reach terminal velocity (around 120 mph (190 km/h) for belly to Earth orientations, 150–200 mph (240–320 km/h) for head down orientations) and are no longer accelerating towards the ground. In freefall, skydivers generally do not experience a "falling" sensation because the resistance of the air to their body at speeds above about 50 mph (80 km/h) provides some feeling of weight and direction. Other training methods include static line, IAD (Instructor Assisted Deployment), and AFF (Accelerated Free fall) also known as Progressive Free-Fall (PFF) in Canada.
    A demanding freefall exercise of specified turns and loops executed very precisely at speed, and under tight control. At normal exit speeds for aircraft (approx 90 mph (140 km/h)) there is little feeling of falling just after exit, but jumping from a balloon or helicopter can create this sensation. The panel of judges judge from the recording media.
    The first three concern teams of either 8 or 4 plus their camera flyer performing a series of pre-determined patterns (formations) in a repetitive sequence whilst flying in a face to earth configuration. Style and Accuracy remained the primary discipline throughout the 1960s, and Relative Work continued to develop with the first 6 and 8 man formations being completed.
    Many people make their first jump with an experienced and trained instructor – this type of skydive may be in the form of a tandem skydive. All of their work is recorded by the camera-flyer, and the panel of judges sit in front of a screen and make their individual decisions. Each competitor is timed from the start of the “series” to the end and time points are added for penalties such as a turn completed off heading or a loop deviating from the axis. At this point the sensation is as of a forceful wind.
    The 1960s saw the beginnings of the first non-military drop zones, and non-military training methods. They developed a civilian training method with the belief that any intelligent person could be taught the basics of a parachute jump and jump the same day. They are judged on the number of correctly completed figures they make, and the team with the highest number at the end of 10 rounds of competition will be declared the winner.

    By donaldchankaon, in General,

    Baby on Board - Skydiving While Pregnant

    This article first appeared in Parachutist magazine, and has been republished with consent of the author.
    Not surprisingly, most doctors say no - don't jump while you're pregnant. Doctors are conservative, and few will recommend that their patients engage in a high-risk sport. They do not want to call an activity safe and then get blamed if something goes wrong. But many pregnant women have jumped during pregnancy with no ill effects to either themselves or their babies. So is it safe? Skydiving is a risky sport, and an accident involving an expectant mother would be doubly tragic. But presumably, we jumpers are old pros at weighing the risks of our sport against the benefits, and most of us long ago decided that the fun outweighs the danger. We wouldn't be jumping if we expected to die or to get hurt.
    USPA does not give medical advice, and it is definitely not recommending that pregnant women skydive. Every pregnancy is different, and each woman has to decide for herself whether she wants to continue jumping for part or all of the nine months. If your doctor tells you that your pregnancy is high-risk and that you should avoid your usual activities, you probably shouldn't jump. If you simply feel uncomfortable taking the risks inherent in skydiving, you should ground yourself. The fact is, however, that women are jumping while pregnant and will continue to do so. Not surprisingly, there has been little or no research on jumping during pregnancy, and medical professionals hesitate to make any blanket statements about the practice. But medical advice, as well as advice from other skydivers who have jumped while pregnant, can help you decide whether to continue jumping during pregnancy, and if you do, help you do it safely.
    Know Your Limits
    These days, doctors tell women with low-risk pregnancies that they can continue all their normal activities as long as they feel good enough, with the caveat that they should avoid sports that contain a risk of falls and should not exercise to the point of exhaustion. "The Harvard Guide to Women's Health" says, "Pregnancy is usually not a good time to take up skiing or skydiving, but women who were already engaged in athletics can usually continue to enjoy them during pregnancy."
    Women who have just started jumping should probably take a break from the sport. Most women who have continued to jump during pregnancy were very experienced and very current. Many of them also say they were in good physical condition. Drs. William and Martha Sears in "The Pregnancy Book" counsel pregnant women to know their limits and to stop their activities immediately if they feel dizzy or short of breath, have a bad headache or hard heart-pounding or experience contractions, bleeding or pain.
    Pregnant women should also go easy on their joints. Relaxing and other hormones loosen joints during pregnancy, making them less stable and prone to injury if overstressed. The pelvis, lower back and knees are especially vulnerable. Skydivers should take particular care in packing and at pull time so as not to jolt their loosened joints.
    A pregnant skydiver should pay attention to how she feels at all times. Fatigue is normal, and you should rest as much as you need. First-trimester nausea is a fact of life for some women, and calling it morning sickness is inaccurate, many women feel sick all the time. Being under canopy may only make you feel worse. Doctors don't allow pregnant women to take ibuprofen (Advil and Motrin) or any of the other effective analgesics, because they can cause difficulties with labor and harm the fetus.
    Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is OK, but bear in mind that if you sprain an ankle or worse, you won't be able to do much for the pain. Obstetricians usually advise pregnant women to give up contact sports. As we all know, skydiving is sometimes more of a contact sport than we intend for it to be. Women who have jumped while pregnant often recommend that you be very careful about who you jump with, avoiding anyone whose freefall abilities might be suspect. Washington-state load organizer Art Bori points out that exit position can be important for two reasons: A pregnant woman may have difficulty maneuvering into position, and some positions are more dangerous than others. He always asks pregnant jumpers about their exit preferences. He tries to keep pregnant women out of the base so that they won't be in serious funnels.
    Chance of Miscarriage
    Can a hard opening cause a miscarriage? Dr. Scott Chew, a Colorado emergency physician and skydiver, says that no one has studied the effect of hard openings on pregnancy. Most hard openings are less traumatic than many automobile accidents, and during opening, jumpers are in a different body position than car passengers, with no belt passing over the uterus. He doesn't think a hard opening is very likely to precipitate a sudden miscarriage. He has never heard of a miscarriage occurring during skydiving, bungee jumping or rock climbing, all sports that use similar gear.
    According to Chew, women should also consider the possibility of a bad landing, although the baby is quite well protected in the uterine environment. Usually the jumper would get hurt first. Emergency room doctors make a practice of treating a pregnant woman before turning their attention to the fetus, because if the mother survives, the baby likely will as well. Dr. Stanley Filip, associate clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Duke University Medical Center, says that because the rapid deceleration in skydiving can be analogous to a moderate-speed auto accident or a fall while skiing (both are known to cause miscarriages), he recommends against skydiving while pregnant. On the other hand, the Sears say that miscarriages usually result from chromosomal abnormalities in the fetus, infections, hormonal deficiencies, immune-system abnormalities and environmental toxin such as drugs or cigarette smoke. Sex, safe exercises, heavy lifting, usual work and play, stress or emotional upsets or minor falls or accidents rarely cause them.
    Registered nurse Marian Blackwell comments that the most important consideration is probably how the woman and her mate feel about the issue. Any woman who fears that jumping might cause her to miscarry should not jump. If a woman or the prospective father will likely blame a miscarriage on the woman’s skydiving, she is probably better off sitting out for a few months. Blackwell points out that it’s very difficult to have a miscarriage intentionally, and if a woman loses a baby while jumping, she probably would have anyway. Still, there is always a risk, and she advises that both parents need to accept this if the mother keeps jumping.
    What about hypoxia? Dr. Filip says that the obstetricians commonly advise woman that it’s safe to fly on commercial airlines that are pressurized during flight, but unpressurized flight above 5,000 to 7,000 feet may not provide enough oxygen to some fetuses. According to Sears, “While a short time spent in an unpressurized cabin at about 7, 000 feet is unlikely to harm your baby (baby's oxygen level in the womb is already lower than mother's), it can reduce the oxygen in your blood, causing you to feel light headed and impair your thinking and ability to move.” Chew points out that women must consider the chance of hypoxia, claiming that it's unknown whether it causes a problem for pregnant jumpers. He says, however, that the fetus is accustomed to an atmosphere less rich in oxygen than the mother needs and thus feels hypoxia less than an adult would. He adds that jump planes spend relatively little time at high altitudes, not really long enough to hurt the jumper or her baby. USPA defines high altitude as 20,000 feet up to 40,000 feet MSL and intermediate altitude as 15,000 feet to 20,000 feet MSL. USPA considers anything below 15,000 feet MSL low altitude. Routine low-altitude jumps, the sort sport jumpers commonly practice, do not generally present a risk of hypoxia. USPA does not require the use of supplemental oxygen for low-altitude jumps but has made no recommendations specific to pregnant women. (The FAA requires oxygen when required aircraft crew members are above 12,500 feet for more than 30 minutes and at all times above 14,000 feet MSL.)
    Most women who have jumped during pregnancy say they did not have any trouble with hypoxia. Paula Philbrook, who participated in last year's 246-way world record while pregnant, used supplemental oxygen on the attempts. She used an oximeter to measure her oxygen saturation and found that at 13,500 feet with oxygen, her saturation level always stayed at 98 to 100 percent. Without oxygen, her saturation stayed in the mid-90s which her respiratory therapist found acceptable. According to the therapist, as long as her oxygen saturation stayed above 90 percent, she remained in the safety zone. She used oxygen starting at 10,000 feet for jumps on which she went above 15,000 feet. She found herself short of breath at 21,000 feet when the oxygen went off in preparation for exit but always felt fine as soon as she got into freefall.
    Long-time style and accuracy competitor Nancy LaRiviere says a doctor advised her to use supplemental oxygen if she went above 5,000 feet. She rented an oxygen bottle from a local medical supply house, used a cannula (a tube used to breathe the oxygen) from 3,000 feet to altitude, shut off the flow on jump run and left the bottle strapped in the plane. She sat at the back of the plane on all loads to make this convenient. Some skydivers and doctors worry that a jumper could get an air embolism, an air bubble in the blood - a danger associated with pressure changes and one risk of scuba diving. Chew points out that the pressure differences involved in skydiving are not nearly as great as in scuba diving a jumper has to go to 17,000 feet to get to half atmosphere. So although a potential risk lurks, it does so less than in deep diving. All skydivers and air travelers should refrain from air travel for 24 hours after scuba diving.
    Weather Considerations
    Heat poses an added danger, especially in the first trimester. The Mayo Clinic “Complete Book of Pregnancy” says that says that if the mother’s internal temperature exceeds 104 degrees, the chance the fetus will have neural tube defects increases. The Sears recommend that an expectant mother eat and drink regularly while exercising to prevent dehydration and hypoglycemia. Pregnant women, particularly those further along, should be careful about flying in bad weather. Dr. Filip says that turbulent weather can sometimes stimulate pre-term labor and rupture of the fetal membranes, causing the amniotic fluid to leak. High winds and turbulence also present the standard difficulties with landing. Many pregnant jumpers advise staying on the ground on windy days.
    Gearing Up
    Women who jump while pregnant inevitably have to make some adjustments to their skydiving gear. Some of them change their canopies for larger mains or mains which open more softly than their original gear. Others continue to use the same gear until they quit. Either way, the jumper should feel comfortable with her gear and be able to land it well. Larger gear may feel unwieldy but often lands more softly.
    A pregnant woman will quickly outgrow her normal jumpsuit. Whatever a skydiver decides to wear, she needs to ensure that she can still find all her handles. Size can also make it difficult to get in and out of airplanes. After a certain point, you may no longer fit into a little Cessna 182. Getting up and down off the floor will challenge you, so airplanes without benches become less than ideal. You'll really learn to appreciate tailgates and planes with seats.
    How long can a woman keep jumping while she is pregnant? Women have jumped into their fifth, sixth and seventh months. Some jumpers go by the folk wisdom "jump until you show." Others stop based on the time of year. If you’re five months pregnant in July with sweltering heat, that might be the time you call it quits. When you decide that you're no longer operating at 100 percent, stay on the ground until you fee! back up to speed.
    Many women have found that skydiving after they give birth requires more adjustment than jumping while expecting. LaRiviere says she had to change her jumpsuit only after the baby was born and she was nursing him. Nursing also required some changes to her harness.
    What to do with the baby during jumping time poses a bigger problem. LaRiviere's husband acted as primary caregiver during her training camps, and she hired a niece to watch the baby while she competed in the nationals. If your baby doesn't sleep through the night, chances are you don’t either. You may not want to put yourself in freefall in such an addled state. If both husband and wife jump, they may want to take turns going to the drop zone. Often, couples jump less than they did before becoming parents. Also, even a minor injury would probably cause tremendous inconvenience with a small baby, so conservative is better.
    Starting Them Young
    Skydiving during pregnancy is definitely possible, though it gives the jumper a lot to think about. As Chew points out, skydiving carries the risk of injury and death, and pregnant jumpers have additional considerations, including some not addressed here. All potential jumpers need to make that decision for themselves with the available information and in consultation with their own families and physicians. Pregnant skydiving adds a new wrinkle to the sport. For example, how do you count a pregnant skydiver participating in the 246-way world record? Does she make it a 247-way? Either way, these kids will have cool stories to recount when they're older. How many kindergartners get to tell their classmates they already have 20 minutes of freefall?
    About the Author

    Amy Hackney Blackwell is an attorney and freelance writer in Greenville South Carolina. She has been skydiving since 1995.

    By admin, in General,

    Marketing Essentials for the Skydiving Industry

    Marketing execs love to throw around industry jargon to make themselves sound like marketing experts. Terms like ROI, target demographic, disposable income, call to action and spiral binders with graphs and charts showing positive gains look and sound legit. Don’t believe the hype.
    All this ‘marketing-speak’ sounds good, but the majority of marketing execs who work for broadcast, TV and print don’t understand the skydiving industry and mistakenly apply successful campaigns used for other industries to our own.
    Before buying in to a marketing plan, understand three major reasons why mass media ads don’t give a return:
    1. A Tough Call to Action. Strong marketing plans offer a call to action
    prompting an individual to respond to an ad. Few ads challenge people to do something that may result in one‘s death. Though death is an unlikely result, it weighs heavily for Joe Public to actually commit to calling a DZ and making a booking.
    2. Recruitment. Think about it, how many people come to a DZ alone? It happens, but it’s the exception to the rule. Students usually recruit a friend to share in the fear, anticipation and excitement of the experience. Not only does one need to spend time considering whether they should jump, but then need to recruit a friend, which takes time.
    3. Disposable Income. How many of us have an extra few hundred dollars lying around? Many mass media ads for activities are more affordable than your average price for a tandem skydive.
    Combine the obstacles of having to consider making a jump, recruiting a friend and saving money and you’ll find that a lengthy amount of time has gone by before the phone begins to ring. Some will argue that advertising creates brand awareness and this is true, but there will only be a small percentage who see and hear an ad that follow through all of the steps to make it to your DZ. Bottom line: a poor return on investment. Most DZO’s have been happy to break even on their mass media campaigns after they’ve launched.
    The Affordable and Effective Approach
    The most effective kind of marketing harnesses the exhilaration of your current customers. Firstly, give these guests a reason to come back to make a second jump. No longer does this need to be a ‘once in a lifetime experience.’ These guests will recruit their full-retail paying friends to experience life’s greatest adventure. Secondly, equip your guests with a means to advertise your DZ utilizing social media by sharing videos, photos and check-ins.
    Top Five Marketing Basics Every DZ Should be Implementing
    Online Reservations. If you’re a DZO who says that you don’t want to miss
    on the personal interaction with guests while making a booking, then this is the first marketing change to be made. If someone desires to spend money with your company at two o’clock in the morning, let them! Don’t force your potential customers to spend money with you on your terms.
    Social Media. The biggest corporations in the world are actively engaging with people through social media. If you are putting a couple posts out here and there then you’re missing a huge opportunity that the business world has come to embrace. Creating a social media plan is necessary, should be organized and well structured. This is a legitimate and inexpensive way to market the business.
    Video E-mails. Embrace your customer’s enthusiasm by using a service to e-mail guests their videos. Be sure the DZ’s branding, phone number and website is included because these videos will be shared everywhere. This is an example of getting your customers to market for you.
    Database Collection. Updating your DZ database is a critical piece to the marketing pie. Collecting e-mail addresses will allow for broadcasting your marketing message to a clientele that knows how great you are. A professionally designed newsletter offering specials during the holidays will reap rewards to the bottom line.
    Surveys. How do you know your strengths and weaknesses? Allow your customers to tell you by seeking their feedback. This should never be done at the DZ ten minutes after your guests have jumped. An online survey should be sent 24 hours after a jump allowing for anonymity and comfort to provide honest insight about the experience. In order to have a finger on the pulse of the operation and understand the weakest areas of the customer experience, surveys are invaluable.
    Finally, the best marketing is word of mouth. Examine every interaction your guests experience with the operation from the website, cleanliness of bathrooms, presentation of the instructor, cleanliness of jumpsuits etc. and be sure to amaze your customers. Having a plane with instructors who can safely execute skydives is not enough. The details that surround the experience is just as important as the skydive to ensure your customers aren’t just happy, but thrilled with the experience.

    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,