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    5 Things You Didn’t Know About The PIA Symposium

    Regina from CYPRES shares information about the CYPRES unit, 'WSC' designed for the wingsuit community. Images by Randy Connell If you’ve never attended the Parachute Industry Association Symposium, you may not know what to expect. Maybe, you aren’t even sure what PIA is or why you even need to make the trip. If you’re afraid of sitting in stuffy rooms with an atmosphere as uncomfortable as a timeshare tourist trap, you can relax. PIA is nothing like that. The PIA Symposium is a time when the different branches of our particular segment of aviation all come together under one roof.
    Rather than draw things out, let’s get to it. Here are 5 things you didn’t know about the PIA Symposium.
    Just How Big the Skydiving Circle Is
    When you arrive at the PIA Symposium, get ready for a warm welcome: there is an entire booth set up to greet you. Get your swag bag, name tag, and seminar schedule, and be ready for a great time. Like a drop zone on a sunny steady summer Saturday, the air is nearly buzzing with energy. In one space, jumpers current and retired, drop zone owners and managers, and military personnel and skydiving teams are all gathered together. You’ll see people from around the world. We know our circle is a somewhat isolated one, but boy, it sure doesn’t seem like it at the PIA Symposium. It’s also not just jumpers and drop zone owners from the United States that are present. You’ll walk past groups speaking languages from around the globe: military teams from Poland chatting, fun jumpers from South Africa mingling by the complimentary refreshments. Nearly every continent and country is represented.
    Exponential Business Connections
    At the PIA Symposium, you have the chance to establish meaningful industry contacts. Top gear manufacturers both military and civilian, set up impressive interactive displays and booths to give PIA Symposium attendees the chance to see the most cutting-edge innovations in the skydiving industry. Whether you are looking for training equipment or student gear, you will find what you need here. The EXPO Hall isn’t just for managers and drop zone owners either, there is gear on display that is perfect for weekend warrior skydivers too.
    85 Year Old British Skydiver, Dilys Price was the Keynote Speaker at the 2017 PIA Symposium.  
    Ways to Improve your home Drop Zone
     
    They say a ‘smarter skydiver is a safer skydiver.’ Well, the PIA Symposium is the perfect place to learn. The PIA Symposium facilitates knowledge sharing through seminars which are teeming with information. During the symposium, you have daily opportunities to sit in on seminars dealing with rigging, skydiving, management, government and skydiving interaction, and BASE. If you want to run a better, safer drop zone, attending PIA is a great first step. However, fostering safe drop zones isn’t just a job for managers and drop zone owners: the community as a whole is responsible. Whether sport jumper, manager, or drop zone owner, when you leave PIA, you leave armed with a noggin full of knowledge to take back home to your drop zone and improve everyone’s experience.
    Everyone Feels Like a Potential Friend
    You wouldn’t assume that you would leave any sort of symposium with some lifelong friends, would you? Well, you might just leave PIA with a few more telephone numbers programmed in your cell and a long list of drop zones to visit. No matter the level, ethnicity, or country of origin, it seems skydivers click. The PIA Symposium is basically a melting pot of like-minded people all connected by a love of skydiving and a passion for the sport and industry.
    Sandy Reid of Rigging Innovations stands with his team. At the 2019 Symposium, RI introduces their new Mojo MARD.  
    Opportunities to Explore New Places
     
    You don’t have to sit in seminars from sun up until sun down. Throughout the day, there are plenty of breaks and opportunities to explore. The PIA Symposium each year is held in charming cities with their own little secret niches and neat places to tour. This year is no different. The 2019 PIA symposium will be held in Dallas, Texas. So, grab a group of your new friends and do some sightseeing.
    They say everything is bigger in Texas, and we bet this PIA symposium will be one of the best yet!

    By Meso, in News,

    Christmas Gift Ideas for Skydivers 2018

    StarLog Skydiving & Rigging Logbooks
     
    Price: $12
    Brand new line of Skydiver and Rigger Logbooks. All spiral bound for easy logging and fit inside all standard size logbook covers.
     
    StarLog Skydiver holds 304 jumps StarLog Pro holds 1456 jumps StarLog Rigger holds 684 logs  
    Available at ChutingStar
     
     
     
     
     
    Power Tools
     
    Price: $19.95
    Want a great stocking stuffer with a low price? Give your loved one a Power Tool packing tool in holiday colors!
    Available at Para-Gear
     
     
     
    Hanging Handcrafted Wood Swooper Dude
     
    Price: $20
    Made of mahogany, coconut and jute, the details on this handcrafted swooper includes a canopy, lines, rig on the back, hair, determined swoop face and skirt.
    Available at ChutingStar
     
     
     
    Rig Hangers
     
    Price: $42
    With these colorful hangers you can hang your skydiving rig wherever you want. Whether it's on a rack at the dropzone hangar, on the back of a door, in your closet or anywhere else you can think of.
    These powder coated hangers make it easy to spot your skydiving rig, as well as give it a nice accent.
    Available at Para-Gear
     
     
     
    The Summer I Became A Skydiver, Children's Book
     
    Price: $25
    Skydiver Ben Lowe wrote this children's book that tell's the story of a boy's introduction into a summer of skydiving. This 29-page hardcover book is a great short story that also helps explain skydiving to youngsters.
    Available at ChutingStar
     
     
     
    Glow Face Alt III Galaxy - $169
     
    Meters and Black Only. The phosphorescent face provides a background glow to assist in low light conditions. The glow lasts over 2 hours in complete darkness, and is perfect for either night jumps or those sunset loads when it starts to get dark.
    The Glow Face Altimaster III Galaxy features a field replaceable lens. In case your lens gets scratched or cracked you will now be able to replace it yourself instead of having to send it to get serviced.
    Available at Para-Gear
     
       
     
    Selections Skydiving Photo Book by Michael McGowan
     
    Price: $43
    This giant, hardcover photo book from McGowan is the perfect coffee table book of some of the most amazing shots in skydiving. Packed with more than 100 large, full-page photographs. Includes forward by Michael McGowan as well as liner notes from Angie McGowan and Tom Sanders.
    Available at ChutingStar
     
     
     
    Para-Gear Parachute Gear Bag
     
    Price: $85
    Durable fabric and heavy duty zippers make this bag ideal for storing and carrying all the gear needed for skydiving.
    ID sleeve for personal information Dual zippered main compartment with zip protector Back pocket with additional inner zippered-pocket for storing accessories and documents up to size A4 Rubber handle on top and side Heavy duty metal buckles and comfortable-shoulder straps Durable, easy to clean, splash proof material. Available at Para-Gear

    By admin, in News,

    Longest Indoor Freefall Record Set

    New video captures two freefall enthusiasts from Siberia break world record by 'skydiving' indoors for more than 8.5 hours.
    The longest indoor freefall Guinness World Record has been jointly achieved by two Russian adventurers, Viktor Kozlov and Sergey Dmitriyev, in the city of Perm on Tuesday, 10 July 2018. The record took place at the innovative FreeFly Technology wind tunnel.
    The skydivers flew uninterrupted for 8 hours, 33 minutes and 43 seconds to beat the record of indoor freefall set before. The result was made official by a representative of the Guinness World Records Association.
    Each minute of indoor body-flying is the equivalent of one skydive, and the whole 513 minutes is the same as falling 1280 miles continuously or the distance from New York to Cuba.
    This unprecedented record has been captured in a short video produced by the FreeFLy Technology team.

    About Freefly Technology
    FreeFly Technology is an international technological company producing innovative wind tunnels for recreational and entertainment purposes. It comprises more than 30 people responsible for design, production and sales of wind tunnels. Comprehensive understanding of aerodynamics and needs of the target customers make FreeFly Technology uniquely capable of designing and manufacturing cost-effective wind tunnels, which outperform the analogues available on the market.
    About The Wind Tunnel
    FreeFly Technology wind tunnel is built on a technology allowing the air to move upwards at approximately 270 km/h (167 mph or 75 m/s), the terminal velocity of a falling human body bellydownwards. It can provide the wind speeds and the feel of real skydiving. Such kind of vertical wind tunnels are frequently called “indoor skydiving” tunnels due to their popularity among skydivers, who report that the sensation is extremely similar to skydiving.
    WEBSITE - www.freeflytechnology.net/

    FACEBOOK - www.facebook.com/freefly.technology

    INSTAGRAM - www.instagram.com/freefly_technology/

    By admin, in News,

    The Misty Blues: 100% Female (and 100% Badass) Since 1984

    “Misty” Kim Kanat Talks About the Team
      Guess what? There’s been an all-female demo team kicking ass and taking names since the 1980s. Maybe you’re as surprised to learn about them as I was--or maybe you’re squinting at your screen and wondering what rock I’ve been hiding under--but y’know what? I think we can both agree that that’s pretty damn great.
    The basics are pretty straightforward: The team of 13 women calls Skydive Tecumseh home, jumps hot-pink-and-navy kit and specializes in jumping big honkin’ flags. The details are the cool part: Each one of “the Mistys” can do anything the demo requires, from packing the flags to setting up the smoke--and each is a highly successful professional with a full-time career outside of skydiving.
    When I visited Skydive Tecumseh to check off Michigan for Down for 50, I jumped at the chance to corner Misty member Kim Kanat and pick her brain about the team. During the week, Kim is a mild-mannered (and high-powered) Facility Manager for a real estate company; but, when the call comes, she slips into her pink-and-navy supersuit and smiles for the adoring crowd. Kim’s been at it for four years now, and she shows no signs of slowing.
     
     
    Annette: Tell me about your person intro to the sport. How’d you became a skydiver in the first place?
    Kim: It’s a love story, really. My husband and I were on vacation in Hawaii in 2001 and ended up doing a tandem. It was a life-changing moment for both of us. About a year later, for our 10th wedding anniversary, we took the first jump course. The rest is history. We’ve been jumping ever since. Fifteen years later, here we are.
    A: How’d you get a slot on the Mistys?
    K: I’ve known the current owner of the Misty Blues, Amanda Scheffler, for my whole skydiving career, and known about the team since I started jumping -- Amanda bought [the team] about five years ago from Cindy Irish.
    We were at the dropzone one day and she asked me if I would be interested in doing some demo jumps. I said yes. The next thing I knew, I was jumping at an air show in Maine, so close to the Canadian border that our phones were roaming. It took two flights to get to Maine, plus some driving because there isn’t a commercial flight that goes that far up. It was a very, very small show; we just had a 182.
    I still remember the scariness of that jump. I started on static line; not AFF. So that first demo with the team was a very visceral reminder of being a static line student. I ended up having a minor malfunction with my banner on that jump; luckily, it cleared itself, but it still gives me butterflies to think about it now.
    Honestly, every time I do a demo, it feels just like that first time, because in skydiving anything can go wrong. You just hope that it doesn’t. There’s extra pressure on a demo with the team because the clients are paying for that jump; paying for you to be there as a performer. Sometimes there are issues with the plane; sometimes it’s too windy, or the weather isn’t great, which puts a damper on our part of the show. When everything is conducive to letting us do what we are there to do and it works, it’s magical.
    A: You haven’t slowed down in four whole years. What was it about that jump that hooked you?
    K: Well, the Misty Blues are very crowd-oriented, and that gets me going. It’s so much fun to be a crowd-pleaser with a message. Before and after our jumps, we walk amongst the crowd, pass out stickers and take photos with all these excited kids. We interact a lot. I think that sets us apart a little bit from some of the other demo teams that are out there, and it never fails to inspire me, because we spend a lot of that “crowd time” working the message of empowering women and girls to let them know they can do pretty much anything they set their minds to. We’re all working women, and a few of the Mistys have kids, too, so we’re walking the walk.
    A: What are your signature moves?
    K: When we’re booked for a show, we’re almost always the opener. We open up the show with a very large American flag. The jumper with the flag usually carries a microphone and has a little conversation with the MC of the airshow as they’re descending, which is a reliable crowd-pleaser. When we’re jumping in an airshow context, we’ll often have some of the stunt pilots circle us with smoke while we are jumping in with the flag.
     
     
    We have another signature flag with an enormous smiley face. I love that one.
    A: Do you have a favorite of the jumps you have done so far with the Mistys?
    K: Just last year we had a local businessman book us for a private party. He’s a construction owner that is local, and he throws this huge annual theme party. He got our name and asked us if we could do a demo into it. The theme that year was “America,” and it had a mechanical bull; volleyball courts; a fireworks show at the end. The setup was unbelievable. It was a tight landing area, but everything worked out. Best of all, we got to attend the party after we landed. The guests just thought it was fantastic--so much so that he asked us to come back and do it again this year.
    A: Do you feel like you face additional pressure because you’re an all-female team?
    K: Personally, I would have to say yes. I know there are a lot of other demo teams out there that do more than we do, and some of those guys have more experience than we do, so I do personally feel obligated to put on a better show. I don’t know if that’s necessarily because we are women, but being a woman, I like to be able to nail it. On the other hand, some people want to coddle you more when you’re a female jumper, and I just want to be treated like everybody else.
     
     
    The landscape for women in skydiving is changing, though, and it’s changing fast. A lot of the AFF classes at Skydive Tecumseh have a good number of women in them. Case in point: There are two female Tis at our dropzone. I think that’s awesome. It doesn’t happen everywhere, yet, but I am certain that it will.
    A: The Misty Blues have been around for more than 30 years. What’s the secret to that longevity?
    K: Inclusion. Some people have better skill sets at certain things, but we strive to include everyone in a meaningful way. Over the years, we’ve discovered that inclusion can bring shy and hesitant people out of their shell and end up in them becoming an integral part of the team.
    The owner of our team, Amanda Scheffler, is fantastic. She is willing to show anybody anything, anytime. She does it all. And she’s a great example of inclusion. I don’t know if I would have [joined the team] had they not approached me. I would have never asked. I’ve learned from Amanda that you never know what including someone will open up for them. A lot of times those people in the shadows are the ones who are jumping conservatively, thoughtfully and procedurally and have a tendency to look and observe before they act, which is the kind of person you want on a team.
    I think having other women to show you the ropes helps, too. We have a couple of guys who help us out as ground crew, but we really do it all. For example: If we’re doing smoke and all that stuff, we try to get in there and make sure all the people are informed and all the girls know how to do it. We can all pack the banners, rigs, and flags. Getting everyone’s hands on all of the skill sets is really what makes our team. Everybody can jump in and fill in for each other.
    A: What’s your personal skydiving philosophy?
    K: Feel the fear and do it anyway. That’s what I’ve always said about skydiving. Even to this day, I still get butterflies on a demo. In skydiving and in life, I really live by that--to feel the fear and do it anyway--because you never know what will come out of it. Sometimes it is good. Sometimes it is bad. Always, it is a learning process. “Doing it anyway” can only ever propel you forward.

    ----
    For more info on the Misty Blues, visit the team website at mistyblues.net.

    By nettenette, in News,

    The Secret of Banana Hammock

    A Few Nuggets of Golden Advice from a Winning Self-Funded Skydiving Team
      It starts like a bad joke: a Californian (Kenny Beach), an Italian (Alessandro “Alex” Struppa) and a Frenchman (Lawrence De Laubadere) walk into a skydiving competition...
    “Our team name was Banana Hammock,” Kenny grins. “We decided that while we were drunk ice skating.”
    Yep. Banana Hammock.
    “Alex made a logo,” he continues. “It’s a banana in a hammock with his hands in the air. His arms are my jumpsuit and his legs are my teammate’s jumpsuit, and the banana is drinking a martini.”
    The punchline of the joke? Banana Hammock took the 2-way MFS gold at the 2014 Nationals. (*Rimshot*!) It was a damned good result, especially considering where Kenny was at the outset.
    “When we did our first team jumps,” Kenny remembers, “Alex was already able to fly head down and pick up grips. I would leave on my head and then flop away and fall past. Byyyyyye.”
    As it turns out, the road from flopping to flying your way to the top of a national podium is paved with very intentionally-executed intentions. Without meticulous planning and open team communication, there’s very little chance you’ll ever make it to the first round. And, for most mere mortals on self-funded teams, you’ll have a very limited number of chances to get it right before the money and/or the wherewithal runs out. The struggle is real.
    That said: If you’re looking for an example of a skydiving team done right, this is it. Banana Hammock not only walked away with a gold medal but with the teammates’ friendships intact--gold within gold--and Kenny is willing to share the wisdom he gleaned from that epic endeavor.
    1. Compete for the right reasons.
    When Kenny was first looking for teammates, he ran into a lot of friction from people who simply didn’t want to compete without the guarantee of a win.
    “You have to understand that it isn’t the winning that makes you better,” Kenny observes. “It’s the fact that you are getting in with a like-minded, dedicated group of people and you are doing the same skydives over and over with them. You each learn how the other flies, and then you can focus on the really fine details.”
    “When you train to compete, as long as you approach it from the mentality I’m not going to win, I’m going to become a better skydiver and I’m going to use this as a tool to buckle down as if I’m trying to win,” he muses, “then you will be giving yourself the opportunity to learn all these particular skills within whatever discipline you’re training, in a really focused environment.”
    2. Overstaff.
    The most deadly contingency for most skydiving teams is that of the suddenly-absent member. Shore up.
    “If you want to do a 4-way team, find 8 people,” Kenny says. “If you want to do an 8-way team, find 16. People are going to bail on you. I’ve seen teams that have been destroyed a week before Nationals because their outside center flyer decided he couldn’t go to Nationals anymore and the entire team’s training was shot because they didn’t have a backup. Make sure you have more people than you need.”
    3. Start talking.
    Got some people interested? Great. Now it’s open-communication time.
    “When you get the people, put together the plan for your schedule and the goal of what you want to achieve: to win; to place; to develop; whatever that is. Figure what everyone wants to do and find a general consensus. For example: You might have one person who is, like, I want to win the Worlds this year and somebody else who is, like, I just want to see what a competition is like. Both of those people won’t get what they want. The person who just wants to see what it is like isn’t going to put the energy in to train hard enough to win the Worlds. You are going to have to meet in the middle if it’s going to work. Find people you can work with and who will work together for compatible goals.”
    At some point along this journey, emotions are bound to escalate. When that happens, be ready. Kenny advocates getting everyone into a quiet room and passing around a talking stick (or a talking altimeter or a talking helmet or a talking rock or whatever ya got).
    4. Everybody gets a job.
    Kenny insists that, once the team is in agreement about the goals, it’s time to give everyone a very specific set of roles to play.
    “Try to divide up the responsibilities for each member,” he says. “Have one person be responsible for making sure there is coffee in the morning; one person be responsible for making sure the video flyer gets taken care of; one person be responsible for making sure your pack jobs are done. You’ll pool your resources to pay for everything, of course, but have the admin jobs divided up so that everyone is responsible for part of the team so it comes together as a fully functioning unit. You don’t want one person getting stressed because they’re having to do everything. Everyone shares ownership.”
    5. Plan down to the minute detail, and do it on paper.
    “I think the thing that helped us the most was sitting down and getting a calendar and scheduling out every single day we were going to train, with concrete goals lined out. Not just, We want to win Nationals. Instead: We want to win Nationals and have this kind of average point. We put down on the calendar what skills we needed to work on at what time, and we broke it down to be really structured around what we were going for.”
    That hyper-detailed schedule might sound imprisoning; for Kenny, it was anything but. It gave him the freedom he needed to dedicate himself completely to the task.
    “If I knew that in the month of February, I would be at Paraclete for the second week and training three full days over the last weekend, then when February comes around, I’d know exactly what my schedule was going to look like to plan ahead for work. The strictness of the schedule ensured that we were getting the number of jumps we needed, the amount of tunnel time we needed and the amount of work we needed, all within our schedules.”
    Not a spreadsheet nerd? No problem. You’ll get the hang of it.
    “I literally had no experience of even how to set up a schedule,” he adds. “I went from working at McDonald’s to a full time skydiver, and then I quit my job to pack parachutes.”
    In fact, Banana Hammock’s training schedule derived from a 4-way-specific structural starting point gifted to Kenny by uber-competitor Dan B.C. The team agreed on a certain number of jumps and a certain number of tunnel hours that they needed to accomplish in the nine intervening months between their training start date and the Nationals competition in October. From there, it was a matter of division--but with a twist.
    6. Cluster ‘em up.
    “You just divide up the jumps by the number of months you have available,” Kenny explains, “but you try to schedule so you are trying to do your month’s jumps in 2-to-4 day time period. You don’t want to do 40 training jumps over the entire month. You want to do 40 training jumps in 3 days and then maintain currency the rest of the month. That way you are honing in and developing those skills rather than just maintaining some vague point of currency. Like: Do I transition on my right or my left shoulder? Do I back up two feet or a foot? When you do 10 jumps in a day, you can dial that in. If not, you are not going to get that level of resolution.”
    7. Then plan for the contingencies.
    “Then we went on to build a plan for all of the things we could think of that could possibly go wrong,” he continues. “When we did our first team jumps, we had already had a contract that we had written up and both signed that said, ‘if this happens, this is what we are going to do.’ That way there was no animosity between us if any of it happened.”
    Happily--and somewhat predictably--but for a few speed bumps, Banana Hammock ended up cruising cheerfully along its well-oiled tracks to meet its golden goal. While the team decided not to compete again (self-funded, y’know), Kenny reports that everyone involved considered it a happy ending, and he, for one, is glad he took the time to do it right.
    “The best advice I can give you,” he smiles, “Is don’t give up. Don’t quit. It won’t always seem like it, but it is worth it. If you’ve ever considered competing, you owe it to yourself to try.”
     

    By nettenette, in News,

    The Last Frontier

    Down For 50 Jumps Alaska, And Annette O’Neil Tries to Rise to the Occasion
    Image Credit: Melissa Dawn Burns When I grapple my way out onto to the float, I notice two things immediately.
    First: It’s impossible to maintain a relaxed attitude while sitting on the pontoon of a floatplane in full flight. My mental image of myself doing this is going to take a major revision in the translation to reality.
    Secondly: My pilot chute has never felt so vulnerable in all my jumps. For almost the entirety of this once-in-a-lifetime skydive, as I keep a resolute smile trained on the camera aircraft flying next to us, a sepiatone clip plays over and over in my head: A pinch of (actually very securely and conscientiously packed) fabric managing to wiggle itself out of my (actually tight-as-a-new-pair-of-jeans) BOC and bolt mischievously between the pontoon and the step, deploying my beautiful new Crossfire one last time as we spiral, nose-first, into Alaska’s forested wetlands.
    But I digress.
    Before we came to Alaska, we were warned.
    “Ah, mosquitoes: Alaska’s state bird,” said one. “They don’t bite you. They carry you home and feed you to their children.”
    “You’re only there for five days?!,” breathed another. “Good luck with that. You should have planned on at least a week. You’ll never get a break in the weather.”
    “A college kid just got eaten by a bear while he was running a half-marathon out there in Anchorage,” chimed in another. “It chased him off the trail and into the forest. He was calling his mom as it was running him down.”
    Since my previous knowledge of Alaska was gleaned almost entirely from the Calvin & Hobbes ‘Yukon Ho!’ collection and a single viewing of Grizzly Man, I’m a receptive audience. I decide not to go for runs.
    When I arrive in Anchorage, I walk through a neighborhood from my airport hotel to a car rental storefront. The gardens, clearly nothing more than a salad bar for the local deer population, have been scrupulously stripped of anything edible. The one with remaining flowers is surrounded by a high fence. A woman crosses in front of me, walking her toy yorkie. She is carrying bear spray. I speed up, having no toy yorkie to cast off as bait.
    Image Credit: Melissa Dawn Burns When I get to the rental place, they issue me a Subaru. Clearly, they assume I’m not messing around.
    And clearly, we are not.
    The next morning, we—myself, my Down For 50 co-adventurer, Joel, and Brett, along for the ride on this particular state’s adventure—are on the road, bound for the town of Talkeetna. Ah, Talkeetna, Alaska: the acknowledged “doorway to Denali,” home to a heterozygous mix of hippies and lumberjacks, a private pilot mecca. The latter becomes evident even miles away, on the long road into town. The traffic overhead, after all, is significantly more congested and varied than the traffic on ground level. I’m glad I’m not driving; I’m transfixed looking out and up, checking out the rush hour trucking over the trees.
    Soon, following the instructions given in a flurry of arranging emails, we wind through a series of deeply wooded roads to arrive at our pilot’s lakehouse/hangar/office/flight school/community hub. The pilot himself, Don, is an affable fellow with a handsome mustache and the air of a man you’d immediately trust with your life. In fact, I do: When he suggests that we head over to the airport to conduct a quick aerial requisition of the available parachute landing areas “in the Breezy,” I immediately offer myself up. We hop in the rough-and-ready fuel truck (okay: the rusted-through blue pickup with a tank of AV gas in the bed) and off we go.
    The airfield is, to put it mildly, a candy store.
    All manner of aircraft sit gamely waiting, lined up as tidily and fetchingly as pretty ladies in an Old West brothel, all waiting expectantly for a pilot. Don and I cruise along in front of their expectant glass faces. Will we hop into the shiny red one? The bare-metal number that looks like it’ll have a sign on the door that says “silk scarves required”? The race-car-faced green-and-white one with its dancing shoes on and the freshly-chamwowed gleam?
    What’s this blue thing?
    As I’m wondering what I’m looking at, we pull to a stop. I take a closer look. This aircraft—I’m finding it difficult to call it a “plane”—is a robin’s-egg-blue latticework of metal with a wing laid across the top. There’s a prop. There’s an engine. There’s a Wizard-of-Oz-style picnic basket strapped in for storage behind an open, park-bench seat. It looks like the pilot is meant to perch on a piece of wood that sits directly in front of that.
    Suddenly, I realize that Don’s walking right towards it.
    Oh. The BREEZY.
    That looks pretty breezy, alright.
    Don hands me a motorcycle helmet and a bib jumpsuit “so he doesn’t have to worry about me.” I sit down on the park bench. I fasten the single lap belt as fastidiously as I can manage. Then, as Don works the engine like a lawnmower, I read the little metal placard fastened to the seat in front of me. It says, “Passenger warning: This aircraft is amateur-built and does not comply with the federal safety regulations for standard aircraft.”
    For some reason, that’s all I need to start enjoying myself. As we taxi out, I’m smiling so hard in my helmet it hurts a little.
    Twenty minutes later, I’ve found Jesus. I’m reeling from the feeling of being in the dead-on sweet spot of everything I love about flying and motorcycling and adventuring, all bound up into one ugly-ass not-quite-aircraft. We rode the river like a track day. We bounded over forested hillocks and gravel outcroppings and one enormous, out-of-place old satellite dish. We buzzed the lakehouse, waving at my astounded companions. As we land, I decide I might not be bluffing about wanting my fixed-wing license anymore. I tell Don.
    “Oh, you don’t need a pilot’s license to fly this thing,” he grins. “I can get you checked out on it this afternoon.”
    I backpedal. Hard.
    When we arrive back at camp, it’s late. It doesn’t look late, but it is late. Don, the pilots and us jumpers congregate on the dock, four floatplanes bobbing cheerfully around us, and go over the flight plan. As it turns out, they want to do our jump as a stacked formation—each of us in our own chariot—with queenly Denali throwing her white skirts around in the background. There will be a photographer (my preternaturally gifted, multi-hyphenate wonder of a friend, Melissa) passenging in a camera plane, ready to capture it. Our flight instructors thrill to the plan. I am assigned the one that’s mostly purple, bedecked with little hippie daisies. I am much pleased.
    After the meeting, Joel and Brett and I trundle up to the room that Don has graciously offered us, with its wide deck overlooking the twilit lake and the visiting pilots trading stories around the fire pit. We (very ineffectually) close the shades. We try to rest. Tomorrow’s a big day.
    Image Credit: Melissa Dawn Burns The night segues seamlessly into the morning. I wake when my sleep mask shifts and the 4:30AM sun sears my eyelids. Brett wakes when I bump his shins, hanging over the padded arm of the loveseat upon which he reclines. Joel is already up.
    Coffee in hand, we meander down to the dock under a cloudless, bluebird sky. There’s a four-month-old Bernese-Blue Heeler mix rolling around the lawn, doing its best to learn how to be a dog, its fur bunching adorably in handfuls, waiting to be grown into. Two chubby golden retrievers stalk fish offshore. Two pigs, wire-haired and curious, wander over and present themselves for belly rubs. We kit up.
    Taking off from water is a new experience entirely. It’s smoother than I think it’ll be, as the glassed-off lake is feeling nary a tickle of wind this fine, blue morning. Before I know it, we’re tooth-and-clawing our way up to six grand.
    “I forgot how pretty it is from up here,” my pilot smiles when we get to around four. I, for myself, had forgotten that most people—especially people around here—don’t blow through four grand like the front door on a cold night.
    Once we’re up at six, we circle, building the formation. Let’s be clear: these are really, really good pilots, but they’re not formation pilots, and there’s most certainly a trick to it when you’re wrangling low-performance aircraft that were made to do nothing of the sort. With the door open, six thousand feet over Alaska at the entrance to glaciertopia, it is cold. The twenty minutes it takes them to get together has me clinging to the back of the passenger seat like it’s a lover returned from the wars. I hope my hands still work when it’s time to get out.
    Image Credit: Down For 50 Which, coincidentally, it is.
    I see Melissa’s plane figuring its way alongside us. I uncertainly stick out a foot and screw it down onto the sandpaper surface of the step. Then I offer my body up to the full blast of the relative wind and lunge for the strut. I get a purchase. I, ungainly, perch. I’m doing it.
    There’s a yoga to staying here, one iron grip around the strut, the other hand “casually” in my lap, my brain stuck firmly to my pilot chute. Most of me aches to tumble into the familiar arms of freefall. The rest of me grabs that part of me by the cheeks and shouts into its face: For chrissakes, woman, pay attention to this and here and now, because it has an expiration date that is less than a minute in the future and this is what you came for.
    I heed it.
    Suddenly, I can see. I see the red and white camera airplane, framed by impossible mountains. Denali, of course; Mount Huntington; Moose’s Tooth; Little Switzerland. I see a sky of a blueness Alaska pretty much never sees, yet here I am, sitting in it. I see Melissa, concentrating behind the winking black eye of her lens. I can’t see them, but I feel Joel and Brett, doing their own pontoon yoga practice behind me and above me. I see so much of what I love about being in this world, hanging here and now in the suspended animation of complete attention.
    And then there’s the landing area below—a cleared construction pad, tucked up next to the Talkeetna airport runway. My pilot nods. I had planned some sort of fanfare for this exit. As it stands, however, all I can manage is a dizzy-eyed smile and a bog-standard hop. My pilot hollers to watch me go. She’s never seen anything like it before.
    When we land, parachutes slung over shoulders, I’m exhausted with the effort of committing it all to memory. I decide to walk back to the FBO and let it all process—Don’s generosity; the force of the community here; the entirely new sensations of flight. It overwhelms my hardware.
    It’s only later, as we hunch over plates heaped with pancakes, that I happen to glance at the collection of grinning pilots clustered in black-and-white on the Talkeetna diner wall. It crystallizes what I’m feeling: The momentum of a long tradition. Those smiling faces, proudly next to their planes, captured over the entire history of aviation, seem to prove that this place—Alaska, the last frontier—was created by and for adventure. Alaska turns energy to adventure like some sort of spiritual chlorophyll. Every single one of these guys grew tall, strong, enduring lives with the force of that alchemy. Alaska pushes out the envelopes of the willing like leaves bursting from ever-lengthening branches. This is its job.
     

    It does it well.

    -----------
     
    Down For 50, the first 50-state skydiving road trip accomplished in a single journey, is happening from May to October of this year. To follow the journey, to check out when it’s coming to your state or simply to help out (thanks!), visit downfor50.org.

    By nettenette, in News,

    Vigil Service Bulletin - 19 April 2018

    Issue Date: 19 April 2018

    Bulletin Number: PSB-01-2018

    Subject: Firmware Update and High Altitude Jumps

    Status: Mandatory Prior to the next jump with any aircraft altitude exceeding 27,000 ft MSL

    Identification: All Sport Vigil II and Vigil 2+ with firmware versions 05.05, 05.06, 06.01, 06.02
    This product service bulletin does not apply to Military Vigils
    Background: Due to an internal calculation algorithm, units with firmware versions 05.05, 05.06, 06.01, 06.02 will enter protected CTRL-ERR mode when the measured pressure is less than 300 hpa. (Approximately 30,000 ft MSL).
    Compliance: Vigil II & Vigil 2+ (does not apply to Military Vigils).
    All Vigil II and 2+ units with firmware versions 05.05, 05.06, 06.01, 06.02 MUST be updated to a new firmware version.
    The current firmware version MUST be checked in the info menu during the startup of the Vigil. (See Road Map - Parameter Sequence Flow Chart in the User's Manual).
    Compliance Date: Compliance is the mandatory before any jump during which the aircraft is anticipated to reach, or reaches, any altitude above 27,000 ft MSL. DO NOT MAKE ANY JUMP IF THE AIRCRAFT, AT ANY TIME ON THE FLIGHT, EXCEEDS 27,000 ft MSL WITHOUT HAVING FIRST FULLY COMPILED WITH THIS PSB.
    For all users NOT making, or planning to make a jump with an exit altitude above 27,000 ft MSL, or planning to make a flight above 27,000 ft MSL, compliance is still mandatory for all affected firmware versions, however compliance may be at the user's convenience during any repack between the date of this PSB and 31 May 2020.
    This is to prevent risk of possible future high altitude use by a new owner or user, without compliance with, or awareness of this service bulletin.
    Compliance Procedure and Costs:
    Please follow the return RMA procedure online at https://www.vigil.aero/servicing The unit update, maintenance and return shipping from AAD Belgium or Vigil America to the customer will be at no charge to the customer. The shipping cost to AAD Belgium or to Vigil America will be the customer's responsibility. Repack costs and expenses are solely the customer's responsibility. No claims for repack costs and expenses will be accepted. Authority:
    Jo Smolders

    Managing Director

    A.A.D. nv/sa

    Bd.A. Reysers, 193

    1030 Brussels - Belgium - Europe

    Tel: +32.2.732.65.52

    Fax: +32.2.736.06.27

    www.vigil.aero - rma@vigil.aero
    Vigil America, Inc.

    1400 Flightline Blvd., Suite C

    Deland, FL 32724

    Tel: +1.386.736.8464

    Fax: +1.386.736.8468

    www.vigil.aero - candace@vigil.aero
    Distribution of this Advisory Product Service Bulletin shall include, but is not limited to:
    All AAD dealers. Parachute Industry Association. All identified parachuting publications. All identified parachuting Federations and Associations. All National Aero Clubs, Parachuting Section. IPC Technical Committee

    By admin, in News,

    Out of the East (Yin Yu's Story)

    Yin Yu Is In Your Sky, And She’s Bringing China With Her
      If you don’t know about Yin Yu yet, take note: You will. (You’ll probably meet her as “Daniela,” the name she goes by in the States.) Yin’s rarefied position as one of the only Chinese athletes teaching skydiving to a Chinese student base has put her at the forefront of a growing wave that’s getting ready to engulf the world in new licensees. Her business--AUV Skydiving--has already graduated more than 50 Chinese skydivers, and the waiting list is growing at an exponential rate.
    “They know the US gives the best skydiving education,” she says, simply, “so they want to come over to the US to learn how to skydive.”
    In a lot of ways, this story starts when Yin moved to the U.S., 10 years ago. For the first couple of those years, Yin lived in Atlanta. She did her first tandem skydive at The Farm (now Skydive Spaceland Georgia) and started her AFF there. Distracted by a heavy academic schedule, she didn’t finish. When Yin moved to Chicago to earn her Master’s degree (quickly followed by a high-powered internship and job), she found what she still refers to as her home dropzone at Skydive Midwest.
    “The major reason I wanted to learn to skydive,” Yin explains, “was that I felt under too much pressure from balancing hard work and cultural differences. Being a Chinese person in America is challenging. The conflict of the culture is the hardest part. There is the overall feeling, all the time, on the inside: No one really gets me. I’m just sitting in the corner, wishing someone could talk to me and understand me.”
    With jumps tucked here and there within a packed schedule, it took Yin three seasons to earn her solo skydiving license.
    “When I first finished my 25 jumps,” she explains, “I wasn’t able to find someone to teach me how to pack, because everyone was in the sky and I could only come on the weekends. So it took me forever. I had 60 jumps by the time I completed the packing course, so I just applied for a B license. I never had an A license.”
    “I teach almost ½ of Chinese skydivers to get their A license,” she laughs, “but I never even had an A license.”
    Yin’s whopping market share is motivated by a whole range of factors. The first of these, of course, is that the cultural differences between east and west loom large for skydiving students even more than most. Learning to skydive is a highly stressful proposition, and navigating its exacting, immediate requirements at the same time as navigating the subtleties of a new culture has proved preventively overwhelming for many would-be students. Yin seeks to change all that.
    “The US is very straight-talking,” she says. “You just tell people what you want. In China, people always talk in a circle to get to the point. And that’s just one of the differences. Chinese students can only really learn from a Chinese person. So I bring them in and teach them in the way they need--a way they can understand--because it is so stressful to do learn how to skydive. You can’t go over the barrier of the fear and stress and the barrier of the culture. Once Chinese students have a teacher who speaks to them in a language they can understand, both literally and culturally, they get confident and then the connections can happen naturally.”
    “In China, education is also very different,” she continues. “I went to university here, so I understand very well that the American teaching style is really open. When you bring questions to school, the answers might vary. In China, you sit in the classroom simply learn what the teacher tells you. I try to combine the two methods so my Chinese students are comfortable, but they are better prepared to deal with the differences when they set out on their own.”
    Yin brings the hard-earned lessons of her own student days to bear in her instruction. It was way back in those days that she initially decided on this path, in fact: When she saw the occasional Chinese skydiving student struggling in a system that wasn’t built to facilitate them.
    “For example: when you see a student flare too high, you tell students ‘Hold it!’ But if you say that another way--like ‘Don’t let go!’--they might be confused and freeze. Even though it means the same thing, switching words forces the student to process because they have to translate between English and Chinese.”
    “Before I was an instructor, I saw many things like this happen,” she continues. “I tried to help interpret but, at the end of the day, I decided I should probably be an instructor and stop that from happening in the first place.”
    She couldn’t help but notice some sticky equipment issues, too.
    “I am small,” she grins. “I was even smaller when I started 10 years ago. I was 100 pounds with a 260-square-foot canopy. I constantly had bruises all over me.”
    “I also had an experience with a cutaway that was very informative,” she adds. “I learned that the equipment was not designed with Asian people’s bodies in mine. Asian people are much smaller; their arms are shorter than what we think. We have to cut away a little more forward and harder.”
    They also have to communicate a little differently, which gets in the way--especially in the vulnerable beginning. Yin notes that Chinese students are really nervous about responding in English. They do speak English, but they are reliably shy. If you’ve ever learned another language, you can empathize: It’s not necessarily that you don’t understand; you get nervous for freeze up.
    “At a drop zone, a lot of the instructors will question a Chinese student to find out if they can do an action and think that the answer they receive means ‘no,’” she says. “When that student talks with me, It’s clear that they understand exactly how to do the action, but with English instructors--even if the student does speak English--there is this disconnect. American students will pretend to understand. Chinese students simply don’t fake understanding as well.”
    When she decided to create AUV Skydiving, Yin was no stranger to business ownership. She’s been in business before: a smoothie shop; a magazine; a stage design business. She was raking in a six-digit, salary, but she wasn’t finding joy. She was never able to see her parents in China.
    Interestingly enough, she already had a solid audience for her marketing when she launched the endeavor. As it turns out, Yin is something of a celebrity. In addition to several other entrepreneurial ventures, she was a songwriter. One of the songs she wrote “got her name out there,” as she wryly notes. Chinese students recognize her as the song’s writer--and, more recently, as the Chinese girl who wingsuited over Everest--so when she opened her doors, there were already faces pressed to the glass. She left her other work a year and a half ago to go full-time with AUV. It’s not just the AFF students, either: In 2013 and 2014 alone, Yin brought over 1,000 Chinese people to the States simply to experience tandem skydiving and the iFly wind tunnel. (She’s also the first Chinese AFFI certified by both China Aero Sports and the USPA, the first Chinese examiner candidate.)
    Yin’s next project is to solve the problem of where those students can go when her two-week AFF camp complete. In China, as you may or may not know, there’s almost nowhere to jump. There are no commercial dropzones. For now, Yin’s students usually come back to the States to jump; this year, she’s organizing a group skydiving mission all over the U.S.
    In the meanwhile, she’s starting to lay the groundwork In China for commercial dropzones to operate. In this author’s opinion, this is where it gets really interesting. Slowly by surely, Yin is making inroads, consulting with other Chinese entrepreneurs who are interested in opening dropzones. She’s also working on a education program for US instructors who want to go to China and teach skydiving skills and operating.
    “There are a bunch of [Chinese aviation owners] coming to talk to me, saying they want to start a dropzone and asking me how,” she says. “I’ve been working for dropzones for 7 years, so I can help them. I am building a team as well, to teach people how to start a dropzone. I’m getting my examiner rating, too.”
    “Three major things are always on my mind,” she states. “I want to bring very advanced skydiving education to China. I want to bring USPA standards and practices to China. And I want to bring serious skydiving competitions to China. If China gets in, it will take half of the business of the world. When China decides to do something, there is no stopping it.”
    “In China, everything is possible,” she adds. “It just comes down to the way you present things, and what kind of connections you have.”

    By nettenette, in News,

    Bill Booth - 50 Years in Skydiving (Video)

    The ‘father of skydiving’ shares a glimpse into his incredible knowledge. Prepare for knowledge bombs, anecdotes, and entertainment as Bill takes you on a 50 year journey through his experience of skydiving in his renowned ‘History of Skydiving’ presentation.
    Video shared from Skydive The Mag

    By admin, in News,

    Aerodyne Semi-Stowless Deployment Bag Service Bulletin

    Subject: Exchange of Aerodyne semi-stowless deployment bags supplied for Icon harness & container systems.
    Status: Mandatory.
    Compliance: Completed by April 30th, 2018.
    Authority: Gordon Sellers, President Aerodyne Research LLC
    Date of issue: December 18, 2017
    Identification: All semi-stowless deployment bags, with side tuck tabs and magnetic mouth closure, sold with our Icon containers or as a spare part from June 2015 until October 31st, 2017.
    This bulletin does not affect the semi-stowless deployment bags delivered after Nov. 1st, 2017, which have red stow pockets for the magnetic mouth closure system.

    Background
    In 2015, Aerodyne began to offer a semi-stowless deployment bag as an option. In the last year there have been reported irregularities with premature releasing of lines (known as a line dump) where this bag has been in use.
    Aerodyne has thousands of Icons in the field for many years with regular deployment bags using rubber stow bands with no known issues regarding line control during deployment.
    Based on these reports, Aerodyne has performed additional tests on the design of the semi-stowless bag in different conditions. These conditions accounted for a wide variety of variables such as canopy sizes related to the bag size, types of canopy fabrics, types of lines, opening speeds, and more importantly, a variation of canopy packing techniques that we understand are used in the field.
    Through this additional testing we have determined that some of these conditions can exist, causing a premature release of lines from the bag. This uncontrolled deployment of lines may cause variations in opening characteristics, and could lead to lines being caught on the container or jumper.
    As a result of continued development of Aerodyne’s products, an improved semi-stowless deployment bag has been designed which better addresses these issues. These bags are delivered with all new Icon containers where this option is required.
    To increase safety for everyone using the semi-stowless design, Aerodyne wishes to offer every Icon owner to have the latest version of this bag.
    Thus, Aerodyne has decided to offer an exchange program and upgrade all the original semi-stowless deployment bags, and remove the first version of bags from further use. This replacement bag and return shipping to you will be at no charge to the customers, and will not distinguish if the bag is in a rig that is sold second hand. Simply put, if it’s an Aerodyne semi-stowless bag, Aerodyne will exchange it to the new version free of charge.
    Until users have received their new bags and wish to jump their equipment, we recommend that the packing instructions for the semi-stowless bag be noted and followed. We have experienced a variety of packing methods on the semi-stowless bags in the field, and would remind users that free stowing lines in any type of a semi-stowless bag is a technique that requires understanding and attention.
    Action Required
    In an effort to minimize disruption for our customers, we are in the process of manufacturing the new replacement bags and the practical exchange can start from the second week of January 2018. New semi-stowless deployment bags will be exchanged upon return of the original semi-stowless bag.
    To prepare the exchange of these bags, and for Aerodyne to manage the program in the best possible manner, customers must register on Aerodyne’s website. This can be done as soon as possible.
    Actions for customers to take:
    Visit https://www.flyaerodyne.com/registration/ and register your request for exchange. Please note this is important, even if you don’t send in the bag straight away. You will receive an email acknowledgement of your registration. Please keep this for your records. Please print and include a copy of this document when you return your bag for exchange. We will start the exchange process from the second week of January. With about 500 bags in 10 different sizes in the field, bags will be manufactured and made available in the order they are requested. The sooner you send your bag in, the earlier it will be replaced. Bags will only be exchanged upon receipt of old bag. If you have no need for a new bag immediately, please wait a while and let your skydiving friends who are active and maybe in a more jumpable climate get their bags first.
    Exchange Centers
    To aid in the process of distribution, after registration old bags – with a copy of the registration – can be returned to the nearest exchange center to you. Once received we will process a replacement and send within two weeks.
    North and South America (USA Canada, Mexico, South America)

    Aerodyne Research LLC,

    1407 Flightline Blvd, Unit 14, Deland FL 32724
    Europe

    Aerodyne Research Europe c/o Herman Landsman

    Hoofdweg 101, 1795 JC De Cocksdorp, Holland
    Australia

    Mee Loft c/o Koppel Solomon

    84 Park Rd, Woolloongabba, QLD 4102
    Rest of World (Africa, Far East)

    Aerodyne Research Manufacturing

    115 Marshall Drive, Crawdord Factories, Mount Edgecombe, South Africa 4300

    By admin, in News,

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