The Journey of an AFF Student - Part 3

    This article follows a previous article of an AFF journal submitted by John McDarby. We hope sharing this series of articles detailing the experience of his journey may be able to provide some insight into those looking to do their AFF course, while also entertaining those who have been through the process.
    AFF2 – Sunday 10th May

    Awesome - even better than awesome.
    That’s the best jump ever.

    Better than the tandem and miles ahead of AFF1.
    Very nervous during the climb - I was surprised how much so - much more so than AFF1. My instructor spotted this and told me to slow my breathing, deep breaths and just relax.
    Once we got to "2mins to door" I was actually in great form and ready to nail it.

    I got a super exit, good COA and then a 90 degree left turn, then a bit of forward tracking. All good and a nice, clean deployment - mellow canopy ride down and soft landing skidding onto my butt, not a bother.
    The wind was a different direction, southerly and our landing area is E-W so it means we're landing short ways rather than with the length of the runway.

    That just made me a fraction more nervous coming in - but even short ways, there was tons of room - which my instructor told me afterwards and I agreed - it won’t be a concern the next time.
    All in all, I am utterly delighted with that jump - it was fantastic!
    Damn, this is fun.
    AFF3 – Sunday 24th May

    I had almost zero nerves on the climb – very strange – if on a scale of the dentist 100% being dentist scared, on AFF2 I would have been about 35% - nice and nervous but not wetting myself – for this, I’d say I was about 5% - I was very confident that I knew my job and what was required – “now just do it”.
    Again, my instructor said during the climb “just do your job – nothing else” – it’s all very matter of fact – there is no pissing about when it comes to the task at hand – there is lots of laughing and messing – it’s a fun sport after all – but when you’re one on one, its do it by the numbers and do it right.
    When you go to the door “ok John, to the door please” you already have switched off all thoughts of “Jesus man, I’m jumping out of a plane” you just shuffle to the door and get into position and then start your drill – it’s that simple – in fact, it’s kind of surreal – you’re not really there – it’s like you’re looking at yourself from a distance or something – maybe like being a soldier where they just follow orders without question.

    I think, once you get on the plane, that’s it – you’re not coming back down in it – I think if you did, you’d have to leave the club – nobody would rip you to your face because you can’t really laugh at someone for NOT leaving a plane – but you’d definitely be the talk of the hanger – for five minutes anyway until they all rip on someone else – haha.
    So we exit, get stable and after a short time, my reserve side instructor backs off, I’m still steady, then main side pulls away. I make an unintentional left turn which I work out and bring back.
    Then the guys come in again for deployment.
    Deployment was fine, did my 4 count and looked up – total line twists – oh no – I don’t need this. There was no mistaking it. It was exactly as we’d been shown in class. I didn’t panic or freak out. That’s not really my nature in any situation. And I’ve been in some snowy mountain situations that were not pleasant.

    So I did exactly as I was taught to do. I commenced my post deployment checks – canopy, cells, lines, slider – all good. Check for line twists, full on twists. Damn. I’m not sinking or spinning in any dramatic fashion, I’ll come back to them.
    Harness checks – all good. Quick look around for traffic, all clear. Now, let’s deal with these twists.

    I wasn’t happy with them and I wished they hadn’t happened on just my third jump – but they had, and I needed to deal with them, and now.
    Reaching up with both hands, I grabbed the lines by groups and began pulling apart. A little movement but needs more. I tried again but this time along with some kicking in the opposite direction.
    Moving...moving...and we’re clear! I popped into the normal position and all was good above me.

    Releasing the toggles, I performed a couple of flares, determined we were all good, and my first “major drama” in skydiving was passed!
    In hindsight, it was good that this happened as it demonstrated to me that the instruction is good and to be taken as fact. That if you do what you are taught to do, you will reduce the risk and make a favourable outcome more likely.
    If I thought AFF2 was good, then this was miles ahead!
    So much so, that I went and bought the hardback logbook, goggles, helmet, altimeter and gloves!
    I’ve now made the commitment!
    Part 4 will be published shortly, keep an eye out on the dropzone.com homepage to follow John's journey through AFF

    By admin, in News,

    The Journey of an AFF Student - Part 2

    This article follows a previous article of an AFF journal submitted by John McDarby. We hope sharing this series of articles detailing the experience of his journey may be able to provide some insight into those looking to do their AFF course, while also entertaining those who have been through the process.
    Image Credit / Link Sunday 26th April
    Well, that sure was something else. Nothing like the tandem at all - totally different.
    Really weird but, I had no fear whatsoever - it was all "focus on the tasks" I just didn’t have the time to fear.
    I was nervous going up and one of the instructors saw it and told me to smile - that it forces you to be happy and helps get rid of nerves – it works!
    He then told me to close my eyes and visualise the dive from start to finish - that really was a good idea and I shall continue to do that
    Then at about 11k feet the pilot gave a two minute notice for the door.
    Everyone started doing high fives and fist pumps to each other - it really was awesome.
    Eight of us squashed into a ford fiesta (or tiny car of your choice), all about to jump from 12,000ft - it felt very special - like I was part of a very elite club that nobody else knows - it felt great.
    My two instructors and I were last out as we were deploying highest. Two head down flyers went first as they would be the fastest fallers and lowest deployments. Then 2 sit flyers, then a solo guy with about 20 jumps - he was just chilling out – we have become good friends since and he has helped me, mentally on many of my subsequent jumps
    Then us...
    I had no nerves at all - I just kicked right into my routine and thought of nothing else
    I actually didn’t even see the ground until I deployed - head up, looking at the horizon all the time - you don’t look down ever – In fact, it wasn’t until my first consolidation jump that I had both the time and the peace of mind to have a look about.
    So I did the exit, really well - I was delighted with that – we were stable faster than I expected.
    Then I did my COA - circle of awareness – check heading, check altimeter, check left instructor, check right instructor to ensure we're all set and ready to begin tasks - all good, let’s do it
    Then began my 3 practice touches - check alti, arch, reach for pilot chute handle, squeeze, recover.
    Do that 3 times to show that you know where the pilot chute for deployment is and that you can get to it yourself and that you actually have the wherewithal and you’re not phased out.
    Sensory overload is a big one on AFF1 so perhaps my previous tandem helped with this.
    That’s all that is required of AFF1 to pass, that and the actual deployment - and I did it with about 2000ft to spare - that’s about 10secs of freefall - the instructors said to me afterwards that they deliberately kept throwing hand signals at me for those 10 seconds to see how I would react to being overloaded.
    I got some of them but I missed some too - just too much information coming at me - but that wasn’t part of the dive - it was just extra stuff
    My main side instructor said afterwards during debrief "ah, you just ignored me - I saw you looking and just rolling your eyes"
    Ha ha – there is probably an element of truth in that.
    So I "locked in" at 6000ft and then deployed at 5500ft - and then it’s the longest 4 second count in your life Count 4 thousand and look up and hope to goodness it’s all there and looking good - which it was.
    I chilled then for a moment to let the adrenaline settle and then commenced my checks – I should have done them immediately but I was really overwhelmed to say the least - I’d guess I was about 3-5 seconds at most before I did my harness checks and twists checks – all good, phew!
    Next up, I released the toggles for steering and pulled 3 good flares to get a feel for it, as instructed.
    Then a quick alti check - just about 5000ft - Jesus, it’s a long way down when you’re hanging there alone.
    So I pulled a hard left and dived down to the left, then another to the right, then a few circles around - all to get a feel for the canopy as I need to know how it will handle when coming in to land
    It was very stable and comfortable and turned when I asked it to – as I discovered later, of course it was stable, it was 260sqft – Godzilla could have jumped this canopy..
    At about 3000ft the radio came crackling in my ear with the instructor telling me directions – I’d forgotten about those guys – lovely to hear a guiding voice right now.
    But it cracked out at about 1000ft and I couldn’t hear him – however, I already had my flight plan worked out
    Be over the hanger at 1000ft, then downwind along the tree line to 600ft then hard right 90 degrees and down to 300ft across the wind then 90 degrees into the wind for final approach – we had been through that on the ground and I’d watched a bunch of jumpers before me to see it in action.
    It was really bumpy and I got thrown about but it was all about keeping it steady with minimal inputs under 300ft - just go straight and let it fly itself down.
    The instructor said afterwards that no other students would be flying today and that it was right on the edge for students but that my (cough), mass, was an advantage for such conditions!
    So I landed on my feet, all excited and relieved but then a gust of wind grabbed the canopy and I was on my butt and dragged backwards - I got it sorted and that was it, gathered it up and walked over to the hanger - where a bunch of them laughed at me and took the piss - but in a friendly way.
    One guy came up to me "what number AFF was that?" I told him number one, and he stuck his hand out for a shake "welcome to the club, man"
    I felt so chuffed.
    I was part of an elite club.
    Brilliant, brilliant experience.
    Then one of my instructors went through the video with me pointing out both good and bad things of the dive
    He got some other students over to view it also as they were unable to jump due to the wind
    Then we got the creepers (like skateboards) out and we (4 students) started to practice AFF2 dive flow - It’s much the same but with some added turns - which are new to us.
    We will have to do 90 degree turns both left and right - then a kind of "head first" position a bit like superman but hands back (later to be informed, tracking) and then back to standard stability and recover.

    I wasn’t ready to do it again today even if I could - too much information to take in and I want to do the dive over and over first because it’s hard to think when in freefall - it’s so extreme.
    Things need to be more instinctive first for me.
    Next weekend looks like a wash out.
    So hopefully the week after.
    But oh boy, what a buzz - I may well have found what I was looking for.
    Part 3 will be published shortly, keep an eye out on the dropzone.com homepage to follow John's journey through AFF

    By admin, in News,

    The Journey of an AFF Student - Part 1

    Over the course of the next few weeks we will be sharing the journal of John McDarby, who documented his experience as an AFF student. This journal should allow for new students to get an idea of what to experience during their first steps into the sport.
    Accelerated freefall (AFF) is a method of skydiving training. This method of skydiving training is called "accelerated" because the progression is the fastest way to experience solo freefall, normally from 10,000 to 15,000 feet "Above Ground Level" (AGL).
    “As far back as I can remember, I've always wanted to be a gangster. ...” Ray Liotta
    Goodfellas, I always loved that movie. I guess it’s kind of like living that gangster life for 2hrs which is so utterly foreign to anything most of us would know.
    Skydiving is something I’d always wanted to try, ever since a young age.
    I remember seeing a clip of people in a wind tunnel when I was about 12 or 13 and thinking “I’ve just got to have a go at that”
    But the usual trials and tribulations of day to day living, seemed to perpetually push it out.
    During my twenties, I actually went as far as getting the sponsor forms to do a charity tandem. But that’s as far as it got. It was placed on the back burner for another twenty years.
    One fateful day, a surprise email from my cousins wife arrived. “Can you come up with an idea for you and him to do something different for his 40th” was the request.

    Race car driving? White water rafting? Paintball? All the usual silly ideas we both bounced off each other.

    Then, the light bulb went “ping”
    We booked in for us both to do a tandem – he was as yet, unaware. The day came and the colour drained from his face when informed of the plan for the next few hours. That’s actually on video somewhere and is quite comical. For me, I’d had a month or two in order to come to terms with it.
    As it turned out, the rain came and the gig was off – honestly, I think we were both equally relieved and disappointed.

    We re-booked and again, it was rained off. I decided at that point, if it was rained off a third time, then that was it for me. It was a proper sign that skydiving was not something I was destined to take part in.

    But not this time. This time Thunderbirds were go.
    The day came and we hit the DZ. We signed our lives away, we jumped and we loved it.
    It was a surreal experience and one that I will never forget. No matter how many jumps I ever make through the rest of my skydiving career, I will never forget that first time sitting on the edge, feet dangling.
    On video, my tandem master asks prior to the jump:

    “Will you do this again or is this a one off, tick the box?”

    To which I reply categorically “one time, one time only”

    Yes, let’s see how that worked out...
    I must apologise for the soundtrack. Prior to the jump, whilst at the DZ, we had to select 3 songs from a list of thousands that were to be added to our video afterwards. I was much too preoccupied to choose them so the task was given to my niece of 12 years. “This will be hilarious” was the giggling consensus. And I was informed in no uncertain terms, that I was not to see the track listing until the final product.
    Which was later aired on the big screen in the hanger to much laughter.

    I’m a living joke...

    But...the deal made with my niece was that if she decided to choose the songs, then she would have to do a tandem when she turns 18.

    Aoife, the clock is ticking!
    So that was it. I walked away from a wonderful tandem experience and was determined that if nothing else, I had to complete “at least” one more jump. I couldn’t go through life and not try it again
    Knowing me and how I think, it made sense to sign up for AFF rather than another tandem.
    “I’ll do the ground school and one jump, then reassess” I told myself.
    Multiple emails back and forward to the IPC Irish Parachute Club, had me booked into school for the second Saturday in April – about 7 weeks after the tandem.
    I was hyper and couldn’t wait for the day to come.
    As it approached, the bravado began to wear off and nobody was happier than me that we did not get to jump that day due to weather. We would have to wait for the following Saturday.
    This was something that stuck with me until AFF6. I would never have been upset not getting any of the first 4 AFF jumps on the day. It was a genuine fight with myself to gear up and just do it. But afterwards, it was always such a buzz.
    At times, I even thought “I wish I could just fast forward the jump bit and get to the après-jump buzz” and go home.
    Unfortunately, you have to load and exit to get that.

    Now, I’m really happy and excited during the hour or so prior to kicking off. But that took a few jumps to get there.
    During the next week, I read the SIM twice. I looked at everything there was to see on YouTube. I even had my first skydive dream!
    Figuring that jumping from a plane, this time unattached to someone who knew what they were doing, I thought it best to know as much as I could.
    I did the AFF1 dive flow, over and over again in my head during the drive to and from work. I ran over my emergency procedures again and again. In fact, I still have the laminated cards with the bullet points, sitting on the dash of the car so that I see them every single day. I practice my EPs daily – numerous times.

    Rinse and repeat….always repeat.
    I went through my notes from class – why was I the only person taking notes? I’d never paid as much attention in all my school and college years combined. I asked more questions in that classroom than everyone else put together. This stuff was important and I wanted to know it down here rather than not know it up there.
    And then the day came…
    Part 2 will be published shortly, keep an eye out on the dropzone.com homepage to follow John's journey through AFF

    By admin, in News,

    The Harpers - A Lasting Passion for the Sky

    The culture of skydiving attracts an eclectic group of people and for me, some of those people stand out by character, resume and history. I recently met a couple that fascinated me because of their longevity and passion for the sport. They are Gerry and Debbie Harper and they are the DZO’s of Canada’s, Skydive Vancouver.
    Gerry and Debbie are still very active skydivers and involved in running their drop zone. Their enthusiasm after all of these years of skydiving was inspiring as many people get burned out, stop jumping because of relationships or just lose their zest for the sport and the people. And not only do they have the enthusiasm, they have grand goals of keeping their drop zone open in Canada even though there are many challenges to face.

    So I sat down and asked them some questions:
    First Jump

    Gerry: Christchurch, New Zealand on May 20th, 1967

    Debbie: Lynden, Washington on June 17th, 1974
    Total Jumps

    Gerry: 16,000+

    Debbie: 5,600+
    What inspired you to make your first skydive?
    Gerry: Doesn’t every kid want to skydive?!
    Debbie: It was something that had always intrigued me while I was growing up. In my travels I met a fellow who just started and was so excited, he told me where I could go.
    What keeps you motivated to stay in skydiving?
    Gerry: It’s simple. I still love it! One of our instructor’s once said, ‘As long as we keep jumping, we’ll stay young.’
    Debbie: I think this is such an exciting time in our sport. I look at what the freefliers are doing and I am in awe! It’s challenging and inspiring. AND, I get to play in the sky with my husband and son everyday.

    How did you two meet?
    Debbie: I met Gerald [Gerry] when I went to make my first jump and he was my instructor. The rest is the age-old story! We lived together for several years then married in 1983.

    What has been your proudest moment in skydiving?
    Gerry: Representing my country (Canada and New Zealand) at World Meets! We won the Canadian Nationals in 1971 for Style and Accuracy, and I represented New Zealand in 1970, 1972 and 1974.
    Debbie: My proudest moment is when my dad came out to the DZ for the first time to watch me skydive. He came out only after I had a couple hundred jumps. By then, he knew he wasn’t going to talk me out of it. I was so proud when he watched me! (I landed in the ditch!)
    He offered to buy me a new jumpsuit. I guess he didn’t like the one I had, or thought it might improve my accuracy!

    Biggest accomplishment in the sport?
    Gerry: Winning Gold in the Canadian Nationals!
    Debbie: Getting the 30 way Color Concepts (organized by Roger Ponce) over downtown Vancouver in 1995.
    Who was your skydiving mentor?
    Gerald was mentored by Jimmy Lowe. We both thought very highly of Jim and considered him a friend.
    When did you open the DZ?
    We took over Abbotsford in 1977 in western Canada and is called, Skydive Vancouver.

    What inspired you to take on the challenge of opening a skydiving center?
    Abbotsford has been a drop zone since the 1950’s. Gerald and his friend, Rod Bishop, Canadian Team Member, were training students in the late 1970’s and grew into taking it over.

    What’s a cool fact about Skydive Vancouver?
    The first US/Canadian Nationals were held here in 1961 or 1962.
    In the past, skydivers always leased property to use for jumping, when this property came up for sale, the jumpers organized to buy the land before a blueberry farmer did.
    What is your season? And what do you do in the off-season?
    We consider our season to be March through October, although we often jump in February and December.
    Having slow time in the winter allows us to work the airplanes and getting gear ready for the next season.
    In the off-season, we like to take some time off- like going to the Puerto Escondido Boogie over New Years. Nothing hard core, just fun.

    You had stated that skydiving is fun, but what about being a DZO?
    It has its moments. We may write a book....if we ever had time!

    What was it like when your son, Jess first started jumping?
    Gerry: I never questioned it. He has always been capable.
    Debbie: Jess was determined to skydive from an early age. We ignored his requests because he was so young. However, he started asking questions to other Instructors. When they told us what was happening we knew we couldn't ignore him much longer. He did a Tandem at 8, Static Line at 16, then AFF.
    I knew it was inevitable that he would be a skydiver, but I never wanted him to run a DZ and I pushed him to get an education. He got a diploma in Mechanical Engineering, but he has been working at the DZ since he finished school. There was probably never any way of stopping him. Now he is my boss!

    Advice to new jumpers?
    Gerry: Don't be afraid to ask questions.
    Debbie: Slow is fast.

    Advice to not-so-new jumpers?
    Gerry: Complacency kills. Stay vigilant.
    Debbie: Remember why you got into this sport: because it is fun!

    Future goals?
    Gerry: We have seen a lot of DZs close for various reasons. We have to operate commercially in Canada, which has overburdened many small operators financially and created a paperwork load that many find overwhelming. Some have lost location due to building etc. We want to keep skydiving alive, available, safe and fun in the Lower Mainland.
    Debbie: To make more fun jumps and learn from the kids.

    Anything else you'd like to add?
    Gerry: I am happy to be jumping my Stiletto 120 and square reserve and not my 28' C9 and my unmodified 24' twill reserve!
    Debbie: I feel so very fortunate to have met and so many wonderful people in this sport. People I meet when I travel to other DZs and skydivers that come to our DZ; people that have become lifelong friends and people I met just yesterday. Customers who make 1 jump and skydivers I have learned from, some more experienced and some less experienced than me. Everyone adds a piece to the puzzle.

    By MissMelissa, in News,

    The Great Book of BASE - Review

    Base jumping is something that I’ve not had a desire to do, so it was understandable that when I was presented with the opportunity to read and review "The Great Book of Base" that I did so with some level of skepticism. You see, I've always had preconceived ideas about BASE jumpers, their discipline, and the personality types involved - ironic when you consider the very notion, a pet peeve of mine, general skydivers have regarding canopy piloting/swooping. "The Great Book of BASE" helped turn that thinking on its head.
    The Author, along with oftentimes anecdotal experiences with other BASE jumpers, paints a vivid yet methodical view of the world of BASE jumping. The book itself begins with a rather heavy handed push warning readers of the dangers of BASE jumping. Something, that while necessary, wears a little bit on the reader at times. It was the only part of the book I found a little difficult to get through - not because the warnings were invalid, or not to be heeded, but rather it felt like the Author was attempting to offset any potential future litigation.
    There is something about this book that should be clearly stated: This book will NOT teach you how to BASE jump, nor is it the intention of the Author for it to do so. What the book does do, and in my opinion does very well, is give the reader a solid sense of a path to follow in the BASE world. It's a guide and a reference book, something you read multiple times in your BASE career and refresh the things you need to. For newer (and perhaps even some seasoned jumpers) the book discusses the myriad of things a BASE jumper should consider from etiquette (site burning, etc), mentorship (something the Author is a avid believer in), various types of BASE jumps and locations, detailed explanations on various weather phenomena that can affect the outcome of the BASE jump, and even the types of skydives a future, or current, BASE jumper should spend time working on to give them the greatest chance of having a positive BASE experience. Also noteworthy is how the Author takes some time to dispel myths, largely prevalent in the regular skydiving community, about altitude BASE jumps. All the subjects mentioned above are discussed in depth, but not so much so that they become a chore to read. Quite the opposite in fact, and the Author does a spectacular job of keeping the reader engaged in the topic being discussed - not always an easy task when discussing technical topics.
    The book is well edited and written. The only real complaint I had about the layout, and it's a minor quibble, is that the Author refers to DBS (Deep Brake Setting) at one point, but doesn’t actually explain the acronym until a later chapter. As a non-BASE jumper, this term had me scratching my head until it was later explained.
    So what does this mean for you, the reader? Well while I still have the opinion that BASE jumping is not for me I have a newfound respect for participants in the sport. Additionally I can say that if I ever were to reconsider my BASE jumping career, I would certainly have this book on my bookshelf and use it for guidance on the next steps to take. I definitely will be recommending to some of the local BASE jumpers I know.
    Safe BASE jumps.
    Overall: Highly recommended

    By admin, in News,

    The Evolution of Jetman Dubai

    Image by Max Haim There's been a ton of social media hype this week about the new Jetman Dubai video released by XDubai. The video, available in 4k quality, has already amassed over 2 million views on youtube within 48 hours of release. But what is the story behind Jetman and will this venture see an evolution to methods of human flight?
    Back in the mid-2000s, Yves Rossy of Switzerland set history by becoming the first person to fly with the use of a jet-propelled wing. A step that closed some of the gap between wingsuit flying and aircraft piloting. Before venturing into jet-propelled human flight, Rossy was both an air force and commercial pilot, serving in the Swiss Air Force before flying for both Swissair and Swiss International Airlines.
    Rossy first began skydiving, then looking to wingsuiting and skysurfing in order to maximize his flight time, but neither of these were able to satisfy what it is he was after. Rossy didn't want to be freefalling, but rather flying, with as little restrictions and as much freedom and agility as possible, while still ensuring the longest possible flight time. This is what then prompted him to begin his development on the original jet propelled wing.
    After developing an inflated wing design in order to achieve more flight time, Rossy then began to design the first jet propelled wing, which was flown in 2004. This first propulsion based wing was only a dual jet propultion system, which allowed him to maintain flight level. In 2006 he changed the design to use 4 jets instead of the original 2. This change allowed Rossy to go from merely being able to maintain flight level, to being able to ascend while in flight too.
    Since 2006, Yves Rossy, the Jetman has flown in several high profile flights and accomplished impressive achievements. Rossy is now primarily flying in Dubai, with Skydive Dubai seemingly being the sole sponsor of the venture at this point in time. Teaming up with Skydive Dubai has meant that Rossy has been able to get some crazy video footage of his latest flights, with Skydive Dubai being notorious for their video production quality.

    The Next Chapter
    In early May, Jetman Dubai began hinting at the announcement of a new development in the Jetman Dubai project and after a few social media teasers, a video was released on the 11th May which announced that Yves would no longer be flying solo. Instead, he would be joined in the air by Vince Reffet, a well known skydiver and BASE jumper. Vince was born into a family of skydivers and did his first jump at just 14 years old. Now just in his 30s, Vince already boasts an impressive tally of over 13 000 jumps.
    The French protege is specifically recognized for his freeflying skills, and is best known for his position on the Soul Flyers team.
    The training of Vince by Yves Rossy has opened up far more opportunities for the Jetman Dubai project, with the most noteable being that of formation in flight. According to the Jetman Dubai website, Yves began training Vince as early as in 2009.
    The visuals of these two individuals flying together are so outstanding that it has many calling fake on the videos. However the truth is that what you see is the result of some extremely skilled pilots, working together to create something majestic.
    The Jetman Wing
    The Jetman Dubai wings weigh in at a total of 55kg with a wing span of 2 meters, and contain 4 Jetcat P200 engines. Speeds on descent can reach 300km/h, while ascent speeds clock in at around 180km/h. The flight will typically last for between 6 and 13 minutes. Flight begins with an exit, most commonly by helicopter, and when the flight time is over, a parachute is deployed for landing.
    A question on a lot of people's minds seem to be whether or not this type of jet propulsion system could work its way into the public. Though it seems that those keen to do some jet flying of their own should not hold their breath, apart from a large budget, it's difficult to see any situation in the near future whereby the safety aspect associated with these wings will allow for public use. In the mean time however, we can sit back, watch and enjoy.
    Who knows what is next for the now Jetman Dubai duo, but we can't wait to see it...

    By admin, in News,

    The AFF Two-Step

    Receiving an AFF Instructor rating is one of the pinnacle points of a skydiver’s continuing education and experience in the sport skydiving world, and has been a personal goal of mine for approximately two years. I was sure that the moment I had six hours of freefall time and my C license, I'd be able to knock this thing out fast.
    How wrong I was...

    This badge is likely the most expensive badge in the
    skydiving world
    When I first began skydiving, I was presented with the opportunity to spend some time in the tunnel at Perris, CA, with Ed Dickenson and Jay Stokes. I immediately took Ed up on his very generous offer to help me in my progression towards being a camera flyer. At 27 jumps, I entered the tunnel to learn some of the techniques I’d later use to fly with tandems, four-way, and fun jumpers. The video is hilarious.While I waited for Ed, we hung out at the school in Perris, and I overheard many conversations taking place between students and instructors. It was at that point I decided to become an instructor. Jay Stokes, Ed Dickenson, and Jack Guthrie all encouraged me to look towards that goal, yet six hours of freefall and a C license seemed so far away at that point, it quickly fell off the radar. I was having a hard time waiting for my 200th jump just so I could put on a camera anyway, let alone being an instructor.When I hit 200 jumps, I immediately got my coach rating. Alright! I was prepared to be unleashed on unsuspecting just-off-AFF-students.My first coach jump went great and filled me with a confidence that I had never before experienced. My third coach jump didn’t go so well with me finding myself very low, opening at an altitude that got me grounded for the weekend. Little lessons seemed to constantly present themselves. Although most of my wingsuit coach jumps have gone well, I once took a student with only 160 jumps. Bad decision; he had a cutaway (on a rig he'd borrowed from me) and I'm grateful that's all that occurred. I grounded myself for the weekend, and learned that lesson the hard way.It seems like most of us have stories like that; this one was my moment of enlightenment.
    Over the next two years opportunity to teach, be taught, sit in on teaching experiences, and grow within the sport continually presented themselves. Like many skydivers, I surely thought I “had it all” in the 500 jump range when in truth, I was merely beginning to understand how much more there was to learn. As one skydiver repeated over and over (and over), “You don’t know what you don’t know.” Well…he’s right. I was discovering how little I knew, how far I had to go, and I was finding myself on the road of discovery.Being part of the qualification process for the 71 Way Wingsuit World Record opened my eyes to what good wingsuit instruction could be. I gained information over the last year that is integral to the first flight process as well, taking instruction from Scott Campos, Scott Callantine, Sean Horton, Justin Shorb, Jeff Nebelkopf, Scotty Burns, and several other very experienced wingsuit coaches. Like most skydivers, I've experienced great coaching and not-so-great coaching in my skydiving progression.
    Being present when a friend was part of a tragic incident at the start of the year convinced me that I needed to know more about instruction, and I began looking at available AFF course opportunities. At the PIA conference, USPA President Jay Stokes informed me that Certification Unlimited (Jay’s instructional entity) was putting up a Coach and AFF course at Skydive Arizona in the following weeks. Timing was going to be tough, as I had some minor surgery scheduled, but I was excited to take advantage of the closeness of the opportunity, at one of my favorite dropzones, and in warm weather while it was freezing back home.

    Image Left to Right:
    Alex Chrouch, Jay Stokes, Craig Girard, Kelly Wolf, Nikos, Eliana Rodrigues, Douglas Spotted Eagle

    Arriving in Eloy on a Saturday, I was completely pumped to start my education then and there. After all, I have 1300 jumps, 19 hours of freefall time in a couple of years, so this was going to be a fun cakewalk, right? I mean, I’ve got more than three times the requisite hours, lots of experience teaching, how hard could it really be? I’d taught parts of many First Jump Courses, taught many wingsuit students, and sat in on several courses. I knew I was ready.
    How incorrect my thought process would prove to be.
    Jay began with the syllabus and schedule for the course. It was daunting, but still appeared to be not insurmountable.
    We did a bit of class work that night but the real class began in earnest Sunday morning at 8:00 a.m. with the dew wet on the grass, sunrise barely behind us, and no coffee in sight, Jay smacked the class between the eyes with a number of videos that showed why the AFF program is so important, why the training would be very precise, and why each jump would be rated with “Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory” with no grey areas. “I’d bust my own mother if she wasn’t doing it right” is something we’d occasionally hear. And I believe it, but wasn’t intimidated by the concept. In fact, the only thing that had me intimidated was learning that repeat World Champions Craig Girard and Eliana Rodriguez were in my class. It’s somewhat difficult for a Hyundai to shine when parked between two Ferrari’s, right?
    I knew I’d nail this stuff in a heartbeat. The written test was a cakewalk, just missing one question. And that question used math.
    To say “I suck at math” would be akin to suggesting that “Omar is an OK skydiver.”I use a calculator for two plus two. True story. The ground training process is specific, but I’m used to this stuff, it’s pretty basic if you have the program down (thanks TDog, for providing some good pointers).Passing the written test indeed was a cakewalk compared to what came next... the in-air practicals.
    Game-on, kids….We were assured the first jump would be our one opportunity to experience a “good student practice jump” where the student would behave and do essentially everything instructed, exactly as instructed.True to his word, Jay jumped like a perfect student. I was on the main side, Alex on reserve side.The jump went well from the Otter; no exit problems, the student responded perfectly to my signals, even if I was a little amped and anxious on this first jump. I thought Alex and I were a solid team. Suffice it to say that Alex did an outstanding job of flying his slot, keeping eye contact with his partner (me) and of doing his part in keeping our “student” corralled.Next jump, Jay paired me and a different partner with Kelly, a newly-minted AFF Instructor Evaluator.She went out the door with legs both bent forward at unique angles, arms in every direction but straight forward, and the only guarantee we had was that she wouldn’t roll onto her back during this practice jump.
    Manhandling her into a level position without punching her required a great deal of strength. My partner lost his grip, floated up, and next thing I knew, I was alone with my student. I wasn’t going to let her go, except I was required to. And did so.She flew away, turning like a propeller just starting up and gathering speed as she backslid, turned, and orbited. I knew I had fewer than 15 seconds to catch her (which sounds like an eternity, but in truth, it’s the blink of an eye for the second jump as an AFFI Candidate). I caught up and had her blocked in a few short moments, but those same moments seemed like an eternity in themselves. She grinned and decided to go the other way. I think what troubled me wasn’t that the grin was mischievious; it was evil, clearly payback for what she had been subjected to as an AFF candidate. Cruel, cold, calculated evil. But we were having fun, right? My partner was floaty, at least 20’ up and 20’ out from where our student was spinning, but he did eventually make it most of the way back in. I ended up on the reserve side after her spins and subsequent blocks, and so the dance at the bottom was a little different; it was my first experience with dancing on the left. I pulled the handle, deploying my student and she looked at me with a grin that made the previous evil smile appear to be innocent; I’d failed to ride through the actual deployment. The triumph I’d felt at properly feeling the rhythm and cadence of the dance evaporated like palm sweat in a 120 mph wind.
    Moving on before I exaggerate more than I already am….let’s look at the third jump of the afternoon.
    It was beautiful. Stunning. The sort of sun and sky that Eloy is famous for, and it was about to be spoiled. This time, I had no partner and no one on whom to place blame for the carnage that was about to occur. Combat Wingsuiting, combat RW could not have prepared me for a single, main side exit in which my student extended arms straight forward, legs nearly as much so, almost as if she’d been laid over top of a fence to dry, face down. I muscled her so that she remained belly to earth and she obviously didn’t like that action very much. She immediately pretzeled her legs with the right leg looking like it was flying over a hurdle in a heat, and the other leg bent 45 degrees forward and bent again at the knee. It was like she was performing a classic freestyle position but on her belly instead of her toes pointing straight down. Arms were practically folded above her head, and it was all I could do to force an arch. Duh…throw a hand signal and there might not be quite so much force necessary….
    Thumb down, she arched like a pro. “Today’s skydive is brought to you by the letter ‘U’” as she arched so hard that she plummeted. Thank heaven I hadn’t asked her to wear the lead. I don’t like lead much, and my fall rate range is pretty broad. All those tandems and AFF videos have helped.
    OK, she’s settled out. Calm, flying great, she gets a thumbs up and a terror-laced grin from her instructor. I give her signals to do a practice pull and toe taps. She does great and so therefore has earned a release. I released and she backslid from the moment I let go of her harness. Damn, that girl is fast, but so am I. I chased her with a side-slide, threw her a legs-out signal. Wow….look at her move forward! Faster than she was going backwards. Now, I’m orbiting and don’t even realize it until I’m looking at her butt in my windshield. So…forward I go, and out goes the hand signal for arch; I was behind her. She didn’t have a rear-view mirror so my only option was to slide sideways, slide my left hand under the BOC as I started to slide past, and toss her another “arch” symbol. Whew! She settled out….Mr Toad couldn’t have had more of his way with me than Kelly did on that skydive.
    And that was just the first day….
    Variations on the theme make for a colorful tale; the ground experiences as we prepped to get into the aircraft were equally interesting but it would spoil the movie if I share too many of the instructor’s tricks as they acted the part of wayward students. Suffice it to say that they’re there to help you succeed, but also there to allow you to fail if you’re not on your toes and looking out for the best interests of the student at all times. The dives aren’t about you, they’re about being sure your student is getting the appropriate attentions and instruction at all times.
    I won’t bore you with further details of the skydives because they’re all about the same sort of story; carnage, deceit, evil appropriations of an examiner that demands you be able to drive forward in a sideslide while dropping like a stone to do an assisted rollover as they’re spinning with a maniacal grin, laughing at the poor sap chasing them. It’s like “Hare and Hound” with Dr. Dimento as the wily rabbit, always one step ahead. Just as you catch up, they cooperate. In the moment you breathe a sigh of relief, they’re on to the next trick. Carly Simon going through my head with “Anticipation…”
    Lest you think I exaggerate too much, grab any AFF instructor who has had Jay’s program or anyone who Jay has taught. They’ll tell you I’m not kidding and if truth be told, I’m underselling the experience.
    Lemme share a small story; If you deploy your instructor/student “for real” by pulling their hackey, it’s an automatic Unsatisfactory and regardless of whether you did everything previous right or not, you weren’t successful on this skydive due to that one fairly significant factor. “Students” wear a simulated hackey that AFF candidates are required to pull at a specific point in the skydive. AFF Candidates will hold the simulated hackey handle til they meet up with the instructor on the ground.Jay didn’t care for the fact that I kept stuffing the hackey handle down my pants when it came time for my own deployment. On my last skydive, we’re standing in the door of the aircraft and my ‘student’ is going through “check out” and in his up/down/arch mode when I realize there is no simulated hackey visible on his main-side lateral.I’m screwed. I absolutely must deploy my student at the bottom of the skydive. I must pull the simulated hackey and show the instructor that I pulled and that I rode through the deployment. That small handle is the proof in the putting that I did exactly as I was trained to do.
    In other words, those handles are important.
    What to do, what to do?
    Worry hammered me throughout this skydive, my last in the series of eval dives. With a “Satisfactory” I’ll be able to catch my flight scheduled to leave Sky Harbor in about two hours. If I get an “Unsatisfactory,” I’m not going home and believe me, the price for that would be very high. I have commitments outside of skydiving, y’know?
    The point of do or die is one that lasts for about three seconds or 500 feet. I make my decision and dammit, I’m sticking to it. Maybe.
    I reach for my student’s leg gripper, look at my altimeter and begin the process. I’m counting down. By now, the “dance” is so freakin’ ingrained in my head that I’m doing it in my sleep, so much so that I’m convinced I did it perfectly on this skydive even though video shows I didn’t.
    Reaching over to where the simulated hackey was supposed to be, I spied it turned behind the lateral.
    Gave it a yank at the last possible moment, and proudly raised the simulated hackey as I ducked my head beneath his deployment hand (the last thing you want to experience is a bridle wrapping around your neck, or having the deploying hand knock you in the side of the head; it might be construed as interfering with the student).
    And rode out his deployment. The last thing I remember seeing as my instructor lifted above my head was his look of wide eyes, pointed finger, open mouth, and the smile on his face. We got to the ground, I watched my student land, and debriefed the skydive.Mirth in my instructor’s eyes, he says “Nice job. Now tell me what you didn't like about that skydive."A grin crossed his face told me he was well aware of the location of the simulated hackey. And, I knew I’d passed the program at that point.A wave of relief passed over me and I felt like falling to my knees and crying myself dehydrated, but I doubt any moisture would have come forward. I’d forgotten to rehydrate in my excitement of this last day. I was drained. I was pwn’d. I was reduced to jelly and tissue in this last moment. No way, no how would I have signed up for this experience had I really known what was in store for me, of this I was sure. All week.
    At the end of the week’s worth of mental, physical, and emotional torture, after hearing Lou Gossett in my subconscious screaming “I WANT YOUR D.O.R.!!!,” I’m a better skydiver. I’m a better person, and I’m a more informed instructor. I now know a little more about what I don’t know. As I said before, I'm now firmly on the road to discovery. "SATISFACTORY" or "UNSATISFACTORY", anyone who endures the process will come out a better person on the other side of the hellfire. I promise.
    I now have a new respect for those that have undergone this process before me. I understand why they are looked to with a unique sense of appreciation at every dropzone, I understand that the program is as much or more about teaching the next step in the educational process of qualified skydivers as it is about providing a license to teach the uninitiated. The AFF rating is a license to teach but it’s more a license to learn. In roughly 18 skydives, I learned a lot about what students can and will do. I learned how to best manage those situations with my new found abilities, and learned that if in 18 controlled scenarios I could learn this much, how much can I learn in a year, two years, five years of teaching a variety of students? I’m excited at the prospect.
    Respect and appreciation is due where it’s due, and I’ll take the opportunity to point out that as skydivers, we all have foundations made up of the bricks of those around us. Jack Guthrie, Jay Stokes, Ed Dickenson, Norman Kent, Mike McGowan, Debbie Z, Lance B, Kelly W, Joey, Chris, Phil, Blake, Craig, Eliana, Alex (I’ll jump with you any day, kid), Nikos, Jeff, Justin, Scotty, Scott, Chuck, friends on dropzone.com…and so many others are the bricks that have helped pave the road on which I have driven as a skydiver seeking more knowledge. I don’t know how to thank you all for the inspiration beyond paying it forward and being the best instructor I can be as you have been great instructors in my life. OK, enough lovefest. Thank you.
    It's the little things that make the difference on a skydive whether for the better or worse. Taking instructon from Norman Kent's camera course that taught me to anticipate movement, taking instruction from Ed in the tunnel that helped me develop a very high range of fall rate for a heavy person, and being part of numerous FJC and FFC courses helped me develop a comfortable ground patter and rhythm. All the pre-AFF prep you can do, I recommend you take the time to do it. You'll be glad you did.
    Whether you went through AFF, Static Line, IAD, take a moment to thank your instructors; they worked hard to get to where they are, to be at a point where they can intelligently and safely teach others, including yourself. It’s a big, dangerous world out there and instructors walked just a few feet ahead of you, checking to make sure it’s the best environment within which we all learn. Buy em’ a beer, give em a smile, even if it’s been a long time passed by.

    Receiving my rating from Jay Stokes, Certification Unlimited (and current President/USPA)

    In the event you’re wondering by now, students are a little less safe; I squeezed through my AFFI course. It’s an expensive patch and logbook endorsement, but one I urge towards anyone with an inkling to teach.
    I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world.
    Blue skies and puffies....

    By DSE, in News,

    The 5 Most Inspiring Skydiving Videos of 2012

    Each year the boundaries of skydiving are expanded, giving way to new avenues of progress and to endless possibilities. The year 2012 was a big year for the sport, with a number of records being set. But aside from the records, there are also groups or individuals who slowly push the standards up with a display of skill. Other times we're inspired more by the surroundings and the cinematography of the video. We take a look at some of the most inspiring skydiving related videos from 2012.
    1. Felix Baumgartner jumps from the edge of space

    One doesn't really have to say anything about this video, I'm sure everyone reading this knows all about it already, but for those that don't; on the 14th October 2012, millions of people around the world were fixed to live streaming of a world record attempt by Felix Baumgartner to set the highest ever skydive. The final confirmed exit height was 128 100 feet, allowing Felix to reach speeds of 833 mph during his freefall. Whether you love him or hate, one cannot deny the magnitude of this jump.

    2. Gary Connery lands a wingsuit without a parachute

    This jump had a lot of media hype, not as much as the previous video - but the idea of skydiving without a parachute was obviously a subject that brought a lot of attention. The idea has been something that Jeb Corlois had been talking about for years prior, though his idea for landing was and still is quite different. Some argue that Gary Connery's jump was less landing without a parachute, and more just crashing into a pile of boxes. Though the technicalities of the jump aside, there is something liberating about the idea of being able to exit a plane without a rig on. Over the coming years, we will not doubt see further attempts to perform the act of landing without a parachute, and this first step - was definitely a jump worth the attention.

    3. Vertical Skydiving World Record

    While this video was technically uploaded in early 2013, the footage is from 2012 and comprises of a record setting 138 person vertical skydiving record. The video was created as a marketing strategy by GoPro for the Hero action camera - and regardless of your POV camera preference, it's hard to argue that they didn't put together an absolutely amazing video. While only lasting just over a minute, it's a pretty awesome minute of viewing.

    4. Skydive Dubai - Part 2

    This video was a follow up to an extremely popular video that Skydive Dubai released originally in 2011, the original video has over 11 million views on youtube, and if you're looking to attract potential clients, what better way to do it than using viral networking to show just what an amazing place to jump Dubai is. While the footage may not show all too much groundbreaking skydiving, you can't help but want to head there immediately and get on a plane when you look at the view. If the point of a video is to get you up in the air, this video accomplishes that flawlessly. The best way to describe it, is fun!

    5. Soul Flyers tear up wind tunnel

    Something for all the tunnel rats out there. Soul Flyers always manage to get one amped with any video they're in and this wind tunnel video is no different. There's some absolutely amazing flying in this video and for anyone who hasn't stepped inside a tunnel yet, it may well get them wanting to. The cinematography is also extremely good for a discipline that's notoriously difficult to get good footage of.
    Which of these videos inspired you the most. Let us know, or share your favorite skydiving videos of 2012 in the comments section below.

    By admin, in News,

    Taylor Air Sports closes

    Taylor Air Sports has folded it's last parachute and closed it's doors at the Fairfield County Airport. "We told them we were not going to renew their lease when it runs out next May," said Steve Goodyear, president of the Fairfield County Airport Authority. Gene Taylor, president of Taylor Air Sports, said they decided to close the doors Jan. 1.
    Taylor Air Sports provided parachute training for students and carried out jumps at the airport during good weather.
    Taylor said they were running approximately 1,000 students through the school a year and providing between 3,000 and 4,000 jumps a year.
    "We've been there for 14 years, and I spent the last two years there full-time trying to make it a go," Taylor said.
    Goodyear said one of the reasons for not renewing the lease was concern about the number of jumps being made onto the runways with the air traffic coming into the airport, especially on the weekends.
    Taylor said the closure and the non-renewed lease was partly political and partly because he just didn't want to bother with it anymore.
    Ron Houser, a member of the Taylor Air Sports Skydiving team, said he would miss it.
    "Taylor Air Sports has run a safe, fun and friendly operation at the Fairfield County Airport since 1988," Houser said. "Their safety record is impeccable, as any of their customers can attest to."
    Houser said Taylor was the life at the airport.
    "Taylor Air Sports actually breathed life into the Fairfield County Airport. On Saturdays and Sundays, when TAS was open for business, a majority of the cars in the parking lot belonged to TAS members or skydiving spectators. There were countless people who had no interest in the airport or flying at all who would come there to watch the skydivers," said Houser. "With the departure of TAS and Gene Taylor from the Fairfield County Airport, that facility will lose a very valuable resource of aviation knowledge and experience. These are qualities that any airport of that size would be proud and happy to have available to it."
    Taylor said that he was looking around and trying to find a place to base the school, but it had been a tough couple of years.
    "If we don't find something by the beginning of the season, sometime by April or May, we will quit," Taylor said. "It's too bad, but that's life. I quit a lucrative full-time career to pursue this, but business is tough enough without having to fight the Good Ole Boy network at the Airport Authority. It's time to move on."
    Goodyear said the airport was looking to use the hanger for other aircraft.

    By admin, in News,

    Taya Weiss - Following her heart

    As skydivers, we like to tend to think that we know a little more about life than the average Joe Blow Whuffo. We like to think that we see something that others don’t, and never will, without experiencing the incredible rush of crossing the threshold of an airplane door at 12,000 feet, entering into the unfamiliar world of freefall. Sometimes, knowing how we and what we do can be regarded as insane by a good portion of the world, we can use that knowledge to gain a sort of perspective on the world that was never available to us before we took that first step.
    Some of us told our families that they were just going to have to live with the fact that we skydive. Well, I guess most all of us told them that in one way or another. Regardless of how it was worded and how positive they were about the whole notion, though, I have heard one thing echoed throughout the industry and the families who support us; what makes the fear bearable is the knowledge that what their loved one is doing means the world to him or her, and that is what matters.
    As our friend, Taya Weiss, leaves for South Africa for a year, it is this same attitude that many have expressed; we are all sad to see her leave us, but at the same time, are so pleased that she will be following her heart in taking this enormous step for her life.
    Taya is a 24 year old skydiver from Northern California, who, in the past year and a half that she has been jumping, has generally been found at Bay Area Skydiving in Byron, or Skydance Skydiving in Davis (with at least one reported sighting at the Chicks Rock! Boogie in Elsinore).
    After graduating from high school at the age of 16, she attended Harvard, where she acquired a bachelor’s degree in Social Theory. She is a highly intelligent, caring, inspirational individual, who has a lot to offer the world and its citizens. It is Taya’s passion for helping others which has lead her to make the decision to spend next year in South Africa, working with a human rights organization called Visions in Action (www.visionsinaction.org).
    Everything that Taya has is going into this endeavor. As a friend, and someone who thinks she is an awesome person, I offered to help her in raising the money necessary to survive through this yearlong volunteer position by sponsoring a raffle in her name.
    Basically, we have nearly 20 prizes totaling over $2500 in possible value, from some great sponsors. There is anything from a free pair of freefly pants from Firefly, to free copies of Good Stuff, both the VHS and new DVD versions, discounts off of helmets, ½ off a new Reflex II container, and much more.
    I would encourage you to check out the website below for more information, and to send off a quick e-mail to wish her well. The days are counting down to her departure at the end of December, and any and all moral support is greatly appreciated.
    So, If you want to have a chance to win cool prizes cheap, throw a couple of dollars in an envelope and send it off. Not only will you have a chance to win, you will be supporting a fellow skydiver in making a difference in the world.
    For more information, check out the website:
    You will see options to participate through paypal and through US Mail. The paypal account is hkit75@hotmail.com (also the address for any questions relating to the raffle). Please visit the website for the snail mail address.
    You can email Taya at: tayaweiss@yahoo.com
    Blue Skies!
    "Skydiving is an expression of freedom, courage, and individuality, a physical and visceral celebration of life at its most intense and beautiful. At the very least, it will be the best adrenaline rush you've ever had." – Taya Weiss

    By admin, in News,