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Almost 25 Years Later: Some Hazards of Resurrection

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

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

By lhmoulton, in General,

How to Approach Your Recurrency Skydive

Image by Joel StricklandWhat’s the second-scariest thing in the world? Probably, it’s the open door of a plane at altitude as seen through the eyes of an AFF-1 student. Remember that moment? Most of us do.
What’s the first-scariest thing in the world? Arguably: the open door of a plane at altitude, seen through the eyes of a skydiver doing a recurrency jump after a long hiatus.
Coming back to skydiving after a long time on the ground is an inarguably intense experience -- possibly even a bit more so than the first time your feet left the plane. First of all, you know a lot more about what can go wrong. You’re likely to feel a lot more pressure to perform “like an old pro,” which never helps matters. And -- if you took that time off to heal an injury that grounded you -- you’re getting back on the horse, cowboy/girl, and that ain’t no easy thing.
How do you approach recurrency with the best chance of a successful reintroduction to the wild blue yonder? The same way you do everything else in airsports: mindfully, methodically and with a lot of sensitivity to your unique position in the sport and emotional biome.
1. Know the actual rules.
The United States Parachute Association gives these guidelines for recurrency in the Skydiver's Information Manual. (Non-American skydivers may have different exact guidelines to follow.)
A License
“USPA A-license holders who have not made a freefall skydive within 60 days should make at least one jump under the supervision of a currently rated USPA instructional rating holder until demonstrating altitude awareness, freefall control on all axes, tracking, and canopy skills sufficient for safely jumping in groups.”
B License
“USPA B-license holders who have not made a freefall skydive within the preceding 90 days should make at least one jump under the supervision of a USPA instructional rating holder until demonstrating the ability to safely exercise the privileges of that license.
C and D License
“USPA C- and D-license holders who have not made a freefall skydive within the preceding six months should make at least one jump under the supervision of a USPA instructional rating holder until demonstrating the ability to safely exercise the privileges of that license.”
2. Lay the emotional groundwork to support your success.
You’re not the first recurrency-seeker to freak out. Recurrency jumps are often hard -- especially if you're a newer skydiver. Many a lapsed skydiver has turned the car around on the way to the drop zone rather than get back in the sky.
You’re going to need to use your tools. Call a friend -- even a non-skydiver -- to meet you at the DZ and keep you accountable. Watch videos of your past jumps to remind yourself that you'll be fine (and you'll be ecstatic when you land). Listen to music that gets you stoked. Read journal entries from the time that you were actively skydiving and having an awesome time up there.
If you were out because of an injury or a medical issue, make sure to chat to your doctor about your intention to reenter the sport. If you need to, get a second opinion -- but hear them out.
3. Make sure your gear is up to the challenge, too.
Has your gear been stored for more than a season? You’ll need to take a close look at it before you call it back into action. Parachutes don’t like to sit on the bench, y’know.
After a longer period of time -- especially if the rig wasn’t stored unpacked in a climate-controlled environment with the stow bands removed -- the materials themselves may start to break down. If your rig has brass grommets on the main d-bag, the metal may have reacted with the rubber of the stow bands (making them hard, brittle, and incapable of doing their snappy little jobs). The ZP coating might have “glued” the cells together to the point where the canopy needs to be manually fluffed out.
If your magical backpack has been in storage for any extended period of time, it’s smart (and confidence-inspiring) to have a rigger put it through its paces. Get a thorough inspection of all the nylon, the harness and the container, as well as the reserve repack that’s surely due. When it comes back, you’ll know that it’s airworthy (or you can get your hands on something that is).
4. Recognize your “aliefs” (and how to handle them).
Coined by philosopher Tamar Gendler, an “alief” is another form of belief, but it’s not the same thing. We hold beliefs in response to what things are. An alief is a response to how things seem. Knowing and feeling that difference on a recurrency jump can bring you a lot of relief. Here’s how it works.
As a skydiver, you have probably put in plenty of hours packing, gear checking, loading into a plane, exiting a plane, freefalling, flying your canopy and landing. With enough repetition, your brain has stored all these behaviors and recognizes them. On a conscious level, you believe yourself to be perfectly capable of performing the actions of a skydive. However, when you come back after a long hiatus, alief rears its ugly head.
When you believe you can make a skydive but your body has become unaccustomed to the physical sensations of skydiving, you have an alief. The mental state of alief is a primal form of fear that underlies a moment you know you are safe in your head but your body's not on the same page (i.e. standing on a pane of rock-solid, clear glass, hundreds of feet over a canyon floor).
Alief is a funny thing: it’s what makes people refuse to drink soup from a factory-fresh bedpan, eat fudge that looks like poop, or pull the trigger of an empty gun with the barrel against their head. It might also keep you from getting on the plane because damnit it just feels wrong.
If you understand what you’re experiencing, though -- it might not. Let me be the first to high-five you back into the fold, friend.

By nettenette, in General,

Sandstorm Scrambles Results

New Zealand’s Mason Holden and Flying Finn Toni Sulankivi blew away the best of the UAE’s indoor skydivers to win the Dynamic 2-Way category in the annual SandStorm Scrambles event at Inflight Dubai.
Despite never having competed together – the duo only met for the first time on the night of the competition – Holden and Sulankivi combined superbly for a five round score of 411 points. It was enough to win the 13-team category by 8.8 points from Shayni Couch and Ivan Semenyaka in second place (419.8) with Omar Mohammad and Thomas Worboys coming home in third with a score of 421.1.
Staged in inflight Dubai’s 5.03m x 20.73m indoor tunnel, the two-category event saw competitors combined into two and four-flyer teams by Inflight Dubai’s Team Skynamic in order to represent a spread of ability.
And while many combinations, including Holden and Sulankivi’s ‘Little and Large’ team, had little or no experience together, the entrants agreed that the format provided some excellent competition.
“I hadn’t even met Toni until the draw was made just before we took to the tunnel together,” said Holden, who hails from Wellington in New Zealand and is an instructor at Skydive Dubai. “But that’s what makes the Scrambles competition so much fun. You don’t know who you will be paired with, which makes the five flying routines very challenging.”
For Sulankivi – who shared the AED8,000 first prize with Holden - it was the perfect end to a long day of skydiving, both indoor and outdoor.
“I live in Abu Dhabi so I was up at 5am to come up to Dubai to go skydiving during the day, before competing in the tunnel in the evening,” said the Finnish flyer, who works in Government IT in the UAE capital.
“It’s a very special event and the unpredictable nature and the camaraderie between the teams make it so good. You know most of the guys and girls by sight but to compete as a pair with someone you have never met before is a real challenge.”
For Holden there was double success – the Kiwi also claimed second place in the 4-Way Dynamic competition after joining forces with fellow-flyers Mo Mudassir, Jamie Arnold and Emma Merritt in the ‘Bench Pressers’ team.
Victory, and the AED16,000 winners’ cheque in the five-team 4-Way Dynamic category, went to the ‘Employee of the Month’ team of Dani Roman, Thomas Worboys, Brad Merritt and Mishka Lucaci on 423.8 points, 12.1 points ahead of ‘Bench Pressers (435.9). Third place went to the ‘Randy Ryanopolis’ team of Ryan Dudderidge, Pablo Rua, Omar Mohammed and Ivan Semenyaka on 444.5 points.

Both competitions featured a non-scoring warm-up round, four unique dynamic speed rounds and a mystery final round with the five scores of each round added together to determine the final placing. The next event in the SandStorm Scrambles series will be the Formation Skydiving competition, which will take place at Inflight Dubai on April 22. Competitors have until April 20 to enter at
SandStorm Scrambles Results 2-Way Dynamic
1. Little & Large – Holden/Sulankivi (411.0)

2. Share-A-Van – Couch/Semenyaka (419.8)

3. Shut Up Omar – Mohammed/Worboys (421.1)
SandStorm Scrambles Results 4-Way Dynamic
1. Employee of the Month – Roman/Worboys/Merritt/Lucaci (423.8)

2. Bench Pressers – Holden/Mudassir/Arnold/Merritt (435.9)

3. Randy Ryanopolis – Dudderidge/Rua/Mohammed/Semenyaka (444.5)

By admin, in Events,

Four-Armed is Forewarned

Altitude awareness is easily the most important aspect of skydiving and it’s no wonder that audible alert systems were one of the first technological inventions in the earlier days of skydiving. Like most things technical, significant advances have been made, and any device that provides information/feedback during a skydive is a valuable addition to any skydiver’s tool kit.
Larsen and Brusgaard, the foremost authority on altitude-measuring/awareness devices, launched a new product named the “Quattro,” in early 2014. With four user-programmable altitude notifications/alarms, the Quattro has become incredibly popular.
It’s important to understand what an audible offers skydivers involved in precision activities. Once relegated only to scream at a skydiver that they’d missed their point of deployment, audibles are now used for indicating user-controlled altitude alarms, while still providing feedback for deployment, hard deck, cutaway, or other altitudes warnings.
From a wingsuiting perspective, I cannot imagine anyone not owning a Quattro. With the ability to generate seven notifications in flight, wingsuiters have no reason to not be set for exact breakoff points, maneuver points, deployment, entry and exit gate-points for performance training, competition points, and the list goes on and on.
Wingsuiters fall at different rates, and with radically different wingsuits, everyone has different needs and wants. With this in mind, I’ve put together a few bullet points on where the Quattro benefits wingsuiter pilots.
COACHING: Frequently, wingsuit coaches have a “no more work altitude” that is different than deployment altitudes. For example, I want students to not perform tasks below 6000’ but frequently continue stable flight until 4,500. As a coach, I want these notification alarms in addition to my own personal alarms of 3,500’ and 2500’ and my hard-deck alarm at 1600’.
As an FFC/First Flight Course coach, students are given specific tasks at specific altitudes on the climb to altitude. The Quattro provides three “climb to altitude” alarms that a coach might use to remind him of those points where the student should be providing feedback or information. For example, students might be giving a verbal description of the skydive at 5000’ or indicating their countdown and waveoff point at 6,000’. In any event, climb-to-altitude alarms serve a multitude of value.
PERFORMANCE TRAINING: Wingsuiters competing in FAI Performance Categories need to enter their performance gate at 3000m/9842’ and exit the gate at 2000m/6562’ and while the mandatory Flysight can provide these entry/exit indicators, competitors can benefit from a pre-gate announcement that the Quattro can provide, in addition to deployment indicators.
ACRO COMPETITION: In Wingsuit Acro, the competition clock starts as the competitors exit. In non-compulsory jumps, synchronization is frequently part of the jump, and having set points for an action, particularly where wingsuiters may not be facing each other (back to back flying), an alarm or series of alarms can provide valuable timing information. The multiple alarms are also good for notifying competitors when they’ve reached their competitive deck, while still providing the “standard” three alarms for deployment, reminder, and hard-deck.
HIGH ALTITUDE JUMPS: Wingsuiters engaging in high altitude jumps are flummoxed that most audible systems cannot provide feedback above 10,000’. The Quattro is capable of informing the wingsuiter as high as 19,990.
Although the Quattro offers a broad spectrum of alarm settings, users are not required to enable them, and this is one of the features I appreciate most about the Quattro; users may configure the system to be as personal as needed, turning on/off various alarm points.
Wingsuiters focused on performance frequently do not want to look at their wrist or chest mount altimeters if they’ve got a good performance groove happening, and full-face helmets often make it impossible to see chest-mount altimeters when in a performance configuration; an audible provides valuable feedback when cranking a chin around to see a visual may have a negative impact on performance.
The unit allows for offsets, so if the landing area is a different elevation than the point of take-off, audible settings can be user-adjusted if the offset is known. Otherwise, the unit will recalibrate itself every 14 hours to the last MSL point of take-off. Manually zeroing the Quattro is as easy as pressing the center button a couple of times (this is the same procedure for generating altitude off-sets).
As with previous L&B; products, the Quattro uses a pair of 2325 batteries, easily found at most any electronics store or grocery store that offers a wide variety of button batteries. In my experience, the batteries seem to be good for about 1000 jumps, or about a year. However, the Quattro and Optima seem to be very forgiving when the battery indicator says “replace me.” I’ve tacked on another 300 jumps after the indicator told me I had an empty battery.
While just about any discipline in skydiving can benefit from the Quattro’s numerous features, wingsuiting is one aspect of the sport that frequently demands “more.” Wingsuiters love data, feedback, and algorithms designed just for them, and the Quattro certainly delivers. It probably helps that some of the folks at L&B; are avid wingsuit pilots, and have taken time out to really dig into what makes wingsuiting and wingsuiters just “a bit different” than other skydivers, and in the Quattro, they’ve really done it well. Although I’m not a speed skydiver, I can only surmise the multiple alarms would also benefit the speed discipline.
Several helmet manufacturers have recognized the value of L&B; products, and have custom-fit slots for the Quattro (or Optima2, Solo) audible, and some have given exterior access to the audible. One feature I very much appreciate in my Tonfly helmets is that I can access the audible from the outside, letting me know my altitude settings are correct, that my battery is good, and that the unit is active (I frequently turn it off if I’m not going to be jumping for a few days). The unit display turns off after 14 hours, but will reactivate if it senses a climb to altitude. Unless manually turned off, it is always ready to jump. During frequent/daily jump cycles, I don’t bother to turn off my Quattro.
By the way, for the color coordination-conscious skydiver, these are available with custom-configuration buttons, just like the Optima and Viso.

By admin, in Gear,

Best Skydive Ever!

This is a story from around a year ago when I decided to go skydiving in Australia. That day I was skydiving at Byron Bay a very nice and beautiful place to skydive, I recommend if you like to skydive and travel this is a must. The day started out really slow as the night before I was at a party with some friends. I had a headache so I just took some Advil and went on my way to the skydive spot. That day I had decided to do the 14,000 ft skydive. I talked to my instructor who was named Cody. The time was nearing until we were to start our adventure and get in the plane. It was time to get in the plane and my headache was starting to get worse. By the time we got over the drop zone I was feeling absolutely terrible. I had to throw up and my head was throbbing. We jumped out and I passed out because of all of the air pressure. We free fell for around 2 minutes, at least that is what Cody told me. But, Cody did not know that I had passed out until we had landed on the ground.
He found out when we landed that I had passed out because I was not able to support my own weight with my legs because I had passed out. When I fell on the ground I hit my head and I started to bleed really badly. From what Cody told me I was immediately rushed to the hospital. When I woke up from my coma the doctors told me that I had gotten a concussion and that I had to take a ton of safety precautions for the next two weeks. That news really stunk as I was set to be in Australia for five more days and I had saved all of the most exciting stuff for the last two days.
A few weeks after this incident I decided to go back to Australia to do everything I missed out on the first time I went to Australia. I decided I would go skydiving again, I decided I would go back to Byron Bay. I made sure that I would have the best experience by going to bed early and eating healthy. I did all of this to make sure that I would have one of the best skydiving experiences ever. In the morning I ate a very good breakfest in preparation for my takeoff at noon. When I went back to Byron Bay I found out that my instructor was again Cody, how ironic. We got in the plane and started to takeoff. When we got to the jump height I looked down at the scenery below. It was beautiful it was one of the nicest and prettiest places on the Earth. We got to the drop zone and I was ready to jump. We jumped out and all I could focus on was the beautiful scenery that I was falling down into. We pulled the parachute and I just floated down into paradise. And that was the story of my best skydive ever.

By MattyBWrites, in News,

Chopping Is Just The Beginning

A reserve ride is an exciting adventure no matter how many jumps you have under your belt. Preparatory training is obviously the best way to ensure that you walk away unscathed, but it is my experience that the simulations we create are not as realistic as they could be. In many cases, many of us will argue, they are not as good as they need to be.
The purpose of this article is to suggest possible improvements to the state of the art in emergency procedure training. If we envision beyond what we have done in the past, improvement is assured, and the safe conclusion of parachute malfunctions will increase in frequency. If we can simulate cutaway jumps more realistically, skydivers will be calmer in emergency situations, and more skillful. Elaborate simulation, in my experience, will also result in greater awareness and recall, more efficient actions, and less emotional trauma once the event is over.
The first issue to be addressed by our sport as a whole is our simulation equipment. Although a vest with handles may be very helpful for establishing the general flow of handle-pulling, it is a far cry from what the event will actually feel like. Many jumpers have reported, upon landing from their first cutaway, that things did not feel or look remotely the way they expected. Handles were not where the jumper expected them to be, pull forces were not what they anticipated, nor was the feeling of the experience similar to the training process that was supposed to prepare them for this event. It is my experience, however, that when we take thoughtful steps to improve our training methods and equipment, the gap between expectation and reality can be closed significantly.
The most important piece of equipment in any simulation is the mind. Creating a clear visualization of the scenario is essential, no matter how silly it may look to bystanders. The job of the Instructor in these situations is to provide insightful clarification, ideally based on their own experience. Set the emotional stage for the student in every possible way, describing the details as clearly as possible, leaving nothing out. Allow yourself to get wrapped up in the excitement that is inevitable in such experiences. This will not only make the simulation feel more real, it will help illuminate the natural mental reaction of the student to intense stress. If over-reaction or under-reaction is apparent, further training is necessary. If the student failed to perform, the instructor simply has more work to do.

It continues to be my strong opinion that a suspended harness is absolutely essential for the best possible training. Given the vast amount of money we now spend on aircraft and student gear, skimping on this key element of teaching equipment is shortsighted, and most often a product of laziness and compromise. If building a hanging harness cost thousands of dollars, the financial argument might hold more merit, but this is most decidedly not the case. There are many possible methods that cost very little, and can be created in just an hour or two. I know, I build a new hanging harness at almost every dropzone I travel to in the process of running my canopy skills and safety courses. I do this because I want to offer my course participants the best possible training, and because an alarming percentage of skydiving schools have done away with this vital piece of training equipment. This needs to change if we are to improve the safety of our sport.
Let's start with the actual harness. When I find suspended harnesses in use, most often the actual rig is an uncomfortable, dilapidated old rig from the early 1980's, hung from the ceiling by attachment points that are way too close together to simulate a realistic experience. In the best cases, there is a three-ring setup that allows the jumper to cut away and drop a few inches. This is a great training aid, but what if the rig was a more modern adjustable harness that could accurately reflect the fit and handle placement of the rig they will actually be jumping? For that matter, what if we hung them in the rig they were actually going to jump? What if the suspension apparatus was long enough to practice kicking out of line-twists? What if the toggles simulated the resistance of an actual parachute using bungees or weights? What if you pulled on straps attached to the bottom of the harness each time they flared, to simulate the pitch change? What if, as crazy as it sounds, you went to the local hardware store and picked up a high-powered carpet blower, a.k.a. “snail fan”, and angled it up at the harness to reflect the feeling of the relative wind? This is the kind of outside-the-box thinking that creates better simulations, and better training. Further, this is how we prepare our students for an actual malfunction and reduce the risk of pilot error.

For experienced jumpers, I highly recommend hanging up in your own rig. This will clarify handle placement under load, allow you to explore strap tightness possibilities, and give you the opportunity to experience actual pull forces when your repack cycle is up. If you do not have stainless steel hardware on your rings, please use fabric connection points rather than the carabiner attachment displayed in these photos.
Another key element of malfunction simulation is to follow through with the complete jump, rather than stopping after the handles are pulled. In reality, the adequate performance of emergency procedures is just the first in a long list of steps that lead to a safe landing. For instance, what if the cutaway harness had Velcro reserve toggles that needed to be first peeled upward and then pulled downward? Many people, myself included, have tried simply pulling the reserve toggles downward to find that they would not release. Missing details like this can lead to a student feeling more angst than is necessary, and can result in further stress-induced mistakes with major consequences. Additionally, proper exploration of the reserve canopy is important for a good flight pattern, accuracy and landing flare following a malfunction. How much slack is in the brake lines? Where is the stall point? What is the flare response on this brand new canopy? A good cutaway followed by a broken ankle on landing is still a bad day. Simulate the whole jump, and there will be fewer surprises.

The final issue I want to cover on the topic of better emergency procedures training is the inclusion of deliberate adrenaline management efforts following the deployment of the reserve canopy. Carrying the emotional momentum of a malfunction all the way to the ground definitely increases the chances of a lousy landing. High levels of stress takes time to sluff-off, but a skilled operator also knows how and when to slow down. Once you have pulled all the handles you need to pull, taking three long, slow, deep breaths while gazing at the horizon with a smile of relief on your face can change your mood, and your fate. Get your composure back, and your optimism will follow. From there, skill is just a short step away. This process can and should be included in every emergency procedure simulation to create a habit that is likely to be carried out in the sky. Following such quiescent procedures allows the mind to more easily let go of the recent past and focus on the present moment and the near future:
1) Check altitude and location

2) Find a safe landing area

3) Explore the reserve

4) Fly a good pattern

5) Flare beautifully

6) Walk away with a smile on your face

7) Thank your rigger
A malfunction does not need to be viewed as an emergency, especially if you are truly prepared; it is just a change of plans. A complete simulation can be the difference between a horrifying emergency and a well-executed contingency plan. If we handle it well, a main parachute malfunction can actually be fun. I have found few experiences more rewarding than a complicated situation that I figured out on the fly, and despite my fear, I kept my head and did the right thing. In short, a parachute malfunction is an opportunity to prove to yourself and the world that you can handle yourself in a crisis, and with realistic training, your success can be an inevitable conclusion.
About the Author: Brian Germain is a parachute designer, author, teacher, radio personality, keynote speaker with over 15,000 jumps, and has been an active skydiver for 30 years. He is the creator of the famed instructional video "No Sweat: Parachute Packing Made Easy", as well as the critically acclaimed book The Parachute and its Pilot. You can get more of Brian’s teaching at Adventure Wisdom, Big Air Sportz, Transcending Fear, and on his vast YouTube Channel

By BrianSGermain, in Safety,

4 Ways to Avoid Pilot-Chute-In-Tow Malfunctions

Image by Joe NesbittLast week, we talked about the mighty kerfuffle that is the pilot-chute-in-tow malfunction.
So...who wants to have one?
Right. So now that we’ve established that, we can get down to the business of avoiding the hell out of those. There are four big steps you can take to lessen your risk of a PCiT, and there’s a good chance you’re currently messing up at least one of them.
1.Cock it up (so it doesn’t cock your jump up).
Your collapsible pilot chute is a demanding partner. Her deal is this: no foreplay, no canopy.
Most of the time, you’re good about it. You guys have a really established routine at this point, right? From the time you’ve got your nylon laid out on the floor to the time you wrap your legs around it to finish it off, you follow a very predictable routine. Somewhere in there, you give that collapsible pilot chute a tug and get her indicator window nice and blue. Everybody’s happy.
But what happens when you get distracted? If you end up ignoring your PC for a surprise debrief or a dance break or an awkward conversation with the meaty contents of the best-fitting freefly suit you’ve seen all week, make no mistake: she’s going to get her revenge. Failure to cock the collapsible pilot chute, after all, is the leading statistical cause of PCiTs.
The solution here is simple: focus. Give your pack job the attention it deserves, in the same order every time. (It’s never a bad idea to include that little indicator window on a quick gear check, either.)
2. Do what you’re told.
I know. You’re the boss of you, and I’m not your real mom, and manufacturers are basically like corporate drones, and the USPA is a bunch of guys throwing canes and slippers at kids who merrily chase balls onto their collective lawn. You do what you want.
That said: maybe you should do what you’re told every once in awhile.
This is revolutionary stuff, I know. But the manufacturers’ instructions for bridle routing and main-flap-closing aren’t just there to give you something else to toss giddily out of the box when your new container arrives. As any pro packer will tell you, those yawn-inducing closing procedures differ dramatically between brands. If you’re using the wrong one for your particular equipment, you’re setting yourself up for a container lock.
3. Watch the news.
Along those lines: be on the lookout for updates. Remember a few years back, when all those photos came out of closing pins stabbing neatly through the middle of their bridles? It kinda looked like a fabric samurai drama, but it was pretty serious -- several jumpers, jumping different equipment, experienced pilot-chutes-in-tow in this same manner. In response, manufacturers posted updates to their manuals, changing the closing procedures for their containers to lessen the risk.
The moral of the story is this: Maybe you’re still doin’ it the old way and have managed to be lucky so far. (Emphasis on: so far.)
You can also investigate pull-out -- as opposed to throw-out -- pilot chute systems, if you like to be on the oddball end of technology.
4. Embrace the transient nature of our linear existence.
Nothing is forever, dear reader. All seasons pass. All kittens turn into old cats. Your pilot chute and bridle will eventually wear out. Thus is the way of the world.
We know you love your pilot chute and bridle. They love you back. They yank that nylon out of the bag for you over and over and over without complaint. They get dragged across the grass and the filthy packing mat and the Arizona desert for you. They get stepped on and sat on and waved around willy-nilly when you need to get someone’s attention on the other side of the hangar. But they can’t do it forever.
Collapsible pilot chutes lose effectiveness when their little kill lines shrink. If that line shortens to the point that the PC can’t inflate fully, you will probably end up with a dead pilot chute flapping around above you in freefall while you count to yourself in your helmet.
Insufficient drag to pull the closing pin = PCiT.
Like many existential tragedies, this doesn’t happen overnight. Have you noticed little hesitations after you throw? Are they getting longer? Have you noticed the aging process creeping up on your little bitty sub-parachute in the form of obvious wear? Cuddle up on the couch with her, read The Velveteen Rabbit together, cry a little bit and give your old, loyal PC a Viking funeral.
She deserves it.

By nettenette, in Safety,

Employee Development: The Often Ignored, Yet Very Important Aspect of Training

Image by DeltaBravoAs spring draws near it is time once again to start thinking about the summer jumping season. Most drop zones will start to organize their safety day activities, gear will be inspected, and repacks scheduled. However, what many of us forget to do is spending some time developing our coaches and instructors after all, professional skills can be forgotten during the winter months just as easily as safety rules and regulations.
For many drop zones, instructional development stops after the candidate’s progression card is signed off and the certification is issued. What we fail to realize is that instructional skills are perishable and everyone can benefit from annual employee development training. What I would like to discuss here are some methods the average drop zone can use to develop their instructors. Understandably not all of these are possible at every drop zone, and individual drop zones may have to modify these methods to fit into their procedures, but these are simple and can be done with little imposition on the drop zone. Before I talk about training techniques I would like to discuss certification and training records.
I am not about to suggest that drop zones start massive files on their people, but the drop zone owner is an employer and even though most of the employees are classified as independent contractors, the DZO/DZM should have a basic training folder for each instructor. Some things that might be useful to include would be copy of class 3 medical certificates for tandem instructors, copies of CPR/First Aid certification cards, awards, and even the latest logbook entry once a year (I’ll discuss the last two more later on). Although none of these items fall into the privacy act, the DZO/DZM should still keep the files locked up and they should only contain the document copies, never the originals. This will prevent the information from being passed around or discussed publicly. Now that we have the staff, and their records are in order, how are we going to mold them?
To renew an instructor certification, the individual must attend an instructor’s seminar. The majority of the time that seminar is the annual safety day, but instructors need something more. I have heard many DZOs/DZMs make the comment that the requirements to become a certified instructor should be made more stringent. I even heard one person advocate that a coach should have a minimum of 500 jumps. Although that sounds great in theory, logistically it is almost impossible. Instead of just forgetting about instructors and coaches after they have become certified, get them all together once a year. Pick one of them to give the ground portion of the First Jump Course while all the other instructors are the students. This will allow for all of the instructors to provide constructive feedback to each other and it will give the instructors a chance to relearn something they may have forgotten. One thing that is frustrating for a new student is when one instructor says, “Remember? In class you were taught to….” When in fact that was something the other instructor forgot to teach in class. By holding annual employee development training not only will the instructors benefit, but so will the students.
Free Fall Drills
Another technique is to practice free fall drills. It happens to all of us. We, as humans, can get sloppy with our techniques overtime. Two instructors or coaches jumping together would be in a position to debrief each other. This can be done as a fun jump, but as long as it is not a free fly jump or a “zoo” dive. After all, we are not free flying with first jump students and they are jumping exact dive plans. I do want to stress at this point that instructors must help each other out. If it is in the plan for one person to act like a first jump student, then act like one, but let’s be honest, how many first jump students actually put their helmet on backwards and start playing with the aircraft controls as soon as they get in the plane? Although I’m sure it does happen on occasion, not to the extent that I see people acting it out when teaching new instructors. Discuss with each other what you have seen over the past year, but don’t make the training so unrealistic that it is ineffective.
Have an instructor day at the wind tunnel. Since wind tunnels are beginning to spring up in more places take advantage of it. Video the time in the tunnel and spend some time doing dirt drills working on areas that need improvement.
Emergency Training
Many DZs will invite the local rescue squad out on safety day and there are others that don’t like to do this because they do not want to scare the new jumpers. I can understand both sides of this, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that this is a dangerous sport. It is a good idea for all instructors to have basic first responder training specific to the types of injuries that could be experienced at the DZ. Subjects such as C-Spine immobilization, when to move an injured person and when not to should be taught to all instructors. What about the injured person’s helmet? Should it be left on or taken off? How do you safely remove an injured person from the swoop pond? When the call is placed into 911, what information is the most helpful? Does the staff know the address to give the 911 operator (that is a good thing to type up and put by the phone, by the way). This brings us back to the training folder.
One of the things that would be a good idea to keep in the folder would be copies of awards and maybe even a copy of a recent logbook entry. If there is ever an accident or fatality at the DZ, the DZO/DZM will have to deal with the media. By having key information handy, the DZO/DZM will be able to make a quick and informative statement to the press if needed. For example, if someone were to get hurt during a tandem jump, the DZO could say, “This is a very unfortunate accident and we are looking into the cause right now. The instructor is highly experienced and has over 10,000 jumps, 9,000 of them being tandem, and just two months ago was awarded the USPA badge for 50 hours of free fall.” Many people don’t like talking to the press, and that is the subject for another article, but the fact remains; by just saying no comment you leave the uneducated alone to make up their own answers based on hearsay, rumors, and their own fears.
As you can see, there are various ways for a drop zone to develop their instructors. Although not every way is possible, nor has every possible way been covered, we must remember that drop zones are businesses, instructors are employees, and once in a while, employees need refresher training too.
Corey Miller C-38834
Corey has a Master’s Degree in Aeronautical Science, specializing in Human Factors and Education.
He has over 30 years of experience in both aerospace and military aviation.

He is currently the Quality and Safety Manager for the ATM Program in Kabul Afghanistan but he calls the Oklahoma Skydiving Center his home.

By coreyangel, in General,

Choices, Choices: Pilot-Chute-In-Tow Malfunctions and You

Curt Vogelsang captures some hot canopy-on-canopy action. Y’know when you don't feel like getting out of bed in the morning? Your main parachute is likely a lot brighter-eyed and bushier-tailed than you are, but every once in a good long while it just doesn't feel like getting out and doing its job. Y’know? Relatable.
Kidding aside: When you throw your hand-deployed pilot chute but the container stays closed -- trapping the main deployment bag inside, helpless to deliver you a parachute -- you’ve gotchaself a pilot-chute-in-tow. In other words: you’ve got nothing out, which makes you the clenchy, concerned (and hopefully very temporary) owner of a high-speed mal.
You’d better get on that, buddy. Stat.
But how?
Deploy the reserve immediately or cut away first and then deploy the reserve?
One Handle or Two Handles: The Cagematch
If you’re not sure which you’d choose,* you’re certainly not the first. This particular point has been the subject of roaring contention since the invention of the BOC, my friends. (Guaranteed: the comments section below will corroborate my statement. I can sense people sharpening their claymores and dunking their arrows in poison even now.)
There’s a school that says -- well, duh -- get your damn reserve out, like right now what are you waiting for. There’s another school that calls that school a bunch of mouth-breathing pasteeaters. The latter group insists that you'd better go through the procedures you know lest you mess it up when it counts. They usually follow up by spitting on a photograph of the first group’s mother and wondering aloud why the first group is even allowed to skydive. Then they start punching each other.

Images by Joe Nesbitt The USPA Skydiver’s Information Manual doesn’t make a move to break up the fight. It stands clear of the flying arms and legs and says, “Y’know -- they both kinda have a point.” Section 5-1 of the manual says this, verbatim:
“Procedure 1: Pull the reserve immediately. A pilot-chute-in-tow malfunction is associated with a high descent rate and requires immediate action. The chance of a main-reserve entanglement is slim, and valuable time and altitude could be lost by initiating a cutaway prior to deploying the reserve. Be prepared to cut away.
“Procedure 2: Cut away, then immediately deploy the reserve. Because there is a chance the main could deploy during or as a result of reserve activation, a cutaway might be the best response in some situations.”
Let’s look a little closer at the options, then, shall we?
Option One: Not Even Gonna Bother With That Cutaway Handle.

Pro: Immediately yanking out that reserve saves a step. When AGL counts (and golly, doesn’t it?), saving a step can save a life. Many skydivers are quick to point out specific incidents in which jumpers with PCiTs have gone in with sealed magical backpacks, having failed to pull both handles (or pull any handle at all) while the clock was ticking. Gulp.
Con: It takes the pressure off (in a potentially bad way). As the reserve leaves the container, there’s a chance that it can take the sealing pressure off the flaps that are keeping the main container closed. The main can then leap to freedom and deploy at the same time as the reserve. At this point, you might wind up with an entanglement, a side-by-side, biplane or downplane to figure out.**
Option Two: Get Off The Field, Main Parachute. Reserve, You’re In!

Pro: It’s the same stuff you’ve been taught to do for every other reserve-requisite malfunction. ...If you initiate the reserve deployment clearly, confidently, and as early as possible, of course. After all: making a one-off exception for a single kind of malfunction can be tricky. A jumper might well spend a little too much time thinking it over (‘Am I going for my reserve handle first right now? ‘Cause that’s weird. Is that okay?’) when they should just be yanking the stuffing out of their emergency handles. Going through the real-life motions of the little dance you do before you get on every load makes more sense to your body, for sure.
Con: You’re adding more complexity to the situation than you may realize. Especially if you don’t have secure riser covers, the (jealous?) cut-away main risers might sneak out of the container and grab for the reserve as it deploys. Another thing: the main is very likely to wiggle free, detach from the harness as soon as it catches air and do its best to entangle with your Option B. The latter kerfuffle is made much more likely when you add a single-sided reserve static line to the mix, turning the already-dismaying situation into something of a tug-of-war. Neither of these choices sounds like the cherry on top of a lovely afternoon; I know. At some point, however, you may be forced to make one. If you do, you’d better have a plan in mind.
Not in the mood to make that choice? Me neither. Luckily, there are some steps you can take to better your chances of never seeing a PCiT -- and in next week’s article, I’ll tell you what they are.
*If you have a Racer (or any container with a cross-connected RSL), you do not have a choice. You must pull the reserve without cutting away. Do not pass ‘go,’ do not collect $200. In that particular configuration, the main will choke off the reserve if the cutaway has been pulled. If this unnerves you, get thee to a rigger to discuss it.
**Head over the to check out a handy study they did in 1997 regarding the management of two-out situations. It’s called the “Dual Square Report.”

By nettenette, in Safety,

Introducing The Safire 3 by NZ Aerosports

NZ Aerosports released the original Icarus Safire in 1999. They followed up in 2001 with the release of the Safire2, and she went on to become their biggest selling mainstream canopy, and one of the most popular beginner and intermediate canopies on the market.
About five years ago, there began to be rumours of a Safire 3 and Crossfire 3 being developed, but the development of Petra and Leia stole the limelight and the research and development hours, and kept the company preoccupied for a few years. But last year NZ Aerosports started making some noise about them again, and since there's been a few teaser posts on their Facebook page about these new wings.

Everyone wants to know when the Safire 3 and Crossfire 3 will be released, but the team at NZ Aerosports are staying tight lipped on that one. They have stated that the Safire 3 will be first to go public. And they've released a bit of information about what we can expect to see in the Safire 2's successor. They say they are also working hard on the Crossfire 3 project and that it’s going to be ready later in the year than the Safire 3, but it’s looking pretty good!
The starting point for the Safire 3 project was reshaping the Safire 2 in the same software and using the same 3D design technique used to design Petra and Leia. They’ve kept the crossport design and repartition the same, to reduce surface distortion and improve load bearing, and the 3D lineset design, which gives a more accurate shape in flight. They’ve used the same elliptical lobe, so the shape of the canopy given by the way the lineset attaches now follows a true ellipse. And they’ve added their statement Powerband that flattens the 3D panels more accurately and reduces fabric stretch to keep the new design true to it’s shape in flight.

These are some of the design changes you can expect from the Safire 2 to Safire 3:
New planform totally reshaped through true 3D design
Proportionally tuned air inlets that open wider in the centre of the canopy and less toward the tips
New brake configuration, providing a more efficient flare It won't be more 'high performance' than the Safire 2, because it is aimed at the same type of pilot that flies them now, but she will be more efficient and responsive, have a better glide and an even more powerful flare.
The Safire3 Project: Opening Progression from NZ Aerosports Ltd on Vimeo.
When the Safire 3 comes to market she will be available exclusively from NZ Aerosports in New Zealand, and NZ Aerosports dealers.

By admin, in Gear,