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9 Dead in Swedish Plane Crash

It has been a tragic few weeks for the sport of skydiving, as two plane crashes have lit up news headlines across the world. The first occurred just over three weeks prior with the Oahu crash in Hawaii which saw 11 individuals lose their lives when their Beechcraft 65 King Air crashed, killing all on board.
Less than 3 weeks later there has been an additional plane crash, this time in Sweden, when a GippsAero GA8 Airvan crashed out of Umea airport, killing 9 people. The incident took place on the 14th of July around 2 pm local time.  While little is known about what caused the incident, eyewitness video footage shows the plane descending rapidly, nose first, before crashing on Storsandskar island.
Eyewitness accounts further stated that they could see jumpers attempting to exit the aircraft while it was coming down.  Another witness was quoted as saying that she had heard a loud noise coming from above before she saw the plane head straight down. Also of note were several witness accounts of the plane missing its wing on descent, with mention of a damaged tail too. 
The following video was taken by a witness to the incident and shows a brief glimpse of the plane on its way down.
.embed-container { position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; height: 0; overflow: hidden; max-width: 100%; } .embed-container iframe, .embed-container object, .embed-container embed { position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; } A regional spokeswoman was quoted as stating, ‘I can confirm that all those aboard the plane have died.’
At this point, very little information is available on this tragic event, and we will update this article with more information as it becomes available. 
We’d like to extend our condolences to all those involved and their families. BSBD
For discussions on this incident, please use the following forum: 
 

By Meso, in News,

A Different Way to Boogie

Will Penny and Johannes Bergfors Want to Take You Places
First, let’s get one thing straight: Johannes Bergfors and Will Penny don’t necessarily have, like, a problem with tent camping, beer trucks and zoo loads. They like that stuff just fine -- they just do things a little differently, is all. And they do them differently in very interesting places.
Will and Johannes met at a FlajFlaj event in California a few years ago. Johannes’ video chops attracted Will’s attention. Will invited him to Paradise Portugal to film him and his Flynamic teammate, Yohann Aby, as they trained for the World Championships.
“I’d never been in a [skydiving] team,” Johannes muses, “And I was interested in how a team at that level went into the training process.”
True to eager form, Johannes didn’t just film the jumps. He started bringing the camera into the teammates’ daily lives and started interviewing them incisively about their process. He made a documentary about it. (It’s called Work. It’s great. You should watch it.)
As you might imagine, Johannes and Will worked really well together, right off the bat, and the scope was bound to expand sooner-or-later. That flashpoint moment came along when Johannes saw a photo of a beautiful beach dropzone in Kenya.
“It was beautiful,” he remembers, “And I wanted to organize an event there because I was pretty sure it was the only way I was going to be able to go.”
Up until that point, Johannes had been hired by lots of other events as a videographer and coach. He’d even organized “some smaller stuff” in his native Sweden. Along the way, he’d seen what had been done well and poorly. He knew for certain that he needed a co-organizer to pull it off; Will, with their established rapport and Will’s deep connections in skydiving, was the natural choice. Since he’s a South African with extensive connections around the rest of the continent and parents in the hospitality industry, Will had even more vital bona fides for the task -- and, happily, he was keen.
The pair kept the first event intentionally small -- a beta test, right-sized for a home run. Participants stayed together in a beachside villa, steps from the dropzone. The skydiving was calibrated to be decidedly quality-over-quantity. A top-shelf chef was on-hand to cook every meal. (Johannes was once a chef himself, so he knows a thing or two about that.) They called it “Skyfari”: a nod to its African venue, for certain, but also to its emphasis on exploration over logbook-stuffing. 
Unsurprisingly, the event nailed its goals. There were already plans being made for the next one by the time the first one wrapped.
“These are all all inclusive events,” Johannes explains, “where we are focusing on giving inspiring experiences to participants. That is something we are super grateful to be able to do.”
Since that first Kenyan foray, Will and Johannes have done four other events in this style. The first three shared the Skyfari name; the fourth and fifth, held on Will’s home turf, the southernmost point of South Africa, was called Skydive South Africa: Southern Tip. (Hashtag: #justthetip. Of course.)
For a little descriptive flavor: the Southern Tip event was a pop-up drop zone in the picturesque little Afrikaaner hamlet of Arniston, where Will’s family connections to hospitality are strong.
“It is not a place you drive through,” Johannes explains. “It’s a special place, especially for Will, because as he was growing up, when his parents were working in tourism, they traveled around Africa and lived in different places, but they always had their house in Arniston as a getaway.  They would go there for the weekend and spend time there and just enjoy this little gem of a place.”
“It is also a very special place in the world for many reasons,” he continues, “Did you know that Table Mountain alone has a larger variety of plants than all of Great Britain? The Western Cape plant kingdom takes up the area of ½ a percent of the African continent but it hosts 20% of the species. All of that is mind-blowing to me. On these events, we fill the days with extracurricular activities to enjoy what’s special about the places we travel to. Our participants are really into it.”

The event logistics, of course, look very different than those of a standard boogie. For Arniston, for example, the event took advantage of a cute little dirt-strip airfield. They brought in a 206, a pilot and ground crew. There were six participants, making a ratio of 1.75 staff to each participant. Accommodation-wise, the event rented a beautiful two-level villa with sweeping sea views from almost every room, facing the sunrise every morning. A private chef cooked for the group three times a day.
When the group wasn’t jumping onto the most pristine beach of Arniston, they were marauding around the Western Cape with great big smiles on. They went surfing; out for dinner a few times; out-and-about in Cape Town. On one memorable morning, they went horseback riding together on an empty beach. After they cavorted down the beach for an hour or so, they took the saddles off the horses and swam with them. Magic.
“It is all inclusive from the moment they arrive until they leave,” Johannes notes. “All the experiences are included. Because the conditions in a situation like this are very hard to guess ahead-of-time, we don’t stipulate a certain amount of included jumps -- we say you are going to do up to 8 jumps, but it is not decided if we are going to 6, or 5, or 2, because we cannot guarantee it.”

“We also tell the participants they have to be ready to go at any time,” Johannes adds. “Because we have a very small margin to play with in terms of weather, airspace limitations and surrounding logistics. We have to be dynamic in decision making. We are constantly armed in the sense that when all of the parameters are on our side, then we are going to strike. As a jumper in that situation, you have to be ready all the time. We are super transparent with all this and explain this very well to the participants, because in a group this small, everybody’s buy-in really matters. And we get it.”
To roll with those variables, Skyfari participants can’t be fresh off the AFF boat. The event requires each jumper to have at least 500 jumps -- and, on account of the inn-hopps, at least 50 jumps on the canopy they’re flying. Due to the group’s small size, Will and Johannes are able to flex their strategy to fit.
“The last time it was quite an experienced group; this time a bit less experienced,” Johannes says. “We adjusted our plan. In general, the beaches around Arniston are quite long and wide, but they are super windy.  We can’t $&*% up because there are sharks in the water.”
These days, Will and Johannes are expanding their horizons yet again. They’re heading to the Maldives for the next one -- and launching an educational project called High School together (an extensive, professional post-jump-course education targeted to the jumper with 20-500 jumps who’s looking to find and fill skills and knowledge gaps). For these two, it’s all about going places -- in the world, in your sports and in your own personal scope -- and the thing they want most is a cadre of keen fellow adventurers along for the ride.
Take it from Skyfari participant David Beneviste, who has done two events so far:
“The group and the chemistry we had were incredible,” David says. “We were laughing all the time. And it was an adventure! The more I get to know Will and Johannes, the more I want to go travel with them. Whenever I can swing it, I will certainly do it again.”
Curious about participating in an upcoming event? Check out https://www.johannesbergfors.com/events for more details.
 

By nettenette, in General,

Crash in Oahu, Hawaii Claims 11 Lives

Featured image credit of ABC News
On Friday the 21st June 2019 tragedy struck as the worst civilian aviation accident in almost two decades saw the loss of 11 lives when a Beechcraft 65 King Air working out of Oahu Parachute Center crashed on the island of Oahu. There were no survivors of the incident, which took place on Friday evening as the day was drawing to a close.
The twin-engine aircraft went down around 18:30, on the edge of Dillingham Airfield on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. Initial reports suggested that the death toll sat at 9, but this toll had risen to 11 by Monday.
Among those killed in the accident were six staff from Oahu Parachute Center, as well as once Fastrax team member Larry Lemaster, who was working as an instructor on the jump. Other names released thus far include Casey Williamson, a videographer working for the dropzone, as well as Mike Martin. Aside from those employed by the dropzone, Bryan and Ashley Weikel were also announced among those deceased. Reports state that Bryan and Ashley were celebrating their one year wedding anniversary. No other names had been released yet at the time of writing.
.embed-container { position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; height: 0; overflow: hidden; max-width: 100%; } .embed-container iframe, .embed-container object, .embed-container embed { position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; } On Monday, investigations were continuing into what had led to the incident. This wasn't the first time the 65 King Air had been involved in an incident, the same aircraft had lost the stabilizer during the crash, though fortunately the individuals on board were able to bail out of the plane without any loss of life. It is unclear yet whether this past crash had any role to play in Friday's tragedy.
The wreckage of the crash left little hope for survivors as the plane was quick to go up in flames. Reports from the ground claim that the aircraft was in the air briefly before they saw it invert and dive forward towards the ground.
Unfortunately an already tragic event become worse when inaccurate media reports filtered through and sent the community into a frenzy, trying to verify the authenticity of said reports. One such inaccuracy was that famed cameraman Tom Sanders was amongst those in the wreck, something that has since been debunked.
Our condolences to all of those involved, and BSBD to those on board when the incident occurred. The families of the victims are in our thoughts and prayers, and we offer further extend our condolences to everyone over at Oahu Parachute Center.
For discussions on this incident, please use the following forum:

By Meso, in News,

100-Way Canopy Formation World Record Team to Receive 2019 Path of Excellence Award

The International Skydiving Museum & Hall of Fame is proud to honor the 100-Way Canopy Formation World Record Team with the museum Path of Excellence Award. The presentation will be made at the 2019 Hall of Fame Celebration at Skydive Perris, Perris, California, on Friday afternoon, October 18, prior to the Welcome BBQ. There will also be a tribute jump honoring the awardee.
Many groups, companies and teams have played a prominent role in the growth and development of our sport with their exceptional contribution in the form of innovation, performance and/or competitive excellence, leadership, education, safety, sponsorship and/or philanthropy, aviation, design/invention and/or manufacturing, sport promotion, and photograph/videography. The Path of Excellence Award is specifically for entities – groups, companies, organizations or teams for significant contribution(s) of enduring high value to the world of skydiving and is a prestigious award in both name and distinction. Award nominees are voted on by supporters of the museum including ambassadors, counselors, trustees, members of the Hall of Fame, and major donors. 
On November 21st, 2007 the world’s largest canopy formation was built over the Florida Skydiving Center in Lake Wales, a record that still stands today. The formation was so large that the Miami Air Traffic Control Center monitored the formation on radar to keep other aircraft from coming into close proximity to the formation. The formation weighed 20,388 pounds and was 290 feet tall and 175 feet wide. In comparison, a 747-400 jet is only 231 feet long and the Wright brother’s first flight was not quite one third the distance as the formation is tall. Even though the 100 way formation was built in 2007, the journey to this record started 6 years earlier.
 It all began at the end of 2001 when Chris Gay was talking to a couple of friends about the last world record of 46 skydivers back in 1994. The conversation started with questions of how difficult it is to organize such an event and ended with an agreement to organize a 50 way canopy formation the following year. Little did they know this would lead to a 5 year road to the 100 way Canopy Formation Largest Formation World Record.
The first event was in 2002 with the goal of setting a new US record. With the help of Betty Hill of the Florida Skydiving Center and Paul Fayard of Fayard Enterprises, the organizers had an outstanding place to host the event and a great fleet of aircraft to jump from. When not only 1, but 5 50-way canopy formations were built during the same day and an unofficial world record 56-way, it was realized with proper design, training and organization that the elusive triple digit 100 way canopy formation could be possible. The most difficult part would be convincing the canopy formation community that these ideas were necessary. However, following such a successful event gave the leverage and credibility that was needed to convince the community that changes were needed in technique and equipment. Even so it was an uproar when the announcement was made for standard slick jumpsuits, line sets and a given wing loading of 1.30-1.375 based on your position in the formation. It was explained for the safety of the group anyone wanting to be on the 2003 64 way world record attempts would have to sign and abide by a contract. This event was, once again, a complete success of not only multiple 64-way formations in the same day, but a 70-way formation the following day as well. After that success, the group saw the importance of correct engineering of the formation, proper techniques and standardized equipment.
During the next couple of attempts, the design and engineering of the formation was critical in order to have a stable formation upon its completion. This meant it maybe quasi stable during part of the build and would require the jumpers to learn to fly it during this phase. This was achieved by using tight jumpsuits in the center of the formation and baggy jumpsuits on the outside of the formation. Also, standard line trims and lengths were required. Lastly, learning where to place the older and slower canopies versus the newer or faster canopies. A better way to communicate the starburst breakdown to the jumpers was also needed and for this task Kirk Vanzandt volunteered. Performance Designs help in keeping their PD Lightning demo parachutes available and also assisted with quick turnaround for repairs that were critical over the years and during training and the actual events. Rusty Vest inspected and assessed each Lightning parachute at these events to place each canopy in the best place in the formation based on wear and age. The above changes along with newer training and docking techniques and standard wing loading helped build great flying 81 and 85 way canopy formation in 2005 and a 100 way canopy formation in 2007.
The 100 Way World Record utilized five aircraft, the first aircraft dropped 9 jumpers from 20,000 feet. The second dropped 27 jumpers from 18,000 feet. The third dropped 29 jumpers from 16,000 feet and the final two aircraft dropped the remaining 35 jumpers from 13,000 feet. The formation took approximately 11 minutes and 30 seconds to build and was held for 12 seconds. It was completed on the fifth attempt and captured on HD video by seven videographers from around the world. The formation consisted of jumpers from 14 countries including 56 from the United States, 7 from Australia, 7 from Germany, 6 from the Netherlands, 6 from Great Britain, 5 from Russia, 3 from Canada, 2 from Brazil, 2 from Egypt, 2 from France, 1 from Argentina, 1 from Belarus, 1 from Belgium and 1 from Finland.
Special thanks to Kirk Vanzandt, Betty Hill, Paul Fayard, Rusty Vest, and Performance Designs for their support and assistance with this journey to the 100-way. The videographers that captured the incredible images that showcased the 100 Way CF World Record to the world were Bruno Brokken, Gustavo Cabana, JC Colclasure, Norman Kent, Keith MacBeth, Pam Pangburn, and Bryan Scott.
2002 US Record 50Ways and Unofficial World Record 56Way
Organizers: Chris J. Gay, Dave Richardson, Mark Gregory
2003 World Records 64Ways and 70Way
Organizers: Chris J. Gay, Dave Richardson, Mark Gregory, Mike Lewis
2005 World Record 81Ways and 85Way
Organizers: Chris J. Gay, Brian Pangburn, Dave Richardson, Mike Lewis
2007 World Record 100Way
Organizers: Chris J. Gay, Brian Pangburn, Christophe Balisky, Mike Lewis
Since 2010, as part of the International Skydiving Museum & Hall of Fame awareness and fund raising efforts, the museum has held an annual weekend event celebrating the sport and history of skydiving.  “The Celebration is an exciting and prestigious three day event that brings generations of skydivers together. The celebration honors the glory days of our past and showcases the marvels of today’s equipment and skydiving skill of today’s superstars and inspires younger jumpers to make their mark,” said James F. Curtis III, President/CEO of the Board of Trustees for the museum.
This year’s celebration will feature a 10-Way Speed STAR WARS competition, forums featuring Luke Aikins and Alan Eustace, a Pioneers Lunch sponsored by Strong Enterprises and much more. After a weekend of skydiving activities and non-skydiving activities that has something for everyone, the International Skydiving Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will take center stage continuing the tradition of honoring legends, leaders and pioneers of our sport.  This year’s inductees are Irena Avbelj (Slovenia), Chuck Collingwood (posthumous) USA, Kate Cooper-Jensen USA, Patrick de Gayardon (posthumous) France, Alan Eustace USA, John P. Higgins USA, Andy Keech Australia, Tom Sanders USA, Deke Sonnichsen USA, and John “Lofty” Thomas (posthumous) Great Britain. More than 400 skydiving enthusiasts from around the world will be in attendance at the fundraiser which is expected to raise more than $100,000 for the museum.  For more information about the International Skydiving Museum & Hall of Fame and the Celebration Event, visit www.skydivingmuseum.org or contact museum administrator, Nancy (Kemble) Wilhelm, at 407/900-9997 (direct line) or nkemble@skydivingmuseum.org
Photo by:  Keith MacBeth

By Meso, in General,

Shredding the (Adaptive) Gnar

Rosie Manning Breaks Down Accessibility Barriers in the Tunnel

Raise your hand if someone you know has been seriously injured on a skydive. Everybody? Right. Now -- keep your hand raised if that inspired you to invent a whole new apparatus to get your friend back into flight mode. I’m willing to bet that very, very few hands have stayed raised. One of them is Rosie Manning’s.
The first thing you should know about Rosie Manning is that her lissome form and noon-in-July demeanor might easily fool you. She’s sweet almost to a fault -- but then you start to realize that she has you direly outgunned in the brains department. This mechanical engineer can think in circles around most folks (and then take you to the tunnel and fly in circles around them -- but more on that later). If you ask her, she delicately shrugs it off as a survival instinct. 

 
“When you study engineering as a girl,” she notes, “You’re already in an uphill battle. There were 200 guys and 9 girls in my degree. From day one, I was going against the wind.”
As it turns out, Rosie thrives against the wind. She and one of the other nine girls in the program (Emily Whatton, a dynamo in her own right) joined the university’s skydiving club. At first, it was a lark, but by year two, both girls were hooked. Time flew. For the fourth and final year, the program participants were tasked with an individual project which made up the bulk of the students’ final grade -- and Rosie knew exactly what hers was going to be. It was that year -- 2016 -- that UK skydiver Ben White injured himself during a swoop. He came out of it alive, but paraplegic. Rosie figured she could use her project to help.
“I was heavily addicted to skydiving at this point,” Rosie remembers, “and I really wanted to do a project that was skydiving-related. I had an idea.” Rosie sent Ben a message: How interested would you be in letting me design something for you to help you fly in the wind tunnel again? Unsurprisingly, he was entirely up for it. Bonus: Ben himself had studied robotics at university, so the process was uniquely collaborative.
So far, so good: But there was still a baffled academia who had to buy in.
“The first time I pitched the idea of the project to my tutor,” Rosie laughs, “He said, ‘Okay, so you’re telling me you want to throw a paraplegic person out of an airplane?’ Um...no. Then I spoke to quite a few of my other teachers about it to get some advice. They all told me it wouldn’t be possible.”
“I just didn’t listen,” she grins. “I went and did it anyway.”


Rosie, with Ben’s collaboration, set about designing a brace that would support Ben’s lower body for the purpose of tunnel flying. First problem: the university only allowed for a total project budget of 100 pounds.
To solve her problem, she asked for help. Rosie went to a long list of orthopedic and prosthetic companies. Finally, she had a lucky break: she got an email back from a company in the UK called TruLife, whose Head of R&D, Shane Nickson, was a keen skydiver. He offered funding and help with manufacturing. TruLife ended up custom molding the carbon-fiber-and-titanium brace to Rosie’s design.
The second challenge: tunnel time. This wasn’t too tough, luckily, as the owner-at-the-time of the UK’s Bodyflight Bedford was a super-cool guy who was happy to donate tunnel time to the project. Score.
The third big roadblock was, again, academia. And it was a whopper.
“We struggled making the project fit the specifications the university wanted,” she explains, “because the university wants you to show your preparation; the calculations; the justifications for all the choices.” In order to meet the requirements, the team had to build an external sensor system that would measure the angle of the wearer’s legs in different orientations: belly flying; back flying; free flying. From that data, they worked out the forces that would act on the wearer’s legs in each position to determine the required strength of the brace.
“That actually took up a lot of the project,” Rosie notes. “And Ben was a huge help with that because he was a robotics guy, so he knew loads about the programming that was required.”

After they finished the project -- after Rosie had left university -- she, Ben and two other friends entered the World Challenge in the rookie category.
“There were only four teams in the category,” she remembers, “but it ended up being this huge battle with another team for third place. We just beat them, and I think the fact that our team beat another team that was completely able-bodied was probably the best day of this whole thing. We went up to collect our medals -- Ben, in his chair -- and we got the biggest cheer.”
Such a triumphant, happy moment, no? But it came at such a confusing time.
“To be honest, when I finished my degree, I honestly had no idea what I wanted to do,” Rosie remembers. “I knew that I pretty much hated the first three years of my degree but absolutely loved the final year. If knew that, if I was going to do engineering, it needed to be something I wanted to do -- something sport related -- because that’s what I love doing.”
“I knew that going into a scheme with a huge company wasn’t for me,” she continues. “It would have been a super easy thing to do. Pretty much everyone in my degree went and did that because it’s the next step in the system they’ve set up for you. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, exactly, but I know I don’t want to do that.”
So: Rosie and her friend Emily Whatton took off. The pair went traveling for a year with their partners -- also skydivers -- and the tiny amount of money the foursome had managed to save up. While on the road, Emily and her partner were offered jobs as tunnel instructors at Sirius Sport Resort in Finland. Six months later, Rosie got the call and joined them. While there, Sirius backrolled Rosie’s build of another tunnel mobility brace and started welcoming even more adaptive athletes into the bodyflight community, a fact of which Rosie is understandably proud.
“Currently, there are two separate frames --” she explains, “a smaller one and a larger one, with different-sized straps that can be fitted with either one. If you have someone tall and skinny, you can use the longer frame with the shorter straps, and vice versa. For kids, we use the small frame and the smaller straps.”
“It was quite hard to build it without really knowing what sizes of people we were going to get,” she adds, “but I was pretty pleased because the system can accommodate anyone from a tiny 8-year-old up to a fairly massive guy.”
Users report that the biggest challenge for the adaptive flyer is fitting the brace to the body, because it has to go underneath their legs while the flier is seated in their wheelchair. Once they’re assisted from the chair into the airflow, it’s pretty much a snap.

“[The brace] is at a set angle,” Rosie says, “so fliers with shorter legs have more forward drive and fliers with longer legs have more backward drive for him. That’s easy to manage; we just make sure that, when we brief them, we emphasize that they need to be really relaxed in the arms because we’re going to need to adjust the arm and hand position to counteract any drive that produces. Every [adaptive athlete] we’ve flown with so far seems to take that on board really well, and they fly beautifully.”
The photos of Rosie’s adaptive athletes really speak for themselves.
“I mean, it is fantastic,” Rosie enthuses. “I think that flying and skydiving is the greatest sense of freedom you can experience in this life. For an adaptive athlete -- someone that, maybe for their whole life, has been confined to a wheelchair -- it is a feeling that is like no other. Sharing that is super rewarding. I want to do a lot more of it.”
Rosie recently relocated to work at a wind tunnel in Canada, but she certainly hasn’t abandoned that dream. Currently, she plans on taking her design in two different directions: continual development on the first-timer model, as well as a model designed for the specific needs of adaptive sport flying.
“We got [Ben White] belly flying and back flying in the current design,” she explains, “but I want it to be able to do more. Ultimately, we want a design that makes freeflying possible. I’m thinking in baby steps -- take it to some low-speed back carving and belly carving; work up from there. I want to give anyone who wants to get involved in this sport  the opportunity to progress in it as well.”


By nettenette, in General,

Streamlining Ratings: UPT Adopts Sigma

by Laura Jane Burgess
Shuffling paperwork, missing signatures, and problematic postal services: with so many moving parts issuing UPT Tandem rating cards has been a time-consuming process. Key word: has. United Parachute Technologies has led the charge in gear manufacturing for many years, and now, it’s leading the way into the digital age of issuing tandem ratings.
We spoke with the director of UPT’s Tandem Program, Tom Noonan, to get details on the exciting partnership between UPT and Sigma.
Background
For those of you out there unfamiliar with Tom Noonan, Tom made his first skydive in 1999, and in the nearly 20 years since then, has acquired around 8000 skydives—6,500-7,000 of which are skydives with him as either the tandem instructor or passenger training someone to be an instructor!
Having previously worked for Strong Enterprises and Performance Designs, Tom is now in his sixth year of employment with UPT working as their Tandem Program Director.
How Sigma Entered The Picture
Tom met Dylan Avatar of Sigma when he presented their Merit issuing platform to the USPA board several years ago. At the time Tom was on the USPA Board of Directors and had a front seat during USPA’s adoption of Sigma to issue licenses and ratings digitally as Merits. 
Tom says:
“USPA’s success with [Sigma] with their membership of 40,000 people gave UPT a comfort level that Sigma could handle the…8-10,000 instructors around the world and 400-500 examiners (current or past) or national federation safety officers who we work with. After seeing that the USPA database migration and subsequent user interface was successful, I had high confidence that we would be able to do the same thing on our side with the tandem ratings we issue.”
Why did UPT elect to move forward with Sigma? 
After a slight pause, Tom kiddingly replies “[Sigma] gave us free t-shirts…No the real reason/the tipping point for us was when Dylan met with Sheryl Bothwell, our Office Administrator, who is in charge of the rating issuance. Dylan was able to sit down and demonstrate the portal and the process and show how efficient it was going to be from the front office side, and that was really the “closer.”
How Sigma Will Help
What problems/pain points will Sigma solve for UPT as it relates to issuing ratings?
Without hesitation, Tom responds “international delivery.”
“We probably have 30-40% of our users that are international, which means we’re sending out anywhere from 200-400 international rating cards each year, and we’ve been doing it… as an analog process (postal) in a digital world.”
Issues with international delivery were multifaceted: “Our international mailing was incredibly problematic. One in that the customer often didn’t receive their card in a timely manner or other times they didn’t receive it at all. It doubled and even sometimes tripled our workload to reproduce these again and again. From a cost perspective, while it wasn’t happening every day, it became more and more of a cost issue and a workflow problem. We were spending too much time re-issuing ratings that otherwise could be digitally accessible.”
While forgery or someone misrepresenting their ability hasn’t really been the problem, Tom says “there has been an issue with candidates finishing the training process, and their rating application ending up in limbo somewhere, due to application correction issues.”
“Individuals were going through courses and filling out the appropriate paperwork, which was then sent in. The problem was typically a mistake made on the paperwork. Either the examiner or the instructor failed to sign a necessary line on the log book or were missing a witness signature. Attempts to get additional information in from our instructors, in that capacity, can be challenging at times. So, someone will finish a course and have a paperwork problem, and whether they ignore it or neglect it, then they and the dropzone are missing confirmation that the rating has been issued. The adoption of Sigma’s platform will hopefully facilitate an easier remedy for the drop zone owner and the instructor to know for sure that they have their rating and that it has been issued.”
Will UPT continue to mail out hard copy cards or do they anticipate phasing these out? 
For those of you looking to garner UPT tandem ratings in the future, physical cards will be offered as an “a la carte” option and only ad hoc as requested.
 “We will always provide them for the customer if requested to do so. There are people that have always wanted the tactile experience, to have a driver’s license in their pocket or a pilot’s certificate in hand, so we can always provide that. But now that we have the digital format, the workflow on [physical cards issued] will be less than 10%. But for that 10%, we will format the cost as shipping and a small processing/maintenance fee of $10.”
What about Sigma excites UPT the most? 
“UPT’s front office is thrilled at the implementation of Sigma issued Merits for UPT tandem ratings. The excitement, in part, comes down to reduced workflow. And any time, we can reduce workflow, we can be more efficient, and if we are more efficient, we can then do more things for the customer and for the instructors. We’d rather spend our time thinking about ways to improve the process…and having more time to do that because we are spending less time dealing with processing issues and mailing ratings. It gives us more time to focus on other parts of the rating application process.”
Looking to the Future
Tom sees two potentials for further utilizing Sigma in the future: “one is going to be once the system is in place and running smoothly, we are going to look to use the Sigma platform to institute a hand cam proficiency Merit.” 
This will ensure instructors have “met the 200 tandem jump minimum, they have filled out our proficiency checklist, and sent it into us. First, before they start using hand cam and every two years as they renew, and two, so [drop zones] will be able to track [instructors] hand cam currency as a Merit.”
Within the next two years, Tom and UPT are hoping to roll out “some form of a bi-annual review [for tandem instructors] that can be updated, whether it’s a proficiency card or a practical evaluation with an examiner—we haven’t hashed any of that out. But we’ve recognized there is a need to implement something similar to what pilots go through, where every two years the instructors need to validate their credentials. This can absolutely be an additional future merit that would end up living in the Sigma database”
Tom even had an idea for how Dropzones could further utilize the Sigma platform and Merits.
“I could foresee Dropzone Owners taking advantage of a Camera Flyer Merit, where it’s simply a qualification card that they are validating they have met the minimum requirements 500 RW jumps 100 camera jumps as one example, so when they have people flying video with their tandem instructors, they have some kind of validation that they have met the minimums”
The practical takeaway here? 
These measures and issued Merits are a “liability prevention mechanism for everyone involved in the tandem jump process…making sure you have met those credential verifications only helps assure you have better liability protection in case of an incident or accident”
Well put Tom, well put. 

By Administrator, in News,

Girl Gear Blues? Problem Solved (and Then Some)

Aeronautrixx Literally Has Your Back
Life in the sky just keeps getting better for the 13% of us who fly under the influence of two X chromosomes. The latest development? Aeronautrixx -- a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, founded by skydiver//adventurist Karen Woolem. The org’s goal, as Karen puts it, is “providing education, guidance, sponsorship and resources to help women pursue their aeronautical dreams in a fun and safe manner.” Those are lofty goals, indeed, but Karen -- who is as well-organized as she is dynamic -- isn’t the type to shoot low. 
To understand where Aeronautrixx is coming from, of course, you first have to understand a little bit about its founder. Karen started jumping 28 years ago, led by the example of her skydiver father. She was 15, and they’d make the long trek down to Skydive Paso Robles from the Monterey Bay Area because Paso was the only driveable DZ that would let such a young pup jump. She made a few less than 100 jumps in that first phase and stopped jumping in 1993, when her rig was grounded.


“The question was,” she remembers, “Do I buy new gear, or do I go to college?’
Objectively speaking, it wasn’t really a question. Karen was the first in her family to go to college, and she wanted to place her focus there. As it turns out, a full 15 years passed before she got back into the sport, though she made a few feints in that direction. Finally, in 2009, she got recurrent -- at Hollister, where her dad learned to skydive back in 1988 -- and she’s been jumping ever since. Mostly, Karen describes herself as an RW kinda chick. (Fun fact: When I talk to her, she has just returned from skydiving over the Egyptian pyramids.)
Aeronautrixx, interestingly enough, was born of that other major step forward in female-focused skydiving: the Women’s Skydiving Leadership Network. Back in 2016 (when the WSLN was first officially formed), Karen was selected for the first WSLN leadership symposium. She spent a week at Raeford with the event, soaking up the skills, the vibes and the connections. As part of that program, Karen designed a logo for a WSLN t-shirt. The image was strong, feminine, colorful and balls-out bold. She loved it.
While a different logo was selected for that original purpose, Karen couldn’t help but realize that she’d created the logo for an effort that was gathering steam in her own imagination. Specifically, she was pondering a personal challenge she’d faced as a female, coming back into the sport: Finding a used container that fit both her and the canopy size she was comfortable with. She’d found it damned near impossible.

“Finding a used container that fit me was no problem,” she mueses, “but they were all made for sub-100s; for super-swoopers. When I first came back, was under a 170. I ended up having to rent for what seemed like forever. It was so expensive.”
She realized that there was a solution -- and that she could catalyze it.
“I knew there were plenty of people out there that have gear to donate,” she adds, “And I thought -- hey! -- if I set up a non-profit, it can be a win-win. People can donate gear that fits smaller people jumping larger canopies -- or any gear they have gathering dust in a closet. Then I can give those guys a tax write-off and get that gear out to women who need it. Now [the recipient is] paying $25 a jump instead of $50 and can take her time to either wait for a long delivery on custom gear or piece together a used setup that fits.”
“It’s so expensive getting started in this sport,” Karen adds. “Aeronautrixx aims to make the potential financial burden less of a deterrent for women.”
So far, it’s a home run. Aeronautrixx just got a complete setup donated and matched it with a woman who just graduated AFF. Boom.
It’s not just containers, either. Karen has partnered up with a craftsman who completely refurbishes and repaints helmets with airplane-grade paint, and those helmets have been gracing the sky in larger numbers with each passing season. In addition to that, Karen is currently working on getting a few complete demo systems co-sponsored with manufacturers.

Of course, it’s not just gear that makes a skydiver — so Aeronautrixx covers the skills bases, too. These days, Karen is a WSLN mobile mentor, dually based at Skydive Sebastian (near her current home) and Skydive California (near her west-coast roots). For the past three years, she’s been using Aeronautrixx as a platform to host female-focused skills camps and boogies on both coasts. In October, there’s the Unicorn Boogie at Skydive California; in April, there’s the Mermaid Boogie at Skydive Sebastian; this February (coming right up!) there’s going to be a gold-lamé-festooned disco party at Z-hills. 
The boogies’ shared core value? Bring women together -- from all over -- and encourage growth and fun in equal measure. The response so far has been phenomenal. 
“I try to get an all-female roster of organizers,” Karen adds, “to show the newer jumpers that it’s not only men that are leading the pack. And I always try to bring in non-local organizers to give the ladies the chance to jump with other females in the sport that they might not get a chance to jump with.”

The formula is certainly working. At the first Mermaid Boogie, Karen was standing in a packed hangar. Stopping in the middle and looking around, she suddenly realized something amusing.
“I looked around and it occurred to me, there were no men. We’re turning the Otter with all chicks.” They turned 22 loads that day.
At the end of the day, Karen insists that Aeronautrixx is about inclusion. Men are welcomed at Aeronautrixx events -- even issued cheeky “man cards” -- and the sea of costume onesies now includes a fair number of male humans. That’s not at all surprising, considering the unequivocal language of the Aeronautrixx mission statement: “We believe that women can be just as, if not more, badass as our male counterparts.” Well-put and well-proven, no?
----
To donate to Aeronautrixx (or get involved with an event or two), visit the org’s website or Facebook page:
https://aeronautrixx.com/
https://www.facebook.com/pg/aeronautrixx/
 

By nettenette, in News,

The Importance of Ear Protection While Skydiving

Not wearing earplugs on every skydive? Hear me out (while you still can): It’s pretty damn important to add a pair to your every-jump kit, and your excuses probably don’t hold up to expert scrutiny.
What expert? A lofty one. Last week, I got to talk to Dr. Anna Hicks* at length about the thorny matter of skydiving with a cold (watch the February issue of Parachutist for that one). At one point, our conversation took a slight diversion towards hearing damage. The content of that more than deserves its own moment in the sun: Our delicate soundholes, and the damage we don’t have to do them.
So: Why aren’t you wearing earplugs on every jump?
1. Because it’s not that big a deal.
If you like listening to things other than phantom roaring, then sorry. It kinda is.
Each of us is born with 15,000 sound-sensing cells per ear. (I like to think of ‘em as magical hearing hair, because that’s kinda what they look like.) Hearing loss occurs when they die. It’s not just noise exposure that kills them; certain medications and other environmental factors and do it, too, but those are freak deaths by comparison. Once they’re gone, they’re gone. Birds, fish, and amphibians have the ability to grow back magical hearing hair. Mammals, like your average skydiver, lack the ability to regenerate these cells. All we can do is stick in a hearing aid and hope for the best.
You don’t have to take my word for it. Talk to anybody who suffers from tinnitus and ask them if they’d have taken precautions to prevent it.
2. Because I don’t jump that much.
Dr. Hicks begs to differ.
“I see so many skydivers that have damaged their hearing,” she notes. “Even if you’re just doing 100 jumps a year, every time you jump, the engine is noisy, and the freefall is noisy, too. Over your skydiving career, that adds up to a lot of noise exposure.”
“I still find some people that can’t be bothered with ear plugs even in the wind tunnel,” she adds, “but our hearing is too important not to take ten seconds to put them in every time. You don’t want to end up not able to hear your friend at the pub because you knackered your hearing from too much noise exposure.”**
3. Wearing earplugs in freefall is dangerous.
If it’s not just laziness that’s keeping you from protecting your hearing, it might be a misplaced sense of safety. Dr. Hicks wears hers from ground to ground, and she recommends that you do too, even if it’s just on the way up to altitude.
“I am a big advocate with any patient I see,” she says, “especially those whose job is skydiving, to wear ear plugs at least on the way up and ideally on the way down as well. Earplugs do not prevent situational awareness, stop you from being able to talk to your students, or to hear shouts under canopy.  You can hear what you need to hear, usually you can actually hear your audible altimeter better because the background freefall crackle is reduced, and vitally, [wearing earplugs] reduces the longer-term damage we can experience from our sport.”
Some people discover that they find a problem equalizing if they have earplugs in on the way down. Dr. Hicks’ advice: If equalizing is a problem for you, try using the  vented plugs (which you can buy from a pharmacy for a few dollars) to better equalize during descent.
4. I can’t afford the nice ones and the foam ones cause ear infections.
According to Dr. Hicks, that is not a thing. As long as the plugs are rated, they’ll provide the protection you need.  “You can wear posh ear plugs or the cheap foam ones like you get in the tunnel,” she says. “Either-or.”
According to a study of sixty long-range patrol-aircraft crew members, the idea that disposable foam earplugs cause ear infections is a total myth. The crew members were randomly divided into three groups: one wearing fancy custom-molded earplugs, the second using foam earplugs that they washed after each use, and the third group using foam earplugs washed only once per week. The study lasted eight weeks and included examinations by a medical officer as well as skin scrapings for bacterial culture and fungal examinations. The results indicated no fungal infections or clinically significant bacterial infections, and no differences in positive bacterial culture between the groups.
Moral of the story: roll ‘em up and stick ‘em in. They’re going to prevent a heck of a lot more damage than they could possibly cause, and 50-year-old you (who doesn’t have to have the TV on FULL BLAST ALL THE TIME) will thank you.
*Dr. Hicks is a certified badass. An active-duty Aviation Medicine specialist in the British Regular Army, she has logged more than 4,000 jumps over 15 years in the sport, many of which as the Outside Center for the multi-medaled British 4-way team NFTO. Dr. Hicks is also a British Parachute Association Accelerated Freefall Instructor and formation skydiving coach, as well as a Skydiving Instructor at Britain’s legendary Skydive Netheravon. Oh: and she was Tom Cruise’s personal aviation doc during the filming of the latest Mission: Impossible reboot. ‘Nuff said.
**Confused? Ask a British person for a translation.

By nettenette, in Safety,

How Sigma & Burble’s Tech Are Changing Skydiving

Written by Laura Jane Burgess
There’s excited chatter on the mat, the rustle of nylon fabric being packed, the buzzing hustle and bustle of a busy day. Canopies zip overhead. Squinting, mesmerized, though you’ve seen it near a hundred times, you watch the initial glide across the grass, the slide of flat-soled swoopers, and the quick-legged staccato steps as each jumper comes to a stop. You’ve never seen a more perfect day to skydive.
Waiver signed you file in line behind a queue of shuffling feet and exasperated sighs—a 15-person traffic jam. Daylight’s burning. Loads should be turning. What’s the holdup?
It’s the fellow at the front. A jumper far from his home drop zone (558.9 miles, ± .1 mile to be exact). His innocent intent was to check in and manifest. Except, he doesn’t have so much as a shred of physical documentation to his name. No logbook to verify currency and no physical, tangible evidence of USPA credentials.
What’s to be done? His lack of documentation dismissed or ignored? Certainly not. Exhaustive, time-consuming attempts made to secure a paper trail. Undoubtedly.
If everyone’s lucky, the ordeal will take 10-20 minutes. However, if you consider that at a busy drop zone you’re likely to encounter the same issue any number of times on any given day. The wasted daylight adds up, cutting into profit margins and the amount of time jumpers spend in the air.

Imagine for a moment that the futile task of trying to sleuth down credentials could be avoided, and the check-in process could be made significantly easier—for everyone involved. As luck would have it, this is precisely what the Sigma / Burble integration aims to do.
In the late spring of 2019, when the integration launches, skydivers who frequent any one of the many drop zones utilizing Burble software can grant those drop zones access to view their Merits on Sigma. In case you’ve been ignoring those emails the USPA sent you or still feel a little in the dark, Merits aren’t patches to be stitched on a Cub Scout sash. Rather, Merits refer to things like USPA credentials, UPT ratings, corresponding coursework and even your most recently completed skydives. At the close of the day, drop zones taking advantage of the newly integrated systems can send out shareable Merits for completed jumps, whether it be to tandems, fun jumpers, or staff. For jumpers, the Merits can serve as a “digital signature” to verify their most recent skydive. Instead of relying on illegible, potentially forged, physical logbook entries, there will be a traceable, authenticated digital entry.
Drop zones can also attach video clips and other media to the merit badges. This creates hefty possibilities for Merit use with student training programs. No matter where a student roams (or if their logbook follows suit), instructors at any Burble drop zone can see exactly who and what they are working with.
For jumpers, the integration process requires no real technical finesse. In around three minutes, skydivers can link their Sigma account to their BurbleMe profile. Jumpers can then authorize the Burble drop zone(s) of their choice access to their Sigma Merits. Every time they check in at the preferred Burble drop zone(s), their Merit information auto-populates into their jumper profile. The result? A streamlined shortcut from check-in to freefall.
The first time a jumper grants a Burble drop zone access to view their Sigma Merits, they can enable an auto-update feature. From thenceforth, whenever changes to Merits occur, it automatically uploads into the drop zone’s Burble DZM Account and the jumper’s BurbleMe profile. Practically applied, this looks like convenient, real-time access to see as credentials expire, are renewed, or are updated, without the need to request additional physical documentation.
After the Sigma / Burble integration, drop zones can have instant access to verified information without having to waste time or manpower on multiple sources. After the integration takes effect, staff will no longer need to manually input jumper information or search the USPA database with the Group Member lookup tool. Fewer steps and less manual data transfer mean less opportunity for error. The instant access to verified, up-to-date information, makes it much easier for drop zones to verify the standing of visiting jumpers and instructors in a shorter amount of time. For DZO’s, in particular, this integration offers untold peace of mind: no more worrying about the legitimacy of jumpers on your aircraft, fears of forgery, concerns over invalid credentials, or issues with input errors.
Come spring 2019, you might catch the audible sigh of relief coming from the staff buried underneath the mountain of (soon to be obsolete) paperwork, see the sheer joy of jumpers spending less time at check-in and more time on airplanes, and agree, with the Sigma / Burble integration, t here’s something for everyone to celebrate!
Featured image credit: SkydiveTV Vimeo

By admin, in News,

Introducing the JFX 2 from NZ Aerosports

“SAME SAME, BUT BETTER-ER”. The JFX 2. She's kinda familiar, but she has that shiny new kid appeal with her modern flair and style. Powerband, mini-ribs, all the bells and whistles. Take her for a ride, baby!
We’ve done it again! We released the new version of our beloved JFX canopy, the JFX 2, on the 17th of January 2019. The original JFX was already a great canopy to fly with beautiful openings, great flight and the opportunity to land it gently or with a full-blown hissing swoop. Version 2.0 has not been a radical redesign: the JFX 2 stays true to all the things a canopy pilot loves, but now has all the kickass features they know and want in a modern cross-braced canopy: a powerband, mini-ribs and sail loaded ribs. This canopy is all about cross-braced performance with ease: cranking turns, raging swoops, gentle touchdowns!
The JFX 2 is the go-to canopy for someone wanting to start their swoop journey, or for someone who wants a “do-it-all” wing with power which will maximise the good times and minimise the risk with plenty of playfulness. This canopy is the smoothest transition into flying high performance, cross-braced wings from an elliptical wing. It can be loaded light of heavy for consistent delivery in flight.

JFX 2 | Icarus Canopies NZ from NZ Aerosports Ltd on Vimeo.
The original JFX was the last of our canopies to be designed purely by Paul “Jyro” Martyn’s keen eye and 35+ years of experience. With the JFX 2 we’ve added a touch of fancy French Aerodynamic genius to the mix from our head designer Julien Peelman, and the result means incredible aerodynamics, refined performance and uncompromised aesthetics. Key features of the JFX 2:
Powerband: debuted on the “Petra”, the Powerband lets us control the shape of the top surface of the wing more accurately, especially at the crucial leading edge where around 90% of lift is made Mini-ribs: These little additions in the tail are also a legacy from the “Petra” and “Leia” canopies. They decrease trailing edge drag, which has the function of increasing glide and flare performance - both things you can never get enough of “Minybrid” construction: A low-pack-volume take on our hybrid construction “Leia” canopies, the JFX 2 pioneers the minimal hybrid (Minybrid) wing. The loaded ribs - the ones the lines are attached to that experience the highest amount of stress and distortion - are made of sail fabric. This reduces rib distortion, helping the wing maintain its shape through all flight profiles, increasing glide, stability and responsiveness 21-chamber design: The JFX 2's sleek fully elliptical 21-chamber design captures the smoothed staged openings of the traditional 7-cell. She's crisp and responsive, yet it does not feel tense and edgy and packs some punch at the bottom end Closed Center Chamber: Inherited originally from the “FX” and “VX”, then redesigned for the “JVX”, the closed center chamber nose was the innovation that allowed cross-braced canopies to become popular by softening the openings, controlling distortion and improving aerodynamics. It's not the latest but probably one of the most important of Jyro's contributions to modern canopy design!
Images by Chris Stewart/NZ Aerosports
Key flight characteristics:
Openings: JFX 2 openings are predictable, soft and not scary! Reliable, consistent and stunning as always, openings are the ace card of this canopy Harness inputs: inputs are light and instinctive, and very responsive. She can be flown entirely on harness with ease - we actually prefer to fly a lot of harness with the JFX 2 Toggles: Powerful and responsive even at the bottom end - even more so than the original JFX Stall point: The slow flight characteristics are hugely improved from the original JFX. The stall point is slower and lower - get plenty of feedback and warning, both on toggles and rears Fronts: Loaded high, lightly and even underloaded; the feedback of the fronts will be great. A bit of slowing down needed before a bigger turn to reduce the pressure on the fronts, but they are very effective for getting into the dive Dive & Recovery: The dive on the JFX 2 is longer than the original JFX, but not as long as on the Leia. With a slow, predictable (and easily adjustable) recovery arc, the JFX 2 is ideal to get those bigger rotations dialled in.

By Meso, in News,