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How Green Is My Skydive

by Bryan Burke
Images by Serge Shakuto Friends, co-workers, and visitors to Skydive Arizona often comment on my interest in environmental topics and my rather restrained consumption of goods and energy, at least by American standards. This is in sharp contrast to my job, which is helping to run the biggest drop zone on the planet. I freely confess I have probably pumped more jet fuel into jump planes than anyone on earth. My fuel supplier is on speed dial and I order 8,000 gallons of jet fuel with a 15 second phone call. When things are busy I make that call two or three times a week. National Championships or Holiday Boogie busy? Every other day.
Yet we strive to keep our operations as efficient as possible. This is good business: burn less fuel, save money. Over time, every incremental gain in efficiency saves a few gallons of fuel here and there, just as people who plan their weekly driving to minimize miles and maximize efficiency will see huge savings over time, in thousands of small increments.
I reconcile my environmental leanings with my job in this manner: if someone else was doing it, a lot more fuel would be wasted. On a busy day I figure my expertise and commitment to efficiency saves Skydive Arizona at least two Otter loads worth of fuel consumption.
Just how much does our sport consume, and how does that compare to other ways oil is used or wasted? The numbers that follow are rough - sometimes very rough. Comparisons are difficult because as numbers get bigger and bigger, they tend to get harder to evaluate for accuracy. Even rough numbers will give the curious reader something to think about.
A Twin Otter burns about 30 gallons of jet fuel per load. If a drop zone operates at high efficiency, meaning most loads are close to full, that works out to about 1.4 to 1.5 gallons per jumper through the door. Other jump aircraft can be assumed to come in somewhere near that figure. A Cessna 182 burns a lot less per load in volume, but in terms of jumpers per load and time flown, they aren’t that different. Single engine turbines are probably about as efficient as it gets. But on the other hand, if you lose an engine on an Otter, you’re still in an airplane. If you lose the engine on a PAC or Caravan, you’re in a glider. That’s the main reason Skydive Arizona likes to run twin engine jump ships.
Gasoline turns into Carbon Dioxide at a rate of about one gallon into 20 pounds. Jet fuel is a little less clean, coming in at 21 pounds per gallon. Therefore, for every 100 jumps you make, about 140 gallons of fuel are burned, and 2,940 pounds of carbon dioxide are emitted. That’s one and a half tons. Does your log book suddenly feel heavier?
If you are having trouble wrapping your head around this figure, think about the raw energy involved in getting to altitude for a skydive. Imagine climbing 13,000 feet on foot, say from the lowlands around Mt. Rainier to the summit, which is 14,411 feet above sea level. Skydive Arizona is 1,500 feet above sea level, so when your altimeter says 13,000 on jump run, you’re at about the same height as the summit of Mt. Rainier. It would take several days, lots of meals, and enormous effort to get to that summit on foot. We do it in 15 minutes using a jump plane. How? By turning long dead plants and animals into explosive energy funneled through a turbine engine.
By USPA’s figures, approximately 3 million jumps per year were made in the USA between 2007 and 2016, which works out to 4,200,000 gallons of fuel and 88,200,000 pounds of CO2. That’s 44,100 tons of CO2 emitted by skydiving in America each year. Multiply that by ten years and we’re talking about a lot of emissions!
Let’s look even further back. Based on the jump estimates published in the April 2013 edition of Parachutist, annual jump numbers were at or below 2,000,000 until the late 80s, then climbed steadily throughout the 90s to their current levels. This makes sense. Prior to 1990, turbine aircraft were few, equipment less reliable and “one size fits all,” and training less sophisticated. People packed their own rigs. The pace was just a lot slower. Improvements in all these areas allowed the sport to reach out to a much broader demographic, resulting in more jumps made.
Driven by curiosity I started pulling numbers off USPA’s bar graph estimating number of jumps per year through 2013 and then added on through 2016. I made my best rounding-off estimate, coming up with about 70 million jumps in the history of US skydiving through 2016.
Obviously as data gets harder to read, or scarcer, numbers get fuzzier. Rough numbers suggest that about half of all jumps made in the world take place in the USA, so globally the skydiving total might come to about 140 million jumps made in the entire history of the sport.
That would mean that since 1960, the sport has burned through somewhere around
196,000,000 gallons of fuel, sending about 2,058,000 tons of CO2 out the exhaust pipes.
How do we stack up against other fuel figures?
The State of California estimates that 26,221,917 gallons per year are burned by Off Highway Vehicles, including motorcycles, ATVs, and snowmobiles. That’s almost six times the total national fuel consumption for skydiving. Put another way, OHV recreation in California alone burns more than twice as much fuel as the entire world’s skydiving.
The Department of Defense is the world’s single largest buyer of fossil fuels, with an estimated consumption as high as 14 million gallons per day. That’s more than all skydivers in the world use in a year and a half.
To fly Air Force 1 to Hawaii and back is about 50,000 gallons of fuel, or about 36,000 jumps – enough fuel to run a mid-sized seasonal drop zone for a year.
So much for motorized comparisons. Let’s look at some other fossil fuel uses.
In my home state of Arizona coal-generated electrical power produced 33,402,462 tons of CO2 in the year 2016. In just one year, that works out to 16 times the entire skydiving fuel burn, globally, in all of history.
The Earth Policy Institute estimates that America’s bottled water demand requires 714,000,000 gallons of oil annually for materials, packing, storage, transport, and cooling. That works out to more than 80 years of jumps for the entire skydiving world at current levels of jumping.
In a more graphic image, the Pacific Institute says each bottle of drinking water would have to be filled about ¼ of the way up with oil to represent the energy it used! A gallon is 3.8 liters (which makes one jump about 5.3 liters, don’t you love math?) so you only need to drink about twenty-one 1-liter bottles of water or other beverages to waste as much oil as one skydive. Of course, this doesn’t count the energy used to get you to the DZ and make your rig, jumpsuit, and accessory equipment. Or make the airplane, pave the runway, and put up the hangar.
Then comes the most disheartening element of fuel of all, the waste.
The Exxon Valdez spill released about 11,000,000 gallons of fuel over the space of a few days, enough to supply the entire global fleet of jump ships with fuel to fly for over a year. Exxon Valdez pales compared to the ten largest spills in history, all of which amounted to more than 45 million gallons each. The Deepwater Horizon spill alone was estimated to be approximately 200 million gallons, which would cover all the skydives ever made in the world, with about 30 million gallons left over for rigs and jumpsuits, and shipping them to customers.
Here’s my favorite. Around three billion gallons of gasoline are estimated to be wasted annually in the USA by cars idled in traffic congestion. If that amount was used for skydiving, the entire world could keep jumping at current levels for another 350 years. Daily fuel wasted in American traffic jams is the equivalent of almost six million jumps, or an entire year of the entire world’s estimated skydives.
I didn’t bring up all these very dark comparisons to make skydiving look green against a black background. There’s just no way we can rationalize skydiving into being green. To visualize just how much CO2 you generate on each jump, take that 29.4 pounds of CO2 and visualize it as six five-pound bags of charcoal briquets. Every jump, piling up on the DZ. If a bag of briquets is about one cubic foot, even a small drop zone would have a big pile out back. Skydive Arizona would have enough to fill four structures the size of the Colosseum of Rome, plus one Parthenon.
On the other hand, clearly skydiving is a small element of the whole picture. At the personal level, if you are the average American your annual car emissions are the equivalent of 340 skydives per year.
Even so, how can it be justified?
Philosophically, I do it this way. Play is a fundamental need coming in right after food, water, shelter, and security. Skydiving is high quality play, as good as it gets, but it comes with a cost. We can’t eliminate that cost, but we can mitigate it by simply focusing on eliminating waste and inefficiency throughout our society and off-setting the damage through environmental restoration.
Wasteful use of oil, such as bottled water, cars stuck in traffic, industrial scale agriculture, consumer culture in general, and incredibly fuel consumptive military adventures around the globe are examples of where savings could be had. These require some personal and political commitment to steer away from a system that practically glorifies waste. Why not take that lesson skydiving with you? Maybe carpool to the DZ with a friend. Take an apartment closer to your job to avoid that wasteful commute or use mass transit to get to work. Buy a couple re-useable five-gallon water jugs to fill at a local water filtration facility, then refill smaller bottles from that rather than buying a pack of one-liter bottles for the weekend at the DZ. Set your air conditioning a little higher in summer and a little lower in winter. Make your driving as purposeful and efficient as possible by planning your errands carefully and buying a car that is practical rather than a statement about image.
Buy less stuff. Not only does stuff need to be moved from source to consumer, it must be mined, refined, transported to manufacturing plants, and so on. An I-phone 5S has a carbon footprint of 150 pounds - five skydives worth of fuel.
I find that visualization really helps me make immediate choices. If you visualize the bottom quarter of that throw-way beverage bottle as filled with bitter jet fuel that you must drink, you’ll never want to touch it again. Sodas, same way. All that high fructose corn syrup was grown on highly mechanized farms before it was heated, treated, dyed, stuffed into a plastic bottle, and trucked to its air-conditioned home in a machine! When I contemplate a road trip, I visualize chucking a five-pound bag of charcoal out of my window every five miles and ask myself just how important that trip is to me. It’s harder to hide from the truth this way. I’ll still make the trip, but I allow myself only so much total annual fuel consumption – a budget, if you will – and making that trip will require that I tighten up consumption in other areas. Most Americans could reduce their overall consumption of energy, goods, and services by at least a third with a little thought and better practice.
Finally, don’t waste money and fuel on lousy skydives! Focus on well planned jumps that have a high probability of success and the feeling of reward that comes with that. You’ll learn faster, be safer, and maybe be just a tiny bit greener too! There’s an old saying, “Dirt dives are free.” Use your time on the ground wisely and your time in the air will be well spent.

By admin, in General,

Demo Skydiving for N00bs

How To Be A Hero, Kinda
Maybe you’re a limelight magnet and maybe you’re not-- but if you like to mess around with parachutes, the limelight might follow you regardless. Even if you don’t necessarily seek it out, there’s a chance that someone will find out you’re a skydiver and ask you to--well--jump into something. A grand opening, for instance, or a wedding, or a local event.
Before you slink away, hold on! If you’ve got the experience under your belt, there’s really no reason to turn it down out-of-hand. This could be a great learning experience if you’re able to commit the time and wherewithal to put in the planning. Expanding your skill as a jumper is always a worthwhile endeavor.
After all, a demo (or, as it is officially known, an exhibition/display jump) doesn’t have to be a stressful proposition. Unless you’re Kenyon Salo (or anyone else on the Denver Broncos Thunderstorm team), it doesn’t necessarily stipulate a nail-biting night jump that swoops you through a spiderweb of cables to a landing in front of a screaming stadium audience. It may surprise you that, for demo jumps performed under specific conditions, you don’t need a USPA D-license or a pro rating. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t even necessarily mean that you’re landing in front of an audience. Doing a demo jump simply means that you’re jumping into a location other than an official registered drop zone.
To get a little clarity, I talked to Neil Amonson, who has been a demo jumper par excellence for quite some time. Once a member of the legendary GoPro Bomb Squad, Neil now runs Jump For Joy--an incredible skydiving-driven inspirational/educational youth project. (You should stop scrolling right now and sign up.) For a little help getting your homework started, read on.

Give It Time
A demo starts -- of course -- on the ground. If you’re approaching the idea of doing a demo jump for the first time, you should give yourself about a month’s worth of lead time to make all the necessary arrangements and file paperwork. Aside from the not-insignificant challenge of finding an aircraft to do the deed, you can expect more than a few checklists to work through, the details of which change according to the details of your unique jump plan.
Determine Your Level.
If you skew to the new, you’re very likely going to find your footing as a Level One or “Open Field” demo jumper.
While the experience and license requirements are the same between the two. but Level One and Open Field jumps are classified differently based on area. If the landing area covers up to 500,000 square feet, the landing area is classified as Level One. If it clocks in at more than 500,000 square feet, that’s when it becomes a "open field.”
“There are some little details between the two that makes a Level One slightly more advanced,” Neil explains. “For my jumps, when I measure up the LZ and see how many square feet it is, that lets me know how complex of a demo it is likely to be. ‘Open field’ is a piece of cake and very low stress. Level 1 is still pretty easy, but I probably couldn’t do it blindfolded. Level Two is more serious--and a stadium usually has my butt a little puckered.”
“Because it shows up on the paperwork, I think the level system helps the FAA understand how much risk is involved,” he adds. “The lower the level of the LZ, the less they probably stress about the jump as well.”
To jump into a Level One or Open Field LZ, you’re going to need at least a USPA C license and 200 jumps in your logbook, 50 of which must have been made within the past 12 months and five of which need to have been done on the same model and size canopy you’re planning to use on the demo.
If you’re significantly more seasoned, you can hook up with an Instructor-Examiner and get your PRO rating to do Level Two demos. This is the rating you’ll need to jump into any stadium, no matter now big. (Ask anybody who has jumped into a stadium why that’s the case, and they’ll probably tell a rotor story that’ll curl your hair.)
Assess the Landing Area
If you’re considering a demo, your first stop should be a technical requisition of the landing area. (If this wasn’t going to be the top item on your list in the absence of advice, we would perhaps recommend binning the idea of a demo entirely.)
If you’re a level-one demo jumper, you’ll need loads of room. You’ll soon see why the “open field” moniker applies. For a Level One jump, you’ll need to be jumping into a landing area no smaller than 250,000 square feet. When you’re jumping into an area over 500,000 square feet, you’re in an “open field.” Most open-field athletic areas constitute a Level One area.
That might sound enormous--and it is, at a minimum of 500’x500’--but don’t sniff too soon. The additional stresses of a demo jump are going to make the experience sufficiently interesting to hold your attention.
Get The Rest of Those Ducks In a Row
After you’ve collected all your in-date identification (specifically, your parachuting license and reserve repack card) for presentation, you’ll be working with the aircraft operator to do the paperwork. Get ready to leap into the exciting world of waivers, any required secondary insurances and the holy NOTAM.
Let’s take a second to define “NOTAM,” if this is the first time you’ve come across the term. NOTAM is an acronym that stands for “Notice to Airmen.”* A NOTAM is, essentially, a heads-up to pilots and the FAA at large that flags what you’re up to in the airspace. A NOTAM allows you and your aircraft to fly a stated altitude and pattern within a stated time window. As well as Google Maps, you’ll also be using a website called Skyvector to complete your filing, because the FAA will want see your LZ on a sectional chart as well as a satellite image.
It’s important to note that a NOTAM is not a guarantee that your jump’s gonna happen. It can be turned down by the FAA. Neil suggests filing a 7711-2, also called the "Application for Certificate of Waiver or Authorization,” no matter what level of demo you’re planning.
“While it's not required for Open Field and Level One landing areas, it's the one piece of the puzzle that absolutely ensures that everyone that needs to be on board is on board,” he explains. “It's basically the golden ticket from the FAA that says ‘we approve of your plan.’ I used to try and skirt the rules for doing the paperwork and--even though I was legal!--one time, the FAA called my pilot and told them not to let me jump because we disagreed on what type of landing zone it was. Ever since then, I’ve done a 7711-2 for every demo and I haven't had one turned down in ten years.”
While page 169 of the SIM explains how to fill out a 7711-2, Neil says that a little mentorship will go a long way.
“The best way to learn how to fill it out is to have a local pro-rated jumper--who has filled one out before--let you see one they’ve submitted,” he explains. “If you were just to look at the application, it’s kind of confusing, but when you see it filled out it makes more sense.”
Take note: The higher-profile your jump, the more likely it is that the FAA will come out and watch to make sure you didn't ask permission for one thing and then do another.

Dial In Your Comms and Your Crowd Control
You’ll need to conspire with a ground crew to manage your adoring crowd in accordance with the guidelines in the SIM (unless you’ve figured something else out and gotten it officially waivered). For Level One demo jumps, the crowd management suggested by the USPA allows skydivers to drift over the spectators with sufficient altitude (250 feet) to prevent a hazard to anything or anyone on the ground. (That means you’ll be landing at least 50 feet from the spectators. The USPA, in its benevolent wisdom, doesn’t want you toddler-bowling.)
“A rule that is often forgotten about,” Neil warns, “is the requirement for ground-to-air communications between the ground crew and aircraft. This is easy accomplished with a radio--or even texting, when you’re only going up to hop-and-pop altitude.”
“There also needs to be a backup, if those comms are lost,” he adds, “that can signal to the jumpers that the LZ is not safe. That’s your ‘no comms’ plan. On my demos, the ground crew usually puts a big X down where we are supposed to land. We tell the ground crew that, if we lose comms and we should NOT jump, to remove the X from the LZ. If we look out of the plane and don't see the X marking the spot, we know something happened, and to stay in the plane. In all the years I’ve been doing demos, we've never actually needed to do this, but it's good that your ground crew knows, in case the FAA shows up, to make sure you are sticking to your plan.”
...And Don’t Jump When It’s Not Jumpable
Great! So you have your filings approved, your ground crew is stoked, your crowd is assembled and your prop is turning...but the trees are bending over more than a little bit at the top and there’s weather creeping in. The USPA recommends a maximum wind of 15 mph for a demo jump. What now?
“The hardest part of a demo just is knowing when NOT to jump,” Neil notes. “It is soooo hard to say no when it's game day and you just want to pull it off the winds are strong and gusty.”
“Also watch out for the winds aloft,” he insists. “Your spot is everything. There have been a few times I've done demos where we’ve drifted into the next county, and that always happened because it was calm on the ground but NUKING up high-- our pilot wasn't a jump pilot so he didn't think it was important--and we mistakenly assumed that calm winds on the ground meant calm winds above the ground. Whoops.”
Use Your New Skills For Good>
Demo skydiving inspires people. It does! There’s something semi-magical about descending from on high and (hopefully) touching down like goddamn Tinkerbell in front of a cheering crowd. That crowd’s general concept of what-is-possible for themselves, the world and physics will change, at least a little bit, for the good...and that’s almost certainly worth the effort of prep and paperwork. N’est-ce pas?
*This author looks forward to a verbiage change away from crusty old gendered language. “Notice To Airpersons,” perhaps?

By admin, in General,

Out of the East (Yin Yu's Story)

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

By nettenette, in News,

Bill Booth - 50 Years in Skydiving (Video)

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

By admin, in News,

Reviewing Larsen and Brusgaard's New Ares2 and Alfa

I will always leap on an opportunity to do some work for Larsen and Brusgaard, yet when squaring up to a review of their newest releases - the Ares2 and the Alfa - I found myself wondering exactly what I could contribute that people don’t either already know or could easily find out for themselves with a quick trip to the LB website. Sure - I could publicly express my admiration for both the quality of the units and the constant enthusiasm with which Larsen and Brusgaard support the skydiving community at large, and I could dutifully list the features and functions of the gadgets in question - but without finding something with which I can contextualise it’s usefulness I would likely feel guilty of journalistic hackery.
The Ares2 is the civilian version of the Alfa - an upscaled and ruggedised visual altimeter designed for military use that includes some extra functionality specific to jump operations. With a little luck I will never be faced with parachuting into combat - but what relevance can I apply when approaching these devices from the other direction? Year upon year of freefly competitions - where beeps alone reign supreme - have programmed me to view at my altimeter much less frequently than I really should - and possibly therefore am not in the best position to elaborate the many qualities of the new visual thingumys. However - serendipitously, I was actually right on the doorstep of an ideal testing environment where I would need to reverse my instincts and operate a visual altimeter with a level intensity such as never before - an accelerated freefall instructor course. Perfect.
1. Along with all the functions available in the Viso2, Larsen and Brusgaard’s new units are bigger and tougher - constructed form aircraft grade aluminium and hardened glass. The buttons cycle the menus and options as normal, and at the front end act directly to speedily set an altitude offset and operate the backlight. Also, it feels really nice to hold.
As well as a bunch of other stuff on the ground and in the plane, to earn an AFF instructor rating you need to pass three out of four evaluation jumps. The most crucial part of each of these descents is the procedure from the altitude at which the evaluator-as-student finishes their freefall practice and moves through the deployment process. During this ‘bottom end sequence’ the instructor candidate must act precisely and accurately within very specific altitude windows - stacked one upon another - that last less than three seconds each. Get things in the wrong order? Fail. Too low? Fail. Too high? Fail. Maintaining altitude awareness throughout the whole jump is important, but for the bottom end sequence it is absolutely crucial.
2. The Altiset is the required gizmo for military jumpmasters to batch adjust the altitude offset of Alfa units between take-off and landing. Fancy. Also probably important.
Much of the writing I produce for the airsports industry involves the recurring theme of utilising anything and everything at your disposal to squeeze the most you can from each and every jump. Skydiving is expensive and happens fast - so every area in which you can find even the smallest physical or mental advantage has real value. Aside from the odd freefly competition nail-biter, these AFF evaluation jumps were the most pressure I have ever felt on a skydive - and as such, saddling up for the test with a bigger, more visible altimeter made me feel a little more confident both on the way in and throughout the course.
  3. Also available is the Echo. This is an audible altimeter that follows the same design principals that is also controllable via the Altiset. While it has been created for military concerns - the interesting part is devices that communicate with each other are looking increasingly like the very near future across all of skydiving.
I didn’t need that fourth jump. Maybe because of experience, possibly due to practice and perhaps simply down to good tuition. Most likely a combination of all these things. But also just maybe because I could see my altimeter a bit better, from a little further away and at a slightly wider angle. It takes no stretching of one’s imagination to feel if that day had played out differently, a small advantage like this could well have meant the distance between passing the course or not.
4. It might not seem that much bigger, but I found myself surprised at how much easier it is to see - both directly and peripherally - when I needed to know.
A quick scan of any modern group freefall picture underlines the majority vote and market share Larsen and Brusgaard enjoy, with the familiar stretchy arm band wielded upon the forearm of a great many jumpers. While the new Ares2 is likely not going to replace their most popular digital altimeter - the Viso2 - after using it a in high pressure situation I can fully embrace its value and relevance as a thing that exists as an option for those who desire or require such utility. It also looks a little bit like it was designed by Batman. I am quite tough on things too, an effect created from equal parts bigness and clumsy. I am trying to be better about it this but have trashed more that a few gizmos and gadgets over the years by being a lummox, and something that is more likely to resist getting smashed from me being stoopid is quite appealing.
5. Success! Jay Stokes (right) is a man who has done 640 skydives in 24 hours.
Thanks to Larsen and Brusgaard, Jay Stokes and the staff of Skydive San Diego.
You can view and download the complete list of functions for all LB’s technology at www.lbwebstore.com
 

By joelstrickland, in Gear,

Aerodyne Semi-Stowless Deployment Bag Service Bulletin

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

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

Aerodyne Research LLC,

1407 Flightline Blvd, Unit 14, Deland FL 32724
Europe

Aerodyne Research Europe c/o Herman Landsman

Hoofdweg 101, 1795 JC De Cocksdorp, Holland
Australia

Mee Loft c/o Koppel Solomon

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

Aerodyne Research Manufacturing

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

By admin, in News,

Load Organizing Basics


Image by Serge Shakuto
Relying on the default method is unsatisfying because you may find yourself being the only ‘experienced’ jumper on a load of tandem pairs and AFF students, the odd skydiver on an aircraft with an organized group that you haven’t been invited to join, or one of a few miscellaneous jumpers. In any case, you’ll probably end up with limited choices: punching a hole from 14,000’ or attempting to put together a jump with people whose level of skill and experience you don’t know.
Whether you become a load organizer by necessity or by choice, remember that the process of actively organizing a formation skydive is not the same as passively manifesting an aircraft load. The organizing process precedes manifesting and requires you to assume a leadership role over a group of jumpers; it is just like herding cats. “Do I really have to tell people to talk through or walk through the dive flow more than once?” Yes, you do…
The first task is to figure out who is willing and able to participate in the jump — record names and evaluate who you are inviting on the load based on their experience level (not just number of jumps) and their competent ability to perform as the dive flow demands. Pay close attention to the number of relatively inexperienced jumpers on a load; the desire to develop the skills of new skydivers should never compromise the safety and well-being of the entire group. Every jumper must be aware of the time required for the pre-jump dirt dive and post-jump debrief as well as the timing of the jump, whether it is the next fuel load or the last load of the day.
Inevitably, at least one person will ask “So, what are we doing on this jump?” The answer has more to do with the purpose of the jump and less to do with the specific formation(s) to be built. The purpose affects every aspect of the plan – it may be to develop a new jumper’s skills; to practice for a larger or more complicated formation; or to qualify jumpers for the SCR or SCS award. Sometimes, it may just be to decompress with a no-stress jump after a long day.
Based on the purpose of the jump as well as the number and skill level of the jumpers, determine the formation(s) to be built — remember, not every jump has to have multiple transitions. Keep it simple or make it complex by adding variations that stretch the flying skills of the participants; whatever you plan, whether it’s no-contact dives, docking dives, or flying ‘pieces’, focus on orchestrating a safe, enjoyable skydive. You can use a variety of sources to plan formations but you may have to rely on your imagination; one resource is the Wild Lava app, Skydiving Formations, which contains more than one-thousand 2-way to 20-way formations.

Image by Serge Shakuto
At this stage, you must decide on the exit method and order to facilitate a fast exit in order to maximize working time and to minimize horizontal and vertical separation between jumpers. Consider if the purpose and plan call for a linked or unlinked base piece and how many jumpers are going to be outside the aircraft. While there is a tendency to refer to everyone outside the aircraft as a ‘floater’, true floaters are flyers that will enter the formation later, rather than sooner. Finally, don’t neglect thinking about the location of the videographer — if you relegate the camera guy to the back of the exit order, you may not get the video record of the skydive that you had hoped for.

Your capacity for organization and leadership will be tested when it comes time to practice exits and entry order. As the load organizer, you establish flying procedures such as the base / pin combination and whether the plan requires slot-specific docks or not; to prevent traffic jams, you may specify quadrants or sectors to be flown. Preliminary dirt dives can be accomplished wearing jumpsuits without equipment while the last ‘waiting-to-load’ practice has the advantage of allowing everyone to key on jumpsuit and gear color combinations. An often overlooked opportunity during dirt dives is to emphasize flying the formation and the importance of good reverse grips on grippers rather than wrists (or ankles). If there are going to be transitions, ensure that everyone understands the signal and who gives it.
The conclusion of the initial dirt dive is probably the best time to brief jumpers on the break-off and deployment altitudes based on experience and/or formation size. Also, depending on the conditions, it may relevant to discuss jump run and exit and opening points as well as who will be spotting the load. Reinforce the landing pattern based on current conditions. If you haven’t done so already, manifest the load and coordinate exit order with other groups / individuals onboard the aircraft:

Formation skydivers (belly-to-earth). Free-flying formations (head-down, standing, or sitting). Freefall students with instructors. Tandem pairs. Tracking or angle flying groups. Wingsuit flyers. Once everyone has landed, account for all jumpers on the dive, debrief jumpers, and view the video of the jump. Even if your fellow skydivers don’t specifically thank you, most people do appreciate the work that the load organizer takes on and how the effort adds to the value of the jump. Throughout the process, be willing to accept constructive suggestions and make appropriate changes but know when you’ve reached the good idea cut-off point. Any time that a safety issue arises, address it directly.
The process of developing the skills required to structure a formation skydive in a systematic way will test your organizational and leadership abilities; you will find that the results are worth the effort. One final thought, not everyone will agree with your decisions so don’t take any disagreements personally…
Load Organizing Checklist

Evaluate who you are inviting on the load based on:

Experience level (not just number of jumps).

Ability to perform as the dive flow demands.

Commitment to the time (pre-jump dirt dive and post-jump debrief) required.

Reputation for safety and air awareness. Establish the purpose of the jump:

Developing new jumpers’ skills.

Practicing for a larger or more complicated formation.

Qualifying jumpers for the SCR or SCS award.

Decompression. Determine the formation(s) to be built. Decide on the exit method:

Linked or unlinked base piece.

Number of jumpers outside the aircraft.

Use of true floaters.

Location of videographer. Determine exit order. Brief jumpers on:

Jump run and exit / opening points.

Transition signals.

Break-off and deployment altitudes.

Landing pattern. Manifest load and coordinate exit order with other groups / individuals onboard:

Formation skydivers (belly-to-earth).

Free-flying formations (head-down, standing, or sitting).

Freefall students with instructors.
Tandem pairs.

Tracking or angle flying groups.

Wingsuit flyers. Designate a spotter. Conduct dirt dives to practice exits and entry order. Establish flying procedures:

Base / pin combination.

Slot-specific.

Not-slot-specific.

Quadrants. Account for all jumpers on the jump. Debrief jumpers and view video of the jump.

By cassella, in Events,

Recommended Safety Articles for Safety Month

March is safety month, and what better time than just before the Northern Hemisphere's summer season to refresh yourself on information you may be rusty on, or just become more educated in the various safety aspects. Last year we published an article with what we felt were some of the most important safety related articles published on Dropzone.com at that time. Since then we have had several new pieces of information published, that may help you in staying safe out there, from canopy control to exit separation. We've also included several safety day events that are happening around the world later this month.
Here's a list of what we feel are 5 of the most important articles submitted over the past year:
Teaching Students To Navigate The Landing Pattern

In our most recently published safety article, coach and IAD instructor rated Corey Miller discusses some of the core aspects of landing patterns and how students are taught to navigate them. The article focuses specifically only the way instructors relay landing information to students over radio, while perhaps not allowing the students to truly learn for themselves what is important to look for and more closely address the subject of learning to land as opposed to being told how to land.
Staying Current During Winter

While this article may be a bit late for the northern hemisphere, winter is approaching down south and many useful tips can be learned. In the article, Brian Germain discusses the benefits to staying current during the off season and provides readers with a number of useful exercises that can be done to ensure optimum efficiency when you return to the sky. There's numerous images included to help you understand the setups and how they work, as well as exercises that addresses specific individual disciplines.
Exit Order Safety

Another article by Brian Germain, on the topic of exit order safety. The main focus of the article revolves around establishing and discussion the different types of jumpers and how their time under the plane may vary, and in turn to establish who should jump when and why. Not only is the direct exit from the aircraft addressed, but the article further discusses exit order importance with regards to exit timing and landing area. In the comments section, Brian goes on to acknowledge the possible ambiguity in the term "prop-blast penetration", used in the opening paragraph and says that the term can be replaced by such terms as "forward throw", "relative wind penetration" or the more self-explanatory "horizontal distance traveled".
When Should You Upsize Your Canopy

The first of two very useful articles on the topic of canopy size, this article was a combined effort by Melissa Lowe, Barry Williams and Jason Moledzki. It uses numbered points to address 10 factors that one should look at when considering canopy size. Most of the time the thought is on downsizing, as one feels more comfortable with their current setup, but for some people - the solution to many of their problems may actually be to head in the other direction and consider upsizing their canopy. There are numerous variables involved that could prompt one to require an upsizing, from gaining weight to even jumping at a higher elevation. At the end of the discussion, there is a Canopy Risk calculator (created by the USPA), which is intended to act as a guideline for you to see how much of a safety risk you are with your current setup and skill level.
It's Not Only Size That Matters - Thoughts on Canopy Upsizing

The other canopy upsizing article we featured was submitted by Dave Kottwitz and focuses more on retelling lessons learned when he upsized from a Triathlon 210, to a Spectre 230. On his third jump on the new, larger canopy Dave ended up breaking his leg in six places as well as dislocating his shoulder. In the article, he looks at what caused the problems and why one has to realize that upsizing your canopy is not an immediate guarantee for an increase in safety.

By admin, in General,

Boogie Turmoil Survival Tips

Introduction
Boogies, skills camps and destination events are now available in the farthest reaches of the globe - taking place in countries that range from reassuringly orderly to exhilaratingly shambolic. Wherever you are heading, be sure to bone up on all the information you might need before you go - and prepare accordingly. Background research both specific to skydiving and for travel in general will aid your journey under any circumstances, favourable or otherwise, but the more you know in advance the better off you will be when things get complicated. Somewhere that is putting on a skydiving event might simply operate very differently to what you are used to, and the more you can do in advance to set yourself up for success the better. If any appropriate information has been overlooked by the event organisers and you are left in the dark without adequate briefings and knowledge, then ask around - skydivers love to quack on about stuff and those that have previously attended a particular location will tell you the things you really need to know.
Skydiving events of any size contain a lot of moving parts that must all work harmoniously to keep people jumping safely. Myriad financial and logistical puzzle pieces require being carefully pulled together over the course of many months to successfully stage a gathering above and beyond the scope of a dropzone’s usual activity. These numerous variables mean there is a lot that can potentially go wrong - the weather might totally crap out and leave everyone fighting for whatever slots that might become available, a broken thingumy may ground an aircraft and significantly reduce lift capacity (or even scratch it completely) or someone can easily enough pick up the kind of injury that demands all jumping operations be shut down for a bit. The list of things that can cause problems and inefficiencies is long and unpredictable - and while the likelihood of the event organisers doing anything other than their very best is slim, they simply might not have the available mental power to stay on top of a snowballing situation.
So, what should you do when you are at an event where the wheels are coming off?
Buddy Up:
If you are used to jumping in a country with lots of rules that must be adhered to while parachuting you can quickly land well outside of your comfort zone in the sketchier corners of the map. Teaming up with another human who can watch your back, both during jump procedures and on the ground in more general ways can provide a measure of reassurance not formally provided. Someone more experienced is good, but anyone who can objectively and reliably keep an eye on you is a solid plan. Check in with each other before and after every jump and at various points throughout each day. Also let one another know how to access vital documents and important personal items should anyone end up taking a trip to the hospital or the police station or the loony bin.
Use Your Skills Wisely:
Always keep both eyes on your own safety. At any boogie it is very easy to get swept up onto jumps where you are really less than comfortable. If a boogie is running away from itself it is more important than ever to correctly asses and manage the jumps you are doing. Nobody is going to do that for you. Remember that the real rewards are in the endless journey. A nicely formalised and arranged skills camp is the time and place to stretch your legs. Understanding you current limits and working sensibly with them is the path to a great time and safe jumps. Wisdom is calling things to heel when everyone around you is getting looser by the minute.
Take Responsibility For Your Data:
You can pretty much guarantee that by the time the boogie kicks off any dropzone internet will be down for the duration. Whatever reliable bandwidth the facility has available will likely be reserved for the running of crucial operations, and not for you to WhatsApp photos of each other of someone with a bottle of Jaegermeister duct-taped to their face. A local pre-paid mobile bundle is often the most reliable and affordable choice, but whichever way you want to sort it out some personal phone data is well worth the money. The more overwhelmed an event becomes, the higher the chances are of someone going missing or taking a trip to hospital - you can use the navigation and location tracking services of modern smartphones to find your way back to the airfield or to help look for a lost person. A active messaging group for all of your party can enhance a group experience but can also provide a valuable safety net for communication when everybody is getting shitfaced and things are getting weird.

Be Ready:
Impending chaos will likely first show itself as wildly inaccurate call times. A twenty-minute warning might mean you will be jumping either right away or hours from now - so the best plan is to always be ready. If your group can rock and roll at a moment’s notice not only will it aid the quality of your jumps, such exhibitions of professionalism will possibly ooze out of you and influence those close by who are less coherent.
Help Out:
If things are frantic, offer to help. If you have some local knowledge and are surrounded by disgruntled people who have travelled far to attend, then perhaps round them up and show them a good time. Chipping in even with seemingly insignificant things such as making the tea might free up other people better positioned to get stuck in with that broken aeroplane problem or downed computer network.
Patience:
A spoonful of patience goes a long way. If things are devolving into chaos aim to ease through it rather than throw wood on the fire. Try to remember that planning and executing a boogie takes a lot of work from all the people involved with the DZ and they rarely (if ever) make any money - and certainly not more than the usual daily business of the place. Not getting all up in people’s faces might help things to run smoothly again and shouting at the staff will help no-one.
Speak Out:
However! Don’t be afraid to speak up if you can see that something is dubious or outright dangerous. Stick your chin up and your chest out and say “What the fuck is this, you clueless morons?” Those responsible for an event that is going to shit may well be under fire from all angles, but if something is wrong they are required to honour everybody’s safety and fix it.
Conclusion:
All told, if your life allows you to own a parachute and use it recreationally then things are pretty good. Any kind of skydiving jamboree you attend will most likely be filled with treasured experiences you will talk about for years to come. If the odd one does not pan out exactly as you were hoping, then attempt to handle it in the most positive way possible - try not to make things worse, help others be safe wherever you can, and wring every bit of knowledge and experience you can from it to apply going forwards. If you do find yourself at an event that devolves into the kind of chaos where you are genuinely worried about making though with your personage and sanity intact - you can always simply walk away.

By admin, in Safety,

Brent Chandler Discusses Dekunu's Feature Filled Altimeter

Australian start-up Dekunu Technologies have spent much of 2017 teasing the release of a new breed of altimeter. A cool, but somewhat cryptic marketing campaign has generated a great deal of excitement but so far is light on actual details. Why? Behind the project is Brent Chandler - entrepreneur, skydiver and life-long coder. He joins us to shed a little light on the Dekunu project - how it got started, and where it is going.
Can you begin with a little bit of personal background?
“Without going into too much detail, I created a technology-based business within the hospitality industry in Australia, and over the last nine or ten years developed it to the point where it now runs itself. Once I reached the point where I had successfully built myself out of the company I found myself looking for something that ticked all the right boxes - a tech project that I was passionate about and would allow me to retain a lot of freedom to travel and skydive. After about six-months of conceptualising various different ideas, Dekunu stood out as the obvious choice. I have been passionate about technology my whole life, and although I have always struggled to ever learn say - a second spoken language, computer languages stick with me. For me programming is logical and makes sense. I can see it.”


What were the first steps in making this idea into a real project?
“Hardware technology. It was a tech genre I had never experienced before. Tech for me had always been software, writing code onto a screen - whereas with Dekunu we are creating concepts, schematics and then a physical product. This was super exciting for me to sink my teeth into, but admittedly intimidating as well. Before we got started I had little idea about what was involved. We got some electronics kits, and a year ago I made the first prototype. The first four prototypes were really just experiments in my understanding. We were using off-the-shelf components and writing code to get them to talk to each other. One of the biggest hurdles was when we moved on to writing our own complete board - where every wire, component, capacitor, resistor and transistor needed to be meticulously arranged. I wasn’t aware of how complicated that process was going to be - even now most days I will have hour-long conversations with our hardware engineers about the placement of one little half-millimetre sized component.”


What challenges have you faced creating hardware that needs to work reliably in a skydiving environment?
“Earlier in the prototyping process we didn’t have much consideration for things like operating environments - large temperature differentials, humidity requirements, impact resistance or anything like that. We just wanted it to work and then figure out where it was going to break. Being meticulous through all the various versions means that now we can very be specific about our requirements. We need to know what happens if someone leaves their device in the front of the plane under the engine bay and it gets to seventy degrees, or if it gets left outside somewhere below freezing. We have to be very thorough. The devices currently have 285 individual components - if any one of them goes wrong it could potentially harm someone. For Prototype 10 we did a lot of testing ourselves. All of the devices were jumped and the data compared before they were sent off to our team of testers and friends around the world - our Dekunu ambassadors. We decided to run the ambassador programme for a couple of reasons - it is a great marketing opportunity to have influential flyers from around the world running our equipment, but the vital part is exposure to testing environments that highlight things we simply cannot learn from jumping in Byron Bay every day. We have the luxury of being able to make mistakes with the prototypes, but cannot once we start selling the devices. We receive a lot of emails from people voicing their frustration that they cannot yet get their hands on one, and sure - we could capitalise on the engaged audience but to do so too early could very well result in shooting ourselves in the foot.”

Everyone wants to know what it does. What does it do?
“Without revealing some big, soon to be announced, functionality, the device is going to be all encompassing due to the infrastructure we are creating. Imagine that you come down from your jump and have not plugged into a computer or anything and you have access to all the information it has recorded - a lot of which at the moment without a SmartAlti is dominated by guess work, ego and bias. People will be able to answer a lot of questions with complete accuracy and answer them in the landing area. What was the exit separation? Exactly how hard was that opening? Why did people land off? What was the wind doing? Did we track in the right place? Did we open too close to each other? We want it to be so intuitive and connected that it works seamlessly with every type of device. You don’t have to be plugged into a computer for hours afterwards - you can be in the bar with your friends and have the whole experience on your phone. Also not just your information - a single dot on a screen. All your mates on the jump as well. The entire experience.
For many things in skydiving, simple is best. Does a device that is packed with features run the risk of over complicating things to the point of distraction?
“This is something we have discussed at length. No matter what happens - as soon as you jump it switches mode and there is nothing you can do on the device except see the altitude on a massive screen. At the moment the device enters a Plane Mode showing heading, ground speed and some other neat features like simple safety tips and reminders on the way to altitude such as when to remove your restraint, check your gear, get a pin check - things like that. We also have a version of the software that includes a student mode - which removes any unnecessary complications. Student mode could, for example, include the important things they need to remember about their jump plan. We are working on making this the best possible device for all users. We’ve saved the complications for our number crunching servers behind the scenes”

Brent is more guarded about some of the far reaching potential that fully networked, intelligent altimeters might have for the future of skydiving - sensibly circling back to the importance of the unit itself being success before the big plans happen.
“We have done an enormous amount of work on the backend and the visualisation systems - this data that people will have access to is going to allow them to learn so much more from their jumps. It is important for everything to be as intuitive as possible - if we create a system that is good but time-consuming for people to use, then they are not going to use it. We haven’t created this just for the technologically adept - we want it to be the default choice for all skydivers and not just those who like gadgets and want their altimeter to have a touchscreen. Our core ethos is about how this is going to bring more awareness to the sport of skydiving. More data, more transparency - that is really the focus. We see things progressing to the point where, such as with an AAD - if you don’t have a networked altimeter then you are not jumping. The idea being that this will become as normalised as owning any simple altimeter in the way you are required to now - the pricing is not much different, and the information will be so valuable that this is absolutely the way forward for the sport.”
The more elaborate details of what the Dekunu device does, and could do, remain to be seen and proven - but anyone who uses a modern phone is able to imagine the prospective gains that one of our mandatory pieces of safety gear becoming fully networked and similarly sophisticated could mean. Within recent history mobile technology has profoundly altered the way our daily lives operate, and transporting this potential into the skydiving environment is a very exciting prospect that could well have an amazing effect on how well we do what we do - how quickly we learn and how safe we all are. Brent and the Dekunu team are hard at work turning these ideas into reality.

By admin, in Gear,