Let's talk about decision making...

Recommended Posts

There's a thread about the recent fatality in New Mexico where a jumper with 600 jumps made a low turn on a highly loaded x-braced canopy. Of course the jumpers experience was called into question, as it was low considering the size, WL and elevation of the LZ. This, of course again, prompted a friend of the jumper to comment as to how heartless skydivers could be, to point out these errors post-mortem and further hurt his friends and family, to which another jumper replied -


Why didn't his family or friends try to stop him from getting in so far over his head that his death wasn't a matter of "if" as much as it was a matter of "when"

I'll skip over the correct assertion that the incidents forum is there to discuss incidents, to include the errors made.

Back to the reply, it is partially correct. The jumpers friends do hold some responsibility as the poster suggested, as his friends would probably be jumpers, and would be aware of the nature of his equipment choice. I'm not saying that the jumper would have listened to their concerns if they voiced them, but they would have the knowledge and opportunity to voice them.

Where the reply is incorrect is where he involves the jumpers family. In the vast majority of cases, the jumpers family does not have the detailed knowledge of skydiving in order to comment as to the safety (or lack thereof) of the decisions that jumpers make. For example, my mom doesn't know the first thing about canopies, and if I told her I planned to jump a Comp Velo 71 into a tight demo, she would smile and say, 'That's nice dear....'.

Where am I going with this? The exchange in the thread reminded me of a piece I read in the current issue of Flying magazine (May 2013, p26) regarding risk taking and how to train pilots about the consequences.

The gist of it is that they see the same general type of accidents over and over again in general aviation. Most of the time, accidents fall into one of a handful of basic catagories, and it's rare to see one that it truely unique, which is not unlike skydiving.

As an example, take the double fatality in Z-Hills, where a student and instructor both hit the ground with nothing out (or inflated). See how the thread on that incident is far longer than any other thread in the forum, and that's because it's such a rare event. It's not the 'ususal' fatality, and so it's 'of interest'.

Anyway, back to the article, he goes on to say that complacency plays a big role in the repeating of these same incidents, and that he had a chance to attend a safety training course at a major airline where they took an interesting route towards preventing these accidents.

What they did was a role-playing exercise, where two pilots sat side-by-side facing the class, and they represented a pilot and co-piot who had been killed in an accident caused by pilot error. Other members of the class were then assigned to play the family members of those pilots, and more or less askked them to defend the actions that lead to their death.

"Dad, we miss you! Why did you continue the approach when there was heavy rain and wind shear? Why not wait for the storm to pass or divert to an alternate airpport?"

"Honey, it's hard to go on without you! Why didn't you turn around when you saw that squall line up ahead?"

The end result of the exercise was that there wasn't a dry eye in the room. The author said he remembers the day quite clearly, despite it being 20-some years ago.

Back to skydiving, I've made similar references to jumpers who were making bad choices. I've asked, "How would your mother feel if it was explained to her the chances you were taking with your life, and the good advice that you disregarded?"

"How do you think she would feel it all came to light after there was an incident that took your life?"

An accident is one thing, a jumper who is in way over their head who is invovled in an incident isn't as much of an accident. Like the reply quoted above says, 'It's less a question of 'if', and more of a question of 'when'.

The point to this whole thing is that you need to look past yourself, and your own interests (such as progressing in skydiving, or looking cool on the DZ) and think about the extent that your choices could impact the people in your life that you care about.

I know that jumping out of planes is taking a risk, and I say what I say with the idea that jumping in itself is a given. That's a risk we all take, but when you take risks that the other risk-takers around you seem to think are 'too much', that should really make you think.

So take a minute, and think about the choices you make. Think about how your friends, faimily, children, etc would feel if those choices took your life. Would it be the result of a freak accident that nobody could predict, or would the truth be revealed that you were being reckless and acting without thinking about anyone but yourself? Your loved ones are already living without you, should it be with the added burden that they are doing so due to your own selfish motivations?

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
This post should be made a sticky. I'd like to see it with the downsizing checklist though the appeal should be considered to be much broader (wind, other weather, beach jumps, cameras, wingsuits, etc). I think almost everyone could find a jump (and plenty of other decisions) that they should have applied this logic to. I know I can.

Best post ever.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
Fabulous post! Thank you!

Many of the safety discussions in skydiving involve "It is my choice to take on this excess risk... leave me alone".

I remember a few summers ago when I landed stupidly and dislocated my ankle. 10 minutes later I was lying on the floor of the hangar making phone calls... to the people who were affected by my injury:

Call #1: My wife. She had to interrupt her day to come retrieve me from the DZ. Her life was disrupted for the next couple of weeks as I was recovering.

Call #2: My boss. My injury affected my boss, my co-workers, and my students. All had to change what they did to accommodate my absence for several weeks.

Rare is the skydiver who is so disconnected from the world that their death or serious injury will not affect others. No man is an island.

The choices we make have consequences, for us AND for others!
The choices we make have consequences, for us & for others!

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

To foresee the unforeseeable is not a human trait, at some point we must accept John Maynard Keynes observation that “in the long run we are all dead”.

I think that Dave's point is that so many of these type of accidents ARE foreseeable - if not as a certainty then at least as a very distinct probability.
"The ground does not care who you are. It will always be tougher than the human behind the controls."

~ CanuckInUSA

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.