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TunnelThrowaway

The overconfidence of tunnel instructors

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I'm posting this on an anonymous throwaway account because quite frankly, I'm too chickenshit to have this associated with my real identity and don't want it to negatively impact the connections and relationships I have within the skydiving/tunnel community. I feel like if I directly addressed my concerns to the people involved they would be brushed off (especially since I only have a couple hundred jumps and a coach rating, and am not an authority on anything tunnel or skydiving-related), so instead I'm taking it to a public forum.

I have noticed a disturbing trend lately where people who are highly experienced tunnel flyers but beginner skydivers WAY overestimate their level of competence and talent when it comes to skydiving. I primarily jump in Colorado, where there is a pretty solid community of tunnel rats and freeflyers and within the last couple years there have been a number of tunnel instructors making the transition to skydiving. From what I've seen, these tunnel instructors (and their peers/mentors) do not believe the rules that apply to every other beginner skydiver seem to apply to them. It seems like the norm is a tunnel flyer/instructor will get their A card stamped and immediately get pulled on an 8 way head down jump with all their tunnel flying buddies. And it goes beyond the implicit acceptance that such behavior is safe and normal, it's more like you HAVE to start doing serious multiway freefly jumps as soon as you're licensed. When we on dropzone.com hear about someone who starts sitflying right after graduating AFF or getting their A license, or a guy who straps on a gopro with 50 jumps, the clear consensus is that it's a bad idea. And yet, it appears there are special allowances made for tunnel instructors because their body flying abilities somehow mean they have the skydiving experience required to handle more dangerous/complex situations?

Probably the most troubling part of this (and the reason I created this thread) is what one of my friends told me last night: a couple tunnel instructors from Skyventure Colorado are attending the USPA board meeting this weekend where they will argue that tunnel time should be an acceptable substitute for skydives/freefall time when it comes to earning an AFF-I certification. My initial reaction to this is that my friend was messing with me, because who would seriously think this is a good idea? Being able to carve head down in the tunnel has nothing to do with safely conducting a student training program or AFF skydive, and with turbines making it easier than ever to accumulate jumps quickly the AFF-I requirements should be raised if anything. Anyway, it turns out he was not joking about this at all and a presentation will be made to the board this weekend. I looked up one of the guys who is arguing for this and he has less than 100 jumps, no coach rating (obviously), and his facebook is full of self-shot gopro videos of 10 way head down jumps. He appears to be completely obvious to why him getting an AFF rating would be a bad idea, which is EXACTLY why the requirements shouldn't be lowered, in my opinion.

I want to close by saying I am not condemning tunnel flying or instructors as a whole. I do quite of bit of tunnel flying myself and love it, and personally know many tunnel instructors who are also avid skydivers and did their progression the "right" way and didn't start flying smaller canopies or shooting video until they had the requisite experience. However, most of these people started a few years ago and it appears the "younger" generation of tunnel instructors and flyers have less respect for the concept of a sane progression. I think if we keep letting tunnel instructors break the rules (either explicitly or implicitly) it's only a matter of time before it results in a 8 page thread in the incidents forum of people questioning how so-and-so had hundreds of hours in the tunnel but <100 skydives and was doing _______.

Am I being too much of a busybody about this? Like I said, I'm no authority when it comes to skydiving or tunnel but I feel like I have enough sense to know when something is wrong with someone's attitude toward safety. And it's not like the current requirements to get an AFF-I are particularly stringent, if you are dedicated you can easily accumulate the required jumps/freefall in less than a year. My hope is that the USPA board points out what a bad idea this is when presented to this weekend, and the tunnel people involved gain a bit of humility in regards to their abilities when it comes to skydiving specifically.

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You're not over reacting, and knowing the facility I agree with your assessment of the staff. If the BOD is foolish enough to consider the motion, I think they will find themselves facing the music before the membership. This has come up before and has been shot down.
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Thanks for the post. I agree; tunnel flying, while giving you a wealth of experience in flying your body, does not teach one to skydive safely or confer one the ability to be a good AFF jumpmaster. The end of a tunnel session is very different than the end of a skydive (to use just one example) and confusing the two is fatal.

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When the two tunnel instructors went through Jay Stokes' AFF rating class a few months back, I thought it was an interesting stunt. But it's just that, a stunt, and I hope the USPA board will agree.

I'll be at the meeting and will make sure to attend the session that has this on the agenda. Hopefully it'll be a really brief "no way" vote.

Edited to add: I reviewed the agendas for the meeting and don't see this topic included. I looked at all of them, but it would seem like it would belong in Safety & Training. Am I missing it? Do you know where it's supposed to be discussed?

http://www.uspa.org/Portals/0/Downloads/Agenda_ST_2012_02.pdf

http://www.uspa.org/USPAMembers/Downloads/tabid/84/Default.aspx#2445
"There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences." -P.J. O'Rourke

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I don't believe it's on the official S&T agenda so I don't think there is a risk of it becoming official policy (sorry, I'm not versed on USPA meeting procedure), but that it's going to be more of an unofficial "presentation" to the board at some point.

Also I believe it is the same tunnel instructors who did Jay Stokes' course but I'm not 100% sure on that. I thought the same thing when I heard about it a few months ago, that it was a neat trick and good PR for wind tunnel flying. Arguing that they should be allowed to actually get their AFF-I, however, is not good PR and I don't see how any of the execs at Skyventure saw this was a good idea credibility-wise.

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Thanks for the post. I agree; tunnel flying, while giving you a wealth of experience in flying your body, does not teach one to skydive safely or confer one the ability to be a good AFF jumpmaster. The end of a tunnel session is very different than the end of a skydive (to use just one example) and confusing the two is fatal.



As long as someone considers that flying skills alone are what makes a good AFFI, then that person is not ready to teach.

I see that a LOT and it's frustrating. Yes, you do need very good flying skills, but that's just one facet of the rating.

...
Driving is a one dimensional activity - a monkey can do it - being proud of your driving abilities is like being proud of being able to put on pants

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I was under the impression that they were proposing tunnel training as being more of a supplemental training for AFF Instructors. The guys that went through the AFF-I instruction with Jay are not going to be actual instructors till they have met the criteria already set for instructors. Your original post appears to be more hearsay then first hand knowledge.

It's better to have the full story before making judgments on the merits of what they are proposing.

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I was under the impression that they were proposing tunnel training as being more of a supplemental training for AFF Instructors. The guys that went through the AFF-I instruction with Jay are not going to be actual instructors till they have met the criteria already set for instructors. Your original post appears to be more hearsay then first hand knowledge.



Here's a direct quote from one of the guys arguing for it: "We are trying to get create a tunnel training program for future AFF-I candidates. And allow the use of tunnel time to be credited towards a rating (in short)."

That doesn't sound like "supplementing" to me.

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Here's a direct quote from one of the guys arguing for it: "We ar trying to get create a tunnel training program for future AFF-I candidates. And allow the use of tunnel time to be credited towards a rating (in short)."



First part sounds great. Some AFFI candidates already do targeted tunnel work to get prepared. Sounds like an excellent marketing idea from a tunnel to package it up as a curriculum of sorts, especially if they work with AFF IEs or other highly experienced AFFIs to develop said curriculum.

Since it's just an optional supplemental training/readiness tool for AFFI candidates, I can't see why or how USPA as a governing body would need to get involved.

It's only when you throw in the second part that you'd need USPA's involvement. And that's where I don't like the idea.

(Of course, I'm neither an AFFI nor an AFF/IE, so take my opinion FWIW ... as with all opinions you get what you pay for:D).
"There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences." -P.J. O'Rourke

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Since it's just an optional supplemental training/readiness tool for AFFI candidates, I can't see why or how USPA as a governing body would need to get involved.



Unfortunately the USPA already started down that slippery slope a few years back when they allowed wind tunnels to receive group membership.
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You're not as good as you think you are. Seriously.

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Since it's just an optional supplemental training/readiness tool for AFFI candidates, I can't see why or how USPA as a governing body would need to get involved.



Unfortunately the USPA already started down that slippery slope a few years back when they allowed wind tunnels to receive group membership.



I didn't know that. But I'm not sure it's relevant to this discussion - unless the proposed training program is being proposed to become a required part of the AFFI course.
"There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences." -P.J. O'Rourke

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Freefly like a Pro.......Land like a student, under a student canopy. Follow student canopy progression standards.....then you might be going some place....but what WILL happen is these instructors thinking they can land/swoop like very experienced canopy pilots, which they are not, will start crashing and burning all over the place.....[:/]
Life is short ... jump often.

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>but what WILL happen is these instructors thinking they can land/swoop like very
>experienced canopy pilots . . .

Or spot an airplane.
Or determine exit separation.
Or deal with turbulence under canopy.
Or land out.
Or launch a subterminal exit.
Or deal with a bailout.

There's a lot to being a skydiver; freefall is only one small part of it.

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Tunnel time is a great supplement to experience in actual free fall. I did an hour of tunnel working on fall rate, roll-over, spins stops before my AFFi course and it was great experience. But there is no substitution for the free fall experience with student/evaluators; the tunnel is small and limiting when it comes to a student in an AFF jump. Good experience and practice for certain skills; not a substitute for real free fall and chasing a student.
Charlie Gittins, 540-327-2208
AFF-I, Sigma TI, IAD-I
MEI, CFI-I, Senior Rigger
Former DZO, Blue Ridge Skydiving Adventures

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More importantly there is no substitute for being on a DZ and the experience of seeing how things go right and wrong. I'd argue that with the state of skydiving as it is there should be some higher standards in place including a time in sport requirement.
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You're not as good as you think you are. Seriously.

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>but what WILL happen is these instructors thinking they can land/swoop like very
>experienced canopy pilots . . .

Or spot an airplane.
Or determine exit separation.
Or deal with turbulence under canopy.
Or land out.
Or launch a subterminal exit.
Or deal with a bailout.

There's a lot to being a skydiver; freefall is only one small part of it.



Or gear related questions
Or packing
Or good gear checks
Or determining exit order
Or KNOWING WHEN TO SIT DOWN.
"I may be a dirty pirate hooker...but I'm not about to go stand on the corner." iluvtofly
DPH -7, TDS 578, Muff 5153, SCR 14890
I'm an asshole, and I approve this message

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Tunnel is no replacement for skydiving for skydiving related activities.

Yes, flying in the tunnel will greatly help your skills in the Air. But I have more than enough stories of fantastic tunnel fliers getting hurt while skydiving.

So, I don't think tunnel should EVER replace skydiving requirements. Now, that being said, tunnel can sure as hell supplement skydiving skills. I spent ~20 mins with Paul Rafferty in the Bragg tunnel working on stopping spins and rollovers years ago. Now that did not replace my doing them in the air, but you wanna bet that it sure as hell made the air work easier?

I hope the USPA never allows tunnel to replace skydiving skills..... But I would encourage either the tunnels to create a tunnel version of the USPA, or even the USPA to create some sort of tunnel program.

I see this a lot like taking AFF students to the tunnel... When we started doing that people thought we were crazy. Yet, I have taught AFF to students that were flying in the 'mantis' due to their tunnel time. Frankly, it works.
"No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms." -- Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson Papers, 334

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I think the tunnel is a great supplement to skydiving training. It's most certainly not a replacement.



And I would disagree with that wholeheartedly.
Tunnel is a great supplement to freefall training...nothing more, nothing less.
My reality and yours are quite different.
I think we're all Bozos on this bus.
Falcon5232, SCS8170, SCSA353, POPS9398, DS239

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>but what WILL happen is these instructors thinking they can land/swoop like very
>experienced canopy pilots . . .

Or spot an airplane.
Or determine exit separation.
Or deal with turbulence under canopy.
Or land out.
Or launch a subterminal exit.
Or deal with a bailout.

There's a lot to being a skydiver; freefall is only one small part of it.



...or being capable of teaching any of that.
My reality and yours are quite different.
I think we're all Bozos on this bus.
Falcon5232, SCS8170, SCSA353, POPS9398, DS239

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I think the tunnel is a great supplement to skydiving training. It's most certainly not a replacement.



And I would disagree with that wholeheartedly.
Tunnel is a great supplement to freefall training...nothing more, nothing less.



Now that's just being anal. Either way it's a supplement.

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I hope the USPA never allows tunnel to replace skydiving skills..... But I would encourage either the tunnels to create a tunnel version of the USPA, or even the USPA to create some sort of tunnel program.



Wouldn't the IBA qualify as the tunnel version of the USPA?
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I think the tunnel is a great supplement to skydiving training. It's most certainly not a replacement.



And I would disagree with that wholeheartedly.
Tunnel is a great supplement to freefall training...nothing more, nothing less.



Now that's just being anal. Either way it's a supplement.


Anal? And you would be correct. I'm like that in many ways, I know....particularly so when it comes to students and young jumpers and dealing with them. Much more loosey-goosey with experienced jumpers.

Either way a supplement? That's the part I disagree with. One way, yes, the other, no.

Great tool for learning freefall skills. Worthless for learning other skills that have already been highlighted. Simple as that.
My reality and yours are quite different.
I think we're all Bozos on this bus.
Falcon5232, SCS8170, SCSA353, POPS9398, DS239

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