Leaderboard


Popular Content

Showing content with the highest reputation since 06/04/2019 in Articles

  1. 4 points
    It’s Not What You Do (Or the Size of Your Dropzone): It’s How You Do It Jen Sharp -- since 2017, the Director of IT for the USPA -- is a woman of note for a long list of reasons. Jen’s a font of wisdom, a truly badass skydiving instructor and a businesswoman of uncommon strength and clarity (proof: she spent 21 years owning a successful small drop zone in Kansas). When she speaks, one should do themselves the favor of listening. If you don’t already know her story: Jen has been jumping since she was 18 years old. She opened Skydive Kansas directly after her college graduation, when she had a full-time teaching job and only 300 jumps. (Even then, she’d already been working as a static line jumpmaster, instructor, packer, rigger and radio-wrangler. Supergirl, basically.) Since then, she has traveled extensively as a jumper, an instructor and a public speaker. It was 1995 when Jen opened her dropzone: the days of saving up your vacation days for the World Freefall Convention; of spending Friday night to Sunday dinnertime on the dropzone; of single-plane 182 dropzones all over the place and, like, eight places you could go to fulfill a turbine craving. The close knit of those intimate little club-format dropzones has, of course, steadily unwound since then in most places. Adding skydiving to the schedule has become much more of a surgical strike: you get to the DZ at 10am and manifest immediately so you can make it to Crossfit by 4. You sift through regional skydiving events on Facebook, few of which require more than a handful of minutes’ worth of planning. You drive hours for a turbine. Jen takes on her alter ego, “Stu,” as a student (get it?!) on an AFF eval jump. It would be easy to mourn the loss of the small dropzone as an entity -- there are precious few of them left, proportionally to their previous numbers -- but Jen refuses to. For her, the “small dropzone feel” is the culture we should all be striving for, even if there happen to be seven Skyvans in the hangar archipelago. “The best vibes are at the places that keep the actual perspective, not just the party line, that we are all just people and all just want to have fun,” she begins. “The ones that embody safety in the active choices to care for each other. The places that assume the best in people. Luckily, that’s really simple to do.” Simple? Yes. Easy? Not necessarily, but according to Jen, that’s what we are really going for here: an inviting culture. Example after example proves that business success will follow that beacon significantly more reliably than it will follow volume. “What that culture is not,” Jen clarifies, “is the culture of the burned-out tandem instructor, hauling meat; a culture where an instructor never connects with their student; where they don’t even call them students, but passengers. If you call them a passenger, they are one-and-done. They know their place with you. But if you call them a student -- and you truly think of them that way -- the whole dynamic is going to be different.” How do you change the dynamic? By changing the way you see the person in the harness. “The public we meet is awesome,” she continues. “And we forget that! We totally forget this as instructors -- especially, tandem instructors. We forget that the person we’re taking is amazing. Why? Because they are not on the couch. A normal person is just sitting there on the couch on the weekend or maybe vacuuming or making snacks, drinking beer and watching TV. But this person is okay with being uncomfortable; with putting their life in your hands. They are excited about it, and they are trusting you. That already makes them a really cool person.” Doing an interview at PIA 2015. “If you want to see the average person, go to Walmart,” she laughs. “That’s the ‘average person.’ The person walking on a dropzone for the first time is not the average person. They are already living on a level that we should resonate with, especially since they’re new and they need our guidance.” For Jen, in fact, the “passenger” moniker is no less than a dishonor. “Homogenizing everyone who walks in the door into a ‘passenger’ has a couple of outcomes,” Jen explains. “It burns tandem instructors out. It burns the public out against skydiving when we make the assumption that they don’t know anything. Where did we even get that idea in the first place? Sure, they don’t know anything about skydiving, but they probably know a lot about something else.” “When I would take tandem students, I didn’t know who they were, necessarily,” she muses. “I would always ask ‘why are you here today,’ but they weren’t always going to tell their life story. I would find out later that we had just taken a brain surgeon, or the senator from some western county in Kansas. You never know who that person is. They’re just walking around in their sweats because you told them to dress comfortably. So -- if you’re starting to feel the burnout, try allowing yourself to be curious about them. And, if you’re a dropzone owner, strive to instill that curiosity in your instructor staff.” Who knows: That curiosity, manifesting as totally authentic friendliness, could end up defining a regional dropzone’s niche. “If drop zones realize how many kinds of niches there are to occupy,” Jen says, “I don’t think we’d ever talk in terms of ‘small,’ ‘medium’ and ‘large’ dropzone. You can occupy a really strong, functional cultural niche without being the biggest DZ around, or having the most airplanes, or doing the most tandems. As a dropzone, your niche really comes from whatever it is that you want to bring to the table -- and your resources and your passions -- and you succeed when you fulfill that to the max. I think a lot of places are figuring that out, and that’s contributing to the fact that we now have more of a variety of dropzones than we ever have before.” Y’know that bit about a cultural "niche"? Jen insists that it’s not just about feels. It’s about returns, too. A strong niche can turn into a marketing advantage. “Not every dropzone should compete on price,” Jen notes. “It's conceivable for a smaller DZ to actually make more profit by doing less jumps. Profit is not the same as gross.” “It’s as straightforward as reaching the fullest manifestation of what you’re capable of doing,” she adds, smiling, “and, of course, always trying to get better.”
  2. 2 points
    Harnesses: Fitting to your body and effects to consider... During part 1 (take a look here) we described the different parts of a skydiving harness and the materials used on it. On the second part we are a bit more practical. Here we will go through most (all?) harness options and designs, independently of the manufacturer. We will see what they are and which purpose they have, so you can decide if they are for you or not. Most manufacturers are open to offer non standard options if the buyer asks about it. However, there is a significant number of options that are specific for a subgroup of manufacturers, and therefore you can't freely mix and match every single option explained here. To keep things ordered we will go from top to bottom of the harness. Let's go! Risers Going from top to bottom, the first thing you find are the main risers. As simple as they seem to be, they have a significant number of options. Webbing The first thing to decide is which type of webbing you want on your risers. In this time and age there is little debate: If you are not an outlier you'll want type 17 risers. There are multiple reasons. The main technical reason is that it makes it easier to pull down the slider to stow it behind your head. Type 17 is also preferred to type 8 because of its lower bulk and cooler appearance (which is, of course, not a technical reason). It typically comes paired with minirings, which are also less bulky than traditional rings and "cool" looking. Regarding webbing, a second option is to have risers sewed in half, reducing its cross section and drag. This option is only available in type 17 risers and has a very specific audience: hardcore swoopers. They need to reduce drag as much as possible, to squeeze out all the performance in their canopies. If you are not a hardcore swooper you can ignore this option. Moreover, some manufacturers advise against these low profile risers if you are going to deploy at terminal speed. The last bit regarding webbing on risers is its length. 21" (53 cm) is the standard length of many manufacturers. As usual, check first with them to ensure that is true. You can also order them shorter (if you have short arms) or longer. It is normally recommended to have them as long as possible, but allowing to reach the slider. That's because with longer risers the canopy can "open up" a bit more, and you'll have more range in all your controls, particularly in toggles. That also means that you can stall your canopy easier, so the whole system has to be in balance. Diving loops Diving loops are nowadays kind of standard, and even rigs targeted at newly licensed skydivers have them. There are, however almost as many kinds as manufacturers. The simplest type is a loop of type 17 webbing sewed close to the top of the front risers. These loops are easy to manufacture, cheap, and play no role on hooking your main canopy. On the flip side, they lay flat against the risers, making them more difficult to grab and causing distractions, and are harder on the fingers. Another common type of loop uses tubular webbing. The advantage of this type of loop over the simple type 17 is two-fold: It is easier on the fingers, allowing to hold the front risers longer, and the loop tends to stay open, making it easier to grab. Sometimes these loops have extra material inside (stiffeners or bungee cords) to ensure they stay open when you need them. It is also possible that the tubular webbing is sewed in the inside part of a regular type 17 loop. In recent years the so called "louie" loops have become more popular. These loops have a double layer of webbing, and stay easily open. But their most distinctive feature is that they wrap the loop used to connect the canopy to the risers. That implies 2 things: First and foremost, they require more attention when connecting a canopy. The soft links (these loops do not accept hard links) have to go through the diving loops and the connecting loops. Routing the soft links just through the diving loops can have serious consequences. The stitching could break and the whole line group could be released. The advantage of these loops is that it allows the canopy pilot to pull from the highest point of the risers, giving more range and a more comfortable pull. Diving loop with tubular webbing on the inside for added comfort and to keep it open. Louie loop. Note how the soft link has to go through the link loop and the dive loop. The last thing to comment here is that CRW dogs typically have dive blocks instead of dive loops. Dive blocks are easier to grab and release, which makes them more useful than loops in that environment. Toggles Manufacturing techniques vary wildly between different rigs. So much, that we won't cover them in too much detail here. What is important is that the toggles stay secured until you grab them. To the best of my knowledge, that is true for every modern reputable manufacturer. Nevertheless, we can analyze the different components/options, even though each manufacturer uses its own technique and rarely offers changes to it. Brake line retainer: That's the part of the toggle that goes through the cat's eye in the brake lines. Normally it is a "hardened" piece made using multiple layers of webbing. Some manufacturers use a straight pin instead. While this seems like a good idea, it opens the door to misrigging, since the pin fits through the guide ring. That could result in the brake line pulling on the pin and its pocket, which could be easily damaged. Toggle retainers: The toggles need to be secured in place. This is achieved with either stiffer parts inserted in pockets in the risers (just like the brake line retainer), straight pins inserted in tighter pockets, or snaps. The number of stiff parts and pins varies between 2 and 3. The orientation also varies. That is why some cases require an upwards motion before pulling the toggles down to release them. Should snaps be used, it is important to remark that the snaps should perforate an extra piece of webbing sewed in the risers, not the webbing of the risers itself. Slack retainers: These are loops sewed on the back side of the back risers. They can be a simple piece of tape (which tend to let the slack a bit more loose), or a elastic (which secures the slack better, but makes the slack stowing more tedious). Toggle with stiffener on top and pin on bottom, tape slack retainers and closed top pocket. Other options are stiffeners on top on bottom, pin on top, extra stiffener pointing downwards on top, elastic retainers and open (at the top) top pocket. Additional guide rings Some riser manufactures have the option of placing an extra set of guide rings at the top of the risers. This way, during full flight, the brake lines go through this set of rings, but not through the normal guide rings. To stow the brakes the cat's eye has to go through the normal rings, the toggle has to lock the brake in place, and the excess can be normally stowed. The benefit of this option is to have a smoother transition to rears, and reduce the length that the brake line is traveling, since it doesn't have to go down to the guide ring and up again towards wherever the pilot has his/her hands. If you are into canopy piloting, or if you need to have very short brake lines, this might be an interesting option for you. 3 rings The last set of options in the risers is the 3 rings system. The first thing to decide here is if you are happy with today's standard: Minirings. The vast majority of sport rigs have them today, mostly for aesthetic reasons. They work just fine, and you rarely see rigs with large rings nowadays. But the pulley minirings form is slightly less effective than in large rings. That means that the force needed during cutaway might be higher. Modern risers have extra housings for the cutaway cable -sometimes with teflon inserts-, to avoid them from being pinched in twists, and make cutaways more difficult. The usage of these housings in modern risers offsets the extra force required to cutaway with minirings in most cases. Another thing to consider is that typically minirings come with type 17 risers, and large rings with type 8 risers, even though other combinations are possible. So the type of webbing you want on your risers might tip the balance for you, if you are undecided. Aerodyne, to keep the aesthetics of minirings but without compromising on pull forces, designed a modified 3-ring release system. The "miniforce" rings system is essentially the same as other minirings systems, but with an enlarged middle ring. That improves the pulley efficiency and reduces the load in the white loop. If you want to use these risers in a container not manufactured by Aerodyne, check first with your manufacturer about component compatibility. We will talk a bit more about this at the end of the section. Aerodyne's "miniforce" 3-rings system. Lastly, you can decide the hardware finish. There are 3 main options in the market: Cadmium plated steel: This is possibly the oldest type of hardware used in skydiving that is still sold today. It works well will all kinds of webbing, the plating offers corrosion protection and it is generally cheaper, despite the extra costs associated to dealing with cadmium's toxicity. However, the plating can flake off over years, and then corrosion might happen, depending on the environmental conditions and how you treat your gear. Moreover, it is not shiny, which goes against one of the (sadly) first principles of skydiving: You have to look cool. Cadmium plated steel 3-rings system after more than 1000 jumps. Stainless steel: This kind of hardware is the most commonly used today. It offers better corrosion protection than plated steel, since there is not plating that can flake off. It is and stays shiny. And it slips more. 3-rings release system can lose about 5% efficiency (more force transmitted to the small ring) because of the reduced friction. Arguably, in well manufactured miniring systems, it doesn't play a role. Stainless steel 3-rings system after 100 jumps. Black hardware: This is the latest addition in hardware finish. It is steel hardware with an oxide layer, that gives it its matte black color. It is relatively recent, so field experience is more limited than stainless steel and cadmium plated steel. Some people claim that after hundreds of jumps it doesn't have significant usage marks. However, at least in some cases, marks are pretty visible (see also the pictures of chest rings). Black 3-rings system after 100 jumps. The chosen finish will affect the 3-rings system, buckles, chest and hip rings, and RSL shackles. However, whatever you choose, it won't affect the grommets or housings of your rig. Maybe something to consider. Some people mix risers with different hardware materials and from different manufacturers. This works fine in most cases. However, you are stacking the odds against you if you are not careful. On one hand dimensions and placement of all the parts should match. RSL ring side, cutaway cable inserts and length of cable, large ring dimensions -that can be different even among minirings systems-, large ring placement -higher or lower in the MLW-. All these are things to consider. There have been already fatalities rooted in a poor mix of components (reverse risers on a Javelin container). On the other hand, NAS-804, the specification required by TSO-C23b, states "The use of dissimilar metals, especially brass, copper, or steel in intimate metal-to-metal contact with aluminum or aluminum alloy, shall be avoided, whenever possible.". So, in principle, unless you know better, you should avoid mixing types for extended periods of time, as you might cause premature degradation of your hardware. Also, "miniforce" risers work fine with Aerodyne rigs. But the enlarged middle ring might not release cleanly in other rigs. Check compatibility with the manufacturer of your rig before using that mix. Chest rings Exploring down our harness we get to the chest strap junction. Most manufacturers -but not all- add chest rings to articulate their harness, either by default, or as an option. A fully articulated harness (with chest and hip rings) is supposed to be more comfortable, as the webbing doesn't need to bend and fold as much as a non-articulated harness. However, the chest is an area where these deformations are not really pronounced. As much as your body moves and twists in freefall, your upper torso stays pretty rigid. Nevertheless, chest rings help to avoid awkward and uncomfortable webbing twisting when the harness has been made for a larger person than the wearer. In these cases, the tendency is to overtighten the chest strap to compensate and secure better the jumper. That brings both chest junction together more than they should, and without rings the webbing would be unnaturally bent at that point. Of course, in an ideal world, every skydiver would have a harness that fits them properly, so this would never happen. Besides the arguable increase in comfort, chest rings are an excellent investment if, for whatever reason, the harness needs to be resized or repaired in the lower MLW. With chest rings the area affected is reduced to the webbing between the chest and hip rings. Without chest rings, the amount of work (and price) for this would be significantly higher, since the MLW is sewed to more components that would need resewing or replacement. Like the 3-rings release system, the chest rings can have different finish. More unique to chest rings is their orientation, and its influence on fitting and chest strap width. The chest rings used in every modern harness/container system are always very similar to the large ring in the 3-rings release system. The only possible difference is the bend in the slot where the MLW is threaded, which might or might not be present. In the chest, manufacturers orient the ring in 2 different ways: With the threading slot towards the upper MLW, or towards the chest strap. There are a few subtle implications: Rings with a vertical orientation (threading slot towards upper MLW) accept more naturally type 17 chest straps. In roughly half the circumference of the ring, the manufacturer has to accomodate the lower MLW and the chest strap, so commonly type 17 is used for the chest strap. That doesn't mean that type 8 is not possible. It is, but being it more bulky, it is less convenient. Rings with a horizontal orientation (threading slot towards chest strap) accept more naturally type 8 chest straps. I have yet to see this configuration with type 17, but it is, in theory, possible. Looks would be compromised for no reason though, so it is unlikely you'll see it either. Another thing to consider with this configuration is the range of motion of the upper MLW. Here, it can slide to the sides easier (the ring stays in place and the upper MLW can slide on it) than in vertical configuration (where the whole ring has to move and overcome the friction with the chest strap and the lower MLW). What that means is that when flying steep head down angles, the harness can slip down (up?) your shoulders easier than in other cases. Black chest ring after 1000 jumps. Note the shiny side on the right. Chest ring with the threading slot towards the upper MLW and a type 17 chest strap. The last option to consider regarding chest rings is the use of padding under the rings. Not many manufacturers offer it, but it is nevertheless possible. Chest ring with the threading slot towards the type 8 chest strap. The additional tape keeps the padding secured under the ring. Chest strap As we mentioned already, there are two chest strap widths to choose from. Regarding strength, there is no real difference, since the weakest point is the friction adapter, which is rated at 500 lbs independently of the width. Type 17 is less bulky and has less drag, which some swoopers would care about. It is also true that these same swoopers, the ones that can notice the difference, would completely remove their chest strap after opening and stow it away (while using a belly band to secure themselves). So this is also a moot point. At the end, this is one of these options that are completely a matter a personal taste. Another option regarding chest straps is their length. Most manufacturers have a standard length, which is typically around 19" (48cm). Normally this can be extended at no cost. Long chest straps allow the jumper to open up their harness and therefore their canopy, for increased efficiency. With a long chest strap it is also possible to lean forward during landing for a more active canopy piloting position. Regardless the length of your chest strap, if you are going to loosen it as much as you can, you should pay attention to its termination. Type 8 chest straps have a folded end that acts as a stopper and prevents the chest strap from being accidentally unthreaded. Type 17 terminations are sometimes not that effective, depending on how it was done. Termination of a type 8 chest strap. The tip has 4 layers to make it stiffer and the tab prevents the strap from being accidentally removed. Terminations of type 17 chest straps. The top picture has an extra tape, that creates a tab. The bottom picture has a stiffener at the tip. Note how fuzzy they are, specially the one on top. That's the effect of rubber instead of the normal elastic bands. Lastly, some manufacturers offer wide webbing loops in the chest strap to stow it. That replaces the default elastic bands, that tend to stretch over time loosing effectiveness, and can also get lost. This option is more common on type 17 chest straps than on type 8. Whatever you choose (elastic band or webbing loop) avoid rubber bands anywhere in contact with webbing. Rubber bands are fairly abrasive. As a result they will weaken your webbing and make it look fuzzier. Handles The next decision point coming down the harness affects the cutaway and reserve handles. The most common combination is a pillow for the right side (cutaway), and a metal ring for the reserve ripcord. But there are variations. Pillow handles are popular among freeflyers, because they are less snag prone than other options. Many of them use pillows for both the cutaway and reserve handles. The obvious downside, is that they make grabbing and pulling them more complicated. A pillow requires your whole hand to grab it. On top of that, it has a similar texture to your jumpsuit fabric, so if you are not looking and you have a loose suit you can grab part of your jumpsuit by mistake. To make them easier to grab, some manufacturers make sure they have a harder core. Others make them extra fat. And others sew an extra layer of a less slippery material. You can also embroider pillows for extra "flashiness", which is not possible with other types of handles. Reserve pillow handle, with embroidery, a pocket between both pieces of webbing on the MLW, and a spectra ripcord. Metal rings have been around a longer time than pillow handles. They are easier to grab (you can simply hook your thumb through them) and have a very distinctive feeling, so you can't possibly grab your jumpsuit fabric by mistake. On the other hand they are easier to snag when your buddy is grabbing your harness or with a small camera during exit. To mitigate that, some manufacturers offer low profile D rings, that stick out less than traditional D rings. Reserve D ring with a pocket between both pieces of webbing, and a steel cable ripcord. The last option is having a webbing loop with a stiffener inside to retain its open shape. These handles are very common in tandem rigs. However, in sport rigs they are rarely used. They are compromise between pillow and D ring handles. The reserve ripcord has been made of a steel cable for a long time. It works well in most cases, and most manufacturers stick to it. Others give the option of using a spectra ripcord with a bungee inside. In some cases this is the default for new rigs. The claimed advantages are many. Since spectra is more slippery than steel cables, it reduces the pull force required. In case of a dislodged handle, the bungee will keep it close to the housing and minimize the area in which it will be bouncing around. It is also cheaper to manufacture and inspect in some cases (steel cables have a hidden swage inside the pillow to keep them connected to the handle). However, it is slightly easier to misrig (the reserve pin can be threaded through just some fibers of the ripcord, instead of through the loop) and can be damaged by a sharp edge in the housing easier than a steel cable. The next option here is the material of the cutaway cable. Almost every manufacturer offers "lolon" coated cables. These are the standard yellow cables that most people are familiar with. They are reliable if the user/rigger ensures proper length and maintenance. The maintenance requires regular cleaning and lubrication of the cables. This is often neglected, which can result in increased pull forces during a cutaway. An alternative material is teflon coated cables. These are orange or red, and are currently in use just by Parachute Labs and their Racer harness/container. The advantage is that they don't require periodic cleaning and lubrication. However, getting them right is more complicated, as teflon doesn't stick easily to the cable. That resulted in the past in the core of the cable detaching from the coating, leaving the sheath locking the 3-rings release system. Regardless of the material you chose, it would be smart to check regularly your cables for cracks or other issues to avoid similar situations, as in theory it could also happen with "lolon" cables. Finally, there are a few ways to construct the pockets for the handles. The most common ways are either sandwiched between the 2 pieces of webbing of the MLW, or with a specifically manufactured pocket made of fabric wrapping the MLW webbing. As long as the velcro is in good condition, both are equally secure. On rigs with chest and hip rings the pocket wrapping the MLW is more common, as there is extra stitching necessary to secure the MLW in place, right where the handles are. Another advantage of the fabric pocket is that velcro is placed further away from webbing, avoiding possible contact and damage. On some older rigs, the cutaway handle might be attached just with a simple velcro strip, without extra pockets or in between the MLW. This is easier to disengage accidentally. Reserve pillow handle, with pocket wrapping the MLW and a steel cable ripcord. Cutaway pillow handle, with a simple velcro strip on the back side of the MLW. Hip rings More important than chest rings, are hip rings. However, they are more difficult to evaluate for a variety of reasons. The most important one, is that each manufacturer puts together in that junction a different set of harness components. Let's see this in more detail: MLW, laterals and front and back leg straps: Some manufacturers might connect together in a single round ring 4 different components. This has a couple of disadvantages, and that's why it is not a common configuration. First and foremost: it connects the leg straps too far up. The angles then could be a bit more awkward and less comfortable, particularly if you are a tall person and want to sit on your harness during canopy flight. Secondly, with 4 connected components there is little room for a belly band. Round hip ring connecting 4 different components (lower MLW, laterals and front and back leg straps). MLW, laterals and a single leg strap junction point: This setup is far more common than the previous one. Having the front and back leg strap junction working independently from the ring, and therefore placing this junction further down in the harness, allows to have a more comfortable fit. The angles of the leg strap become more natural. Nevertheless, the consequence of this is that the leg strap becomes slightly more stiff. There is a non-articulated junction between front and back leg straps, and they move as a single component. Most manufacturers design the geometry of this junction in a way where the back leg strap connects to the ring, and the front leg strap connects to the back leg strap. Rigging Innovations does it the opposite way in their Curv. There these roles are reserved and the front leg strap is connected directly to the ring. As a result, when the leg strap moves forward, it pulls in a bit more on the hip ring, and consequentially on the whole container. Round hip ring connecting 4 different components (lower MLW, lateral, belly band and leg strap) MLW and front and back leg straps: This arrangement is also very common. The ring is placed further down than in the previous case, which allows to connect independently the front and back leg straps, while preserving comfortable angles. Laterals are connected to the MLW above the ring in this setup. That junctions is very stiff, and right above it is the handle pocket. The small area in between absorbs whatever angle change you induce by leaning forward, so it ends up bending sharply. Another effect of this arrangement is that having the rings below that junction makes belly bands sit further low than in harnesses with rings connecting laterals. But the positive side is that both parts of the leg strap can move independently. Some people like them to move "at once", and so opt for a setup that adds an extra piece of fabric that softly links front and back leg straps and slightly covers the ring. Hip ring connecting 3 different components (lower MLW and front and back leg straps linked with an extra piece of fabric). Note how further up is the lateral junction. Each arrangement is a tradeoff. Depending on your body type and chosen discipline, you might prefer one setup or another. Part 3 will focus on body types and will explain how theses tradeoffs might affect you. As with chest rings, repairs are easier on harnesses with hip rings than without them. Another thing in common with chest rings is that hip rings are also affected by your choice of hardware finish. An option related to hip rings is the belly band. This component can have 2 different functions. Most people that use them do it in their swoop setup. They undo completely their chest strap, and stow it away. To stay secured in the harness they use belly bands. The second group of people interested in belly bands are people whose harness has laterals that are too long. With a belly band they can pull their hip rings a bit forward, making their container stay closer to their lower back and move less in freefall. That is particularly important while freeflying. Of course moving the hip rings too much forward can distort the harness geometry and affect comfort. If you are in this situation chances are that you should get your harness resized. Hip ring connecting 4 different components (lower MLW, front and back leg strap, and belly band). Note how this setup places the belly band lower than in a setup with a ring connecting to the lateral. Laterals As we saw in part 1, the laterals are the part of the harness that connect the back of the harness with the lower MLW. They are critical for comfort during freefall and under canopy. Too long and you will have a huge gap between your back and your container. Too short and they'll make your harness feel too tight and uncomfortable. The default construction, with the laterals coming straight out of the edge of the backpad, works fine if your back is significantly wider than your container. But in many cases that's not true, the container and back are about the same width, and there is a measurable gap between the back side of the laterals and your back. Many manufacturers try to find a way to contour to the side curvature of your back (back to front, at the belly level). That makes the container more comfortable and it stays in position without moving around much. There are essentially 2 schools for that. The most common is to find "cut-in" laterals, where they are inserted in the backpad not at the edge, but somewhere more centrally. This style of laterals are in contact with the jumpers back, and typically they are padded for extra comfort. Another type is to have the webbing coming straight from the edge, get to the hip junction, and come back a bit more towards the center of the backpad, wrapped in padding. There are alternatives to the two main approaches. Infinity and Sife provide floating laterals as an option, where the lateral webbing goes through the webbing slot of the hip ring, which moves freely. Sife adds padded stabilizers to that configuration. Mirage has the laterals coming straight out of the edge of the container, but has two elastic bands coming from the center of the backpad, acting as a sort of elastic stabilizers. Lastly, as in some student rigs, SunPath added adjustable laterals to their Aurora wingsuit rig. Straight laterals coming out of the edge of the container. Padded stabilizers. The outermost component is simply an stiffener wrapped in fabric, without major structural purpose. Floating laterals. Note how the ring can move freely through the webbing of the lateral. Elastic stabilizers. Leg straps Leg straps are the remaining piece of the harness. And of course, there are multiple options here as well. In part 1, we already saw multiple adapters. Each manufacturer has its default set of adapters. Nevertheless, some of them, can install an alternative style if you ask them. These adapters are also affected by the chosen hardware finish. As it has been mentioned before, stainless steel is more slippery than cadmium plated steel. The teeth of the adapter could also be harder and sharper if they were the same design as plated adapters, which could damage the webbing and make the whole system work differently. That's why both types of hardware have slightly different designs. These effects are also part of the reason to have double layer straps, to make them thicker and slip less. Besides this, adapters are normally thread-thru. But it is also possible, even though not common, to order B-12 snaps. They allow to clip-in the leg straps, instead of having to put your legs through them. We have seen lots of options targeted for swoopers in the upper side of the harness. The bottom side also has options for this discipline. It is possible with some manufacturers to order wider leg straps, so sitting in your harness for long periods is a bit more comfortable. The tradeoff is that they are more uncomfortable during freefall and on the ground. Since swoopers tend to slide during their landings, the leg straps suffer a great deal of wear. That's why it is also possible to use leg strap covers, that can be easily replazable once they are worn out. That way, your harness stays intact. The last optional bit is the freefly bungee. It's functionality has been already discussed in part 1. There are basically 2 designs: Connecting the inner part with 2 webbing loops and a bungee; or connecting the outer part, with the bungee routed through a channel that hides the knots and distributes the tension. Freefly bungee connecting the inner part of the leg straps and knots exposed. Freefly bungee connecting the outer part of the leg straps and knots hidden in the channels. More harness options There are even more options than what we have covered so far. But they are difficult to classify going from top of the harness to bottom. For instance, embroideries. Laterals, leg straps, mud flaps (right below the 3-rings) are all areas were you can include any embroidery. Mind you, the embroidery is done in fabric, not in webbing. So for instance, to add an embroidery to your laterals, they have to have a piece of fabric covering the webbing. Other example are hook knifes. There are 2 common pockets for hook knifes: In the mud flap, or in the leg strap. Some manufacturers also add a hook knife pocket integrated in the fabric that makes their handles pocket. There are multiple models of hook knifes: Cheap plastic handle with a single blade, harder plastic with single or double blade, metal handle and single or double blade, or full metal knifes. Even though it is unlikely that you'll need it, it is recommended to avoid the very cheap knifes made of brittle plastic. Some manufacturers make contoured yokes, that adapt better to your shoulder area. It is also possible that they offer an "inverted yoke", where the container seams are inwards, looking a bit neater and slightly more comfortable on that area, since the sharper binding tape won't be rubbing against you. Every manufacturer also offers padding. Some include full padding (yoke, backpad, stabilizers and leg straps) as a single option. Others separate it in 2 or 3 areas, allowing you to choose with more granularity. Besides the standard padding, made normally out of some spacer foam, some manufacturers also offer "deluxe" padding in their backpad, made of a more comfortable material. Rigging innovations has gone an extra mile in the harness design of their Curv container, and offer 3 unique things. The first is what they call the bio yoke. There, they essentially separated the part of the yoke in contact with your shoulders, and the part of the yoke that connects with everything else inside the container (risers, reserve risers and housings). This way the part in contact with your body is more flexible and comfortable. The second is what they call the bio curve. This is a half container half harness feature. It simply contours the container so it follows the curvature of your back, avoiding gaps there. The third thing is a new leg strap geometry, which has been already discussed in the hip rings section. End of Part 2 This concludes part 2. As you can see, there are tens of options, which create hundreds of combinations. Each manufacturer has their defaults and their common options. If you are buying a new container and want an option not listed in their order form, ask them. You might be surprised. If you are buying an used container, hopefully this will help you to decide on which harness designs and options are important for you, to narrow down your search in the wild second hand market. Part 3 will be the last part of the series. There the focus will be on how different harness designs might fit different body types, and how the wrong dimensions in parts of the harness will affect your flying, comfort, and potentially even safety. So if you enjoyed part 1 and 2, keep an eye out for part 3!
  3. 1 point
    Have you ever realised that you feel something is not right in the system and something must be done about it? The question is how many times you did something to improve things…..? Avoidable Fatalities The purpose of Education in Skydiving and Rigging is to facilitate learning. Nothing else! All things learned are important and often vital to the skydiver- our sequence emergency procedures, wrong decisions under pressure and improperly done maintenance and repairs can end in disaster and they have. If there is any other interests involved in the education system- the process is ineffective. Also there is a difference between education in skydiving and public schools. If students in public education are to experience the result from what they learned in school or college years after graduation, skydiving students will need what they learned literally the same or the next day. A study was carried out by Hart, Christian L. and Griffith, James D. (2003) "Human Error: The Principal Cause of Skydiving Fatalities". Here are a couple of points: “Of the 308 fatalities that were reported between 1993-2001, 264 (86%) were categorized as Human Error, indicating that human error was deemed to be the principal causal factor in the mishaps. The remaining 44 (14%) fatalities were categorized as Other Factors, indicating that human error did not play a principal role in those mishaps. Therefore, human error appears to be the principal causal factors in the great majority of skydiving fatalities. Within skydiving training and education programs, specific attention should be given to human error, and training should be deliberately aimed at reducing human error mishaps. In the design of parachuting equipment, attention should be given to designing systems that increase skydiver situation awareness and increase the probability of correctly carrying out deployment and emergency procedure while under stress and time pressure.” I find it unacceptable that in the 21st Century with the level of science and experience in the sport we have 86 percent fatalities that have resulted from avoidable mistakes. In skydiving, critical situations require making correct decisions and executing proper action. This causes increases in pressure and cognitive load, beyond the state of flow that impairs our ability. When the cognitive load increases, our limited cognitive capacity is exceeded and we become overloaded. Our brains cannot process the large volumes of information being generated by the situation and we can fail to make accurate decisions. Example is tandem bag lock malfunction- requires very fast thinking, change of standard emergency procedures, reaction and execution when RSL is connected. However, if RSL is not connected- things are way easier- action is as usual- cutaway and reserve deployment. This is just an example where correct training can significantly reduce the pressure or lead to positive outcome. Knowing that there is direct connection between the previous training taken and how the skydiver would react under pressure is vital. Namely our gut feeling is what determines our reactions under pressure and lack of time. It all happens simultaneously before we put everything in words. So someone that has never used RSL as a backup system would go first for the reserve handle after cutaway and will almost never check for main risers clearance. In the late 80’s and 90’s of the last century, there were significant discoveries in phycology that explain a lot how and why humans make certain decisions under pressure. Unfortunately skydive training still has not caught up with psychology. Mirror neurons is one of these discoveries. For example, neurons in our brain fire symmetrically to match our instructor’s emotions. So, if the instructor is very positive, enthusiastic and smiling, about 20-30% of the neurons in the same area in the student’s brain, responsible for these emotions fire as well. The result is that students assume that if the instructor is that positively charged- everything must be in order. It is the same when the instructor looks negative, unhelpful, concerned- the student is experiencing a grade of freeze, flight response and the performance goes down. This is just a generalisation but it explains why students love enthusiastic instructors, regardless how competent they are. However, students also can identify incompetence hidden in positive attitude. There is also an explanation for that recently discovered. In this article, I will try to scratch the surface on training. Combining psychology and training in skydiving is going to be part of a different publication. In skydiving we have two types of Education- Safety education and skills improvement training. They overlap and mix all the time but they stay different things. Example is the training during the new skills courses- initial AFF, Tandem and AFF Instructor certifications. They all have two parts- the Safety part, which teaches the student/candidate/ how to survive the skydive with the new equipment and procedures and the Skills improvement part- how to do it well. This is very important since decision making is heavily influenced by the level of competence and skills in these separate areas. Both, the student and the teacher/instructor/ should know where they stand in that- at what stage of the training and learning process they are. Even more, the training for a particular skill must match the psychological reasons influencing how the student will react in this situation. It’s important to know why people make fatal mistakes and how to avoid them- you never know when a simple flight back to the landing area can turn into a situation that requires emergency procedures. Approaching Education Differently Looks like education in skydiving suffers from a bit of amnesia! It is based on the industrialised system of education. This system came out during the industrial revolution and it was designed to serve the needs of the manufacturing process- to produce a workforce that follows algorithms. Basically, it’s a system that tells you how to do things, without much explaining. The student is instructed not thought. This all works well when in the manufacturing! And we have all seen the big emergency procedures charts that look like wiring diagrams like they are designed for a computer processors to follow. However, people are not machines but organic creatures and in addition they have to make their own decisions under pressure. Industrialised system is based on standardisation and conformity! It is true that these principles are a must in skydiving and they define the skills necessary for surviving the skydive with- must know, must do and must not do. But there must be a clear line where they begin and finish because any irrelevant and wrong information or negative emotions significantly affect the decision making process. The fact that a student does not understand what causes our bodies to turn in freefall creates negative emotions and can cause them to fail the stage. Conformity and standardisation also contradict the principles on which skydiving and life for that matter have flourished over the years- diversity and creativity. Every single person is different. Not a single person’s life is the same as anybody else’s. There’s no two persons on this planet that are the same. So why skydiving training is standardised to that extent? One of the results is that year after year there’s a great amount of people that give up skydiving after they get their A licence. And the reason is that they don’t want to spend a long time and a lot of money doing relative work with B rels. Most of the students started skydiving because they wanted to do something else- usually freeflying or swooping. There is a great amount of students that never complete the AFF course as well. If a private company was losing such an enormous amount of their clients every year, they would say- “Maybe it’s not the customers, maybe it’s something we do”. If equipment and training courses were put under the compatibility lid some time ago, they would never advance more than the static line course and round military parachute stage! People are also curious and creative. They want to learn. Everyone knows that students and instructors start their career with a great amount of curiosity and want to learn and keep this going forever. Curiosity is the engine of achievement. One of the effects of the current culture, has been to de-professionalise instructors. There is no system in the world that is better than it’s instructors. Instructors are the lifeblood of the success of drop zones, but teaching is a creative profession. Teaching, properly conceived, is not a delivery system. Instructors should not be there just to pass on received information. Great instructors do that, but what great teachers also do is mentor, stimulate, provoke, and engage. Another big problem with the industrial based system is that it never covers everything that we need to know because it is based on what has happened so far. Especially in recent years, it presents you with a list or diagrams with possible situations. What happens if you get into situations that are not on the list?! Then you need creativity! A good example is the tandem fatality resulted from a turn initiated at about 200ft and the control line and toggle got hooked on the disconnected side passenger connector. The tandem pair entered into a continuous diving turn. The tandem instructor ran through the given emergency procedures diagram but there was nothing for this particular situation. The most he could think of was- cutaway and deploy reserve. Unfortunately it was too low. However, there were at least two solutions in this case that were not on the diagram- cut the break line and try landing with risers or counter the turn with the other toggle and land on deep brakes. Compliance in this situation didn’t equal safety but provided a false sense of safety. Situations like this require some creativity or divergent thinking. And we use divergent thinking all the time in skydiving- when we exit and fly different tandem clients, when different aircraft changes the inflight procedures, when tailoring the stage for a particular AFF Student, when packing reserves or repairing equipment etc. “Divergent thinking is a thought process or method used to generate creative ideas by exploring many possible solutions. It typically occurs in a spontaneous, free-flowing, "non-linear" manner, such that many ideas are generated in an emergent cognitive fashion. Many possible solutions are explored in a short amount of time, and unexpected connections are drawn.” There is another system of education, which is based on reasoning, where cause and effect are the significant element. This is the system to which we owe the development in skydiving and skydiving equipment- people trying different things and improving the ones that work. With this system, understanding how and why things happen is the driving force. That’s how basic military parachutes were improved for sport parachuting to get to the current state of the art canopies and harness containers. This is how we all got where we are now. With this system, the student’s safety and progression are the important thing, not the standard of “pass or fail” and the learning process can be tailored so the students can learn effectively. In this system both- student and instructor are aware of the level of competence /unconscious incompetent, conscious incompetent, conscious competent, unconscious competent/ the student is in. Right now there are thousands of consciously incompetent skydivers and instructors about their own equipment but they are expected to deal with extraordinary situations with competence. They simply do not know how their reserve system or components exactly work and what potential problems they can cause them. As a result, these licenced skydivers are not ready to deal with a number of issues. If you knew that if the Cypres fires in head position and the reserve might hesitate, how materials and body position affect the reserve openings, what the reserve pilot chute is, etc. you would consider your actions. The level of competence/competence- confidence loop/ directly affects the performance and decision making in every situation- challenging or threatening. The more competent you are with equipment and situations, the more pressure is reduced and it is easier to make decisions. All this is not that new and there is wonderful work done by instructors and dropzones. However, it is happening not because of the current standardisation and command and control culture but despite it. Yes, sometimes habit is stronger than reason, but reason always prevails eventually. Maybe it’s time the available knowledge in the 21-st century about learning, training, psychology and the connection between them to be implemented accordingly. While doing that, some accidents could be prevented. After all, skydivers are organic creatures and parachutes are just mechanical systems operated by skydivers. Nothing magical happens up there! The magic we feel is only in our heads! --------------------------------------- K.B Jumps - 25 000+ AFF, Tandem Instructor, Freefall Photographer Rigger- FAA all types, APF Rigger Examiner Master of teaching, Biology and Chemistry
  4. 1 point
    Luxfly, Tunnel Tech and the Mighty Braffs It seems like tunnels are popping up everywhere, doesn’t it? As a dyed-in-the-wool aficionado of all vertically-oriented wind, this can hardly have escaped your notice. Another thing that hasn’t escaped your notice, we’re willing to bet, is that none of these tunnels have popped up within a lunch-break drive of your fine abode. Wanna do something about that? Well: As it turns out, you can. And you can do it even if you’re not personally made of money. Want proof? Meet Steve Braff, a true tunnel-building dynamo. He and his wife/business partner, Magali share a deeper history in windytubes than pretty much anyone on the planet -- and now, they’re building Luxfly, the most exciting indoor skydiving wind tunnel project in Europe, using the brand-newest, top-of-the-line-est technology to do so (Tunnel Tech, to be specific -- but we’ll get to that later). Suffice it to say: The Braffs are a good example to follow. Currently, Steve and Magali -- collectively known as their vertical wind tunnel consulting business, Starfly -- are keeping busy not just with Luxfly, but with .other tunnels around the world. As a point of note, Starfly is utterly unique -- Steve and Magali are the only people in the world who do this kind of work, helping others to build tunnels. Outside of Starfly, there are two industry operators: the customers, who want to have and operate tunnels, and the tunnel manufacturers, who want to sell vertical wind tunnel technology. Until Starfly, there’s been no one in between to smooth the steep, bumpy road to a grand opening. Pretty in pink “Right now, we have five projects in process,” he says. “But it varies. Sometimes, we help people out with optimizing their existing tunnels; sometimes, we help them start projects, or assist them in different phases. We work with a group of investors to which we propose our projects. The specific investors depend on the location and the host country. People who want to build tunnels can work with us at every stage. We can do it from A to the end.” “Since I was a kid, my dream was always to fly like Superman,” Steve grins. “And that was the only thing I ever wanted to do.” Steve started skydiving at 21 years old. He’s celebrating his 23rd year in the sport this year, with around 8,000 skydives, a thousand BASE jumps -- and, very importantly, lots and lots of hours in the windytube. “I was always interested in the tunnel flying industry,” he explains. “It always amazed me, what people were doing in there.” For a very long time, Steve funded his freefall habit by working at the family company: importing Italian coffee into the Braffs’ native Belgium. One day, after 15 years of working side-by-side with his brother, mom, sister and dad, he decided it was time for a change. “I said: You know what, I think I'm going to quit,” he laughs, “And sell air. So I did.” “There’s enough money around the world to serve everyone who wants to invest,” he insists. “The issue is that there aren’t enough ideas, or the people with the willingness to push them. When somebody tells me they’ve been trying [to get a tunnel started] for two years and they can’t seem to get the money together, I just tell them they need to push harder. Never give up. It only depends on you. The money is there, and you’ll unlock it if you try.” Tunnel Tech airducts with Hubble-level surface precision and finishing Steve doesn’t want you to think that he’s under the impression that it’s easy to convince someone to invest in something as big as a tunnel. The price tag of a windytube is plenty high for a project that most humans have only seen, occasionally, on TV. “You need to transfer your passion to the investor,” he advises. “If you are capable of doing this, then you’re already doing great work on the investment. Even if you have a business plan and you can prove with paperwork that your wind tunnel is going to make a lot of money -- super nice presentations and Excel sheets and all the trimmings -- you still need to make your potential investors believe in it with their hearts. If they don't believe in it with their hearts, they will not invest.” “Think about it,” he continues. “You’re asking them to invest millions of Euros in a building with wind blowing at 200 kilometers per hour through the walls. It is crazy. We still run into this all the time when we go to new contractors. Why all of this for a flight chamber? Why all of that construction around it? They don't understand.” In 2006, after one false start at a Belgian dropzone, that decision took Steve and Magali to create a truly watershed moment in what the rest of the world knows as “indoor skydiving.” Inspired by the idea that training in the vertical wind tunnel could revolutionize skydiving -- at the time, a very new and unorthodox philosophy -- the pair decided to build the very first vertical wind tunnel facility in Belgium. It was called AirSpace and it was, in a word, visionary. “I am a big fan of Apple, and their thing was always to think different,” Steve explains. “And that resonates with us, because it’s really the way we live. We are always trying to improve and make stuff differently; not to be just another tunnel. Our tunnel was a huge success because of that, and because we wanted to do everything we could for the for the flyers.” Steve and Magali built “their” tunnel from scratch. To do so, they quit everything else in their lives to focus full-time on creating the facility -- including their home. “My wife and myself, we decided we were going to go full on,” he smiles. “We wanted to know everything -- every bolt, every detail -- about our tunnel, and about the industry. So we left our rented house and moved into the contractor container on the construction site. We lived in it for a year. It was a really nice experience, day by day following the progress of construction.” Steve and Magali Braff Though ‘home’ was technically a shipping container for the Braffs that year, the heart of the idea behind that tunnel -- and, now, LuxFly -- was, charmingly, to make it into as homey a place as possible. The Braffs integrated a cozy lounge bar; as much wood as possible, moving away from the stainless-and-plastic aesthetic that pervaded (and still pervades) the vertical wind tunnel oeuvre; a deep sense of comfort and place. “We were insistent that it had to be like a house,” Steve says. “I wanted people to come in and walk around in their bare feet. When I saw that for the first time, it felt like success to me.” The year it took to build AirSpace -- still fast for a tunnel project, which is normally it is two years from the point of financing, securing building permits and organizing all the construction to the grand opening -- taught Steve and Magali a boatload. “Sure, it was a lot of ups and downs -- a lot of them -- more downs than ups, okay -- but, at a certain point, you have to look at it a bit like the stock market,” he explains. “You need to be patient and you need to keep believing in it. That is your only source of strength. Not depending on anyone. It's yourself; your own belief.” The tunnel truly bloomed under the Braffs’ management. This is one couple, however, that doesn’t make a habit of resting on laurels, no matter how comfortable they might be. After a few years, they decided to sell it and move on. It felt like time to grapple with another project (this time, on the border with Luxembourg), and to start helping other would-be tunnel owners with their own projects. “We earned a lot of experience over the course of all those years,” Steve says. “We traveled a lot, both skydiving and tunnel flying. We have seen a lot of wind tunnels. We took all those ideas we discovered over the years and we put them into in Luxfly. It's going to be super, super, super special.” According to Steve, Luxfly is going to be “the 2020 version of tunnel flying.” The design aesthetic -- still a secret, as of publication -- promises to be groundbreaking. The pair decided to make another, perhaps even bigger change: a total technology rethink. While AirSpace used top-of-the-line-at-the-time German tech (ISG), the Braffs decided to build Luxfly with Tunnel Tech, a multinational vertical wind tunnel technology company that’s making huge strides forward in safety and efficiency. “I must say [Tunnel Tech] have blown us away with the quality of their product,” Steve explains. “First of all, I’ve known Slava, the CEO, for many years. When I heard he was making his own technology -- and that they were building a 15-foot with less power consumption than a 14-foot -- I got very curious. Then I started following their projects in Japan, in Moscow and in Korea, and I was totally convinced.” The LuxFly structure & the Tunnel Tech machine are ready for assembly “It was a risk, of course, because it’s a new company, and it always feels safer to go with a company that has built 15 tunnels versus somebody that has built three,” he continues. “But that’s our history. With Airspace, for example, I think we were the fourth ISG tunnel; perhaps the fifth. So being the fourth Tunnel Tech wind tunnel doesn’t feel so crazy. Tunnel Tech really are rethinking every part of the tunnel -- how we can do better, better and better -- contrasts a lot with where now a lot of manufacturers are now. When you have a certain design that's working and selling, the tendency is to just keep it until people demand something new. Tunnel Tech keeps well out in front of that.” With Luxfly’s gala grand opening set for the end of January, Steve and Magali are up to their eyeballs in preparations. They insist, however, that they are always available to help people out -- to make new tunnel dreams a reality. “We are passionate people,” he smiles. “We just want to share our love of flying.”
  5. 1 point
    Review by Joel Strickland Cookie Composites are quick to admit that there was a fair element of luck involved in their success with the G3. At the time of release in the early teens, the tunnel industry was exploding - and the full face helmet was crossing over from the province of close-in disciplines where you need to be extra careful about catching a knee or an elbow in the face - to pretty much everyone. Flyers were after a greater level of comfort while training for extended periods of time indoors while retaining a level of communication akin to open helmets. People wanted to be able to see each other’s whole face - and with the G3 you could. Skydiving soon followed suit, because you could now wear your cool sunglasses underneath your lid and see all the big grins in the pictures and video. While lucky with the timing, Cookie had purposefully pulled off a crucial victory with their product - it occupied a particular sweet spot between form and function that appeals greatly to skydivers. The G3 was desirably fancy - but not too posh or too shiny to the point where it stood out as worthy of mockery. A few scratches and a couple of stickers later, and it had become (in the most positive of terms) part of the furniture of skydiving. While there were functional alternatives available, the G3 became iconic - as much so as the L+B device on your wrist or the Cypres unit in your rig. Over the last few seasons there has been a growing grumble in our sport about the level of protection offered by helmets specifically designed for flying. The biggest and most successful company is always going to be the softest target for conversations about the actual value a helmet with no impact protection material has for your brain in an accident, and the G3 has come under fire against new offerings from competing companies that have been through tests and carry a certification. The concerns over safety are certainly valid, yet these conversations would often neglect that for a very long time we were all basically completely fine with what was on offer, and from day one - if we had been genuinely more concerned about safety over comfort and style - everyone single one of us always had the option of wearing a $20 Protec just like we all did when learning to skydive in the first place. In the meantime, Cookie Composites have quietly and diligently created the G4 - extensively researching every single material and design element to give us what we have been asking for. Instead of rushing something out, Cookie worked alongside others in the industry to help develop a brand new rating with the specific requirements of both the skydiving and tunnel environments in mind. While purposefully retaining the same balance of form and function, up close it is clear that it is a complete redesign - applying many lessons learned from its predecessor. Here are the main differences that you likely care about the most: Recessed Visor: High speed flying combined with any looseness in the springs could create a distracting visor vibration on a G3. The new design has the visor recessed to fit flush all-round with the shell to eliminate this effect. It also looks great. Audible Pockets: While perfectly fine for a lot of people, many of us with funny shaped faces were squeezed by our audibles despite any amount of wiggling. Cookie have rebuilt the pockets - and now they fit into the shell with zero intrusion into the space where your head is supposed to be. Now I can jump with two sets of beeps, hearing them perfectly yet feeling nothing - unthinkable for me previously with even the largest G3. Metal Springs: With the old design, over time the rubber springs would stretch out and require replacing - a process that even the most generous can only describe as a pain in the ass. While Cookie took steps to remedy this with good post-purchase support, they were always going to be searching for a new system. The G4 visor mechanism has done away completely with the rubber and now uses a metal spring arrangement that should eliminate the maintenance routine. Rear Protection: While maintaining the same general look, the new shell goes down a little further at the back to offer some more coverage in a sensitive area. This does make the hole where you put your head a wee bit smaller, and changes slightly the familiar back-forward motion of putting on a G3, to something more akin to donning a motorcycle helmet. Impact Rated: Now there is deformable material inside. The big design battle Cookie faced was to create a helmet that would pass the crash tests while always remaining something sleek and light that skydivers would embrace as the right thing. The G4 is a little bit bigger and a little bit heavier than the G3 - but comparing them with one in each hand there is really not much in it. With the redesigned interior allowing a bit more space around the ears, it does feel like a bigger helmet when you first wear it - but that is coming from someone who has been wearing a G3 for work since the day it was released. The unsolved problem (for now) is that while the Cookie G4 as sold qualifies for this new rating specific to skydiving, the tests are very precise indeed. As soon as you make any modifications at all to the weight or shape you are no longer using the helmet that has been qualified - you are using something else. The truth is that the myriad what and where of how we mount cameras makes practical testing out of reach. Along with impacts, a part of the new rating are thorough snag tests - and adding even the smallest, sleekest camera mounts would fail them. The question we now face is that is it safe to assume that a helmet designed from the ground up with impact protection in mind going to provide a greater level of protection in a crash regardless of where you stick a camera on it? I know what I believe. The driving force behind Cookie Composites - Jason Cook and Jeremy Hunt - speak passionately about their company and their products. A quick hello turns into two hours of sharing their experiences creating the G4. The lessons from the previous design have been studied, revised and thoroughly applied - along the way investigating and investing in all manner of materials, theories and processes to make it the best it can possibly be. Cookie’s success this decade has given the company the knowledge and the practical means to deliver a new product that should occupy the same place in our sport that its predecessor has done for many years. Their visual presence and the level at which they support our sport can make Cookie Composites can seem like a big company, but at a basic level it is still a handful of skydivers tinkering around in a workshop, putting in a great deal of time and effort to make something that works the best for their friends and their community around the world. Long may it continue. Does the G4 live up to the hype? Yes. Yes it does.
  6. 1 point
    The following video was posted on social media last week and shows a harrowing scene of a wingsuit jumper suffering a collision shortly after exit. The collision appears to knock the jumper unconscious, as he then begins to spin uncontrollably as he descends in freefall. The spin amplifies the lower he gets - until finally his AAD activates and saves his life by crucially firing while he is seemingly unconscious. You can follow or contribute to this conversation in the following forum post: A forum post from a Dropzone.com user has shed some light on the situation... "If I remember correctly group of 4. Leader fumbled exit a little. The 2&3rd guys start flying the planned direction right on exit. The 4th guy has the time and awareness to see the leader and starts diving to the leader. Guys 2&3 now correcting from intended flight path toward leader, intercepted by guy number 4. None of them are new guys. Super lucky that the guy who had the AAD fire walked away with no major injuries. The guy who hit this guy is a good friend of mine and is very heads up and a skilled 4-way flier with more WS jumps than FS. The example here is that if it can happen to guys like him it can happen to you." - Slimrn The topic of AADs can sometimes be a controversial one, many experienced jumpers believe they don't need them and some even view dropzones that have AAD requirements negatively. However, this event goes to show that sometimes the AAD can play a crucial role in saving your life, especially in the case of midair collisions which result in a loss of consciousness.