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  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. 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
  3. 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.”
  4. 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.
  5. 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.