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    Oklahoma Skydive Center, Cushing, Oklahoma
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  1. AndyBoyd, You are correct, some drop zones classify their employees as independent contractors to avoid having to withhold taxes, however, most instructors I know legally incorporate themselves. By legally incorporating themselves the instructors have many tax and legal benefits and the law is not being broken. However, if DZO's are calling instructors contractors just to avoid withholding payroll taxes then the law is already being broken. Either way, this article has noting to do with either fact. I do appreciate your comments and you have given me an idea for my next article. Blue Skies.
  2. Image by DeltaBravoAs spring draws near it is time once again to start thinking about the summer jumping season. Most drop zones will start to organize their safety day activities, gear will be inspected, and repacks scheduled. However, what many of us forget to do is spending some time developing our coaches and instructors after all, professional skills can be forgotten during the winter months just as easily as safety rules and regulations. For many drop zones, instructional development stops after the candidate’s progression card is signed off and the certification is issued. What we fail to realize is that instructional skills are perishable and everyone can benefit from annual employee development training. What I would like to discuss here are some methods the average drop zone can use to develop their instructors. Understandably not all of these are possible at every drop zone, and individual drop zones may have to modify these methods to fit into their procedures, but these are simple and can be done with little imposition on the drop zone. Before I talk about training techniques I would like to discuss certification and training records. I am not about to suggest that drop zones start massive files on their people, but the drop zone owner is an employer and even though most of the employees are classified as independent contractors, the DZO/DZM should have a basic training folder for each instructor. Some things that might be useful to include would be copy of class 3 medical certificates for tandem instructors, copies of CPR/First Aid certification cards, awards, and even the latest logbook entry once a year (I’ll discuss the last two more later on). Although none of these items fall into the privacy act, the DZO/DZM should still keep the files locked up and they should only contain the document copies, never the originals. This will prevent the information from being passed around or discussed publicly. Now that we have the staff, and their records are in order, how are we going to mold them? To renew an instructor certification, the individual must attend an instructor’s seminar. The majority of the time that seminar is the annual safety day, but instructors need something more. I have heard many DZOs/DZMs make the comment that the requirements to become a certified instructor should be made more stringent. I even heard one person advocate that a coach should have a minimum of 500 jumps. Although that sounds great in theory, logistically it is almost impossible. Instead of just forgetting about instructors and coaches after they have become certified, get them all together once a year. Pick one of them to give the ground portion of the First Jump Course while all the other instructors are the students. This will allow for all of the instructors to provide constructive feedback to each other and it will give the instructors a chance to relearn something they may have forgotten. One thing that is frustrating for a new student is when one instructor says, “Remember? In class you were taught to….” When in fact that was something the other instructor forgot to teach in class. By holding annual employee development training not only will the instructors benefit, but so will the students. Free Fall DrillsAnother technique is to practice free fall drills. It happens to all of us. We, as humans, can get sloppy with our techniques overtime. Two instructors or coaches jumping together would be in a position to debrief each other. This can be done as a fun jump, but as long as it is not a free fly jump or a “zoo” dive. After all, we are not free flying with first jump students and they are jumping exact dive plans. I do want to stress at this point that instructors must help each other out. If it is in the plan for one person to act like a first jump student, then act like one, but let’s be honest, how many first jump students actually put their helmet on backwards and start playing with the aircraft controls as soon as they get in the plane? Although I’m sure it does happen on occasion, not to the extent that I see people acting it out when teaching new instructors. Discuss with each other what you have seen over the past year, but don’t make the training so unrealistic that it is ineffective. Have an instructor day at the wind tunnel. Since wind tunnels are beginning to spring up in more places take advantage of it. Video the time in the tunnel and spend some time doing dirt drills working on areas that need improvement. Emergency TrainingMany DZs will invite the local rescue squad out on safety day and there are others that don’t like to do this because they do not want to scare the new jumpers. I can understand both sides of this, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that this is a dangerous sport. It is a good idea for all instructors to have basic first responder training specific to the types of injuries that could be experienced at the DZ. Subjects such as C-Spine immobilization, when to move an injured person and when not to should be taught to all instructors. What about the injured person’s helmet? Should it be left on or taken off? How do you safely remove an injured person from the swoop pond? When the call is placed into 911, what information is the most helpful? Does the staff know the address to give the 911 operator (that is a good thing to type up and put by the phone, by the way). This brings us back to the training folder. One of the things that would be a good idea to keep in the folder would be copies of awards and maybe even a copy of a recent logbook entry. If there is ever an accident or fatality at the DZ, the DZO/DZM will have to deal with the media. By having key information handy, the DZO/DZM will be able to make a quick and informative statement to the press if needed. For example, if someone were to get hurt during a tandem jump, the DZO could say, “This is a very unfortunate accident and we are looking into the cause right now. The instructor is highly experienced and has over 10,000 jumps, 9,000 of them being tandem, and just two months ago was awarded the USPA badge for 50 hours of free fall.” Many people don’t like talking to the press, and that is the subject for another article, but the fact remains; by just saying no comment you leave the uneducated alone to make up their own answers based on hearsay, rumors, and their own fears. As you can see, there are various ways for a drop zone to develop their instructors. Although not every way is possible, nor has every possible way been covered, we must remember that drop zones are businesses, instructors are employees, and once in a while, employees need refresher training too. Corey Miller C-38834 Corey has a Master’s Degree in Aeronautical Science, specializing in Human Factors and Education. He has over 30 years of experience in both aerospace and military aviation. He is currently the Quality and Safety Manager for the ATM Program in Kabul Afghanistan but he calls the Oklahoma Skydiving Center his home.
  3. Really? A spam from the oil and gas industry? But ok, since safety is important to everyone, I'll bite.... Sheen, what input of value do you have that will make the sport of skydiving safer? I would also like to see your SafeDay website. Although I don't think it will have information that is directly relevant, it could very well spark an ember that could lead to an idea to improve the safety of our sport. Again, although I think this was a spam posting, I do believe in making our sport safer and would love to hear from you. Corey Learn from others' mistakes, you will never live long enough to make them all yourself. POPS 10672
  4. Learning that is okay to be a slower learner and not pushing too hard is something that I feel can improve safety. Thank you for your clarification. Based on a study done in 1972, it is estimated that our sport is 2:1 type A personalities and yes, I think that causes us to push the envelope. Would it be safe to say that we need to recognize our personal learning curve and accept the fact that we might not learn as fast as others. Additionally, experienced sky divers need to understand that others are still learning and not to encourage them to exceed their personal learning curves. Learn from others' mistakes, you will never live long enough to make them all yourself. POPS 10672
  5. You make a good point, Dthames. We talk about beginners and we talk about experienced jumpers, but we really don't say much about the "average" jumper. That area is usually treated like it is just the area that new jumpers fall into while learning to be experienced jumpers i.e. free flyers, big way members). We don't emphasize much on the jumper that is content to fly solo or small groups. You brought up a great topic. Learn from others' mistakes, you will never live long enough to make them all yourself. POPS 10672
  6. Not to be argumentative, but there are a few flaws in your reasoning- Wingload: There are many sky divers, students and experts alike, that weigh more than 190 out the door. There are other canopies than the Navigator for students. His size and wingloading are issues, but they can be overcome, he may have to pay more than other students for the proper equipment, but that is his choice. Give him the options and let HIM control his checkbook. Freefall: Why does he have to freefall? Isn't static line or IAD an option? They might not be, but if they are then the argument of instructors keeping up with him in freefall is nonexistent. Now, there is another issue that I think should be addressed here and that is aircraft weight and balance. When a tandem instructor, student, and camera flyer all leave the aircraft it is more than 285 pounds. However a T/I is not climbing out on the strut and doing a poised exit. If the drop zone the student wants to go to is a cessna drop zone than the pilot should be consulted. Health: You bring up a good point, however this is something that needs to be discussed with the student. And yes, this could be an area where the drop zone staff may have to make a judgment call for the sake of safety. You brought up a real good point here. My bottom line is this: If the military can put out pallets of cargo on a static line, we can put out a human. The biggest issue is cost and if the student wants to pay it then let them. Just be honest and up front. Learn from others' mistakes, you will never live long enough to make them all yourself. POPS 10672
  7. I'll be glad to be one of the peanuts (lol). Let me ask you this (not being a smarty pants) but what are YOUR reasons for saying no? I emphasize the word "your" because your reasons could be different from someone else's. I am assuming you are the DZO/DZM so bottom line... it is your kool-aide stand and your decision. Because of that, I would just like to ask, "Why do you think you should answer no?" Learn from others' mistakes, you will never live long enough to make them all yourself. POPS 10672
  8. I agree with you about new jumpers feeling "not good enough" and experienced jumpers feeling "too good". I did a lot of solo jumps when I was new in part because I didn't think I was good enough to jump with others. I thought I was the only one that felt that way, thank you for your input. Learn from others' mistakes, you will never live long enough to make them all yourself. POPS 10672
  9. quote "coreyangel"]...I plan on deleting this thread prior to publication to help prevent someone being identified... I plan on pushing the button that says, "Delete" (see attachment). I may be wrong, but I didn't think it would be rocket science. Learn from others' mistakes, you will never live long enough to make them all yourself. POPS 10672
  10. Thanks Gary, I appreciate all the help you've provided me over the years. I'm honored to call you my friend and mentor. Corey Learn from others' mistakes, you will never live long enough to make them all yourself. POPS 10672
  11. I like your suggestion. And you are right about the multipliers, behind every accident there are many "almost accidents." I have seen various forms of self-evaluation questionnaires over the years. If any one has any they would like to email me, may be we can find the commonality in all and create one that has reliable predictability. My email is: [email protected] Learn from others' mistakes, you will never live long enough to make them all yourself. POPS 10672
  12. As the summer season starts to wind down, it is a good time to reflect on what we have seen and what might be good topics for next year's safety day. I'm looking to write an article on this subject and I would like to hear form as many people in the sport, what have you seen this year that could possibly need training on next safety day. I will not identify any person or drop zone in my article and I plan on deleting this thread prior to publication to help prevent someone being identified. Of course, feel free to PM me if you want. Some basic guidelines to remember: 1) I want to hear from everyone! New people, let me know what you think. I'm not a mind reader and your opinions matter too. 2) Old people, please don't attack anyone for their opinion or suggestion. We need free and open communication if we want our sport to be safer. 3) Finally, for all people: Please don't attack or use this as a forum to grind an ax. There are other forums for that. I understand that many times, safety violations are not nice and pretty, please just don't point a finger at any particular individual or drop zone. I thank you all in advance. Learn from others' mistakes, you will never live long enough to make them all yourself. POPS 10672
  13. Very well put and I hope all students and instructors see DrDom's comments. We, as instructors, are here to build up students; to teach them. We are not here to belittle them or to make them scared to ask questions. The reason behind asking questions is a simple one... it is because we do not know the answer. Period. We are not born with skydiving knowledge or a "skydiving gene" in our body. Many times when a student doesn't know an answer it is because the instructor forgot to teach about the subject in question. As an instructor I am always happy when a student asks me a question. Why is that? Simple... They are coming to me for answers because they trust me and know I will give them an honest answer, even if it is "Let me find out for you." Keep asking questions. Never stop learning. Learn from others' mistakes, you will never live long enough to make them all yourself. POPS 10672
  14. Thank you MrSnipes, and you are right on the money about the dangers of reducing accountability. If a groupthink mentality evolves everyone will think it is "everyones" idea however, no one will come forward ad say "I thought ti was a good idea at the time." Like you said, don't be afraid to speak up! If someone is afraid to speak up in the group, at least talk to someone who in respeted and trusted outside of the group and ask their opinion. As I like to tell people; When it comes to skydiving safety, there is no such thing as a do over. Blue Skies my friend.