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Found 39 results

  1. Image by Keith Creedy C’mon...just how much damage can one little line really do? Actually--lots. When a suspension line gets out-of-place and slides across neighboring nylon, another line, or another skydiver (in a collision scenario), the damage can be catastrophic. The lines connecting your mortal coil to your nylon conveyance are, after all, thin strands of extremely strong material – and, in deployment and flight, they move very, very fast. Line burn is, as you have no doubt extrapolated by now, caused by the generation of heat by friction. The amount of heat a fast-moving line generates is enough to literally melt the canopy – and, under certain circumstances, the line itself. Here are the questions you’ve gotta answer in order to avoid cooking your precious canopy. 1. How melt-resistant are your lines? Both F-111 and ZP nylon melt at 417 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s a lower melting point than almost all the common suspension line materials (Dacron®, Vectran® and HMA), which melt when exposed to heat levels of 482-932 degrees. There is, however, one exception: Spectra®. Spectra®, that tender little princess, melts at just 297 degrees. Even if they literally melt a hole in the canopy, all lines but Spectra® will likely survive the incident unscathed. If you have Spectra® lines, however, check them carefully if you discover line burn on your canopy – they are likely sufficiently damaged to require replacement. 2. Is that crease really a crease? Most modern sport canopies used to be made of F-111 nylon. These days, for lots of reasons--from performance to fading mitigation--they’re generally constructed of ZP (zero-porosity) fabric. The behavior of these two materials under stress varies widely. When an F-111 canopy suffers line burn, the damage tends to be localized – often, sufficiently contained to be landable. ZP fabric is not so forgiving: high-speed line burns tend to cause major structural disintegrity. In addition to that, burn damage to ZP fabric can be difficult to identify, often appearing as a simple crease in the fabric – though testing to that crease finds it to have been massively reduced in tensile strength. (For this reason, Performance Designs doesn’t use zero-P fabric in their reserve canopies.) 3. Are you packing for a smacking? According to the United States Parachute Association, incorrect packing is the most common source of line burn. The other cause, of course, is canopy collision – but that is a subject for another article entirely. To reduce your risk: Don’t throw your canopy in the bag. Take a moment to mindfully arrange the lines towards the center of the pack job, making sure that rogue lines aren’t nestled deep in the fabric where they could cause burn. Mind your slider. Keep the slider flush against the slider stops and tucked between the line groups. Not only will this help to mitigate opening shock, it will help to manage the lines as the canopy deploys and keep them from unnecessary intimacy from the neighboring fabric. Clear your stabilizers. The stabilizers (the “ears” of fabric that come down slightly on each lateral side of the canopy) have a tendency to tuck themselves in towards the lines when you’re pro-packing. Make sure they’re clear. 4. Have you already been burned? Look for melting and discoloration. Line-burn damage looks very different than puncture damage (or any other clean cut or rip). Check your lines. If you notice burn damage on your canopy, it means that the nylon most certainly came into contact with your lines. To check lines for burn damage, use your hands more than your eyes. While seared lines often show signs of melting at the burn point, the easiest way to determine damage is by feel: an undamaged line will feel smooth if you pinch it and slide your fingers down, while burned (or otherwise damaged) lines will feel bumpy and rough. Get help. If you notice evidence of line burn – or what you suspect to be line burn – on your canopy or lines, take the damage to your rigger for inspection as soon as possible. Don’t freak out! In many cases, the damage can be repaired simply and economically, with replacement suspension lines and patching. Don’t be a dick. If you notice any damage on a rental (or student) rig, don’t hesitate to point it out to your coach or the rental office, whether or not you believe the damage happened “on your watch.” You’d want the same treatment--and you don’t want to be burning your fellow skydivers. Right?
  2. Re-run with USPA permission. After years of effort by USPA and the Parachute Industry Association, the FAA has approved a new final rule that will lengthen the parachute repack cycle from 120 days to 180 days. The final rule appeared in the Federal Register last month, and will take effect on December 19, 2008. The effort had more twists and turns than a funneled 20-way, but the change happened when PIA and USPA joined together and finally convinced the FAA to grant a 180-day repack cycle. USPA initiated the first run at the change in 1998 when its board of directors approved a motion authorizing USPA to petition the FAA for the rule change. At the time, the FAA was preparing to revise Part 105. However, the FAA declined to include the lengthened repack cycle as part of its Part 105 revision in 2001, saying the initiative didn't have full industry support. In early 2005, Allen Silver, a well-known rigger and PIA’s Rigging Committee chair, initiated discussion with the FAA about accepting a petition for an exemption that would allow a 180-day repack cycle. Getting FAA agreement, PIA and USPA formed a task group to develop the petition language. This resulted in an effort in which all aviation groups, whose pilots used emergency parachutes, including the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, the Experimental Aircraft Association and the Soaring Society, among others, to join PIA and USPA in jointly petitioning the FAA for an exemption to the regulations addressing those parachutes. The exemption requested a 180-day repack cycle for the emergency parachutes worn by pilots, as well as the sport parachutes used by skydivers. The joint PIA-USPA petition was submitted in July 2005. Ironically, while the FAA saw good cause for a lengthened repack cycle, the agency said its own rules prevented it from granting an exemption to so many beneficiaries; exemptions were intended for small groups. The FAA denied the petition for exemption. However, acknowledging the support of so many pilots, riggers and skydivers, the FAA declared that it would publish its own Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to lengthen the repack cycle, which it did on May 22, 2007. At urging by USPA and PIA, nearly all of the hundreds of comments to the docket were in favor of the proposal. The end result is a final rule published this week granting the lengthened repack cycle. "This result shows what can happen when two organizations like USPA and PIA decide to work together on common goals," said USPA Executive Director Ed Scott. "We look forward to doing even more together for the benefit of skydivers." PIA President Cliff Schmucker said, "The 180-day repack rule change is a fine example of what PIA and USPA can accomplish working as one. Together we will endeavor to continue improving safety for parachute users.” For answers to frequently asked questions about the new Rule, please visit either the USPA or PIA (.pdf) online.
  3. DSE

    Voyages of a Skydiver

    Captain’s Log 2010, 0210, Manifest asks for proof of currency and jump numbers, along with the reserve data card from my rig…These are the voyages of Average Skydiver. Many of us grew up hearing a similar introduction to Star Trek episodes, as required by Starfleet Command. A captain’s log is nothing more than a logbook chronicling the journeys and adventures of a spaceship, boat, airplane, or other craft that carries persons or cargo. Logbooks are the basic standard of proving jump numbers in the world of skydiving. Jump numbers are a basic indicator of skydiving experience. A logbook may also be a means of keeping track of where you’ve been, what you’ve done, and who you did it with. Logbooks may be fun, or they can be boring. Skydivers are required to keep a logbook of sorts at the least until an A or other beginning license is achieved that indicates the “student” status has passed. Many dropzones require a written logbook if a visiting jumper wishes to jump. The logbook not only demonstrates the number of jumps, but should indicate skydiver currency as well. If the goal is to become an instructor of sorts, logbooks must be kept until 500 or even 1000 jumps, depending on where the skydiver lives. Riggers are required to keep logs of reserves packed, and it’s a good idea to keep a log for any major repairs done to any skydiving equipment for purposes of “present recall." The same can be said for keeping student logs, or at the least, logging information about students you've taught. Something may come up later in their jumping career. Remember your Coach course? Logbooks might be as simple as a logging audible that keeps track of jumps and as complex as handwritten journals that contain every last detail about each jump, and everything in between. A logbook is a journal of skydiving history. For some, bragging rights related to jump numbers may be enough. For others, recalling who was on a jump, the type of jump, the formations achieved, length of freefall, and much more become part of the bigger picture. Every AFF instructor learns how to fill out a logbook with encouraging information and reinforcement of a student jump while providing “code” so that any subsequent instructor has some information about the strengths and weaknesses of the student. Students will generally improve faster if provided specifics in their logbook, and the logbook will serve as a historical record of their first jumps. Logbooks also preserve records for those that come after someone has retired or deceased. A most special moment was at the memorial service for Gary Douris, where some of his logs were brought out for the attending public to view. Howls of laughter rang across the courtyard at S’nore as people read log entries saying that “So and so had been grounded” and “XXX couldn’t arch but he deployed OK, so he was ready for a longer delay." Samplings of logbooks can be seen here, courtesy of Eike Hohnendahl and myself. Some folks have expressed shock and awe at Eike’s logbooks, which are as meticulous as the man himself. Each jump is logged for place, date, exit point, landing point, participants in the jump, any exciting or interesting moments in the jump. Also included are copies of any payment for a jump, type of main used, and any special equipment used. In many cases, photos of the jump are also included. These logbooks take time, time that most are probably not willing to put into logging each jump. The skydiver making 15 jumps in a day likely isn’t able to log with such tremendous detail. Some skydivers may wish to only keep jumps logged in an electronic logger as mentioned above, and never enter data into any computer or logbook. This is perfectly fine too. CHEATING JUMPS A famous logbook entry, referred to as the “P-51” entry, is named for the kind of pen used to fill in the logbook with false/padded jumps. Although meant in fun, inflated jump numbers are no joke. Lying in a logbook is predominantly a game of lying to yourself, but may carry over into falsification of records, if the logbook is being used to affirm and prove jump numbers for the purposes of achieving ratings or participation in an event. Ultimately, falsified logbooks impress only yourself and no one else. INSTRUCTOR AND SPECIAL JUMPS My own method has been to keep a detailed record of every jump using the L&B; Jumptrack software, until I became an instructor. I keep a separate log of students and the type of instructional jump ie; Coach Jump, AFF jump, Wingsuit FFC, Wingsuit Coach, etc. The Instructional Logbook is kept in paper form, and in most instances I ask the student to sign the logbook, simply because I enjoy re-reading the logbooks at later points, and being able to show students “lookie here, remember when you did your AFF Cat D jump with me? That was a fun ride, yeah?” CHOOSING A LOGBOOK When choosing a logbook, consider how you’d like to log jumps. If you like to write, be sure the logbook has enough space and is comfortable to write in. Do you want to be able to put photos in the logbook? Be sure it’s large enough to hold those photos. If electronic logging is preferred, there are several applications available, including software as simple as Excel or other database software. Software tools like Paralog and Jumptrack interface directly with electronic loggers such as the Neptune, Altitrack, or ProTrack altimeters/audibles. Some logbooks allow for the import of GPS data for tracking jumps, wingsuit flights, or long distance canopy flight. The logging software may display a graph of exit point, speed, deployment, and offer fields to store indexed data such as total freefall time, type of skydive, aircraft used, etc. No matter how jumps are logged and chronicled, it’s a good idea to keep a logbook for at least the first 500 or 1000 jumps, if ratings are to be achieved. If nothing else, logbooks can provide great entertainment during the off-season or after a day’s jumping has occurred. They’re a great place to store phone numbers, email addresses, photos of special jumps, and to remember all those “beer” experiences. And when you're sitting around on a dark windy day with nothing to do but make up lies (No sh**, there I was) and drink beer with friends, a well-kept logbook will only add to the fun.
  4. nettenette

    How To Show Your Three-Ring System You Care

    Three-ring systems look pretty tough. They’re made of thick, heavy metal, after all – what could possibly go wrong? Bad news: lots. The rings are husky little guys, that’s true. However, they depend on the webbing behind them–and the cutaway cables that fasten them in the ready position–in order for them to work. It behooves you to know when and how to maintain the system. How Sloppily Maintained 3-Ring Systems Can Cause a Bad Day Nylon webbing, the material used to make skydiving (and BASE, for that matter) risers, stiffens over time to conform to the position in which it’s usually stored. Sometimes, they “set” so firmly in that position that the risers can’t flex the backing nylon–and can’t detach from the harness when the jumper engages the cutaway system, especially during a low-drag malfunction (such as a streamer). This, of course, is a very bad thing. The B-Sides You’ve probably gotten used to looking at the little snowmen of your three-rings during your preflight gear checks. Great! How often do you look behind them? The loop that connects the cutaway cable to the three-ring system can get dangerously abraded over time. You should peek at it every time you pack. The Deep Tracks To keep your three-rings in proper working order, the three-rings need to be manually disassembled, the cables checked and the webbing treated to a little massage. For skydivers, this is the stuff of riggers. According to Federal Aviation Regulation Part 65-111, skydivers “must be under the supervision of a rigger when performing any maintenance on a parachute system.” Don’t let your rigger have all the fun, though. Having a hand in the process has the significant benefit of familiarizing you with the operation of the system and increasing your confidence that it’ll be there when you need it. The best advice is to go through these steps every three months, whether or not you’ve been jumping the rig. Check your user’s manual for specific instructions. You can always find this on the manufacturer’s website. Pull the cutaway handle. Set the cutaway and connected cables on a clean surface. (Do not pull the reserve handle – unless you need a repack, of course.) Inspect the Velcro on the cutaway handle and the seating on the harness. You may need to use a stuff brush to “fluff” the Velcro and clean off any adherence-preventing dirt, especially if you jump at a dusty drop zone. Check the ends of each cutaway cable to be sure they haven’t developed any kinks or rough edges. Run a microfiber cloth over each cable. While you do, check for smoothness. Disassemble the risers. Carefully check each riser for signs of wear. Look especially carefully at the white loop that “locks” the cutaway cable to the three-ring system. (You should be checking this loop each time you pack the rig, but this process gives you a better, closer look.) Twist and flex the webbing of each riser near the ring system. You can safely be vigorous. You’ll likely feel the problem-causing stiffness as you do this. Reassemble the system. Refer to your user’s manual to ensure you’ve done it correctly. Before your next jump, have an experienced jumper or a rigger confirm that the system is correctly reassembled. Enjoy a little more gear confidence, dear reader. You’ve earned it.
  5. Canopy wear-and-tear can sneak up on you--and, if you’re new(ish) to the swooping trade, you might not know exactly what parts of your equipment need extra attention. Since a dedicated canopy pilot plies his trade on the basis of impeccable nylon, only a seasoned pro’s advice on the matter will do. To that end, I caught up with multi-disciplinary virtuoso Pete Allum to ask him for his best tips and tricks for keeping that kit in fighting shape. Pete started skydiving in 1979, and it didn’t take long for him to clamber up on his first podium. Since 1985, Pete has stood on national- and world-level podiums almost every year (sometimes, more than once). In the pursuit of all that gold--and in the course of his extensive coaching work--Pete has made more than 32,000 skydives. It’s safe to say, then, that he’s seen a few canopies through their life cycles. Here’s what he has to say on the subject. 1. Pack your own parachute as much as possible. When you’re hopping and popping like a broken record, the last thing you probably want to do is wiggle around on a packing mat. Pete suggests that you should suck it up and make the effort, because your personal attention is the most important factor in your gear’s fitness. After all, your packer’s job is to get it in the container. Your gear’s overall well-being is your job. “If I’m jumping 20 times a day,” Pete explains, “I certainly won’t be packing it every time, but I want to make sure I have my own eyes on it regularly. Even if I have a very heavy schedule, I’ll make sure to pack it myself at least a couple of times a week. That gives me the opportunity I need to see the things I wouldn’t if I only jumped it. When it’s in my hands, I can check for problems like closing pin damage, dinged grommets and center cell discoloration from sweat.” 2. Don’t be shy. Keep your standards high. Non-ideal openings accelerate wear-and-tear on your gear (as well as your body), so it falls to you to make sure that some standards are being upheld when a third party is compressing your fabric. Pete advocates a professional, proactive position, especially when it comes to stows. “Packing stows vary widely, and not everyone is aware of how important it is to be consistent,” Pete admonishes. “So it’s a good idea to make sure your packer is using the same large stows throughout and double-wrapping every stow on the bag.” Finally, make sure the packer is dressing the container’s flaps correctly. If they don’t, Pete notes that creases will form, building memory in the fabric over time. These ever-deepening furrows can cause degradation as the container ages. 3. Watch the wear points on the lines. With high performance comes high mechanical stress. A small, aggressive canopy has a tendency to shake the system like an energetic rottweiler thrashes a favorite chew toy, so you’ll need to keep an even more vigilant eye on your canopy’s wear points: especially the lower control lines and the places at the top and bottom of your lines where your grommets like to grind. If there’s even a hint of fraying on your lines, bringing your gear to a rigger should rise to the top of the to-do list. “When I’m in Florida, it’s the easiest thing in the world to bring it over to Performance Designs, so I’ll pop over at the earliest sign of wear,” Pete says. “When I’m farther afield, my standards have to relax a little, but it’s still a top priority to get it done.” 4. Give your pilot chute an extra look. Pete recommends that you check for wear at the bridle attachment point at every opportunity. Beyond that, he notes that you should occasionally tug out the kill line and check it for fraying, twisting and shortening. “The system has a couple of inches of margin,” Pete explains, “But if the kill line measures outside that allowance, you need to take it to a rigger.” 5. Keep an eye on how many jumps you’ve already put on the canopy. Especially if you aren’t a logbook-lovin’ kinda jumper, it’s easy to lose track of a canopy’s jump numbers. According to Pete, that will need to change. When it comes to jump numbers, swoopers don’t enjoy the luxury of unintentional ignorance. “Especially if you’ve been jumping someplace hot and/or dusty, it pays to know exactly how far along you are,” Pete advises. “As soon as the ticker goes over 200 jumps, I start to pay way more attention, even though the line set is expected to last much longer than that.” 6. Be an active participant in a high-caliber team. When your zoomy descent becomes the focus of your skydiving days, your need for a professional team of advisers increases exponentially. Take time to build relationships with the very best, most enthusiastically recommended riggers, packers and coaches you can find, and don’t hesitate to reach out to them for guidance. It takes a village to raise a safe (and super) swooper, after all. To pursue the perfect swoop under the matchless tutelage of Pete Allum, reach out to him through Flight-1.
  6. Image by Juan Mayer When are you going to be alone in the sky with a useless bag of laundry and two little handles? If it hasn’t happened yet, it’s going to. Sure, there are skydivers with thousands of jumps who have never had to make alternate nylon plans. But don’t be fooled: your first reserve ride is not a question of “if.” It’s a question of “when.” If you don’t feel ready, you’re not alone. Here are ten proven ways to boost your confidence and safety. 1.Stay current Long lapses between jumps are dangerous. Time on the ground dulls skills, sharpens apprehensions and weighs down your jump with the clammy fog of unfamiliarity. Most importantly, it unravels the easy muscle memory you’ve spent so much time and effort to develop -- and muscle memory is of primary importance in the event of a reserve ride. Especially at the beginning of your skydiving career, you’ve got to make the effort to jump at least every couple of weeks. 2. Give ‘er a spin Do yourself a favor and deploy your reserve for every repack. You’ll learn the unique direction of pull for your gear, and you’ll be able to feel out the force you’ll need to exert. If your rigger watches the process, he/she can keep an eye on the deployment and identify potential problems. (Even if you have deployed your own reserve, a repack is an unwasteable drill opportunity for a refresher.) 3. Just touch your stupid handles, Mr. Bigshot, OK? Sheesh Touch your handles in sequence before you enter the plane. It is not beneath you. Being blasé about basic safety doesn’t make you more awesome -- it just makes you more blasé. While you’re at it, check that your reserve handle is seated (so you don’t end up on a reserve ride without the yeehaw fun of a malfunctioning main). 4. Don’t overthink it It’s simple, really. If you believe that your main is unlandable, you’re going to have a reserve ride. Sure -- lots of skydivers have landed under reserves only to realize in hindsight that they could have solved the problem. However, lots of skydivers have gone in while striving to sort out malfunctions that did not improve. If those are the choices, which would you rather be? 5. Get your priorities straight Do not worry about stability. This is the very least of your problems. Worry about altitude. cutaway) handle no lower than 1,000 feet. Initiating a reserve ride below 1,000 feet isn’t always deadly, but it has an unnerving tendency to be. Don’t take the chance. 6. Hold on tight After you pull your handles out completely, hold on to ‘em. You’ll save some money, and you’ll save face when you land. 7. Make sure it’s out This is kinda your last shot at nylon, so you’ll want to be sure it’s working. Arch and look over your shoulder for the reserve pilot chute. Reserves deploy fast, so this head position is gonna butter your bread – but if the pilot chute is somehow caught in your burble, this should either shake it loose or make it clear to you that you need to do some burble intervention, stat. 8. Don’t chase after your ex(-parachute) I’m going to go out on a limb here and tell you not try to run after it and grab it in the air. (People have, y’know, died doing that.) You broke up with each other for a reason, after all; you can reconcile after everybody’s had a little time to cool down. Instead, get your head together and use landmarks to identify where the gear is headed. Then take a deep breath, leave it to the fates, and work on navigating your meat to a safe landing. 9. Tell the peanut gallery to sit and spin When you land a reserve, you’re going to be the talk of the DZ (for about five minutes, usually). During that five minutes – longer, if the loads are turning slowly – you’ll probably be approached by a receiving line of would-be mentors. They’re gonna question your malfunction, and they’re gonna be eager to discuss your decision to cut away. My advice: speak to your trusted mentors and co-jumpers about your little adventure in private, and tell the rest to go suck an egg. You were there. They were not. When you need to save your life in the sky, you are absolutely alone. In the entire world, there exists only you and two handles. Your cutaway is your business. 10. Go to the liquor store Buy a bottle of posh booze for the rigger who packed the reserve you rode. It’s tradition.
  7. admin

    A Guide To Traveling With Your Gear

    Anything precious in your bag, sir? Introduction Getting into skydiving opens up many opportunities for travel. You might live somewhere where the weather is shit all the time, or simply want to take advantage of the beautiful places available to jump around the world. Traveling with your gear can be a worrisome experience. If you are at all sensible, you should already own both a standard travel insurance policy for your belongings and some additional cover that concerns your physical being and any event in which it smooshes into something unforgivingly solid. However, unless you either arrange additional extended insurance (or jump some wonky old contraption built of very dubious elements), the coverage you are paying for is unlikely greater than the value of a set of modern skydiving gear. Your magical backpack is precious to you, and while traveling abroad you will likely feel most inclined to keep your eyes and hands on it at all possible times. Checked or Carry On? Once successfully embarked on your career as a skydiver, sooner or later someone will share with you a horror story involving airport security and a parachute. The exact details of this tale are variable, but it will usually involve massive injustice on the part of very ignorant and uncool staff against an innocent and harmless skydiver who just wanted to be perpetually within four feet of their gear by taking it into the aircraft cabin as carry-on luggage - only to be harassed, hassled and sometimes ultimately denied. Situations that escalate this far are rare, but they happen enough among a relatively small community of people to then hang in our collective consciousness as a potential problem - prompting the anxious conundrum of either checking-in one’s rig and thus entertaining the very slim but real possibility of it vanishing forever, or sending it forth through the scanner and risk having to cause a scene because some jobsworth insists on popping your reserve and causing a hundred people in the line behind you to all miss their flights. What Is This Thing? What is it about a parachute system that draws the attention of security personnel? It seems logical it would be your AAD that is the most curious element: a mysterious little box complete with a with a couple of protruding wires, a numeric display an activation button (eeek!). In fact, the Cypres unit (the AAD everyone should own) does indeed utilise a very small amount of gunpowder in its design (30 milligrams) - although you should not say this to anyone in charge of aeroplanes. It is up to you to not say this and it is important not to say this. Despite being officially harmless according to all the aviation authorities that matter, try explaining away this nugget of information well enough to be allowed to continue on your journey. Official looking visual aids can occasionally be very useful. Over many years of traveling as a freefly team, we eventually realised that frequently enough one of us would have to explain how a parachute does (and more importantly - does not) work that we began to rotate who went first through security, therefore being the one to get their rig out and do the explaining. We discovered that it seemed not to matter. Sometimes both the first and second rig would pass unassumingly through the scanner, only for the third to be set aside needing the guided tour - thus leaving the two initial team members on their way into the terminal, chortling at the unlucky third and musing about how mystifying and stupid the process is - as if a single rig is but 33% suspicious and only the cumulative effect of several examples passing by in succession is enough to make the final one stand out as suspect. Each time an inspection was required we began to quiz airport staff in turn about what they see that makes one’s gear a thing of interest to them. Although as of yet we have received no definitive answers as to exactly why, it appears that the combination of the reserve cable and pilot chute spring that draw attention. A metal cable spiralling into the centre of things just looks unfamiliar enough to be potentially wrong and bad. What Are The Rules? The gentleman on the left thinks it is cool to go through the airport like this. He is wrong. As far as all the major aviation authorities are concerned, there is nothing about a complete parachute system that categorises it as forbidden to travel in either the cabin or the hold of any commercial aircraft. Individual airlines might have their own rules for various types of sporting equipment (which you should remember to look up before you go anywhere), but these are much more likely to concern weight allowances and excess baggage fees than any specific security rules. There are various formal documents available that concern skydiving equipment, but I am yet to meet any airport staff in the world that have actually read them. As such, each transit situation will depend entirely on the personal experience of those charged with viewing your bags - and can range from cow-eyed unconcern (most common), through mild curiosity (sometimes) all the way to haughty indignation that you would dare attempt to take such a thing onto an aeroplane and put everyone’s lives in immediate danger (sucks to be you). What Happens If You Need To Explain? Be nice. Always, always, be nice. Airport staff at any step of the way can very quickly ruin not only your travel day - but you whole trip if they feel it is necessary - and smile-kill you while they do so. If you are required to give a presentation, usually a quick explanation while they swab your harness for naughty residues will suffice and you will be on your merry way. If their concern does persist past this point it will probably be because whoever you are talking to is somewhat (possibly very) convinced that your canopy can suddenly and dramatically fully inflate in the cabin, thus freaking everyone the fuck out and covering the windscreen or something. The best course of action here is just keep repeating in a soothing tone “That is impossible” and “It doesn’t work like that” while remembering to be nice. If that doesn’t work you can even have the employee in question deploy your main pilot chute limply onto the floor. Go nuts! Have them pop the pin and send your deployment bag down to join it. Not matter what happens through this interaction try to make it as fun as possible and educate the staff a little bit about your gear and doing your bit for those that come after. You never know - the difference you make here might mean as much as the next person who passes this way meeting their connection or not. Success Conclusion Many people have traveled with their parachutes as carry-on many times, to many places, for many years, with no problems. Every now and then someone just has shitty luck and another tale of woe spreads it’s wings. If things do go badly for you and there is now way out other than to pop your reserve and/or get everything out in exquisite detail, just get it over with. The best play regardless of how far you have to go down this road is always make security personnel feel that they are doing the right thing. Inside you will be seething with rage but if you are a dick to them in even the smallest way nothing good will come of it other than a long conversation in a windowless room. So be nice. Things To Remember: 1. Put Your Rig In A Bag You will look super cool wandering around the terminal with your straps all dangling and your G3 clipped to a hip ring like a six-gun. Right up until someone spills sub-standard guacamole all over you. 2. Get Some Paperwork Airtec produce a nifty credit card thingy that you can whip out to look like a stone-cold professional. It shows an x-ray of a rig that explains why Cypres units are fine for travel and does not mention gunpowder at all. Other AADs are possibly available. For the extra careful there is also a selection of formal documents available in different languages that you can print out and keep in a ring-binder.
  8. admin

    Todd Shoebotham Talks Pilot Chutes

    Todd Shoebotham, Owner and President of Apex BASE, Helps Jumpers Get the Details Right Note: This article discusses pilot chutes in a BASE environment and should not be used in relation to skydiving. Ah, the pilot chute. Our beloved little workhorse, it’s the first thing we take out and the last thing we put in. It gets dragged around. It gets abused. For all the obsessive fawning we do over our canopies, our pilot chutes get surprisingly little love. If you’re looking to change that--and learn a little more about the sizes and styles of pilot chutes that you should invite on your BASE jumping adventures--then you’ve come to the right place. We pinned down the inimitable Todd Shoebotham and picked his brain about it in order to share his infinite wisdom with our beloved public. We’re pretty sure you’re going to learn a few things, so lean in and listen! 1. Keep your fingers out of harm’s way. Does your pilot chute have a tube handle? According to Todd, the data suggests that fingers have an uncanny tendency to make their way into that little tunnel at pull time, which can make for some seriously awkward Chinese-finger-trap deployments. “A few people have reported reaching back and going up to the knuckle into the PVC,” Todd says. “Or getting their fingers underneath the handle. When you’re reaching back, that’s certainly not what you want.” This problem can be solved in multiple ways. If you do have a PVC-style handle with a potential finger trap, Todd recommends taping over the ends in order to eliminate this possibility. Apex pilot chutes forego the tube for handles that wrap rubberized, textured fabric around a solid foam cylinder. “Compared to the old-style PVC handle, this is much lighter, too,” Todd explains, “And that lightness helps the pilot chute get orientated properly.” 2. Travel with a well-curated collection. Since pilot chutes are available in everything from little 32-inch versions to behemoth 52-inchers, it can be challenging to determine what you really need to carry in your gear bag as a traveling jumper. Todd suggests that carrying a quiver of three to four will reliably cover your bases. “On the smaller end, we typically set people up with 36-inch pilot chutes,” he explains, “But we still stock the 32s. The 32-inch PC is probably the least-popular one in our range, because we believe they only belong on the lightest parachutes.” “We used to see 36s on wingsuit-specific rigs,” Todd adds, “But we’ve been seeing a lot of people with wingsuits favor bigger PCs because of their lower airspeed at deployment.” From there, Todd suggests having a 42--”the workhorse in the middle”--which covers your standard Potato Bridge jumping, and a 46- or 48-incher, depending on the size of your canopy, for objects more along the lines of a low cliff or structure. If you have a little more room in your luggage and you’re looking to jump a lot of subterminal objects, Todd suggests a 38-inch pilot chute. “Most people aren’t going to be using a 36 or a 38 handheld,” he says. “If you’re in that 5-to-6 second range, it’s a nice pilot chute to have, the 38. It is a slightly different pilot chute. It is not as strong of a pull, but you still have plenty of room there. I might not use it on all 400-foot objects, but definitely on some of them, and it is a little nicer flying with a slightly smaller pilot chute.” 3. Make adjustments to compensate for your choices. According to Todd, there are mistakes to be made here in both directions. On one hand, unnecessarily oversizing is an easy mistake to make. While it’s not necessarily dangerous, it can negatively affect your jump if you don’t keep your delay relative to your PC choice (and create unnecessary distortion to the canopy during extraction, to boot). “If you don’t have the appropriate pilot chute for your jump and you don’t adjust your delay accordingly,” Todd says, “You might not like the results. If you were going to extremes in exposing a big pilot chute to a lot of airspeed, you would be stressing out parts of the canopy and your body. For instance: if you should really be using a 42 but you have a 46, you’d better go a little short on this one and enjoy the view from under canopy a little longer rather than taking your normal delay for that jump. I know you don’t want to, but that’s the pilot chute you’ve got.” “Also keep in mind,” he continues, “That we have seen peculiar behavior when some large pilot chutes are jumped slider-up. You can get some pretty weird interaction if you do that; the slider just seems more reluctant to come down. Personally, I think it has to do with the distortion that the canopy went through during line stretch; at any rate, we do not recommend it.” Take object familiarity into consideration. Since larger pilot chutes generally provide snappier openings, Todd asserts that object familiarity is a major factor to consider when choosing a pilot chute. “If it is your local object and you’ve really got things dialed in, I can see downsizing,” Todd says. “But if you’re a visiting jumper, you’re going to probably need to treat it a little differently. For example: If all the locals are using a 46, I’ll probably be using a 48 to stack the cards in my favor. If I make enough jumps there to become comfortable with the surroundings, I can see transitioning down to the 46.” “At the end of the day,” he insists, “You have to remember: In BASE jumping, really small changes in performance do matter. Make sure you’re prepared.”
  9. 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!
  10. admin

    Do Skydivers Care About Safety

    Image by Russell M. Webb If I've learned one thing in my 35 years in the sport, it's that it is very difficult to get most skydivers interested in safety. Years ago, when it became obvious that my hand deploy pilot chute and 3-ring release made it possible to deploy a malfunction, and then breakaway from it, 500 feet faster than the existing internal pilot chutes and Capewell canopy releases allowed, a lot of jumpers simply started deploying their mains 500 feet lower. Utterly negating the increase in safety these systems offered. Even today, most jumpers think that because all gear has a TSO tag on it, one piece of gear is as safe as another. Unfortunately, that is not true, and most jumpers will choose "fashion" over safety every time. Here are just a few examples of what I mean, starting in the '60's, right up to the present day. The army found out that if you put 2 foot band of fine netting around the skirt of a round parachute, you eliminate the most common deployment malfunction, the partial inversion. The trick worked so well that airborne troop static line malfunctions went from 1 in 250 to 1 in 250,000. WOW! So, a company that made round sport reserves (there were no square reserves yet) came out with an "anti-inversion netted" reserve. NO ONE bought it. You know why, of course...It packed up 10% bigger. Jumpers past up a proven 1,000 times increase in safety for smaller pack volume. Believe it or not, there is a similar, thought not nearly as drastic, choice jumpers are making when they buy a square reserve today. Let me explain. The first square canopies came without sliders, so they had to be built tough. This meant, among other things, that there was tape running spanwise (from right to left) between the line attachment points. With the advent of the slider and softer opening canopies, some companies began leaving the spanwise reinforcing tapes out of their square reserves. Why? Because they cost less to build, and (you guessed it) they packed smaller. This proved to be a wise choice, (at least in the marketing department) because although jumpers very often choose their mains for performance and durability, the almost always always choose their reserves base only on price and pack volume. While reserves without spandwise tapes are fine in most situations, as we have seen recently, they tend to fall apart when skydivers push the envelope. (ie. big people on tiny canopies, going head down at high altitudes.) Safety doesn't seem to be any larger a consideration than it was when they passed up anti-inversion netted round reserves in the '60's. Standard size (large) 3-ring release systems have never given a solo jumper any problem. They ALWAYS release easily and NEVER break. However, mini 3-rings look neater, so that's all people will buy. No matter all the reports of hard or impossible breakaways or broken risers. Don't get me wrong, Properly made, and maintained, mini 3-ring release systems will handle anything even the newest ZP canopy with microlines can dish out. Unfortunately, because they are now being pushed right to their design limit, they must be made EXACTLY right. And a lot of manufacturers either can't or won't. On the other hand, a large 3-ring system has so much mechanical advantage, that even a poorly made system will still work just fine. But then fashion is much more important than safety, isn't it? Spectra (or micro-line) is strong and tiny, so it reduces both pack volume and drag , which means you get a smaller rig and a faster canopy. Unfortunately, It has a couple of "design characteristics" (this is manufacturer talk for "problems") It is very slippery (less friction to slow the slider), and stretches less than stainless steel. This is why it hurt people and broke so many mini risers when it was first introduced. Now, I must say that the canopy manufacturers did a wonderful job handling these "characteristics" by designing new canopies that opened much slower than their predecessors. However, the fact still remains, that if you do have a rare fast opening on a microlined canopy, Spectra (or Vectran) will transmit that force to you (and your rig) much, much faster, resulting in an opening shock up to 300% higher than if you have Dacron lines. (It's sort of like doing a bungee jump with a stainless steel cable. At the bottom of your fall, your body applies the same force to the steel cable as it would to a rubber bungee cord, but because steel doesn't stretch, your legs tears off.) So why would I have a fast opening? Well for one thing, you, or your packer might forget to "uncollapse" your collapsible slider. BAM! Or perhaps you're zipping along head down at 160 mph with a rig that wasn't designed for it, and you experience an accidental container opening. BAM again. The point is this: If you want to push the envelope, and get all the enjoyment this sport has to offer, and do it "safely", you need to make careful choices in the gear you jump. If you weigh 200 lbs. and do a lot of head down, perhaps you really shouldn't be using a reserve without spanwise reinforcement, mini 3-rings, or a canopy with micro lines. No matter how much you weigh, you should educate yourself about gear, and then only jump gear that is designed for how you jump. So many fatalities occur because of decisions jumpers make BEFORE even getting in the airplane. Don't join that group. Be smarter than that. Fashion, at least in skydiving, can get you killed. ~ Bill Booth
  11. The first tracking suit was a humble thing indeed. Invented by pioneers of the tracking discipline in the unforgiving terrain atop Norway’s bigwall exits, the first suits were resourceful repurposings of the stuff they already had on-hand – the rain gear required by Norway’s reliably inclement weather, and the cigarettes they used to while away the time as they waited for it to pass. The “big idea” was simple: increase a tracker’s surface area, and he/she can use it to fly longer, flatter, faster and farther from the danger posed by the solid object behind him. With this in mind, someone -- no one quite remembers who -- burned cigarette holes in their waterproofs, positing that enough air would enter the holes to afford meaningful inflation. Somewhat miraculously, it worked. The rest, as they say, is history. The first purpose-built version, the original Phoenix Fly tracking suit, was introduced in 2004. Until recently, it has seen little serious competition: suit tracking was born by and for the BASE environment, and non-BASE-jumpers had little interest in it outside of its contested, folk-wisdomy usefulness as a stepping stone to wingsuiting. The past year has changed everything. Skydiving and BASE have both seen an unprecedented boom in participating athletes -- as well as a notable rise in tracking as a specialization. Whether the boom owes to a sharp increase in wingsuit-related incidents or to a renewed interest in tracking subdisciplines such as angle flying is unclear, but the empirical evidence speaks for itself. In any case, suit manufacturers have responded with an explosion of new technologies and designs. The new range aims for lighting-fast inflation, foolproof pressurization, optimized lift-drag ratios and multi-orientational usability. In a couple of cases, the designs even introduce wingsuitesque one-piece construction into the mix. I five brand-new suits through their paces in both the BASE and skydiving environments to find out which provide an optimum performance in different circumstances. Here’s the rundown on my findings.* *You will note that I am one human, and that, while I have quite a lot of time in tracking suits, I am not any kind of god, savant or superwoman. Your experience may vary from mine. Heck, it’s likely to. By Joel Strickland The Suits Phoenix-Fly Power Tracking Suit Currently the most popular tracking suit on the market, Phoenix Fly’s Power Tracking Suit is the more powerful baby brother of Phoenix Fly’s venerable and much-beloved Original Tracking Suit. Along with a bigger general profile, the new suit integrates thicker stiffening fabric, additional gear pockets on the jacket, tougher construction, mesh lining and inlets redesigned to deliver quicker pressurization. Aerialists love its forgiving transitions, and the power zone is relatively easy for lower-experience trackers to find (though Phoenix-Fly suggests a minimum of 120 jumps on the Original Tracking Suit before putting on the Power). I found the Power Tracking Suit to be instantly comfortable, and its construction to be thoughtful and solid. While the suit doesn’t have the raw power of some of the other new offerings, it’s accessible, predictable and confidence-inspiring – which is probably why so many personal-best tracks have been performed in it. Pressurized Tube 4 The Tube 4’s predecessor, the Tube 3, was a polarizing piece of gear. Trackers either loved or hated it, citing distinct roll-and-yaw wiggliness and unpredictability during the transition. In response, Pressurized redesigned the Tube 4 from the ground up. Features include inflation-staging leg inlets, zipper safeties and a thicker arm profile. Long, strong stiffeners at the front of the calf effectively smooth the leg profile. Backfly inlets are available (though not standard), and zippers aside the leg open up a sizeable extension to the leg volume. Given my previous experience with the Tube 3, I was expecting a rodeo when I tested the new suit in the BASE environment. I was shocked by the new suit’s ease of use: it was a baby-smooth ride from the get-go. Though it took a bit of trial-and-error to find the power zone, the Tube 4’s transition was among the smoothest I’d ever experienced. I had a couple of nagging issues with the Tube 4’s construction. For one, I found the vent-stiffening material easily malforms – and quickly “learns” the new shape – when the suit is folded for packing. (Overnight storage on a wide-shouldered hanger reduces the problem, but doesn’t solve it; after all, the suit has to go into a stash bag sometime.) Beyond that, I was constantly fighting my suit’s sticky zippers. Tony Suits Masai There’s no denying that the Tony Masai, wingsuit manufacturer TonySuits’ first tracking offering, is a head-turner. I was the subject of several baffled stares as I marched across Skydive Empuriabrava in it – probably, because the one-piece Masai looks neither like a tracking suit nor a wingsuit but an idiosyncratic combination of both. Where other tracking suits are distinctly baggy, aiming to inflate across the entire body, the central body of the Masai is unusually trim. This decidedly anomalous design inflates via both front and back inlets on a set of tubular fabric “rails” that run from armpit to ankle and down the inseams. The jumper’s rig zips in just like a wingsuit. The Masai comes standard with Cordura booties, stealth-rubber soles, backfly inlets and a humorously roomy zippered pocket positioned right on the seat. When I first geared up in the Masai, I was worried about inflation. In other, far looser suits, a slight bend in the limbs doesn’t noticeably deform the inflating portion of the suit; on the Masai, however, slight changes in the articulation of legs and arms pulled the fabric unnervingly taut to the body. When I jumped it, however, my worries were instantly dispelled. While the Masai tended to misbehave in a steep dive, the suit kept its inflation admirably through the rest of the test maneuvers, achieved solid marks for distance and delivered the crispest transition to and from backfly of any tested suit. S-Fly Cruise Fly Your Body’s first addition to the field, the Cruise, is getting a lot of attention, and not just because it’s the suit that Fred Fugen and Vince Reffet used for their record-breaking freefly-tracking jump from the Burj Dubai. The Cruise is massive, it’s intelligently designed, and it’s delivering eyebrow-raising results from trackers with low jump numbers. The suit features several industry-first advancements. Internal airlocks maintain pressurization. Thumbloops on both sides (so they remain available whether you track with palms up or down) keep the arm stable. An integrated deflector improves airflow around the jumper’s rig. The Cruise comes standard with both front and back inlets and removable booties (as well as the option to order rubber with a BASE tread). The wide, one-piece design inflates centrally -- very differently from a two-piece design, which is necessary cinched around the waist. (Jumpers can expect this to result in yaw instability during the first few jumps.) The Cruise’s optimal flying technique moves closer to that of a wingsuit than a born-and-bred tracking suit, and it’s a lot for a newer jumper to handle. However, an athlete with some experience -- and the time and willingness to put a few skydives on the suit -- will likely have the same take-away I did: something akin to jaw-on-the-floor disbelief. Squirrel Sumo The Squirrel Sumo is aptly named: it’s a very burly suit. It’s so voluminous, in fact, that it’s likely to be mistaken for a small wingsuit in a stash bag. The Sumo comes standard with a bevy of thoughtful details: loads of oversized, difficult-to-deform Mylar inlets, a close-fitting collar and cuffs to prevent air escape, three Mylar-reinforced toe tension settings, Cordura reinforcements and brawny industrial-grade zippers. Uniquely, Squirrel’s suit also includes Velcro-fastened stabilizers on the inner leg to prevent its abundance of fabric from jostling out of position on exit. All that fabric, flown correctly, delivers rocketship power. My first skydives on the Sumo were gainers from the back of a military Casa over the open ocean off the coast of Panama, and the suit ferried me back to the island landing area with room to spare. I was pleased to see that it was racking up similar distances to smaller flocking wingsuits without much dialing-in. In full flight, the Sumo felt rock-solid. As with any other large suit – especially one that inflates as quickly and sizeably as the Sumo – BASE exits proved a trickier proposition, though the field-leading start speed is well worth the effort to workshop. Note: Squirrel purpose-built the Sumo to maintain solid internal pressure in order to outfly aggressive exits in the BASE environment. Because of that laser focus, you won’t find backfly inlets on the Squirrel. [Originally published in Skydive Dubai’s now-defunct Dropzone Magazine, Fall 2014]
  12. This article by Alain Bard is meant as a general guide. We highly recommend contacting your local rigger and instructor before using any of the information provided in this article. In the years I’ve been a rigger, I’ve often seen the results of skydivers’ gear buying experiences. Most experiences go well, but some do not, and result in the buyer having to re-sell an inappropriate piece of gear they bought. In this article, I am going to try to lay down some advice on how to go about choosing gear. I’m going to try to not go into brand specifics, but rather which components you should get and in what order, buying new or used, and sizing. New vs. Used? Let’s tackle this one first. Should you buy new or used? Traditional advice is that if this is your first set of gear: you should buy used. You’ll probably only use your first set of gear for the first 100 jumps or so. If you buy used skydiving gear, you can save some money (over new) while jumping your first set of gear, and take your time figuring out what you really want before you commit to buying new equipment. Let’s break it down though. So to put together a rig, you have to get 4 components: a harness/container, a reserve parachute, an Automatic Activation Device (AAD) and a main parachute. Whether to buy each of these pieces new or used depends on the piece. AAD Let’s start with the easy one: the AAD. Used or new does not matter, as you’re paying a fixed cost per year for these units. This fixed cost per year varies between $80-160 per year depending on which unit you choose. If budget is an issue, and you can find one used, grab it. Used AADs are rare as they expire faster than the skydiving gear they are in. If your budget allows, you can buy new. AADs are super easy to re-sell if you ever need to. Reserve Parachute Next up: the reserve parachute. For newbies, I always recommend buying a used reserve parachute, as you can save a significant amount of money here, and the benefit of a new reserve isn’t really justified over the cost of a new one. Reserve parachutes don’t get used very often, and even after 10 years, are usually in next to perfect condition. A 10-year old reserve of the same design is the same as a brand new one, it’s just cheaper to buy. Ensure the reserve has less than 5 or so “rides” and is no older than 15-18 years old. Also, ensure it has no holes, patches or repairs, or if it does, make sure the cost is much less, and consider sending it back to the factory to have it checked out first. Main Parachute For the main parachute, my advice is the opposite to a reserve. I recommend buying a main with as few jumps as possible (under 200 if possible). Buying a new main parachute is preferable, if budget allows. You will use this parachute to save your life 99.9% of the time. Its condition matters. Age isn’t really that much of a concern as much as the number of jumps. I like to make sure a main parachute still has its original lines, because you can tell the number of jumps by the condition of the lines. Trying to estimate the number of jumps on a canopy after a reline is sometimes difficult if the parachute fabric has been kept clean, dry and out of the sun. Another consideration is where the jumps were made. A parachute that was jumped in the summer in Canada or the US Northeast on green grass for only 6 months of each year will be in much better condition than one jumped all year round in desert-like or beach locations. Sand really eats away at the fabric coating and gets into the seams. If budget is really an issue, then a modern-design (last 10-15 years) used main parachute with more jumps is OK too, but make sure to have your rigger take a look and don’t pay too much for it, as it’s not going to be worth as much. Again, ensure it has no holes, patches or repairs, or if it does, make sure pay much less, and consider sending it back to the factory to have it checked out first. Harness/Container Last is the harness/container, for 80% of newbies, a used harness/container is probably the right way to go. Newbies tend not to land on their feet 100% of the time, and if you get a used harness/container a little dirty or scuffed up, it won’t matter as much. The problem is getting the right size for both the canopies *and* for your body (ie. harness size). Sizing for canopies is easy enough, but then sometimes it’s difficult to find the perfect sized harness. Having a harness that is a little too big or too small isn’t the end of the world, but it’s not as comfortable as a made-to-measure harness. If the harness is more than a little too big or too small, then resizing a harness is always an option, but it may cost more to have a harness resized than the harness/container is worth. For 20% of newbies, their body type makes it almost impossible to find a used harness/container. I’m talking about the 6’ guy who weighs 120lbs, or the 4’8” girl who weighs 95lbs, or on the other end of the spectrum, what you’ll find advertised as “big-boy rigs” for really large and/or heavy people. For these people that fall outside the average body types, while resizing a harness is sometimes an option, getting a new harness/container is sometimes a better option. Some manufacturers make basic rigs with no bells or whistles that end up costing less than a used, fully featured harness/container. I’m talking about rigs like the Shadow Racer and the Rigging Innovations Genera. These are great rigs at an even better price. Also, if you are a serving military member, some manufacturers offer incentives (up to 30% off) on new gear. This is a great deal, and a no-brainer. If you are eligible for such discounts, get new stuff! Before I move on, I want to mention that when you buy used, you will have to keep an open mind when it comes to colors. It’s the price you pay to save some money. So now WHAT should I buy, but more importantly – in what order? So you’ve been jumping a certain size main for a while and think you’re ready to downsize and get a different set of gear. Great! Let’s go through it. One of the biggest gear-buying mistakes is choosing (or buying) a harness/container first, and then trying to fit the canopies into a container that was not sized for those canopies, so…. Here’s the order in which you should think about it: Select the Reserve canopy first. Select an appropriately sized reserve. Your reserve should be big enough to not seriously hurt or kill you in the event of an unconscious reserve landing (no flare). This means that your reserve should be sized according to your wing loading on that reserve. For most people, that means I recommend getting a reserve at least one size bigger than the main you intend to jump. So if you think you want to jump a 150-size main parachute, get a 160 or 170-size reserve, and if you're a big guy that jumps a tiny cross-braced canopy, you'll maybe still want a 170-sized reserve (4-8 times larger than your main). You’ll thank me when you actually need to use the reserve. Then, pick a main, any main. Well, not really, but decide on the size of main you want to jump. You can pick the type of main later, but decide on size now. Now you can think about a harness/container! Then and only then start doing the research on what brand of harness/container you want based on the features you think are important to you. Look at harness/container manufacturers’ published volume charts to see which size container you would need to fit the reserve. You want to pick a size of container that fits the reserve and is described as “soft” or “normal” fit (if those descriptors are available). Stay away from a “tight” reserve fit at all costs. You’ll quickly notice that not all the manufacturers offer combinations that will fit a reserve that’s larger than a main. That’s really a shame. You should really ask those manufacturers why they don’t offer this. An expensive solution to this problem is a low-bulk reserve, which is marketed a being able to pack one size smaller than a regular reserve. So, if you want a container combination that fits a regular 150-sized main, and only fits a 150-size reserve, a low-bulk 160 reserve may be an option. Careful though, it doesn’t scale down. For instance, a low-bulk 126 reserve may not fit in a 113-sized container, or it may fit but be so tight that it interferes with the normal deployment of the reserve. This is bad, and should be avoided. So you’ve picked a reserve, and you know what size of harness/container you need, only then should you start looking at the classifieds to see if you can find something that has the right size harness attached to it. If you find something that you think fits, or described by the seller as fitting someone your size, ask the seller for the serial number of the harness/container. Then contact the manufacturer of the rig (even if it was made 10 or 20 years ago), and ask them what size the harness was made to fit. Most manufacturers keep data on all the rigs they have ever built, and will be happy to disclose this information to you, and discuss whether it would fit you based on your measurements. There is no need for guessing games. You can know before you even buy whether or not the harness/container will fit you. The only exception to this rule is if the harness has previously been re-sized, which is uncommon. Main Parachute 7-cell, 9-cell, F111, ZP, Hybrid, low bulk, square, semi-elliptical, elliptical, air locked, cross-braced, etc., etc… There are many mains on the market today. There is no right or wrong answer here. It depends on what you want to do. I’ll have to save this topic for another article. Refer to my comments above on age and condition. Don’t forget the AAD! The last part is to get an AAD. As long as the AAD in question is within its service life, has been maintained at the proper interval (if required), operates normally, and is approved for the harness/container you want to put it in, then you’re good to go. So there you have it. It’s not always obvious at first, so I hope this guide will help some of you out. Alain Bard has been an active skydiver since 2003. Alain holds the following CPSA ratings: D CoP, Skydiving Coach Level 2, Jumpmaster (JM), Ground Control Instructor (GCI), Skydive School Instructor (SSI), Skydive School Examiner (SSE), Exhibition Jump Rating (EJR), Parachute Rigger (RA). He is also a Tandem Instructor. Alain is a certified Hot Air Balloon Pilot (Transport Canada) Alain is a certified Paramotor Pilot (Transport Canada) Alain is a certified Paraglider Pilot (HPAC) You can find out more about Alain at his website: http://bard.ca
  13. admin

    How To Select The Right Canopy For You

    In this article we will explore some of the questions you might ask when you go shopping for a parachute. While this advice is intended primarily for the novice jumper--just off instruction to one hundred jumps or so -- instructors may also wish to take note. As instructors we are often asked by our students, for advice on what kind of equipment to purchase. I always try to advise as if I were counseling a family member. “If you were my little brother or my little sister I would recommend the following.” Especially when I am in a student/instructor situation, I feel responsible for this fledgling until he is well on his way. Picking the right parachute is more complex than you might imagine. With well over 200 main canopies to choose from, this decision can be harder than buying a house. Today, there is a huge spectrum of canopies, from extremely high performance parachutes to downright sluggish ones. There are some excellent selections for the novice and intermediate jumper in the mid to lower performance range. Let’s begin by defining some key terms for the uninitiated. High Aspect Ratio: The span (width) of the canopy is more than twice the chord length (straight line measurement from front to back) or greater than 2:1 aspect ratio. Low Aspect Ratio: The span of the canopy is less than twice the chord length or less than 2:1 aspect ratio. Elliptical High Aspect: As its name suggests, the elliptical canopy has tapered wing tips that significantly reduce wing tip vortices, thus reducing induced drag. When heavily loaded, this type of parachute goes very fast. The landing and stall characteristics are not as forgiving as a straight wing. It is only for the highly experienced skydiver with appropriate accuracy skills. Dynamic Flare vs. Steady State Flare There are two ways to land a parachute. More commonly in the past, the two methods were referred to as the “steady state flare” and the “dynamic flare”. The dynamic flare is one in which the brakes are applied, close to the ground or at the last moment at a toggle application rate of 1 foot per second. This is not a rapid movement -- it is really quite slow if you think about it. This maneuver converts downward and forward speed to vertical lift and diminishing horizontal glide. It should eventually result in a “tippy toe” landing. This maneuver, under a small canopy (meaning more than one pound per square foot of loading), almost anyone can do -- when the winds are up. In zero wind conditions the same maneuver requires years of experience, hundreds, perhaps thousands of jumps and a fabulous understanding of a particular canopy’s flight characteristics. The steady state flare is what is commonly used by practitioners of precision accuracy. You do not have to be a highly experienced accuracy jumper to use it, as it is a very forgiving technique. You must have a canopy of adequate square footage, however, and it generally works better on the thicker airfoils (accuracy canopies, demo canopies, some student canopies). In a steady state flare the application of brakes is done more gradually, can be initiated at a higher altitude, and generates a minimum of lift. This is in opposition to the dynamic flare which generates a great deal of lift. The goal is the same with either technique. The last six inches above the ground should look the same: forward speed is virtually eliminated, and the parachute is brought straight down. The Pros And Cons Of Zero-P Zero Porosity fabric is impregnated with a silicone based product that makes the fabric more resistant to wear and aging. This coating is what makes the fabric feel so slippery. The “Pros” The “Pros” of Zero-Porosity fabric include a better resale value, because the canopy will retain its original flight characteristics longer. But resale value, I try to stress to all canopy shoppers should be the last parameter. Buy what is right for you now. Choose the colors that you like. Go for the size and model that best suits your present needs. Zero porosity does not improve canopy performance as such. It only improves the longevity of the canopy. That is a big plus. However... The “Cons” It is harder to pack. You can sugar coat it a lot of ways but the fact is, the slippery, slimy feeling fabric is more difficult to keep under control, especially for the novice just learning to pack. Zero-P packs “bigger” because you can’t get as much air squeezed out of the pack job as you can with F-111. You will take longer to pack. At this stage of the game you want to keep up with the loads -- make more jumps in a day and not be fatigued. Your energy is better spent learning to skydive, rather than wrestling with your pack job. Canopies made from F-111 cost less. Considerably less. You can get many happy years of use out of your F-111 canopy, provided there is enough square footage over your head to start. Accuracy parachutes are made of F-111 because it allows the parachute to “bleed air” and sink better. This is something to bear in mind if you plan on doing a lot of demo jumps into tight areas! Line Drag vs. Pack Volume When should I choose Dacron? When should I choose Micro or Spectra line? Dacron lines provide greater parasitic drag, helping the canopy to shut down easier. Note that I speak in a positive light about this parasitic drag. In many cases it can be a good thing. Students would likely benefit from Dacron lines, as they often have trouble slowing down enough or at the right moment. Micro line or Spectra line reduces pack volume -- as a container manufacturer I love that aspect. I will grudgingly accept Dacron on my accuracy canopy to help control forward speed, however, and would recommend it to some young jumpers (under 200 jumps), for the same reason. Micro lines do not cause hard openings. Loose, short line bites, oversized rubber bands or Tube Stows, or otherwise improperly stowed lines cause hard openings. Consistently soft openings are commonplace on many micro lined canopies. Likewise, hard openings are easily achievable with big, fat Dacron lines, if improperly stowed. Thick Dacron lines do not necessarily mean stronger lines. Jump Shack uses 1500 lb. Spectra on its’ Tandem canopies. There is nothing with greater tensile strength in use, in the parachute industry today. I almost always recommend Micro or Spectra on reserves. It is stronger. It reduces bulk in an area where space is at a premium. You may want to fit an AAD in the reserve container later on. Because your reserve is most likely a relatively low aspect 7 cell, excessive forward speed is not problem. The reduced line drag will enhance the performance of your otherwise low performance canopy. Winds And Field Elevation Change Everything Ask yourself this question: “Is it predominantly windy where I jump? Is it rarely windy where I jump?” If you are lucky enough to jump in Hawaii where it is absolutely beautiful, but windy most of the time, you can get away with a smaller canopy. You may in fact need a higher aspect canopy to survive if you are a lightweight. You don’t want to risk blowing off the DZ, after all. If it is only sometimes windy at your Drop Zone, and mostly calm, anticipate having to judge the distance of your glide on those zero wind landings. Also consider Drop Zone elevation, and density altitude in the Summertime. Your parachute is going to display decreased performance capability at airports above 2000 feet, and on high temperature, high humidity days (the air actually gets thinner). You will have more difficulty stopping your canopy. The higher the elevation of your drop zone, the more square footage you should have. Otherwise anticipate a longer distance to bleed off forward speed. Above 2000 feet is where this factor becomes very evident, but I can feel the difference when I go away from DeLand, elevation 80 feet, and jump in New England at about 500 feet. Surprised is the student who makes his first 8 jumps in a 7 - 10 mph breeze, on a 288 sq. foot canopy, then suddenly finds himself off instruction, with no radio, on a windless day, with a 190 sq. foot demo canopy. Don’t let it happen to you -- unless you have endless desert stretched before you, free of barbed wire fences. This brings us to another important point -- drop zone location. In conservative New England (God love it), where the drop zones are small and the obstacles many, novices are generally guided toward canopies that are adequately large and docile. Whether it is done consciously or not, I have witnessed that the square foot per pound ratio (important! not the pound per square foot ratio) amongst young jumpers in that region is about 1.5, which I think is perfect. If you jump in a congested area, or one with many obstacles on or near the Drop Zone, you are generally better off with a relatively low performance canopy. Don’t buy the argument about not being able to “get back” to the Drop Zone on a long spot day. Keep in mind that even todays “low performance” canopies could fly circles around the parachutes that we used 15 or 20 years ago, and we used those parachutes for demos, for accuracy, for students... Take The Conservative Approach Fifteen to twenty years ago, instructors were jumping parachutes that were not significantly different from those of the student. Giving advice was easy. You could go round or you could go square. If you were a big fella, you jumped a T-10. If you were a lightweight you could have a 28 ft. flat circular. If you had some money to spend you could get a ParaCommander. If you really wanted to go out on a limb you could have a Cloud or Paraplane (the latter not all that low in performance)! The point is, most of the canopies were relatively low in performance, or sufficiently high in square footage (or area). If I am speaking on the phone to a potential buyer, I always inquire about his age, physical condition, weight, and experience. I also ask where he jumps to get an indication of field elevation and prevailing conditions. Because many of us have fantasies of being a Sky god or a World Champion of some sort, we have a propensity to project this onto our students, giving advice with this in mind for one and all. We forget how many years it took to achieve our present status. We forget that many are in this sport just for fun! We should remind ourselves and our students, that there is plenty of time to learn, and there should be no rush. The instructional community seems to have no problem with telling the new jumper to sit down on a windy day so that he can jump tomorrow, rather than risk a bad landing that will put him out for three months. Likewise we should be telling them to take the conservative approach to canopy selection. We must assume that the novice jumper is going to make a mistake at some point, so why not let him do it on a big, forgiving canopy? Before you shop, talk to a few people, including your instructor, and some of the older, more experienced skydivers on your Drop Zone. Be careful not to let a salesperson dictate what you should buy. Because, while most retailers out there are reputable and knowledgeable -- they have a tendency to want to sell you what is in stock. A Formula To Go By Most manufacturers of parachutes speak in terms of pounds per square foot. For example, if John weighs 200 pounds and jumps a 97 sq. ft. canopy, he is loading it at 2.06:1 or 2.06 pounds per square foot of canopy. When you go shopping for a canopy, you should think in terms of square feet per pound of your body weight (i.e. you weigh 200 pounds and you have 0 - 20 jumps). Using the following chart, multiply your 200 pounds by the 1.75 sq. ft./pound recommendation for your number of jumps, and find that you should be jumping a 350 sq. ft. canopy. The following numbers are general guidelines from a conservative point of view. They are based largely on my own personal experience as an instructor, and active competitor, with 20 years of experience, flying canopies in every size range. For tandem jumping, I prefer the 400 square foot range. For accuracy, I jump a 252 to 259 square foot canopy, and for style, RW and everything else, I use a 107 square foot elliptical. So you see also, that different jobs require different canopies! Also remember -- there is an exception to almost every rule. For example, not all 7 cells are low aspect. The new Triathlon is a recent exception to that old rule. Not all reserves are 7 cells. There are 9 cell reserves, even 11 cell reserves. There is such a thing as thick Spectra line, and rather thin Dacron suspension line. There are a lot more exceptions where those came from. Number Of Jumps Appropriate Square Footage Aspect Ratio : 1 1 - 20 1.75 sq. ft. / lb. <2.0 : 1 21 - 50 1.65 sq. ft. / lb. <2.0 : 1 51 - 200 1.50 - 1.35 sq. ft. / lb. 2.0 to 2.5 : 1 201 - 1000 1.30 - 1.10 sq. ft. / lb. 2.0 to 2.8 : 1 1001 - ? 1.10 - 1.00 sq. ft. / lb. >2.8 : 1 Some interpolation will be required here. Round the figure up or down as much as 15% to find an existing canopy size. We know that highly experienced jumpers can and do exceed the one pound per square foot maximum as prescribed by most canopy manufacturers. This is one of the benefits as well as one of the hazards of living in a free society. We just have to be sensible about such freedoms. A jumpers’ age and physical condition must also be weighed into the equation. Ask yourself honestly, Am I athletic and limber? Can I run off excessive forward speed from a small, high aspect ratio canopy on a high density altitude, no wind day ? Am I simply in good physical condition? (Perhaps you can’t run as well or as fast as you used to.) Am I in fair physical condition? (I don’t want to have to run at all.) Or am I in poor physical condition (Lacking in strength and muscle tone, not very flexible)? If you are a “1," eventually, when you have gained experience, you will be able to jump the sportiest of canopies. If you are a “2,” you may want a high aspect canopy, but with square footage in the 1.35 to 1.15 range. If you are a “3” or a “4,” consider a low aspect canopy, as well as abundant square footage. The Step-Down Method Spend your first two years or first 500 jumps on a canopy that is 1.5 square feet per pound in relation to your body weight. You should be completely comfortable in any situation or meteorological condition with that canopy before you graduate to the next size down. Then spend a year-- or 300 jumps-- whichever comes first, on the next size down canopy and so on. Riding The Clutch Fly with a little bit of brakes. It is OK to fly leaning on the toggles a bit. We do not have to be in full flight all the time until landing -- especially when there is a lot of other canopy traffic in the air. I routinely fly my Stiletto 107 in 1/4 brakes when on a large RW load or when picking my departure point to land in the pea gravel area. In a congested situation one has to get in the landing queue (ahead of the big floater, behind the hot little 99 square foot canopy). The main reason for flying with a little bit of brake applied, is to provide for more forward speed in the event you misjudge and find yourself short of your targeted landing area. You now have a little “extra gas”. Additionally, if you’re “steep” (high and close to your target), it is OK to apply some brake and sink till you reach the desired angle of attack. Timing the flare is infinitely critical. Learning this skill simply takes numbers of jumps to perfect. I think it is probably harder to master than the basic freefall skills. Some jumpers have a natural “feel” for this. Others may take hundreds of jumps to learn it! Most skydiving schools do not spend enough time on canopy control. More emphasis should be placed on canopy control in the post-instructional period. Teaching drop zones might consider a five or ten jump “stand-up accuracy” course before graduating that student. Abundant square footage will provide for a greater margin of error, until you develop the necessary canopy control skills. There are canopies out there for you. If you have under 200 jumps you should allow yourself ample square footage, seriously consider low aspect, and resign yourself to a medium or large sized container. There is plenty of time to work your way down in size of canopy. No one ever screwed themselves into the ground because they were jumping a canopy that was too large. Nancy J. LaRiviere USPA/ I, Tandem Examiner Pilot, COM, MEL Senior Rigger May, 1995 © The Jump Shack Reprinted with permission
  14. Let me ask you this: When was the last time that you saw the pilot running down a safety checklist on the jump plane? Photographer: BatCam If you’re paying attention, you certainly have--or at least seen the clipboard stuffed somewhere in the cockpit, lookin’ official. Metal-tube pilots have an actual checklist to run down to confirm the safety of the gear that heaves us all up into the sky. That’s a great idea -- it’s a reasonably complicated system, and a checklist ensures that nothing’s being forgotten. Now: when have you ever seen a nylon pilot with a clipboard and a pen, spinning briskly around in front of a mirror and checking things off? Yeah--never. Even though a wingsuit has lots of little safety details that need to be confirmed before every flight, our before-takeoff checklist exists only in our heads--and it’s significantly more complicated than a standard skydiving gear check. Let’s make that checklist a little easier to remember, hey? A gear check should be a mantra. Here’s the abbreviated checklist to add to your “standard” skydiving gear check: The Four-Three Wingsuit Check 3 Checks 3 Straps 3 Handles 3 Zeroes Here’s what it means. Three Checks This will be familiar to any skydiver, since it’s been a recommendation since the dawn of the sport: you should perform a pre-flight gear check three times. Perform one in the hangar, one before hoppin’ on the plane and one before you exit. Also: Never underestimate the value of another pair of eyeballs during this process. Three Straps Two leg straps and one chest strap are the only things that keep us skydivers from being skyfallers. All wingsuits cover up two-thirds of those vital bits of webbing; some wingsuits (in BASE mode) obscure the chest strap as well*. As you might imagine, fatalities--and many close calls--have resulted. Check them with your eyeballs before you’re zipped in. Some suits fit snugly enough that the straps seem tightened when they’re not (gulp!), and once those straps are out of sight, they can easily slip out of mind. After you’re zipped in, you can check your legs by lifting your shoulders and feeling for the pull of the leg straps. Three Handles Make sure you know exactly where all three of your handles are, and that they’ll be available to you while you’re flying. Your cutaway and reserve handles must be readily accessible and visible to you in flight -- so make sure your suit is fitted and attached in a way that puts those handles on proud display. Switching from BOC to leg pouch? Switching from leg pouch to BOC? Best be damn sure you know which one you’re wearing. Three Zeros Zero Holes When you’re fully zipped in, every zipper on the suit should be zipped and every cable should be properly routed. If a zipper is down, you’re in for a rodeo. Your wingsuit closure zippers aren’t the casual affair at the front of your pants, either, my friends. Check: Are the female and male ends mated properly so that each tooth of the zipper alternates? This is checked at the fitting end of the zipper. If that’s not done properly, you risk losing that wing in flight (or potentially shifting the zipper during deployment, which can cause jamming and possible damage). Eminent wingsuit athlete and coach Matt Blank has additional advice. “I have my students zip their arms all the way closed,” he explains, “Then touch their handles and then open both arm zippers. This insures that the clothing they have on under their suit does not inhibit the student from reaching his or her handles--or is a risk for being caught in zippers if they need to rapidly unzip after deployment.” Look at your pressure zippers, too. Are the pressure relief zippers in the appropriate place for the flight, and symmetrical from arm to arm? For beginner flight, we quite often unzip the pressure zippers, which naturally comes at a cost to performance. As we advance in the sport, we may zip them partially closed or closed all the way. In either case, check for symmetry. If one arm is zipped differently than the opposite, the suit will have an asymmetric inflation--causing an unbalanced flight. Image submitted by bruno.ferrazza Zero Dangles Check for dangly anything: cables, webbing, half-stowed pilot chutes, camera bits, etc. As a rule, dangly bits are bad. Oh. and another thing: Never disconnect your RSL for wingsuit jumps. Take it from Richard Webb, one of the discipline’s most experienced and respected athletes (as well as the founder of the science-forward, no-nonsense human flight information source Top Gun BASE). “I've been saved by an RSL when my reserve pillow got sucked into my wingsuit on a spinning malfunction,” Webb explains. “It literally saved my life. I didn't have an AAD at the time. Now, I will never wingsuit without an RSL. Ever. I strongly endorse RSL use for all wingsuit ops. The data is conclusive. Even on spinning malfunctions on tiny cross-braced canopies, RSLs and Skyhooks work remarkably well at getting you under an inflated reserve safely with minimal line twists.” Zero on Your Altitude Indicators Make sure your AAD is on (and reads zero), as well as your other altitude indicators -- and that you can see your visual alti while you’re in flight mode. If you wingsuit with an AAD, you need to know this: most AADs will not fire at even modest wingsuit speeds. That said, they have saved wingsuit pilots who got little-bunny-foo-food on the way down, so don’t let that dissuade you from turning yours on. The Rest of the Recipe A good gear check requires that you know your gear. As a wingsuit pilot, it falls on you to become intimately familiar with the design, operation and function of the suit you’re whizzing around in. If you’re checking your flocking buddy and you’re not familiar with his/her particular equipment, ask. (If your buddy doesn’t seem to know what the hell he/she is wearing, take that as a warning.) Allow your intuition some room to breathe, here. Check for a comfortable range of motion, that the configuration makes sense to you and that you feel good in the suit. You can rest assured that if you don’t feel good in the suit, you’re not going to have a good time. *Sound confusing? Yeah. Well. It is. Wingsuit design varies widely by brand and model--sometimes, with some manufacturers, even within the model. Wingsuits are often built to be configured differently, depending on the jump specs, the container design, pilot preference and--I dunno--current mood. You are likely going to have questions. Ask them of your mentors and the manufacturer of your suit.
  15. DSE

    Less Weight, Feels Great

    Tonfly is well known for their camera helmets. Designed in Italy, built in Slovakia, their carbon fiber helmet designs are a bit different than everyone else. When Giovanni Suzzi, president of Tonfly, offered up an opportunity to review his newest helmets, I was expecting them in the mail in two separate boxes. When UPS dropped the package at my door, I was certain an error had been made due to the lightness of the single package. I was shocked to find two helmets inside. These helmets weigh almost nothing, but yet are incredibly strong, solid, and as protective as any skydiving helmet I’ve ever worn. “The helmets are made from a tighter carbon fiber weave,” says “Sonic” Bayrasli, exclusive distributor for Tonfly in the USA. “This contributes to a marginally higher cost.” The 2X and 3X helmets are definitely a unique grade of helmet. The exceptional lightweight means less fatigue at the end of a long day of skydiving. This also allows for a thicker padding inside, thus quieting the helmet more than any helmet of the same class. Both helmets sport an audible pocket over the right ear, made specifically for the L&B; Optima, Solo II, or Protrack devices. This unique pocket allows for external access without crowding the wearer’s head. There is also room for a second audible over the left ear, perfect in size for a Flysight (wingsuiter’s tool) or other standard size audible. The ladder-strap chin cup provides for a secure mount. However, I discovered that if the chin cup isn’t reasonably centered in the ladder straps/on the chin, the release catches can easily be knocked loose. Equal tension on both sides of the chincup is fairly important for the most secure fit. As with earlier models of the Tonfly helmets, the 2X and 3X helmets use a carbon fiber chincup covered with a vanity cup emblazoned with the Tonfly logo. This vanity cup is available in many colors to match any custom color scheme a buyer might come up with. Speaking of custom… Tonfly offers the 2X and 3X in all sorts of custom colors with logos put in place as designed by a buyer. I asked for some unique logos and color combinations and Tonfly was more than obliging. Both helmets are designed for mounting a single camera on top. Neither helmet is designed as a helmet for both video and stills; these are made to be as light as possible. A Zkulls mounting ring is provided on both helmets (optional) along with a molded space for the GetHypoxic HypEye camera controller (optional). The 3X also provides a debrief port for the HypEye control/debriefing system (optional). This is very useful for team debriefs, viewing video immediately after a jump where a DV, HDV, or AVCHD camcorder is used and an HDMI cable isn’t available. This also means that the AV connector on the camera won’t need to be disconnected, thus saving wear and tear on the camera connector (a common point of failure). Two very unique features set the 3X apart from it’s brother; the air pump system that allows the base of the helmet to conform to the wearer’s head, and a “crown” that allows the user to quickly shift the angle of the camera by as much as 15 degrees forward or back. The air pump system is terrific for wearers with long hair; it makes the helmet ‘feel’ like a full face helmet in the way it contains hair. Those with short hair will appreciate the additional quiet that the custom conformation option provides. It takes 4-5 pumps to make the helmet tight against my head, and I have medium-length hair. The small air release nipple next to the pump provides an instant release of air, but in truth, it’s impossible to make the helmet uncomfortably tight, even with the air pumped as tight as the internal bladder allows. The slotted mounting plate allows users to change the camera angle, albeit not instantly. This is very useful for wingsuit pilots or freeflyers. Wingsuiters will like the ability to shift a camera forward (angled more downward) which allows for easier capture of a formation in a vertical slot, and freeflyers will like the additional angles for flying close in small groups. Changing the angle of the platform requires a slotted screwdriver and a couple of minutes. It’s very easy. However, the screws are also extremely light weight, so use care when turning them so as to not strip their threads. As mentioned before, the adjustable camera platform also provides access to the video debrief port found on the HypEye camera control system. On a personal note, I’ve found this feature invaluable not only because it reduces wear/tear on the camera AV port, but also because it allows for a very fast connection to both television and computer monitors (if equipped with a composite input). Wingsuit students use Tonfly Helmets at Skydive Elsinore. Each is equipped with a custom-color L&B; Optima, courtesy of L&B.; Both helmets share the same chincup and ladder characteristics. What I don’t like about these helmets: The screws that hold the camera platform to the 3X are thin metal and easy to strip. Tonfly could address this by including a couple of extra screws/receivers with each helmet (they’re very difficult to find here in the USA). The ladder straps on both the 3X and the 2X don’t hold as well as their older brothers in the CCM/CC1 realm. What I do like about these helmets: Super comfortable on the head. No pressure points anywhere. Extremely lightweight (hence the “X” in their name, perhaps?) Very strong. I’ve been knocked in the head by several students, one of them wearing boots sharp enough to chip the paint on the helmet, but I didn’t feel a thing. I was also hit by a newbie wingsuiter hard enough to cost me a battery, lens, and destroyed camera; one can only imagine how much of my skull was protected by this lightweight helmet. The fit. I don’t know what Tonfly does exactly, but I appreciate the way this helmet fits. Students often comment on how much they love the fit of the helmet too. Mine is a size 59; it seems to be an average size. The camera system on the 3X simply rocks. I love how it works, how it feels when I’m flying, and provides the angle I prefer with wingsuit students. Quiet. The 3X is the most quiet helmet I’ve ever jumped. Read more of DSE's writing on his blog.
  16. A while back, I overheard a bunch of people discussing there lative merits of different types of canopies and materials for low-time jumpers. I heard some interesting misconceptions about what's dangerous and what's not, what works and what doesn't. In the interest of getting some discussion going, I figured I’d-list my top ten misconceptions about Zp canopies: 1. Zero-p canopies are dangerous. Zp canopies have gotten a bad reputation over the years, since most hp canopies are made of Zp fabric. However, this does not mean that hp fabric itself is dangerous - it just allows smaller canopies to land well, and so is often used for smaller, high performance canopies. A large 9 cell Zp canopy is just as safe a sits same-size F111 counterpart. In fact, it is often safer. Zp fabric keeps air from escaping though the top and bottom skins of the canopy, and thus allows better canopy pressurization at a given airspeed. This helps prevent canopy collapse in bumpy winds. In addition, the Zp fabric allows the airfoil to be a bit more efficient, and thus allows you to slow down a little more before landing. During a landing in a bad area (a power station, for example) that slower speed can be a life saver. 2. Zero-p canopies are harder to land than F111 canopies. Not at all. In fact, the opposite is often true. Zp canopies have more lift during the flare, and that extra lift can be used to slow yourself to walking speed before touching down. F111canopies, especially old ones, often can't do that any more -they become so porous that they stall before slowing you down enough. Often, you will see people with older F111 canopies doing all sorts of tricks to get good landings - front rise ring, taking wraps on the brake lines, and turning low. Generally, such maneuvers are not required with Zp canopies. This year I watched maybe 200 landings at bridge day.Conditions were not great - zero wind and an uphill landing. The people who got the best landings were the people with fairly new(i.e. not porous) F111canopies and the people with Zp(Triathlons, Sabers, even a Stiletto or two). The people with the ragged old Cruise lites and Pursuits were slamming in hard. The canopies simply did not have enough lift left to slow down the jumper before landing. 3. F111 canopies are a good choice for a first canopy. Well, yes and no. A good, fairly new F111 canopy, loaded correctly, is indeed a good first canopy. However, you have two things against you: Few people sell good, low-time F111 canopies anymore. Most have 500-1000 jumps on them, and at that age, they become difficult to land. A larger canopy will not be affected by this as much as a smaller canopy, so size matters. A pd230 may still land you well after 1000 jumps, since its forward speed is low to begin with. A PD150 with 1000 jumps will be very hard to land without injury for most jumpers. It's hard to resell F111 canopies, for the very reason mentioned above. They are generally retired after about 500-1500 jumps, do you're paying about $1 per jump for them. Zp lasts much longer - you can easily get 2000 jumps out of a Sabre 150 with an occasional line replacement. This ends up costing you around $.60 a jump. 4. Zero-p canopies open really hard. This rumor came about mainly because of the performance of the Sabre and the Monarch, two popular Zp 9-cells. It is no longer true. The Sabre was tamed by a larger slider, and mods exist for the Monarch. Newer Zp canopies, like the Triathlon, open quite reliably and comfortably. Some new Zp canopies, like the Stiletto, Spectre and Jedei, are designed to snivel for a longtime, and give extremely soft openings. This was a boon for cameramen, who need soft openings due to all the weight on their heads. Of course, there's a trade off between too little snivel and too much. But there are Zp canopies available that open at nearly any rate, from rapid to very slow. Packing is an important part of that scale, and between canopy selection and packing technique there should be a wide range of openings to choose from. 5. You have to get a smaller canopy to get better landings. Not true. Many people start out on old F111 canopies, and simply assume that to get nice, soft, swooping landings like thepros, they need a small canopy like the pros. The truth is that nearly any Zp canopy will land you well, if you fly it correctly.The technique you use depends on the loading, as listed below: .8 psf or less - flare like a Manta. Wait until 5-10 feet, then smoothly bring the toggles down as far as you can. It will land much like an F111 canopy, with a little bit more flare. .9 to 1.1 psf - here, the flare will begin to be stronger. The flare is similar, but now you'll stop your flare as soon as the canopy levels out, then complete the flare slowly as the canopy decelerates. It's important to keep flying the canopy the whole time - don't start sticking out your hands to "break your fall", or your canopy will happily obey and turn you into the ground. 1.2 psf and above - to land at these loadings, you need to initiate the flare very smoothly, and use the toggles to keep the canopy level and straight as you plane out. The plan is to use the toggles to keep your feet an inch off the grass until the canopy stalls. If you can do that, you've landed yourself at the slowest possible speed. 6. You need to get a smaller canopy to go faster. While it's generally true that smaller canopies go faster,there are many other options to increase your speed and turn rate without taking away wing area. Wing area is all you have keeping you in the air, and taking it away decreases the canopy's"forgiveness", or tolerance for mistakes. Some ideas for increasing speed/maneuverability without sacrificing area: Canopy choice. The Silhouette, for example, is designed to be a faster large canopy. A 170 should give you nearly the same forward speed as a Sabre 150, with the extra forgiveness that the larger size entails. Pilot chute. The single best thing you can do for your medium / high performance canopy is to get a collapsible pc. It will do wonders for your glide, forward speed, and flare. I highly recommend this as a first step, before you get rid of that old, doggy canopy. Even older F111's can benefit from this. Slider. Figure out how to stow your slider somewhere. There are many different types of collapsible sliders, and they affect performance two ways - by reducing drag, and by allowing the risers to spread out more. Avoid stowing it on your jumpsuit, though - this can prevent a cutaway if you have a problem later, and has led to a few serious injuries. Riser tricks. Mini-risers reduce drag a bit, but not a whole lot. Separate riser-keeper rear risers allow the toggles a bit more freedom, and distort the canopy a bit less when you flare, allowing a little more flare power. Front-riser handles allow you to easily add front riser, a good way to increase your speed when trying to buck a headwind (for example.) 7. You should never, ever turn near the ground. This is a good rule of thumb for your first few jumps.However, there are times when turning near the ground is necessary, and all jumpers should know how to do this safely.Basically there are two ways to turn low - the braked turn and the flare-turn. Practice these! Both allow radical turns without a resulting dive towards the ground. Many jumpers have been killed when they found themselves flying downwind or towards an obstacle on final, and tried to turn without using these tricks.Depending on the canopy, you can safely make a 180 degree turn as low as 50 feet - if you've gotten instruction on how to do it and practiced it up high. 8. Skydive Chicago puts first-time jumpers on tiny Sabres. Not quite, but close. They put first-time jumpers on Mantas(or have them do tandems) for the first few jumps, then transition them to hp canopies. And interestingly, there have not been more injuries as a result. I think this is because many new jumpers learn bad habits on Mantas, and these bad habits are difficult to unlearn. At Skydive Chicago, they transition early on, and get good instruction on how to fly the newer hp canopies. This is a good model for transitioning ourselves. Whenever you're going to make a significant canopy transition (i.e.smaller, square to elliptical, etc.) get instruction! It costs little to badger a more experienced jumper or instructor into watching you land a few times, and the advice you get can be invaluable later. 9. 7 cell canopies are dogs. Not any more! The Triathlon and the Spectre are both high performance Zp canopies, and are good choices for jumpers buying their first Zp canopy. The big difference between 7 and 9 cell canopies is aspect ratio - which is just the relationship between wingspan and front to back size. 7 cells have ar's around 2.5 to1, and 9 cells are around 3 to 1. Generally, a higher ar has abetter glide ratio, but that's about the only hard-and-fast difference. Zp 7-cells can go as fast, land as well, and plane out as far as their 9-cell counterparts, if they are loaded correctly. They are a bit more forgiving at similar loadings, and are thus a really good choice for a first Zp canopy. 10. It's really hard to pack Zp fabric when it's new. Sometimes this is true, but not always. "South African" fabric, such as the material they use in the Triathlon, is pretty easy to pack from day one. It doesn't seem to last quite as long as the more slippery PD material, though.Some canopies, like the Silhouette and the Turbo-z, mix F111 and Zp material to make a canopy that flies well and is still easy to pack. But even a brand new Sabre is manageable, if you work at it.The psycho-pack is a good way to control an unruly canopy, and there's at least one gadget out on the market that helps you pack slippery canopies. Copyright ©1997 Billvon Novak, Safety and Training Advisor
  17. admin

    Buying your first set of Kit

    IDEAL FIRST KIT Mk 1 PC with sleeve in lightweight 2 Pin Pack, Complete with matching reserve container. Lightweight I24 - unused. A bargain at only £250! Ideal First Kit! How many ads on the notice board at your parachute centre start or finish with these words? My immediate reaction is to want to tear down the ad, because the chances are itisn't. Take a closer look at the kit and it will be something that was 'hot' fifteen years ago, has not been in production for at least ten years, yet comes with the statement 'only 250 jumps'. The seller has to try to sell it to an unsuspecting novice, because no-one else would touch it. So, buyer beware! That is not to say that it is necessarily unsafe, merely it is not ideal first kit, unless your only consideration has to be cost. Advice should easily be on hand at any drop zone in the form of instructors and riggers (other than one who is trying to sell the kit!). Never buy your first set of gear without plenty of advice from someone whom you would trust. Always ensure it has been thoroughly checked beforehand. Apart from the serviceability of the gear there are many things you will need to take into account: experience level age weight skydiving interests where and how much you will be jumping re-sale value your wallet! Let us look at some of these in greater detail and answer a few common questions: Experience level, age and weight If you have just achieved category 8, whether on the category system or through AFF, you will probably have between 20 and 40 jumps, possibly all on squares or mainly on rounds. If, like most people you have limited opportunity to hire equipment you will now need to buy something fairly soon. New may well be out of the question, because of the waiting time involved, the cost and the fact that your needs will change rapidly in the next few hundred jumps. There is a lot of second hand equipment about so don't be rushed into buying the first thing you see. All canopies will state an all-up weight limit for the equipment. This is to include yourself (with clothes), your rig and lead, if used. Many experienced (and some lesser so) jumpers use equipment for which they are overweight but swear by it because of the added performance they gain from it. This is not something to be recommended - the extra performance is in fact an increase in speed, both horizontal and vertical, which an inexperienced jumper is advised to avoid. You need to decide not just whether you can cope in 15mph winds on your big, familiar DZ, but also in nil winds, landing off the airfield in a small area.When buying your first equipment, it is not a bad idea to go one size up rather than being on or too close to the limit. Don't pay too much regard to the cool and groovies who will tell you how boring you will soon find it. Compared with an Aeroconical or a Manta it will be all the fun you need for a while and it will keep you safe for the first season or two. Your skydiving interests What do you want your equipment to do, other than the obvious decent opening and landing that we all desire? If you are interested in accuracy or CF you will need a canopy which is suitable for those disciplines. For either you are likely to need a larger, steady 7-cell. More performance can be gained from a higher aspect ratio (more rectangular than square) 9-cell. If you are not too bothered just yet, then either a 7-cell or 9-cell would be fine. There are more and more elliptical, ultra high performance canopies around . These are not intended for the novice and if you were to buy one there are not many CCI's who would let you jump it! 9-cells do usually give more performance (both in the air and for landing), they will tend to be faster but with a greater range of control. These days you can buy a safe canopy which will still give you plenty of forward speed, a good flare and lots of fun. Many canopies are zero porosity (ZP). They take a little getting used to when packing, but they will retain their performance for longer. As long as it is a sensible size for you and not an elliptical, a ZP canopy can be perfectly acceptable as a first canopy. Do I need a round or a square reserve? The answer is, if you can afford it get a square. These days it is possible to get decent equipment with a square reserve from £500 to £600 upwards. Consider when the wind is 20 knots on the ground, maybe 30 knots at 2,000ft, whether you would be happy underneath a round. It is not much fun to have to stand yourself down through lack of confidence in your equipment. Also, what is the standard of spotting like - not just on your home DZ, but when you go abroad to boogies? How many hazards are there around? How much overshoot? Theonlyreason for buying a round reserve nowadays has to be because it is very cheap. If you do decide to go for the cheaper option but have never jumped a round, make sure you get briefed on it by an instructor. Whatever shape your reserve is, ensure you are within its weight limit! What type of container? This is really down to personal preference or availability if buying second hand. There are many types on the market these days. The most important thing is to make sure the harness is a good fit and comfortable, with all handles located in a sensible position. The main choice will be whether to have one or two reserve pins. Generally speaking, one pin rather than two will allow for an easier reserve pull. The maximum allowable is 22lbs, check on the repack paperwork how much it was. With a 'Pop Top' reserve (as on a Teardrop for example) the reserve pin(s) are against your back, so are very well protected in the aeroplane. But all modern equipment has covers that do the job. On some older rigs neither the main nor reserve pins are as well protected. This is something to be aware of when sitting down in and exiting the aircraft. What sort of deployment system is best? Until you are D-licence (category 10 and 200 jumps) you are not allowed to jump a pullout in the UK. This means ripcord or throwaway. Realistically, no-one jumps a ripcord after clearing student status, so you will need a throwaway deployment. But you still have a choice of where to put the pilot chute; on the leg strap or on the bottom of the container (BOC). Either is fine. If you are buying a second hand rig with one of these, you might as well leave it as it is. If your rig needs converting from pullout, you need to decide which to go for. These days increasingly the choice is to have a BOC. There are many good reasons. It will always be in the same place, whereas a leg strap can loosen or shift about. There is no (or very little) velcro to maintain. There is virtually no exposed bridle - relevant if you are doing high speed jumping such as free-flying. If you are having it converted there is no velcro to be sewn on the container, so it should be a little cheaper. The advantage of a leg strap throwaway is that it can be seen. Admittedly most people don't look for it but, one day when you are having difficulties, it may just save a second (200ft) if you can see a handle. Do I need an AAD or RSL? Once you are category 8, it is no longer a BPA requirement to have either. (If you jump at a military centre, the cut-off is category 10, so you have no choice until then.) It is only since the introduction of the Cypres that it has been common for anyone but a student to jump with an AAD. This was one of the reasons for designing the Cypres. It is an excellent piece of equipment and if you can afford it, get one. Quite simply there can be virtually no argument against it. If you are still in freefall at Cypres activation height (750ft), you deserve and need it to fire. There is more debate about the pros and cons of an RSL. Its function is to operate the reserve as you cut away. The disadvantage is that you may well be unstable immediately after a cutaway and hence for the reserve deployment. This is more likely for an extremely high performance canopy, which you are hopefully not jumping. It is more of a problem if you wear a camera on your head, this is not possible until you are D-licence. On balance, for a relatively inexperienced jumper with a relatively docile canopy, an RSL is a good idea. With both of the above, when you are no longer a student, you need to take more responsibility for yourself, so deciding how many safety features to have on your equipment is your decision. So why shouldn't I buy that 'Chaser / Pegasus / Preserve IV for £550 ono'? Although 'old' does not always mean 'knackered', the older a piece of equipment is, the more likely it is to be getting worn out. It would need a very thorough inspection of the harness and container - the stitching may be becoming unsafe. The webbing and risers may have spent ten years rubbing against velcro. The main canopy probably has hundreds if not thousands of jumps. It will have possibly lost most of its porosity, giving harder openings and landings. It is coming to the end of its life. Unless it is very cheap and you really cannot afford anything else, I would not recommend it. In summary Most equipment that is in good condition, with a square reserve and a main in the general range of 170 to 220 square feet will still be worth relatively the same in a year or two. You can buy it now, use it for a couple of hundred jumps and then resell it to the next generation of category 8 students. In the mean time you can improve your ability under canopy, try some other models and save up for new gear. Have a good look at the equipment that is around, compare prices and getadvice! Cornelia Waymouth Illustrations Danny Crossman Skydive - The Mag Republished with permission
  18. admin

    AirLock

    There is a considerable amount of chatter about “valved” parachutes going around these days. Many skydivers believe that airlocked parachutes are the way of the future, while others see the introduction of this new technology as a temporary fad. In this article I will discuss the pros and cons, as objectively as I can, to this new development in parachute design. Simply put, an “Airlock” is a system designed to contain the internal pressure of a ram-air canopy, and therefore its airfoil shape. In short, the air goes in, but it doesn’t go out. If the wing’s shape is not reliant upon the relative wind (created by airspeed), then the performance range is consequently expanded and enhanced in every respect. In addition, the theory holds, such a self-contained airfoil will not distort or be otherwise adversely effected by turbulent flying conditions. Parachute designers have worked towards the goal of a valved parachute since the very birth of the ram-air canopy. Domina Jalbert, the man to whom credit is given for developing the world’s first ram-air canopy, was among the first to design such a system. Although his “valve” didn’t exactly revolutionize the industry, the spirit of Jalbert’s concept of a self-contained airfoil continued to possess (and obsess) the minds of inventors worldwide. Some twenty years later, I too got enthralled with this quest. I got involved with the airlock project as the result of a near-fatal collapse of my para glider in 1993. From my wheelchair, I began designing various systems to keep the air in the wing, with mixed success. I built scores of miniature parachutes, experimenting with every type of valve I could imagine. I discovered that regardless of the type of valve, I had to retain the leading edge “scoop” of the airfoil in order to maintain adequate internal pressure. I realized that there are many ways to achieve this end, but found only one method that stood head-and-shoulders above the rest. So I brought my idea to the only person I could think of that might be crazy enough to actually build it: Tony Uragallo. He hired me on the spot. Tony and I did extensive research on the valve concept over the course of three years. Some of our designs were incredible, while others weren't worth the fabric we built them out of. It was an age of synthesis, a time of wild creative genius and misdirected insanity. We eventually developed a product that we were proud of, and marketed it as “The Jedei”. As expected, the market received it with mixed emotions. Now that there are literally hundreds of these canopies flying all over the world, the pros and cons of valved parachutes have become much more readily observable. The safety and performance advantages of the design seem to be very well received. Pilots of valve parachutes have observed significantly longer landing surfs, even without dangerous acceleration maneuvers. This is due to the lack of “wing shrinkage” as the airspeed decreases. Furthermore, owners report that the wing feels far more stable in turbulence, exhibiting little or no span wise compression, even in the nastiest of conditions. The most exciting news is what has not been reported: there have been no documented canopy collapses due to turbulence whatsoever...Not One. Clearly the primary objective has been achieved. Consequently, a valved-parachute “cult” has formed; a sector of the skydiving population that refuses to jump anything that isn't valved. Supporters of the movement shun the use of “open-celled” parachutes in much the same way as early Zero-P jumpers avoided F-111 canopies. Although the supporters are adamant, they all have reported similar shortcomings to the airlocks. The disadvantages to the design seem to be born of the same attribute that attracts airlock customers in the first place... the air doesn't come out of the wing, whether you like it or not. For instance, after landing on an excessively windy day, you may be in for a bit of a fight if you haven’t developed a technique for “downing” the parachute. No one has reported any injuries as a result of being dragged after landing, and the hassle is something the owners seem to be willing to trade for the performance gains. The bottom line is: "would you rather have a bit of struggle with getting the air out on the ground, or a whole lot of struggle getting it back in during flight?" The drop zone packers usually have a bone to pick with the airlock concept as well. As the air tends to stay inside the wing longer, the airlocks sometimes require an extra step in the packing process. Most packers have adapted a technique of laying the parachute in a side-pack configuration, and then rolling their bodies across the canopy from tail to nose. Once most of the air is out, the parachute packs up the same as any Zero-P canopy. Although the packers’ gripe is valid, one must keep in mind that if it were solely up to the packers, we’d all be jumping F-111 parachutes. Lastly, there is the issue of cutaways. It is true that a few people have lost their valved canopies after cutaways. An undeniable side-effect to the airlocks is that the parachute can sometimes drift further after a cutaway than an “open-cell” canopy. This is usually not the case, but the possibility does exist. Interestingly, all of the despondent owners have replaced their lost parachutes with new valved canopies, an unarguable sanction of the technology. The final question still remains: “Is it all worth it?”... Is the theoretical safety margin afforded by parachute valve systems worth the new problems that they create? The fate of the airlock parachute remains in the hands of the skydiving community... the future is still to be decided. The airlock may be just another passing facet of the “Techno Fad”, or a permanent feature of the sport that will develop into the industry standard. As always, the direction and nature of the accepted technology is determined solely by the consumer, not the inventor. Brian S. Germain D-11154 April 8, 1997 Also known as a competitive freeflyer and lecturer, Brian Germain is the CEO of BiG Air Sportz, a new Colorado-Based parachute manufacturer. An avid skydiver with over 5000 jumps, Brian is the sole Patent holder on the “AirLock”, (U.S. Patent 5,573,207). The airlock technology is currently available through BiG AiR on a limited basis, and will shortly be available from Performance Designs, Inc., and Precision Aerodynamics, Inc once PD's exclusive license expires. Although the airlock technology available from BiG AiR is arguably significantly different from that licensed to Performance Designs, Precision has decided to wait until the expiration of PD's license (July 31) to release BiG AiR's line of canopies in the U.S. Source: Rec.Skydiving Subject: Airlock Article by Brian Date: 11/08/1999 Author: Zenfreefall
  19. admin

    Why Your Canopy Is Slapping You Around

    Image by Lukasz Szymanski Ah, your canopy. When you first got together, everything was great. A few tussles over crispy, slippery fabric were the biggest issues you two had. You packed carefully -- lovingly, even -- or you were at least habitually spying on your packer. And after freefall, it was a joy to reach for that pilot chute. Now, things are horribly, horribly different. What happened? Maybe it’s because you stopped paying attention -- or maybe because you’re both getting older -- but something has changed. There have been some bad moments. Violent moments, even. There was that time that you landed from a jump with a three-ring mark and a stunned expression on your face. Your friends asked what happened to you. You started to wonder if it’s time to say goodbye for good. Don’t thumbtack that “for sale” sign to the corkboard too quickly, friend. You can save this relationship. Here’s how. 1. Wrap your head around the dynamics involved. When a ram-air canopy opens in freefall, the dynamics of that opening are controlled by two processes: cell inflation (air pressurizing the airfoil through the nose inlets) and bottom-skin spreading (the side-to-side spreading action that takes place as relative wind rushes against the bottom of the canopy). You might not be aware of how separate these processes are, but they are quite distinct. Even without cell inflation, bottom-skin spreading is such an efficient phenomenon that a canopy can open entirely by this method, before the cells have a chance to inflate and pressurize. Since the force of that kind of opening is brutal enough to be quite literally fatal, square skydiving canopy designers invented a system to put on the all-important brakes -- the humble slider. That funny little square has a single function: to sync up bottom-skin spreading with cell inflation. A correctly packed slider stays at the very top of the lines during the early part of inflation, kept there by the same forces that would smack the canopy open with bottom-skin inflation. 2. Help your slider help you. Make quartering your slider the most important part of your pack job. Be thorough about it. Draw the folds evenly between each of the four line groups, then tug the center of the slider straight down to settle the grommets snugly against the stops. A slider that’s sorted out in this way is a slider that is most likely to present itself correctly to the relative wind (and therefore do its job optimally). 3. Avoid getting dumped. Optimizing your slider is only the first step in the process. The second, as you might imagine, has to do with your tangled handfuls of marionette strings. Incorrect line stows can release prematurely -- or, colloquially, “dump” -- resulting in a configuration wherein the canopy inflates before line stretch. When the lines catch up to the nylon, the jumper gets one heckuva headbanger. (Picture a Great Dane running at full tilt to the end of a long, long leash.) 4. Keep the right amount of pressure on. It should take roughly 8 to 12 pounds of pressure to pull your lines from the stows. If you’ve gotten complacent (or too tired to be trusted), you’re probably going to pay for it. 5. Use the rule of thumb. The loops of line on the outside of each rubber band stow (technically called “bights”) should be approximately two inches long. If that’s longer than you’re used to, that’s normal -- but know that right-sized bights keep about a quarter of the stowed line on the outside of the stow, minimizing the lines’ ability to dump. Luckily, two inches is about the size of the average human thumb, so you have a ready reference when you’re on the packing mat. If you happen to have stowless gear, your line dump issues are probably related to uneven folding of the lines (or lazy bag closure). The same pressure principle applies to the closing bands on your system: close the bag with 8-12 pounds of pressure, equal on each side. 6. Get professional help. If you go through all those steps and you’re still not on good terms with your canopy, look elsewhere for guidance. Take your canopy to a rigger for inspection. You may discover a deeper problem -- and he/she might just be able to fix it right up. (There’s no shame in a little counseling, after all. Love is worth it.)
  20. Know your gear series: Harness, fitting to your body and effects to consider. by Damian Alvarez The harness is a fundamental piece of your skydiving gear. As such, you know it like the back of your hand, right? Maybe the answer is "well, not really". Many experience jumpers will answer that. Most novice jumpers looking for their first rig also often neglect the importance of a harness that fits them. Coming from "one size fits nobody" student gear, they don't even know how a harness should fit them. This might change once they order their first custom harness/container system, if they ever do. If you want to know your gear a bit better, or if you want to inform yourself a bit better about what you should look for when buying a harness/container, either new or second hand, then this article is for you. What is a Skydiving Harness? The harness is the part of your harness/container system that is designed to keep your body attached to your canopies. In today's sport skydiving gear, the harness and container are 2 different but inseparable pieces. It wasn't always like that. In the 60s and early 70s harnesses and containers were interchangeable. That allowed to quickly swap components as needed. While this might seem like a good idea at first, these systems had their own set of problems. They were heavy due to the additional hardware needed, and error prone, as they had more room for assembling errors. In the 70s manufacturers started to integrate both into a single harness/container system, hiding part of the harness in the backpad of the container. This concept stays with us almost 50 years later. Even though the harness and container are today a single unit, it is important to know that the container is built around canopy sizes, and the harness is built around body dimensions. A byproduct of these two pieces of gear being inseparable, is that rookies typically focus on a single thing: the range of canopies they can fit in the container. That is not an issue when they are buying a custom harness/container (as long as the body measurements provided to the manufacturer are accurate), but novice jumpers start their skydiving career typically by buying used gear. Take a look at your DZ next time you are there, and pay close attention to how different harnesses fit their owners. I bet you'll find a few ill-fitting harnesses among new jumpers. Later on we'll see why this is important. But first, we have to know a bit more about the harness itself. Basic Harness Components and Construction Before getting into the details of harness construction, it makes sense to take a look at the webbing and tape types used for it. Distinguishing webbing and tape is not obvious. Generally it is considered webbing anything wider than 1" and with a tensile strength higher than 1000 lbs, and tape anything less than any of these 2 parameters. The table summarizes the most common webbing and tape types in harness construction. The pictures below show how they look like and how to distinguish them. Common webbings and tapes used in harnesses. Kind Type Tensile strength Width Common use Webbing Type 7 6000 lbs (2721 kg) 1 23/32" (4.3 cm) MLW, laterals and risers Type 8 4000 lbs (1814 kg) 1 23/32" (4.3 cm) Risers and straps Type 12 1200 lbs (544 kg) 1 23/32" (4.3 cm) Reinforcement around rings Type 13 7000 lbs (3175 kg) 1 23/32" (4.3 cm) MLW and straps Type 17 2500 lbs (1134 kg) 1" (2.5 cm) Chest straps, main risers 3" Type 4 1800 lbs (816 kg) 3" (7.6 cm) Confluence wraps Tape Type 4-B 1000 lbs (453 kg) 1" (2.5 cm) Reinforcement around rings and confluence wraps Type 7 webbing. Has yellow lines at the edge. Photo: Bally Ribbon Mills Type 8 webbing. Has a black centerline. Photo: Bally Ribbon Mills Type 12 webbing. Has red lines at the edge. Photo: Bally Ribbon Mills Type 13 webbing. Has black lines at the edge. Photo: Bally Ribbon Mills Type 17 webbing. Photo: Bally Ribbon Mills 3" Type 4 webbing (Spec. PIA-W-4088). Do not confuse with Type 4 tape. Some authors consider this as tape, not webbing, due to the low tensile strength it has (relative to its width). Photo: Bally Ribbon Mills Type 4-B tape (Spec. PIA-T-5038). Do not confuse with 3" Type 4 webbing. Photo: Bally Ribbon Mills Now, you can try and take a look at your harness. Can you identify the different types of webbing and tapes used on it? If you do take a look, you'll also notice that in most parts of the harness you have actually two layers of webbing instead of one. There are two reasons for it: to make a stronger harness, and to prevent slippage. Harness diagram with its main components. Now that we know what are the materials used, we can get into the different parts on a harness. Any sport skydiving harness has the following components: Detachable main risers: These are the risers that you are most familiar with. They are attached to the rest of the harness via the 3-rings system, and they depart with the canopy when you cut away. They are also some of the parts of the harness that see the most wear. The most common type are the "mini-risers" with "mini-rings". These are made of Type 17 webbing. During the transition period where this style of risers became popular, there were occurrences of riser breakage close to the grommet used for the 3-ring system. This was particularly dangerous with RSL equipped rigs, as if the riser broke below the RSL attachment ring (while the opposite riser stayed attached), your reserve could fire into a trailing main, and you'd be set for a bad day. The Collins lanyard, the double-sided RSL system, or the LOR system try to prevent that from happening, by either releasing the other riser, or by keeping the reserve pilot chute in the container until both risers leave. Regardless of these solutions, to diminish the chances of mini-riser breakage, most manufacturer reinforced their mini-risers with a piece of Type 4 tape sewed between the front and back risers at the grommet area. Parachutes de France opted for an alternative solution, reversed risers, that avoid the grommet piercing the webbing altogether. With these changes, the number of risers breaking was reduced drastically, and is today almost unheard of. If you are a student, you are probably more familiar with the "normal" risers, ie: the ones with Type 8 webbing and full size rings. These risers are stronger than mini-risers, and the leverage provided by their bigger rings allow to cutaway with less force. They are however bulkier and have more drag in flight, and have fallen out of fashion among most sport skydivers. Non-detachable reserve risers: These are the risers that you will get to know one day during a cutaway, if you haven't done so already. They are an integral part of the harness. In many harnesses they are part of the same webbing of your MLW, instead of a separated piece of webbing sewed to it. They are normally Type 7, even though other materials are possible. Main lift web (MLW): The main lift web, typically shortened to MLW, is the piece of webbing that holds the whole harness together. It takes all the load from opening and during flight, all the way from the risers (either main or reserve) to the leg straps, where you are hanging/seating. Due to that, it is typically the strongest part of the harness, made of Type 7, 8 or 13. Even though this is the strongest part of the harness, it doesn't necessarily mean that other parts are significantly weaker. It can be further divided in upper MLW and lower MLW. Conceptually, you can think about the lower MLW as the part that goes from the chest rings (or chest strap junction) to the hip rings, where your handle pockets are sewed. The upper MLW is the part that goes from the chest rings (or chest strap junction) to the upper part of the junction between MLW, reserve risers, and diagonal back straps. The length of the MLW is normally fixed, except in some student or tandem gear. In these cases the length can be adjusted to accommodate the sizes of different users. Chest strap: The chest strap is one of the 3 straps you have to fasten to adjust your harness. It secures your torso in place, and keeps it in the space formed by the chest strap, the MLW, and the back straps. It is not designed to take a huge load, since most of it is transferred from the risers to the leg straps by the MLW. The webbing used has typically a lower tensile strength. It is normally either Type 8 or Type 17. The hardware to fasten the chest strap has been also certified with lower loads than leg straps hardware (500 lbs. vs 2500 lbs.). There are jumpers today "abusing" their chest straps, by putting a load on them that they weren't designed for. Think of hybrids or Mr. Bills. Harnesses are typically "overbuilt", so they are unlikely to fail due to these practices, particularly with hybrids, due to the limited stress induced in the seams, webbing and hardware (for a 2 belly flier + 1 freeflyer hybrid, just 100—150 lbs. hang from each chest strap). However, on Mr. Bills, the load can be significantly higher. A careful jumper should try to hang on the upper MLW on a Mr. Bill, instead of the chest strap. Leg straps: The leg straps are the remaining 2 adjusting points of your harness, besides the chest strap. They are attached to the hip rings or sewed directly to the MLW. In some older designs without rings, they could also be part of the same piece of webbing of the MLW. They need to be strong, but sometimes they aren't as sturdy as the MLW. They can be Type 7, 8 or 13. Freefly bungee: The elastic cord that attaches both leg straps isn't necessarily a part of the harness. However, it has a small but very important function. It prevents the leg straps from slipping up your leg towards your knee. The largest "hole" in your harness is right there, between your laterals and your leg straps, waiting to mess up your day when you have a premature opening while sit flying. Tandem harnesses have a "Y" strap that has essentially the same function. If you don't want to find yourself in a difficult situation like the granny on the video, use this simple addition to your harness. If you still think that this can't happen in a sport harness, well, take a look at the remaining 2 videos and think again. Laterals: The laterals are some of the most commonly overlooked parts of the harness. They are relatively small and out of sight, so people tend to forget about them. They are the parts that join the MLW (or the hip rings, depending on the harness design) with the bottom end of the diagonal back straps. This last junction is hidden inside the backpad of the container. They also form an horizontal back strap, which I am considering here as part of the laterals itself, even though strictly speaking, it is not. They are normally made of Type 8 webbing, but Type 7 or 13 are also possible. Their only function is keeping your rig close to your back. It is a simple but important function, and we'll come back to it in part 3 of this series of articles. Diagonal back straps: If laterals are overlooked, it is safe to say that the diagonal back straps are completely ignored. They sit below your reserve risers and typically wrapped in fabric, and they are completely out of sight from that point on and all of the way to where they meet the horizontal back strap AKA (in this article at least) laterals. Even with the reserve tray completely open, they are out of sight, trapped between the backpad and the bottom fabric of the reserve tray. Like laterals, they can be made of Type 8, 7 or 13. Their function is holding your torso in place and keeping the whole harness together. Without them, the container would support a higher stress, which would wear it and break rather sooner than later. There are multiple configurations possible for them. They can have an "X" arrangement, where the left shoulder straps crosses the back and joins the lateral at the right side, and vice versa. They can also have a "V" arrangement, where the webbing goes down from one shoulder, wraps the horizontal back strap, and goes up again until it reaches the opposite shoulder. Other arrangements are also possible —like "U" for instance, but manufacturers don't discuss these details openly and knowing what is really used would require tearing open the containers. Hardware: The hardware binds together 2 or more pieces of webbing, either permanently or temporarily. Taking a look at the hardware used in harnesses, you can see 3 different types from the functional point of view: Fastening hardware: These are the quick fit adapters found in chest straps and leg straps. For the leg strap adapters there are 3 common types: thread-thru, thread-thru with locking bar, and flip-flop, shown in the pictures. All of them are rated for 2500 lbs. The chest strap has a lightweight thread-thru quick fit adapter, rated for 500 lbs, independently of the width of the chest strap. Thread-thru leg strap adapter. Thread-thru leg strap adapters with locking bars. Flip-flop leg strap adapter. 3-Rings: These are the 3 rings we are all familiar with. There are two variants: The original, rated for either 2500 lbs or 5000 lbs, depending on the particular model, and the mini version (RW-8), rated for 2500 lbs. The tandem variants are slightly different in the large ring to allow to connect the student harness, and are always rated for 5000 lbs. Hip and chest rings: These rings are optional and normally use the same type of ring found in the large ring used in the 3 rings system. In some cases the ring is completely flat, as opposed to the large ring in the 3 rings system, which are bent at the point where they are connected with the MLW. Some rigs have a completely round hip ring, instead of using the large ring from the 3 rings system. Junctions: Obviously all the different pieces of webbing have to join somehow. These junctions can be of 4 types: Rings: In a ring junction, the webbing goes around the ring folded on itself —typically with a reinforcement tape in between the ring and the webbing—, and is locked in place with a stitching that follows a given pattern. It is important to note that the pattern is not arbitrary. Its shape, thread and number of stitches per inch determine the strength of the junction. Hip ring with Type 8 and Type 4 as reinforcement at the leg straps. Note how the ring is completely flat. Stitching points: Normal stitched joints are simply that, points were 2 or more pieces of webbing are sewed together with a particular pattern. Chest strap junction with Type 8 and Type 7 webbings. Hip webbing sandwich with Type 7, Type 8 and Type 12 webbings. 3 rings junction where you can see most of the webbing types used in modern harnesses. Note how the large ring is bent at the webbing loop, instead of being flat. Layers in a confluence wrap below the 3 rings system. Confluence wraps: Confluence wraps are similar to the previous type, but there a piece of reinforcement tape wraps the junction to make it stronger. These reinforcement tapes are particularly important in high stress areas, like where the 3 rings, the reserve risers, and the MLW meet. One thing to consider when two pieces of webbing are sewed together, is that the strength required to break that junction is way lower when "peeling" than when "shearing". A manufacturer can in most cases design its joints to prevent situations where peeling forces are applied. However, depending on the harness design, these situations might occur. Confluence wraps are added to strengthen joints that are at risk. A couple of years ago, some BASE rig manufacturers had to modify the construction of their harnesses because of this. If you want to know more I suggest you take a look at this excellent article. The confluence wrap that stitches together the MLW, reserve risers, main risers and diagonal back straps is normally hidden in the mud flap. But some manufacturers —not all— have another confluence wrap that you have seen a thousand times but probably didn't pay attention to it: the wrap that traps the 3 rings locking loop in the main risers. Adjustable hardware: Here 2 pieces of webbing are locked in place together with a fastener. As we saw before, they are normally located in the chest strap and leg straps, but there are other possible points, like in student harnesses or belly bands. End of Part 1 Hopefully by now you feel a bit more confident about the construction of your harness. This is important knowledge to better understand part 2, where we will take a look at the different articulations and other options possible in modern harnesses. Part 3 will focus on the proper fitting of the harness, and how a bad fitting can affect our performance or safety in the air. Stay tuned for more!
  21. admin

    Digital or Analog Altimeter

    Altimaster Galaxy We all know there are some hot debates in our sport: RSL or no RSL, AAD dependency, and exit separation are well-known dead horses. Another topic certainly worthy of discussion is the choice between analog and digital altimeter displays. Asking that question will yield a variety of opinions (no surprise there) and will likely be inconclusive. First, a clarification: this discussion revolves around the altimeter display, not the underlying hardware. Altimeters with mechanical internal aneroid capsules have analog displays; those with electronic pressure sensors can have either a digital or analog display. Now that we have cleared that up... Analog dial faces of all types commonly have numerical graduations and colored segments to indicate the status of what is being measured. Alti-2’s Altimaster Galaxy, for example, is first graduated in thousand foot increments starting at the 12 o’clock position (zero). There are yellow and red caution zones placed at commonly used altitudes to provide a visual warning at a glance. Digital displays, like Alti-2’s N3, provide a numerical altitude reference. N3 provides a three-digit decimal altitude in free fall and four digits under canopy. So – which is better? It really boils down to three things: familiarity, specific application, and personal preference. Many skydivers stick to what they learned to use as students. Later in their skydiving career they may choose to “re-train” that familiarity and transition to a digital display. I did so myself when Neptune hit the market nearly ten years ago and have been a huge digital display fan since then. Application brings a different frame of reference entirely. Let’s take a look at two commonly used analog dials, starting with the temperature gauge in your automobile. My dear old Dad taught me to look at my gauges periodically like a pilot does cross-checks. A quick glance at the temperature gauge should show the pointer dwelling just slightly left of center, or about 40% of its travel. I have no earthly idea what specific numerical data that conveys – I glance at the gauge, my brain processes the placement of the needle based upon my training, and I know that I am good to go! Now consider the gauge on a fire extinguisher which contains a small green segment and a large red segment. A quick glance reveals the pointer dwelling in the green or the red – good or no good. In both of these cases, an analog display is preferable to the way I do business. Altimaster N3 What about skydiving? From day one we are asked to apply specific action to specific performance altitudes. As an AFF Student, we may be taught to recognize 5,500 feet on our altimeter to trigger a critical action: wave off and pull. It can be argued that the direct conveyance of that numerical data from a digital display eliminates the need for the brain to convert the pointer’s indication on an analog dial face into numbers for an action to be triggered. If an AFF Student recognizes 5,500 feet on his digital display, it directly sends him into action. Then there is personal preference. Electronic altimeters with a digital display often have other features like logbooks, timers, and the like that take more time to learn. Some skydivers just love the simplicity of turning a knob to zero the pointer and off they go. Mechanical/analog altimeters are usually more economical for skydivers on a budget. Electronic devices require power from replaceable or rechargeable batteries; mechanical devices do not. There are several other advantages and disadvantages regarding the mechanism which can also drive personal preference. Factor in accuracy, calibration requirements, form factor, mounting options, ability to read altitude in low-light or darkness, waterproofing, convertibility between visual and audible, and others – the decision becomes more complicated. So, if you are in the market for an altimeter, or are thinking about switching from analog to digital, I suggest you try them both. Put your trusty Altimaster II in your helmet bag and borrow an N3 from a friend or even your local gear store. Make a few jumps reading digitally conveyed numerical altitude and see what you think! In the meantime, I will be thinking about what advances in technology might be on the event horizon. Arrive safely, slotperfect John Hawke (slotperfect) is General Manager of Alti-2, Inc. in DeLand, Florida, USA
  22. The issue of helmets with cameras interfering with the deployment sequence is well-trodden, to include on dropzone.com. In France, new safety regulations produced by the Federation Française de Parachutisme, the sole, recognized sports authority for leisure skydiving, have become extremely stringent regarding camera mounts, and in particular, the way they protrude. So a French skydiver, Olivier Hiolle, developed a helmet specifically integrating the most current cameras of the day, i.e., GoPro 3 and 4 series. The result is astounding. The GoPro is fully inside the helmet, which has a frontal window. The top of the helmet is flat in order to accommodate other cameras. Of course, that would be a departure from the initial idea of having no protuberance, but there is no other way to carry larger devices. The helmet itself is a "true" helmet, in the sense that it is made of strong, resilient fabric and serious cushioning that will effectively protect the head in case of shock. We are well beyond the degree of protection afforded by basic helmets, in moulded plastic, whose protective function does not go much further than just providing a convenient attachment for a camera. I have ordered one and flown with it a dozen times. The fit is extremely comfortable and natural. I have a GoPro 3+. I purchased, as an extra, a USB cable that remains coiled inside the helmet. That way, I never manipulate the GoPro directly, apart from activating the bluetooth by slipping my little finger into the lodgment of the camera. From then on, I use the remote control. When I wish to download the pictures or load the battery, I just pull the cable out of its lodgment and plug it where it needs to go. The angle is perfect, no vibration whatsoever, and good sound under canopy (in the sense that I can hear myself grumbling and commenting on the approach). This is a new one-man firm, who makes each helmet by hand, to include the color. Prices are reasonable, including options such as color (other than white or grey for the fiberglass version), cable, chin strap. By design, the strap, whether chin or basic, has a quick release handle. This is the website: http://www.skyvisionpara.com/index.html, which, at present, is only in French. Be aware that the photos I lifted from the webpage are not as good as the current product. It is a much more polished work than that. But the photos do give an idea of the design.
  23. Many of us since the attack on the World Trade Center have been asking how this could have been prevented. And if it could not have been prevented, how then could we have had more survivors? As daunting as it is to think of, a parachute appears to be a logical and effective means of escape. After all, Leonardo DaVinci conceived in 1485 the first parachute specifically for the purpose of escaping safely from fires in tall buildings, and there have been countless other inventors and engineers who have worked on similar ideas since his time. Why then have we never seen this technology in use? Simply put, it is not necessarily a good idea. The recent events have led the public in a state of helpless anxiety to seek protection, reassurance, and a means to escape. Thousands of gallons of water have been sold, as well as a multitude of flashlights, antibiotics, gas masks, and now, personal parachutes. Several companies have taken advantage of this new demand by marketing parachute systems to office workers, hotel guests, emergency workers, and high rise tenants. One example, “The Executive Chute” is being advertised as a “last resort” when fleeing a structure over 20 stories. While the idea of marketing an emergency escape system itself is an admirable idea, it is highly irresponsible to sell these parachutes to people without adequate training. Their web site makes it seem like anyone could just pop it out of their desk drawer at work and saunter out to the nearest ledge and leap to safety. Another company, Precision Aerodynamics, is marketing the “Emergency Building Escape Parachute System”. They compare the need for an EscapeChute for people in high rises as similar to the need of a life preserver when traveling beyond swimming range from shore. People need to understand that this is not as simple as putting on a life vest. While their web site does say “training required”, they also promote the EscapeChute as an easy and obvious choice: “By following simple instructions, the parachute is automatically deployed for you. All you have to do to initiate deployment is to jump out the window and away from the building. Simple steering and landing techniques can deliver you to the surface with confidence”. A video is provided with purchase of the canopy, which may falsely lead people to believe that this is all the training they need. B.A.S.E. jumping, for the most part illegal in this country, is the extreme sport of jumping off of stationary objects (Building, Antennae, Span (bridges), and Earth). Buildings are the most difficult, even for a highly experienced jumper. Morpheus Technologies, which provides one of the only legal US training courses for B.A.S.E. jumpers, will not even let anyone sign up for their courses unless they are already a licensed and experienced skydiver with a minimum of 200 jumps. Even then, their training is intensive and rigorous. Kathy Gillespie-Jones at Morpheus says “As a manufacturer of B.A.S.E. specific equipment, we feel a responsibility to the general public. There is no quick fix in this situation. A background in skydiving and a very thorough training course are needed to even begin to pursue what we look at as a SPORT. Even then, we can die!” B.A.S.E rigs contain only one parachute and there is no back up, as typically altitudes are so low that it would not be possible to deploy a reserve in time. Packing must be perfect as well as your body position when jumping off the building to provide for the best chance that the parachute will open properly, on-heading, away from the building and with adequate horizontal separation. There are so many other variables that need to be taken into consideration when executing a base jump just under good conditions, such as exit height, wind patterns, piloting the parachute, just to name a few. An experienced and trained B.A.S.E jumper under good conditions is going to be a highly different model than a panicked inexperienced office worker, who would in all likelihood be severely injured or killed using a parachute to escape from a building. For a novice even with training, the lack of conditioning would cause a sensory overload which could prevent them from being able to react and properly use the equipment. Fire within a building would take this to an entirely different level of risk. Greg Yarbenet, the inventor of the slider which made modern parachuting possible, did studies about fifteen years ago, researching the effectiveness of escaping from a burning structure with a parachute. ”Parachuting from a burning building has to take into account the very unusual wind patterns that develop from a very hot rising air mass that is being replaced by the cooler, lower air that is now funneling upwards to replace the hot air.” He clocked the thermal updrafts at over two thousand feet per minute at the top of a test burning building. Air near the ground began to swirl upwards in a small vortex that changed the velocity and direction according to doors, windows, and other building shapes that allow the air to find the easiest path to the flames. Rising thermals off of the top created sudden downdrafts on the leeward side. Yarbenet found that any normal size parachute would not function well in such turbulent conditions, and could be pulled back up in the strong updrafts or collapse in the multiple vortexes along the sides of the building. Daniel Preston, of the New York based parachute company, Atair Aerodynamics, has mixed feelings on the subject. When asked if he would work in a high rise without his B.A.S.E. rig Preston answered “definitely not”. He believes that people should be given all the facts, allowing them to then seek training and make an educated purchase. However, he is against the selling of escape parachutes to the general public. As a New York company, Atair finds the ads for these products to be in horrendous taste, dangerously misleading and opportunistic. One company, B.E.S. even showed a banner of one of the towers being hit and people falling to their death. “It is specifically the way these products are being marketed that is irresponsible”, says Preston, “B.A.S.E. jumping requires training, period. It is not something you can just learn in a few hours from reading a book or seeing a video. The first step is to learn how to skydive. With a couple hundred jumps under your belt, you could consider learning B.A.S.E.” Preston estimated the survivability rate of some of these personal escape parachute systems to be less than 50%. That means that half of the people jumping would probably die. Other industry leaders estimated the survivability rate to be less. By comparison in skydiving where everyone is trained and licensed, fatality rates are less than one in one hundred thousand jumps. The majority of those fatalities are caused by pilot error under a fully functioning parachute. While it would be arguable that one should take any chance in the case of extreme emergency, the difficulty with that is determining what exactly is a last ditch situation. “I could envision many situations where people would be likely to jump when they don't have to”, says Preston. It is estimated that 70% of the people in the World Trade Towers escaped the through the stairwells. According to Cliff Schmucker, president of the Parachute Industry Association, “there’s obviously people out here trying to make a quick buck in a bad situation….At least one person was looking into congressional relief for the liability issue.”. This would be disastrous, as it would remove accountability for improperly designed, tested and marketed products. Dan Poynter, a well known publisher and writer of educational and technical texts on sport parachuting, says “sure, if you are a base jumper and on the 28th floor, keep your rig at the office, but for other people it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense”. Poynter believes “a parachute could work for some people in some cases, but there are many, many questions to be answered with regard to practicality, cost, training and design.” Atair manufactures a B.A.S.E. parachute called the Troll and states that the parachutes accumulated one thousand live real world jumps before it was offered for sale. What is being marketed by many companies as escape systems, is untested technology. The way that it is being marketed is misleading and sensationalist. “While I am not against the possibility of escaping from a building with a parachute”, says Preston, “there are so many things that need to be taken into consideration, and which seem to be overlooked in these current products.” “you can not just take an off the shelf para-glider reserve parachute, put it in a container and market it for a wholly different, far more complex and demanding application…its not safe.” The systems being marketed at this time have appeared on a variety of television shows and are gaining a lot of publicity. “From what we have seen”, says Gillespie-Jones, “The harness seems to be extremely awkward and the point in which the static line connector is located is very prone to cause an entanglement with the body. We witnessed complete failure by a company representative to put this system on properly. This was done on the Today Show in a controlled environment. There is no way that a person in a panicked state could begin to equip themselves properly in a timely fashion.” It is very frustrating to see the direction that this whole thing is going in. Companies seem to be jumping on the bandwagon, offering parachuting equipment that in any other application would take months if not years of research and development, drop testing and live testing in a variety of environments before there would even be a consideration to sell to the public. What transpired in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania is absolutely tragic and it was horrifying to see those people jump from the World Trade Center. Unfortunately, jumping with many of these escape systems that are being marketed in the aftermath under those same circumstances may not have saved lives, but only extended them by a second or two.
  24. The harness/container assembly is your safety system. Any canopy, round or square, can be plugged into the main or reserve container/attachment, and be persuaded to open. The container system controls the deployment of those canopies. The harness secures you to those canopies. There have been a lot of dissertations on parachute canopies (how to select, fly, repair, etc…). Little has been published about the harness and container system, because, while seemingly simple, they are infinitely complex. The sheer number of the different emergency scenarios while skydiving is astronomical (i.e., low speed, high speed, total, partial, two canopies out, and so on). Your harness and container system must answer these challenges; it must answer them by prioritizing procedures in the order of the frequency of occurrence. Your job is to understand those options and make an intelligent selection. The purpose of this document is to help you understand the individual features you should consider while making this decision. TSO The TSO is the minimum safety & testing requirement. TSO standards have changed over the years; so the present day TSO may be measuring one quality adequately but not another. There is a difference between a Performance Standard and a Structural Standard. A test to a “Performance Standard” is fine for a functional test. However, testing structural integrity is another matter. During a “Performance Standard” structural test, it is assumed that the canopy opens normally. In the real world canopies don’t always open normally. As we know there are frequent aberrant openings, usually dubbed “line strip” or “line dump” openings. This type of opening has, in fact, occurred during drop testing by some manufacturers. The results have been catastrophic. Some of the manufacturers who have experienced this have built their products to withstand these aberrant openings. Some have not. Some have modified their products after the original testing with no consideration for the reduction of structural integrity. How can consumers protect themselves? Ask the manufacturer about the strength of their webbing and hardware. Ask them to what load the harness has been proved. Then ask their competitor to confirm this claim. Ask them if the harness is “fail safe”. That is, which location/joint will fail first and what will happen to the wearer if and when it does fail. The wearer should not come out of the harness. The Ultimate Test Time in the field = Proof of performance. It takes a minimum five years to “prove out” a new feature of a rig. Containers Container Flexibility There are two choices for container comfort and fit. One is a soft flowing container which flexes and bends and is easy to pack. The down side of this choice, is that this type of container may “catch air”, and create excess drag. The other choice is a hard packed, molded container that is small enough to be completely out of the air flow, and will allow full body movement. This type of container must be shaped by design. Before you put it on look at it -- it should have a shape waiting to clamp onto your back. Modern design contour fit! Container Fabric There are several fabric types used in the manufacture of sport containers of today. They are generally divided into two categories: Parapac and Cordura. Certainly there is a sub difference of the base types. That sub division is usually defined by denier. military containers used a 420 denier Mil-Spec C-7219 Parapac. This fabric is specifically designed for use in parachute containers. There are deniers less than 420 available and they should be avoided except for decorative purposes. Cordura has proven to be a popular and durable fabric for use in containers in spite of it’s excess weight. Theoretically, Cordura is more ultraviolet resistant because the coarseness of the material casts a larger shadow protecting it from ultra-violet deterioration. Reserve Container Design There are two basic reserve container designs in common use today. They are internal pilot chute and external pilot chute. On the internal design multiple side flaps are cantilevered over the pilot chute to a locking loop through a grommet which is secured with a ripcord pin. The external system has the pilot chute sitting on the outside of the flaps with loops passing down through the flaps between the folds of the canopy to the back side of the container where they are retained with the loops through a grommet by a ripcord pin through the loop. Main Container Design Which flap closes first and which flap closes last? On some containers this is critical. Buy a container where it either doesn’t matter or where they can’t be assembled incorrectly. Available Sizes With the availability of over two hundred main canopies alone, container sizing has become an enormous challenge for container manufacturers. Generally, most mains are bigger than the reserve by a small percentage. The sizes of the canopies and the ratio between them should be close(See How To Select The Right Canopy For You). However there are times when you might need to vary from this practice, such as for an accuracy rig. The containers you buy should be sized for the canopy that will go into them. Over-stuffing and under-stuffing can cause problems i.e. cause the container to wear out more quickly by overstressing stitch areas and grommets, in the case of over-stuffing; premature openings, caused by pins falling out of loosely loaded loops, in the case of under-stuffed rigs. Be advised that similarly sized (square) main and reserve canopies seem to fly in unison better if you happen to have both open at the same time. This is a highly debated topic in recent years, with the world-wide move to square reserves and more frequent use of AAD’s. Main Deployment Choices Ripcord In the beginning there were ripcords and spring loaded pilot chutes for deploying our mains from our backs, and reserves from our chests. This system worked by packing a conical spring loaded pilot chute, in compressed form, inside the main container, on top of the canopy and it’s devices. The container was held closed with a cone and grommet/pin system with the release pin on a cable leading to the release or ripcord handle. Pulling on that handle pulled the pin from a hole in the cone allowing the grommet to slip off of the cone, thus releasing the container flaps and allowed the spring to expand and spring out of the pack, hopefully. There were other variations on this theme, such as umbrella type springs, a even a springless pilot chute which was a hat (yes, a real hat!). To deploy, you removed your hat and flung it into the air; which brings us to the next generation in main deployment. Hand Deploy / Throw-Out While the hat trick was a little difficult, a pouch, external to the container, was devised. With the handle for the pilot chute mounted on the top or apex of the canopy, the springless pilot chute was folded into this container and the bridle to the container was Velcro’ed to the rig along its path to the pin on the container. The pin is curved to allow angular loading. Pulling the pilot chute out of the pouch with the handle on the top, and tossing the canopy into the free stream is all that is required to deploy the main. Pouches for this system have been mounted in several places, from the front of the leg strap, to the back of the leg strap, to the bottom of the main container. Pull-Out The pull-out retains the sequence of the ripcord system and provides the added safety of keeping the springless pilot chute in the same container as the main canopy. It is equipped with a handle, mounted on the back, lower outside corner of the main container. Pulling that handle extracts the straight ripcord pin allowing the container to open, and the internally stored springless pilot chute to be put into the free stream. The handle on this system is mounted on the base of the pilot chute. AAD On Main? Generally in this sport, AAD’s are mounted on the reserve container. Some skydivers, and the entire "East Block", have however, elected to put their AAD’s on the main. It was explained to me this way. "I want my AAD on my main because my greatest fear is to be knocked unconscious in freefall. I would prefer to wake up under a malfunctioned main than I would under a malfunctioned reserve."(Al Kruger a.k.a. "Captain Hook"). Of course, having an AAD on the main would require a spring loaded pilot chute. Reserve Deployment Reserves must deploy in two different environments. Slow speed, after a cutaway, and high speed, in the event of a totaled main. According to TSO C23c, slow speed deployments are required to complete within 3 seconds after a cutaway. The test allows no more than 2 seconds of free fall after the cutaway before pack opening. If an RSL is used, the benefit of the speed acquired by the 2 second free fall is lost and the reserve must still deploy in 3 seconds. Trying to control the “not more than 2 seconds” rule is difficult, and is allowed only because, without an RSL, there must be some delay. The intent is for immediate deployment. Manufacturers have played games with this specification. Some have interpreted it by saying, “if it opens in five seconds after cutaway it’s OK”. NOT TRUE! The only test that can be trusted is the test where an RSL is used. This is a critical feature, as there are many combinations of canopies and containers in use today which do not meet this requirement. Your only protection is to see a video of the tests. DON’T BUY a system without seeing a video of its reserve deployment abilities. Take a stop watch with you when you view this video and time the deployment. Time it from pack opening to full canopy. Make sure that there is no more than 2 seconds from the cutaway to the time when the pack is opened. If your time on the deployment is more than 3 seconds don’t buy it. The high speed requirement is not difficult to meet, but some do fail this parameter. It is generally accepted that a reserve should open in 350 feet, at terminal. That equates to about 2 seconds at 174 ft./second. The testing is done by throwing the dummy out at 500 feet, at speed. The test is not timed and is not difficult to meet. Riser Covers (Main): There are two choices for main riser covers. Open or trough type covers, and Velcro sealed closed covers. If you skydive on your chest all the time, then you might like the open or trough type. If you skydive in other configurations you will prefer the sealed type, as they don’t open when you are on your back. Recent improvements to the trough type include an "over riser" inside flap. Harnesses Harness Strength Webbing There are several types of webbing used in the manufacture of personnel delivery harnesses. To understand the choices requires a little history lesson. Originally, harnesses were made of cotton webbing. During this era hardware was designed for use with the cotton webbing. We use the very same hardware today. When nylon was invented, it became apparent that nylon was infinitely better than cotton for use in most applications, especially personnel harnesses. Rather than retool the hardware, the nylon was then configured to be compatible with the hardware. The resultant product was 7000 lb. tensile, Type 13 harness webbing, identified by a black edge trace. At the same time Type 8 (Black Center Line, 4000 lb. tensile), and Type 6 (Red Center Line, 2500lb Tensile) were designed to be used with the Type 13 in a supplemental roll, where involvement with hardware and exposure to environmental hazards were not a concern. Additionally, Type 7 (Yellow edge trace, 6000 lb. tensile) was introduced at that time for use in cargo delivery, where no interaction with personnel hardware would occur. Some sport manufacturers have adapted this weaker webbing (Type 7) for use in sport harnesses. While strength has been a minor issue with this application, it does slip in the hardware and won’t hold proper adjustment. Hardware Friction Adapters are the only hold over from the cotton webbing days. Most harnesses don’t use any other hardware, as additional hardware adds weight and creates a weak spot in the harness. Additionally, hardware can cause bruising of the wearers body. On harnesses where other hardware is used, for articulation for example, the consumer should know the ultimate strength of the hardware and its associated joint. A minimum of 4500 pounds, with a “fail safe” configuration is required for safety along the main lift web. Harness Comfort Sizing and fitting a harness is like sizing and fitting a suit of clothes. There are several benchmarks or “hard points” that must be held as the harness size changes. One is the point of suspension; it occurs at the top of the pectoral muscle in the hollow of your shoulder. Many rigs allow this point to rotate up to the top of the shoulder. This is incorrect and you will know it when you look under the shoulder portion of the harness and while the chest strap is keeping your mouth closed. If your harness suspends you correctly you will feel like you are sitting in a chair. This might require sliding your leg straps down under your thighs after opening. The other benchmark is the top of container. The harness must encircle your body while holding these two points. You should make sure that the harness you buy is custom made for you and that the manufacturer sizes your harness in both the main lift web and over-the-shoulder dimension. The harness must be comfortable in three different environments: in the air (in freefall), under canopy, and lastly on the ground. In the air we are usually on our bellies; under canopy, sitting in a chair; and on the ground, walking. The flex of webbing accomplishes this job just fine if the harness is configured properly. Harness Materials Harness materials should meet mil-spec., but that is not enough. The material must be used as design intended. The webbing should be “shuttle weave”(the weave of both edges look the same) as opposed to “needle weave”(the weave of both edges look different). A “shuttle weave” is a locking weave, that will not unravel if the edge is nicked or broken. Refer to The Parachute Manual, pg. 80 - , sections 4.060 through 4.062. Comfort Pads There are two kinds of foam used in comfort pads -- closed cell and open cell. Most manufacturers use open cell foam that they buy at the carpet store. Buy a rig that uses closed cell athletic padding that will float and not absorb water. Riser Releases The riser release system in common use today is the “3-Ring”, it is the de facto standard. There are several variations of this design in use. Due to some recent incidents where cutaways have been from difficult to impossible, I would anticipate additional variations or improvements. The 3-ring is a single point riser release system designed around three rings of decreasing diameter. Each is able to nest inside the larger with clearance for mounting webbing. They are secured and released with a locking loop, through a grommet, into a “push/pull” cable system that releases both sides. The housing pushes, while the cable pulls from the locking loop, which when released, allows the ring/levers to “tumble” open. There are two sizes available. The mini, which is capable of approximately 3600 lb. load and has about a 60 to 1 mechanical advantage, and the large or standard, which has more than a 200 to 1 mechanical advantage. The mini is generally accepted as adequate for normal solo sport jumping. The large is used for tandem, military and situations where high loading is anticipated. (See “The 3 Ring, What It Is And How It Works”) Option Availability You should look for a rig manufacturer who can provide you with the options your skydiving requires. Be reasonable, there are some options which might be dangerous. Find a designer with whom you can talk it over. Pilot Chutes Pilot chutes have become an included component in Harness and Containers, therefore they should be discussed. Main Main pilot chutes were generally discussed in the “Main Deployment” section. They do have some additional features mentionable here. There is large hole mesh and small hole mesh and there are two types of canopy fabric in common use, Zero-P and F-111. The zero-p is a silicone coated F-111, and as such, has a lower permeability, both initially and in the long run. The initial difference is minor, and for all practical purposes doesn’t exist. However, if you consider the following you can make your own decisions about the fabric and the mesh. A colander or sieve is held under a slow running stream of water. The water passes through the sieve as fast as it enters. Increase the water flow and the sieve will fill up and the water will spill over the edges. This is equivalent to what happens with porous fabric being drug through the air. Reserve There are two important aspects of the reserve pilot chute. As it is usually spring loaded, the “jump” or launch of the spring is important. Additionally the drag capability must be considered. While you can judge the jump with your eye (remember to judge it coming out or off of the container) the drag capability is more evasive. You could drag them through the air with a fish scale but your airspeed might vary from jump to jump. The only way to accurately determine the coefficient of drag, is in a wind tunnel test. Poynter reports on tests of several kinds which might be enlightening and help to establish a mental base line. You must ask the manufacturers and judge their answer. If they can’t supply a “Coefficient of Drag” number beware! Auxiliary Systems RSL Read our What you should Know About RSL’s article. AAD Will the rig of your choice accept the AAD of your choice? Has the rig maker approved the AAD makers installation? Has the AAD maker approved the rig makers instructions? The important thing to remember whenever you consider an AAD, is that the container, not the AAD, is the primary life saving device. The AAD must not interfere with the proper function of the TSO’d container and its TSO’d reserve. John Sherman April, 1996 © The Jump Shack Reprinted with permission
  25. admin

    How to Buy New Skydiving Gear

    (With The Minimum Hit To Your Credit Rating) You want it. Bad. And you want it your way. In your colors. And nothing’s gonna stop you. If you’ve already done your time at the rental counter (and put some more mileage on a set of used gear, as you must), you’re well within your rights to be ogling the hot new nylon. Custom fit, hotshot technology and all the look-at-me embroidery a jumper could want? Just take my money. You’re no doubt aware that this purchase is going to rival car-buying in the cash outlay -- there’s really no way around it. That said, there are some steps you can take to get the best possible deal on your new skyrig. 1. Use the best brains you know (including yours). Start by asking your mentor’s opinion. Then ask your rigger’s opinion. Then ask your hero’s opinion. Ask the very smartest people you know to make their recommendations before you start the conversation with dealers and factory reps (who are, naturally, highly persuasive folk). There’s a labyrinth of pricey options to consider. Expert advice will help you navigate it without losing your shirt on poshity-posh back pads and tie-dye. You’ll have to be very honest with yourself about your skill level, your height and weight, the discipline you’ll spend the most time practicing, your annual jump numbers and your (realistic) total budget. Spoiler: this is not the fun part. 2. Be a brand snob. Y’know those skydiving gear brands that buy front-fold real estate in all the parachuting association magazines? The ones that always seem to have a pop-up and a smiling face at the major boogies? The ones that place their logos like the tap of a knighting sword on the fine shoulders of the world-champion teams? Those are the brands you want. This might feel a little like selling out to snazzy marketing. It’s not. If you play your cards right, you’ll have plenty of time in your career to experiment with fringe gear; for now, you need what a top-of-the-food-chain manufacturer brings to the table, namely: 1. Well-tested components, created in a well-established factory, and the attendant safety track record. 2. Equipment that’s familiar to any given rigger, thus easier to fix -- with parts that aren’t hard to replace Later on, you’ll have the requisite knowledge and experience to branch into buying specialty equipment, experimenting with less-tested technology and trying out the offerings of lesser-known manufacturers. At this point, however, you don’t know what you don’t know – and that can be dangerous. It can also be very, very expensive. 3. Try before you cry. Another benefit of buying from a major manufacturer: the ubiquitous demo. The cardinal rule in airsports gear-buying is a simple one: never buy it until you’ve tried it. Another note: you’ll certainly see demos on-hand at any major skydiving boogie, but do yourself a favor and evaluate gear outside the frantic context of crowded airspace. (When you’re not constantly chasing a hangover. Yes. You. I know this.) 4. Blend it. *Everything* doesn’t have to be new, you know. In fact, it’s a really good idea to save money by blending new components with old, if you do it intelligently. If -- after weighing the value benefits -- you decide to go all-in, try to buy everything together for a package discount. Shop the large gear shops to compare their (often attractive) package offerings. Since they’re all assembling their deals from the same major-manufacturer components, you can feel perfectly confident purchasing the one with the lowest price. 5. Repeat after me: dolla dolla bill, y’awl. Cash, if you can scrounge it together, is going to net you the best price. It’ll give you the best position to negotiate around taxes and shipping fees, and might just let you wiggle out from under the credit card charge that most dealers fold into to their baseline pricing. 6. Slow your roll. Take your time as a buyer on the market -- it pays off. After a couple of seasons, you’ll start to pick up the rhythm of yearly and seasonal sales. Go to as many boogies as you can, browsing the gear and sniffing out event discounts. (Don’t forget to stay for the raffle! Major gear giveaways land in lucky laps.) Get to know your local dealers, who might cotton to you and let you know when there’s a price shift on the horizon. Soon enough, all that waiting will pay off -- and you’ll be swaggering to the plane in a shiny new kit that just screams “I will cry like a tiny child if I don’t stand up this landing.” 7. Buy a stiff-bristled Brush of Shame. Just do it.