Search the Community

Showing results for tags 'general safety'.



More search options

  • Search By Tags

    Type tags separated by commas.
  • Search By Author

Content Type


Forums

  • General
    • Announcements
    • Introductions and Greets
  • Community
  • Skydiving
    • General Skydiving Discussions
    • Questions and Answers
    • Gear and Rigging
    • Safety and Training
    • Events & Places to Jump
    • Skydiving History & Trivia
    • Instructors
    • Wind Tunnels
    • Tandem Skydiving
    • Skydivers with Disabilities
    • Blue Skies - In Memory Of
  • Skydiving Disciplines
    • Swooping and Canopy Control
    • Relative Work
    • Photography and Video
    • Freeflying
    • Canopy Relative Work
    • Wing Suit Flying
    • BASE Jumping
  • Dropzone.com
    • Suggestions and Feedback
    • Error and Bug Reports
    • Security and Scam Alerts

Calendars

  • Boogies
  • Competitions
  • Miscellaneous
  • Rating Courses
  • Training Camps

Categories

  • Argentina
  • Australia
    • New South Wales
    • Northern Territory
    • Queensland
    • Victoria
    • South Australia
    • Western Australia
  • Austria
  • Bahamas
  • Belarus
  • Belgium
  • Bermuda
  • Bolivia
  • Bosnia
  • Botswana
  • Brazil
  • Bulgaria
  • Canada
    • Alberta
    • British Columbia
    • Manitoba
    • New Brunswick
    • Nova Scotia
    • Ontario
    • Saskatchewan
    • Quebec
  • Chile
  • China
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • Cuba
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Dominican Republic
  • Egypt
  • El Salvador
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Guatemala
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Ireland
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Jamaica
  • Japan
  • Jordan
  • Kenya
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Macedonia
  • Malawi
  • Malaysia
  • Maldives
  • Malta
  • Mauritius
  • Mexico
  • Moldova
  • Montenegro
  • Morocco
  • Mozambique
  • New Zealand
  • Namibia
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Pacific Islands
  • Panama
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Russia
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Serbia
  • Singapore
  • Slovak Republic
  • Slovenia
  • South Africa
  • South Korea
  • Spain
  • Suriname
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Tanzania
  • Thailand
  • Turkey
  • Ukraine
  • United Arab Emirates
  • United States
    • Alabama
    • Alaska
    • Arizona
    • Arkansas
    • Colorado
    • California
    • Connecticut
    • Delaware
    • Florida
    • Georgia
    • Hawaii
    • Idaho
    • Illinois
    • Indiana
    • Iowa
    • Kansas
    • Kentucky
    • Louisiana
    • Maine
    • Maryland
    • Massachusetts
    • Michigan
    • Minnesota
    • Mississippi
    • Missouri
    • Montana
    • Nebraska
    • Nevada
    • New Hampshire
    • New Jersey
    • New Mexico
    • New York
    • North Carolina
    • North Dakota
    • Ohio
    • Oklahoma
    • Oregon
    • Puerto Rico
    • Rhode Island
    • South Carolina
    • South Dakota
    • Tennessee
    • Texas
    • Utah
    • Vermont
    • Virginia
    • West Virginia
    • Wisconsin
    • Wyoming
    • Pennsylvania
    • Washington
  • United Kingdom
  • Uruguay
  • Venezuela
  • Vietnam
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe

Categories

  • Altimeters
  • AADs
  • Cameras
  • Containers
  • Helmets
  • Jumpsuits
  • Goggles
  • Main Canopies
  • Clothing
  • Reserve Canopies
  • Software
  • Wingsuits

Categories

  • Disciplines
  • Safety
  • News
  • Help
    • Account Help
    • Forums
    • Dropzone E-Mail
    • Dropzone Database
    • Photo Galleries
    • Premier Membership
    • Event Planner
    • Classifieds
    • Dropzone Locator
    • Security And Scams
    • Videos
    • Content
  • About
    • Advertise
    • Writers
    • Advertising
    • Hidden
  • Advertise
  • General
  • Events
  • Gear

Categories

  • 2004
  • 2005
    • Africa
    • Asia
    • Europe
    • Middle East
    • North America
    • Pacific
    • South America
  • 2006
    • Africa
    • Asia
    • Europe
    • Middle East
    • North America
    • Pacific
    • South America
  • 2007
    • Africa
    • Asia
    • Europe
    • Middle East
    • North America
    • Pacific
    • South America
  • 2008
    • Africa
    • Europe
    • Middle East
    • North America
    • Pacific
    • South America
  • 2009
    • Africa
    • Asia
    • Europe
    • Middle East
    • North America
    • Pacific
    • South America
  • 2010
    • Africa
    • Asia
    • Europe
    • Middle East
    • North America
    • Pacific
    • South America
  • 2011
    • Africa
    • Asia
    • Europe
    • Middle East
    • North America
    • Pacific
    • South America
  • 2012
    • Africa
    • Asia
    • Europe
    • Middle East
    • Pacific
    • South America
    • North America
  • 2013
    • Africa
    • Asia
    • Europe
    • Middle East
    • North America
    • Pacific
    • South America
  • 2014
    • Africa
    • Asia
    • Europe
    • Middle East
    • North America
    • Pacific
    • South America
  • 2015
    • Africa
    • Asia
    • Europe
    • Middle East
    • North America
    • Pacific
    • South America
  • 2016
    • Africa
    • Asia
    • Europe
    • Middle East
    • North America
    • Pacific
    • South America
    • Africa
    • Asia
    • Europe
    • Middle East
    • North America
    • Pacific
    • South America
  • 2017
    • Africa
    • Asia
    • Europe
    • Middle East
    • North America
    • Pacific
    • South America
  • 2018
    • Africa
    • Asia
    • Europe
    • Middle East
    • North America
    • Pacific
    • South America

Categories

  • Aads
  • Altimeters
  • Containers
  • Helmets
  • Main Canopies
  • Reserve Canopies
  • Cameras
  • Wingsuits
  • Jumpsuits

Categories

  • Malaysia
  • Russia
  • Brazil
  • Sweden
  • Israel
  • Germany
  • Bulgaria
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Latvia
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Slovakia
  • Spain
  • China
  • Finland
  • France
  • Belgium
  • Hungary
  • New Zealand
  • Records
  • Austria
  • Slovenia
  • Italy
  • Ukraine
  • Iran
  • Argentina
  • United States
  • Singapore
  • United Arab Emirates
  • United Kingdom
  • Canada
  • Switzerland
  • Australia

Categories

  • Classifieds
  • Forums
  • Profile
  • Gallery
  • Calendar
  • Other

Blogs

There are no results to display.

Categories

  • AFF
  • BASE
  • Coaching
  • Compilations
  • CRW
  • Demos
  • Emergencies
  • Exits
  • Freeflying
  • Miscellaneous
  • Relative Work
  • Special Jumps
  • Tandem
  • Swooping
  • Wind Tunnel
  • Wingsuit
  • Skydive TV

Categories

  • Aads
  • Aircraft
  • Altimeters
  • Clothing And Jewelry
  • Complete Systems
  • Containers
  • Employment
  • Head Gear
  • Jumpsuits
  • Main Canopies
  • Miscellaneous
  • Photography
  • Reserve Canopies
  • Spare Parts
  • Tandem
  • Tunnel Time
  • Videos And Books
  • Wingsuits

Find results in...

Find results that contain...


Date Created

  • Start

    End


Last Updated

  • Start

    End


Filter by number of...

Joined

  • Start

    End


Group


Facebook


Linked In


Twitter


Google Plus


Youtube


Vimeo


Instagram


Website


About Me


Container Other


Main Canopy Size


Main Canopy Other


Reserve Canopy Size


Reserve Canopy Other


AAD


Home DZ


License


License Number


Licensing Organization


Number of Jumps

 
or  

Tunnel Hours

 
or  

Years in Sport

 
or  

First Choice Discipline


First Choice Discipline Jump Total

 
or  

Second Choice Discipline


Second Choice Discipline Jump Total

 
or  

Static Line


IAD


AFF


Tandem


Formation


Rigging Back


Rigging Chest


Rigging Seat


Rigging Lap

Found 110 results

  1. admin

    Tandem Skydiving

    What Is Tandem Skydiving? Tandem skydiving is an extremely popular form of skydiving and an excellent introduction into the sport, it allows one to experience the adrenaline and excitement without having to commit excessively to the activity at hand. While AFF training and static-line jumping consists of hours of training prior to the jump, going tandem only requires around 30 minutes of ground preparation prior. The reason for this is that while both AFF and static-line skydives require you to learn how to control your canopy and establish a deep knowledge of maintaining specific body positions in free fall, with tandem skydiving you only need to know the basics about how you should position your body relative to your tandem master. The fact that your tandem instructor will be responsible for your chute leaves you with the ability to spend more of your effort focusing on the sheer excitement of the jump, as opposed to what procedure who'll be doing next. You, the tandem student, will be strapped to a tandem instructor by use of a secure harness system which makes use of a shoulder strap on either side, a chest strap which secures across your chest, as well as leg straps. You will be strapped onto the chest, or front side of the tandem master, so you can be sure that you'll have the best view in the house. While tandem jumps are most common as once off introductions to skydiving, they are also sometimes used in conjunction with training courses, specifically in the early stages of a course. Using tandem jumping in training methods when you want to learn how to skydive can be extremely effective as it allows the student to experience both freefall and canopy flight without the feeling of being thrown into the deep end, so to speak. There are also students who look to perform several tandem skydives prior to their training course in order to familiarize themselves with the environment. A tandem freefall generally lasts between 45 and 60 seconds, followed by a four minute canopy ride to the ground. Where To Start? For starters, you want to make sure that you are going to be skydiving at a drop zone that has a good reputation. There are over a thousand drop zones around the world and each offer a different experience, some good and some poor. Dropzone.com has been developed around helping you to find the best drop zone in the area of your choice, and providing you with user ratings and reviews to help you make your decision. Look for drop zones with large volumes of positive reviews, and take the time to read through them and see what issues other users may have experienced at any particular drop zone. Unlike static-line progression for example, tandem skydiving is done at almost every drop zone, so you should be fine in that area, but be sure to check and make sure. When comparing drop zones it's vital to make sure you that you understand what you will be receiving with your jump. A tandem skydive can take place between altitudes of anywhere from 10 000 to 14 000ft, if free fall time is of importance to you it's certainly worth querying this topic with the drop zone. Another important question is, if you're paying a lot for your jump, are they offering you the best services for the amount you're paying? Does your jump include video footage or still photography, most have this as an extra cost - so be sure to check what the drop zone is charging for their video services. And if it does offer video services, is this filmed from a mounted camera attached to the tandem instructor or are they pulling out all the stops and having a separate photographer joining the jump solely to take some quality photographs of your jump. These are all aspects which should be examined and considered when you're scouting for the best drop zone in your area. Once you've located a drop zone near to your destination, give them a call or send them an e-mail, they should be more than willing to address any questions you may have about your jump and guide you through the booking process, setting you up with a date to jump. Some Advice To Consider Before Making Your Tandem Jump While you're likely to be walked through the correct dos and don'ts during your pre-jump ground briefing, it doesn't hurt to prepare prior to the day for what you should be doing and what you shouldn't be doing for your jump. Remove jewelry and accessories prior to Tandem Skydiving. At 120mph, it begins very easy for loose jewelry or accessories to come loose during free fall and get lost. It's a good idea to leave the jewelry at home on the day of your jump. Remove piercings, specifically nipple rings. When the canopy is opened during flight, your chest strap will pull against you, and there have been cases where people have had nipple rings pulled when this occurs - learn from their mistakes. Remember that there are also harness straps around your legs, so be sure to remove all piercings that may be impacted. Removing all piercings leave less gambling for something getting snagged, but nipple and surface piercings are definitely best removed. Tie up your hair. Whether you're male or female, if you have long hair it is a wise idea to tie it up in a manner that makes it least likely to get caught in the harness at any stage - and also remain out of the TIs face. Tucking it into the helmet once tied is also not a bad idea. Stick close to your tandem instructor. Once you're leaving the manifest for your jump, be sure to remain close to your tandem instructor. Always listen to your tandem instructor. They are the ones that know best, despite what you think you know - as an inexperienced tandem skydiver, your tandem instructor should not be questioned when it comes to anything related to the procedure of, or the jump itself. Be respectful and polite. While you may be frustrated at things like weather holds, it's important to remain calm and realize that these events are often out of the control of the instructors and the manifest staff. Image by Lukasz Szymanski Tandem Instructors The tandem instructors or tandem masters are going to be the ones in control of your skydive. The fact that the tandem instructor has control over the safety of the jump has prompted strict rules and regulations, especially within the United States, as to who can lead a tandem jump. The current requirements set in place go a long way in providing peace of mind that you're going to be in excellent hands when in the air. Before a skydiver is able to be the tandem instructor on a jump, he has to go through several procedures. First he has to be an experienced skydiver with a minimum of 500 jumps and 3 years of skydiving experience to his name, secondly he must possess a 'master parachute license' which has to be issued by an FAA-recognized organization, such as the USPA (United States Parachute Association). Furthermore, they are required to undergo training and acquire a certification related to the canopy they are going to be flying. On top of these requirements, the USPA has a few more of their own. Up until late 2008 in the United States, one was able to either be a tandem master with a manufacturer's rating or a tandem instructor which required the USPA training, though this was changed and now requires all those leading tandem jumps in the United States to hold a tandem instructors rating. The details of the ratings systems and the requirements vary between countries. One thing that separates the best drop zones from a bad drop zone for those doing a tandem jump, is the attitude and behavior of their tandem instructor. Luckily, if you've done your research and found yourself a good drop zone, this shouldn't be a worry and you may well end up making a new friend in the process. A good instructor is one that is able to answer any questions you have, while at the same time making you feel comfortable and relaxed. The best instructors find a perfect balance between safety and professionalism and humor, after all the jump is pointless if you don't enjoy yourself. Should I Be Nervous About Tandem Skydiving? It's completely normal to feel nervous about skydiving, even those of us who seek adrenalin constantly have some level of nervousness at times. Jumping out of a perfectly good plane, whether it is while experiencing a tandem jump or even the thrill of wing suiting, is not something natural to us as humans, and you can be sure that you're not alone in what you feel. With that said though, as with many areas where what you're facing is foreign and unknown, your fear often tends to turn to excitement once you're in it. I have seen a countless number of first time tandem skydivers being a bit unsure in the beginning but once their feet touch the ground their mind set changes completely. These are often people performing a bucket list jump with no intention of ever skydiving again, but after they've experience the feeling of free fall, they are hooked - and often end up booking their AFF courses to become a licensed skydiver just a few days later. Tandem skydiving has an excellent safety record for most parts of the world and you can take comfort in the fact that according to the United States Parachute Association, around half a million people each year choose to tandem skydive in the US alone. How Much Does A Tandem Jump Cost? The price of tandem skydives vary between drop zones, generally you're looking in the price range of about $70 to in excess of $300. This cost can either include or exclude the cost of things like a camera man and a DVD copy of your skydive. We highly recommend that you look into the prices and the specifications at each drop zone. For more information read below... Things To Know About Tandems There are typically restrictions on age when it comes to performing a tandem jump, the exact age varies depending on country and drop zone. The typical requirement from most drop zones is 18, though some drop zones do allow for 16 to 18 year olds to perform a tandem jump as long as they have parental consent. It is best to speak to your local drop zone about their age policies. When booking a tandem skydive it's important to know what to expect, often once off tandem jumpers go in without knowing what a skydive entails, how drop zones operate and what to expect. Understand that skydiving hinges on the weather conditions, when the winds are too strong or it's too cloudy, or if there's fog - you may well find yourself on the end of a weather hold. This is an aspect of skydiving that no one is free from, and the experienced jumpers get just as disappointed when they don't get to head out. Weather holds can last anywhere from 5 minutes to 5 days, depending on the conditions. Because of this it's best to plan your skydive around your local weather, if you're in an area with lots of summer tropical rainfall - it may be best to book in the autumn or winter months when rainfall is less likely, otherwise booking for an earlier time in the day before daytime heating causes the development of thunder showers. In areas of winter rainfall, summer is obviously your best bet, though nothing can ever be guaranteed. There are areas where weather holds are rare, and if you're in one of these areas that sees little annual rainfall, you're likely to see your jump happen without any hassles. It's highly recommended that you discuss deposits and payments with the drop zones prior to booking. While most DZs will gladly discuss openly and honestly with you their rules and restrictions in regards to deposits and refunds, many fail to bring up this topic prior to finalizing their booking and they end up upset when they find out that there is no refund issued for deposits on jumps that are postponed due to weather holds. How Safe is Tandem Skydiving? A common question asked by those intrigued by the idea of a tandem jump, is whether or not it is safe. And just how safe it truly is. We've long tracked fatalities in our database and can help in easing some of the anxiety you may have around tandem skydiving safety. The reality is that as with any high risk sport, there is the potential for death, though with that said - tandem skydivers remain the least likely to suffer at the hands of a fatality than other jumpers. Between the years 2005 and 2017 there were less than 100 tandem fatalities, with our records pointing closer to around 60. In that same time frame, our records indicate a total of just more than 700 fatalities, meaning that less than 1 out of 10 skydiving fatalities were tied to tandem skydiving. The important thing to remember is also that tandem skydives are extremely popular and on average there are an estimated 250,000 tandem jumps performed each year in the United States. So while calling tandem jumps safe may be a bit of a subjective statement, the truth is there are a number of aspects of your daily life that hold more risk than completing a tandem jump. The Technical Side And Skydiving Gear There are a few things you should remember when you are looking at the more technical side of your skydiving gear. Skydiving canopies are designed specifically for certain disciplines of skydiving, for speed and immediate response smaller canopies are used - such as those designed for swooping, these smaller canopies are also more dangerous, allowing for less margin of error. For tandem skydiving, where safety takes priority, the canopies (parachutes) used are much larger than those that you find in swooping for example. This is both because the canopy is going to need to carry twice the regular skydiving weight and because of the desired gentle nature of the canopy flight. The rig that is used by your tandem instructor is set up so that it will provide optimum safety for you on your jump. The rig contains an AAD (automatic activation device) which is a safety device that is designed to automatically fire the main chute after a skydiver descends past a certain altitude and has not yet fired the main canopy. There is also the special tandem canopy, which will be the parachute that is deployed during freefall, also known as the main. There is also a reserve canopy, this is a backup that exists in case of a failure on the main, an example would be, if a main canopy opens with a line twist and one is not able to recover from it - the main would be cut and the reserve deployed. These are packed into what is known as the container, the backpack looking item on the back of the tandem instructor. The instructor will also be carrying an altimeter on him, usually around the wrist, which can provide visual or audio information on the progression of the descent, so that he can release the main canopy at the correct time. During free fall, you can expect to reach speeds of up to 120mph (180km/h). Once you've done your skydive, remember to come back to dropzone.com and let us know what you thought of your experience, by rating the drop zone you jumped at. Safety and Training Forum Find a place to jump in your area.
  2. March is safety month, and what better time than just before the Northern Hemisphere's summer season to refresh yourself on information you may be rusty on, or just become more educated in the various safety aspects. Last year we published an article with what we felt were some of the most important safety related articles published on Dropzone.com at that time. Since then we have had several new pieces of information published, that may help you in staying safe out there, from canopy control to exit separation. We've also included several safety day events that are happening around the world later this month. Here's a list of what we feel are 5 of the most important articles submitted over the past year: Teaching Students To Navigate The Landing Pattern In our most recently published safety article, coach and IAD instructor rated Corey Miller discusses some of the core aspects of landing patterns and how students are taught to navigate them. The article focuses specifically only the way instructors relay landing information to students over radio, while perhaps not allowing the students to truly learn for themselves what is important to look for and more closely address the subject of learning to land as opposed to being told how to land. Staying Current During Winter While this article may be a bit late for the northern hemisphere, winter is approaching down south and many useful tips can be learned. In the article, Brian Germain discusses the benefits to staying current during the off season and provides readers with a number of useful exercises that can be done to ensure optimum efficiency when you return to the sky. There's numerous images included to help you understand the setups and how they work, as well as exercises that addresses specific individual disciplines. Exit Order Safety Another article by Brian Germain, on the topic of exit order safety. The main focus of the article revolves around establishing and discussion the different types of jumpers and how their time under the plane may vary, and in turn to establish who should jump when and why. Not only is the direct exit from the aircraft addressed, but the article further discusses exit order importance with regards to exit timing and landing area. In the comments section, Brian goes on to acknowledge the possible ambiguity in the term "prop-blast penetration", used in the opening paragraph and says that the term can be replaced by such terms as "forward throw", "relative wind penetration" or the more self-explanatory "horizontal distance traveled". When Should You Upsize Your Canopy The first of two very useful articles on the topic of canopy size, this article was a combined effort by Melissa Lowe, Barry Williams and Jason Moledzki. It uses numbered points to address 10 factors that one should look at when considering canopy size. Most of the time the thought is on downsizing, as one feels more comfortable with their current setup, but for some people - the solution to many of their problems may actually be to head in the other direction and consider upsizing their canopy. There are numerous variables involved that could prompt one to require an upsizing, from gaining weight to even jumping at a higher elevation. At the end of the discussion, there is a Canopy Risk calculator (created by the USPA), which is intended to act as a guideline for you to see how much of a safety risk you are with your current setup and skill level. It's Not Only Size That Matters - Thoughts on Canopy Upsizing The other canopy upsizing article we featured was submitted by Dave Kottwitz and focuses more on retelling lessons learned when he upsized from a Triathlon 210, to a Spectre 230. On his third jump on the new, larger canopy Dave ended up breaking his leg in six places as well as dislocating his shoulder. In the article, he looks at what caused the problems and why one has to realize that upsizing your canopy is not an immediate guarantee for an increase in safety.
  3. How Not To Become Dog Food Like That Indiana Jones Guy Image by Lukasz Szymanski Remember that scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark? Indiana Jones is on an active airfield. He’s duking it out with a bald, mustachioed, wall-of-meat Nazi, and he’s kinda losing. Finally, he manages to distract the dude with his puny, tickly little punches until a propeller can chop his shiny evilness into dog food. And we cheer, and we laugh. Because ha! That guy was so stupid, he didn’t even see that propeller. Hilarious. Well, my friends -- we could all easily be that bald, mustachioed, wall-of-meat Nazi if we’re not careful. We’re around propellers all the time, after all. We’re accustomed to hearing and feeling them -- so much so that they’re almost invisible. Statistically, we’re in their immediate presence enough for the risk to be proportionately higher than it is for someone who’s rarely on an active airfield. So: here’s your game plan. Always sneak up on fixed-wing aircraft from behind. Props are located in on the fronts of fixed-wing aircraft -- either on the nose or on the fronts of the wings themselves -- so always approach a fixed-wing aircraft from well behind the wing. Teach yourself to do this every time, whether or not the plane is running. This will lessen the chance of you bumbling into the “fool processor” with a boogie beer in-hand. Always stare helicopters in the face. (Kinda.) Helicopters don’t like to be snuck-up-on. Think about it like you’re establishing dominance -- always approach helicopters from the side-front, where the pilot can see you. (The real reason for this is the danger posed by the rear rotor, but -- if you think about it -- helicopters kinda have faces you can stare down.) The rule of thumb is to stay in front of the boarding door, never behind it, and not directly in front of the helicopter where it tips during takeoff. Never chat with the pilot from outside the plane. Have manifest radio them with information, or -- if you must -- do the annoying half-gesture, half-shout thing inside the cabin. They probably don’t want to talk to you, anyway. Never touch a propeller unless you’re filling out a timecard to do it. Touching a propeller is like sticking your hand into a beehive. You may or may not get stung, but it’s an inarguably dumb idea. Even if the plane is tucked in for the night, it’s not okay to saunter up to a propeller and stroke, push, spin, crank, pull, lean, poke, lick or fistbump it. They’re heavy, sharp and kinda unpredictable, especially if you’ve been drinking (which you probably have been). Just leave it alone. Don’t take the shortcut. Is the shortest distance from the LZ to the hangar a straight shot through the loading zone (or any other aircraft operating area)? Do the right thing and walk around it. If you start cutting through the no-walk zone to save a couple of minutes, your fellow jumpers, students and spectators will likely follow suit. Restricted areas aren’t restricted unless it’s hot and you’re tired and you double-manifested, and you -- or someone who waddles along after you -- might pay a high price for the choice. Don’t wave your hands in the air like you just don’t care on a heli huck. ...until you’re either hanging from the helicopter strut, safely landed, or mugging for a freefall photo you’ll be embarrassed about later. There are spinning scimitars up there while you’re exiting, dude. Do your part to muddy up the gene pool. Especially on crowded weekend days, boogies, demo events and any other place that more than two mouthbreathers are gathered in the name of skydiving, you are going to witness stupidity. If you see one of the horde wandering cow-faced towards the propellers -- almost always, led by a GoPro or smartphone -- please grab them, divert them and ask them nicely not to procreate as you lead them gently behind the signs they’ve so blithely ignored. Maybe remind them of the bald, mustachioed, wall-of-meat Nazi guy who became dog food. (Everybody remembers that part.)
  4. Be Aware of the Risks Choose a method of training Find a Drop Zone Set a date and jump! Get licensed Depending on how much time you have, how much cash you've got to spend, and how strong your nerves are, you have three options for what method of skydiving you'll use for your first jump: tandem, static line, and accelerated freefall (AFF). These methods vary in that some are designed to give you a quick experience and introduction to skydiving while others start with full blown first jump courses that will set you on the path to becoming a certified skydiver. Consider your options. Think about the experience you'll get out of each of these and your reasons for doing it. Then pick one. Whichever method you choose to expose yourself to the sport we know you won't regret it. You'll have fun, broaden your horizons and shift your boundaries. Tandem Jumping Tandem jumps are a very popular way to make your first jump. They allow the curious potential student to experience, first-hand, the thrills of skydiving without the stress of AFF or SL progression. Most dropzones are set up to offer tandem skydives under two different scenarios: the "one-time fun jump"", or as part of a hybrid training method sometimes called "tandem progression." The former only requires about 30 minutes of ground preparation; the latter is generally completed after a fairly standard First Jump Course (FJC) which can last up to four hours or more. Tandem jumping, by definition, consists of an experienced jumper called a "Tandem Master" or "Tandem Instructor" and the passenger. The tandem master rides on the back and wears an extra-large parachute system capable of carrying weights of up to 500 pounds; easily able to safely suspend two people. The passenger (or tandem progression student) wears a specially designed harness that attaches in four points to the front of the tandem master. A tandem freefall generally lasts between 45 and 60 seconds, followed by a four minute canopy ride to the ground. Tandem jumping provides an obvious advantage for the adventurous spirit who cannot adequately meet the physical or proficiency requirements for the S/L or AFF jumps. By relying on Tandem Master's skills, they will still be able to experience the thrill of skydiving. It should be noted that, in the United States, tandem jumping is conducted in two different modes: as a "ride" by manufacturer-rated Tandem Masters, and as bona fide skydiving instruction by USPA Tandem Instructors who also hold the manufacturers’ ratings. Only USPA-rated Tandem Instructors can teach tandem as a part of hybrid skydiving instruction. In most of these hybrid courses, a student makes three or four tandems and then finishes training starting with a level four AFF jump. The utility of this hybrid method is that there is never more than one instructor involved in any one skydive, thus freeing up staff to more quickly train the student load. Jumps made with a USPA-rated Tandem Instructor count towards student proficiency, those made with a non-USPA rated Tandem master do not. Tandem jumps range in cost from as low as $70 dollars (US) to over $300, so it’s best to shop around for the best deal. Static Line Training (S/L) This method has evolved over the last ~30 years from its military origins into a successful method for training sport parachutists. The student gets 4-5 hours of ground training and is then taken to an altitude of about 3000 feet for the jump. The jump itself consists of a simple "poised" exit from the strut of a small single engine Cessna aircraft, or the side door of a larger aircraft. As the student falls away from the plane, the main canopy is deployed by a "static line" attached to the aircraft. The student will experience about two to three seconds of falling as the parachute opens. Subsequent S/L jumps require about 15 minutes of preparation. After 2 good static line jumps, the student will be trained to pull their ripcord for themselves. The student then does 3 more static line jumps where they demonstrate this ability by pulling a dummy ripcord as they leave the plane (the static line is still initiating the deployment). The student is then cleared to do their first actual free fall. The first freefall is a "clear & pull", where the student initiates the pull sequence immediately upon leaving the aircraft. Next is a 10 second delay jump. Subsequent jumps go to progressively higher altitudes with longer delays. After 25 free falls, and meeting certain other basic requirements, the student receives their A license and is cleared off student status. Accelerated Free Fall (AFF) The AFF program was instituted in 1982 as an "accelerated" learning process as compared to the traditional static line progression. The AFF program will give you a true taste of modern sport skydiving. The ground training is a bit more extensive than S/L (~5 hours) because the student will be doing a 50 second freefall (that's right!) on his/her very first jump. The student will exit the aircraft at 10,000-12,000 feet along with two AFF instructors who will assist the student during freefall. The instructors maintain grips on the student from the moment they leave the aircraft until opening, assisting the student as necessary to fall stable, perform practice ripcord pulls, monitor altitude, etc. The student then pulls his/her own ripcord at about 4000 ft. The official USPA AFF program is a 7 level program. Levels 1, 2, & 3 require two AFF instructors to accompany the student. These dives concentrate on teaching basic safety skills such as altitude awareness, body position, stability during freefall and during the pull sequence, and most importantly- successful ripcord pull. On level 3, the instructors will release the student in freefall for the first time, to fly completely on their own. Levels 4, 5, 6, & 7 require only one freefall JM (less $$) and teach the student air skills such as turns, forward movement and docking on other people, moving forward, "superman" exits from the plane, etc. Each AFF level is designed to take one jump, and requires about 45 minutes of training. After successfully performing the objectives of each level, the student moves on to the next level. After graduating Level 7, the student enters a less structured educational program called the Integrated Student Program, where they jump on their own and with coaches to improve their skills and learn more advanced maneuvers. Once they reach 25 jumps they are ready for their A license. Once they have their A license they are free to jump however they choose, within the dictates of good judgment and the guidelines of the USPA’s Basic Safety Recommendations (BSR’s.) Prev: Be aware of the risks Next: Find a Dropzone Prev: Be aware of the risks Next: Find a Dropzone More related information: The Student Skydiver's Handbook Sample: AFF Course Material Safey and Training Articles Safety and Training Forum Skydiving Glossary
  5. bryanburke

    When Right is Wrong

    By Bryan Burke, Safety and Training Advisor Image by Serge Shakuto In March of 2017 I posted a review of a canopy collision that took place at Skydive Arizona on December 30, 2016. The post included two videos, one shot by a participant in the collision and one shot by an outside observer. The videos make it pretty clear what happened and I hoped they would spur discussion about traffic management. If you have not read the thread in the Incidents Forum and watched the videos it might be helpful to do so before reading on. Before going on, though, let me caution the readers about a few things. One, some of the comments to my post are stated in a way that suggests the commentator knew what was actually going on in the heads of the two who collided. We don't know, and this kind of baseless assertion seriously diminishes the usefulness of the Forum. Two, if you watch closely there was traffic to both right and left of the overtaking canopy. Lens distortion makes it hard to know just where it was in the final seconds before the collision, but it may have affected the decision making of the top canopy pilot. We could argue endlessly about whether or not the top pilot could have avoided the collision. The fact is that he did not come up with a solution to the problem fast enough to avoid it. Three, the landing area is tight even without heavy traffic. Nevertheless, this collision could have occurred anywhere because it essentially was caused by one parachute turning into the path of another, which is the ultimate cause of almost every canopy collision. Finally, Skydive Arizona does have a lot of guidelines because we have a lot of visitors from drop zones that apparently don't. Breaking the rules isn't a grounding offense in most situations. In this particular case I doubt if either collision participant was actively thinking about those guidelines. In all likelihood the bottom jumper let established habits override the guidelines, and the other was trying to deal with that. I found it worrisome that several people staunchly defended the concept that "Low Canopy has Right of Way" overrides all other considerations under canopy. In this case the low canopy was almost entirely responsible for the collision and the event never would have occurred if that person had flown in a safe, predictable manner. I want to review the concept of Right of Way and challenge whether it is even a useful or safe idea to teach in skydiving when expressed as an absolute. If we are going to retain the concept we need to understand the origins and the exceptions. Technically the term Right of Way has nothing to do with navigation by boat, car, parachute, or other conveyance. It is a legal term to describe access to property. For example, if my land is surrounded on all sides by someone else's land, I can be granted a legal Right of Way to my land. Similarly, if tradition allows the public to cross private land at a specific place, a Right of Way exists. At some point the phrase was adopted to nautical traffic, although technically the proper phrasing is "give way" as "In situation X, vessel 1 gives way to vessel 2." But to be absolutely clear, the rules about who gives way in traffic have a lot of exceptions, all based on common sense. Ultimately they are intended to minimize confusion and de-conflict traffic problems, but they are not in any way absolute rules. Here are some examples: A powered vessel gives way to a sailing vessel. Unless the powered vessel is actively fishing, or needs a deep channel that the sailboat does not. And any sailor with an iota of experience and common sense knows that sailing a yacht in front of a massive container ship is a sure way to be run down, regardless of your unpowered status. Between two sailboats, the default rule is that a vessel on a port tack gives way to one on a starboard tack. For those who aren't sailors, that means if the wind is coming over your left side, you give way to a boat that has the wind coming over its right side. In fact this is probably where the phrase "right of way" comes from because the boat on the starboard tack is to the right of a line drawn back to front through the boat on the port tack, and vice versa. Eventually this was applied to cars: if two cars were approaching a crossroads, the one to the right had ‘right of way.’ Obviously this didn't work very well with cars, or we would not need four-way stop signs or roundabouts. But for the purposes of this discussion, we're much more like sailboats than we are like cars or powerboats. To further confuse things, if we go back to sailing there are many more exceptions to the rule. A windward vessel gives way to leeward. Shallow draft gives way to deep draft in a narrow channel. An overtaking vessel gives way to the slower vessel, ideally passing to the rear if they are on different courses. But most importantly for applying these guidelines to skydiving, the vessel being overtaken is obliged to maintain course and speed, or if it must maneuver, clearly signal its intention! Parallels in skydiving would be that a canopy over open area should give way to one over obstacles, higher to lower, and so on. But regardless of the guidelines, it is understood that the root rule is all flight in the landing pattern must be predictable! Without predictable flight no set of guidelines or rules can prevent collisions. This collision came down to that: an unnecessary and unpredictable turn into the path of an overtaking canopy. Let's also get over the idea that all parachutes are similar in handling characteristics and therefore a blanket rule can keep them safely separated. For example, USPA asks Group Member Drop Zones to separate "high performance" landings from - presumably - ordinary landings. What does that mean? A Valkyrie at 2.4 on a straight approach is going as fast as a Sabre 2 at 1.2 coming out of a 180. It's too much to ask skydivers to sort themselves by canopy type, wing loading, and flying style other than by a general designation of high performance landing areas. In Skydive Arizona's case, we limit one landing area to turns of 90 or less, and nowhere do we allow turns over 180. (Except when the jumper exits on a pass dedicated to HP landing.) However, we do ask that people refrain from S turns or flying at an angle across the final approach. This is something we should expect of everyone, and if everyone does it, there should be minimal problems with a fast parachute finding a clear lane next to a slow parachute. In the collision in question, the low parachute failed in the most basic of navigation duties: maintain course and speed and make your intentions clear. This is a cultural issue. Older skydivers or those taught by older skydivers may have been taught that right-of-way is absolute, taught without the essential caveat “maintain course and speed, make intentions clear.” It may also involve drop zone culture; wide open DZs without much traffic seem to neglect canopy control skills and DZs where people don't travel much may spend little time teaching their jumpers what to look out for when they visit a big DZ. We used to teach people to fly in deep brakes and perform S turns to fine tune their landing point. Now we know this is dangerous in traffic and we don't teach it any more. There is no reason a big seven cell can't safely land in the same area as a tiny, ultra-high performance canopy, but not when using obsolete rules of the road. The low person does not have the right to turn into the path of an overtaking canopy, period. Finally, low or high, never assume you know where all the traffic is. The assumption you should make is that there is overtaking traffic above and behind, in your blind spot, and you must fly predictably to minimize the chances of them colliding with you.
  6. admin

    The Horizontal Flight Problem

    By Bryan Burke, S&TA; at Skydive Arizona Identifying the Problem All of the following events took place during our spring 2013 season here at Skydive Arizona. Some have been repeated several times. Since I started to look into this subject and inquire as to what other drop zones are seeing, several similar incidents have been brought to my attention. In addition, there are several reports of serious freefall collisions that have resulted from tracking, angle, and wingsuit dives around the world. Example One Angle flying dives, also known as atmonauti or tracing dives, are recording fall rates comparable to freeflyers. They not only fall faster than true trackers, they do not cover nearly the horizontal distance that true tracking dives do. (Inexperienced trackers, especially on their backs, often have essentially the same flight characteristics, much faster down than experienced trackers and not much horizontal travel.) In one case, a group of very experienced angle fliers insisted on exiting first, saying they were trackers. They fell at freefly speeds, about 170 miles per hour. The dive was planned to go roughly 90 degrees to the line of flight, but they didn’t go very far, covering less than half the distance a real tracking dive would. This type of dive tends to include a lot of highly experienced freeflyers experimenting with new stuff, so they were jumping very fast canopies and opening between 3,000 and 3,500. A conventional belly flying group followed them out. They had a long climb-out, about 15 seconds, broke off at 4,500 feet, tracked, and deployed between 3,000 and 2,500. All of them were experienced and competent trackers in the conventional sense of the word. There was nothing unusual about the conditions. Up on the jump run, the airplane was covering ground at 150 feet per second (about 90 knots) and the horizontal distance between Group 1 and Group 2 at exit would be about 2,250 feet. Because of the longer freefall time for the second group, about 500 feet of that was lost to freefall drift in the winds aloft. This leaves their hypothetical center points at opening about 1,750 horizontal feet apart, still adequate separation for two conventional belly flying groups opening within a few seconds of each other. However, because of their fast freefall speed, followed by the climb-out time for the second group, the angle fliers deployed their parachutes nearly thirty seconds before the second group, but also 500 to 1,000 feet higher. They immediately turned towards the landing area under canopy; otherwise they would not get back, at least not with enough altitude for a big swoop. During that thirty seconds, they only dropped about 700 - 1,000 feet or so vertically, but they covered between 1,500 and 1,800 horizontal feet in that time. This does not even take into account the ground covered by tracking at break-off from either group. Canopy winds were light. In thirty seconds, a modern fast canopy in normal straight flight will do 60 feet per second horizontally. That puts them 1,800 feet back towards the DZ and line of flight. Mentally, skydivers tend to think freefall separation is an exit problem, not a canopy problem. Once they have a good canopy, they are conditioned to think about canopy traffic and their landing – not about what might be in freefall overhead, because in the past this has not been a problem since we figured out that fast fallers should follow slow fallers out in the exit sequence. So, at about 2,500 feet the two groups effectively merged into a single large mix of deploying freefallers and people already under very fast parachutes. The only reason there were no collisions was blind luck. Mind you, every one of these jumpers was experienced, current, and well trained within the existing paradigm. Example Two A very experienced jumper with a cutting edge wingsuit was logging freefalls of over three minutes and opening at about 3,500. We had three aircraft flying. Our procedure is to leave a minimum of two minutes between drops for conventional freefall loads, three with wing suits or students, and four after a load with tandems. The wingsuit jumper exited. The plane behind started a three minute clock. Although the wingsuiter opened about half a mile away from the jump run, he then made a riser turn towards the landing area and left the brakes stowed as he fiddled with his suit. A minute later, he was just under 2,500 when canopies were opening around him. Example Three Taxiing out from the loading area, the pilot called me to ask which way trackers should go. This piqued my curiosity, trackers are supposed to know this when they manifest. I told him “east” and asked if he could tell where they were in the exit order. Meanwhile I checked with the manifest to see if anyone on that load had reported they were planning to track or asked for information about which way to go. None had. A bit later the pilot replied that they would be exiting first. I got out my binoculars to watch. The three-way tracking group exited and flew straight up the line of flight, opening between the next two groups in the exit order. Naturally I noted their canopies and rounded the three up in the landing area for a discussion. Initially they were confused about what the problem was, although they did acknowledge that there were other canopies in the sky closer than they had expected. The leader of the dive had seventy jumps. It was his first tracking dive, and he was leading it on his back. He had planned to turn off jump run and fly east and was completely unaware of his failure to do so. The other two had about 150 and 200 jumps, not enough to be aware that he had failed to turn. Even if they had been, there was no plan on how to signal course corrections to the leader, and they were not close enough to do so in any case, due to the lack of experience. Two of the three, including the one with 70 jumps, had GoPros on, which no doubt distracted them from the navigation problem as they tried to video each other. It was a de-briefing nightmare as I learned more and more about how much they did not know. It was their first time at a large, busy drop zone. They had never received any coaching or advice on tracking. They had no idea about USPA’s recommendations for jumping with a camera. This episode made me realized that the manifest in-briefing that had served us well for years, with minor modifications now and then, was no longer adequate. In the past we never felt the need to screen for camera use or horizontal flying, merely informing them that if they were planning to track or wingsuit they would need to get a daily update from the safety officer. Example Four A total of twelve wingsuit jumpers landed out, the nearest almost half a mile from our normal landing area, the farthest over a mile out. After I rounded up the entire group (not one of them local jumpers) I made it plain that this was unacceptable, not just from a safety point of view, but also because many of them landed on private property or public roads, not a good thing in terms of our relations with the community. Questioning them about their flight planning, I learned some very interesting things. First, it was two groups, not one. The less experienced group was planning to take an “inside track” while the second, more experienced group was planning to fly a wider course, both of the tracks parallel to the original jump run. (This is a fairly common practice at DZs with a lot of wingsuit activity.) To make this easier, the individual who had taken charge of planning asked the pilot to turn 90 left at the end of the regular skydiver jump run. In theory the two wing suit groups would then simply exit and turn 90 left, paralleling the normal jump run back to the DZ and gaining horizontal separation from the climb-out time on jump run. Unfortunately this plan did not take into account that the winds aloft were about 30 knots out of the west, and the standard jump run was south. Thus, a left turn gave the plane a ground speed of about 130 knots, and each group took quite a while to climb out. Once in flight, they were already well down wind of the planned flight area and would have more cross-wind push the entire flight. Clearly this plan was doomed from the start, and anyone who had the slightest idea what the winds aloft were doing would know this. Winds aloft are very easy to find on line these days, or someone could have simply asked the Safety Officer what his observations were. Not one of those twelve wingsuiters questioned the incredibly bad plan the group leader had come up with, which was based on completely wrong assumptions. Even if anyone had looked down, they were already committed and had no Plan B. Example Five I picked up a wingsuit jumper who landed over a mile off the dz. (Nearly 1.5 statute miles, in fact.) The only reason I even knew about him was a bystander saw his canopy in the distance and pointed him out. I never would have seen him, his opening point was well beyond our first exit group on the normal jump run! His story? With very little experience on his new high performance suit, he was jumping a new helmet and camera set-up for the first time. He reported that he had problems with the helmet throughout the flight (shifting and vibrating) and forgot to pay attention to where he was going, flying downwind and away from the DZ the entire time. Example Six Trackers landed out, on the approach to the runway. When I inquired about the flight plan they said that when they got to the airplane, there was another tracking dive. The two groups decided to exit first and second, each going 90 degrees to the jump run in opposite directions. This put the out-landing group exiting at the extreme early end of the jump run, tracking downwind, then faced with penetrating back into the canopy winds. They had no chance to make it to the normal landing area and their opening position put them in a canopy descent to a clear area directly on the extended centerline of the runway. These are real world examples at one drop zone over the course of a mere couple of months. Along with similar problems reported from other drop zones and the incidents of actual and near-miss collisions associated with horizontal dives, it seems clear that training in these fields is completely inadequate. Before Freeflying came along in the early 90s, the skydiving environment was very simple. Everyone fell almost straight down and parachutes flew about 25 miles per hour. In the 90s, we had to figure out how to deal with a new, much faster fall rate in some groups, and canopies almost doubled in horizontal speed. In the last decade, even more variations in skydiving have popped up. These didn’t really show up much on DZO’s radar because so few people were doing them, but now they are increasingly common. Approximate Speeds of Various Forms of Skydiving Activity* Activity Vertical Speed Range Horizontal Speed Range Freefall time (13,000) FS 120 – 130 mph 0 – 20 mph** 00:60 - 65 Freefly 150 – 180 0 – 20** 00:40 – 50 Tracking 120 – 140 30 – 60*** 00:55 – 65 Angle 140 – 160 20 – 40*** 00:45 – 50 Wingsuit 40 – 70 50 – 80*** 01:30 – 3:00 *Approximations derived from videos and recording altimeters. **Random drift due to things like backsliding, one side of the formation low, etc. ***Best guess, based on distance covered in freefall time. Thus, on a single load there might be freefall times from exit at 13,000’ to opening at 3,000’ as little as :40 seconds and as much as three minutes. Horizontal speeds will range from zero to 80, with distances of up to a mile on tracking dives and flights of several miles possible for expert wingsuit jumpers. Note that these speeds will vary considerably. For example, experimenting with tracking myself and observing tracking contests, I could get well over a mile in 60 seconds and many people can out-track me by a significant margin. However, actual tracking dives are usually not done in a max track position because it doesn’t lend itself to maneuvering with others. On a calm day, a tracking dive going 90 off the line of flight usually only covers about half a mile. Identifying the Risks Collisions within Groups Within groups, tracking, wingsuit, and angle dives are showing a disproportionately high rate of collision injuries. Even the best planned dives can still involve high closing speeds as the group forms and breaks up. And, as Bill von Novak has pointed out: On a tracking dive there is no focal point; no base you can dock on or, failing that, at least keep in sight for break-off. Everyone tracks in effectively a random direction at the end of the dive and hopes for clear air. In some cases they even barrel roll just to add some more randomness to their directions. To a newbie a tracking dive sounds lower pressure than a big-way; you don't have to dock, you just have to go in a similar direction as the leader. This tends to attract lower experienced jumpers, and those jumpers often shed the jumpsuit they are used to for a freefly suit or no suit at all - resulting in new and hard to predict fall rates/forward speeds. To that I have to add the potential for huge closing speeds, sometimes due to lack of skill but often due to poor organizing. Tracking dives in particular have a history of being “loose” or “pick-up” loads. Many times I have seen people “organizing” a tracking dive by making a general announcement to give a ticket to manifest if you want to come along. There is often very little screening for experience and ability. Then, it is common to group the more experienced people close to the leader, and that person is often in a floater position on exit. Anyone who can remember learning to do larger formations knows that novice divers tend to dive too long, even if they have been forewarned about the problem. (If you dive out two or three seconds after the base, that base is way ahead of you on the acceleration curve, so they appear to be getting further away – which they are. You dive more aggressively, something you don’t have much practice at. Then, when the base hits terminal velocity, they suddenly rush up at you because you are now going much, much faster than the base. You then go low, or collide.) Now add to that the significant horizontal movement, burbles that aren’t directly above the lower jumper, multiple vertical levels, and huge blind spots since you are looking ahead, not around. The potential for collisions is incredibly obvious once you think about it, but apparently few people doing tracking dives are thinking about it. Collisions Between Groups Although these are still rarely found in the accident record, I have seen many near misses, which suggests that it is only a matter of time. This is particularly disturbing to me because in a group-to-group collision, it means someone was exposed to an extreme hazard that they had no knowledge of, expectation of, or control over. Skydiving is risky enough with the known hazards. As drop zone operators and safety professionals it is morally wrong to expose our customers to a risk where their only real control would be to look at who else is on the load, and pull off it. Landing Out Out landings have two problems, one a risk to the jumper and the other, to the drop zone itself. The record shows that out landings have a high risk of landing injuries, especially from low turns to avoid obstacles or turn into the wind. This risk is exacerbated by the fact that the drop zone staff might not even know of an injury, and if they do, the response can be complicated. The second risk is aggravating the neighbors or airport authorities. Every drop zone has at least some neighbors or authorities who are opposed to skydiving. As long as these are a small minority a DZ can usually get by. Once skydivers start dropping into neighborhoods, landing on runways, and otherwise drawing unwelcome attention, the political balance can change. A classic example of this is the tracker landing on the roof of a two-story house 1.3 miles south of the DZ at Longmont, Colorado early in July of 2013. He not only broke his leg, he damaged the roof and required a complex rescue. At the time of the incident, he had 64 jumps in over a year in the sport. The wind was blowing from the north, but he tracked south, towards a heavily developed suburban area. In his own remarks, he accepts no responsibility for the incident, blaming it entirely on the winds rather than his extremely poor planning. Changing the Paradigm What do these activities all have in common, from the standpoint of skydiving culture? There is very little expectation, or even definition, of quality. Success is defined as mere participation and survival. Near collisions, actual collisions, landing out, and other problems do not seem to be perceived as failure. The video evidence alone is proof of this attitude. Just randomly browse YouTube for tracking, wingsuit, and angle dives and you’ll see some really bad, sometimes frightening, flying. Yet the comments are almost never critical. In order to turn this around, drop zones will have to set higher standards and change the definition of acceptable. This is not the first time we’ve been down this road. I started skydiving in 1978. Sequential FS was really starting to take off, but for the typical jump group there was no reason to plan a second point. As an old friend of mine said of those days, “I remember when a good 8-way was a 4-way!” It was learn by doing, and we had a lot of accidents from the hard docks, funnels, and collisions on the way to and from the funnels. But we learned a lot, and fifteen years later, when freefly came along, RW was at a pretty advanced, safe stage of technique. Those who were around in the early days of freeflying saw history repeat itself. Freeflyers didn’t want to dirt dive, debrief, or set goals. That was for RW jumpers, and anything to do with RW wasn’t cool. It was simply “Let’s jump together and do some tricks.” Eventually, they came to realize that just led to a lot of wasted jump tickets, AAD fires, and hard knocks in freefall. Now freeflying uses exactly the same philosophy as FS: train, set goals, set standards, and most of all, plan dives appropriate to the experience and ability of the participants. Now we see a new discipline emerging. On the one hand, angle flying is somewhat like freefly, where the recruits are already fairly experienced skydivers. Tracking is often more like early RW, where there was not a lot of skill among many of the participants, and not much meaningful leadership from the ones who had managed to survive. Wingsuiting seems to be in a class by itself, a population split between regular skydivers wanting to try something new, and BASE jumpers who feel that rules are a curse. One thing most of them seem to lack is good training about the surrounding environment. Training The general lack of training, supervision, and experience in this field is part of the problem. For example, although most wingsuiters take a first flight course of some type, I have visited web sites naming instructors with as few as 300 total jumps and only 100 wingsuit jumps! Based on the quality of some wingsuit jumpers, clearly some instructors have pretty low standards as well as low skills. All of the training materials I have seen make some mention of navigating and awareness of wind conditions, yet not one of the wingsuit jumpers I have spoken to after they land out has reported that their instruction included specific details on how to plan an effective flight path. After debriefing countless wingsuit incidents including malfunctions, traffic problems with other jumpers, out landings, and so on, I have come to conclude that a USPA Wingsuit Instructor Rating is a good idea. Training should included a detailed syllabus and written and practical tests, including flight planning, before they receive a wingsuit endorsement. At present it cannot be assumed that any wingsuit jumper has adequate training. Tracking attracts people with very little experience and has even less formal training than wingsuiting. It is perceived as something anyone off student status can do, since there is no need for enough skill to dock on a formation or turn points. In fact, some tracking dives are put together with the clear expectation that some participants won’t even be able to keep up. Since tracking itself is perceived as easy, I believe this translates into a mind-set that there is nothing to worry about. Hence we see very poorly organized dives with little or no screening for ability or experience, and often no meaningful flight planning. Angle flying also requires better screening for skill. Initially this activity was mainly undertaken by highly skilled freeflyers, but now that it has been popularized on media sites a lot of less experienced jumpers want to get involved. Like tracking, these dives require a flight plan that takes into account the rest of the load, and the high descent rate. In my opinion angle flying is more akin to freeflying than to tracking, and should exit in conventional freefly order with great attention to flying 90 degrees off the line of flight but not into the same airspace that slower falling trackers may also be heading for. Standards for Experience and Participation Unlike Freeflying and Formation Skydiving, horizontal flying cannot be learned in a wind tunnel. The only way to acquire skill is to actually do it. As everyone knows from learning Formation Skydiving or Freeflying, you don’t take people with 70 jumps up on large formations with mixed experience levels and minimal planning – at least not with a reasonable expectation of safety and success. We also know that you don’t develop skills very effectively if you have no expert coaching - or at least competent leadership. This should include goals set for the skydive before you are on the way to altitude, a useful dirt dive, and then a good post-dive debriefing, ideally with a video that is useful, not a sloppy, shaky GoPro video with constantly changing reference points. After giving it extensive consideration, I’m planning to screen new arrivals much more aggressively and have minimum standards they will have to adhere to. Just as most skydiving associations feel 200 jumps is a good minimum for wingsuits and cameras, fifty is a good number for a night jump, and so on, I feel that tracking dives should not be undertaken, except as one-on-ones with an experienced coach or instructor (or approved solos after consulting with an I or STA) until 100 jumps. At that point, the jumper can go on slightly larger tracking dives led by a coach, instructor, or approved organizer. For those with more jumps just taking up tracking, I feel that regardless of experience your first ten tracking dives should be with an approved Coach, Instructor, or organizer and these individuals should have an understanding with the dz about keeping the dives small and simple, just as we would with an expert FS jumper exploring freeflying. To lead a tracking or angle flying jump, I am thinking about a minimum of five hundred jumps, including at least 25 tracking jumps (and 25 angle flying jumps for that activity, not a total of 25 combined). The minimum skill set to lead will include awareness of collision risks and how to mitigate them, the importance of staying away from the jump run, how to make a flight plan that guarantees everyone will get back, how to plan with other groups on the load to ensure adequate separation, etc. Leaders must screen all participants for skill and have a well planned dive from exit to opening. Dives for which anyone can sign up by bringing a ticket to manifest are not allowed. Leading on the back is not allowed unless paired with another skilled tracking leader as a co-pilot flying face down. Information, Screening, and Guidelines Skydive Arizona’s plan to get better information out and establish our intentions and expectations with the horizontal community is simple. Once our procedures are established, or whenever we change them, the procedures will be posted on our web site, displayed near the loading area on a multi-sided “Safety Kiosk,” and available as flyers or hand-outs at manifest. As jumpers arrive they will be asked if they have any intention of participating in horizontal jumps. If so, they will receive the hand-out and a special briefing, in addition to the usual DZ briefing. Depending on their experience level they may be limited in what they can do, or directed to our coaching department. (Although the GoPro problem is only peripheral, we’ll be adopting a similar strategy there.) Drop Zone SOPs Besides improved training, screening for skill and experience, and better coaching and organizing, drop zones can also implement standard operating procedures to mitigate some risks. Exit Order The phenomenon discussed in Example 1, above, indicates that angle flyers should never go before belly flyers. If they do, we not only have the well known problem of differential freefall drift in winds (the faster fallers drift less, the slower ones, more) but we then combine that with fast canopies having 20 or 30 seconds of flight to eliminate any remaining horizontal separation. This has already happened here, at Elsinore, and on the east coast that I know of; doubtless it has happened elsewhere. Trackers can leave just about anywhere in the order, provided the flight plan works with the overall scheme of things. If they have a slow fall rate and a fast horizontal rate, leaving first works fine, providing the leader takes a course that does not put them too far away. In practice, the pilot is always trying to get the first group off the plane at the earliest possible point from which they have a reasonable chance of getting back. This creates the best opportunity to get the entire load out on one pass. If the trackers leave first and fly 90 off the jump run, they are now further out than that “earliest possible” point. Leaving first, they must do a minimum of 45 off the line of flight, or 90 for half the jump followed by 45 for the rest, or 60 the entire time - something that gains a little ground back towards the dz while at the same time getting well clear of the jump run. Clearly, any exit position still presents the possibility of a tracking group flying up or down the jump run. The only way to mitigate this risk is to limit tracking leadership to experienced, well trained skydivers. Flight Planning I will be asking everyone in the horizontal community to take much more responsibility in flight planning. As I see it, the proper planning procedure has several steps. Get a clear understanding of the overall DZ geography. If, for example, going to the right of the line of flight will put you over the ocean while going left will put you over a safe, open field, left might be the best choice if winds allow. Get current wind conditions, exit to surface. Find out if there are any other special concerns, such as a second plane dropping military or CF jumpers in an airspace box adjacent to the normal jump run. Plan an opening point from which everyone can safely get back to the DZ. From that point, reverse engineer the freefall portion taking into account never flying under or over the jump run and avoiding other horizontal groups on the plane. In the event that winds, geography, other DZ activity, or some other issue makes it unlikely that all points of the flight plan will be successful, cancel the dive until conditions are more favorable. On every dive we will hold the flight leader responsible for devising such a plan and executing it properly. Any safety infractions or out landings will result in grounding until they can prove they understand the situation better and have devised a strategy to prevent a repeat. Per Load Limits Depending on whether or not the DZ and jump run offer the option of flying to both sides of the line of flight, it is possible to get up to four horizontal groups out of a plane safely. If the airspace is limited to just one side of the jump run, three seems to be about the limit. I’m more concerned with keeping everyone safe than with pleasing everyone if significant risks are involved, so we will start limiting the number of horizontal jumps on any given load. On this subject of pleasing customers, the situation is analogous to the HP landing problem. If the risk is to the participant only, then a little extra risk might be considered acceptable. However, when other skydivers have no control over the risk, it is completely unfair to expose them to it. Just as HP landings don’t belong in the normal traffic pattern, horizontal flight that might endanger other groups on the load is not acceptable. Minimum and Maximum Opening Altitudes I am not a great believer in relying on vertical separation, since a stuck pilot chute, premature deployment, or spinning malfunction can erase it in seconds. However, there is no reason not to add it to the arsenal. Some drop zones are mandating a minimum 4,000 foot deployment altitude for wingsuits and a maximum 3,000 for trackers and angle flyers. I haven’t made a decision on this yet, but it makes sense in some situations. Enforcement After the alarming close calls in our last season, and looking back on the canopy discipline problem that plagued the sport for years (and still does, in places) Skydive AZ recognizes that modifying behavior requires both positive guidance and, when necessary, some penalties. We’ll be asking horizontal flyers who create safety problems to stand down from their activity until they can demonstrate a better understanding of our concerns.
  7. "We live longer in three seconds than some people live their entire lives." That's one of my favorite quotes from a fellow BASE jumper, and it was at the forefront of my mind as I read BBC broadcaster and psychology writer Claudia Hammond's new book, "Time Warped: Unlocking the Mysteries of Time Perception." The book tackles the alternately baffling and encouraging science behind our brains' relationship with the arbitrary measurements of our wristwatches. More to the point: It puts that information in a framework that makes total sense for an airsports athlete. Time works a little differently for us, after all. Linear time lies at the heart of the way we organize life, sure--but it also lies at the heart of the way we experience it. This might be the bigger concept--because what's within our own minds is under our own control. Skydivers--especially in high-stakes moments, like competitions and records--can relate to the curiously changing shape of time. Saturated with focus, it feels as though some experiences are being scrubbed through in super-fast-forward, while others are playing out almost frame-by-frame. It turns out that fluxes in time perception aren't simply an athletic and personal deficiency; these mental gymnastics around the concept of time's passage are a "defining feature of how the human mind works."It turns out that, in a physiological sense, the "slow-motion car crash" isn't a myth -- it's "a cognitive reality." Hammond's hypothesis is compelling in its simplicity: that the way we experience the passage of time is not an external process we're subjected to. Instead, time as we know it is actively created by our own minds. It isn't reliable and it is certainly not objective. Neuroscientists and psychologists call this "mind time," and Hammond describes how we as humans -- and, by extension, we as extreme athletes -- can shape it and use it to our own benefit. Much of the challenge we face as airsports athletes is exerting a practical amount of control over our physical and mental responses to overwhelming stimuli. No amount of mental gymnastics will turn a BASE exit with a seven-second rock drop into an exit with a 12-second rock drop; however, if we can start to see "mind time" as flexible and ourselves as active participants in our experience of it, Hammond suggests that we can stay in flight just a little longer in our own minds. (This is a deeply appealing and useful thought experiment for athletes who practice a sport that often requires us to dedicate days of our time for scant minutes of freefall.) "Time Warped" is a profoundly conceptual but still, somehow, practical book. It addresses the way our internal clocks dictate our lives and the ways in which mindfulness works as a tool to master that internal clock. One of the book's most beautiful passages sums it up brilliantly: "We will never have total control over this extraordinary dimension. Time will warp and confuse and baffle and entertain however much we learn about its capacities. But the more we learn, the more we can shape it to our will and destiny. We can slow it down or speed it up. We can hold on to the past more securely and predict the future more accurately. Mental time-travel is one of the greatest gifts of the mind. It makes us human, and it makes us special." Other Resources: Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman Felt Time: The Science of How We Experience Time by Marc Wittmann
  8. “This particular aircraft doesn’t have seatbelts, but we only have it for this one boogie--and we’ve never had a forced landing, anyway.” “There’s no AAD in this rig, but I’m only going to jump it this once while my regular rig is being repacked. It’s just so I don’t miss the record attempt. I’ll be back on my regular rig on the next load.” “We always jump in cloud here. Otherwise we’d never get to jump! The pilot has GPS, anyway, obviously, and he’s never been wrong.” The final sentence--which always follows, right?--is the kicker: “I’m sure it will be fine.” Are you? Really? USPA Director of Safety and Training Jim Crouch introduced a really important concept in April’s Parachutist (‘Safety Check’; April 2017). In it, he brings up The Challenger Launch Decision, written by sociologist Diane Vaughan. Vaughn very usefully summarized the kernel of this human tendency. She even coined a term for it: the “normalization of deviance.” Normalization of deviance comes up pretty much everywhere in life (foregoing your helmet just to bike down to the neighborhood park; speeding; not bothering with the condom). High-variable, high-pressure, high-safety-requisite circumstances breed the normalization of deviance like bunnies at a bunny swinger’s convention. For some insight into how the normalization of deviance affects you in your airsports career, let NASA Astronaut Mike Mullane bend your ear. Mullane was a fighter pilot in 1978, when he was selected as a Mission Specialist in the first group of Space Shuttle Astronauts. He chalked up three space missions (aboard the Shuttles Discovery and Atlantis), spending more than 350 hours in the void. And, solely in the years after he celebrated his 60th birthday, Mullane summited Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mt. Rainier and 35 of Colorado’s 14,000+ers. You can safely assume that Col. Ret. Mullane is an expert in managing his own risk envelope and that of those around him--and, yet, even he is still influenced by the normalization of deviance. How ‘bout that. Why is it so tough to fight immunity to unacceptable risk? Cause damn, it’s hard. It’s cultural; it’s about preserving a certain quality of relationship. It’s personal; it’s about preserving a certain self-image. Finally, it’s transactive; it’s about trading off a potentially good experience now for the chance to have more good experiences later, in the absence of much data at ****all. “The natural human tendency,” Mullane notes, “Particularly in pressured circumstances, to want to take a safety shortcut. [You say,] ‘I’ve done a [jump] like this a thousand times in the past, and nothing bad has ever happened. I can certainly do it this one time [...] and nothing bad is going to happen. [...] The absence of something bad happening when I took this safety shortcut means that it’s safe to do so again.’” There will always be a next time. And you’re going to be mightily tempted to do it again. When you do it--whatever ‘it is--enough times, the shortcut becomes the norm. The loop is reinforced. In Mullane’s words, “The deviance is now invisible to you.” And when invisible deviance leaves a very visible mess? Well, Diane Vaughn coined another term in her book for that eventuality: a “predictable surprise.” Those involved in the Challenger debacle readily admit that the explosion (and the resulting deaths) constituted a predictable surprise. So does a catastrophic wingsuit collision in the absence of one jumper’s AAD. So does a plane full of broken jumpers after a forced seatbeltless landing (of which--make no mistake--there are very many). So does a double tandem fatality at a dropzone with an it’ll-be-fine attitude towards instructor training. Image by Brett Kistler The itchy issue we face as airsports athletes is that we’re not under pressure from the government, as Mullane and NASA were. We’re not under pressure from the market. The pressure you’re under on the dropzone is your own. If you think it’s a good idea to scratch, you can damn well go ahead and scratch. You can roll your eyes at anyone who gets after you for it--the manifest; your buddy; your team at the Nationals. Most of the time, though, you don’t. You stay on the load, and--probably significantly more than nine times out of ten--you build another nanolayer on your normalization-of-deviance callus. The old triusm that familiarity breeds complacency makes a little more sense, no? That newbies are generally more risk-averse than intermediate-to-mid-career jumpers (a trend which tends to reverse as the jumper amasses significant empirical data)? That you’re more willing to do--well--gloriously stupid shit at a dropzone you know really well, as opposed to one you’re just visiting? Take it from Richard Feynman, compared the practice of predictive reasoning to Russian Roulette: “The fact that the first shot got off safely is little comfort for the next. [...] Nature cannot be fooled.” In real life, of course, it’s more uncertain than that. He was talking about binary predictive reasoning (with an either-A-or-B result). We’re not playing a binary game when we’re jumping and flying; we’re not playing Russian roulette. Honestly, we don’t even know how many bullets are in that gun. But we’d better remember that it is a gun, and it is loaded, somewhere in there--and the safety culture we’ve inherited is a desperate attempt to introduce proven failsafes in the face of our old nemesis, randomness. Walking out to the pointy end is fun. Randomness is fun. Deviance is fun. That’s a big part of why we do this, right? That said: understanding why we make the decisions we make--and, perhaps, even learning to make better ones--can do much to extend a career. For more, do yourself a solid and check out Vaughn’s The Challenger Launch Decision, which originally coined the phrase. It’s a riveting read--and I bet you’ll readily recognize the culture which worked to create the conditions for the tragedy.
  9. admin

    Skydiver's Anonymous

    For the average weekend-warrior, skydiving is the great escape. The end of each dreary workweek is met with excitement and anticipation. Time to skydive! This is our chance to be with friends who share our passion, and escape the mundane, while we embrace life on our own terms. But with every wild weekend at the dz come the frustrations of another Monday morning…back to “reality”. And as the weekend highs become increasingly potent, so, too, do the lows of the following week back in the “real world”. This is a problem. Or at least is has been for me. Skydiving is so much more than the physical act of each jump. It’s exciting, challenging, rewarding, and – at times – incredibly fulfilling. It also brings a sense of community, place, and purpose to the lives of many of us. The bonds created at the dz are strong, and the times spent together with friends in the mutual pursuit of pleasure can be as rich and vital as nearly any other human experience. This is why we jump. But not everyone has something equally rewarding or exciting waiting for them at home. In fact, many of the dedicated skydivers I’ve known sacrifice a substantial amount of their time, energy, and resources in support of those two sacred days each week that they get to spend doing what they love. In many ways, it’s like a drug. The comparisons are obvious: It’s expensive It’s exciting and intoxicating It’s quite addictive It leaves you in withdrawal when you’re unable to jump It’s not always socially acceptable (sometimes even forbidden by friends / loved ones) It can eventually have negative effects on other parts of your life (relationships, finances, etc.) It can consume your mind and thoughts even when you’re not jumping It can begin to rule your life, as you reshape your time, energy and resources to better support your habit What, then, becomes of our prior reality? It’s hard to replicate the floods of dopamine and surges of endorphins unleashed over the course of a weekend in the sky. And as you progress in skydiving towards more demanding disciplines that require greater focus and dedication, all else can become comparatively dull and uninspired. But there are no support groups for us crazy few. No meetings to attend with mantras to repeat aloud in sober solidarity. We’re left to our own devices – bored and daydreaming about our next fix. This duality doesn’t sit well. At least not with me. I’ve had a very difficult time adjusting to a life split between two utterly separate and diametrically opposed worlds – one of hedonism and excitement, and the other of drudgery and toil. For me, these two paths could no longer be bridged. I’ve had to choose. And I’ve always been a much more talented hedonist than I have a cubicle-rat, so my choice was fairly clear. Granted, not everyone is in a position to completely cutaway. Some of you have spouses, kids, mortgages, magazine subscriptions, softball practices, and various other entanglements with which to contend. These types of responsibility have always terrified me. But I’m very interested in hearing from you! How is it that you, the reader, who I presume lives to some extent in both of these worlds at once, is able to reconcile them? What sacrifices must you make? How do you divide your time between the sky (the friends, the bonfires and other sanctioned mayhem) and the so-called “real world”? Perhaps there’s something I’ve missed in my pursuit of balance. And I’d love to hear what that might be. Your thoughts and personal insights are welcomed and invited below!
  10. This article first appeared in Parachutist magazine, and has been republished with consent of the author. Not surprisingly, most doctors say no - don't jump while you're pregnant. Doctors are conservative, and few will recommend that their patients engage in a high-risk sport. They do not want to call an activity safe and then get blamed if something goes wrong. But many pregnant women have jumped during pregnancy with no ill effects to either themselves or their babies. So is it safe? Skydiving is a risky sport, and an accident involving an expectant mother would be doubly tragic. But presumably, we jumpers are old pros at weighing the risks of our sport against the benefits, and most of us long ago decided that the fun outweighs the danger. We wouldn't be jumping if we expected to die or to get hurt. USPA does not give medical advice, and it is definitely not recommending that pregnant women skydive. Every pregnancy is different, and each woman has to decide for herself whether she wants to continue jumping for part or all of the nine months. If your doctor tells you that your pregnancy is high-risk and that you should avoid your usual activities, you probably shouldn't jump. If you simply feel uncomfortable taking the risks inherent in skydiving, you should ground yourself. The fact is, however, that women are jumping while pregnant and will continue to do so. Not surprisingly, there has been little or no research on jumping during pregnancy, and medical professionals hesitate to make any blanket statements about the practice. But medical advice, as well as advice from other skydivers who have jumped while pregnant, can help you decide whether to continue jumping during pregnancy, and if you do, help you do it safely. Know Your Limits These days, doctors tell women with low-risk pregnancies that they can continue all their normal activities as long as they feel good enough, with the caveat that they should avoid sports that contain a risk of falls and should not exercise to the point of exhaustion. "The Harvard Guide to Women's Health" says, "Pregnancy is usually not a good time to take up skiing or skydiving, but women who were already engaged in athletics can usually continue to enjoy them during pregnancy." Women who have just started jumping should probably take a break from the sport. Most women who have continued to jump during pregnancy were very experienced and very current. Many of them also say they were in good physical condition. Drs. William and Martha Sears in "The Pregnancy Book" counsel pregnant women to know their limits and to stop their activities immediately if they feel dizzy or short of breath, have a bad headache or hard heart-pounding or experience contractions, bleeding or pain. Pregnant women should also go easy on their joints. Relaxing and other hormones loosen joints during pregnancy, making them less stable and prone to injury if overstressed. The pelvis, lower back and knees are especially vulnerable. Skydivers should take particular care in packing and at pull time so as not to jolt their loosened joints. A pregnant skydiver should pay attention to how she feels at all times. Fatigue is normal, and you should rest as much as you need. First-trimester nausea is a fact of life for some women, and calling it morning sickness is inaccurate, many women feel sick all the time. Being under canopy may only make you feel worse. Doctors don't allow pregnant women to take ibuprofen (Advil and Motrin) or any of the other effective analgesics, because they can cause difficulties with labor and harm the fetus. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is OK, but bear in mind that if you sprain an ankle or worse, you won't be able to do much for the pain. Obstetricians usually advise pregnant women to give up contact sports. As we all know, skydiving is sometimes more of a contact sport than we intend for it to be. Women who have jumped while pregnant often recommend that you be very careful about who you jump with, avoiding anyone whose freefall abilities might be suspect. Washington-state load organizer Art Bori points out that exit position can be important for two reasons: A pregnant woman may have difficulty maneuvering into position, and some positions are more dangerous than others. He always asks pregnant jumpers about their exit preferences. He tries to keep pregnant women out of the base so that they won't be in serious funnels. Chance of Miscarriage Can a hard opening cause a miscarriage? Dr. Scott Chew, a Colorado emergency physician and skydiver, says that no one has studied the effect of hard openings on pregnancy. Most hard openings are less traumatic than many automobile accidents, and during opening, jumpers are in a different body position than car passengers, with no belt passing over the uterus. He doesn't think a hard opening is very likely to precipitate a sudden miscarriage. He has never heard of a miscarriage occurring during skydiving, bungee jumping or rock climbing, all sports that use similar gear. According to Chew, women should also consider the possibility of a bad landing, although the baby is quite well protected in the uterine environment. Usually the jumper would get hurt first. Emergency room doctors make a practice of treating a pregnant woman before turning their attention to the fetus, because if the mother survives, the baby likely will as well. Dr. Stanley Filip, associate clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Duke University Medical Center, says that because the rapid deceleration in skydiving can be analogous to a moderate-speed auto accident or a fall while skiing (both are known to cause miscarriages), he recommends against skydiving while pregnant. On the other hand, the Sears say that miscarriages usually result from chromosomal abnormalities in the fetus, infections, hormonal deficiencies, immune-system abnormalities and environmental toxin such as drugs or cigarette smoke. Sex, safe exercises, heavy lifting, usual work and play, stress or emotional upsets or minor falls or accidents rarely cause them. Registered nurse Marian Blackwell comments that the most important consideration is probably how the woman and her mate feel about the issue. Any woman who fears that jumping might cause her to miscarry should not jump. If a woman or the prospective father will likely blame a miscarriage on the woman’s skydiving, she is probably better off sitting out for a few months. Blackwell points out that it’s very difficult to have a miscarriage intentionally, and if a woman loses a baby while jumping, she probably would have anyway. Still, there is always a risk, and she advises that both parents need to accept this if the mother keeps jumping. Hypoxia What about hypoxia? Dr. Filip says that the obstetricians commonly advise woman that it’s safe to fly on commercial airlines that are pressurized during flight, but unpressurized flight above 5,000 to 7,000 feet may not provide enough oxygen to some fetuses. According to Sears, “While a short time spent in an unpressurized cabin at about 7, 000 feet is unlikely to harm your baby (baby's oxygen level in the womb is already lower than mother's), it can reduce the oxygen in your blood, causing you to feel light headed and impair your thinking and ability to move.” Chew points out that women must consider the chance of hypoxia, claiming that it's unknown whether it causes a problem for pregnant jumpers. He says, however, that the fetus is accustomed to an atmosphere less rich in oxygen than the mother needs and thus feels hypoxia less than an adult would. He adds that jump planes spend relatively little time at high altitudes, not really long enough to hurt the jumper or her baby. USPA defines high altitude as 20,000 feet up to 40,000 feet MSL and intermediate altitude as 15,000 feet to 20,000 feet MSL. USPA considers anything below 15,000 feet MSL low altitude. Routine low-altitude jumps, the sort sport jumpers commonly practice, do not generally present a risk of hypoxia. USPA does not require the use of supplemental oxygen for low-altitude jumps but has made no recommendations specific to pregnant women. (The FAA requires oxygen when required aircraft crew members are above 12,500 feet for more than 30 minutes and at all times above 14,000 feet MSL.) Most women who have jumped during pregnancy say they did not have any trouble with hypoxia. Paula Philbrook, who participated in last year's 246-way world record while pregnant, used supplemental oxygen on the attempts. She used an oximeter to measure her oxygen saturation and found that at 13,500 feet with oxygen, her saturation level always stayed at 98 to 100 percent. Without oxygen, her saturation stayed in the mid-90s which her respiratory therapist found acceptable. According to the therapist, as long as her oxygen saturation stayed above 90 percent, she remained in the safety zone. She used oxygen starting at 10,000 feet for jumps on which she went above 15,000 feet. She found herself short of breath at 21,000 feet when the oxygen went off in preparation for exit but always felt fine as soon as she got into freefall. Long-time style and accuracy competitor Nancy LaRiviere says a doctor advised her to use supplemental oxygen if she went above 5,000 feet. She rented an oxygen bottle from a local medical supply house, used a cannula (a tube used to breathe the oxygen) from 3,000 feet to altitude, shut off the flow on jump run and left the bottle strapped in the plane. She sat at the back of the plane on all loads to make this convenient. Some skydivers and doctors worry that a jumper could get an air embolism, an air bubble in the blood - a danger associated with pressure changes and one risk of scuba diving. Chew points out that the pressure differences involved in skydiving are not nearly as great as in scuba diving a jumper has to go to 17,000 feet to get to half atmosphere. So although a potential risk lurks, it does so less than in deep diving. All skydivers and air travelers should refrain from air travel for 24 hours after scuba diving. Weather Considerations Heat poses an added danger, especially in the first trimester. The Mayo Clinic “Complete Book of Pregnancy” says that says that if the mother’s internal temperature exceeds 104 degrees, the chance the fetus will have neural tube defects increases. The Sears recommend that an expectant mother eat and drink regularly while exercising to prevent dehydration and hypoglycemia. Pregnant women, particularly those further along, should be careful about flying in bad weather. Dr. Filip says that turbulent weather can sometimes stimulate pre-term labor and rupture of the fetal membranes, causing the amniotic fluid to leak. High winds and turbulence also present the standard difficulties with landing. Many pregnant jumpers advise staying on the ground on windy days. Gearing Up Women who jump while pregnant inevitably have to make some adjustments to their skydiving gear. Some of them change their canopies for larger mains or mains which open more softly than their original gear. Others continue to use the same gear until they quit. Either way, the jumper should feel comfortable with her gear and be able to land it well. Larger gear may feel unwieldy but often lands more softly. A pregnant woman will quickly outgrow her normal jumpsuit. Whatever a skydiver decides to wear, she needs to ensure that she can still find all her handles. Size can also make it difficult to get in and out of airplanes. After a certain point, you may no longer fit into a little Cessna 182. Getting up and down off the floor will challenge you, so airplanes without benches become less than ideal. You'll really learn to appreciate tailgates and planes with seats. How long can a woman keep jumping while she is pregnant? Women have jumped into their fifth, sixth and seventh months. Some jumpers go by the folk wisdom "jump until you show." Others stop based on the time of year. If you’re five months pregnant in July with sweltering heat, that might be the time you call it quits. When you decide that you're no longer operating at 100 percent, stay on the ground until you fee! back up to speed. Postpartum Many women have found that skydiving after they give birth requires more adjustment than jumping while expecting. LaRiviere says she had to change her jumpsuit only after the baby was born and she was nursing him. Nursing also required some changes to her harness. What to do with the baby during jumping time poses a bigger problem. LaRiviere's husband acted as primary caregiver during her training camps, and she hired a niece to watch the baby while she competed in the nationals. If your baby doesn't sleep through the night, chances are you don’t either. You may not want to put yourself in freefall in such an addled state. If both husband and wife jump, they may want to take turns going to the drop zone. Often, couples jump less than they did before becoming parents. Also, even a minor injury would probably cause tremendous inconvenience with a small baby, so conservative is better. Starting Them Young Skydiving during pregnancy is definitely possible, though it gives the jumper a lot to think about. As Chew points out, skydiving carries the risk of injury and death, and pregnant jumpers have additional considerations, including some not addressed here. All potential jumpers need to make that decision for themselves with the available information and in consultation with their own families and physicians. Pregnant skydiving adds a new wrinkle to the sport. For example, how do you count a pregnant skydiver participating in the 246-way world record? Does she make it a 247-way? Either way, these kids will have cool stories to recount when they're older. How many kindergartners get to tell their classmates they already have 20 minutes of freefall? About the Author Amy Hackney Blackwell is an attorney and freelance writer in Greenville South Carolina. She has been skydiving since 1995.
  11. There are lots of things you can learn about on the Dropzone that will aid you understanding of how all the elements involved in a skydiving operation fit together to make things work. Even just focusing on the assessment of the jumping conditions demonstrates several moving parts that all need to operate effectively to function as a whole. Remember, there are things that you must know, but also things that you can know that will make you better and safer. A helpful way to evolve your knowledge is try to see things from the perspective of others. What Other People Know: Chief Instructor: Whoever is employed to be in charge of the daily dropzone proceedings will not only be generally very well experienced but likely also highly practised under the conditions of that particular location. You can learn much from this person. When things are busy they will likely juggling many things in their head to keep everything running smoothly, but when quietness descends seek them out and pick their brains as they probably have many, many excellent stories to share - each with an important lesson behind it. The Pilot: To become a pilot you have to read books and do tests and stuff. A lot of this is about the weather. While you are trying to gauge the strength of the wind outside by listening intently from under a duvet - a good pilot will be up checking many sources of information to be able to perform their job properly. The information analysed by pilots is a very good place to head if you are keen to take your knowledge about flying conditions to the next level. The Jump Master: The person who is in charge of the load needs to be very aware of what is going on both on the ground and in the air. Being tasked as jump master is a serious job that happens relatively early in your skydiving career and while easy to perform with the correct level of awareness carries serious responsibility when there is some kind of incident. Are you confident enough in your decision to take the plane around or bring it back down after spotting a big mess at altitude and have the courage of your convictions when faced with an angry dropzone owner? Being all over the details will make you look like a goddam pro when anyone starts quizzing you. What were the winds doing at the bottom and the top? Which way was it going? What kind of clouds were they and at what altitude? The Other Skydivers: Does everyone on the plane know what they need to know? Are the people you are jumping with or those in the group next to you clueless idiots? Should you worry about them? Who is going to tell them the correct information? You do it - for your own benefit as much as theirs. Also worth considering is the perspective of the tandem masters and the camera pool - they keep the dropzone going and thus operate day-in and day-out under all conditions and circumstances. If the plane goes up then almost certainly some of them are on it and their collective knowledge is well worth mining for information about functioning at the fringes of what is possible or acceptable on your particular dropzone. Conclusion: Applying some time and effort to learn more about weather conditions will create a return on investment with your ability to judge further out if jumps are going to happen or not. Skydiving is an expensive hobby and happens quickly - so everything you can do to maximise your effectiveness on each jump helps, and understanding more about the weather will make you a better, safer skydiver. Learning about all of the conditions you will be faced with will not only facilitate making good calls when you are jumping, it will also help you to get more out of your jumps when they happen. Nobody is right all the time but the more educated you are the better your guesses will be - and as such you ability to decide wether to drag your ass out of bed before dawn and get down to the dropzone or do something else with your day. Also try remember that there is nothing to be gained from being angry at the sky - it does not give a shit. Also, it is probably healthy to do something else now and then - if your life is a constant battle with the weather you might well end up batshit crazy and living in a caravan on the airfield with mushrooms growing in your hair. On a dropzone you are surrounded with ways to learn, and the first time you apply some extra-curricular knowledge in a practical way is immensely satisfying. Every now and then you come across someone who seems to have magical powers when it comes to predicting what the sky is going to do - but they are most likely just a regular human that knows things.
  12. It is easy to think of the weather as just being big. All too often as skydivers we assess things in very general terms without really worrying too much about the details - yet the most direct impact weather conditions can have on your skydiving can happen on an entirely personal level, affecting you and you alone while trying to successfully land a parachute. I make no claim to being a canopy piloting coach and should you wish to further your skills in that area I recommend seeking out humans that offer professional structured courses in these matters. What follows is simple advice designed to encourage further learning by pointing out some of the more common weather phenomena that you will encounter above and around the dropzone. Turbulence: When wind hits something it bounces off in different directions which can cause difficulties for flying one’s parachute through if you are not prepared for it. Dropzones are hugely diverse in terms of layout and construction - from the humble Cessna using a strip of grass in the middle of nowhere to powerhouse operations that utilise a fleet of aircraft and resemble a municipal airport, however wherever you jump the same general rules about what to look for apply. Below I have included some examples and a few shit-but-accurate pictures to demonstrate how wind behaves over and around common obstacles. By referring to these you can get some idea about how to be aware of potential hazards and avoid them when necessary. Wind over building Wind over hill Wind over ridge Wind over trees Unstable Air - When the wind hits something big and flat like a hangar it spills out in lots of different directions at the same time. Depending on exactly where you are this could cause lift, sink, sideways motion or all of these in quick succession. Things can get really rough next to structures when it is windy - so use your brain, apply your training and be somewhere else. Wind Shadow - A large enough object might create an area behind it which is clear of the turbulence and has no wind. Where you were previously crabbing like mad or going nowhere fast - if you enter a wind shadow you might suddenly find you have a surge in ground speed and have to adjust where you though you were going to land. Be very ready for more turbulence. Bottleneck - This is when wind speeds up rapidly to squeeze a large volume of air in a small gap between two objects. This can also be compounded by the other problems created by wind trying to get around things such as an increase in instability. Thermal Activity: Thermal activity is generated by the sun heating the air - warm air expands pushing outwards and cold air contracts drawing inwards, causing wind. The most common experience most of us initially have with this effect is via some toothy weather person gesticulating at region-wide areas of a greenscreen map on the telly and describing which way the wind will most likely be pointing. However - thermals gather and release on a much, much smaller scale than this and can be localised enough to effect your flight while navigating a canopy. Things to look for are items and areas that are good at causing lift by either reflecting heat such as tarmac (runway/carpark/roads) and metal (hangars), or storing heat such as bodies of water. A small amount of thermal activity is not going to cause serious issues with your flight pattern or your canopy’s performance but some sudden lift or sink when you are not expecting it can mean the difference between landing in your intended spot and somewhere else. In some places thermals can be surprisingly violent and threaten your safety - ask anyone who has tussled with an Arizona dust devil that sprang as if from nowhere on an otherwise perfect skydiving day. Behaviour: So what do you do when things get more challenging? Dropzones operate under official limits for jumping and will often have their own rules in place for particular conditions. For example you might be required to land in a different area if the wind is coming from a certain direction or you might have to stop jumping sooner than you were planning due to a particular quirk in the local terrain. Learn these special circumstances and understand why they exist - you never know when such knowledge will help you make a good decision somewhere unfamiliar when the pressure is on. Despite established parameters the person responsible for your safety is you. If you decide keep jumping as conditions get ‘interesting’ it is only sensible to modify your behaviour for increased safety: If it is getting super windy then use any available space and land clear of hazards and other canopies. Walking a long way back to the hangar is better than crawling even the shortest distance if you have to do it into the back of an ambulance. Landing crosswind or downwind into clear space and sliding across the grass like a goose landing on a frozen pond is better than turning low into the wind and flying face-first into the ground. If the wind is actively changing direction as you look at the indicators then follow the rules and land the way the arrow is pointing. Again - it is safer to all land in the same direction regardless of which way the wind is going than all try to face into it as it moves around and risk a collision. Watch other people land. If the wind is getting up then maybe have a break and watch a load or two. Assess everyone from Captain swoopypants all the way through to the tandems and those with lower experience. Try to develop a habitual curiosity about what is going on at the particular spot you like to skydive. Many noteworthy incidents in our sport can be traced back to awareness of small things that could easily be avoided with a little learning.
  13. After almost a 25-year hiatus, I came back into the fold, enabled by the last child having gone off to college, and prompted by arthritic hips that were making it too painful to play tennis. I figured some things may have changed, but that I had been aware of them, having kept up my USPA membership and subscription to Parachutist. Well, it’s one thing to be aware of something, and quite another to learn to handle it in real time. In my first year back, I jumped at 5 different dropzones in three countries, so that I saw how the changes have been implemented in some different environments. Here is a list of the things that had changed that awaited my return, and had implications for my safety and the safety of others. 1. There are seatbelts in these jumpships—a good idea in the event of an unanticipated landing, but one has to learn where they are, remember to take them off, to stow them (especially in small aircraft), and be aware of where they are to avoid entanglement on exit. 2. Spotting is a thing of the past in many dropzones—just keep your eye on the colored lights! Still, it is a good idea to check where one is, in the event a pilot was tracking the wrong line. 3. Turbine aircraft now have doors! No more freezing on the way to altitude, or clinging to one’s neighbor to avoid falling out. However, one has to learn when they go up and down, how to secure them, how to close them gently. 4. Everyone wears their pilot chute above their butt—making deployment a little slower, if one manages to find it (remember the advert in the Parachutist: “Looking for something?”), but avoiding a few other problems. Be sure to practice deployment with the gear you will be using many times on the ground, in a prone position, to develop some muscle memory before going up. And check it constantly—my too-loose BOC pouch let out my pilot chute when I rose from the floor and caught it on something, much to the consternation of the planeload of jumpers whose lives I had just endangered. 5. Parachutes come in many flavors, and many sizes—gone are the days of one canopy fits all. Most of today’s canopies are very touchy, and downright skittish, react to the slightest input, and take far more concentration in the last few hundred feet of descent. Everybody swoops, to some degree, and some DZs have abandoned upkeep of their pea gravel because nobody uses it. I found it easier to land an original Sabre 170 than a Sabre II 190, and I am sure I will not be going for a fully elliptical canopy—at my age, I have to avoid the 1-in-500 jump mishaps that can maim one for life. Essentially, skydivers have invented a whole new way to die—turn low, and drive into the ground at 60mph. 6. There are many minor innovations in skydiving gear, too many to mention—just make sure you know how everything works on your rig, and why it is the way it is. 7. Everybody PRO-packs, or uses some variant—although I had had several people show me how to do it, and watched all the videos, etc., in my first dozen attempts, I packed one malfunction, and had to get more private instruction in a quiet place. 8. People fly landing patterns—e.g. left-hand, with turns at 1000, 600, 300 feet--in the old days, even with 20 jumpers in the air, we all did pretty much what we wanted and hoped for the best; now, even a 4-way requires paying attention to the landing pattern. 9. Breakoff for belly-flying is much higher—instead of separating an 8-way at 3500, now 4500 or even 5000 is the time to say goodbye. Coupled with the higher minimum opening altitude of 2500, this makes for a much more reasonable margin for error—and as humans, we are prone to error. 10. There are now many different skydiving disciplines, and you have to learn about them, and pay attention to exit order, as one jump run may let out belly flyers, freeflyers, angle flyers, trackers, wingsuiters, and tandems, as well as people who haven’t made up their mind before boarding exactly what they are planning to do. 11. AADs are now required most places—no longer shunned as devices that might blow up in your face. RSLs are also ubiquitous—both systems have saved many, many lives. 12. There are lots of old jumpers now—few old bold ones—and they have learned a lot about how to be safe over their last quarter century, while I’ve been taking kids to soccer practice. Pepper them with all sorts of questions, and do not rush to emulate the 22-year-olds out there. They likely have gone through a much more comprehensive training program than you have, including courses on canopy control and instruction on equipment safety. My personal rule, which I have not seen enunciated elsewhere: On any given jump, DO NOT INTRODUCE MORE THAN ONE NEW PIECE OF EQUIPMENT, or new way of using a piece of equipment. Of course, your first couple of recurrency jumps will necessitate breaking this rule—but don’t go out of your way to put a camera on, or add anything other than what is absolutely necessary. Example: If you get a new jumpsuit, don’t also try a new helmet on the same jump. Or, if you do, go out on a solo jump. Addendum: Do your homework. I recently was caught in a dust devil at 100ft or so, which completely collapsed my canopy, and I credit my reactions and walk-away landing to a video and a book, both by Brian Germain, which I had studied in detail. Larry Moulton, C-11371, EET #22, is a professor of international health and biostatistics at Johns Hopkins University.
  14. nettenette

    How to Team - Hayabusa's Best Tips

    How does the winningest 4-way team in the world get--and stay--that way? Image by Danny Jacobs If you say “by training hard,” you’re certainly right. Hayabusa, the aforementioned golden boys of 4-way FS, unsurprisingly train their way around the calendar in both the tunnel and the sky. As of publication, they recently topped of the podium in the FAI world championships for both, as you’ve undoubtedly noticed. The top of the podium is, after all, pretty much home for these guys. Their hard training schedule, however, is certainly not the only ingredient in the sweet-smelling success that’s always wafting out of the Hayabusa tent. If you’ve got a couple of hardworking skydiving buddies who fly well with you, you might be thinking about going for your own set of medals. Not into FS? No worries. It doesn’t matter if you point your belly button at the ground or the horizon: you can still borrow a page from Hayabusa’s playbook. Here’s what Hayabusa Point Dennis Praet has to say about how his uniquely consistent team keeps their streak going so strong. 1. Work on the relationships. “At the beginning, I really underestimated the importance of team dynamics,” Praet says. “They are super important. You can be an awesome flyer. You can do the fastest 360s. Whatever. But if you don’t have a good relationship with your teammates--if you are not very good friends--then competition is a very tough world.” “Don’t underestimate how important it is to have a good relationship with your teammates,” he continues, “And don’t misunderstand that to mean that you always have to accepting someone else’s bad habits or crap. It’s true that it is about coming to terms with some bad characteristics, but it’s more about appreciating the good ones. Like siblings, in a way.” 2. Fix what you need to and get on with it. “We had a very harsh year in 2014 with Hayabusa,” he explains. “It was the year that nobody liked, and it just takes all the passion away. We saw the rough year for what it was, changed the things that needed to change and found that passion back.” 3. Cross-train outside skydiving. “Everybody on the team does their own thing as far as fitness is concerned,” Dennis says. “It’s not a secret that I don’t like running; I would rather go to the gym or do some of my active hobbies, but pretty intensively. I absolutely love wakeboarding and kite surfing, and sometimes I’ll spend the whole day in the water, going hard.” “When I train, I focus on the fact that four way is a 35-second sprint--so going for endurance is only helpful in training. You can kind of pick your own sport to optimize your capacity for sprinting. As long as you are fit enough to go through a whole training camp--12 jumps a day, without losing your head--you are in good shape.” 4. Get your head right. “When we are going into a hard competing day,” Praet says, “We try to put all our personal issues on the side. If there is any small thing that might put you off your mental game, consciously put that out of your head. Then just trust the training that you have done; the plan that you followed throughout the year. That way, you know--even if you lose, it is just that the other team was better. It is not something that you have done or didn’t do. That knowledge is comforting.” Hayabusa winning 2013 Dubai International Skydive Championship
  15. admin

    Health Gymnasium

    Health gymnasiums Those who can afford time and expense involved many wish to take advantage of the facilities offered by health gymnasium. None of the equipment and other facilities provided by gimnasium are strictly necessary to the process of getting fit, but they can add interest and variety to your physical exercises. Two other advantages offered by good gymnasium are constant supervision, which enables you to exercise with safety confidence, and a congenial atmosphere. Exrecising with people who share common purpose can provide extra enjoyment and incentive. It is necessary first of all to distinguish between the different types of gymnasium. Training fymnasium are essentially for athletes and other men and womenwho wish to develop their skills for particular athletic activities. They provide facilities for athletes to keep themselves for their chosen sports. Health gymnasium provide advice, instruction and facilities for everyone who wishes to become or keep fit, whatever his or her initial physical condition. Their clients range from professional athletes to office workers who wish only to make the best use of their lunch hours. Health gymnasium vary widely în quality. When choosing one of yourself, you should check that is staffed by qualified and responsible instructors. You may feel flattered to be attended by a sports celebrity, but professionally trained physiotherapists and physical education instructors can be equally, if not more, beneficial to an unfit person. You should expect to be asked details of your medical history, and to be carefully examined before being allowed to use all the facilities. Three types of exercise The accesories provided in health gymnasium to help you exercise range form simple wights and benches to more sophisticated equipment such aș pulleys and rowing machine. These accesories are appropriate for different kinds of exercises. Isometric exercises, the simple type involvea applying muscular strenght by pulling or pushing immovable objects. The muscles are tensed amd this tension is sustained for short periods of time. Because little movement is involved în these exercises, they develop static rather than dynamic strenght. Isotonic exercises involve pulling or lifting an object to certain position and then returning it to its original position. They cause the muscles to contract as you move but, because the weight or force employed is to the same degree throughout the exercise. The weight or force used can only be that which you cadn lift or pull at the weakest point in the range of motion involved and at other points your muscles are not sufficiently strained to develop în strenght. The third type of exercise, known as isokinetic, requires more sophisticated equipment. Isokinetic exercises can be designed for particular needs. For example, a person who is training for a particular sport can do exercises that stimulate exactly the demands of this sport, and also developed precisley the muscles he or she most needs. Massage Facilities for massage may be available at health gymnasium or sauna baths. Massage is used in physiscal therapy as a means of rehabilitating patients who are suffering from certain physical pain or aliments but, as a mean of getting or keeping fit, its value is very limitated. Sauna baths Sauna baths may be attached to health gymnasium or may exist as separate establishments. Most sauna baths are organized according to similar basic principles, although Finnish sauna baths retain their original national characteristics. They have an invigorating effect on the whole body and aid physical and mental relaxation, but their effect on the whole body and aid physical and mental relaxation, but their effect are temporary rather than long-term. Sauna baths provide a healthy and enjoyable means of relaxation, but the sudden rise and pulse rate can be dangerous. Pregnant women and people with high or low blood pressure, should therefore avoid them.
  16. At Work With Kenyon Salo and Team Thunderstorm Kenyon Salo stays pretty busy. When I talk to him, he’s been -- well -- kinda slammed. “I’ve been doing a lot of skydiving, a little bit of BASE jumping, lots of wingsuiting, building the brand of The Bucket List Life, a dynamic lifestyle design community, doing a lot of keynotes, running a bunch of seminars and trainings...” He pauses for a moment. “And I’m leaving for Cozumel in half an hour to go scuba diving for a week. I should probably pack.” Kenyon’s also a professional exhibition skydiver. He’s an athlete on not one, but two skydiving demonstration teams. He’s on the Mile-Hi Demonstration Team (the home team for his dropzone, Mile-Hi Skydiving), which does high-profile demo jumps all over the state. He’s also on the official Denver Broncos parachute team: “Team Thunderstorm.” Thunderstorm is unique in the world: no other team in the NFL has their own team of professional parachutists. The team jumps into every single home game. That would be impressive in and of itself, of course -- but there’s more. The Broncos stadium is as unique as the team that jumps into it. It’s one of the steepest, tightest sports stadiums in the United States. Oh -- and the entire stadium is criss-crossed with metal cables during the high profile games (which is more often than not, since the Denver Broncos are Super Bowl Champions). “As far as exhibition jumping is concerned, the Bronco’s stadium -- or “Sports Authority Field,” as it’s known officially -- is the diamond. There is a not a harder stadium that’s being jumped right now,” Kenyon explains. “A lot of the older stadiums are really splayed out, where the Bronco’s stadium is really upright. And then there are the cables, of course. This is the most technical demo jump in skydiving.” To do what Kenyon and his team do on game day, you have to have quite a resume: you have to be a competition-level swooper, you have to be able to speak eloquently to the media, and you have to land a tiny parachute in wicked conditions. Perfectly. Every. Single. Time. That is, to say the least, a difficult job position to fill. Understandably, Team Thunderstorm is small. It has six members, no more, no less: Jimmy Tranter, Stuart Schoenfeld, Justin Thornton, Kenyon Salo and Allison Reay. The number never changes. If one of the jumpers is unavailable on the day of the jump, that jumper is not subbed out. “The six of us know each other’s flying with great precision,” Kenyon explains, “And we can predict each other, every time. That safety is worth its weight in gold.” The Air Force used to get into that stadium with 250- or 260-square-foot canopies, navigating the stadium’s unusual topography by sinking their big canopies perilously in and executing a low turn before setting them down. It worked. But then the stadium installed more cables and the pre-game show wanted a higher-speed exhibition. Team Thunderstorm had to envision a better way -- and they did. “We decided to jump 97-to-120-square-foot Spectres,” Kenyon says. “The reason we jump those is because we have to dive the parachute across the crowd while still keeping a mandated 50-foot distance above them. We do hook turns into the stadium, down the stands, carving right. We pop a toggle at something like 150 feet, then carve across the field, then land.” “Basically, it’s like parallel parking a Ferrari at 60 miles an hour,” he laughs. “And 99% of the time, we stop between the 20 yard line and the end zone.” The first time Kenyon made the jump he describes as a moment of “terrifying confidence.” He knew he could do it -- after all, he’d made dozens of successful jumps into the empty stadium before he got the green light to join the team on game day. “Prior to being accepted as a team member,” Kenyon says, “I’d take advantage of any practice day I could get. I did a lot of practice when there were no actual games on the field. But I was also practicing at the dropzone. I would fly that canopy as much as I could -- work hard on the turn -- and work with Jimmy Tranter, a phenomenal canopy coach for brand new jumpers as well as for Team Thunderstorm, who gave the final okay to DZO and Team Thunderstorm Organizer Frank Casaras, for me to join the team on game days. Jimmy has got 25,000 jumps. When he speaks, everybody listens.” That constant practice is vital for a jump like this. Even without the dizzyingly steep sides and cable obstacles at the Broncos stadium, stadium jumps are so legendary that they have their own classification in the taxonomy of exhibition jumping. (The classifications are, in order of difficulty: Level 1, Level 2, Level 3 -- and “Stadium.”) This is true because of the super-challenging conditions a stadium creates. The rim of a stadium creates puckering turbulence as the wind hits it from the outside, spilling rough air down into the bowl. These conditions are not for the faint-of-heart. “When we come over that rim,” Kenyon says, “We have to be prepared for anything and everything. You can easily have 12 mile-an-hour wind at the rim and no wind on the field, so that means within 300 feet of difference in altitude you have got a huge difference in wind speed. And it’s often in different directions.” “Our small canopies help with that,” he continues, “Because, as we dive through the stadium, speed equals lift -- and the fluid dynamics also make the canopy rigid for smooth flying and landings. In the Bronco’s stadium, time runs in milliseconds. From the point you come over the rim -- and by that time, you are going very quickly down the field -- you are flying through and underneath a netting of metal cables. “There’s a single place you can enter,” Kenyon explains. “As soon as you do, you’re moving across the field very quickly, and you’re avoiding those cables. All the cables for the field goal cameras sit at 150 feet. The skycam cables come from the top corners and extend down diagonally; there’s around 350 feet of cable there, stretching down to a point the ground from two directions.” He gives a sideways grin. “It’s very challenging, yet every team member is absolutely prepared mentally and professionally for this demonstration.” Challenging, yes. Injurious -- not so far. At time of publication, Team Thunderstorm boasted a 100% safety record. Every team jumper has landed on the field on every single jump, with no close calls. “We have strict parameters that we must follow that are set forth by the USPA (United States Parachute Association) for how demos of this level and caliber must be handled,” Kenyon continues, “Sometimes we have to call it because the cloud ceiling is too low or the winds are beyond our limits. It’s those moments that make this team professional because we always err on the side of caution to make sure safety is paramount.” “Something Jimmy Trantor taught us, which I hold in the highest regard, is that we must constantly update our mental map on these jumps,” Kenyon articulates. “It’s a running inner monologue that focuses your awareness. ‘I made the turn; ‘the winds have changed;’ ‘I’m going down the crowd now;’ ‘I’m getting a little crosswind over here;’ ‘I’m a little bit over the sideline, I’m bringing it back over the center;’ ‘the field is a little wet;’ update, update, update. We spend the entire jump updating our mental patterns and adjusting. Immediately.” It’s a zen exercise to keep a high-quality inner monologue going in a stadium situation -- sometimes at night, with pyro; sometimes in wild conditions; always, with the throbbing energy of a massive, excited crowd. “There’s nothing like jumping out of the plane at 5,000 feet and already hearing the crowd beneath you,” Kenyon exudes. “The crowd sees us exit and just erupts. They are screaming and yelling, and you’re suddenly filled with the knowledge that you’re doing it for them -- the fans that have supported you for seven seasons running; for the camaraderie of the team around you; for the guys playing great football.” And for the love of skydiving, of course.
  17. nettenette

    How to Spot In The Manner of a Boss

    The Stuff You Need To Remember, Even If You Never Actually Do The Math Image by Andrey Veselov Have you ever gotten off at the wrong bus stop? Probably. But did you turn around and blame the bus driver for your mistake? Probably not. As a skydiver, however, there’s a good chance you’ve done exactly that--by exiting the plane at an inappropriate time, then accusing the pilot of “giving you a bad spot.” If you leap blindly out the door at the flash of a green light, it’s not the pilot who’s making the mistake--it’s, y’know. You. 1. Green doesn’t necessarily mean go. The green light doesn’t necessarily mean that the pilot thinks you should leave the plane. This may be a surprise, but spotting is actually not the pilot’s responsibility at all. The green light’s technical meaning is that he or she has completed all of the responsibilities of a jump pilot: that the necessary adjustments have been made to speed and trim to allow for safe exit, and that air traffic control has been informed that skydivers are preparing to leave the aircraft. It is the jumpers’ responsibility to verify a safe exit point that’ll get you back. If you’re being pushed out the door and the spot ain’t right, don’t go. Simple as that. 2. Don’t rely entirely on technology. The presence of a GPS system on nearly every skydiving aircraft has changed the game, of course. In many ways, it has allowed the spotting process to slip quietly out of most jumpers’ minds and wiggle its way into the cockpit, which isn’t fair to the pilot (who has plenty going on up there already, to say the least). Spotting used to be a purely manual process; doublechecking the spot still must be. 3. Know your jump run. Most pilots fly their jump runs into the wind, on a heading determined by GPS. From there, it used to be that you needed to do some math in order to properly calculate your spot--estimating your drift in freefall and under canopy using an algorithm. To do so, you needed to know the winds aloft, as well as the forecasted wind speeds and directions. It’s no wonder most skydivers couldn’t be bothered. These days, we have the internets on our side. Apps and (when they’re working) online calculators make it much easier to get it right--but the best practice is to check with the dropzone. If there’s no posted information available, check in with manifest and ask for their input. 4. Get your load in order. After you’ve run the numbers, boss-level spotting requires good communication with the rest of the skydivers on your load. These days, loads are packed with different disciplines, all with different glides and fall rates. Slow-falling, long-gliding groups of wingsuits and fast-falling, short-gliding groups of head-down freeflyers share planes with high-altitude hop-and-pop canopy relative work jumpers, shredders of angles and hybrid formations of every stripe. The general rules is that, since the upper winds push freefalling jumpers across the sky, jumpers who will be exposed to them the longest will be pushed farther away from the landing area. That said: Different dropzones follow different procedures for exit order. Learn them before you start milling around in front of the door. If you have questions or issues, ask the S&TA; about the underlying logic. 5. Get your priorities straight. Look straight down from the door, checking for any air traffic and making a mental note of your direction of flight and of your exit point. It helps to physically point to the landing area to make a general assessment that you’re within a landable distance of it. If you’re not, don’t leave the plane. It’s not worth it. Even if you never actually sit down and calculate a spot, you’ll be a much safer skydiver for that five seconds’ worth of mindfulness -- and you’ll make the skies safer for everyone else you share them with.
  18. Busy skies - Bad Sassendorf, Germany. From the solar flares and zooming photons of a gargantuan ball of always exploding fire really far away, through to the moon swinging about in the sky or even the rotation of the earth itself - the weather which makes or breaks our plans on this little blue and green planet is affected by things on the grandest scale. Meteorological science is both amazingly exacting and still kind of imprecise all at the same time. While hard to nail down the total details, weather forecasting can tell you pretty much what to expect and more-or-less when. There are things you can judge in the distance that might affect you directly when you ask questions like: If there is a hurricane in the other side of the ocean might it be windy at the weekend? Or, if these opposing weather fronts are going to clash above me how is it going to affect the conditions? The most important rule is the further away you look the more general you have to be. Knowing how things work and seeing them in advance might mean making the call between a great day of jumping while the naysayers stay at home, seeing a shitty day coming a mile off and going to the movies instead, or accidentally skydiving in the rain and having to dry your shit out afterwards. Clouds It is fun to learn about clouds. The names might seem baffling at first but with just a small amount of practice you will be able to identify the most common types and what they herald for your skydiving day. Once you can name the usual suspects there are a great many others that signify environmental anomalies and special circumstances which can further your awareness. A cloud spotter’s guide in the glove compartment of you car or handily placed next to a window is a good way to encourage what can become a rewarding and entertaining habit. Here are the formations that you generally get to deal with: Little Puffy White Ones: Latin Words: Cumulus (Low), Altocumulus (Medium), Cirrocumulus (High). Cumulus clouds are the fluffy cotton wool variety that appear in children’s fridge door paintings. The presence of any cloud indicates precipitation but small friendly white examples mean all the things skydivers like - mostly sunny and not windy and not raining. This is the type of cloud they hold in reserve for the choicest skydiving locations around the world, where everyone jumps in their swimwear and frolics in the sea at the end of the day. Grey Fogginess: Latin Words: Stratus (Low), Altostratus (Medium), Cirrostratus (High). Stratus cloud is likely what is happening when the whole sky is full of grey and people are shaking their fists angrily at it. Thin layers can be seen through but any kind of density can render the sky obscuring and opaque. Stratus skies can represent the kind of conditions where you could be offered jumps from whatever the cloud base is, or possibly from above if the ground is still visible. A good Altostratus day is the kind that gives you the feeling you first experienced as a child peering out of on an aeroplane window and wishing you could get out and bounce around on a big white spongy trampoline. Big High Massive Ones: Latin Words: Cumulonimbus Huge cloud structures can make for spectacular skydiving experiences as you zoom down through colossal valleys in the sky. Just watch as the wingsuit types get all giddy with excitement on days like these - then promptly land miles off the dropzone because they couldn’t resist chasing some perfect aerial canyon. However, much care is needed. While these towering storm clouds might be spread out and allow for jumps in the gaps it can be all too easy to wind up inside one if things go against you. At best you get wet and uncomfortable, at worst your visibility is zero and things are dangerous. Jumping with lots of cloud around requires good judgement and extra emphasis on safety - keep the groups small and bin the tracking. Storm cell building in the distance - Lake Balaton, Hungary. Combinations In a very general way when you start smooshing your Latin words together things are getting busier up there and more likely to lead to no skydiving. Nimbostratus formations are what can be known as fine British skydiving weather. Large ominous grey monsters fill all the observable sky as you gear up while it is still actually raining outside, but don’t worry - there is a hole coming. For extra entertainment bring an American along and watch then gawp slack-jawed and unbelieving at you while you get ready. Stratocumulus clouds are the big wavy sheets that can be low, medium, high, or all at the same time. Thin layers like this are caused by generally stable conditions before things get saucy. Thin layers at different heights can look like shit from the ground but be fine once you are in the plane, realising that much of it remains above you and does not hinder your visibility of the ground. Jumping from cloud base - Slavnica, Slovakia. A nice layer to play above - Dunkeswell, UK. Go Further There are many types of of cloud. As a skydiver you will spend a lot of time looking up at the sky - so it is a solid investment to learn more about how it works. There are clouds that demonstrate it being windy enough to push rain up into the sky or down out of it before it normally would, there are those that form up into rolls and lumps and streets, those that create incandescent colour from above or below, and those that don’t do anything but will impress the hell out of people when you can name them.
  19. Clouds can provide spectacular scenery - but what should you know about them Introduction: There is a lot to learn across your career as a skydiver. Expanding one’s brain is a process the starts right from the blocks and, if you are doing it right, never stops. Along the way there are things that you have to know in order to progress through to new levels and ratings, yet there is also things you can know that will make you a better skydiver in terms of your safety and awareness, and also contribute to your smooth and efficient progression. Parachuting from aircraft has diversified into many different disciplines - some may draw you irresistibly towards them but others you might never touch with a long stick. Regardless of how you embrace the zoom, one thing is constant and true - the weather rules over us all. Some of these disciplines have stricter parameters for operation than others - an accuracy competition has to stand down in all but the gentlest wind while hot shit canopy pilots are unhampered buy much more, whereas low cloud might keep all matters of freefall in stasis while the swoopy types can still get their kicks from within sight of the ground. We can all benefit from taking a little time to understand more about how the weather works. You don’t need to become an expert - but the further on your brain gets from it being either ‘too windy’ or ‘not too windy’ the better. At the very least, investing in a bit of knowledge will make you more interesting to talk to when everyone is standing around looking up at the sky and bitching about the conditions. It might also save your life. Visibility is important Student Status: When you are brand new to skydiving the dividing line between too windy and yahoo giddy up is positioned way over on the too windy side. The restrictions are pretty heavy to allow for safety while you are getting the hang of it so some patience is required - so this is the perfect time to embrace the learning process and seek the benefits of going above and beyond with your ambitions. Everything is new and there is a lot of it, so hoover up all that is offered. An important lesson to understand early on is that much of what is taught in skydiving in delivered with more than a smattering of opinion - and there is no shortage of those who are absolutely sure that their way is the best way and what that other guy said is horseshit. Developing a mindset of enquiry from the start will help you to filter the important information and use it properly. It is too windy for you to jump. Why is it too windy? Why is it too windy for you? It is raining. Why is it raining? Down The Road: As soon as you are out of that student getup and in your own gear then you are fair game for being quizzed in the plane by anyone else who has not bothered to find out the vital information for themselves and needs help at the last minute. It really doesn’t take a lot of effort to learn the particulars about the situation you are about to skydive into, and knowing a few simple things can make you look much more like a bad motherfucker and much less like a clueless mug. Can you identify which way is North? Do you know what the wind is doing right now both at altitude and on the ground? Continued learning is one of skydivings great gifts - everywhere you look there is always extra distance to go. Absolute clarity over Lake Balaton, Hungary Crossover Skills: If anything, skydiving is on the more forgiving side of all the sports that involve a canopy over your head. The geographical spaces we use for jumping out of planes are all different but with lots a base similarities - a runway, a few hangars where the aeroplanes sleep, a power line or two to avoid, a bar where the important drinking happens. All of skydivings sisters and cousins are much more intimately involved with the weather. If you find yourself drawn to Paragliding or BASE jumping then you will be spending a lot more time in places where the issues you can (and will) face become magnified by the terrain. The world has no shortage of those who believe that because they can perform a big bad swoop along the manicured grass then they possess the skills to fly a speed wing through a six foot gap in an alpine forest. Even a cursory glance at the incident reports will demonstrate how many accidents could have been avoided if just a little more knowledge had been applied. Skyjumps happen in a controlled environment - the perfect time to learn. Would You Like To Know More? This, and the following articles are not designed to be anything approaching comprehensive information - they are assembled to point you in the right direction by covering the main topics in a general, encouraging and hopefully entertaining way. The weather on our planet is effected by things on both the grandest scale and the most intimate - from national television channels depositing region-wide possibilities to conditions able to affect you and you alone. Part two has a look and weather in its biggest forms, such as fronts, cloud formations and upper winds. Part three focuses on more localised concerns like turbulence and thermals. Part four finishes up by pointing you toward some of the popular resources you might use to grow your brain.
  20. joelstrickland

    Teaming Up: Part 3 - Getting Stuff Done

    Flynamik Freestyle by Gustavo Cabana Skydivers are a diverse bunch, drawn to the sky from across the length and breadth of human endeavour - and we each bring with us into any group dynamic a particular set of strengths and weaknesses. Across the different available disciplines teams are very different beasts, from the fairly compact pair of people that make up a Freestyle team to the unruly herds of 8-Way. There is no right or wrong way to get things done and one cannot accurately specify exactly what will or will not work for any particular team setup. I cannot tell you the best way to run a team - I can only share with you some things we have learned over the six years since deciding to start competing. Different Jobs At its serious end skydiving can be extremely complex. Each discipline has its own particular bonanza of inter-member technicality and bamboozling nomenclature to learn when you get involved (looking at you, belly types). While the kind of detail that information requires is beyond the space I have to write about here, one thing stands true - if you are in a new team and exploring a discipline then quality coaching from an experienced and reliable source will see you right and while this represents a definite cash investment it can amount to the equivalent of many, many skydives. Azure Freefly by Matthias Walde Outside of the part where actually plan and execute jumps, there is much that requires attention and many questions that need to be answered as you move through the calendar. For example: Whose job is it to remind everyone to check the dates of their reserve (before you have already travelled to another country and are standing in front of an unimpressed looking dropzone employee? Who is responsible for wrangling the team nincompoop and making sure they bring the absolutely vital things they need for skydiving - like a parachute? Who wants the title of ‘Team Captain’ enough to accept that as soon as something goes wrong the others will just stare at them with bovine vapidity until they go and fix it? NFTO 4-Way Ladies by Mel Allan For us, as a freefly trio, we settled loosely into the following roles: Captain: The team captain’s job is to handle all of our active communication and formal arrangements. This involves booking flights, filing entry forms, negotiating with dropzones, communicating with sponsors and generally acting as the voice by which team business is presented. Camera: By definition a camera flyer’s job has extra work involved. It is their task to ensure the setup they are using is present and correct, to make sure the batteries are always charged and to download and file all of the training jumps. The extra duties a camera flyer has all boil down to: When the jumps happen - don’t miss. Nerd: Although not a formalised position - one person usually sticks out as being the geek of the bunch. For us the nerd’s job is to handle all of the promotion and exposure. This means building and maintaining the website, tending to the FB page and all other assorted social media thingies, editing photos to share with sponsors, producing video edits and writing magazine articles. These roles we occupy were not allocated on purpose - we settled into the tasks based on experience, personal motivations and our individual strengths and weaknesses. Separate Business As you progress as a team you will begin to court the attention of those keen to learn from your evolving skills. Coaching others or running events might become a viable way to promote yourselves and offset the cost of your investment. The business minded amongst you might have great ideas about how to operate but for us simplicity rules the day. Again, this is not the rules - what works for us after some experimentation. Golden Knights 8-Way by Matthias Walde While we all act under a shared team name, our individual coaching interests are conducted separately. The practical application of this is you reap what you sow. The best example I can present is that an annual event run under our team name is the work of a single member. All of the planning and preparation is their work alone and while the coaching and load organising are shared equally the remaining two members are present as employees. The team functions as a whole, but the potentially murky business of business is an individual enterprise and thus free of complications.
  21. admin

    Teaming Up: Part 2 - Sponsorship

    Image by Joel Strickland Compared to many other sports that operate a similar system of patronage between manufacturers and athletes, skydiving is relatively small. Even if you sell yourself brilliantly right from the start, the big goal of free stuff is not something that happens straight away. You are going to have to work for it. Wait! Work for free things? I have been duped! Skydiving gear ranges from not cheap to downright extravagant and team training is a substantial investment - therefore any help you can receive along the way is very valuable. Manufacturers know this and also understand the powerful desire for any new skydiving team to be able to declare loudly in their most off-hand yet portentous manner that they are indeed sponsored. Approaching Potential Sponsors Medals help. Getting on a podium of any kind is tangible evidence that companies like to see, but shiny discs are not the be-all and end-all. Manufacturers are most interested in selling their products and if people head their way via your influence it counts for much. You might not be bringing home the gold just yet and your Instagram (or whatever) may not be filed with super-cool cutting-edge skydiving - but if you are respected on the dropzone as a purveyor of solid advice through which a steady steam of equipment choices are settled upon it registers directly. An important thing to remember when drafting those letters about taking over the world is that whomever you are trying to impress is likely to have heard it all before. What is interesting and unique about your team? Image by Matthias Walde Getting A Deal The first thing you are likely to be offered is a small discount on a limited number of items. Granting something like 30% off to a team means that a sponsor is not going to lose anything if they simply never hear from or about you ever again. It might not add up to big savings but the crucial part is that your new support has recognised and acknowledged your potential - they like the cut of your jib and might just believe in all those big promises you made. From here it is down to you to make good on the trust they have shown. The larger, seasoned skydiving manufacturers will likely have a tiered system in place to manage their stable of athletes and teams whereas smaller companies may not. The exact nature of progression through to a better deal and then better-er deal is based on building a strong relationship that works both ways. An vital consideration once you start receiving offers is which brands and companies do you truly believe in? Sponsorship is not free - it is a symbiotic relationship between athletes and the companies for which they fly the flag. Entering into an arrangement with someone simply because you received an offer is perhaps not the wisest course of action. Would this be your first choice if you were paying full price for it? It is much more satisfying and easier to do a good job of representation if you truly believe in something and value it higher than its competitors. Image by Joel Strickland Giving Back There are quite a few ways that you can do for your sponsors. Try to cover all the bases. Wear the T-Shirt and Be Nice: Few things have as positive an effect as a direct conversation in which you can be passionate about your support. Equally important: Don’t be a dick. Everyone Sees Everything: Even if they pretend they do not. Social media activity has become an important part of how manufacturers market themselves, so learn the hashtags and whatnot and use them. Writing: If you are handy with language there are many outlets for quality work. Producing informative and entertaining articles will earn you some scope to promote yourself. You can be both subtle and not-subtle. Events: Organising or attending events as a team can provide many opportunities. Again: Few things are as good as actually being there and talking to people. Always Thank Your Sponsors: Try to individualise it bit as well. It is well known that a Cypres unit will save your unconscious ass or that Larsen and Brusgaard have the best customer service on earth. What else have you got? Sponsorship is an important part of the skydiving world. Acting as a member of a professional team is long on spending and short on financial reward - so any help you can attract might keep things going. Strong relationships between sponsors and athletes also helps to raise the profile of skydiving around the world - pushing skills forward via events and competitions that ultimately attract more people to the sport. Joel would like to thank: Both Sandra and Vlady at Vertical Suits for their endless patience with an overly fussy freefly team and their obsession with every tiny little detail. Miska at the Hurricane Factory for her unerring accuracy and ability to decipher ramshackle emails about tunnel sessions (in her second language). Everyone who has a part in designing and constructing Icarus Canopies - providing me with the confidence to pack in the landing area under a standard that ranges from poor to awful directly relating to the indeterminate amount of time it takes the tandems to get on the bus.
  22. nettenette

    Skydiving For The Unlucky In Lung

    How To Jump Smart When You've Got Asthma Photographer: Wolfgang Lienbacher Ah, the sky: the beautiful bubble of air that surrounds us all in a breezy embrace. But what if your lungs have a troubled relationship with that air? If you’re an asthmatic and getting into skydiving, you’re facing a substantial--but surmountable--challenge. You’ll be happy to hear that you’re not the first to square up to the sky with flimsy airbags. Many asthmatics are successful sport skydivers. In fact, some studies show that exposure to high altitudes can even improve the lung function of people with asthma. (Ha! Take that, haters.) That said, you need to check off a few boxes on your way to the plane. Here’s a quick tipsheet. Get your doc’s signoff. If you want to be a serious sport skydiver, your asthma must be stable and under excellent control. Don’t take your own word for it, either--speak to your doctor about it. Your doctor will need to confirm that your peak flows (or spirometry) should be close to the normal range. This can be quite discretionary stuff, so get a second opinion if necessary. Unfortunately, severe, persistent asthma and skydiving are not a good mix. Know where your meds are. It’s rule number one for you in your landlubber life, and it remains rule number one in the sky: you must know where your meds are at all times. Keep that rescue inhaler readily available--not buried in a bag, floating in with the rest of your gear--and make sure other people know where it is. Making sure it’s in the pocket of jumpsuit is definitely not the worst idea--and keeping a permanent backup in your dropzone kit is a very, very good one. Go easy on yourself. Skydiving is exercise, and it’s exercise in a cold-air environment. The high altitudes we reach on sport skydives can compromise weaker lungs, reducing the oxygen in an asthmatic jumper’s blood to the point of unsafety. These conditions are challenging even for people who fall within the healthy, normal range--so an asthmatic can expect to exert proportionally more effort on each jump. Listen to your body. Don’t push it. Declare your meds. The dropzone needs to know if you’re on medication, so be clear and specific about what your treatments include. Also note that if competitive skydiving is on your horizon, you’ll need to make sure the governing organization is aware of all the prescription medications you’re taking. Anti-doping rules are in place for all competitors, and some asthma medications are on the list. You wouldn’t want to see your team’s faces at a DQ you could have seen coming. Don’t be shy. While you’re talking to your new dropzone about your asthma and declaring your meds, talk to them about the supplemental oxygen on the plane. If you’re on a long hold at altitude, don't be shy about asking for it. Be okay out of the pollen bubble. Is pollen a problem? Be aware that most dropzones around the world are located in agricultural areas. You may actually be physically landing in a cultivated crop field chock-full of pollen. If that sounds like your idea of a very bad time, you may need to get creative about where and when you jump. Make sure your bones aren’t compromised. As asthmatics are probably aware, a regular dose of oral steroids can be very bad for the structural integrity of your skeleton. If that describes you, make sure you’re thoroughly medically assessed for osteoporosis and that your bone density sits within the normal range. Learning to fly a sport skydiving parachute doesn’t automatically mean you’re doomed to crash landings, but they’re far more likely in the early days of your jumping career--and potentially much more injurious for a medicated asthmatic than for others. Brand new? Address your anxiety as early as possible. Anxiety is a very normal part of the early skydiving experience. This is true for everyone. Asthmatics--especially folks for whom emotional spikes can trigger an asthma attack--must deal with this in a much more thoughtful, procedural ways than others. The good news is that you can expect the intensity of anxiety to lessen over the course of your skydiving career; the bad news is that, in the beginning, it’s quite a hurdle to get over. Here’s a hot tip: there are plenty of ways to prepare your body for the experience. The wind tunnel is a great hack. If you take some time to acclimate your body to the feeling of freefall in this controlled environment, you’ll have proportionally less anxiety once you get into the sky. Take a tandem skydive to be introduced to the procedure, the plane, the facility and the sky. Give yourself the time to approach your sport skydiving career sideways, not overwhelmingly all-at-once, and your lungs will be that much happier in the sky. After all, it’s the sky we fill our lungs with; it’s time yours were properly introduced.
  23. nettenette

    You Know Nothing About Seatbelts - Part 4

    You Gotta Do It Right, Every Time Lead image by skydivegirlpl In the Frankenstein world of skydiving aircraft--where the original innards have been ripped out and kinda-sorta replaced here and there with lighter components--we’ve had to rethink this whole “seatbelts” thing with an eye to minimalism and ease of use. (For contrast, check out the amount of webbing with which aerobatic pilots festoon themselves.) In almost every case, skydiving has had to invent new procedures to maximize the utility of restraints while lacking the backing support of a seat. Hear this, dear readers: These “new procedures” vary in effectiveness. Very few skydivers are properly educated. The details matter. Belts for Benchwarmers Are you sitting in a comfy, capacious aircraft with side benches? Lucky you! You can enjoy the proven-safest restraint configurations available to modern skydiving. Hooray! The reason that lap belts should only be used by side-facing skydivers is that they are maximally effective when there is a solid support surface behind the occupant: a seat back, an aircraft sidewall or a bulkhead. (A particularly burly swooper doesn’t count.) Already bored and sure you know how this lap belt thing goes? Hold up. Did you know that you should be routing your lap belt between your main lift web and body when you’re sitting on a side bench?** “Whoa,” you say. “This means that the restraint belt does not simply go over the top of my glorious lap, as I am used to.” You, dear reader, are correct in that observation. Routing the male end of the lap belt between your belly and main lift web as it’s on its way to the latch on the other side is the way to go. It’s proven to make you less likely to slide out of it in the slippery, bucket-seatless context of a jump plane. Restraints For Floor Folks If you’re on the floor, this is your huckleberry: A single Hooker belt, wrapped around a single hip, close to the ring. These aren’t as good as the big-plane lap belts, because single-side belts have a disconcerting tendency to impose massive, twisting, sideways loads on a jumper's spine. There’s also a huge flail arc for the head, which can result in significantly reduced thinking for the rest of the jumper’s natural life. That said: if it comes down to it, at least your meat stays put, inside the plane, and you don't end up suffocating your buddies at the front of the cabin. “What fresh hell,” you are probably wondering, “Is a Hooker belt?” Calm down--you’ve totally seen one. A Hooker belt is what we call single-point skydiver restraints. They’re ‘Hooker belts’ because they were invented by Jack Hooker. (If you recall, we mentioned him earlier in this series; he’s the fellow who developed restraints in response to the multiple-fatality crash in Hinckley, Illinois that claimed many of his friends.) To see how it’s done, take a little journey with me back to nineteen-ninety-something, when the FAA last took photos for its Sport Parachuting Advisory Circular. Play some Ace of Base and put your hair up in a side ponytail so the photos aren’t so jarring, then take a look. 1. Sit close to the attachment point, facing the back of the plane. 2. Pass the male end of the restraint under the upper part of the leg strap closest to the attachment point. 3. Pass it under the main lift web*. 4. Latch it close to the hip ring. 5. Aim to sit so you have a 45-degree angle between the point the restraint attaches to you and where it attaches to the floor. 6. Tighten until there is little slack. The more slack you have, the further you will travel before impacting something in the cabin in a no-bueno manner. A short leash also minimizes twisting and flail arc. Once you’ve got those methods down, it’s not over. There are a few more points to keep in mind, besides: Restraints don’t work if you can slide out. Ask the jumper who was ejected out the left door during a forced landing in Oklahoma. She was sitting with her back to the pilot and the belt only over her lap. Routing it through the harness would have kept her inside the plane, which is an excellent place to be when the plane is bouncing and crunching all over the ground. Beware the leg-strap-only method. In a tiny plane? Tempted to just tug a belt through your leg strap and fuhgettaboutit? Think twice. Crash tests have proven that single point, single tether restraints are not very effective. The direction you’re facing is actually important. Research has shown that, in order for the restraints to work properly, parachutists must face the tail (“aft”). Never ever ever share a restraint with another skydiver. Everyone on the aircraft needs to be secured individually. Yes, this is just as true for tandems. Tandem students should never be restrained by just clipping to the tandem instructor. If the tandem instructor is incapacitated during a crash, the student cannot unhook. This has killed at least one tandem student in Australia (by drowning). Don’t double up. You must have a single point of detachment to begin egress*** in an emergency. Panicky flailing, fear, fire and smoky visual impairment can all play into the ability to get out. Two attachment latches is one too many to work out in that kind of environment, as has been proven over and over again. Curb your camera. In the event of an impact, make no mistake--your flimsy little G3 is a projectile weapon, as is every loose bit and/or bob that’s rattling around your person. The length of a Twin Otter is plenty of space for them to reach ramming speed. Don’t let them get the opportunity. Leave your chest strap the hell out of this. Chest buckles are only rated for 500 pounds, while most other harness buckles are rated for five times that. If it does hold, it’ll flail you around like a demented cowboy misusing a lasso. Been in a cra...uh, forced landing? Get your gear checked out. Even though it’s a key part of how we protect ourselves from aircraft oopsies, a parachute harness was developed for deceleration from freefall, not partnering up with a restraint belt. Most manufacturers have not tested their harness configurations to see how they weather the jangling, multi-directional abuse of a forced landing. If you’ve been in a plane that’s gone down unexpectedly, send your rig to a rigger to check its airworthiness. The “tight cabin” theory simply ain’t true. Tightly packed loads do no better than their emptier counterparts during forced landings. The only thing that will protect you is a restraint system, not being shoved in like a sardine. You’re not buckling up for yourself. If you take one thing away from all this talk of restraints, remember this: When you do up that belt, it’s not for you. It’s for everybody you might crush if that plane smashes in. It’s for everybody you might fall on from the apex of your surprised-face zero-g levitation to the cabin roof. It’s for the pilot, who needs to be able to count on a certain balance of weight when shit is actively hitting the fan. And it’s for your friends--so they don’t have to stand around a bonfire in tears, wondering how to prevent it all from happening again. * The main lift web is the vertical part of the front of the harness--the webbing that your cutaway and reserve handles live in.
  24. joelstrickland

    Teaming Up: Part 1 - Getting Started

    Image by Gustavo Cabana Looking back across a season of high profile competitions and seeing professional teams across many different disciplines throw down their best performances can have a powerful effect on the imagination. The pull towards the ziggurat of organised competition can be strong - but what you ultimately witness is the end product of a lot of time and effort, so it important to know exactly what you might be getting into and addressing some front-end considerations will help you get on the good foot. What really goes into starting a skydiving team? What are the advantages and rewards in the immediate future and then further on down the road? Also, what are the costs and compromises - both obvious and perhaps less so? There are different ways of making a team happen. Some countries have a national skydiving organisation that plays an active role in the selection and training of talented individuals for the purpose of competition (e.g. France - who recognise parachuting as a national sport), although the more normalised method is whatever body controls the skydiving interests in your country will have an application method for allocating support to functioning teams with a valid performance history - which means at the beginning and for the foreseeable future you are likely on your own. Other possibilities exist: Private coaching operations such as Satori Academy (www.teamsatori.co.uk) conduct season-long programmes in which a pool of students are seeded into teams of appropriate skill with the intention of building towards competition. Also sometimes already established teams might lose a member (for any number of reasons) and seek a replacement via. application and/or audition. However, by far the most probable beginning is that you and a group of friends that regularly jump together and socialise in the same circles will pass the idea around a bit and have things grow from there. You are practically a team already right? All you need is a cool name and some matching shit and glory awaits. Right? Image by Simon Brentford Now What? The first thing that happens once you commit is you will become filled with motivation. Outwardly nothing has changed - you are the same gaggle of mismatched skydivers you were this morning, yet now you have a purpose! The machinery inside your head will be whirring and whizzing about all the things you might achieve. The clearest immediate payoff from the decision to compete is this sense of purpose. It is very easy to get lazy when skydiving and fall into patterns of the same comfortable familiar behaviour - always flying your strong ways, always swooping the same direction - never training the wonky side or pushing yourself forward. Having the date of your first competition marked on a calendar by which you have to achieve specific things is a really good method to highlight how much more you could be getting out of your jumps right now - and the extra things you could be learning around the edges from all the different sources of information available out there. Also - the format and structure of competitions themselves are are designed to test your range of ability. The various dive pools for FS or VFS (and MFS!), the compulsory moves for Artistics and the indoor ruleset cover the full range of movement you have been using for your casual flying. Learning and practicing these will strengthen your knowledge and draw attention to weak areas where you need focus and improve. Image by Jim Harris Things To Consider: It is easy to get excited about all of the great things you are going to achieve. Your new teammates might all be present and correct for the boozy bar talk of world domination, but how much is everyone really committed to the idea? When it comes down to the early starts on cold mornings is everybody going to actually be there? Also, the way you interact is going to change. The kind of mistakes that make for fun stories over a weekend of jumping might well create tension and arguments when there is more on the line. Competing can bring many rewards and be a lot of fun but it is also hard work. By introducing a formal element into your skydiving you risk making it into just that - work. Examine why it is that you skydive and have the others do the same. What do you realistically hope to achieve from teaming up? What are the trade-offs exactly? You could see it as being more serious across the board in return for deeper rewards, or a motivating way to throw money at your passion and improve much faster than before. Team skydiving is worth the effort for many reasons, so if you are in a position to do so then don’t let any possible negative elements dissuade you - but examining potential hiccups and conflicts of interest early on can help everything to run smoothly from the beginning.
  25. nettenette

    You Know Nothing About Seatbelts - Part 2

    A Seatbelt’s Job Goes Beyond The Crash Think your seatbelt only helps you when the metal hits the dirt? Nope. The magic of seatbelts goes far beyond the prevention of injuries and fatalities during actual impacts. Seatbelts also help the plane fly better and move more safely during maneuvers, sometimes preventing that impact from even occurring. The first way seatbelts do this is by helping to moderate the weight and balance of the aircraft. Limiting the numbers of jumpers on board to the number of seatbelts limits the risk of overloading the plane, which we all know is a bad scene (slower acceleration, sloth-like climb, stall danger due to higher stall speed, and the like). It also keeps the wiggly weight of the passengers pinned in place, helping the pilot maintain control. Take an example. One day, a Cessna 205 aircraft ran out of fuel just after takeoff from Celina, Ohio. (Everyone on board--the pilot and five parachutists--perished in the incident, so witness reports and NTSB investigation reports are all we have to explain what happened.) DiverDriver.com explains that, of the witnesses that reported hearing the airplane during climbout, each “described smooth engine noise, brief ‘sputtering,’ and then a total loss of engine power. The airplane descended straight ahead at the same pitch attitude, then the nose dropped, a parachutist exited, and the airplane entered a spiraling descent.” That first jumper left from the student position--as the door was under the wing and not in the rear like the Cessna U206. His exit abruptly shifted the weight aft, rendering the aircraft uncontrollable. Two more jumpers attempted to exit. The all three jumpers who exited the aircraft were unable to deploy parachutes. Everyone left in the aircraft perished in the violent resulting crash. Another sacred duty of the seat belt: to help the pilot maintain precious, tenuous drabs of control during violent maneuvers in the lower end of the altitude spectrum. Belts hold skydivers in place during the top-gun shit that pilots have to pull sometimes in order to avoid mid-air-collisions, stopping meat from rattling around the cabin and coming down unbalanced. Note: As skydivers. we’re at pretty serious risk for these, because this kind of incident is statistically most likely to happen in the crowded, lackadaisically-controlled airspace around the small airports we tend to frequent. When two planes go head-to-head, pilots are taught to pull power and dive to the right--which slams un-belted jumpers right up into the ceiling. The landing is a mystery, but if too many of them land too far aft, the airplane will be unbalanced, stall and spin. Whee. Ugh. “Sure,” you say, “But that shit hardly ever happens.” Au contraire. In the next installment, we’ll take a look at the long list of recent incidents you haven’t even heard about--and meditate on the totally-coulda-been-you aspect of the thing.