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Found 572 results

  1. Administrator

    Cookie Releases G4 Helmet

    After years of research and design, the Cookie G4 helmet is now available for sale. The full-face helmet is certified to Skydiving and Wind Tunnel Helmet Standard XP S 72-600. To achieve this standard, helmets must pass impact and snag resistance testing. New features - Ventilation control: The user can now adjust airflow into the helmet using the chin bar actuator (two switches inside the helmet). - Additional head coverage: The G4 offers more coverage at the back of the head compared to the G3. This is especially appealing to dynamic tunnel flyers. - Quiet: The new design seals the visor to the helmet for a much quieter flying experience. - Easy maintenance: The closing mechanism is similar in operation to the G3 but designed to offer little or no maintenance for the life of the helmet. - Cool: Two rear ventilation ports allow hot air to leave the helmet and the liner is a breathable material, providing a cooler experience. Color and customization options The G4 is available for sale in the following matte colors: black, white, dark blue, red, charcoal, tactical green, royal blue, lime green, electric blue, orange, purple, yellow and pink. Several side plate color and engraving options are available. The G4 side plate has a slightly larger footprint, ideal for custom engraving. G4 visors are tested and certified for optical qualities. They have an anti-fog inside and anti-scratch outside and are available in clear, tinted, and blue-mirrored colors. Sizing The G4 is available in sizes x-small through xx-large. Sizing varies slightly from G3,so users should review the sizing chart or try one on before purchase. The G4 retails at $439 USD and is available for purchase at www.flycookie.com or from your favorite Cookie dealer.
  2. admin

    Side by Side - A Two Out Story

    April 1st is typically a day for trickery, but the only fool this year was me, and the only trickster was my main canopy! I decided to make a last-minute trip to Skydive Perris with friends to make a balloon jump, but when it was winded out, the generous CReW Dawgs at Elsinore came up with all the gear my friend and I would need to make some beginner CReW jumps. The first jump on borrowed gear went great, but as we packed up my coach informed me the gear I was borrowing was a pull-out, and briefed me on how to use it. We planned a four-stack and lucked out with a camera jumper. As we get out of the plane, I pulled weak and ended up with no canopy. I knew from previous coaching that it’s a bad idea to take a Lightning terminal, so I went straight to reserve. As the reserve came out, I was kicking myself that I wasn’t going to be able to participate in the CReW jump, and would have plenty of time to think about how I got into this mess as my teammates got to play. I decided to fly over and watch, and that’s when I noticed the pilot chute bouncing around on my back. “I should get rid of that,” I thought, and reached for my cutaway handle. I didn’t even have a grip on it before my main came out and settled gently next to my reserve. Next thing I know, the camera flyer is in front of me, pointing and laughing. “What do I do?” I screamed, and he just laughed harder. “Well,” I thought, “if he’s not freaking out, why should I?” So I didn’t freak out. Instead, I worked to get back to the dropzone. No easy task, as I’d soon find out. A west-blowing wind was sending me back over the Ortegas, and with twice the fabric over my head, I was struggling to get any forward movement at all. Unbeknownst to me, my coach flew under me, shouting at me to chop. I tried to force some separation between the two canopies to do just that, but I couldn’t trust myself to hold the reserve away from the main long enough to go for my cutaway handle. Because the two canopies were trimmed so similarly, they really wanted to fly together, although the particular configuration I was flying really wanted to fly south. Considering the town of Elsinore was south, I spent a whole lot of time and energy just keeping the pair flying straight. Image by David Sands (D29444) Imagine pulling straight out of the plane under a large canopy, unable to do much besides try to keep your canopies flying straight and think about the sequence of events that got you here. Imagine looking down and going through your tree-landing procedure, and then multiplying that by two. Imagine trying to figure out how you’re going to steer the two canopies onto one of the small access roads on the mountains. With 1,000 feet to spare, I made it to the field I was aiming for, just at the foot of the Ortegas. I tried the usual landing-out procedure, transposing my pattern onto the field, but my canopies kept wanting to steer to the right, into the small neighborhood next to the field. So instead I just aimed my canopies at a small patch of grass in the field, and hit it gently without flaring. My legs were shaking and I couldn’t stop laughing nervously. It took me three tries to daisy chain my lines, and one of the Elsinore staff members had come to pick me up before I even made it out of the field. My coach, feeling responsible for me, landed in the mountains and called Elsinore to let them know what had happened. It took some time, but they found him, having landed without incident. Once I got back to the dropzone, I cracked a beer and waited for the shaking in my legs to go away. Lessons Learned The main takeaway from this is to know your gear. I was briefed very thoroughly by my coach on how to use a pull-out system, and practiced multiple times on the plane. Yet when it came time to pull, I didn’t fully extend my arm, and ended up with a pilot chute in tow. To me that was always one of the scariest malfunctions there are, because there are two schools of thought on how to handle it. One is to go straight to reserve, as I did, and one is to cutaway and go to reserve. In hindsight, I stand by my choice, because cutting away could have fired my main directly into my reserve. The other scary thing about this particular malfunction was that it was a two-out that was flying stable. One school of thought is that you should cut away to avoid a downplane, and the other is that if you’re flying stable, you can pilot it to an open area, which is what I did. If I had downplaned, I could have cut away my main and flown my reserve down, but I wasn’t convinced I could keep the canopies apart long enough to get to my cutaway handle. The problem with this scenario is that, under different circumstances, a dust devil could have blown my canopies into a downplane close to the ground, and I might not have been able to chop my main at all. One last thing I would change is that I would have taken my cell phone. If I had gotten hurt in the mountains without any way to access emergency care, things could have been a lot worse. I’ve since invested in a small prepaid phone to keep in my jumpsuit pocket. In the end, I stand by my choices, and acknowledge that there was a lot of luck that kept me from disaster that day. I regret that my coach got stuck in the mountains, but I’m grateful that he was willing to look out for me. I faced the two malfunctions I feared the most on one jump and managed to walk away with a swollen ankle and a wounded sense of pride. Will I still do CReW? Every chance I get! And I’d trust the riggers, CReW Dawgs, staff, and other jumpers at Elsinore any day.
  3. admin

    The Legend of Roger Nelson

    Roger Nelson: If you're a skydiver, chances are you've heard the name. If you're not a skydiver, chances are you've watched one of the few movies that were inspired by this man. While the tales of Roger's life have been passed around to keen ears, mostly between jumpers, as a kind of folk lore, the words that have been spoken have often been words bound in mystery. The lines between truth and exaggeration, as with most stories passed through word of mouth, can get a little blurry at times. However there is no doubting the colorful nature of Roger Warren Nelson's life. Skydiving Career Roger began skydiving in 1971 at a dropzone in Hinckley, Illinois. He was always a bit of a rebel and never quite fitted in with the then aesthetic standard that prevailed within the skydiving community at that time. In the beginning of the 70s recreational skydiving was still in its early days, with many of the then participants coming from military backgrounds, and both Roger and his brother Carl stood out from the crowd. It's said that the term 'Freak Brothers' which was given to both Roger and Carl stemmed from their less than ordinary presence at the dropzone. As skydivers, Roger and Carl were pioneers. They both laid the groundwork for what is known today as Freeflying. At the time, skydives were done belly down, in a standard practice, but the 'Freak Brothers' threw a spanner in the works when they started what was then known as 'freak flying'. Freak flying was the Nelson brother's own unconventional freefall style, which was described by Roger in 1978 as any body position that saw the flyer's stomach facing up and their back down, towards earth. So while Olav Zipser is recognized as the father of freeflying, the 'Freak Brothers' were already laying the groundwork for unconventional freefall positions years before. In the mid 1970s the brothers started a "zine" called the Freak Brother Flyer, which ran from 1973 until 1976. Freak Brothers became more than just a term for him and his brother Carl, after a while Freak Brothers became an organization and a community with thousands of followers around the world. The Freak Brothers Convention was later organized with the help of Jeanie (Roger's wife) and Carl. These boogies were some of the largest around at the time and drew in over 600 passionate skydivers. In 1979 the Freak Brothers suffered the loss of Carl, who died in a skydiving accident. From 1986 to 1989, Roger ran the Illinois dropzone "Skydive Sandwich". Later in 1993, he went on to found Skydive Chicago, which is now recognized as one of the world's leading dropzones. Roger spent much of the 80s partaking in world records, while spending much of the 90s organizing them. Between the years 1999 and 2002, he won 2 silver and 2 gold medals as Captain of the Skydive Chicago STL 10, in the 10-way speed event. The Other Side of Roger Nelson What separates Roger's story from the average accomplished skydiver's, is the other side of his life. While Roger was a well loved individual with much support, particularly in the skydiving community, during the 1980s, he was dealing in some rather shady operations, to put it lightly. Roger used aircrafts to smuggle drugs into the United States, while also working as an informant for the US government. After he was arrested in 1986 on charges that included racketeering, conspiracy to distribute drugs and currency violations, his life would become a enveloped in court dates and uncertainty. He pleaded guilty and in 1987 was sentenced to 10 years behind bars, but was released after serving half of his prison sentence. After his arrest, Roger called out the DEA on not acting to tips he had provided them, that would have helped capture Carlos Lehder, who at the time was considered one of the largest cartel leaders in the world. Despite the information Roger provided to the DEA with regards to being an informant, the DEA would later shrug it off, saying that Roger had not played any significant role in slowing down the influx of drugs into the United States. In 2003 Roger was killed in a canopy collision incident. There was more to Roger than just criminal controversy and skydiving, he was also a family man. His eldest of two children, Melissa recalls in a recent piece of writing, how her and her father wouldn't always see eye to eye, but in his death, has come to realize the leadership he instilled in her. She continued to say how her father had taught her to stand on her own feet, and create her own legacy as opposed to living in her family's. Sugar Alpha This is all but just a fraction of Roger's life and the reality is that it's hard to summarize such an eventful life. Roger and Melissa have authored the newly released book entitled "Sugar Alpha: The Life and Times of Senor Huevos Grandes". A description of the book offers some insight in what to expect: "Skydiving and drug smuggling pioneer Roger Nelson lives life out of the box. Fueled by a love for adrenaline and adventure, Roger goes after everything he wants with gusto. But now Roger is ready to retire from smuggling. With a parachute center to run and a family to raise, Roger knows it is time to stop the cat-and-mouse games he has been playing with the authorities for years. He and his longtime partner, Hanoi, plan one final run to Belize, where they intend to fill their Douglas DC-3 with enough cannabis to set them up for life. But then Hanoi dies in a plane crash in an attempt to make some "legitimate bucks" flying fish in Alaska while they wait for the growing season to end. Left without a partner or plane, Roger remains determined to return to his family for good. To do so, he decides to stay true to himself and follow through with his retirement run. Roger must rely on a colorful cast of characters and the most unlikely airplane for a gig ever-Sugar Alpha, the legendary DC-3 with the secret fuel tanks and not-so-secret paint job-to help him complete the most daring run in the history of smuggling." With extremely positive early reviews, this book is a must for any skydiver, though you definitely don't have to be one to enjoy it. Get your copy from Amazon.com
  4. Unfortunately, we weren't able to attend the recent 2019 PIA Symposium which took place in Dallas, TX from the 4th until the 8th of February. However, our friends over at Skydive TV did an amazing job at the event, creating a number of videos from the various stalls. We've put together some of these videos in a quick collection, allowing you to recap what was going down at the PIA Symposium if you were like us and unable to be there, or whether you're just interested in hearing what some of the vendors and stall managers had to say. PIA Symposium 2019 | EPISODE 1 from Skydive TV® on Vimeo. Sigma & Burble The video kicks off with an advert for the direction that Sigma has gone with their new partnership with Burble. An interview with Dylan Avatar from Sigma then commences to discuss the way in which the two companies have eased the pains of manifests when working with the software. The software focuses on syncing data between the jumper's Sigma profile with that of the manifest. By doing this, the dropzone is able to receive the necessary certifications from the jumper without the exercise of excessive forms or card management. The software is set for release in the Spring, with additional development work still in progress. Franz Gerschwiler from Burble then discusses how the system works, the desire for a March release date and gives a short demo of how data that is contained on the app, as well as the success that Burble has seen in recent years being adopted by more than 100 dropzones. NZ Aerosports Next, Skydive TV talks with Attila Csizmadia from New Zealand Aerosports who initially discusses the loss of company founder Paul ‘Jyro’ Martyn, who passed away in 2017, and how his visions shaped the company. With a memorial to Jyro, placed at the stall in his honor. Attila confirms that there won't be any new NZ products unveiled at PIA, however the company has recently launched the JFX II, which is discussed in its advances to the original JFX. The discussion then shifts to a new wingsuit canopy that the company have in the works and is currently undergoing testing, though no specific release date is mentioned. The interview moves to Julien Peelman, who discusses the future of the company and what's on the horizon for NZ Aerosports. He mentions the "Anna" which is a high performance canopy that fits between the JFX II and the Leia. Peelman then goes on to discuss the move from 2D to 3D software for the company and the advances in the development software being used. Sun Path Products At the Sun Path booth, Rob Kendall talks passionately about the company's new Javelin Odyssey design, which draws heavily from feedback received by customers of the old Odyssey. He talks about several new features on the container, from the adjustments to the side panel to enhanced safety aspects, though states that the design is still a prototype and will be further tested before launch. Doug Baron then takes over to discuss the adjustments made to the back piece of the container, a feature which will offer enhance ergonomics to the user, as well as briefly discussing the new single lateral padding. Revl Revl provide a product of interest mostly to dropzones, as they offer an intelligent hardware and software solution to video capture, editing and publishing. Eric Sanchez talks to Skydive TV about how their product will capture each jump in high quality video, then use AI technology to process the video and edit it in such a way that it removes the need for video editors. Their product will then automatically upload the edited video to the cloud in, and in a matter of minutes one is able have the video automatically edited and uploaded to the cloud for each client. They use a QR code system to tie each video to the client. Not only does this product edit automatically, but it also goes through the process of charging the battery and erasing the previous data after cloud syncing, by itself. It also has the ability to merge multiple videos together during the editing process, so outside and inside videos will be merged into a single final edit. Definitely an interesting product, and we'll be watching to see whether this does get picked up at dropzones. Elite Rigging Academy Derek Thomas, with more than 50 years of rigging experience, discusses a bit of his back story and how Elite Rigging Academy came about. He explains his desire to create a rigging course that isn't just a week long experience, but rather a comprehensive 3-week course
  5. nettenette

    Why We Boogie

    The History of a Silly Name Image by Andrey Veselov It’s hard to imagine that, not too long ago, a skydiving get-together was a rare thing indeed. Today, as you’ve no doubt noticed, there are hundreds of ‘em. In fact, almost every drop zone, no matter how small, has at least one official yearly boogie to celebrate its local jumpers. Namibia! Fiji! A tiny little beach town in Kenya*! A big field in Montana! Where two or three are gathered in its name, behold: you’ve got a boogie on your hands. Some of these events are immense, filling the skies with dozens of wildly various aircraft, hundreds of skydivers and a whirling (terrifying?) smorgasbord of disciplines. Others are comparably tiny. Despite their differences, most boogies are a reliably good time. It stands to reason that a group of skydivers would find any excuse to come together in a frenzied combination of daytime skydiving and nighttime frivolity–but when did the first one take place, and how did it come by such a goofy name? Read on. The Birth of a Boogie The modern skydiving boogie may owe its existence to a film: specifically, the first major skydiving film released to the public, called Gypsy Moths. Shortly after the film’s much-lauded debut, one of the skydivers featured in the film – a prominent skydiving athlete named Garth “Tag” Taggart – was asked to put together a “just-for-fun” skydiving event in his hometown of Richmond, Indiana. Until then, skydivers only really, officially gathered for USPA-officiated competitions at regional and national meets. In September of 1972, Garth arranged that seminal event, which is recorded in Pat Work's fascinating record of early skydiving (entitled "United We Fall"). Where Did the Term “Boogie” Come From? The term “boogie” derived from a comic motif developed by fringe cartoonist R. Crumb.** The motif features a “boogie man” striding confidently across an abstract landscape with the phrase “Keep On Truckin’” emblazoned above. The word “boogie” doesn’t appear anywhere within the motif, but the story goes that Garth Taggart was inspired by the image. He was also probably influenced by use of the word in New Zealand skydiving circles, as well as by its use as a then-trendy name for an, ahem, wild party. In any case, Taggart picked that moniker to describe the Richmond RW Festival on its event t-shirts, and the term stuck. Firmly. These get-togethers have sometimes been referred to as “jumpmeets”--in the olden days, when the organizers didn’t want to saddle the event with the term’s then-obvious, hard-partying implications--but “boogie” is how we’ve really come to know the phenomenon. Hilariously enough, those historic shirts didn’t actually use the word “boogie.” Due to an unfortunate misspelling on the hastily-printed giveaways, they described the event as a “boggie.” Snicker snicker. The First Boogie Kicks Off However confused the naming, that original event brought together more than a hundred skydivers from all over the US to practice the then-relatively-new RW discipline. The Richmond City Boys’ Club hosted the event, making significant revenue by charging non-skydivers an admission fee. That first boogie (or “boggie,” if we’re being historically accurate) saw some formations that were, for the time, pretty damn groundbreaking. In "United We Fall," Pat Work notes that the athletes “made several big stars out of a Twin Beech and a DC-3.” Work goes on to remember that “[a]ll the self-styled, super-hero RW types made three tries at a 30-man, and succeeded in FUBAR-ing all three in front of the lens of Carl Boenish.” The botched jump didn’t cripple the event, however. “Everyone else just giggled and went up and made 18-mans […] with no problems[.]” That night, the skydivers and some lucky spectators enjoyed a raucous bonfire, dancing and screenings of some of the most seminal skydiving videos on record. The Boogie Evolves In the years immediately following that first boogie, the quickly growing sport of skydiving started to earn a bad-boy reputation amongst the general public (who didn’t much care about it previously, when the sport was tiny and firmly on the fringes). For several years, the city of Richmond out-and-out banned skydiving for fear of its freakshow excesses.*** By the time the 1970s were drawing to a close, however, that original boogie had become very official. It turned into the USPA Nationals--whaddaya know. Boogies Today The phenomenon of the boogie holds to the much same spirit as Garth “Tag” Taggart’s founding principle: fun. These days, however, they’re also used as a venue for major skydiving competitions, world records, vendor demonstrations, charity efforts and loci for training. Across the board, these events retain one important historical value: the nominal “boogie” itself. We come for the party, right? *Which I just finished attending. **If you aren’t aware of R Crumb, treat yourself to a Google image search. You’re welcome. ***Apparently, it was proving too logistically difficult to lock up their daughters--and sons, for that matter.
  6. BrianSGermain

    Chopping Is Just The Beginning

    A reserve ride is an exciting adventure no matter how many jumps you have under your belt. Preparatory training is obviously the best way to ensure that you walk away unscathed, but it is my experience that the simulations we create are not as realistic as they could be. In many cases, many of us will argue, they are not as good as they need to be. The purpose of this article is to suggest possible improvements to the state of the art in emergency procedure training. If we envision beyond what we have done in the past, improvement is assured, and the safe conclusion of parachute malfunctions will increase in frequency. If we can simulate cutaway jumps more realistically, skydivers will be calmer in emergency situations, and more skillful. Elaborate simulation, in my experience, will also result in greater awareness and recall, more efficient actions, and less emotional trauma once the event is over. The first issue to be addressed by our sport as a whole is our simulation equipment. Although a vest with handles may be very helpful for establishing the general flow of handle-pulling, it is a far cry from what the event will actually feel like. Many jumpers have reported, upon landing from their first cutaway, that things did not feel or look remotely the way they expected. Handles were not where the jumper expected them to be, pull forces were not what they anticipated, nor was the feeling of the experience similar to the training process that was supposed to prepare them for this event. It is my experience, however, that when we take thoughtful steps to improve our training methods and equipment, the gap between expectation and reality can be closed significantly. The most important piece of equipment in any simulation is the mind. Creating a clear visualization of the scenario is essential, no matter how silly it may look to bystanders. The job of the Instructor in these situations is to provide insightful clarification, ideally based on their own experience. Set the emotional stage for the student in every possible way, describing the details as clearly as possible, leaving nothing out. Allow yourself to get wrapped up in the excitement that is inevitable in such experiences. This will not only make the simulation feel more real, it will help illuminate the natural mental reaction of the student to intense stress. If over-reaction or under-reaction is apparent, further training is necessary. If the student failed to perform, the instructor simply has more work to do. It continues to be my strong opinion that a suspended harness is absolutely essential for the best possible training. Given the vast amount of money we now spend on aircraft and student gear, skimping on this key element of teaching equipment is shortsighted, and most often a product of laziness and compromise. If building a hanging harness cost thousands of dollars, the financial argument might hold more merit, but this is most decidedly not the case. There are many possible methods that cost very little, and can be created in just an hour or two. I know, I build a new hanging harness at almost every dropzone I travel to in the process of running my canopy skills and safety courses. I do this because I want to offer my course participants the best possible training, and because an alarming percentage of skydiving schools have done away with this vital piece of training equipment. This needs to change if we are to improve the safety of our sport. Let's start with the actual harness. When I find suspended harnesses in use, most often the actual rig is an uncomfortable, dilapidated old rig from the early 1980's, hung from the ceiling by attachment points that are way too close together to simulate a realistic experience. In the best cases, there is a three-ring setup that allows the jumper to cut away and drop a few inches. This is a great training aid, but what if the rig was a more modern adjustable harness that could accurately reflect the fit and handle placement of the rig they will actually be jumping? For that matter, what if we hung them in the rig they were actually going to jump? What if the suspension apparatus was long enough to practice kicking out of line-twists? What if the toggles simulated the resistance of an actual parachute using bungees or weights? What if you pulled on straps attached to the bottom of the harness each time they flared, to simulate the pitch change? What if, as crazy as it sounds, you went to the local hardware store and picked up a high-powered carpet blower, a.k.a. “snail fan”, and angled it up at the harness to reflect the feeling of the relative wind? This is the kind of outside-the-box thinking that creates better simulations, and better training. Further, this is how we prepare our students for an actual malfunction and reduce the risk of pilot error. For experienced jumpers, I highly recommend hanging up in your own rig. This will clarify handle placement under load, allow you to explore strap tightness possibilities, and give you the opportunity to experience actual pull forces when your repack cycle is up. If you do not have stainless steel hardware on your rings, please use fabric connection points rather than the carabiner attachment displayed in these photos. Another key element of malfunction simulation is to follow through with the complete jump, rather than stopping after the handles are pulled. In reality, the adequate performance of emergency procedures is just the first in a long list of steps that lead to a safe landing. For instance, what if the cutaway harness had Velcro reserve toggles that needed to be first peeled upward and then pulled downward? Many people, myself included, have tried simply pulling the reserve toggles downward to find that they would not release. Missing details like this can lead to a student feeling more angst than is necessary, and can result in further stress-induced mistakes with major consequences. Additionally, proper exploration of the reserve canopy is important for a good flight pattern, accuracy and landing flare following a malfunction. How much slack is in the brake lines? Where is the stall point? What is the flare response on this brand new canopy? A good cutaway followed by a broken ankle on landing is still a bad day. Simulate the whole jump, and there will be fewer surprises. The final issue I want to cover on the topic of better emergency procedures training is the inclusion of deliberate adrenaline management efforts following the deployment of the reserve canopy. Carrying the emotional momentum of a malfunction all the way to the ground definitely increases the chances of a lousy landing. High levels of stress takes time to sluff-off, but a skilled operator also knows how and when to slow down. Once you have pulled all the handles you need to pull, taking three long, slow, deep breaths while gazing at the horizon with a smile of relief on your face can change your mood, and your fate. Get your composure back, and your optimism will follow. From there, skill is just a short step away. This process can and should be included in every emergency procedure simulation to create a habit that is likely to be carried out in the sky. Following such quiescent procedures allows the mind to more easily let go of the recent past and focus on the present moment and the near future: 1) Check altitude and location 2) Find a safe landing area 3) Explore the reserve 4) Fly a good pattern 5) Flare beautifully 6) Walk away with a smile on your face 7) Thank your rigger A malfunction does not need to be viewed as an emergency, especially if you are truly prepared; it is just a change of plans. A complete simulation can be the difference between a horrifying emergency and a well-executed contingency plan. If we handle it well, a main parachute malfunction can actually be fun. I have found few experiences more rewarding than a complicated situation that I figured out on the fly, and despite my fear, I kept my head and did the right thing. In short, a parachute malfunction is an opportunity to prove to yourself and the world that you can handle yourself in a crisis, and with realistic training, your success can be an inevitable conclusion. About the Author: Brian Germain is a parachute designer, author, teacher, radio personality, keynote speaker with over 15,000 jumps, and has been an active skydiver for 30 years. He is the creator of the famed instructional video "No Sweat: Parachute Packing Made Easy", as well as the critically acclaimed book The Parachute and its Pilot. You can get more of Brian’s teaching at Adventure Wisdom, Big Air Sportz, Transcending Fear, and on his vast YouTube Channel
  7. Image by Joel Strickland Does exit order seem like some kind of obscure semi-religious ritual? Do you go through the motions without really understanding the moving parts? If so, yikes--but you’re certainly not alone. Luckily, understanding the logic behind the order is a pretty straightforward affair, and the entire sky will be better off if you wrap your head around it. Ready? Okay. Commit this to memory. 1. In the name of science, get the $#&$ out. It may seem like hollow tradition to hustle out the door on exit, but it’s not. As a matter of fact, there are serious calculations behind the art of exiting the plane efficiently. On a calm day, an aircraft on jump run covers around 175 feet per second of flight (that equates to a mile every 30 seconds or so). Translated into stopwatch terms, that means that--on that same calm day--no more than 60 seconds can pass from the moment the first jumpers leave the airplane to the moment the last jumper exits. For practical purposes, taking into consideration how much ground the average square canopy can cover, every jumper in the plane has to be out during a two-mile jump run. If they don’t, some are bound to land out (or a chilly second pass is going to be served up to the sulky remainder). 2. Don’t mess up the pilot’s math. If your group is about to be the first big handful of meatballs out of the plane but you suddenly split up into smaller groups, you’re messing with the pilot’s chi. After all, the jump pilot has more to calculate when he/she turns on that little green light than you might realize. He/she has to calculate about how much time each group will take to exit, and make sure the green light goes on at the correct distance from the DZ to accommodate the aforementioned 60-second countdown. As a rule, the group that will have the slowest climb-out should leave first. Big group? Light goes on farther out from the DZ to allow for a slower climb-out. Little group? The light goes on closer to the DZ. How can you help? Jump the plan you give manifest, and the pilot can give everybody a good spot. 3. Jealously guard your real estate. If you’re a Big Sky Theory kinda jumper who assumes vertical separation is going to save you from a meat-traffic collision, you are not working from scientific facts. Horizontal separation is the only separation that really counts up there, so make sure your group has a chunky slot of sky all to yourselves. Never place big bets (like: your continued existence) on your fellow skydivers pulling at the altitude they swear by. A tiny brainfart (or a big malfunction) will eat up that vertical separation before you can say “what happened to pulling at 3,500, toolbox?!.” 4. Horizon-pointing belly buttons go behind downward-pointing belly buttons. When freefly folks get out first, they tend to become part of an undelicious freefall sandwich. Here’s why: On a typical skydive, a pair of freefliers will clock a 45-second freefall and open at around 3,000 AGL. Let’s say that pair is followed by a belly group with a 10-second climb-out. This is going to sound like a math word problem, but bear with me: If one of those freefliers has a canopy with a 30MPH forward speed (which will move forward at around 45 feet per second, assuming little-to-no wind), opens 30 seconds before the belly group and turns right back toward the DZ, the variables are stacking up for a collision. Those 30 seconds of flight will drive the freeflier forward by about 1,300 horizontal feet--a measly 400 feet from the middle of the belly folks, which a solid six-second track can cover. If you add wind to the equation and the RW group gets blown even further into the path of the freefly pair, the likelihood of a meetup gets even uglier. When freefly groups get out after belly groups, the picture gets a lot healthier. The fast fallers get their horizontal separation, predicated on their shorter climb-out and faster descent rate. Wind becomes a positive safety factor instead of a negative one; slower fallers simply blow farther away. 5. With longer flights comes greater responsibility. Tracking groups, high pulls and wingsuits get to snuggle with the pilot (and/or the tandem pairs) in the way back of the plane. Why? First off, they’re mobile: if they’re doing it right, they’ll use all that horizontal power to get the hell away from jump run--and get back from a longer spot. If they’re not doing it right, however, they’re fully within their capability to truck through everybody’s personal piece of sky on the way down. The moral of the story: longer freefall (or, in the high-pull case, general airtime) requires greater awareness and responsibility on the part of the nylon pilot. 6. Don’t be the heat-seeking meat missile. That’s the bottom line, really. Everybody in the sky is counting on you. (Me, for instance.)
  8. Regina from CYPRES shares information about the CYPRES unit, 'WSC' designed for the wingsuit community. Images by Randy Connell If you’ve never attended the Parachute Industry Association Symposium, you may not know what to expect. Maybe, you aren’t even sure what PIA is or why you even need to make the trip. If you’re afraid of sitting in stuffy rooms with an atmosphere as uncomfortable as a timeshare tourist trap, you can relax. PIA is nothing like that. The PIA Symposium is a time when the different branches of our particular segment of aviation all come together under one roof. Rather than draw things out, let’s get to it. Here are 5 things you didn’t know about the PIA Symposium. Just How Big the Skydiving Circle Is When you arrive at the PIA Symposium, get ready for a warm welcome: there is an entire booth set up to greet you. Get your swag bag, name tag, and seminar schedule, and be ready for a great time. Like a drop zone on a sunny steady summer Saturday, the air is nearly buzzing with energy. In one space, jumpers current and retired, drop zone owners and managers, and military personnel and skydiving teams are all gathered together. You’ll see people from around the world. We know our circle is a somewhat isolated one, but boy, it sure doesn’t seem like it at the PIA Symposium. It’s also not just jumpers and drop zone owners from the United States that are present. You’ll walk past groups speaking languages from around the globe: military teams from Poland chatting, fun jumpers from South Africa mingling by the complimentary refreshments. Nearly every continent and country is represented. Exponential Business Connections At the PIA Symposium, you have the chance to establish meaningful industry contacts. Top gear manufacturers both military and civilian, set up impressive interactive displays and booths to give PIA Symposium attendees the chance to see the most cutting-edge innovations in the skydiving industry. Whether you are looking for training equipment or student gear, you will find what you need here. The EXPO Hall isn’t just for managers and drop zone owners either, there is gear on display that is perfect for weekend warrior skydivers too. 85 Year Old British Skydiver, Dilys Price was the Keynote Speaker at the 2017 PIA Symposium. Ways to Improve your home Drop Zone They say a ‘smarter skydiver is a safer skydiver.’ Well, the PIA Symposium is the perfect place to learn. The PIA Symposium facilitates knowledge sharing through seminars which are teeming with information. During the symposium, you have daily opportunities to sit in on seminars dealing with rigging, skydiving, management, government and skydiving interaction, and BASE. If you want to run a better, safer drop zone, attending PIA is a great first step. However, fostering safe drop zones isn’t just a job for managers and drop zone owners: the community as a whole is responsible. Whether sport jumper, manager, or drop zone owner, when you leave PIA, you leave armed with a noggin full of knowledge to take back home to your drop zone and improve everyone’s experience. Everyone Feels Like a Potential Friend You wouldn’t assume that you would leave any sort of symposium with some lifelong friends, would you? Well, you might just leave PIA with a few more telephone numbers programmed in your cell and a long list of drop zones to visit. No matter the level, ethnicity, or country of origin, it seems skydivers click. The PIA Symposium is basically a melting pot of like-minded people all connected by a love of skydiving and a passion for the sport and industry. Sandy Reid of Rigging Innovations stands with his team. At the 2019 Symposium, RI introduces their new Mojo MARD. Opportunities to Explore New Places You don’t have to sit in seminars from sun up until sun down. Throughout the day, there are plenty of breaks and opportunities to explore. The PIA Symposium each year is held in charming cities with their own little secret niches and neat places to tour. This year is no different. The 2019 PIA symposium will be held in Dallas, Texas. So, grab a group of your new friends and do some sightseeing. They say everything is bigger in Texas, and we bet this PIA symposium will be one of the best yet!
  9. StarLog Skydiving & Rigging Logbooks Price: $12 Brand new line of Skydiver and Rigger Logbooks. All spiral bound for easy logging and fit inside all standard size logbook covers. StarLog Skydiver holds 304 jumps StarLog Pro holds 1456 jumps StarLog Rigger holds 684 logs Available at ChutingStar Power Tools Price: $19.95 Want a great stocking stuffer with a low price? Give your loved one a Power Tool packing tool in holiday colors! Available at Para-Gear Hanging Handcrafted Wood Swooper Dude Price: $20 Made of mahogany, coconut and jute, the details on this handcrafted swooper includes a canopy, lines, rig on the back, hair, determined swoop face and skirt. Available at ChutingStar Rig Hangers Price: $42 With these colorful hangers you can hang your skydiving rig wherever you want. Whether it's on a rack at the dropzone hangar, on the back of a door, in your closet or anywhere else you can think of. These powder coated hangers make it easy to spot your skydiving rig, as well as give it a nice accent. Available at Para-Gear The Summer I Became A Skydiver, Children's Book Price: $25 Skydiver Ben Lowe wrote this children's book that tell's the story of a boy's introduction into a summer of skydiving. This 29-page hardcover book is a great short story that also helps explain skydiving to youngsters. Available at ChutingStar Glow Face Alt III Galaxy - $169 Meters and Black Only. The phosphorescent face provides a background glow to assist in low light conditions. The glow lasts over 2 hours in complete darkness, and is perfect for either night jumps or those sunset loads when it starts to get dark. The Glow Face Altimaster III Galaxy features a field replaceable lens. In case your lens gets scratched or cracked you will now be able to replace it yourself instead of having to send it to get serviced. Available at Para-Gear Selections Skydiving Photo Book by Michael McGowan Price: $43 This giant, hardcover photo book from McGowan is the perfect coffee table book of some of the most amazing shots in skydiving. Packed with more than 100 large, full-page photographs. Includes forward by Michael McGowan as well as liner notes from Angie McGowan and Tom Sanders. Available at ChutingStar Para-Gear Parachute Gear Bag Price: $85 Durable fabric and heavy duty zippers make this bag ideal for storing and carrying all the gear needed for skydiving. ID sleeve for personal information Dual zippered main compartment with zip protector Back pocket with additional inner zippered-pocket for storing accessories and documents up to size A4 Rubber handle on top and side Heavy duty metal buckles and comfortable-shoulder straps Durable, easy to clean, splash proof material. Available at Para-Gear
  10. admin

    Longest Indoor Freefall Record Set

    New video captures two freefall enthusiasts from Siberia break world record by 'skydiving' indoors for more than 8.5 hours. The longest indoor freefall Guinness World Record has been jointly achieved by two Russian adventurers, Viktor Kozlov and Sergey Dmitriyev, in the city of Perm on Tuesday, 10 July 2018. The record took place at the innovative FreeFly Technology wind tunnel. The skydivers flew uninterrupted for 8 hours, 33 minutes and 43 seconds to beat the record of indoor freefall set before. The result was made official by a representative of the Guinness World Records Association. Each minute of indoor body-flying is the equivalent of one skydive, and the whole 513 minutes is the same as falling 1280 miles continuously or the distance from New York to Cuba. This unprecedented record has been captured in a short video produced by the FreeFLy Technology team. About Freefly Technology FreeFly Technology is an international technological company producing innovative wind tunnels for recreational and entertainment purposes. It comprises more than 30 people responsible for design, production and sales of wind tunnels. Comprehensive understanding of aerodynamics and needs of the target customers make FreeFly Technology uniquely capable of designing and manufacturing cost-effective wind tunnels, which outperform the analogues available on the market. About The Wind Tunnel FreeFly Technology wind tunnel is built on a technology allowing the air to move upwards at approximately 270 km/h (167 mph or 75 m/s), the terminal velocity of a falling human body bellydownwards. It can provide the wind speeds and the feel of real skydiving. Such kind of vertical wind tunnels are frequently called “indoor skydiving” tunnels due to their popularity among skydivers, who report that the sensation is extremely similar to skydiving. WEBSITE - www.freeflytechnology.net/ FACEBOOK - www.facebook.com/freefly.technology INSTAGRAM - www.instagram.com/freefly_technology/
  11. “Misty” Kim Kanat Talks About the Team Guess what? There’s been an all-female demo team kicking ass and taking names since the 1980s. Maybe you’re as surprised to learn about them as I was--or maybe you’re squinting at your screen and wondering what rock I’ve been hiding under--but y’know what? I think we can both agree that that’s pretty damn great. The basics are pretty straightforward: The team of 13 women calls Skydive Tecumseh home, jumps hot-pink-and-navy kit and specializes in jumping big honkin’ flags. The details are the cool part: Each one of “the Mistys” can do anything the demo requires, from packing the flags to setting up the smoke--and each is a highly successful professional with a full-time career outside of skydiving. When I visited Skydive Tecumseh to check off Michigan for Down for 50, I jumped at the chance to corner Misty member Kim Kanat and pick her brain about the team. During the week, Kim is a mild-mannered (and high-powered) Facility Manager for a real estate company; but, when the call comes, she slips into her pink-and-navy supersuit and smiles for the adoring crowd. Kim’s been at it for four years now, and she shows no signs of slowing. Annette: Tell me about your person intro to the sport. How’d you became a skydiver in the first place? Kim: It’s a love story, really. My husband and I were on vacation in Hawaii in 2001 and ended up doing a tandem. It was a life-changing moment for both of us. About a year later, for our 10th wedding anniversary, we took the first jump course. The rest is history. We’ve been jumping ever since. Fifteen years later, here we are. A: How’d you get a slot on the Mistys? K: I’ve known the current owner of the Misty Blues, Amanda Scheffler, for my whole skydiving career, and known about the team since I started jumping -- Amanda bought [the team] about five years ago from Cindy Irish. We were at the dropzone one day and she asked me if I would be interested in doing some demo jumps. I said yes. The next thing I knew, I was jumping at an air show in Maine, so close to the Canadian border that our phones were roaming. It took two flights to get to Maine, plus some driving because there isn’t a commercial flight that goes that far up. It was a very, very small show; we just had a 182. I still remember the scariness of that jump. I started on static line; not AFF. So that first demo with the team was a very visceral reminder of being a static line student. I ended up having a minor malfunction with my banner on that jump; luckily, it cleared itself, but it still gives me butterflies to think about it now. Honestly, every time I do a demo, it feels just like that first time, because in skydiving anything can go wrong. You just hope that it doesn’t. There’s extra pressure on a demo with the team because the clients are paying for that jump; paying for you to be there as a performer. Sometimes there are issues with the plane; sometimes it’s too windy, or the weather isn’t great, which puts a damper on our part of the show. When everything is conducive to letting us do what we are there to do and it works, it’s magical. A: You haven’t slowed down in four whole years. What was it about that jump that hooked you? K: Well, the Misty Blues are very crowd-oriented, and that gets me going. It’s so much fun to be a crowd-pleaser with a message. Before and after our jumps, we walk amongst the crowd, pass out stickers and take photos with all these excited kids. We interact a lot. I think that sets us apart a little bit from some of the other demo teams that are out there, and it never fails to inspire me, because we spend a lot of that “crowd time” working the message of empowering women and girls to let them know they can do pretty much anything they set their minds to. We’re all working women, and a few of the Mistys have kids, too, so we’re walking the walk. A: What are your signature moves? K: When we’re booked for a show, we’re almost always the opener. We open up the show with a very large American flag. The jumper with the flag usually carries a microphone and has a little conversation with the MC of the airshow as they’re descending, which is a reliable crowd-pleaser. When we’re jumping in an airshow context, we’ll often have some of the stunt pilots circle us with smoke while we are jumping in with the flag. We have another signature flag with an enormous smiley face. I love that one. A: Do you have a favorite of the jumps you have done so far with the Mistys? K: Just last year we had a local businessman book us for a private party. He’s a construction owner that is local, and he throws this huge annual theme party. He got our name and asked us if we could do a demo into it. The theme that year was “America,” and it had a mechanical bull; volleyball courts; a fireworks show at the end. The setup was unbelievable. It was a tight landing area, but everything worked out. Best of all, we got to attend the party after we landed. The guests just thought it was fantastic--so much so that he asked us to come back and do it again this year. A: Do you feel like you face additional pressure because you’re an all-female team? K: Personally, I would have to say yes. I know there are a lot of other demo teams out there that do more than we do, and some of those guys have more experience than we do, so I do personally feel obligated to put on a better show. I don’t know if that’s necessarily because we are women, but being a woman, I like to be able to nail it. On the other hand, some people want to coddle you more when you’re a female jumper, and I just want to be treated like everybody else. The landscape for women in skydiving is changing, though, and it’s changing fast. A lot of the AFF classes at Skydive Tecumseh have a good number of women in them. Case in point: There are two female Tis at our dropzone. I think that’s awesome. It doesn’t happen everywhere, yet, but I am certain that it will. A: The Misty Blues have been around for more than 30 years. What’s the secret to that longevity? K: Inclusion. Some people have better skill sets at certain things, but we strive to include everyone in a meaningful way. Over the years, we’ve discovered that inclusion can bring shy and hesitant people out of their shell and end up in them becoming an integral part of the team. The owner of our team, Amanda Scheffler, is fantastic. She is willing to show anybody anything, anytime. She does it all. And she’s a great example of inclusion. I don’t know if I would have [joined the team] had they not approached me. I would have never asked. I’ve learned from Amanda that you never know what including someone will open up for them. A lot of times those people in the shadows are the ones who are jumping conservatively, thoughtfully and procedurally and have a tendency to look and observe before they act, which is the kind of person you want on a team. I think having other women to show you the ropes helps, too. We have a couple of guys who help us out as ground crew, but we really do it all. For example: If we’re doing smoke and all that stuff, we try to get in there and make sure all the people are informed and all the girls know how to do it. We can all pack the banners, rigs, and flags. Getting everyone’s hands on all of the skill sets is really what makes our team. Everybody can jump in and fill in for each other. A: What’s your personal skydiving philosophy? K: Feel the fear and do it anyway. That’s what I’ve always said about skydiving. Even to this day, I still get butterflies on a demo. In skydiving and in life, I really live by that--to feel the fear and do it anyway--because you never know what will come out of it. Sometimes it is good. Sometimes it is bad. Always, it is a learning process. “Doing it anyway” can only ever propel you forward. ---- For more info on the Misty Blues, visit the team website at mistyblues.net.
  12. nettenette

    The Secret of Banana Hammock

    A Few Nuggets of Golden Advice from a Winning Self-Funded Skydiving Team It starts like a bad joke: a Californian (Kenny Beach), an Italian (Alessandro “Alex” Struppa) and a Frenchman (Lawrence De Laubadere) walk into a skydiving competition... “Our team name was Banana Hammock,” Kenny grins. “We decided that while we were drunk ice skating.” Yep. Banana Hammock. “Alex made a logo,” he continues. “It’s a banana in a hammock with his hands in the air. His arms are my jumpsuit and his legs are my teammate’s jumpsuit, and the banana is drinking a martini.” The punchline of the joke? Banana Hammock took the 2-way MFS gold at the 2014 Nationals. (*Rimshot*!) It was a damned good result, especially considering where Kenny was at the outset. “When we did our first team jumps,” Kenny remembers, “Alex was already able to fly head down and pick up grips. I would leave on my head and then flop away and fall past. Byyyyyye.” As it turns out, the road from flopping to flying your way to the top of a national podium is paved with very intentionally-executed intentions. Without meticulous planning and open team communication, there’s very little chance you’ll ever make it to the first round. And, for most mere mortals on self-funded teams, you’ll have a very limited number of chances to get it right before the money and/or the wherewithal runs out. The struggle is real. That said: If you’re looking for an example of a skydiving team done right, this is it. Banana Hammock not only walked away with a gold medal but with the teammates’ friendships intact--gold within gold--and Kenny is willing to share the wisdom he gleaned from that epic endeavor. 1. Compete for the right reasons. When Kenny was first looking for teammates, he ran into a lot of friction from people who simply didn’t want to compete without the guarantee of a win. “You have to understand that it isn’t the winning that makes you better,” Kenny observes. “It’s the fact that you are getting in with a like-minded, dedicated group of people and you are doing the same skydives over and over with them. You each learn how the other flies, and then you can focus on the really fine details.” “When you train to compete, as long as you approach it from the mentality I’m not going to win, I’m going to become a better skydiver and I’m going to use this as a tool to buckle down as if I’m trying to win,” he muses, “then you will be giving yourself the opportunity to learn all these particular skills within whatever discipline you’re training, in a really focused environment.” 2. Overstaff. The most deadly contingency for most skydiving teams is that of the suddenly-absent member. Shore up. “If you want to do a 4-way team, find 8 people,” Kenny says. “If you want to do an 8-way team, find 16. People are going to bail on you. I’ve seen teams that have been destroyed a week before Nationals because their outside center flyer decided he couldn’t go to Nationals anymore and the entire team’s training was shot because they didn’t have a backup. Make sure you have more people than you need.” 3. Start talking. Got some people interested? Great. Now it’s open-communication time. “When you get the people, put together the plan for your schedule and the goal of what you want to achieve: to win; to place; to develop; whatever that is. Figure what everyone wants to do and find a general consensus. For example: You might have one person who is, like, I want to win the Worlds this year and somebody else who is, like, I just want to see what a competition is like. Both of those people won’t get what they want. The person who just wants to see what it is like isn’t going to put the energy in to train hard enough to win the Worlds. You are going to have to meet in the middle if it’s going to work. Find people you can work with and who will work together for compatible goals.” At some point along this journey, emotions are bound to escalate. When that happens, be ready. Kenny advocates getting everyone into a quiet room and passing around a talking stick (or a talking altimeter or a talking helmet or a talking rock or whatever ya got). 4. Everybody gets a job. Kenny insists that, once the team is in agreement about the goals, it’s time to give everyone a very specific set of roles to play. “Try to divide up the responsibilities for each member,” he says. “Have one person be responsible for making sure there is coffee in the morning; one person be responsible for making sure the video flyer gets taken care of; one person be responsible for making sure your pack jobs are done. You’ll pool your resources to pay for everything, of course, but have the admin jobs divided up so that everyone is responsible for part of the team so it comes together as a fully functioning unit. You don’t want one person getting stressed because they’re having to do everything. Everyone shares ownership.” 5. Plan down to the minute detail, and do it on paper. “I think the thing that helped us the most was sitting down and getting a calendar and scheduling out every single day we were going to train, with concrete goals lined out. Not just, We want to win Nationals. Instead: We want to win Nationals and have this kind of average point. We put down on the calendar what skills we needed to work on at what time, and we broke it down to be really structured around what we were going for.” That hyper-detailed schedule might sound imprisoning; for Kenny, it was anything but. It gave him the freedom he needed to dedicate himself completely to the task. “If I knew that in the month of February, I would be at Paraclete for the second week and training three full days over the last weekend, then when February comes around, I’d know exactly what my schedule was going to look like to plan ahead for work. The strictness of the schedule ensured that we were getting the number of jumps we needed, the amount of tunnel time we needed and the amount of work we needed, all within our schedules.” Not a spreadsheet nerd? No problem. You’ll get the hang of it. “I literally had no experience of even how to set up a schedule,” he adds. “I went from working at McDonald’s to a full time skydiver, and then I quit my job to pack parachutes.” In fact, Banana Hammock’s training schedule derived from a 4-way-specific structural starting point gifted to Kenny by uber-competitor Dan B.C. The team agreed on a certain number of jumps and a certain number of tunnel hours that they needed to accomplish in the nine intervening months between their training start date and the Nationals competition in October. From there, it was a matter of division--but with a twist. 6. Cluster ‘em up. “You just divide up the jumps by the number of months you have available,” Kenny explains, “but you try to schedule so you are trying to do your month’s jumps in 2-to-4 day time period. You don’t want to do 40 training jumps over the entire month. You want to do 40 training jumps in 3 days and then maintain currency the rest of the month. That way you are honing in and developing those skills rather than just maintaining some vague point of currency. Like: Do I transition on my right or my left shoulder? Do I back up two feet or a foot? When you do 10 jumps in a day, you can dial that in. If not, you are not going to get that level of resolution.” 7. Then plan for the contingencies. “Then we went on to build a plan for all of the things we could think of that could possibly go wrong,” he continues. “When we did our first team jumps, we had already had a contract that we had written up and both signed that said, ‘if this happens, this is what we are going to do.’ That way there was no animosity between us if any of it happened.” Happily--and somewhat predictably--but for a few speed bumps, Banana Hammock ended up cruising cheerfully along its well-oiled tracks to meet its golden goal. While the team decided not to compete again (self-funded, y’know), Kenny reports that everyone involved considered it a happy ending, and he, for one, is glad he took the time to do it right. “The best advice I can give you,” he smiles, “Is don’t give up. Don’t quit. It won’t always seem like it, but it is worth it. If you’ve ever considered competing, you owe it to yourself to try.”
  13. nettenette

    The Last Frontier

    Down For 50 Jumps Alaska, And Annette O’Neil Tries to Rise to the Occasion Image Credit: Melissa Dawn Burns When I grapple my way out onto to the float, I notice two things immediately. First: It’s impossible to maintain a relaxed attitude while sitting on the pontoon of a floatplane in full flight. My mental image of myself doing this is going to take a major revision in the translation to reality. Secondly: My pilot chute has never felt so vulnerable in all my jumps. For almost the entirety of this once-in-a-lifetime skydive, as I keep a resolute smile trained on the camera aircraft flying next to us, a sepiatone clip plays over and over in my head: A pinch of (actually very securely and conscientiously packed) fabric managing to wiggle itself out of my (actually tight-as-a-new-pair-of-jeans) BOC and bolt mischievously between the pontoon and the step, deploying my beautiful new Crossfire one last time as we spiral, nose-first, into Alaska’s forested wetlands. But I digress. Before we came to Alaska, we were warned. “Ah, mosquitoes: Alaska’s state bird,” said one. “They don’t bite you. They carry you home and feed you to their children.” “You’re only there for five days?!,” breathed another. “Good luck with that. You should have planned on at least a week. You’ll never get a break in the weather.” “A college kid just got eaten by a bear while he was running a half-marathon out there in Anchorage,” chimed in another. “It chased him off the trail and into the forest. He was calling his mom as it was running him down.” Since my previous knowledge of Alaska was gleaned almost entirely from the Calvin & Hobbes ‘Yukon Ho!’ collection and a single viewing of Grizzly Man, I’m a receptive audience. I decide not to go for runs. When I arrive in Anchorage, I walk through a neighborhood from my airport hotel to a car rental storefront. The gardens, clearly nothing more than a salad bar for the local deer population, have been scrupulously stripped of anything edible. The one with remaining flowers is surrounded by a high fence. A woman crosses in front of me, walking her toy yorkie. She is carrying bear spray. I speed up, having no toy yorkie to cast off as bait. Image Credit: Melissa Dawn Burns When I get to the rental place, they issue me a Subaru. Clearly, they assume I’m not messing around. And clearly, we are not. The next morning, we—myself, my Down For 50 co-adventurer, Joel, and Brett, along for the ride on this particular state’s adventure—are on the road, bound for the town of Talkeetna. Ah, Talkeetna, Alaska: the acknowledged “doorway to Denali,” home to a heterozygous mix of hippies and lumberjacks, a private pilot mecca. The latter becomes evident even miles away, on the long road into town. The traffic overhead, after all, is significantly more congested and varied than the traffic on ground level. I’m glad I’m not driving; I’m transfixed looking out and up, checking out the rush hour trucking over the trees. Soon, following the instructions given in a flurry of arranging emails, we wind through a series of deeply wooded roads to arrive at our pilot’s lakehouse/hangar/office/flight school/community hub. The pilot himself, Don, is an affable fellow with a handsome mustache and the air of a man you’d immediately trust with your life. In fact, I do: When he suggests that we head over to the airport to conduct a quick aerial requisition of the available parachute landing areas “in the Breezy,” I immediately offer myself up. We hop in the rough-and-ready fuel truck (okay: the rusted-through blue pickup with a tank of AV gas in the bed) and off we go. The airfield is, to put it mildly, a candy store. All manner of aircraft sit gamely waiting, lined up as tidily and fetchingly as pretty ladies in an Old West brothel, all waiting expectantly for a pilot. Don and I cruise along in front of their expectant glass faces. Will we hop into the shiny red one? The bare-metal number that looks like it’ll have a sign on the door that says “silk scarves required”? The race-car-faced green-and-white one with its dancing shoes on and the freshly-chamwowed gleam? What’s this blue thing? As I’m wondering what I’m looking at, we pull to a stop. I take a closer look. This aircraft—I’m finding it difficult to call it a “plane”—is a robin’s-egg-blue latticework of metal with a wing laid across the top. There’s a prop. There’s an engine. There’s a Wizard-of-Oz-style picnic basket strapped in for storage behind an open, park-bench seat. It looks like the pilot is meant to perch on a piece of wood that sits directly in front of that. Suddenly, I realize that Don’s walking right towards it. Oh. The BREEZY. That looks pretty breezy, alright. Don hands me a motorcycle helmet and a bib jumpsuit “so he doesn’t have to worry about me.” I sit down on the park bench. I fasten the single lap belt as fastidiously as I can manage. Then, as Don works the engine like a lawnmower, I read the little metal placard fastened to the seat in front of me. It says, “Passenger warning: This aircraft is amateur-built and does not comply with the federal safety regulations for standard aircraft.” For some reason, that’s all I need to start enjoying myself. As we taxi out, I’m smiling so hard in my helmet it hurts a little. Twenty minutes later, I’ve found Jesus. I’m reeling from the feeling of being in the dead-on sweet spot of everything I love about flying and motorcycling and adventuring, all bound up into one ugly-ass not-quite-aircraft. We rode the river like a track day. We bounded over forested hillocks and gravel outcroppings and one enormous, out-of-place old satellite dish. We buzzed the lakehouse, waving at my astounded companions. As we land, I decide I might not be bluffing about wanting my fixed-wing license anymore. I tell Don. “Oh, you don’t need a pilot’s license to fly this thing,” he grins. “I can get you checked out on it this afternoon.” I backpedal. Hard. When we arrive back at camp, it’s late. It doesn’t look late, but it is late. Don, the pilots and us jumpers congregate on the dock, four floatplanes bobbing cheerfully around us, and go over the flight plan. As it turns out, they want to do our jump as a stacked formation—each of us in our own chariot—with queenly Denali throwing her white skirts around in the background. There will be a photographer (my preternaturally gifted, multi-hyphenate wonder of a friend, Melissa) passenging in a camera plane, ready to capture it. Our flight instructors thrill to the plan. I am assigned the one that’s mostly purple, bedecked with little hippie daisies. I am much pleased. After the meeting, Joel and Brett and I trundle up to the room that Don has graciously offered us, with its wide deck overlooking the twilit lake and the visiting pilots trading stories around the fire pit. We (very ineffectually) close the shades. We try to rest. Tomorrow’s a big day. Image Credit: Melissa Dawn Burns The night segues seamlessly into the morning. I wake when my sleep mask shifts and the 4:30AM sun sears my eyelids. Brett wakes when I bump his shins, hanging over the padded arm of the loveseat upon which he reclines. Joel is already up. Coffee in hand, we meander down to the dock under a cloudless, bluebird sky. There’s a four-month-old Bernese-Blue Heeler mix rolling around the lawn, doing its best to learn how to be a dog, its fur bunching adorably in handfuls, waiting to be grown into. Two chubby golden retrievers stalk fish offshore. Two pigs, wire-haired and curious, wander over and present themselves for belly rubs. We kit up. Taking off from water is a new experience entirely. It’s smoother than I think it’ll be, as the glassed-off lake is feeling nary a tickle of wind this fine, blue morning. Before I know it, we’re tooth-and-clawing our way up to six grand. “I forgot how pretty it is from up here,” my pilot smiles when we get to around four. I, for myself, had forgotten that most people—especially people around here—don’t blow through four grand like the front door on a cold night. Once we’re up at six, we circle, building the formation. Let’s be clear: these are really, really good pilots, but they’re not formation pilots, and there’s most certainly a trick to it when you’re wrangling low-performance aircraft that were made to do nothing of the sort. With the door open, six thousand feet over Alaska at the entrance to glaciertopia, it is cold. The twenty minutes it takes them to get together has me clinging to the back of the passenger seat like it’s a lover returned from the wars. I hope my hands still work when it’s time to get out. Image Credit: Down For 50 Which, coincidentally, it is. I see Melissa’s plane figuring its way alongside us. I uncertainly stick out a foot and screw it down onto the sandpaper surface of the step. Then I offer my body up to the full blast of the relative wind and lunge for the strut. I get a purchase. I, ungainly, perch. I’m doing it. There’s a yoga to staying here, one iron grip around the strut, the other hand “casually” in my lap, my brain stuck firmly to my pilot chute. Most of me aches to tumble into the familiar arms of freefall. The rest of me grabs that part of me by the cheeks and shouts into its face: For chrissakes, woman, pay attention to this and here and now, because it has an expiration date that is less than a minute in the future and this is what you came for. I heed it. Suddenly, I can see. I see the red and white camera airplane, framed by impossible mountains. Denali, of course; Mount Huntington; Moose’s Tooth; Little Switzerland. I see a sky of a blueness Alaska pretty much never sees, yet here I am, sitting in it. I see Melissa, concentrating behind the winking black eye of her lens. I can’t see them, but I feel Joel and Brett, doing their own pontoon yoga practice behind me and above me. I see so much of what I love about being in this world, hanging here and now in the suspended animation of complete attention. And then there’s the landing area below—a cleared construction pad, tucked up next to the Talkeetna airport runway. My pilot nods. I had planned some sort of fanfare for this exit. As it stands, however, all I can manage is a dizzy-eyed smile and a bog-standard hop. My pilot hollers to watch me go. She’s never seen anything like it before. When we land, parachutes slung over shoulders, I’m exhausted with the effort of committing it all to memory. I decide to walk back to the FBO and let it all process—Don’s generosity; the force of the community here; the entirely new sensations of flight. It overwhelms my hardware. It’s only later, as we hunch over plates heaped with pancakes, that I happen to glance at the collection of grinning pilots clustered in black-and-white on the Talkeetna diner wall. It crystallizes what I’m feeling: The momentum of a long tradition. Those smiling faces, proudly next to their planes, captured over the entire history of aviation, seem to prove that this place—Alaska, the last frontier—was created by and for adventure. Alaska turns energy to adventure like some sort of spiritual chlorophyll. Every single one of these guys grew tall, strong, enduring lives with the force of that alchemy. Alaska pushes out the envelopes of the willing like leaves bursting from ever-lengthening branches. This is its job. It does it well. ----------- Down For 50, the first 50-state skydiving road trip accomplished in a single journey, is happening from May to October of this year. To follow the journey, to check out when it’s coming to your state or simply to help out (thanks!), visit downfor50.org.
  14. joelstrickland

    Reviewing Vertical's Viper Elite

    The amount of suit designs there are to choose from continues to grow, and selecting the right one to meet your needs can be a confounding process. Why are there so dang many and what are they all for? The simple truth is there are a lot of ways to fly your body. Our sport is divided by both line-in-the-sand disciplinary boundaries, such as wether-or-not you require booties and grippers to ply your trade - but also on macro levels inside sub-disciplines that have evolved together with the modern freefly scene. The ultimate grail quest of any company that designs suits is surely to come up with something so exquisitely crafted and manufactured that it should eclipse all else, transcending choice altogether by being totally awesome at all the things. The reality is that there is no single combination of pattern and material that serves all areas of a flying career as well as something focused on and aimed at a particular niche. The result of this is it can be difficult to choose one from a toolbox of designs when you are pushing at the edges of you skillset in all directions at the same time - hungry to get good everywhere right now. What you are left with is having to make a wise and honest choice about the kind of suit you really need. Up to the point where you might be seriously considering investing multiple jumpsuits to apply where and when you need them, you should be approaching an expensive purchase with practicality in mind. A slinky squeezy suit might be all the rage right now, but if you are continually sinking out on all your mates then you have not chosen wisely. The opposite of this is also true - if you are prioritising the time, money and effort on some quality tunnel time then a fitted design that will help build good technique and feels like a second skin might be just the job. When assessing which suit is best for you, the right kind of eyes are the same ones you should be using to choose a parachute: a smaller, more advanced canopy will not make you a better pilot - the path to success is getting the right thing for where your skills are currently. The Viper Elite is a further refinement of Vertical’s flagship Viper template - already previously tweaked into the Viper Pro. While it is possible to simplify these iterations as each being more advanced than the last, to do so would be disservice to the thoughtful work and overall consideration that Vertical have put into their range. If you do find yourself tumbling down the freefly rabbit hole - ultimately reaching the level where you are coaching, competing, or simply flying enough that the only real way forward is to own more than a single suit, then Vertical has all your needs covered, from the specifics of bendy freestyle to powerful lines, static shapes and everything in-between. At this point in my flying career I have utilised all the styles and types of suit - from back-in-the-day Talsan bagginess, through the first generations of tunnel-is-a-sport-now rethinks and all the way up to the damn-I-should-eat-less looks of right here and right now. The Viper Elite is my favourite out of all the suits I have owned. This is not because Vertical have created a better suit or some kind of revolutionary design, but because it represents the best intersection of materials and design characteristics with my personal abilities and the specific requirements I have for it. The place that this suit occupies on the spectrum of performance characteristics has, for me, the widest band of usability - it feels equally as good both indoors and under a parachute harness, and I love putting it on either at the dropzone or the tunnel. When flying in either environment, any concessions made to the other are as small as I have encountered - leaving the suit feeling tailored to both the tube and the big blue. Pros and Cons As stated above - there is no single suit design that covers every aspect of flying. Here is a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of the Viper Elite. Spandex: This super stretchy material is at the central compromise between power and mobility, and its use and placement is often the most important consideration when creating a new design. The Viper Elite has spandex in the areas you would expect to see on a pure-bred tunnel suit, with additional panels for underneath where your parachute harness goes. Even the best quality spandex will shift and flap when put under pressure from the wind and in the tunnel you might feel this in a few places at certain angles, but it does allow for full, unrestricted mobility in both environments. Squeezy Fit: The closer a suit fits your body, the more you are relying on your true shape to fly. The better you understand how your true shape flies the more graceful you look and feel. The Viper Elite is very much a squeezy suit so all the extra stuff has been removed, such as the mesh lining and any pockets. This is good for the fit of the suit around your body and subsequently your technique, but it does mean you will need to wear some kind of base layer for comfort and find another solution for the things you like to take with you while skydiving - such as your phone, lip balm, bungees, pull ups etc. etc. Reinforcements: In line with it’s two Viper siblings, the Elite has Cordura covering the elbows and knees. In an ideal world none of us would ever crash or wear out our suits by dragging our limbs about on various surfaces - like the net or the glass at the tube, the floor/wall/roof of the plane, or whatever your landing area is made of, but we do any they do. The plus here is that the Viper Elite will last longer in those hard-wearing areas than if it was made without Cordura, the minus is that every extra of fabric used in the construction of a suit moves it a little bit away from the actual shape of your body. If you, like many, are buried up to the eyeballs in the possibilities of flying your body, and are committed to the rewards of getting it right across both environments - Vertical may well have created the best single tool produced thus far.
  15. admin

    Vigil Service Bulletin - 19 April 2018

    Issue Date: 19 April 2018 Bulletin Number: PSB-01-2018 Subject: Firmware Update and High Altitude Jumps Status: Mandatory Prior to the next jump with any aircraft altitude exceeding 27,000 ft MSL Identification: All Sport Vigil II and Vigil 2+ with firmware versions 05.05, 05.06, 06.01, 06.02 This product service bulletin does not apply to Military Vigils Background: Due to an internal calculation algorithm, units with firmware versions 05.05, 05.06, 06.01, 06.02 will enter protected CTRL-ERR mode when the measured pressure is less than 300 hpa. (Approximately 30,000 ft MSL). Compliance: Vigil II & Vigil 2+ (does not apply to Military Vigils). All Vigil II and 2+ units with firmware versions 05.05, 05.06, 06.01, 06.02 MUST be updated to a new firmware version. The current firmware version MUST be checked in the info menu during the startup of the Vigil. (See Road Map - Parameter Sequence Flow Chart in the User's Manual). Compliance Date: Compliance is the mandatory before any jump during which the aircraft is anticipated to reach, or reaches, any altitude above 27,000 ft MSL. DO NOT MAKE ANY JUMP IF THE AIRCRAFT, AT ANY TIME ON THE FLIGHT, EXCEEDS 27,000 ft MSL WITHOUT HAVING FIRST FULLY COMPILED WITH THIS PSB. For all users NOT making, or planning to make a jump with an exit altitude above 27,000 ft MSL, or planning to make a flight above 27,000 ft MSL, compliance is still mandatory for all affected firmware versions, however compliance may be at the user's convenience during any repack between the date of this PSB and 31 May 2020. This is to prevent risk of possible future high altitude use by a new owner or user, without compliance with, or awareness of this service bulletin. Compliance Procedure and Costs: Please follow the return RMA procedure online at https://www.vigil.aero/servicing The unit update, maintenance and return shipping from AAD Belgium or Vigil America to the customer will be at no charge to the customer. The shipping cost to AAD Belgium or to Vigil America will be the customer's responsibility. Repack costs and expenses are solely the customer's responsibility. No claims for repack costs and expenses will be accepted. Authority: Jo Smolders Managing Director A.A.D. nv/sa Bd.A. Reysers, 193 1030 Brussels - Belgium - Europe Tel: +32.2.732.65.52 Fax: +32.2.736.06.27 www.vigil.aero - rma@vigil.aero Vigil America, Inc. 1400 Flightline Blvd., Suite C Deland, FL 32724 Tel: +1.386.736.8464 Fax: +1.386.736.8468 www.vigil.aero - candace@vigil.aero Distribution of this Advisory Product Service Bulletin shall include, but is not limited to: All AAD dealers. Parachute Industry Association. All identified parachuting publications. All identified parachuting Federations and Associations. All National Aero Clubs, Parachuting Section. IPC Technical Committee
  16. nettenette

    Out of the East (Yin Yu's Story)

    Yin Yu Is In Your Sky, And She’s Bringing China With Her If you don’t know about Yin Yu yet, take note: You will. (You’ll probably meet her as “Daniela,” the name she goes by in the States.) Yin’s rarefied position as one of the only Chinese athletes teaching skydiving to a Chinese student base has put her at the forefront of a growing wave that’s getting ready to engulf the world in new licensees. Her business--AUV Skydiving--has already graduated more than 50 Chinese skydivers, and the waiting list is growing at an exponential rate. “They know the US gives the best skydiving education,” she says, simply, “so they want to come over to the US to learn how to skydive.” In a lot of ways, this story starts when Yin moved to the U.S., 10 years ago. For the first couple of those years, Yin lived in Atlanta. She did her first tandem skydive at The Farm (now Skydive Spaceland Georgia) and started her AFF there. Distracted by a heavy academic schedule, she didn’t finish. When Yin moved to Chicago to earn her Master’s degree (quickly followed by a high-powered internship and job), she found what she still refers to as her home dropzone at Skydive Midwest. “The major reason I wanted to learn to skydive,” Yin explains, “was that I felt under too much pressure from balancing hard work and cultural differences. Being a Chinese person in America is challenging. The conflict of the culture is the hardest part. There is the overall feeling, all the time, on the inside: No one really gets me. I’m just sitting in the corner, wishing someone could talk to me and understand me.” With jumps tucked here and there within a packed schedule, it took Yin three seasons to earn her solo skydiving license. “When I first finished my 25 jumps,” she explains, “I wasn’t able to find someone to teach me how to pack, because everyone was in the sky and I could only come on the weekends. So it took me forever. I had 60 jumps by the time I completed the packing course, so I just applied for a B license. I never had an A license.” “I teach almost ½ of Chinese skydivers to get their A license,” she laughs, “but I never even had an A license.” Yin’s whopping market share is motivated by a whole range of factors. The first of these, of course, is that the cultural differences between east and west loom large for skydiving students even more than most. Learning to skydive is a highly stressful proposition, and navigating its exacting, immediate requirements at the same time as navigating the subtleties of a new culture has proved preventively overwhelming for many would-be students. Yin seeks to change all that. “The US is very straight-talking,” she says. “You just tell people what you want. In China, people always talk in a circle to get to the point. And that’s just one of the differences. Chinese students can only really learn from a Chinese person. So I bring them in and teach them in the way they need--a way they can understand--because it is so stressful to do learn how to skydive. You can’t go over the barrier of the fear and stress and the barrier of the culture. Once Chinese students have a teacher who speaks to them in a language they can understand, both literally and culturally, they get confident and then the connections can happen naturally.” “In China, education is also very different,” she continues. “I went to university here, so I understand very well that the American teaching style is really open. When you bring questions to school, the answers might vary. In China, you sit in the classroom simply learn what the teacher tells you. I try to combine the two methods so my Chinese students are comfortable, but they are better prepared to deal with the differences when they set out on their own.” Yin brings the hard-earned lessons of her own student days to bear in her instruction. It was way back in those days that she initially decided on this path, in fact: When she saw the occasional Chinese skydiving student struggling in a system that wasn’t built to facilitate them. “For example: when you see a student flare too high, you tell students ‘Hold it!’ But if you say that another way--like ‘Don’t let go!’--they might be confused and freeze. Even though it means the same thing, switching words forces the student to process because they have to translate between English and Chinese.” “Before I was an instructor, I saw many things like this happen,” she continues. “I tried to help interpret but, at the end of the day, I decided I should probably be an instructor and stop that from happening in the first place.” She couldn’t help but notice some sticky equipment issues, too. “I am small,” she grins. “I was even smaller when I started 10 years ago. I was 100 pounds with a 260-square-foot canopy. I constantly had bruises all over me.” “I also had an experience with a cutaway that was very informative,” she adds. “I learned that the equipment was not designed with Asian people’s bodies in mine. Asian people are much smaller; their arms are shorter than what we think. We have to cut away a little more forward and harder.” They also have to communicate a little differently, which gets in the way--especially in the vulnerable beginning. Yin notes that Chinese students are really nervous about responding in English. They do speak English, but they are reliably shy. If you’ve ever learned another language, you can empathize: It’s not necessarily that you don’t understand; you get nervous for freeze up. “At a drop zone, a lot of the instructors will question a Chinese student to find out if they can do an action and think that the answer they receive means ‘no,’” she says. “When that student talks with me, It’s clear that they understand exactly how to do the action, but with English instructors--even if the student does speak English--there is this disconnect. American students will pretend to understand. Chinese students simply don’t fake understanding as well.” When she decided to create AUV Skydiving, Yin was no stranger to business ownership. She’s been in business before: a smoothie shop; a magazine; a stage design business. She was raking in a six-digit, salary, but she wasn’t finding joy. She was never able to see her parents in China. Interestingly enough, she already had a solid audience for her marketing when she launched the endeavor. As it turns out, Yin is something of a celebrity. In addition to several other entrepreneurial ventures, she was a songwriter. One of the songs she wrote “got her name out there,” as she wryly notes. Chinese students recognize her as the song’s writer--and, more recently, as the Chinese girl who wingsuited over Everest--so when she opened her doors, there were already faces pressed to the glass. She left her other work a year and a half ago to go full-time with AUV. It’s not just the AFF students, either: In 2013 and 2014 alone, Yin brought over 1,000 Chinese people to the States simply to experience tandem skydiving and the iFly wind tunnel. (She’s also the first Chinese AFFI certified by both China Aero Sports and the USPA, the first Chinese examiner candidate.) Yin’s next project is to solve the problem of where those students can go when her two-week AFF camp complete. In China, as you may or may not know, there’s almost nowhere to jump. There are no commercial dropzones. For now, Yin’s students usually come back to the States to jump; this year, she’s organizing a group skydiving mission all over the U.S. In the meanwhile, she’s starting to lay the groundwork In China for commercial dropzones to operate. In this author’s opinion, this is where it gets really interesting. Slowly by surely, Yin is making inroads, consulting with other Chinese entrepreneurs who are interested in opening dropzones. She’s also working on a education program for US instructors who want to go to China and teach skydiving skills and operating. “There are a bunch of [Chinese aviation owners] coming to talk to me, saying they want to start a dropzone and asking me how,” she says. “I’ve been working for dropzones for 7 years, so I can help them. I am building a team as well, to teach people how to start a dropzone. I’m getting my examiner rating, too.” “Three major things are always on my mind,” she states. “I want to bring very advanced skydiving education to China. I want to bring USPA standards and practices to China. And I want to bring serious skydiving competitions to China. If China gets in, it will take half of the business of the world. When China decides to do something, there is no stopping it.” “In China, everything is possible,” she adds. “It just comes down to the way you present things, and what kind of connections you have.”
  17. The ‘father of skydiving’ shares a glimpse into his incredible knowledge. Prepare for knowledge bombs, anecdotes, and entertainment as Bill takes you on a 50 year journey through his experience of skydiving in his renowned ‘History of Skydiving’ presentation. Video shared from Skydive The Mag
  18. joelstrickland

    Reviewing Larsen and Brusgaard's New Ares2 and Alfa

    I will always leap on an opportunity to do some work for Larsen and Brusgaard, yet when squaring up to a review of their newest releases - the Ares2 and the Alfa - I found myself wondering exactly what I could contribute that people don’t either already know or could easily find out for themselves with a quick trip to the LB website. Sure - I could publicly express my admiration for both the quality of the units and the constant enthusiasm with which Larsen and Brusgaard support the skydiving community at large, and I could dutifully list the features and functions of the gadgets in question - but without finding something with which I can contextualise it’s usefulness I would likely feel guilty of journalistic hackery. The Ares2 is the civilian version of the Alfa - an upscaled and ruggedised visual altimeter designed for military use that includes some extra functionality specific to jump operations. With a little luck I will never be faced with parachuting into combat - but what relevance can I apply when approaching these devices from the other direction? Year upon year of freefly competitions - where beeps alone reign supreme - have programmed me to view at my altimeter much less frequently than I really should - and possibly therefore am not in the best position to elaborate the many qualities of the new visual thingumys. However - serendipitously, I was actually right on the doorstep of an ideal testing environment where I would need to reverse my instincts and operate a visual altimeter with a level intensity such as never before - an accelerated freefall instructor course. Perfect. 1. Along with all the functions available in the Viso2, Larsen and Brusgaard’s new units are bigger and tougher - constructed form aircraft grade aluminium and hardened glass. The buttons cycle the menus and options as normal, and at the front end act directly to speedily set an altitude offset and operate the backlight. Also, it feels really nice to hold. As well as a bunch of other stuff on the ground and in the plane, to earn an AFF instructor rating you need to pass three out of four evaluation jumps. The most crucial part of each of these descents is the procedure from the altitude at which the evaluator-as-student finishes their freefall practice and moves through the deployment process. During this ‘bottom end sequence’ the instructor candidate must act precisely and accurately within very specific altitude windows - stacked one upon another - that last less than three seconds each. Get things in the wrong order? Fail. Too low? Fail. Too high? Fail. Maintaining altitude awareness throughout the whole jump is important, but for the bottom end sequence it is absolutely crucial. 2. The Altiset is the required gizmo for military jumpmasters to batch adjust the altitude offset of Alfa units between take-off and landing. Fancy. Also probably important. Much of the writing I produce for the airsports industry involves the recurring theme of utilising anything and everything at your disposal to squeeze the most you can from each and every jump. Skydiving is expensive and happens fast - so every area in which you can find even the smallest physical or mental advantage has real value. Aside from the odd freefly competition nail-biter, these AFF evaluation jumps were the most pressure I have ever felt on a skydive - and as such, saddling up for the test with a bigger, more visible altimeter made me feel a little more confident both on the way in and throughout the course. 3. Also available is the Echo. This is an audible altimeter that follows the same design principals that is also controllable via the Altiset. While it has been created for military concerns - the interesting part is devices that communicate with each other are looking increasingly like the very near future across all of skydiving. I didn’t need that fourth jump. Maybe because of experience, possibly due to practice and perhaps simply down to good tuition. Most likely a combination of all these things. But also just maybe because I could see my altimeter a bit better, from a little further away and at a slightly wider angle. It takes no stretching of one’s imagination to feel if that day had played out differently, a small advantage like this could well have meant the distance between passing the course or not. 4. It might not seem that much bigger, but I found myself surprised at how much easier it is to see - both directly and peripherally - when I needed to know. A quick scan of any modern group freefall picture underlines the majority vote and market share Larsen and Brusgaard enjoy, with the familiar stretchy arm band wielded upon the forearm of a great many jumpers. While the new Ares2 is likely not going to replace their most popular digital altimeter - the Viso2 - after using it a in high pressure situation I can fully embrace its value and relevance as a thing that exists as an option for those who desire or require such utility. It also looks a little bit like it was designed by Batman. I am quite tough on things too, an effect created from equal parts bigness and clumsy. I am trying to be better about it this but have trashed more that a few gizmos and gadgets over the years by being a lummox, and something that is more likely to resist getting smashed from me being stoopid is quite appealing. 5. Success! Jay Stokes (right) is a man who has done 640 skydives in 24 hours. Thanks to Larsen and Brusgaard, Jay Stokes and the staff of Skydive San Diego. You can view and download the complete list of functions for all LB’s technology at www.lbwebstore.com
  19. Subject: Exchange of Aerodyne semi-stowless deployment bags supplied for Icon harness & container systems. Status: Mandatory. Compliance: Completed by April 30th, 2018. Authority: Gordon Sellers, President Aerodyne Research LLC Date of issue: December 18, 2017 Identification: All semi-stowless deployment bags, with side tuck tabs and magnetic mouth closure, sold with our Icon containers or as a spare part from June 2015 until October 31st, 2017. This bulletin does not affect the semi-stowless deployment bags delivered after Nov. 1st, 2017, which have red stow pockets for the magnetic mouth closure system. Background In 2015, Aerodyne began to offer a semi-stowless deployment bag as an option. In the last year there have been reported irregularities with premature releasing of lines (known as a line dump) where this bag has been in use. Aerodyne has thousands of Icons in the field for many years with regular deployment bags using rubber stow bands with no known issues regarding line control during deployment. Based on these reports, Aerodyne has performed additional tests on the design of the semi-stowless bag in different conditions. These conditions accounted for a wide variety of variables such as canopy sizes related to the bag size, types of canopy fabrics, types of lines, opening speeds, and more importantly, a variation of canopy packing techniques that we understand are used in the field. Through this additional testing we have determined that some of these conditions can exist, causing a premature release of lines from the bag. This uncontrolled deployment of lines may cause variations in opening characteristics, and could lead to lines being caught on the container or jumper. As a result of continued development of Aerodyne’s products, an improved semi-stowless deployment bag has been designed which better addresses these issues. These bags are delivered with all new Icon containers where this option is required. To increase safety for everyone using the semi-stowless design, Aerodyne wishes to offer every Icon owner to have the latest version of this bag. Thus, Aerodyne has decided to offer an exchange program and upgrade all the original semi-stowless deployment bags, and remove the first version of bags from further use. This replacement bag and return shipping to you will be at no charge to the customers, and will not distinguish if the bag is in a rig that is sold second hand. Simply put, if it’s an Aerodyne semi-stowless bag, Aerodyne will exchange it to the new version free of charge. Until users have received their new bags and wish to jump their equipment, we recommend that the packing instructions for the semi-stowless bag be noted and followed. We have experienced a variety of packing methods on the semi-stowless bags in the field, and would remind users that free stowing lines in any type of a semi-stowless bag is a technique that requires understanding and attention. Action Required In an effort to minimize disruption for our customers, we are in the process of manufacturing the new replacement bags and the practical exchange can start from the second week of January 2018. New semi-stowless deployment bags will be exchanged upon return of the original semi-stowless bag. To prepare the exchange of these bags, and for Aerodyne to manage the program in the best possible manner, customers must register on Aerodyne’s website. This can be done as soon as possible. Actions for customers to take: Visit https://www.flyaerodyne.com/registration/ and register your request for exchange. Please note this is important, even if you don’t send in the bag straight away. You will receive an email acknowledgement of your registration. Please keep this for your records. Please print and include a copy of this document when you return your bag for exchange. We will start the exchange process from the second week of January. With about 500 bags in 10 different sizes in the field, bags will be manufactured and made available in the order they are requested. The sooner you send your bag in, the earlier it will be replaced. Bags will only be exchanged upon receipt of old bag. If you have no need for a new bag immediately, please wait a while and let your skydiving friends who are active and maybe in a more jumpable climate get their bags first. Exchange Centers To aid in the process of distribution, after registration old bags – with a copy of the registration – can be returned to the nearest exchange center to you. Once received we will process a replacement and send within two weeks. North and South America (USA Canada, Mexico, South America) Aerodyne Research LLC, 1407 Flightline Blvd, Unit 14, Deland FL 32724 Europe Aerodyne Research Europe c/o Herman Landsman Hoofdweg 101, 1795 JC De Cocksdorp, Holland Australia Mee Loft c/o Koppel Solomon 84 Park Rd, Woolloongabba, QLD 4102 Rest of World (Africa, Far East) Aerodyne Research Manufacturing 115 Marshall Drive, Crawdord Factories, Mount Edgecombe, South Africa 4300
  20. Australian start-up Dekunu Technologies have spent much of 2017 teasing the release of a new breed of altimeter. A cool, but somewhat cryptic marketing campaign has generated a great deal of excitement but so far is light on actual details. Why? Behind the project is Brent Chandler - entrepreneur, skydiver and life-long coder. He joins us to shed a little light on the Dekunu project - how it got started, and where it is going. Can you begin with a little bit of personal background? “Without going into too much detail, I created a technology-based business within the hospitality industry in Australia, and over the last nine or ten years developed it to the point where it now runs itself. Once I reached the point where I had successfully built myself out of the company I found myself looking for something that ticked all the right boxes - a tech project that I was passionate about and would allow me to retain a lot of freedom to travel and skydive. After about six-months of conceptualising various different ideas, Dekunu stood out as the obvious choice. I have been passionate about technology my whole life, and although I have always struggled to ever learn say - a second spoken language, computer languages stick with me. For me programming is logical and makes sense. I can see it.” What were the first steps in making this idea into a real project? “Hardware technology. It was a tech genre I had never experienced before. Tech for me had always been software, writing code onto a screen - whereas with Dekunu we are creating concepts, schematics and then a physical product. This was super exciting for me to sink my teeth into, but admittedly intimidating as well. Before we got started I had little idea about what was involved. We got some electronics kits, and a year ago I made the first prototype. The first four prototypes were really just experiments in my understanding. We were using off-the-shelf components and writing code to get them to talk to each other. One of the biggest hurdles was when we moved on to writing our own complete board - where every wire, component, capacitor, resistor and transistor needed to be meticulously arranged. I wasn’t aware of how complicated that process was going to be - even now most days I will have hour-long conversations with our hardware engineers about the placement of one little half-millimetre sized component.” What challenges have you faced creating hardware that needs to work reliably in a skydiving environment? “Earlier in the prototyping process we didn’t have much consideration for things like operating environments - large temperature differentials, humidity requirements, impact resistance or anything like that. We just wanted it to work and then figure out where it was going to break. Being meticulous through all the various versions means that now we can very be specific about our requirements. We need to know what happens if someone leaves their device in the front of the plane under the engine bay and it gets to seventy degrees, or if it gets left outside somewhere below freezing. We have to be very thorough. The devices currently have 285 individual components - if any one of them goes wrong it could potentially harm someone. For Prototype 10 we did a lot of testing ourselves. All of the devices were jumped and the data compared before they were sent off to our team of testers and friends around the world - our Dekunu ambassadors. We decided to run the ambassador programme for a couple of reasons - it is a great marketing opportunity to have influential flyers from around the world running our equipment, but the vital part is exposure to testing environments that highlight things we simply cannot learn from jumping in Byron Bay every day. We have the luxury of being able to make mistakes with the prototypes, but cannot once we start selling the devices. We receive a lot of emails from people voicing their frustration that they cannot yet get their hands on one, and sure - we could capitalise on the engaged audience but to do so too early could very well result in shooting ourselves in the foot.” Everyone wants to know what it does. What does it do? “Without revealing some big, soon to be announced, functionality, the device is going to be all encompassing due to the infrastructure we are creating. Imagine that you come down from your jump and have not plugged into a computer or anything and you have access to all the information it has recorded - a lot of which at the moment without a SmartAlti is dominated by guess work, ego and bias. People will be able to answer a lot of questions with complete accuracy and answer them in the landing area. What was the exit separation? Exactly how hard was that opening? Why did people land off? What was the wind doing? Did we track in the right place? Did we open too close to each other? We want it to be so intuitive and connected that it works seamlessly with every type of device. You don’t have to be plugged into a computer for hours afterwards - you can be in the bar with your friends and have the whole experience on your phone. Also not just your information - a single dot on a screen. All your mates on the jump as well. The entire experience. For many things in skydiving, simple is best. Does a device that is packed with features run the risk of over complicating things to the point of distraction? “This is something we have discussed at length. No matter what happens - as soon as you jump it switches mode and there is nothing you can do on the device except see the altitude on a massive screen. At the moment the device enters a Plane Mode showing heading, ground speed and some other neat features like simple safety tips and reminders on the way to altitude such as when to remove your restraint, check your gear, get a pin check - things like that. We also have a version of the software that includes a student mode - which removes any unnecessary complications. Student mode could, for example, include the important things they need to remember about their jump plan. We are working on making this the best possible device for all users. We’ve saved the complications for our number crunching servers behind the scenes” Brent is more guarded about some of the far reaching potential that fully networked, intelligent altimeters might have for the future of skydiving - sensibly circling back to the importance of the unit itself being success before the big plans happen. “We have done an enormous amount of work on the backend and the visualisation systems - this data that people will have access to is going to allow them to learn so much more from their jumps. It is important for everything to be as intuitive as possible - if we create a system that is good but time-consuming for people to use, then they are not going to use it. We haven’t created this just for the technologically adept - we want it to be the default choice for all skydivers and not just those who like gadgets and want their altimeter to have a touchscreen. Our core ethos is about how this is going to bring more awareness to the sport of skydiving. More data, more transparency - that is really the focus. We see things progressing to the point where, such as with an AAD - if you don’t have a networked altimeter then you are not jumping. The idea being that this will become as normalised as owning any simple altimeter in the way you are required to now - the pricing is not much different, and the information will be so valuable that this is absolutely the way forward for the sport.” The more elaborate details of what the Dekunu device does, and could do, remain to be seen and proven - but anyone who uses a modern phone is able to imagine the prospective gains that one of our mandatory pieces of safety gear becoming fully networked and similarly sophisticated could mean. Within recent history mobile technology has profoundly altered the way our daily lives operate, and transporting this potential into the skydiving environment is a very exciting prospect that could well have an amazing effect on how well we do what we do - how quickly we learn and how safe we all are. Brent and the Dekunu team are hard at work turning these ideas into reality.
  21. Numerous people have asked me how to start and maintain a club in the past, so I have put together a little (or not so little) essay on how to do this. I started the skydiving club at the University of Maryland, College Park in September 1998. It has grown quite a bit since then and there is much more active participation by the members. The beginning of a club is very strenuous on the founder, as there is a lot of legwork and red tape to get through. But, someone has got to do it. Each school works differently for how a club could be formed. Anyway, you could find our constitution at: http://www.inform.umd.edu/StudentOrg/cpsc/Documents/Constitution.doc I thought that you could use that as a standard constitution to see what you could put into your constitution. Each school has different rules on what should be in a constitution but for the most part, they are all the same. You should see if you your school would actually permit such a club (skydiving) on campus. I say this b/c I have a friend who tried to start a club at U. Delaware and they didn't let him b/c the school takes on a different role with the student clubs there. At U. Delaware, the university has control over the club that they would be liable for any incidents. At U. Maryland, we are considered a student organization/club, NOT a sport club and the university allows us to do pretty much anything b/c they don't have any liability over us. The only thing that we must abide by are the basic university rules (non-discrimination, etc.). Okay, so I could only tell you how I started the club here at U. Maryland as I don't know how it works at other universities. We needed to fill out a student organization form that required a President's and Treasurer's signature. Moreover, it required a minimum of 7 other undergraduate students to sign and put their social security #'s (Student ID's) on it. Finally, we had to have an advisor sign it. The advisor could be anyone who is faculty/staff of the university as long as they are not an undergraduate student (I'm UMD's advisor now as I finally became a graduate student and TA for the university). Most professors are kind of wary about signing a form to be an advisor for a skydiving club. Therefore, you might need to go to your Office of Campus Programs (that is what it is called at UMD) and request some literature to show to the potential advisor on what they are liable for or what they are not liable for within the club. After you get them to sign the application and you have the signatures/SID #'s of other students and the constitution done, you hand it in to the Office of Campus Programs. It may take a little while for them to approve it as they need to read your entire constitution and pick out the details that need to be changed. After they approve it, you might want to apply to the Student Government Association (SGA) to be a club under them. They may require you to change the constitution a little according to their policies but this is usually a standard procedure and the Office of Campus Programs should be aware of it already. So, you end up filling out another application to the SGA with some student signatures and Student ID #'s (25 minimum in UMD's case). After the SGA approves it, you may have to just be a SGA club without funding from the SGA for the first year. Again, it depends on the school. Anyway, the treasurer or whoever you have as the contact person would get a notification that a budget is due if you are requesting funding from the SGA. You need to fill out a budget with items that you wish the SGA would fund you for. I find the best way to get the SGA to fund a skydiving club is to orient everything around SAFETY as you stress that you want to keep all the skydivers in the club safe. They rarely refuse this. But, if you choose to itemize the same exact item without using the terms safety, they may reject your request. For instance, if you want to get some funding for equipment, you could call it "Safety equipment", which you may have to put under "Contractual Services" (as that is what it would be considered at UMD. Another example would be time in the wind tunnel, which you could call "Free fall Safety Training". This would also fall under "contractual Services". At UMD, they have a few different categories that you could itemize things under such as "Transportation", "Advertising", "Contractual Services", "Subscriptions", and "Dues and Fees". "Transportation" would be the use of a motor pool that your school may have (i.e. van). "Advertising" would be something such as an ad in the school newspaper. "contractual services" typically means paying for a "lecturer" to come (in skydiving, it would be an instructor or some other skydiving expert). Or you could use "Contractual Services" for stuff such as Safety Training (as in my example of the wind tunnel). Moreover, you could designate the "Contractual Services" to alleviate the initial cost of 1st timers. The SGA would also be happy with this as you tell them the entire goal of the club is to get more students into the sport of skydiving and introduce diversity among the club while keeping it as cheap as possible. "Subscriptions" would be something like a subscription to "Skydiving Magazine" in the name of the club. But, this would be rejected if you don't have a centrally located office where students could come to. "Dues and Fees" would refer to the club membership fees to USPA ($200 the first year and $100 every year thereafter). The money from the SGA doesn't usually go directly to the club, but rather an invoice may need to be required by the company, which you want the SGA to pay with the Federal Employee # and mailing address for the check. The university may take a while to process this and send it to the company that you want the money to go towards. Our university is big on "Safety" and "Diversity". So, you could tell the SGA that you are trying to make the club as diverse and safe as possible, so you need their financial assistance. If the SGA says no, they are just pricks. You could make your club a "sport club" by contacting your school's "Campus Recreation Services" department and talk to them about it. They may fund you after a year of recognition or so. This funding may include club gear (rig, etc.) and owned/maintenance by the Campus Rec. Services. But, at UMD, it ends up being a huge hassle b/c the Campus Rec. Services requires meetings every week, a lot of paperwork, permission for the club to leave the state (our dropzone is in a different state), and permission to spend money where we want to. The only advantage of becoming a sport club is that the Campus Rec. Services may potentially buy us gear. Of course, this all depends on the school. Next thing you might want to consider (depending on the drop zone's waiver and the university's policies) is a legal waiver for your members to sign. You could get this done through the Student Legal Aid Office that some schools may have on campus. We started using the legal waiver when we first started but that got phased out b/c the drop zone's waiver covered us, as well as our club is just considered a "referrer" as opposed to a profit organization. A website helps the club enormously in getting information out to the public and to the students who don't quite understand what skydiving is about. You should have descriptions of the types of jumps (i.e. Tandem, AFF 1, and Static Line), prices of the jumps, and pictures of what each type of jump looks like. Also, you should have directions to the drop zone, contact information for possible students, events calendar, FAQ section, statistics on how skydiving is safer than driving your car or even walking on a treadmill. You could take a look at our club's website to get a general idea of what information you may want to have on your web page at: http://www.umd.edu/StudentOrg/cpsc You need to choose which drop zone will handle your club. You should call all of the local drop zones nearby and tell them that you are apart of a club at a university and you want to set some prices that are discounted dramatically from the regular price. If you are apart of a big university, you could tell them that and that you are potentially able to get hundreds of 1st timers each year. Also, you may want to work a club membership fee into the price of the 1st jump. That way, the club could make some money towards other things (i.e. boogies, gear, etc.). You could even have a "referral fee" worked into the price but that is your choice. Basically, you should have the total price be lower than the regular price by a good amount, which will increase your potential of getting students to jump through your club. Another thing to consider when choosing the drop zone is the type of aircraft they have. Drop zones with little Cessna's may not be able provide the necessary service for large groups. Also, if you were to charge a membership fee to people who are jumping through your club for the first time, you may want to give them something back in return such as a "free" t-shirt, sticker, etc. that would cost the club $5 per person. This money would be met up with the money from the membership fee. Anyway, this item that you would give the student would also allow you to get advertising on campus. A t-shirt would be worn around and others may ask that person about it. Then, they would probably direct those people to your club. You should choose 2 - 4 jump dates throughout each semester to start off with. That way, if someone can't make it 1 of the dates, they could make it to another one. Before each jump date, you may want to have an "information session" meeting somewhere on campus. In the meeting, you should go over what each type of jump is like, the costs, the places to sleep/shower at the drop zone, safety, clothing to wear on the jump, what skydiving feels like (not roller coaster type of feeling), pics/video of people who already jumped who are in your club, etc. The pics/video of professional skydivers are good to get the students interested but it is also good to have some of the experienced skydivers at the university. That way, the students would realize that it is very possible that they could become good at the sport while having a good time as you started out the same way at some point. You may want to have the club pay for some pizza, which sometimes is an initiative to get people to go to the meetings. It is okay b/c it will pay off as people will become interested in skydiving through the meetings. You could make this meeting as formal or informal as you wish. You might want to have some gear there to explain the different components of it along with its safety devices (i.e. AAD and RSL). Moreover, you might want an instructor from the drop zone come and make a speech about skydiving and the drop zone itself. Just remember this, the students are going to be very nervous and scared about their first jump, so keep that in mind when giving a speech in these meetings. Don't make any skydiving jokes mocking death. In fact, explain to them that skydiving is safer than most acts of daily living. But, still keep their attention by telling them that you are a student too and like to have fun. Just don't act cocky about it as the students will think that their safety would be in jeopardy. The most important key to these meetings is to smile and act extremely excited about the sport. The students will draw off of your enthusiasm and you will have more students wanting to jump despite the costs! Besides these information meetings, you should have general club meetings with the active members. You should discuss advertising issues, budget issues, etc. with them. This way, you all could brainstorm for more ideas as well as it would get the other members more involved with the club. This way, you don't have to do all the work. You could delegate the work so it is easy for everyone including yourself. Advertising: You should plaster the campus with fliers in the most NOTICEABLE areas. For example, at UMD, no one put fliers up on the bathroom doors in the dorms nor in the elevators until after I started doing it. Students notice these fliers while ignore the most used flier spaces (i.e. kiosks). You may want to make quarter sheet fliers and pass them out at a place on campus that many students frequent (i.e. Student Union or Dining Hall, etc.). Make the fliers have a dark background with light colored writing (i.e. white letters). This also, makes it more noticeable. Try not to have too much text on the fliers as students would just glance at it. You may want to just put "SKYDIVING" in large letters with information on the next jump or meeting along with your website. Other ways of advertising are pretty much infinite. You could put an ad in the school newspaper, put an ad on the football stadium's TV screen (or basketball), have some demonstration team jump onto campus with a banner trailing behind them, set up a table in front of the student union with pics of skydiving on a poster on the front of the table, co-host a happy hour with a local bar, or just email all of the presidents of other organizations (including frats/sororities) with information on your club. Fund raising would predominately be through your membership fees or referral fees. But, you could always purchase t-shirts or stickers, etc. with your club logo on it and sell them at a reasonable cost. If you have any more questions, please feel free to email me at: Lgershen@umd.edu Blue Skies, Soft Landings, Lewis D-25265
  22. Freefall Data Systems LLC launched two brand new skydiving altimeters on December 18, 2017. SonoAlti an audible altimeter that can be set using Bluetooth® wireless technology. ColorAlti is a patent-pending reconception of the peripheral vision LED altimeter. It can also be set using a free app called FDS Altis that is available on Apple’s App Store or Google Play. SonoAlti SonoAlti was conceived to remedy the classic problem many jumpers have of trying to set—or remember how to set—their audible altimeters. It has three different types of alarms (ascent, freefall, and canopy) and up to eight of each type can be set. The volume of each type of alarm can be set individually and the user can select from a sound bank of 64 different alarms. The unit is always on and has a rechargeable lithium polymer battery with a life of approximately 200 jumps or three months. Although it is not its primary function, SonoAlti also includes a speed tracker feature, which allows the user to get real-time feedback during a jump of vertical descent speed via beeps. In addition, SonoAlti tracks jump numbers as well as freefall and canopy time. Using the app, one can obtain information about the last recorded jump and view altitude and vertical speed graphs (up to seven minutes of data). These graphs can be saved as photos to the user’s mobile device. ColorAlti For ColorAlti, Freefall Data Systems LLC took the idea of peripheral vision altitude awareness and started from scratch. Unlike Elemental Technologies’ now defunct Chroma, ColorAlti contains a color LED, enabling it to display up to 256 different colors. The altimeter can be used in two different modes: continuous and discrete. In continuous mode, the light on the altimeter gradually blends through the colors of the rainbow according to two altitudes and colors of the user’s choice. In discrete mode, the light abruptly shifts to user-defined colors at altitudes of the user’s choosing. Up to eight of these discrete alerts can be programmed for ascent, freefall, and canopy. The unit has a flexible yet rigid gooseneck housing that is able to stay in place even at very high freefall speeds. Freefall Data Systems LLC CEO and Senior Engineer Casey Mongoven (D-33972) founded Freefall Data Systems LLC in 2016 in Lompoc, California. Casey designs all hardware and software for FDS products. He is also an active USPA Coach Examiner, AFF and Tandem Instructor with over 3000 jumps. http://freefalldatasystems.com/ https://www.facebook.com/FreefallDataSystems
  23. How NZ Aerosports General Manager Attila Csizmadia Found His Niche When I talk to Attila Csizmadia, he’s out of breath. He has just finished shaking down his four-year-old son for a set of puckishly “stolen” car keys, and it was a hell of a hunt. “Sorry,” he says, “I was running around the house like crazy looking for them.” Hidden keys are certainly not the only thing Attila runs after during the course of any given day. Since 2005, he has been the General Manager of NZ Aerosports--the central hub of operations for one of the sport’s most innovative, prolific and beloved parachute manufacturers. This is a dream job for a lot of skydivers, naturally, but it didn’t come easily. Indeed, one can’t help but think that running an office staffed with 30 to 40 staff is excellent preparation for the rigors of parenthood. The four-year-old is one of Attila’s two; the other is 13 years old--not far off from the age Attila was when he first started skydiving. “I am not sure if [my sons] will skydive or not,” he muses. “If they want to and they ask me for it, then I’m going to make it happen. It’s up to them.” It’s worth mentioning that if Attila’s boys start jumping, they’ll be a third-generation legacy. His own father was a skydiver and, though he stopped jumping when Attila was born, he’s much of the reason that Attila dove into the parachuting industry. “He was jumping in Hungary, where we’re from,” Attila explains. “He was old-school, a military guy. As I was growing up, he was in keeping contact with his friends that were still jumping, and they were always talking about skydiving, even when I was a little kid. Then, when I was about 14 years old, I was talking to one of his friends who was still jumping; listening to his skydiving stories. I remember saying--and meaning it--that I could never skydive. But then a friend of mine brought it up. He’d just watched a record attempt or something on TV. He begged me to try it with him, and I agreed. He stopped after five jumps; it changed my life.” “For me as a 16-year-old, getting into that group of people was just perfect,” Atilla remembers. “I was in school. It was all boys. I didn’t enjoy it. But then I went out to the dropzone and there was this friendly, crazy bunch. I was like, this is totally me. It felt like coming home.” It was 1988. At the time, Hungary was still Communist country. Everyone skydiver in the country jumped really old, really dodgy military gear that was “15 years behind the rest of the world,” and every skydiver in the country knew every other skydiver in the country. In 1991, the World Championships were held in what was then Czechoslovakia. They brought out some helicopters for the event, and the German, French and Italian 4-way team all came to Hungary to train. “They were jumping these square parachutes that we’d never seen in real life before,” Attila laughs. “These guys were swooping, and we were just, like: what is happening here?! It was like watching spaceships land. We didn’t know what was possible. When these guys came here in these jumpsuits and small gear and like awesome canopy work, we were blown away. And I was inspired to start doing 4-way and competing.” A few years of hard work later, Hungary had a young team. “Because it was a new sport in Hungary,” he grins, “We won the Nationals pretty easily. Then we were the national team for a long time--almost 10 years. I was burning to get out there and travel and to jump everywhere I could overseas and to get a better rig and just do more.” He split his time between the US and Hungary for about five years, studiously avoiding European winters; he switched his seasonal pattern to Australia when he went to the World Championships there in 1999. To date, in fact, he has competed in no less than seven world championships. “The last time I tried it, I couldn’t extend my visa,” he explains. “So there I was, facing returning to the middle of a European winter. I just couldn’t do it; there was nothing for me there.” His solution: Hop the channel to New Zealand. He got a work visa and picked up a job at a dropzone throwing drogues and teaching AFF. He soon joined the NZ 4-way team. Everything was going well--but then the tone changed. “My boss at the DZ was becoming a real a**hole,” he explains, “And I just desperately wanted to leave, but no one was hiring. Everybody had their staff. I needed to keep that work visa or I was going to be thrown right back to Hungary.” As a last-ditch effort, he asked a couple of friends who worked for NZ Aerosports and if they were hiring. They were. It was 2005. Attila went right to work making line sets and cutting canopies. “When I started working here, I thought I knew a lot about parachutes because I had been flying them a lot,” he says, wryly. “But when I got into the manufacturing side of it, I realized how little I actually knew. I found it really interesting and wanted to learn more and more.” He found a peerless mentor in NZ Aerosports’ legendary founder/mad scientist/gear innovator/party animal, Paul ‘Jyro’ Martin. “Jyro enjoyed that I was really interested in this stuff, and he just gave me so much information,” Attila says. “Then the guy who was managing the company at that time left. Jyro asked me if I wanted to do it. Of course I said yes.” It had been just six months since Attila had first accepted the job. At the time, NZ Aerosports was a much smaller company. They only made six canopies at that time, and they had two sewing machinists. When Attila started managing, he was still the one cutting all the canopies. As he did so, he’d always have the office phone on him, taking orders; he’d be sorting out emails and charging credit cards with one hand and shipping out the canopies with the other. The work was, to put it mildly, intense. “One of my main tasks,” he laughs, “Was making sure the beer fridge was always full.” “At the beginning it was really hard,” he relates. “I didn’t have any background in the business and hardly knew anything about it. English is a second language for me, so that made it a little bit harder too. I had to pretty much figure out everything for myself. At a certain point, I almost gave up because it was so stressful and things were not going really well. But then we pulled ourselves together with the manufacturing and started developing some new canopies. First, we released the JFX. We hired some new people, which brought in a nice newenergy. Then we met Julien [Peelman, Aerodynamics Engineer], and we started working on some of the really new canopies. There was no way I was leaving after that.” Now, the NZ Aerosports office buzzes with the work (and play) of about forty people, all of whom report to Attila. “It was a big learning curve, figuring out how to manage such a large number of people and deal with personal issues so that they still enjoy working together with all their differences-- the cultural gaps, the religious gaps and the age gaps between them. We have a big range. The youngest [staffers] are fresh out of school, and then we have some 60-something-year-old people working right next to them. We have people from Fiji...Canada...from all around the world, really. It’s like a dropzone.” If you talk to anybody at NZ Aerosports, they’ll tell you that much of that vibrant energy came from Jyro’s influence--and, in March of 2017, we lost him. The loss of “the soul of the company” took a massive toll on the community that had formed at his feet, and Attila had to work even harder through his mourning. However, the spirit that Jyro instilled--in Attila, in his team at large and in the business--kept it from coming unglued. “It is good to make some money, sure, but Jyro made sure it has never been our number-one motivation,” Attila explains. “You can see that the team is here all day, every day, working hard, and we always wanted to create a really nice environment for them that they truly enjoy working in. Because of that, people don’t really leave here. We’ve hardly changed any staff since I got here in 2005, and I think it’s because this is just a really good place to be. We all really pulled together when we lost Jyro. I think that’s what saved us--the people here, and our customers’ faith.” Attila insists that that faith--the passionate support of the NZ Aerosports fan base--is the phenomenon that really drives the machine. “I think that people respond to the fact that we are always trying new stuff; that we’re always improving,” he says. “That’s the part that’s interesting for us. We aren’t just developing new products. We actually want to make better products, and so we’re always searching for improvements on the designs. We have like 20 skydivers working here, so it is not just about driving revenue. I think that’s why people relate to it so strongly. This has always been more of a lifestyle than a business.” If NZ Aerosports is indeed about lifestyle, Attila is great evidence that they’ve nailed the art. “I think I found what I was trying to find in my personal life--a balance between family, the hobby and the business--in NZA,” he smiles. “I think that was always my goal, even if I didn’t know it at the time. Right now I feel that I’m in a really good place, and I’m ready for whatever comes next.”
  24. admin

    10 Gift Ideas for Skydivers 2017

    We're back again for the 2017 festive season, bringing you some gift ideas for your skydiving buddies or family members. We've spoken to the guys over at ChutingStar and Para Gear, and asked them what they recommend to those looking to fill some the stockings with some skydiving gifts, while at the same time, not breaking the bank. Full-Face Helmets - $285-$428 Get a free ChutingStar Helmet Bag with the purchase of any Full-Face Helmet on ChutingStar.com. Just put both items in your cart and the ChutingStar Helmet Bag will be discounted 100% at checkout! ChutingStar stocks full-face helmets from Cookie, Bonehead and Square1 in all sizes and colors. Available at ChutingStar Selection of Goggles Provide your mate with quality eye protection, with an affordable gift of goggles. Para-Gear offers a variety of skydiving goggles to fit your price range. Available at Para-Gear Manufactory MX Series Shorts - $149 MX Series Skydiving Shorts are triple-needle stitched with reinforced seams and bartacks on all high stress areas. A Cordura Nylon exterior with an internal breathable mesh liner allows effortless comfort with structural integrity. Available in 4 colorways in sizes 2XS to 2XL! Available at ChutingStar Glow Face Alt III Galaxy - $169 Meters and Black Only. The phosphorescent face provides a background glow to assist in low light conditions. The glow lasts over 2 hours in complete darkness, and is perfect for either night jumps or those sunset loads when it starts to get dark. The Glow Face Altimaster III Galaxy features a field replaceable lens. In case your lens gets scratched or cracked you will now be able to replace it yourself instead of having to send it to get serviced. Available at Para-Gear USPA Skydiving Calendar 2018 - $15 13 months of incredible 11x14-inch photographs by skydiving's best photographers! The 2018 USPA Skydiving Calendar is the perfect holiday gift. Available at ChutingStar Cookie G3 Helmet - $379 Welcome to the G3 headgear, Cookies latest release full-face headgear and a result of significant refinement of the previous full-face headgear. The G3 features the original VMech Visor Locking System that works unlike any other in the industry. The system makes for easy opening and positive locking of the headgear visor. The visor is 2mm polycarbonate and features a complex curved design for extra strength, unsurpassed field of view and an anti-fog coating. The headgear's cinching system is simple and secure, adjustment can be made to customize the headgear fit and once locked down just throw the headgear on and jump. Available at Para-Gear Parachuting Flipping Santa Musical Christmas Ornament - $24 This large parachuting Santa Claus sings Jingle Bells while he performs front flips and back flips under a round parachute! The perfect skydiver Christmas ornament! Available at ChutingStar Power Tools - $19.95 Want a great stocking stuffer with a low price? Give your loved one a Power Tool packing tool in holiday colors! Available at Para-Gear Dropzone.com Picks In addition to the products above, selected by both ChutingStar and Para-Gear, we've selected some of our own staff recommendations for gifts this season. Turned On GoPro Status Indicator - $79 The first true hard-wired status indicator for extreme sports, tells you the exact status of your GoPro Camera while it’s mounted on your head. Its ultra-bright LEDs shine unmistakably in your peripheral vision: blue for “standby,” red for “record” and yellow for “warning/error.” The Turned On device gets your mind back in the game -- and off your headgear-mounted GOPRO® HERO3, HERO3+ and HERO4. As you know, optimal performance in extreme sports requires an absolutely clear head (and nothing good can happen when personal safety takes a backseat to a blinking light). Available at Para-Gear Aluminum Personal Rig & Helmet Wall Rack - $99 Tired of seeing your spouse's gear lying around causing a clutter? The personal rig & helmet wall rack will provide an ideal way to store their skydiving gear in a style way that keeps their helmet and rig up on the wall. Available at ChutingStar Happy shopping!
  25. Exit at Mother City Skydiving. Image by Christopher Teague If the long flight puts you off--or if you’re new to the whole African-continent thing--let me be the first to tell you to get over it and get down here. You’ll be so glad you did. When the skydiving season is literally cooling off in the northern hemisphere, the southern hemisphere is just heating up. And it gets good. While December-friendly dropzones in the States tend to be one-trick ponies (I’m looking at you, middle-of-the-desert DZs), their South African counterparts offer more than drafty hangars and lukewarm swimming pools for your landside entertainment. Much, much more. In fact, this author insists that every skydiver in the Northern Hemisphere should get a gear bag together and abandon bad weather for points south. (Spoiler: Sure, it’s about the jumping--but it’s about so much more than the jumping. When it comes to adventures, Africa never disappoints.) Reason #1: Trip-of-a-lifetime ways to get your boogie on. December is smack-dab in the middle of the summer boogie season in South Africa, so skydivers have even more incentive to book the trip. Skydive Mossel Bay, for instance, is planning some seriously sweet turbine-fueled freefly shenanigans for December 16-31. You can expect gold-medal coaching, all the organized jumps your fluttery little heart desires, a flurry of exotic aircraft, landing after landing on the bay’s powdered-sugar beach and a South-African-style party you’ll be talking about for years (if you register in time). If that’s not enough, point your navel at the ground and make some shapes at the belly-themed JBay Boogie, where you’ll jump with a view of the world-famous righthand pointbreak that is Jeffrey’s Bay. (Pro tip: Book both boogies and bring all your swimwear.) View of the Cape Town area, with Table Mountain, as seen from Signal Hill. Image by Bryn De Kocks If you end up in-country in November instead, don’t despair: There’s the Tonto Boogie up in Johannesburg from November 25-27. Sure, there’s no jaw-dropping ocean view--but there are plenty of planes, plenty of organizers, plenty of new friends and plenty of good vibes to make up the difference, and the “braai” (bar-b-que) is legendary AF. Reason #2: (You guessed it.) Animals. Want to wake up on the right side of the bed for a long day of jumping? Try taking a private open-air shower while listening to lions make big-kitty noises on the ridges nearby. That’s totally possible at Skydive Mossel Bay, which is just down the road from five-star safari digs at Botlierskop Private Game Reserve. If you feel like taking a coastal drive to explore around Mossel, do it with a purpose: You’re just a couple of hours from canoodling with pachyderms at the Knysna Elephant Park. African Penguins along the Western Cape coast. If you end up heading inland to do some jumping at Skydive Robertson, take a day to explore the “kloofing” (hiking) around McGregor village, where several beautiful conservation areas provide many miles of baboon-dodging along your route between the various waterfalls and bushman’s caves. And if you’re kicking around Mother City, take a long afternoon to swim with the penguins, go dassie-spotting on Table Mountain or stroll around Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens. (Insider tip: Don’t miss the summer concert series.) Reason #3: Chain restaurants and sorry Mexican food? Nopey nopey nope. The exchange rate is currently favorable enough to turn your dropzone food strategy into a downright white-tablecloth affair, so don’t miss the opportunity. Skydive Mossel Bay sits right next to some of the best beachside braai spots in the country, as well as a couple of standout oyster bars and several coffee shops that are well worth a visit. Skydive Robertson’s choice spot in the Robertson Wine Valley puts a posh spin on the green light, offering up dozens of tasting rooms for your boozy perusal. Then, of course, there’s Mother City Skydiving--which is less than an hour from what is (in this author’s opinion as well as the Telegraph’s) the world’s best city, replete with gastronomic stunners, artisanal cocktails served in suitably slinky venues and pop-up supper clubs. Reason #4: You’ve always wanted to. You’ve wanted to see Africa for yourself since you first saw ‘The Lion King.’ (C’mon. You know damn well that’s true.) And now, as a mostly-grown-up skydiver, you have the perfect excuse to finally go: Staying current. There’s a nice bonus, too, for the moment: With the exchange rate being what it is, your USD--or GBP, if that’s your thing--are going to go surprisingly far towards those bucket-list African adventures. (Y’know: shark diving; cheetah snuggling; dancing around with the kids in an actual-factual village.) ...So it’s settled then. I’ll see you in December up in the big, blue African sky. Right? Right.