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Found 177 results

  1. until
    The European Skydiving Symposium is the only skydiving-oriented event in Europe that gathers experts, members of the skydiving community, instructors and gear specialists from our industry. It's not a trade-fair, it is a conference with a variety of presentations about safety, incident-analysis, gear specification, innovations… and so much more.The skydiving community gathered in one place, before the season 2022 starts, is the best way to learn new things, revise safety procedures, meet new people or plan some skydiving adventures and boogies together.There is going to be simultaneous translation provided for all presentations (Polish < > English). We are happy to confirm the following speakers: Bill Booth (UPT), Tom Noonan (UPT), Melissa Lowe (USPA), Tom Parker (SunPath), Lesley Gale (Skydive Mag), Rich Medalay (PD), Bartek Ryś, Tomasz Witkowski, Sebastian Dratwa.We are currently working on details of our agenda, you can also submit your topic here.We plan to publish the agenda late November 2021. There are going to be 4 tracks - similar to 2020 edition.The beginning of each day will start with "All-audience" presentations, including keynotes. After lunch we plan to split the audience into "General" end "Pro":Day 1: All Audience track + Tandem Pilots trackDay 2: All Audience track + Instructors trackDay 3: All Audience track + Riggers trackOn Friday evening all 2-days and 3-days ticket owners are invited to the After Party in Aviator Club. For Symposium attendees Airport Hotel Okęcie has a special offer - call the hotel and get your special deal. We kindly inform, that the underground hotel parking is 30 PLN/day.
  2. Have you ever realised that you feel something is not right in the system and something must be done about it? The question is how many times you did something to improve things…..? Avoidable Fatalities The purpose of Education in Skydiving and Rigging is to facilitate learning. Nothing else! All things learned are important and often vital to the skydiver- our sequence emergency procedures, wrong decisions under pressure and improperly done maintenance and repairs can end in disaster and they have. If there is any other interests involved in the education system- the process is ineffective. Also there is a difference between education in skydiving and public schools. If students in public education are to experience the result from what they learned in school or college years after graduation, skydiving students will need what they learned literally the same or the next day. A study was carried out by Hart, Christian L. and Griffith, James D. (2003) "Human Error: The Principal Cause of Skydiving Fatalities". Here are a couple of points: “Of the 308 fatalities that were reported between 1993-2001, 264 (86%) were categorized as Human Error, indicating that human error was deemed to be the principal causal factor in the mishaps. The remaining 44 (14%) fatalities were categorized as Other Factors, indicating that human error did not play a principal role in those mishaps. Therefore, human error appears to be the principal causal factors in the great majority of skydiving fatalities. Within skydiving training and education programs, specific attention should be given to human error, and training should be deliberately aimed at reducing human error mishaps. In the design of parachuting equipment, attention should be given to designing systems that increase skydiver situation awareness and increase the probability of correctly carrying out deployment and emergency procedure while under stress and time pressure.” I find it unacceptable that in the 21st Century with the level of science and experience in the sport we have 86 percent fatalities that have resulted from avoidable mistakes. In skydiving, critical situations require making correct decisions and executing proper action. This causes increases in pressure and cognitive load, beyond the state of flow that impairs our ability. When the cognitive load increases, our limited cognitive capacity is exceeded and we become overloaded. Our brains cannot process the large volumes of information being generated by the situation and we can fail to make accurate decisions. Example is tandem bag lock malfunction- requires very fast thinking, change of standard emergency procedures, reaction and execution when RSL is connected. However, if RSL is not connected- things are way easier- action is as usual- cutaway and reserve deployment. This is just an example where correct training can significantly reduce the pressure or lead to positive outcome. Knowing that there is direct connection between the previous training taken and how the skydiver would react under pressure is vital. Namely our gut feeling is what determines our reactions under pressure and lack of time. It all happens simultaneously before we put everything in words. So someone that has never used RSL as a backup system would go first for the reserve handle after cutaway and will almost never check for main risers clearance. In the late 80’s and 90’s of the last century, there were significant discoveries in phycology that explain a lot how and why humans make certain decisions under pressure. Unfortunately skydive training still has not caught up with psychology. Mirror neurons is one of these discoveries. For example, neurons in our brain fire symmetrically to match our instructor’s emotions. So, if the instructor is very positive, enthusiastic and smiling, about 20-30% of the neurons in the same area in the student’s brain, responsible for these emotions fire as well. The result is that students assume that if the instructor is that positively charged- everything must be in order. It is the same when the instructor looks negative, unhelpful, concerned- the student is experiencing a grade of freeze, flight response and the performance goes down. This is just a generalisation but it explains why students love enthusiastic instructors, regardless how competent they are. However, students also can identify incompetence hidden in positive attitude. There is also an explanation for that recently discovered. In this article, I will try to scratch the surface on training. Combining psychology and training in skydiving is going to be part of a different publication. In skydiving we have two types of Education- Safety education and skills improvement training. They overlap and mix all the time but they stay different things. Example is the training during the new skills courses- initial AFF, Tandem and AFF Instructor certifications. They all have two parts- the Safety part, which teaches the student/candidate/ how to survive the skydive with the new equipment and procedures and the Skills improvement part- how to do it well. This is very important since decision making is heavily influenced by the level of competence and skills in these separate areas. Both, the student and the teacher/instructor/ should know where they stand in that- at what stage of the training and learning process they are. Even more, the training for a particular skill must match the psychological reasons influencing how the student will react in this situation. It’s important to know why people make fatal mistakes and how to avoid them- you never know when a simple flight back to the landing area can turn into a situation that requires emergency procedures. Approaching Education Differently Looks like education in skydiving suffers from a bit of amnesia! It is based on the industrialised system of education. This system came out during the industrial revolution and it was designed to serve the needs of the manufacturing process- to produce a workforce that follows algorithms. Basically, it’s a system that tells you how to do things, without much explaining. The student is instructed not thought. This all works well when in the manufacturing! And we have all seen the big emergency procedures charts that look like wiring diagrams like they are designed for a computer processors to follow. However, people are not machines but organic creatures and in addition they have to make their own decisions under pressure. Industrialised system is based on standardisation and conformity! It is true that these principles are a must in skydiving and they define the skills necessary for surviving the skydive with- must know, must do and must not do. But there must be a clear line where they begin and finish because any irrelevant and wrong information or negative emotions significantly affect the decision making process. The fact that a student does not understand what causes our bodies to turn in freefall creates negative emotions and can cause them to fail the stage. Conformity and standardisation also contradict the principles on which skydiving and life for that matter have flourished over the years- diversity and creativity. Every single person is different. Not a single person’s life is the same as anybody else’s. There’s no two persons on this planet that are the same. So why skydiving training is standardised to that extent? One of the results is that year after year there’s a great amount of people that give up skydiving after they get their A licence. And the reason is that they don’t want to spend a long time and a lot of money doing relative work with B rels. Most of the students started skydiving because they wanted to do something else- usually freeflying or swooping. There is a great amount of students that never complete the AFF course as well. If a private company was losing such an enormous amount of their clients every year, they would say- “Maybe it’s not the customers, maybe it’s something we do”. If equipment and training courses were put under the compatibility lid some time ago, they would never advance more than the static line course and round military parachute stage! People are also curious and creative. They want to learn. Everyone knows that students and instructors start their career with a great amount of curiosity and want to learn and keep this going forever. Curiosity is the engine of achievement. One of the effects of the current culture, has been to de-professionalise instructors. There is no system in the world that is better than it’s instructors. Instructors are the lifeblood of the success of drop zones, but teaching is a creative profession. Teaching, properly conceived, is not a delivery system. Instructors should not be there just to pass on received information. Great instructors do that, but what great teachers also do is mentor, stimulate, provoke, and engage. Another big problem with the industrial based system is that it never covers everything that we need to know because it is based on what has happened so far. Especially in recent years, it presents you with a list or diagrams with possible situations. What happens if you get into situations that are not on the list?! Then you need creativity! A good example is the tandem fatality resulted from a turn initiated at about 200ft and the control line and toggle got hooked on the disconnected side passenger connector. The tandem pair entered into a continuous diving turn. The tandem instructor ran through the given emergency procedures diagram but there was nothing for this particular situation. The most he could think of was- cutaway and deploy reserve. Unfortunately it was too low. However, there were at least two solutions in this case that were not on the diagram- cut the break line and try landing with risers or counter the turn with the other toggle and land on deep brakes. Compliance in this situation didn’t equal safety but provided a false sense of safety. Situations like this require some creativity or divergent thinking. And we use divergent thinking all the time in skydiving- when we exit and fly different tandem clients, when different aircraft changes the inflight procedures, when tailoring the stage for a particular AFF Student, when packing reserves or repairing equipment etc. “Divergent thinking is a thought process or method used to generate creative ideas by exploring many possible solutions. It typically occurs in a spontaneous, free-flowing, "non-linear" manner, such that many ideas are generated in an emergent cognitive fashion. Many possible solutions are explored in a short amount of time, and unexpected connections are drawn.” There is another system of education, which is based on reasoning, where cause and effect are the significant element. This is the system to which we owe the development in skydiving and skydiving equipment- people trying different things and improving the ones that work. With this system, understanding how and why things happen is the driving force. That’s how basic military parachutes were improved for sport parachuting to get to the current state of the art canopies and harness containers. This is how we all got where we are now. With this system, the student’s safety and progression are the important thing, not the standard of “pass or fail” and the learning process can be tailored so the students can learn effectively. In this system both- student and instructor are aware of the level of competence /unconscious incompetent, conscious incompetent, conscious competent, unconscious competent/ the student is in. Right now there are thousands of consciously incompetent skydivers and instructors about their own equipment but they are expected to deal with extraordinary situations with competence. They simply do not know how their reserve system or components exactly work and what potential problems they can cause them. As a result, these licenced skydivers are not ready to deal with a number of issues. If you knew that if the Cypres fires in head position and the reserve might hesitate, how materials and body position affect the reserve openings, what the reserve pilot chute is, etc. you would consider your actions. The level of competence/competence- confidence loop/ directly affects the performance and decision making in every situation- challenging or threatening. The more competent you are with equipment and situations, the more pressure is reduced and it is easier to make decisions. All this is not that new and there is wonderful work done by instructors and dropzones. However, it is happening not because of the current standardisation and command and control culture but despite it. Yes, sometimes habit is stronger than reason, but reason always prevails eventually. Maybe it’s time the available knowledge in the 21-st century about learning, training, psychology and the connection between them to be implemented accordingly. While doing that, some accidents could be prevented. After all, skydivers are organic creatures and parachutes are just mechanical systems operated by skydivers. Nothing magical happens up there! The magic we feel is only in our heads! --------------------------------------- K.B Jumps - 25 000+ AFF, Tandem Instructor, Freefall Photographer Rigger- FAA all types, APF Rigger Examiner Master of teaching, Biology and Chemistry
  3. When first learning to skydive, at least in the US, you attend a first jump course (FJC) that usually lasts between four and five hours on the ground, then you go up in a plane and jump. There are several methods of instruction including Accelerated Free Fall (AFF), Instructor Assisted Deployment (IAD), Static Line (SL), or a combination of the three called the Integrated Student Program (ISP). While all of these methods of instructions are different, they all have one thing in common: gravity. You have to land your parachute. This is where the PLF comes into play. It is also where numerous accidents happen, sometimes due to sliding in, rather than doing a PLF. This is understandable, since tandem pairs land this way for safety reasons. Besides standing up the landings (the preferred method), this is the landings students see most often. When skydiving first began, all of the equipment was military surplus. This included round canopies, so naturally the PLF was brought along as the safest way to land. Over time, and thanks to the innovation of early pioneers of the sport, the equipment evolved into the square (and now elliptical) canopy, which brought its own problems, like needing a slider to control the opening, and also alleviated the issue with hard landings, mostly. Now, rather than falling more or less wherever the wind blew you, you could steer and fly the canopy much the same as a glider, since the canopy is now a pressurized wing. When you want to land, you fly a landing pattern and pull both steering toggles down and flare, much the same as an airplane would by using flaps. This allows you to bleed off forward speed and land softly standing up (theoretically). Like all things skydiving, when it works, it works really well, but when it doesn't work, it can kill you. I was a skydiver before going airborne, so when it came time to learn how to PLF, I thought I had an advantage since I had been taught how. Boy was I wrong. They had a platform you climbed on and rode a zip line to gain forward speed and then you let go to learn how to PLF in a simulated landing. I could not keep my feet together, so the Blackhat (instructor) tied my boots together. I had to hop around all day, but I have not had a problem keeping my feet together since. In airborne school, they take two weeks to train you how to jump out of planes compared to five hours in skydiving. Most of that time is preparing you to land. As there is no way to steer the round canopy other than slipping on landing (pulling the risers to go sideways a little) or facing into the wind, and no way to flare or slow down the speed, the PLF is needed to prevent injury. I have seen a jumper fall about 50 feet and do a PLF and walk away with a few bruises. While I understand that time is limited and it is hard to prepare a student for all possibilities, I feel that more time should be spent on PLFs during the FJC, at least an hour, and that students should do at least five correct PLFs before every jump. This is standard procedure before doing an airborne jump, and includes all jumpers being led through the entire jump by a jumpmaster, including their emergency procedures. If we put every student through this before every day of jumping, it would help prevent injuries. The reason students choose to slide in rather than PLF is observation. Since this is the way a tandem pair lands in order to prevent injury, it is assumed to be safe. It is, when properly taught. It is easier to injure yourself sliding in or trying to run out a landing than doing a PLF. I know of at least two serious injuries sustained sliding in that a proper PLF would have prevented. One case ended with a cage around the lower vertebrae. I made a jump at an unfamiliar DZ on rental gear and the winds were a little high, about 15 mph, so I ended up landing long. When I turned on final, there were some power lines in front of me and I was headed straight for them. I turned around and did a downwind landing, and a PLF into the hard-as-a-rock, newly plowed field, ending up with some scratches when I landed. I was going about 20 mph forward speed. Had I slid in or tried to run it out, I would most likely have broken something. Another time I jumped at an unfamiliar DZ, I chose to PLF instead of running it out, and while walking back stepped in a gopher hole. Had I hit that while running out the landing, I would have broken my ankle. A proper PLF has five points of contact: the balls of the feet, calf, thigh, buttock, and pull-up muscle (deltoid). When you prepare to hit the ground, keep your feet and knees together, slightly bent, in preparation to absorb the impact. When you fall, hit all the points of contact in order, while rolling on the ground. A proper PLF will allow you to absorb all of the energy and dissipate it by rolling, rather than staying stiff and breaking bones or tearing ligaments and tendons. I kick my feet together when approaching my landing to ensure my feet are together and knees bent, ready to hit the ground and roll. That way, if I don't bleed off enough speed to land standing up, I am already prepared to roll and do it without thinking. If I am going slowly enough, I have a nice stand up landing. Although the goal is standing it up, it is best to be prepared for a PLF, especially if you are fond of your ankles and spine. Blue skies. Article written by @sfzombie13
  4. I've been thinking about this for a while, and have talked about it a bit with some people deeply involved with developing current training methods in the US, but thought I'd feel out here, if people think I'm off with this: Clearly, learning to fall properly, when a landing does not go quite right, is an essential safety skill, and it has been my saving grace many times, especially on my first 100 jumps or so, but I feel like the current teachings around this topic may not quite be up to date with the reality of our sport. Like everyone else, I learned the good old PLF. And--I think also like everyone else--I tried to apply it in the real world, but if I am honest, in reality have practiced something that really wasn't quite what we learned. Don't get me wrong: There are some crucial aspects of the PLF (such as rolling over the side and distributing the impact over as wide of an area of the body as possible, at the same time protecting the most vulnerable parts of the body) that absolutely apply now just as much as in the past, but: If you look at any depiction of the exact technique of the PLF, it becomes clear that the technique was designed for absorbing high vertical speed with almost negligible horizontal speed, and minimizing the impact on crucial body systems in such a scenario. This is of course exactly what one would have experienced during a landing with a round parachute at the time when this method was developed (and still now, as a paratrooper jumping similar systems) However: This is generally NOT the situation during a (potentially) hard landing, using modern sports parachutes. In these situations, you are generally encountering fast horizontal speeds and varying vertical speeds, with a tremendous variety of exact scenarios. While again, something LIKE a PLF, or some principles of the PLF, still apply, I have noticed that many jumpers intuitively (or through experience) know that this does not work completely, and then design their own system (consciously or not) to deal with the reality of the situation. This can vary from from something like a rolling judo fall to "just slide it in"--and there is really no consistent system that gets trained that is fully applicable, since instructors and coaches simply have to train the "PLF", even though they would have to admit that they do not quite use it in the way it is described--if they were honest. (And clearly some solutions are better here than others.) On the other hand, there are so many techniques from martial arts and especially parkour that may actually apply more here and could be trained if someone dared to update our current methods. What do people with more experience think? Am I off about this? Can this "sacred cow" actually be updated? Does your own method of avoiding injury during (semi-) hard landings actually resemble the original PLF? Do you think it's good enough to continue teaching the PLF as a general system and trust that everyone will modify it to the actual situation they are in? If you think a PLF does not apply exactly as taught, what changes would you suggest? Should this go under the safety forum? (I feel the forums, other than "Speakers Corner" are so underused these days that I am hoping to post this somewhere, where it's at least got a semi-decent chance of attracting some eyeballs and responses--but feel free to move it, moderators, if you think that's more appropriate)
  5. I'm going to be operating from a heli soon and I'm looking for advice or resources on procedures and technique. I believe it will be an A350 Anyone got anything?
  6. Apparently tandem skydives are too dangerous for Enzo Ferrari's team's taste. https://www.livetradingnews.com/ferrari-nyserace-displeased-with-driver-leclerc-secret-skydiving-163966.html#.Xk0kKmhKh7g
  7. 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 LearnedThe 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.
  8. We recently posted an article showcasing some really sweet videos to get you amped to hit the sky. The reality however, is that not every jump goes as planned. Sometimes you find yourself victim to a bad pack job, bad technique or failed equipment. The collection of videos below are some of the malfunctions that made their way onto Youtube in the past year. Use these videos to learn from other's mistakes, look at how others reacted to their incidents and how it affected their outcome. While some malfunctions one can laugh about later, others should serve solely as a lesson to other jumpers. From the uploader: "On my first jump with my Strix i had a toggle fire and needed to cutaway! Not the best body position and pitched with some speed. This is the only way that my great SABRE 1 wingsuit canopy can get into a diving spin." From the uploader: "After an uneventful jump, on deployment one of the riser covers of the Wings rig did not release, leading the PD 90 to deploy unevenly and start violent spinning behind the neck of the jumper. He was about to cut away the wing and pull his reserve when the riser cover released. The jumper checked his altitude, reasoned he had altitude to keep working on it a bit longer and then untwisted. He landed back at the dropzone exhausted and shocked, then switched container manufacturer as soon as he could." From the uploader: "Bag lock is a b*tch, especially on a tandem skydive. This TI and passenger were in the saddle by 1650 feet." From the uploader: "A skydiver has some heavy line twists on opening, which he fights all the way down to his hard deck before cutting away and deploying his reserve parachute -- which also opens with heavy line twists. Yikes!" From the uploader: "Skydiver rides his reserve parachute safely to the ground after a canopy malfunction!" From the uploader: "A pilot chute in tow malfunction is never fun, especially when you try to manually deploy your main parachute and end up flipping onto your back with a mess of lines wrapping around your leg. That’s exactly what happened to this skydiver. He pulled his cutaway, deployed his reserve and crossed his fingers that the reserve would clear the ball of $#!t above his head." From the uploader: "This jumper deployed their main, saw a malfunction they could not recover from, and cutaway. Their three-rings separated but a line got caught and the main parachute remained connected to the container. While attempting to clear the line entanglement, it appears the jumper pulled on their RSL and extracted their reserve pin; giving them a two-out. The jumper flew the reserve and, twenty seconds before safely landing their reserve, the main finally released." From the uploader: "As they exited the plane this jumper’s deployment bag came out of their container and gave them a horseshoe malfunction. They realized their pilot chute was still in the BOC and deployed it in an attempt to remedy the situation. Unfortunately, the pilot chute failed to extract the main, resulting in a SECOND malfunction! This time the jumper was faced with a bag lock. They cutaway their main, regained stability and deployed their reserve." From the uploader: "After an uneventful wingsuit flight this jumper deployed his main and found himself with a line over that sent him spinning. Unable to fly the canopy, he cutaway and – after dealing with some line twists – landed without further incident." From the uploader: "This skydiver pulled at 4k feet to get comfortable under canopy again -- it was their first jump after a 4 month break from skydiving. Once they deployed, they checked their canopy and thought it was an end cell closure, but quickly realized that it was actually a line-over. They began pumping the risers to clear it and continued to do so until they reached their decision altitude. The jumper claims they were preparing to cut away when they did one last pump of the risers and cleared the line-over."
  9. ...Or Where Everyone Else Is Landing, But That’s Beside the Point Image by Wolfgang LienbacherYou’ve seen Star Trek, you big nerd -- so you know the answer to this question: When everybody’s staring out the front of a spaceship as it slams into warp speed, what are they looking at? Don’t make that face. This absolutely applies to skydiving. The answer, of course, is that they’re staring dramatically out into a starfield. Within that starfield, the outside stars are streaked into blurs and the center stars are distinct, clear and individual. At any given moment, the spaceship is headed towards the clear stars in the center of the frame. Gene Roddenberry and his glitter-stirring co-wizards didn’t come up with that out of nowhere. they used a classic model, called the Radial Optic Flow Pattern (or ROFP), to base their screensaver-worthy visuals upon. Originally defined by scientist James J. Gibson, Radial Optic Flow has greatly driven the development of an “ecological” approach to visual perception. This approach investigates human vision in the context of the natural environment (as opposed to a laboratory). It may sound obscure, but that same model is the one you, as a skydiver, should consciously use if you’d rather land in the peas than the trees. Here’s how. Velocity Fields and FOEsAs a human in motion, your field of view – your very own spaceship windshield – is called your “velocity field.” Within that velocity field, when you’re traveling along a straight path (with no eye, head or body rotation), your heading is nailed quite precisely by the unmoving focus of expansion (FOE) in the center of your vision. How precisely? Well, a 2008 Oxford University study found that humans can use the FOE in optic flow to estimate their heading within one degree of the visual angle, and that’s good – because the FOE is exactly where you’re going. As opposed to a paraglider – which can go up just as handily as down, in the right conditions* – a skydiving canopy has one essential mode: forward/down. A ROFP for forward movement describes expansion – like the stars in the front windshield of the spaceship as it rushes towards the FOE described by the still stars in the middle. (As our skydiving canopies can’t really go backwards, we won’t worry about the “reverse thrusters” mode.) Image by Wolfgang Lienbacher Where’s My FOE?If you’re flying your skydiving canopy straight, your FOE is easy to pick off: it’s the place in your vision that isn’t dropping, rising, or side-sliding. As you approach the landing area, the FOE remains central while the rest of the field expands proportionally more quickly. If you’re throwing a bunch of canopy inputs into the mix, however, it’s much more difficult to determine FOE. That’s because you’re introducing a “rotational component of lamellar flow,” which forces the retinal flow pattern not to be radial anymore, thereby making it difficult to recover the original heading. How to “Energize” Your Accuracy:When you set up your landing, choose objects on the ground and notice whether they’re moving up or down in your velocity field. Notice the still spot that indicates your FOE. Notice how accurate you can make your landings by fixing your FOE on your intended spot landing. As you learn to determine your FOE close-up, start to work on spotting your FOE from higher and higher altitudes. By doing this, you’ll train yourself to know instantly if the spot is off and you’ll need to choose an alternate landing area. Keep your FOE on the target, not an obstacle. When I was racing motorcycles, I used to refer to this trick as my “eye magnets.” That sounds just as silly as spending four hours in a makeup chair getting a rubber Klingon face glued on, but it’s not: your gaze truly is functionally magnetic. You'll head inexorably towards the one tree in the landing area you’re terrified of hitting (and thus staring at). Conversely, you'll kinda-magically turn away from that tree without any other conscious inputs if you “unstick” your gaze and attach it firmly to open turf. Improperly applied eye magnets are referred to less-cutely as “target fixation.” Many skydivers refer to this phenomenon as “the accuracy trick,” which seems unfair – there are a lot of helpful tools for accuracy, of which this is only one. That said, consistently landing where you want to is a great way for a skydiver to live long and prosper. (Shh. You know you giggled.) ** For this reason, “the accuracy trick” is a little trickier to use for paraglider pilots, because visual cues have a tendency to bounce around as the wing is affected by thermic “bubbles” near ground level.
  10. Does anyone have any pointers (this is great don't buy this) on electronic wind speed indicators? I searched and there is a wide variety. A friend suggested I focus on those used by boat owners. Thoughts?
  11. Hi, I have gotten mixed answers to this question so I wanted to ask here. Hopefully someone who owns one of these can chime in or a rigger who has experience with them I was told that the TSO may be written in a way that some riggers will pack it and others will not. Another source told me it has a TSO and there is no problem. The one I'm looking at was manufactured on 1999 if that makes a difference Anybody have any experience with this?
  12. 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 BoogieThe 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 OffHowever 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 EvolvesIn 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 TodayThe 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.
  13. 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
  14. Image by Joel StricklandDoes 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.)
  15. Damage Control for Unwilling Christmas Ornaments Image by Corrado MarianiChristmas ornaments are lovely, aren’t they? Glossy, colorful baubles, swinging gaily from the bushy branches of a fragrant fir, make our little hearts sing along with the season they decorate. They are not, however, excellent role models for air sports athletes. If you ever end up gracing some branches with your majesty, the United States Parachute Association would first like you to take your enforced treetop time to think very carefully about how you got there. According to the SIM, “properly preparing for the canopy flight by observing the winds,” “planning an appropriate landing pattern” and “choosing the correct exit and opening points” will generally keep you out of the foliage. In short: you messed up, kid. ...But let’s move on. If you discover that you’re on an imminent collision course with a tree, you need to know your 8-step damage control plan. Here’s what to do. 1. Make sure you’re flying into the wind.Do not downwind a tree landing. You may not have a sock to steer by, but – hey, lucky you! – you have at least one tree for reference. Watch the movement of its branches to determine the wind direction. 2. Fly in half-brakes.Your aim is to slow down your canopy as much as possible for the impact. Fly your final approach in half brakes, taking care not to stall your canopy in the process. 3. Go for the middle.Your aim is to impact at the central trunk of the tree. If you miss the middle of the tree, you run the risk of clipping the tree with a line or a cell, collapsing your canopy and dumping you on the ground in a yowling pile. 4. Keep your $#!* together.As you do in a properly executed parachute landing fall (“PLF”), hug your body towards the midline, as though you were inside a mummy-style sleeping bag. Keep your legs springy at the knee, but hug them snugly towards the midline. Continue to fly your canopy until you contact the tree. Just before impact, draw your forearms together so that your elbows sit at the stomach and your hands over the face. This position protects your belly, ribs and chest from being lanced by branches. 5. Keep your hands to yourself.Resist the urge to grab limbs to stop your fall, as this will only leave vast areas of your body unprotected from veritable armies of sharp branches that are about to mobilize for the attack. 6. Assume a hard landing.More often than not, a parachutist who lands in a tree does not stay in the tree. Usually, the jumper falls right through, snapping branches and leaving shredded bits of canopy all the way down. Keep that PLF position as best you can, in order to make the landing as soft as possible when the tree finally sees fit to deposit you at its feet. 7. Get comfortable.Have you actually managed to stay in the tree? Oh, great. Stay there. A great many injuries occur not during a jumper’s actual tree landing, but from the jumper’s failed attempt to detach themselves from their mangled equipment and climb down. In general, if you’re more than a meter or so over the ground and you have any hope of rescue, wait for that rescue to arrive. If you’re phoneless, radioless, jumping-buddyless, out of public earshot and generally hooped for help, you’d better hope you have a hook knife handy. You'll use the hook knife to -- gulp -- disentangle yourself from the spiderweb of lines you're likely encased in. This is necessary to prevent you from accidentally throttling yourself, and from sustaining a serious rope-burn injury if a branch cracks and sends those knifelike lines through your tender outer layers. You'll probably cry a little bit with every line you cut. Ain't no shame in it. 8. Be grateful.Even if you shred your pricey gear, rejoice if you walk away from a tree landing uninjured. Gear can be replaced -- and you lucked out, you lucky duck. See the bright side.
  16. March is safety month, and what better time than just before the Northern Hemisphere's summer season to refresh yourself on information you may be rusty on, or just become more educated in the various safety aspects. Last year we published an article with what we felt were some of the most important safety related articles published on Dropzone.com at that time. Since then we have had several new pieces of information published, that may help you in staying safe out there, from canopy control to exit separation. We've also included several safety day events that are happening around the world later this month. Here's a list of what we feel are 5 of the most important articles submitted over the past year: Teaching Students To Navigate The Landing Pattern In our most recently published safety article, coach and IAD instructor rated Corey Miller discusses some of the core aspects of landing patterns and how students are taught to navigate them. The article focuses specifically only the way instructors relay landing information to students over radio, while perhaps not allowing the students to truly learn for themselves what is important to look for and more closely address the subject of learning to land as opposed to being told how to land. Staying Current During Winter While this article may be a bit late for the northern hemisphere, winter is approaching down south and many useful tips can be learned. In the article, Brian Germain discusses the benefits to staying current during the off season and provides readers with a number of useful exercises that can be done to ensure optimum efficiency when you return to the sky. There's numerous images included to help you understand the setups and how they work, as well as exercises that addresses specific individual disciplines. Exit Order Safety Another article by Brian Germain, on the topic of exit order safety. The main focus of the article revolves around establishing and discussion the different types of jumpers and how their time under the plane may vary, and in turn to establish who should jump when and why. Not only is the direct exit from the aircraft addressed, but the article further discusses exit order importance with regards to exit timing and landing area. In the comments section, Brian goes on to acknowledge the possible ambiguity in the term "prop-blast penetration", used in the opening paragraph and says that the term can be replaced by such terms as "forward throw", "relative wind penetration" or the more self-explanatory "horizontal distance traveled". When Should You Upsize Your Canopy The first of two very useful articles on the topic of canopy size, this article was a combined effort by Melissa Lowe, Barry Williams and Jason Moledzki. It uses numbered points to address 10 factors that one should look at when considering canopy size. Most of the time the thought is on downsizing, as one feels more comfortable with their current setup, but for some people - the solution to many of their problems may actually be to head in the other direction and consider upsizing their canopy. There are numerous variables involved that could prompt one to require an upsizing, from gaining weight to even jumping at a higher elevation. At the end of the discussion, there is a Canopy Risk calculator (created by the USPA), which is intended to act as a guideline for you to see how much of a safety risk you are with your current setup and skill level. It's Not Only Size That Matters - Thoughts on Canopy Upsizing The other canopy upsizing article we featured was submitted by Dave Kottwitz and focuses more on retelling lessons learned when he upsized from a Triathlon 210, to a Spectre 230. On his third jump on the new, larger canopy Dave ended up breaking his leg in six places as well as dislocating his shoulder. In the article, he looks at what caused the problems and why one has to realize that upsizing your canopy is not an immediate guarantee for an increase in safety.
  17. IntroductionBoogies, skills camps and destination events are now available in the farthest reaches of the globe - taking place in countries that range from reassuringly orderly to exhilaratingly shambolic. Wherever you are heading, be sure to bone up on all the information you might need before you go - and prepare accordingly. Background research both specific to skydiving and for travel in general will aid your journey under any circumstances, favourable or otherwise, but the more you know in advance the better off you will be when things get complicated. Somewhere that is putting on a skydiving event might simply operate very differently to what you are used to, and the more you can do in advance to set yourself up for success the better. If any appropriate information has been overlooked by the event organisers and you are left in the dark without adequate briefings and knowledge, then ask around - skydivers love to quack on about stuff and those that have previously attended a particular location will tell you the things you really need to know. Skydiving events of any size contain a lot of moving parts that must all work harmoniously to keep people jumping safely. Myriad financial and logistical puzzle pieces require being carefully pulled together over the course of many months to successfully stage a gathering above and beyond the scope of a dropzone’s usual activity. These numerous variables mean there is a lot that can potentially go wrong - the weather might totally crap out and leave everyone fighting for whatever slots that might become available, a broken thingumy may ground an aircraft and significantly reduce lift capacity (or even scratch it completely) or someone can easily enough pick up the kind of injury that demands all jumping operations be shut down for a bit. The list of things that can cause problems and inefficiencies is long and unpredictable - and while the likelihood of the event organisers doing anything other than their very best is slim, they simply might not have the available mental power to stay on top of a snowballing situation. So, what should you do when you are at an event where the wheels are coming off? Buddy Up:If you are used to jumping in a country with lots of rules that must be adhered to while parachuting you can quickly land well outside of your comfort zone in the sketchier corners of the map. Teaming up with another human who can watch your back, both during jump procedures and on the ground in more general ways can provide a measure of reassurance not formally provided. Someone more experienced is good, but anyone who can objectively and reliably keep an eye on you is a solid plan. Check in with each other before and after every jump and at various points throughout each day. Also let one another know how to access vital documents and important personal items should anyone end up taking a trip to the hospital or the police station or the loony bin. Use Your Skills Wisely:Always keep both eyes on your own safety. At any boogie it is very easy to get swept up onto jumps where you are really less than comfortable. If a boogie is running away from itself it is more important than ever to correctly asses and manage the jumps you are doing. Nobody is going to do that for you. Remember that the real rewards are in the endless journey. A nicely formalised and arranged skills camp is the time and place to stretch your legs. Understanding you current limits and working sensibly with them is the path to a great time and safe jumps. Wisdom is calling things to heel when everyone around you is getting looser by the minute. Take Responsibility For Your Data:You can pretty much guarantee that by the time the boogie kicks off any dropzone internet will be down for the duration. Whatever reliable bandwidth the facility has available will likely be reserved for the running of crucial operations, and not for you to WhatsApp photos of each other of someone with a bottle of Jaegermeister duct-taped to their face. A local pre-paid mobile bundle is often the most reliable and affordable choice, but whichever way you want to sort it out some personal phone data is well worth the money. The more overwhelmed an event becomes, the higher the chances are of someone going missing or taking a trip to hospital - you can use the navigation and location tracking services of modern smartphones to find your way back to the airfield or to help look for a lost person. A active messaging group for all of your party can enhance a group experience but can also provide a valuable safety net for communication when everybody is getting shitfaced and things are getting weird. Be Ready:Impending chaos will likely first show itself as wildly inaccurate call times. A twenty-minute warning might mean you will be jumping either right away or hours from now - so the best plan is to always be ready. If your group can rock and roll at a moment’s notice not only will it aid the quality of your jumps, such exhibitions of professionalism will possibly ooze out of you and influence those close by who are less coherent. Help Out:If things are frantic, offer to help. If you have some local knowledge and are surrounded by disgruntled people who have travelled far to attend, then perhaps round them up and show them a good time. Chipping in even with seemingly insignificant things such as making the tea might free up other people better positioned to get stuck in with that broken aeroplane problem or downed computer network. Patience:A spoonful of patience goes a long way. If things are devolving into chaos aim to ease through it rather than throw wood on the fire. Try to remember that planning and executing a boogie takes a lot of work from all the people involved with the DZ and they rarely (if ever) make any money - and certainly not more than the usual daily business of the place. Not getting all up in people’s faces might help things to run smoothly again and shouting at the staff will help no-one. Speak Out: However! Don’t be afraid to speak up if you can see that something is dubious or outright dangerous. Stick your chin up and your chest out and say “What the fuck is this, you clueless morons?” Those responsible for an event that is going to shit may well be under fire from all angles, but if something is wrong they are required to honour everybody’s safety and fix it. Conclusion:All told, if your life allows you to own a parachute and use it recreationally then things are pretty good. Any kind of skydiving jamboree you attend will most likely be filled with treasured experiences you will talk about for years to come. If the odd one does not pan out exactly as you were hoping, then attempt to handle it in the most positive way possible - try not to make things worse, help others be safe wherever you can, and wring every bit of knowledge and experience you can from it to apply going forwards. If you do find yourself at an event that devolves into the kind of chaos where you are genuinely worried about making though with your personage and sanity intact - you can always simply walk away.
  18. Exit separation has become a point of contention at many DZ's lately. Years ago, when belly flying was the rule and the Cessna 182 was the aircraft at most DZ's, exit separation wasn't too much of a big deal - you gave the other group (if there was another group) some time and then you went. With the aircraft in popular use 15-20 years ago, it was hard to exit very quickly to begin with, and so the issue never came up very often. Bill von Novak started skydiving in 1991 at a small DZ in New York. Since then he has become an S+TA, an AFF, tandem and static line instructor, and has set two world records in large formation skydiving. He lives with his wife Amy in San Diego. Since then, several factors have conspired to make exit separation more of an issue. First off, there are more people freeflying. Freeflyers, especially head down groups, drift differently than belly flyers, and thus need different considerations when planning for exit separation. Faster canopies mean that people who open facing each other need more distance to deal with a potential collision. Large aircraft with big doors can hold several larger groups, and those groups can get out those big doors more quickly. Finally, GPS spotting has removed some of the delay between groups. It's rare to see people even check the spot before beginning their jam-up. I first became aware of this issue in 1994, when I started jumping at Brown Field in San Diego. We went through a series of aircraft as we grew, from Cessna 206's to King Airs to Beech-99's, none of which had GPS. In addition, we were less than a mile from the US-Mexico border, which meant our jump runs had to be east-west and our spots had to be dead on. Several instructors were "designated spotters" and we would argue over 100 yard differences in jump run offset and exit location. After a while we got pretty good at spotting. As our aircraft became larger, exit separation became more of an issue. We had a few close calls, and so we agreed to start allowing more space between groups. At first it was essentially trial and error - we would leave some amount of time (10 seconds or so) between groups and increase that time whenever someone felt they were too close to someone else. After a while, we began to get a feel for how much time was required. We knew that if the upper winds were strong and the plane was just creeping along the ground, we had to leave more time. We also knew that if we let the freeflyers get out first, we had a problem almost every time. We ended up with a system that worked for us, and had essentially no problems with collisions or close calls after that. During this time I was also traveling in the summers to different boogies and I noticed a wide variety of exit separation techniques. By far the most common technique was some amount of fixed time - the next group would pause, then climb out and go, without knowing what the upper winds were doing or what the spot was. The next most common technique was similar but they added a "leave more time if it's windy" clause to their delay. There was also a class of jumpers who looked out the door to tell how much separation to leave; these jumpers either looked at angle of the departing group or the ground to tell how much space to leave. This got me thinking. What really works and what doesn't? I tried a few methods on my own, from the "45 degree" method to a purely ground-based method. After some experiments, a group of skydivers collaborated via email and internet and came up with the actual math behind separation, the physics that determines how far the center of group A will be from the center of group B after they open. But before diving into the math, there are a few basic concepts to cover. What we care about. When we're talking about separation at opening time, we don't really care about where we are in relationship to the plane or even the ground - what we care about is how far we will be in the air horizontally from the next group that opens. So for our purposes, the airplane and the ground don't really matter, and someone watching from either of those places may not get the same "picture" of things that we get. (Of course, we do care about our relationship to the ground when it comes to spotting and landing on the DZ, but that's a separate issue.) How we fall. In most freefall (tracking dives and wingsuits excepted) we fall essentially straight down with respect to the air. If there's wind, the wind blows us at whatever speed it's blowing. If the wind is doing 30kts at altitude, a group of skydivers will be doing 30kts as they drift with the wind. It's also important to realize how your trajectory changes after you open. At a freefall speed of 100kts, a 30kt wind will slightly deflect your trajectory, because it's a small fraction of your total speed. Once under canopy and descending at 10kts, it will deflect your trajectory a tremendous amount, since it is now a very large part of your speed. Of course, under canopy you have much more control over your own horizontal speed, and the winds may add or subtract from your canopy's groundspeed depending on the direction you are facing. Speeds. When discussing speeds, it's important to define units. There is feet per second, which is very useful for people who are trying to figure out how far they want to be from another group. At 100 feet per second, 10 seconds gives you 1000 feet, which is about as easy as it gets. You may also hear the terms indicated airspeed, true airspeed, and groundspeed, in both knots and miles an hour. These can all be converted back and forth as needed .Now that all that's out of the way, the math is pretty simple. The distance you will get between group centers is the speed of the aircraft plus the speed of the winds at opening altitude, multiplied by the time you leave between groups. That's it. So if the aircraft is flying into the wind doing 80 knots per its GPS, and the winds at opening altitude are 10 knots from the same direction, and you are waiting 10 seconds between groups, you are going to get (80+10 = 90 kts, which is 153 feet per second) 1530 feet between groups. It gets a little more complicated when the winds are not from the same directions. If the winds at opening altitude are opposite jump run, you have to subtract them rather than add them. If the winds at opening altitude are from the side, it's the same as zero winds at opening altitude when it comes to separation. If you put these equations into a spreadsheet and play with the numbers, some basic patterns emerge. If the headwinds at altitude are strong you have to leave more time. If the plane is slow (i.e. it's indicated airspeed on jump run is low) you have to leave more time. If the winds at opening altitude are strong as well, and from the same direction, you can safely leave less time. (Or, preferably, just leave the same amount of time and you'll end up with even more separation.) If the winds at opening altitude are opposite from jump run, that's the worst case, and you have to leave even more time. Some people have a problem visualizing how winds at opening altitude can possibly cause them trouble if they leave enough distance on exit. The question is usually phrased as "don't all jumpers follow the same path out of the plane?" And they definitely do. To visualize why this can still cause you problems, take a look at the separation diagram shown below. Drawing showing exit separations In the first drawing, there is no wind after exit, and the first group breaks off, tracks, opens, and flies their canopies away from the center for the first few seconds, which is what they should be doing on most formation skydives. (After that, it's a good idea to turn away from line of flight once you're sure you are clear of others in your group.) The second group arrives 10-15 seconds later, shortly after the first group has opened their parachutes, with some room to spare. The second drawing shows what happens when there are winds are the same all the way down. Notice that the "cone" caused by the breakoff and the canopy flight has shifted strongly to the right. This is because (as mentioned before) once their parachutes are open, the wind affects their trajectory more strongly. As with the first example, it is assumed that everyone flies away from the center for the first few moments. That means the jumper flying into the wind makes no progress and comes straight down, while the jumper flying downwind gets a boost in groundspeed.. The third drawing shows where you can run in to problems. In this drawing, the winds after exit are from the opposite direction. You get the same skewing of the cone, but now the edge of the cone is getting dangerously close to the trajectory of the next group. This is a case where the same separation at exit led to trouble because of opposite winds at opening altitude. This leads naturally to the question "how much separation do you really need?" That depends on the group. 1000 feet should probably be an absolute minimum for any belly formation skydiving. That means that two four-ways can exit, fall straight down the pipe, track 300 feet from center on breakoff, and then still have 300 feet to deal with avoiding a potential collision after opening. With the speeds of today's canopies, that's a bare minimum. If the group size grows to two 10-ways, 2000 feet might be a wiser separation. If a low-time RW group backslides a bit, again, 1500 feet might be needed to be clear of them at opening time. So how does a jumper who doesn't want to carry around a calculator figure out how much time to leave between groups? One very simple way is to just look out of the plane and wait until it has covered 1000 feet, then go. This method, originally suggested by Skratch Garrison, takes much of the figuring out of exit separation. It can be hard to determine how far 1000 feet is on the ground, but fortunately most DZ's come with a handy ruler - a runway. A 3000 foot runway allows you to put 3 groups out along its length with a bit of margin thrown in. This method also has the tremendous advantage that it requires people to look out the door, and that means they are more likely to see traffic, high canopies or clouds that could pose a hazard to their skydive. Another simple way is time-based. There are several tricks you can use to determine how long to wait. One common one is to always leave at least 7 seconds, then if the upper winds are strong divide them by 2 and wait that number of seconds. (Faster aircraft sometimes use divide by 3.) So if the winds are 30kts you wait 15 seconds between groups. This technique uses some math but isn't too bad. A third technique that seems to be popular for some reason is the 45 degree method. In this method, jumpers wait until the previous group passes through an imaginary 45 degree line before they exit. The problem with this method is that the jumpers never pass through that 45 degree angle, or pass through it so quickly (under 1 second) that it's not useful for determining separation. The numbers confirm this. What you see out the door depends purely on speed of the aircraft, fallrate of the jumpers and type of exit. If the plane is going slower than freefall speed, the group may start out above the 45 degree line, but will drop below the line in less than a second and never rise above it again. If the plane is going faster than freefall speed (which is rare) the jumpers stay above the line and never cross it at all. A good head-down exit will tend to move jumpers lower in the picture. Winds will not affect the picture; an exit in 5kt uppers looks the same as an exit in 50kt uppers. There has been some friction over this issue. The 45 degree method has a lot of supporters because it's so simple and makes a sort of intuitive sense. Beyond that, it actually seems to work for some people - although it's likely that the extra time it takes to locate and stare at the previous group has something to do with the reason the next group usually leaves enough time. To show that this doesn't work, two cameras were fixed at a 45 degree angle and mounted on a boom outside an Otter's door (see pictures below.) Pictures and video of several jump runs both into the wind and downwind were taken and magnified to determine how close each group was to the imaginary 45 degree line, which was essentially the center of the images. The pictures confirmed the basic problems of the 45 degree rule. RW groups, falling a little faster than the aircraft, never quite passed behind the 45 degree line. Freeflyers, going much faster than the aircraft, stayed well below the 45 degree line for as long as they were visible in the stills (about 30 seconds.) Some version of the 45 degree method may work for some people. It may be that the simple act of looking out the door delays them enough, or their subconscious may see the group moving slowly along the ground (because the aircraft's groundspeed is low) and send a warning message to the rest of their brain - "hey, hold up a minute." But waiting for a true 45 degree angle simply does not work. Another issue that has become more important lately is exit order. Some places still put freeflyers out first, and that doesn't make much sense. In 30kt uppers, a belly flyer who leaves 10 seconds and gets out after freeflyer will open 100 feet from him, but if the belly flyer goes first and the freeflyer leaves the same time he will open 2200 feet from the freeflyer. RW groups, since they are in freefall longer, drift farther downwind before opening. It seems like a no-brainer to choose an exit order that used this to your advantage and increased, rather than decreased, separation distances. You can certainly wait 20 seconds after the freefly groups before the belly groups exit if there is some other reason why the freeflyers have to exit first, but at most DZ's it's hard to ensure that 20 seconds, especially since waiting so long almost guarantees long spots or a goaround. Below are two diagrams that show how exit order can affect separation. Belly out first diagram Freefly out first diagram One reason given at DZ's to explain a backwards exit order is that freeflyers open sooner and therefore are beginning to descend before the next group gets there. Bryan Burke of Skydive Arizona has pointed out that you simply cannot trust vertical separation - one premature deployment or malfunction and all that vertical separation is gone. Even during a normal skydive, when you add up altimeter error, pull timing and snivel distance, you can easily get a jumper opening 1000 feet from where he expected to be open. In fact, Bryan points out that at Skydive Arizona, the primary reason high pullers get out last is not for separation but rather because they are the ones that can make it back from a bad spot. Every drop zone is going to have a different set of rules and a different approach to exit order. Some work well, some don't work as well. Jumpers have to understand the factors that can reduce group separation so they can make informed decisions about when they want to exit and what kind of exit orders they are comfortable with.
  19. A jump ship at Perris airport was involved in a collision with a fuel truck on Wednesday 24 May 2017. According to official reports, the plane was in the process of landing when it hit the fuel truck, causing damage to the front and the wing of the plane. The aircraft then spun out of control, stopping just short of one of the building structures. Despite a hard collision with the truck, and extensive damage to the plane, there was no fuel leakage from the truck after the incident. Only minor injuries were reported by one of the two individuals on board, both of whom declined any medical treatment at the scene. The situation could have been different had the fuel tanker leaked, or had the plane been going any faster. The 1976 de Havilland “Twin Otter” DHC-6 suffered severe damage to both the right wing and the nose of the aircraft. It wasn't immediately clear whether the aircraft was being rented by the dropzone or whether it is owned by Perris. After the series of plane crashes in the past 2 years, this incident will go down as a best case scenario, with no fatalities or severe injuries. The information as to exactly what happened to cause the plane to collide with the tanker wasn't immediately published, and would likely warrant an investigation prior to any public information being released.
  20. All Images by Scotty Burns Scotty Burns Breaks Down Your Pre-FJC Checklist Scotty Burns is a skydiver with fixed-wing pilot blood in his veins. He started skydiving on his 18th birthday, because his first commercial aviation gig--towing banners--included an obligatory parachute. He decided that he wanted to learn how it worked, just in case he had to use it. The rest, of course, is history. While today Scotty owns and operates the Flyteskool wingsuit academy in DeLand, Florida, his airborne specialties go far beyond inflatable nylon. For almost two decades, he’s held Commercial Multi-Engine Instrument Airplane (and helicopter) ratings, with a couple thousand hours of PIC (pilot-in-command) time. It’s his Wingsuit Instructor Examiner role that most folks in skydiving recognize Scott in most readily, however, as he’s spent the last ten years training over a thousand baby-bird wingsuit students at dropzones all over the world (and as the Wingsuit I/E for Skydive University). Scotty’s pilot-first-skydiver-also training techniques have helped to make wingsuit flying safer for everyone over the years--and, in the process, he has seen the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to wingsuit wannabes. If you’re interested in the good and interested in avoiding the bad and the ugly, listen up. Scotty has a few things to say to you before you show up for that wingsuit FJC. Here it is--in his own words... Slow Your Roll A lot of the issues that we’re starting to see over and over these days point right back to the same root cause: rushing. People are really wanting to start flying wingsuits as quickly as possible, almost in spite of the rest of the sport. To save money, they’ll get in and do 150 hop-and-pops. They just jump their ass off for the numbers and don’t focus on building actual skills in freefall or under canopy. Their canopy skills are especially crappy, because hardly any of these guys have done any canopy coaching. They just want to get to jump number 200 and they assume they’ll figure it out. Round out your skills. One of the first things that I would recommend people do that want to get into wingsuiting is to laser focus on building a well-rounded set of skills, and to do so early. On your way to that first hundred jumps, learn all the other disciplines that you can. Go out and do a bunch of RW jumps. Learn how to turn points and do different exits, and get comfortable doing that. Learn how to do some head-down. Get into some angle flying and tracking jumps, because it is really going to help you learn how to control the air as you get further into your skydiving career. Flying a wingsuit is not an unrelated accessory to this progression. It requires all the work that comes before. That said: As you learn to fly a wingsuit, you are becoming a lot more of a pilot or an airman than you are a skydiver. There are a lot of differences between jumping with a wingsuit and jumping without a wingsuit. There are a lot of skills and experience that you need to have that you really don’t learn in any other form of skydiving. That is not an oversight on the part of your teachers; these skills are simply not necessary in other disciplines. Learn to fly your canopy, then your wingsuit. Your wingsuit is not how you land. Your canopy is. And in our discipline, it is much more common to have to land out, in a place you don’t want to--like someone’s backyard, or a parking lot--under a reserve, not so uncommonly. Statistically speaking, you are much more likely to get injured close to the ground in that wingsuit. Your ability to put yourself down safely in a place you wouldn’t normally want to go because you didn’t have any other choice is an extremely important skill. Get canopy coaching, and plan on the worst possible case scenario. Ease off the YouTube. Don’t spend your time watching every wingsuit video on Vimeo. It is cool and all, but it becomes a liability at a point. For instance: I had a student come out just the other day who has been working in the industry for a couple of years and has been waiting to start flying wingsuits. At my ground school, he was talking over me half the time and telling me what he had learned through all of these BASE videos that he had seen. He was acting unteachable. He is a really nice guy, but if he wasn’t in the industry, I would have had to tell him to go home. Take it easy. Then take it easier. Because one of the most important things about flying a wingsuit is your ability to relax, there is a huge difference between what most people see in videos before they learn how to fly and what they should actually be doing when they first put on that suit. There is a huge difference between what people do that are BASE jumping with a wingsuit--the decisions they’re making, and the gear they are flying--versus what somebody at 200 jumps is going to do. And it’s also important to remember that a lot of the guys in those videos are no longer with us. Some of the most talented human beings you would ever know or ever dream up. So what does that tell you? That means that it doesn’t take much to screw up, so you’d better take the long, thorough road. On that first jump, remember: You’re not trying to go out and break any records. You’re trying to make sure that you can get out safely and fly a pattern and pull with stability. You should aim to fly at 60 or 70%. You wouldn’t jump into a brand new race car and mash the pedal to the floor to get it out of the dealership. he amount of drag that you produce in that wingsuit versus the drag you produce on a normal jumpsuit is 6 or 8 times as much--easily--so it only takes about an eighth of the amount of input to get the same kind of response. The more you can relax, the better off you will be. Planning for Plan B is not optional. Planning for that worst possible case scenario has always got to be in the back of your head because it is going to happen. It might not happen today or tomorrow, but it is going to happen and it is probably going to happen at the worst possible time. Making sure that you have got that out is very important. Modern wingsuits are tiny little F16s without engines. It is really easy to find yourself miles away from where you were supposed to be. I have had to land in more people’s backyards than I care to admit to. Most of the time it wasn’t that I personally made a mistake; it was because shit just happens in this sport, and you have to be ready. You can make great decisions and still shit can go down. Then you end up having to rely on emergency skills that you had better hope are there. Keep it simple. Most people that are getting into it just want it so bad and they try too hard. If you can just relax and smile, listen to your coach and do as you were taught (and not what you learned from videos), you can keep yourself doing this for the next 15 or 20 years--versus being broken, giving up on it, or worse. It is incredible to see how far the wingsuiting discipline has come. It’s really sad that so many of our friends aren’t still around to see the changes. That’s why it is even more important for people to seek out the best information--and the best instruction--they can.
  21. If you add a little pressure, simple things can quickly become not-simple things. For the amount that most of us understand about how they really work, the modern cameras we employ for skydiving are close enough as to be made of magic. Yet despite their tiny size, amazing quality and all-round wonderfulness - we still regularly miss out on capturing quality footage of a jump for the most arbitrary reasons. A little bit of forethought and the application of a simple routine can aid ones consistency when it comes to getting the shot. You may well snort derisively and roll your eyes at the thought of reading an article about how to switch a camera on - yet let you that has never missed a great bit of action for the sake of some small piece of angry-making bullshit stupidity cast the first stone. The best analogy I have to represent the advantages of a sensible and efficient method for a repeated process is think about packing and how much of a frustrating pain in the ass it was (be honest) at the start. Learning to pack and getting it right is not only about understanding the need to fold your parachute a certain way so it will go into your container (and come out again) - it is as much about the knowing right spot to put your knee so the fabric doesn’t escape and where to hold it down with your elbow so you can have both hands free for the next bit. How many things in your life are there to which you can draw parallels with this? There is much satisfaction to be found in developing your ability to get ready quickly and efficiently in the plane. Here are a few tips: The Plan:Adding things to your in-aircraft routine should not come at the expense of any of the stuff you have learned to do that makes you safe. If you are skipping over running through your drills because you are constantly fucking around with your camera you might forget them at the crucial moment - so don’t. Even in the speediest of flying machines you have time to do things both necessary and desirable, but always remember your priorities. Checking that your pilot chute is not hanging out is vastly more important than which recording mode you are in. Lenses:It is very easy to get some manner of obfuscating crap on your lens. Action cameras all have teensy little apertures onto which a single grubby fingerprint is enough to ruin your footage of the bestest jump ever and make you very sad. Condensation is very popular too - especially with big temperature changes from altitude to ground level. Moisture developing on (or even in) your camera during a jump is unavoidable but not cleaning it up before the next one definitely is. You should have a suitable cleaning cloth somewhere about your person - tucked away into the lining of your helmet is good as it makes it very difficult to bring one without the other. For extra points you can attach it to your helmet with some string, or you could even carry a spare one which you might magnanimously gift to some clothless boob and appear as a minor hero/enormous geek in front of like four people. Cutaway:More and more frequently dropzones are requiring that any helmet with a camera on is fitted with a cutaway system - which are available in many forms and levels of quality. The best idea is always invest in a good one that someone has made using science that will actually work rather than bodge something together yourself from that box of old skydiving bits you keep under your bed for no good reason. A worthy part of your pre-jump process is to give this a quick look and see if all is well, and that nothing has become worn or unseated that might result in no camera attached to your head and some cognitive dissonance about wether you can be bothered to scour the landscape looking for it. Using Time:For maximum sensible-ness you should perform your camera checks with enough time that you can fix potential problems without freaking either yourself or anyone else out if something is amiss. Realising on jump-run that your memory card is full or your lens is dirty is too late. If you had a spare thirty seconds you might be able to go into your settings and delete something to free up space, or give the front a quick clean - but not when everyone is already climbing out on the side of the plane and waiting for your ass. ConclusionBeing correctly prepared in a timely fashion is but one step in getting good footage, yet an important one. Felling relaxed and properly ready lends itself to nailing the jump, and the exact form of your personal routine will develop with time and practice. Stick to the plan, don’t bump your head on the way out and remember that you get what your head is pointing at, not just your eyes.
  22. billvon

    Downsizing Checklist

    While I was an S+TA, I spent a considerable amount of time telling people they shouldn't be loading their canopies so heavily. 90% of the time it didn't work. Skydivers can have a bit of an ego, and when I told them they probably shouldn't downsize yet they heard "I think you're a crappy canopy pilot who can't handle a smaller wing." So they downsized and broke their legs, backs and pelvises with some regularity. A few years back I met up with Brett, one of the people I'd been lecturing to whle I was an S+TA. He told me that he wished he'd listened to me back then. He had broken his femur during a botched landing, been out of the sport for a while, and then came back and really learned to fly his canopy. He took a canopy control course and actually upsized to get more performance out of his canopy. He ended up coming in first in one of the events at the PST that year. That started me thinking. Maybe the approach I was taking was wrong. Since jumpers tend not to listen to other people who tell them they're not as good as they think they are, perhaps if you could give them better tools to evaluate themselves they could make better decisions about canopy choices. It's one thing to have some boring S+TA guy give you a lecture about not having any fun under canopy, quite another to try to perform a needed manuever under canopy - and fail. In that case there's no one telling you you can't fly the canopy, it's just blatantly obvious. So I came up with a list of canopy control skills everyone should have before downsizing. Some are survival skills - being able to flat turn would have saved half a dozen people this year alone. Some are canopy familiarization skills - being able to do a gentle front riser approach teaches you how to judge altitude and speed at low altitudes, and how to fly a parachute flying faster than its trim airspeed, a critical skill for swooping. It's important to do these BEFORE you downsize, because some manuevers are a little scary (turning at 50 feet? Yikes!) and you want to be on a larger canopy you're completely comfortable with before trying such a thing. The short version of the list is below. Before people downsize, they should be able to: flat turn 90 degrees at 50 feet flare turn at least 45 degrees land crosswind and in no wind land reliably within a 10 meter circle initiate a high performance landing with double front risers and front riser turn to landing land on slight uphills and downhills land with rear risers Details: 1. Flat turn 90 degrees at 50 feet.This is the most important of all the skills. The objective of this manuever is to change your direction 90 degrees losing as little altitude as possible, and come out of the manuever at normal flying speed. Coming out at normal flying speed means you can instantly flare and get a normal landing. If you can do this at 50 feet, and come out of the manuever with normal flying speed at 5 feet, you can flare and land normally. Every year people die because they decide they simply have to turn at 100 feet and know only one way to do it - pull down a toggle. The parachute dives and they hit the ground at 40mph. To prevent this, not only do you have to know how to flat turn, but you have to practice it enough that it becomes second nature. Then when you do need it, you won't have to think about it. To pull off this manuever, start by toggle turning the parachute gently. IMMEDIATELY follow that with some opposite toggle. The idea is that you want to flare just a little to counteract the canopy's desire to dive. Continue adding opposite toggle until you've stopped the turn. At this point let both toggles all the way up. If you feel the parachute accelerate after you let go of the toggles (i.e. it feels like you just flared) use less opposite toggle next time. If you feel like the parachute is diving, like you just did a toggle turn, use more opposite toggle next time. Basically you want to start the turn with one toggle, stop it with the other one, and use just enough toggle to keep the wing from diving but not so much that it does a flare. It should go without saying that this manuever should be practiced up high before you ever try it down low. If and when you do try it out low, start at lesser angles (i.e. try a 15 degree turn first) make sure the pattern is clear and make sure conditions are good (soft ground, good winds.) Work up gradually to a full 90 degree turn. I do think it's important to try at least a gentle flat turn very low; we are horrible judges of exact altitudes when we're at 1000 feet, and it's hard to tell if you've lost 50 feet or 200 in a turn. By trying it out down low, you'll get a better sense of what it can do for you, and you'll have the "sight picture" better set in case you have to use it for real one day. A variation on this is to go to half brakes and then let one brake up. This gives you a flat turn, but by flaring first you "use up" some of the canopy's energy so you can't turn as effectively. On the plus side the turn happens more slowly. If you are about to hit a tree and want to make a last minute turn, this variation might be the way to go, as it combines a turn and a flare, thus reducing your speed before impact. A version of this is currently taught in the ISP, so it might be a good way to make your first flat turns before transitioning to the less-braked variety. 2. Flare turn at least 45 degrees.This does two things - it gives you another tool in your arsenal to dodge last minute obstacles, and teaches you to fly your canopy all the way through to the landing. The #1 mistake jumpers with new HP canopies make is to "reach out to break their fall" while they're flaring; this of course turns the canopy in the direction they are reaching. Most people decide that this is due to a side gust just as they're landing. I remember one jumper at Brown who, amazingly enough, experienced a side gust seconds before he landed (and always from the right) 40-50 times in a row! Learning to flare turn will help eliminate this problem. To flare turn, start with a normal flare, then flare slightly more with one toggle. The canopy will turn. Bring the other toggle down to match it, and the canopy will straighten out. It's a dynamic process; rather than put the toggles at a certain position, you have to speed up one toggle for a second, then speed up the other to match it, before you level them and finish the flare. If you balloon upwards, then don't flare as quickly. If you drop to the ground, bring both toggles down more aggressively when they are 'split.' One thing that helps people is to think about where your canopy is rather than what it's doing. Use the toggles to put it off to one side for a moment, then use them to put it back over your head. This can be hard to practice with a large canopy. I can pull off a 45 degree turn on a Manta, but the flare is over so fast that it's hard to explain what I just did. It's much easier on a canopy loaded around 1:1, so you may want to wait on this one until you get to that loading. Note that if you combine a flare turn with a flat turn, you can pull off nearly a 180 degree turn at just above 50 feet. Also note that knowing how to do flat and flare turns doesn't mean you can always turn at 50 feet and get away with it - sometimes it's better to accept a downwind landing than make a turn at a dangerously low altitude. But if you do have to turn low (say, you're on course for the electrified fence around the pit bull farm) a flat/flare turn will let you either turn and land normally or turn and minimize the damage caused by landing in a turn. 3. Land crosswind and in no wind.These are straightforward. No wind landings are pretty easy; the only issue is that your perception of speed and altitude will be off. Since you seem to be moving faster over the ground when there's no wind (which you actually are) it can seem like a good idea to add just a little brake to 'slow you down' before you land. Resist that urge! Keep that speed in your canopy; you can turn the speed into a good flare only if you start the flare with decent (i.e. full flight) speed. Crosswind landings can be a little more tricky because of that strong tendency to want to "reach out to break your fall." Counter this by flaring with your hands in towards the center of your body. You may have to PLF on these landings, since you'll have some decent forward speed and have some sideways motion from the wind. If you want to get fancy, try a flare turn after you start your flare on the crosswind landing - you can easily pull off a standup landing if you get turned enough before you put your feet down. If these work well you may want to try a downwind landing. The benefit to doing that is it will prepare you to accept a downwind landing in the future; you won't be tempted to turn too low to avoid it. Choose an ideal day for this one, with a slippery landing area (wet grass is perfect) low winds and a clear landing area. Prepare to PLF, and think about "laying it down" on your thigh as you land to start sliding. You can slide across grass at 30mph without getting hurt, but planting your feet and cartwheeling at those speeds can be very dangerous. 4. Land reliably within a 10 meter circle.This is essentially the PRO requirement. This is critical because your accuracy skills are what will keep you from having to turn low. It's very comforting to know that you can land in any 50ish foot clearing if you find yourself having to land out; it's especially important as you get to smaller canopies that need longer and longer runways to land well. Your only option may be a section of road, and you may have to hit the beginning of the road dead-on to have enough room to slow down. The subject of canopy accuracy is too long to do justice to here, but the top 3 hints I've heard are: - If you're not sure if you're going to make it over a wire or tree, look at what it's doing with respect to the background. If more background is appearing from beneath the wire or tree, you're probably going to make it. - As you look at the ground, most points will seem to move away from a central point. Some will rise, some will fall, some will go out to the side. If you look long enough you'll find one point that's not moving - that's where you're going to land if the winds don't change all the way in (which is rare.) - Going into brakes usually makes you land short in high winds, but can extend your glide in no wind. Front risers almost always make you land shorter. 5. Initiate a high performance landing with double fronts, and a front riser turn to landing.I am pretty convinced that front riser high performance landings are a lot safer than toggle turn high performance landings, and double fronts are the safest of all. If you do it too low, or become worried about the landing - just drop the risers and you're back to normal flight. For double front riser landings, set up a normal landing, aiming for a point a little farther away than you normally do. At 100 feet or so, pull down both front risers. Your canopy will drop and accelerate. At some point above the ground (30-10 feet depending on your canopy) drop the front risers. Your canopy will begin to recover. Before it completes the recovery to normal flight, you should be at flare altitude. Start the flare normally. You may need to use less toggle than normal, since the canopy is now going faster than you're used to, and the same amount of toggle gives you more lift. You will also plane out farther, since you have more speed you have to bleed off before you come to a stop. For front riser turns to landing, first try front riser turns out above 1000 feet and get used to how your canopy recovers. Then start by coming in 10 degrees off the windline, and making a gentle front riser turn to line up with the wind at ~100 feet. The canopy will dive and accelerate, so be prepared to drop the front riser instantly and flare if you have to. Also be prepared to steer in the flare, since the canopy may not have stopped turning completely before the flare begins. Done correctly, you'll start the flare with more forward speed, giving you a longer planeout. Make sure your flares are smooth for this! A smooth flare generates more lift for a longer period of time than "stabbing" the brakes. However, don't start the flare at 30 feet - starting the flare that high will slow the canopy down, negating the effects of the front riser approach. If you do find yourself stabbing the brakes to prevent hitting the ground, move the altitude at which you start front risering up. Probably the most critical skill you will get from this exercise is the development of the "sight picture." Below 200 feet your altimeter is pretty useless, and you should be looking at traffic and the landing area anyway. Eventually you'll develop a sense of what "picture" you should see just before you start that riser turn. The picture will vary with wind, landing area etc. If you arrive at the point where you would normally start the front riser turn, and the picture's not right - abort it and land normally. Once you have the picture down, and are doing front riser turns that transition to gradual flares, then start increasing the angle. Once you get to 90 degrees you're going to be gaining a lot of speed, so be sure to adjust your sight picture up to compensate. As always, bail by dropping the risers if you feel like there's anything wrong. Once you drop the risers, level the wing with your toggles and prepare to flare. At worst you'll have to land crosswind - but that's a skill you should have by this point anyway. 6. Land on slight uphills and downhills.Often, land away from the DZ isn't perfectly flat; sometimes you can't tell this until you're at 20 feet. To prepare for this, find a place in your LZ that's not perfectly flat, scope it out, and plan on landing there. There's not too much magic concerning landing on a slope. You flare more aggressively to land going uphill, less aggressively to land going downhill. Obviously not all DZ's have slopes. If you don't have a good slope on your DZ somewhere, you may have to put this one off until you're at a DZ that does have one. Beaches are a good place to practice this, since they have pretty predictable slopes down to the water, and overrunning the landing just means you get wet. 7. Land with rear risers. Knowing how to land with rear risers can help you deal with a canopy problem like a broken or stuck brake line, and can help you make a better land/cutaway decision when you do have such a problem. Again, this is best practiced up high. See how far you can pull the rear risers before the canopy stalls. It will stall much earlier with rear risers; memorize where that happens so you don't do it near the ground. When you try it for real, choose an ideal day - steady moderate winds, soft ground, clear pattern. Be sure to try this for the first time on a largish canopy (one of the reasons you should do these things before downsizing.) Leave your hands in the toggles and wrap your whole hand around the rear riser. That way if things go awry you can drop the risers and flare normally. Start the flare at a normal flare altitude, and prepare to PLF. You may get the sort of lift you're used to, but you probably won't slow down as much before you're near that stall point. Make sure your feet are on the ground (sliding preferably) before you get there. On smaller canopies, you may want to start the flare with rear risers. Then, once the canopy is leveled out, drop the risers and finish the flare with the toggles (which are still around your hands.) That way you get your vertical speed to zero, which is the critical part of a safe slide-in landing, and can still stop the canopy without hitting the ground going too fast. (This is also a technique used by swoopers to extend their swoops BTW.) The above list is not meant to include all the skills you need to safely fly a canopy; it’s just a checklist for a cross-section of skills you should have before downsizing. Some of these will be easier on a larger canopy, and can be practiced right away. Landing downwind, for example, is easier on a larger canopy simply because it can slow you down more before stalling. Some skills are more difficult on a larger canopy. It can be difficult to get a planeout at all on a larger F-111 canopy, so practicing things like a flare turn may best wait until you approach a 1:1 loading on a ZP canopy. At that loading, the canopy begins to perform more along the lines of how we expect a HP canopy to fly. More importantly, skills like the flare turn become both possible and necessary to practice, so you can hone your skills while you are under a canopy that tolerates minor mistakes. As I mentioned in the beginning, these are skills you should learn before you downsize, although some (like the flare turn) can be difficult to practice at very light loadings. If you can't do some of them yet? Get some coaching; it makes a lot more sense to learn them on your larger canopy, before you start jumping a smaller canopy that scares you. Once you can do them all, then try the smaller canopy. And if someday someone cuts you off under the smaller canopy, you'll have the reactions you learned under the larger canopy. Even if you haven't completely adapted those manuevers to the smaller canopy yet, those reactions will more likely than not save your life.
  23. Exits at the Baltic Boogie 2015 Image by Konwent Photography There are a number of ways to kneecap a boogie, and they often have something to do with your gear bag: a forgotten helmet that lands you in a beat-up student ProTec all week; a forgotten suit that leaves you slippery and gripless; the dreaded out-of-date repack card. When you’re gathering up everything you need for a week of rapid-fire skyjumpin’ in a far-off location, it’s easy to forget a (key) detail here and there. Maybe this--my personal packing checklist--might help.* The Basics Rig(s) Helmet(s) Suit(s) (wingsuit/tracking suit/belly suit/tunnel suit/freefly suit/sit suit/dinosaur onesie/all of the above) Dytter Altimeter Gloves Your preferred skydiving kicks Your credit card (and a healthy sense of realism about how thoroughly it’s about to be abused)Paperwork In-date parachute association license In-date reserve repack card AAD air travel card (like the one, from Cypres, or this one, from Vigil) so you aren’t caught off guard at any check-in you may pass through during your skydiving careerRig Protection Packing mat/drag mat: preferably, with a sun cover, riser holders and at least one pocket (If your mat doesn't have a sun cover, bring an old towel to cover your gear during any short moments you need to leave it in the sun.) Bonus points if you sew your own. Extra bonus points if you sew me one. A sturdy, high-quality suit hanger with molded shoulders (to hang up your suit(s) well away from the dirty hangar floor)Tools Several pull-up cords (or your trusty power tool) Leatherman, Swiss Army knife or other sturdy multi-tool Line routing card Hemostat or tweezers (for those moments when your fingers are just too big for the job)Replacement Materials Extra closing loops Rubber bands, both large and small (or Tube Stoes, if that’s your jam) Any special batteries you might need for your doodadsLogging and Note-Taking Materials Logbook. (If you don't keep a digital version, keep the paper book in a Ziploc bag because--let’s be real--you always spill either coffee or beer on that thing.) Ballpoint pen Pencil/eraser Sharpie Notepad (for sharing information with other skydivers, such as phone numbers and scrawled threats) Labeling tape (to mark everything with your identifying information)Camera Stuff * Note: Obviously, serious, like, aerial cinematographers have a much more nuanced kit than this. This is a starting point. Label everything. Camera. Or, y’know, cameras...but try not to cover the entire surface area of your body with ‘em. Waterproof case Non-waterproof case (for dry situations where you prefer better sound over better equipment security) Mounts Mount wrench Sync/charge cable Microfiber lens cleaning cloth and solution Extra SD cards, labeled clearly with identifying numbers (those little SD card wallets are nice)Comfort Buff(s) Non-perishable "emergency" snacks A water bottle (or rollable Platypus bottle) with flavor packets, teabags or whatever else entices you into actually sucking on the thing at regular intervals UV-protective sunglasses Sunscreen Kneepads Clean sweat rag Ponytail holders Rehydration packets (because that beer truck may well sneak up on your blind side)Additional Tips Label everything. Lots of skydivers on the DZ will have exactly the same items that you do in their packing kit for skydiving, from closing tools to helmets. If unlabeled items go missing from your kit, it’s likely not an issue of dishonesty -- just mistaken identity. Labeling often solves the problem before it arises. Keep it clean and organized. Keep like with like in separate bags within the larger gear bag, and keep everything protected from dust, dampness, dirt and sun. Make it easy to find every individual item, and you’ll save hours of time in the long run. Get an idea for what your access to the facilities is going to look like at the boogie. We’re talking cooking; laundry; showers. If you’ll need to carry in coins for showers and laundry--or if you’ll have to pre-buy something like laundry soap before you drive out into the hinterlands, or something along those lines--you’ll be glad you knew about it and planned accordingly. Ask around about the experience you can expect at the boogie you’re planning to attend. Skydivers who have been there before will be glad to run down the highlights and challenges for you. Even better: you might end up convincing them to join you for a reprise. *If you have additions to this list, by all means PM me!
  24. The advice Brian Germain provides in his article titled "Surviving the No Wind Landing" might help you achieve consistent, comfortable landings on days when the winds are calm. Unfortunately, other jumpers might not be as successful when trying to follow that same advice. Some of the techniques described in "Surviving the No Wind Landing" are slightly advanced, and jumpers who are just trying to perfect basic flaring skills might find those techniques difficult to use. Other information in that article might be helpful to people flying certain specific sizes and types of canopies, but we might discover that this information does not actually apply to a significant number of canopies in common use. The first piece of advice Brian offers is to "make sure you level off within touching distance from the ground." This can certainly lead to softer landings, particularly in calm winds. There is only one problem: if many jumpers fear no-wind landings, there are probably even more who are afraid of flaring too high. For some people the game is over at the instant they realize they have made that mistake: they expect the worst, stop flying, and start panicking. In an effort to always level off within touching distance from the ground some jumpers develop a habit of consistently flaring too low. Another common problem occurs when people reach for the ground with their feet, believing they are within touching distance when they are actually a few feet high. People who suffer from these habits are often pleasantly surprised, and see a remarkable improvement in their landings, when they learn that it is not actually necessary to level off with your feet right at ground level. Many modern canopies are actually very forgiving of a high flare. Understanding the StallA very common concern is that a canopy will stall if it is flared too high. Brian reinforces this concern when he mentions the importance of arriving at the ground "before the stall breaks." To understand why flaring slightly high is not necessarily a problem we need to take a closer look at the concept of a stall. "Stall" has a very specific meaning in aviation. It is a significant decrease in lift caused by a separation of airflow that occurs when a wing reaches its critical angle of attack. Understand? No? Okay, then imagine a car driving down the highway, heading toward a curve in the road. Most highways have gentle curves, for good reason, because cars tend to fly off the road if a curve is too sharp. Now think about the relative wind blowing in your face under canopy. Your canopy bends that relative wind to create lift. Pulling down on both toggles pulls the tail of the canopy down and bends the relative wind even more, creating even more lift. The further you pull the toggles down the more lift is created, up to a certain point. The "critical angle of attack" is the point where the curve becomes too sharp and the relative wind separates from the canopy like a car flying off of the road. This separation results in a sudden and dramatic loss of lift. The term "stall" refers specifically to the sudden loss of lift that occurs in this particular situation. Image 1 shows a canopy being intentionally stalled. In frame "A" the brave and handsome test jumper is putting the canopy into brakes, pulling the tail down and increasing the curve that the relative wind must follow. In frame "B" we see the canopy in very deep brakes, but not yet in a stall. The canopy is curving the relative wind sharply and creating a lot of lift. In this flight mode it is flying slowly through the air with a very low rate of descent. In frame "C" the canopy has reached the critical angle of attack. The lift is rapidly decreasing as the canopy begins to stall. In frame "D" the canopy has entered a full stall. When flaring it is obviously important to have your feet on the ground before your canopy stalls. But let's think about a student canopy. Student canopies are traditionally not supposed to stall when the toggles are held all the way down in a full flare. They are either specifically designed that way or are rigged with extra slack in the brake lines. What about a slightly smaller canopy, such as one that might be used by a novice or intermediate jumper? If the brake lines are set to the correct length specified by the manufacturer, many canopies in this category also will not stall when the toggles are held all the way down in a full flare. They will simply maintain a slow forward speed and low rate of descent, just like frame "B" in image 1. Even if they do stall it might not occur until the toggles have been held all the way down for a number of seconds: sometimes five or six seconds, maybe even more. Jumpers who fly these types of canopies don't really need to be too concerned about an accidental stall. You may be surprised to learn that some small, "high-performance elliptical" canopies also will not stall with the toggles held all the way down, or at least not until they've been held there for a few seconds. Whether or not a particular canopy will stall when it is held in a full flare depends on several factors, including the model and size of the canopy, the length of the brake lines, the length of the risers, and length of the jumper's arms. When held in a full flare a significant number of canopies will simply maintain a relatively low airspeed and rate of descent, at least for several seconds. This knowledge can be very helpful when we talk about flaring high. Look at image 2. In frame "A" we see a jumper reaching level flight with his toes about six feet above the ground. Tragedy? Not really. There are only three things he needs to do: 1) wait wait wait; 2) keep it straight; and 3) FINISH! "Wait" means stop pulling the toggles down as soon as you realize you've started flaring too high. Save the rest of the flare for later. "Keep it straight" is important, too. You want to look at a point on the ground out in front of you and keep the canopy flying straight toward that point, just like driving your car down a straight road. And when the canopy starts to drop you back toward the ground, just before your feet touch down, push the toggles down and FINISH your flare, as we see in frame "B." In most cases doing this will result in a reasonably soft, stand-up landing as we see from the last two frames. Even if you don't land softly, look at frames "B" and "C" again. What body position are you in when you finish your flare properly? Looks like you're ready for a PLF, doesn't it? Granted, you will achieve softer landings on calm-wind days if you level off right above the ground, but that is a skill that needs to be developed through practice. An important step in that process is learning to relax and stay focused if you do flare high. This will allow you to keep flying the canopy and finish the flare properly, which will improve your landings in all conditions. Practice at AltitudeWe can see the importance of knowing whether or not your canopy will stall when held in a full flare. How can you find this out? Yep, you guessed it. Under canopy, in your holding area, above 2000', after checking thoroughly for other canopies, push those toggles all the way down and see if that baby stalls. If you've never stalled a canopy before you may want to get some advice from an instructor or coach before trying it. So try it. Did your canopy stall? No? Makes flaring seem a bit less intimidating, doesn't it? Or was the canopy easier to stall than you expected? If so, you may want to have it checked out by a rigger. Some canopies are relatively easy to stall, even with the brake lines set to the correct length. If you are jumping one of these canopies then hopefully you've already perfected your landing technique under something more forgiving. If you can't stall your canopy just by holding the toggles down, does that mean you won't be able to get enough stopping power at the end of your flare? Some people believe so, and Brian touches on this point in his article when he stresses the importance of making sure your brake lines are "short enough:" Brake Line Settings "Most manufacturers set the brake lines to allow for a certain amount of slack so that when the front risers are applied with the toggles in the hands, there is no tail input. This, coupled with shorter risers... will prevent you from reaching your parachute's slowest flying speed." In reality, many popular canopies do not come from the factory with this much slack in the brake lines. For example, people who jump a Sabre2 from Performance Designs or a Triathlon from Aerodyne Research might prefer to have the brake lines lengthened a few inches beyond the factory setting if they use their front risers a lot. Even then, they might not lengthen them to the point where there will be no tail input all when the front risers are used. Even canopies specifically designed for swooping won't necessarily have the brake lines set that long. Is there really anything wrong if your canopy does have a bit of extra slack in the brake lines? Usually not. Even with the brake lines "detuned" on a student canopy, we still expect students to learn how to stand up their landings. In fact, many popular canopies used by experienced jumpers will also slow down enough for a comfortable landing even if you cannot reach the canopy's absolute slowest flying speed: plenty of people achieve soft stand-up landings in calm winds under canopies that will not stall when the toggles are held in a full flare. Even jumpers who have intentionally lengthened their brake lines for swooping can still achieve comfortable landings in calm winds. Is there anything wrong with shortening your brake lines? In some cases, yes! Especially if they are shortened so much that they pull the tail down when your toggles are in the full glide position. As an example, look closely at the tail of the canopy in image 3. It seems like the jumper is pulling the toggles down slightly, but a closer inspection reveals that his hands are all the way up. Having a canopy's brake lines set too short like this can significantly reduce the flare power on some canopies and make them noticeably more difficult to land, particularly on calm-wind days. Excessively short brake lines are more common than many people realize and frequently go unnoticed. It is a common mistake for someone to shorten a canopy's brake lines because it appears that the canopy "doesn't have enough flare at the bottom end," when the real problem is that the brake lines are already too short! If you're really convinced that your brake lines are too long there are a few steps you should take before having them shortened. On your next jump, after you've released your brakes, put your toggles all the way up against the guide rings and look up at the tail of your canopy. Don't forget to watch where you're going and look out for other canopies. If your canopy looks like the one in image 3 then forget about having the brake lines shortened. They probably need to be lengthened instead. If your canopy seems difficult to land you can also have a rigger measure the suspension lines and compare them to the manufacturer's specifications. It's possible that your canopy has simply gone out of trim and is due for a reline. Once these steps have been completed then get some of your landings videotaped and see if you are finishing your flare properly. Look at the jumper in image 4, just as he is touching down. Does he need shorter brake lines to get a better flare? No, he needs to push his toggles all the way down and FINISH flaring before he touches down. Most jumpers finish their flares at least slightly better than the jumper in image 4, but not finishing completely is one of the most common flaring problems. Brian makes a very good point about this: "the brake lines can only work if they are pulled." If you are still absolutely convinced that you need shorter brake lines then follow another good piece of advice Brian gives and only shorten them an inch at a time. Make several jumps, preferably in different wind conditions, before shortening them any more. And remember that you can significantly reduce a canopy's flare power by shortening the brake lines too much. There is usually some excess brake line left over when the toggles are tied onto a canopy, and there are front row seats in purgatory for people who cut this excess brake line off. That excess line should be finger-trapped back into the brake line or secured in a similar fashion in case the brake lines need to be lengthened later on. A qualified rigger should know how to do this correctly. What else might affect your landing on a calm-wind day? Brian discusses the importance of keeping the canopy flying straight during the flare, and not allowing it to bank or turn. He emphasizes this by stating that "any tilt in the roll axis will result in a premature stall of the parachute…. due to an effect known as 'load factor.'" Load FactorIf we are going to introduce "load factor" into our discussion then let's do the math. At a bank angle of 30 degrees load factor will increase stall speed by approximately 8%. A bank angle of 45 degrees will increase stall speed by 20%. The exact stall speed of a ram-air canopy will depend on several factors, but let's use 5 mph (8 km/h) as an example. In that case, a 30-degree bank angle while flaring will only increase your stall speed by 0.4 mph (0.64 km/h). To increase stall speed by 1 mph (1.6 km/h) you will need a bank angle of 45 degrees while flaring, which is a pretty sporty maneuver by most people's standards. While load factor might sound important, is a 0.4 mph increase in stall speed a significant consideration when landing your canopy? Probably not. Nonetheless, is it important to keep the canopy flying straight while you flare? Absolutely. Even without a stall occurring, banking or turning while you flare can cause you to touch down at a higher speed. You will probably also land with your body off balance, and fall over sideways. A bank or turn during the flare is most commonly caused by reaching for the ground with one foot. You can usually see yourself doing this on video, and might even feel yourself doing it while it's happening. This problem can easily be avoided if you focus on looking straight ahead, keeping your body straight, and flaring evenly. What should your feet be doing? Do you need one foot below you and one out in front as you prepare to touch down? That probably will happen naturally just as you stand up at the end of your flare without putting any extra effort into making it happen. And putting extra effort into making it happen could cause you to reach for the ground with one foot. If you need to think about anything while you're flaring, think about keeping your feet together as you get into level flight, and continue keeping them together while you fly the canopy in a straight line across the ground as far as possible. If everything is going smoothly then as the canopy sets you down you can just stand up as if you were getting out of a chair. Your feet know what to do. Look at image 5 below. We see a jumper flaring his canopy with his feet and knees together, knees slightly bent. Looks like he's simply maintaining a good PLF position, doesn't it? As he finishes his flare and the canopy sets him down, his feet come apart slightly to accept his weight. Harness Body PositionWhat about leaning forward in the harness? Is "freeing your body from the pitch of the system" a crucial part of flaring? Look at image 5 again. A pitch change does occur when the nose of your canopy tilts up at the beginning of the flare. This pitch change is what puts the canopy into level flight, and the pitch change is actually created by the movement of your body under the canopy. In fact, it can be extremely helpful to view your body as an integral part of the parachute system instead of separating yourself from it. Feeling your body swing in conjunction with the canopy's movement is an important part of doing effective practice flares. If you like to lean forward in the harness and it seems to help your landings, that's fantastic. It feels nice and looks cool. But it's also not a problem if you simply sit still in the harness and let your feet swing out slightly in front of you as you flare. Your body will rock up onto your feet as your feet touch down and accept your weight. You can either "lean forward into the experience," as Brian suggests, or maintain a more laid-back pose if you prefer. Whichever one feels more comfortable is the best one for you. The technique Brian calls the "Seagull Landing," where you dip down below standing height then rise up again at the end of the flare, also feels good and looks cool if you do it correctly. You'll do it correctly if you develop the technique naturally while you practice good basic flaring skills. Putting too much conscious effort into achieving a "Seagull Landing" is similar to the belief that you must level off right at ground level every time: it can result in the same problems and bad habits. Most canopies will slow down just fine if you level off a comfortable distance above the ground and simply maintain level flight through the remainder of the flare. In general, it might help to stop thinking about a "no-wind landing" as being significantly different from a "normal" landing. The basic skills that you use to land in stronger winds will also help you land softly in calm winds. Any bad habits you develop might not hurt your landings too much when there is some wind to slow you down, but those habits are usually still present and affecting your flare to some degree, and can be eliminated by practicing proper techniques. Eliminating those bad habits by keeping things simple, letting yourself relax, and focusing on good basic flaring techniques will go a long way to improving your landings in all conditions. Soon you'll be just as confident landing on calm day as you are on windier ones, and you may even start to prefer calm-wind landings. Experienced skydiving instructors and coaches, like those in any other sport, develop their own opinions, philosophies, and teaching methods. The advice you get from one person may be quite different from what someone else tells you. This can actually be a good thing sometimes, because the advice that helps one person may not be equally helpful to others. The most basic, fundamental principles of aerodynamics can be used to describe the flight of any wing, so some of the things you learn about one canopy will certainly apply to others. However, specific performance characteristics can vary greatly from one aircraft to another: a 210 sq. ft. canopy does not perform exactly the same way as a 107, and a Triathlon does not perform exactly like a Sabre2. A Sabre2 does not perform exactly like a Lotus, and a Lotus does not perform exactly like a Twin Otter. When discussing canopy performance and flying techniques the most important piece of advice I give my students is this: don't passively accept anything anyone says, including anything that I tell you. Think about it, and if it doesn't make sense keep asking questions until it does. More importantly, experiment in the air and see for yourself if it's really true. Also, remember to breathe. Scott Miller References: Direction of Commander, Naval Air Systems Command, United States Navy. Aerodynamics for Naval Aviators. Washington: Naval Air Systems Command, 1960. Revised 1965. Germain, Brian. "Surviving the No Wind Landing." Dropzone.com. Sep 05 2007. (accessed October 13, 2007)
  25. Image by Andrey VeselovNobody’s going to argue that landing directly into the wind is the best way to go, but we’re not always that lucky. Got a long, narrow path between obstacles? Unless you’re super-duper lucky and the wind direction seems to have been designed entirely for your landing pleasure, you’ve got yourself a crosswind landing, my friend. If you jump at a busy DZ with a super-strict canopy pattern, you’ve undoubtedly honed your crosswind skills. Great--but that’s not the only place that crosswind landings rear their skinny heads. For instance: you’ll find them lurking at an overpopulated boogie, where the landing area is a human forest with a clear patch at the very edge…or a forehead-slapper of an off landing, where your only choice is a road...or pretty much every beach landing, ever. The importance of your landing direction should override the wind direction in a number of circumstances. Here’s how to make it work. 1. Stop bellyaching and get used to it, already.Ask any airplane pilot: landing with the wind at an angle to the runway is, like, totally normal. Ask any beach-dropzone bum or coastal-soaring pilot, and they’ll definitely elaborate on the benefits of landing smoothly with the wind pushing in hard from the side. Let go of the worry. Your ram-air wing is perfectly capable of flying with the nose pointed at an angle to the runway. That maneuver even has a name: “crabbing.” (The difference between the direction the nose is pointing and the pilot’s path--“ground track”--is called the “crab angle,” which always kinda makes me think of melted butter and tongs.) 2. Get lined up.If you’ve got a long, narrow path in front of you, guess what? You’ve got yourself a landing strip. Start humming ‘The Danger Zone’ into your helmet and get ready, Goose. Your biggest task when you line up a landing is to snag yourself as much of a headwind as possible while keeping away from the obstacles you’re certainly avoiding. Anything up to a 90-degree crosswind will work. (Your task: to avoid any kind of tailwind, if at all possible.) If you have a choice, use the longest runway you can find to increase your margin for error. 3. Get creative.As you come in on that final, you’re going to be doing something of a dance with whatever wind is pushing at you from the side. You can be assured that this wind is going to be pushing you toward something you do not want to fly into. It may be pushing you unevenly. And it may be pushing you pretty damn hard. Your approach, therefore, is necessarily going to be a little less cut-and-dry than your typical downwind/base/final box. You’ll most certainly notice that your downwind leg is not actually, like, downwind and you’re not getting the distance you’re used to. What’s usually your base leg is likely to be the actual downwind, so stay vigilant and don’t let it shove you into an obstacle. 4. Hold your focus.As you tuck into your final approach, glue your eyes on the middle of the far end of the runway. Nail them there. Staple them there. Weld them there. Do not start looking at the obstacles to either side, or you are very likely to get suddenly intimate with them. 5. Let it do its thing.From there, you have one single job: to keep the wing/canopy level while you fly in a straight line. Not so bad, right? Calmly make the necessary inputs without overcorrecting. Let the nose point in whatever direction it needs to point. Warning: this bit of the flight might seem pretty wiggly. Don’t let that motion distract you from maintaining your heading. Any inputs required to keep that straight-line heading will simply increase your crab angle and point your nose into the wind, slowing you down. 6. Come to a full and complete stop.To flare in a crosswind, make a slight adjustment to your normal procedure: use moderate emphasis on the upwind brake to get into a wind-facing position. (Please note that “moderate emphasis” does not mean “full-on, panicked toggle punch.”) 7. High-five somebody.If it’s a beach landing and you managed to drop your canopy in the saltwater, go ahead and high-five the side of your own face--but no matter what, slap that palm to something. You deserve it.