Tales from the Bonfire

Stranger (DZ) Danger

At the 2015 Turkey Meet at Skydive City Zephyrhills in Florida, my canopy collapsed at 20 feet as I was coming in on final. I broke the fibula at my left ankle and dislocated and fractured my tibia. The abrupt plunge also caused intense fear and anxiety about skydiving. Mechanical turbulence caused the accident: I landed close to the hangar and the wind rolling over it and into the landing area collapsed my parachute. more »

The Cheststrap

It was the seventh jump of the day for our newly formed and unnamed 4-way formation skydiving team. A normal jump on a normal training day. It was the scariest jump I’ve ever been on.

I check gear. All the time. I find things: incorrectly assembled 3-rings, unhooked or misrouted reserve-static-line lanyards and visors up on exit. And I check chest straps. I’ve caught tons of misrouted and dangling chest straps in the loading area and on the airplane. But I missed this one. more »

The Great Shoe Jump

Everyone loses something now and again: a sock, an earring, a dog, a heart. Sometimes, these things are found easily: a dollar in the laundry, that favorite pen, a homeless beagle. I used to blame it on poltergeists and a mischievous husband. As age rolls in, I hesitate to blame anything else.
But now the blame can be laid on the winds ... at 10,000 feet:

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Just a Fun Story About My 1,000th Skydive

Back in 2013, I got my skydiving license through the U.S. Army Golden Knights and then attended the Golden Knight Assessment and Selection Program, where I hit 100 jumps. I didn't make it that year. For crying out loud, I had only 35 jumps when I went! I nearly killed myself and never had a clue. Good on them for cutting me! more »

Tales from the Bonfire - Crab Walk

My experience happened on my 28th jump, when I was maybe two or three requirements away from achieving my A license. The skies were clear and the winds were about 14 mph. In no way did this jump seem like it was going to be any different from the two others I had successfully completed that day. Everything about the jump went fine and according to plan until the landing. The winds at my airfield, which were usually fairly predictable, shifted and gusted. I hit the ground with my right leg hard enough to fracture my ankle and break my tibia. more »

Tales from the Bonfire - When in Doubt

I was on a hop-and-pop load to 4,500 feet with three other jumpers in a Cessna 182. The exits all went according to normal procedure, and my opening was good. With my slider stowed and steering toggles in hand, I started counting the other parachutes. That's when I picked up on the freebag spiraling in the air out in front of me. Cutaway! more »

Tales from the Bonfire - How NOT to Break a World Record

“Basically, there are only two things you must do on any skydive: pull and flare. In that order. If you forget the first one, don’t worry about the second.” I have occasionally made that facetious statement as a funny way to explain simplifying priorities. But in the sunny skies over Rochelle, Illinois, in June 2013, those priorities were no joke. W hile hurling myself at the planet with a broken right arm, I was challenged to put my own advice to the ultimate test. more »

Tales from the Bonfire - Take Not Thine Altitude for Granted

by Joe McHenry | D-6770 | Newport, Pennsylvania

Unlike other commandments that I was taught in first-jump class, “Take not thine altitude for granted, lest the earth rise up and smite thee,” is carved in stone. more »

Tales from the Bonfire - Finding a Cutaway Canopy

by Matt Hoover | D-29246 | Milpitas, California

Skydive Chicago, Summerfest 2015. Last day, last jump. Something I'd always worried about finally happened. I had to cut away over a giant cornfield. With only hours of daylight left, I knew the chances of finding my main were slim. Those cornfields are notorious for claiming canopies every summer. Yet somehow, I beat the odds. I found my canopy eight days later while sitting in a chair some 2,000 miles away. This was the result of perseverance, technology, helpful friends and some luck.
Here's how we did it and a loose set of guidelines for jumpers in similar situations: more »

Tales from the Bonfire - I Broke My Back

by Angie Clifford | B-43066 | Berkeley, California

Like many of you, I fell into skydiving by chance and immediately fell in love. At the time of my accident, I had been in the sport six months and had a little more than 100 jumps. After 75 uneventful and comfortable landings on my docile, aging canopy, I considered moving to a newer canopy with better wind penetration and more horizontal glide but with the same wing loading (less than 1:1). I consulted AFF instructors, coaches and colleagues before making the move, and I understood that while my new canopy was relatively docile, it was less forgiving. I was comfortable with the change. Six jumps later, I had a hard landing and broke my back. As is often the case, the accident was the confluence of preventable events that were in my control. more »