Feature

How to Nail a Gear Check

Let me ask you this: When was the last time that you saw the pilot running down a safety checklist on the jump plane? If you’re paying attention, you certainly have (or at least seen the clipboard stuffed somewhere in the cockpit, lookin’ official). Metal-tube pilots have an actual checklist they run down to confirm the safety of the gear that heaves us all up into the sky. That’s a great idea—it’s a reasonably complicated system, and a checklist ensures that nothing’s forgotten. more »

Military Aviation's Lessons for Skydivers

Every day, Naval aviators take to the sky to train for the time when they may have to fly into combat. Military and other high-performance aircraft operate at the edge of the envelope. Maximum performance comes from operating on the envelope’s edge, which means there is little to no margin for error. This has created the need for a robust safety system in Naval aviation. Other industries have adopted these principles and practices, and they are equally relevant to skydiving. Right out of the gate, the Navy indoctrinates its aviators into a safety culture. For good reason: Pilots die more often in training mishaps than from enemy actions. This safety training—which aviators learn and discuss throughout their careers—includes lessons on the Swiss-cheese-mishap model, normalization of deviance, complacency and risk management. But how does this apply to skydiving?

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Parachute Flight Dynamics

The goal of any skilled canopy pilot is to take command of the parachute system so as to dictate his location under the wing at any given time. To become a more proficient canopy pilot, it's important to understand that the jumper is not separate from the canopy but is in fact part of an integrated system. Without delving too much into design specifics of parachutes, let's examine how a jumper's choices and actions affect the system as a whole. For example: Though turning low to the ground is not advisable, it is also not inherently dangerous. In fact, such a maneuver may be necessary to avoid danger, and what matters most in such a situation is how the jumper performs the turn. As with many things in flight, the lifesaving move may be counterintuitive.

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Up is the New Down

Remember the days when it seemed like all everyone wanted to do was learn to fly head down so they could join the cool kids on jumps? Well, the cool kids have flipped it right side up and stepped it up a notch. Head-up angle jumps and sit-flying formations seem to be spreading like dust devils in the Arizona summer. And big-way head-up jumps are becoming more popular than ever. more »

The Next Big Thing

Andy Malchiodi—neck deep in his multi-hyphenate (medalist-coach-musician-filmmaker) life—didn’t set out to co-invent a skydiving discipline. He just wanted to enjoy competition. Luckily for us, he did it anyway. He’s quick to refuse to take credit for being the first person to combine flat and vertical orientations into one discipline, but there’s no denying that he’s the one who has done the most to make it official.

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Inventing, Building and Designing Solutions — Bill Jones Receives the USPA Gold Medal for Meritorious Service

October 8 at Skydive Arizona in Eloy, USPA President Jay Stokes presented Bill Jones, D-924, the USPA Gold Medal for Meritorious Service. The crowd of longtime friends and associates included eight of his children (out of 11) and one grandchild (out of 21). more »

Out of Sight, Out of Frame: Using a Ring Sight

Skydivers who use cameras typically mount their equipment to their helmets in order to keep their hands clear to maneuver in freefall and operate their parachute systems. Looking through the camera’s viewfinder to aim and center the shot is not an option, so jumpers need to implement alternatives. Enter the ring sight. more »

Priorities of Work for Formation Skydiving

Priorities of work is the concept that in almost any situation there are things you should focus on before worrying about other things. The idea comes up often in sayings and books: “It makes no sense to start painting the house before you have the foundation set.” And, “Put first things first,” is habit three in Steven Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” Organizations like the U.S. military use the term “priorities of work” to describe this process of prioritization. It is also a concept that applies well to skydiving.

The idea seems simple, but how many times have you seen a person so focused on getting grips that he reaches down while above the formation and flips over and into it? Or seen someone below the formation who reaches, causing him to arch more and fall away? These jumpers skipped the priorities of work. more »

Without A Parachute—Luke Aikins Dares The Impossible And Succeeds

When Luke Aikins jumped from 25,000 feet without a parachute on July 30 and landed safely, it put him in the company of those who achieved other epic breakthroughs in skydiving—Joseph Kittinger leaping from 102,800 feet, Felix Baumgartner breaking the sound barrier, Gary Connery landing a wingsuit—with one caveat: Aikins’ jump wasn’t technically a skydive. Skydiving is the act of jumping from an aircraft with a parachute (the “P” in USPA), which of course Aikins didn’t have. Still, skydiving made it possible.

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Action Camera Placement

With point-of-view cameras now an integral part of our sport, we’re seeing more instances where these cameras are affecting safety in a very negative way. Most country’s skydiving organizations demand a sensible minimum experience level of 200 jumps or more before skydivers can use any type of camera, and not without reason. (USPA recommends that jumpers hold a USPA C license and have made 50 jumps on the same parachute equipment used for camera flying.) In skydiving—and BASE jumping, as well—many dangerous situations and even deadly accidents have occurred when a pilot chute or other part of a jumper’s gear wrapped around a camera. As when dealing with all problems in life, prevention is best.
Here’s some advice about placing your camera. more »