The Rating Corner

Packing and Gear Checks for Tandem Safety

The importance of a thorough gear check before every skydive is simple common sense, but in the world of tandem, it is doubly important. Tandem students rely on their instructors to guide them through their jumps with as little risk as possible. Just as competent aircraft pilots perform thorough pre-flights of their planes to ensure they are ready for flight, tandem instructors must perform thorough pre-flights of their tandem equipment. more »

Altimeters for Tandem Students

There are plenty of student training topics that always generate lively debate. One subject that always seems to generate two very different views is whether to equip tandem students with altimeters. Camp A says that each tandem student must be provided with his own altimeter and be trained to use it. Camp B says that the instructor’s altimeter meets the USPA Basic Safety Requirement that states each student must be equipped with a visually accessible altimeter, and that it is not necessary to equip a tandem student with his own. more »

IERC Requirement for Coach Examiners

Last year, the USPA Board of Directors passed a motion that all USPA Coach Examiners who have not attended the USPA Instructor Examiner Rating Course (IERC) or Advanced Instructor Course (the precursor to the IERC) must complete an IERC by July 1, 2012. This motion came after a great deal of discussion regarding the USPA Coach Course and the quality of coach candidates who are receiving ratings. Critics argue that many new coaches should have stronger teaching and in-air skills and that the 100-jump requirement to attend the course does not provide a jumper with enough experience to deserve the rating. more »

What One DZ's Accidents Say About Us All

Skydive Arizona, one of the world’s busiest drop zones, has tracked its fatalities, injuries and incidents for the past 20 years. The figures have recently been compiled into a comprehensive report, “Learning From the Mistakes of Others: Skydive Arizona Accident Review, 1991 to 2011.” Remarkably, just plain bad luck accounted for less than 5 percent of all incidents—meaning 95 percent of the accidents were preventable. In addition, 75 percent of the skydiving fatalities did not involve any equipment malfunctions (which closely parallels national and international statistics). Furthermore, visiting jumpers were slightly greater than five times more likely to die in a skydiving accident than Skydive Arizona locals. What do these numbers tell us about how to make people safer skydivers? more »

Ground Controllers

It’s common to see one or more jumpers on just about any load having difficulty flying their parachutes in a way that promotes a smooth flow of canopy traffic. Whether it is someone who unintentionally flies an incorrect pattern or a arrogant jumper with no judgment whatsoever who insists on making a 270-degree turn through traffic because he thinks his “mad skillz” make him an awesome canopy pilot, many skydivers could use additional guidance about canopy descents. more »

Tandem Commandments

Last February at the Parachute Industry Association Symposium, representatives from all three U.S. tandem manufacturers (Nancy LaRiviere of Jump Shack, Bill Morrissey of Strong Enterprises and Mark Procos from United Parachute Technologies) and Frank Carreras from Germany (a tandem examiner who is rated for all U.S. and European tandem systems) joined together to give a presentation entitled, “The 19 Commandments of Tandem Parachute Operations.” The group had developed a common list of rules and presented them to a crowd of nearly 200 tandem instructors, instructor examiners and drop zone owners at the Symposium. Previously, each of the three manufacturers differed in some of their recommended altitudes and procedures, and they wanted to decide on a common set of rules and then bring USPA into the mix. more »

The Category E Aircraft Briefing

Once students are in Category E of USPA’s Integrated Student Program, they have been around long enough for instructors to introduce them to additional information about aircraft operations. The Category E aircraft briefing is designed to impart the information about jump airplanes that students will need to know once they are independent A-licensed skydivers (and Category E students will soon be wrapping up their license requirements to become just that). more »

Perfecting Your Students’ Flares

Anyone who has spent time observing students can probably recall a few awkward and ungraceful flares that resulted in some pretty scary landings. By and large, the most common error in a student’s progression is flaring the canopy too high above the ground—particularly during the first few landings, when a student is working on getting used to executing an entirely new and foreign skill. Fortunately, students use large canopies that are fairly forgiving of mistakes. more »

Choosing the Correct Canopies for Your Students

There are many variables to consider when deciding what size canopy a student should jump. Years ago, this was not really an issue—every student jumped a 300-square-foot canopy, and instructors didn’t need to make a choice. But while larger canopies allowed for soft landings (at least in most cases), the very low wing loadings meant that even the slightest amount of wind caused students to fly backward. In those days, it was not unusual for students to back into trees, power lines or other landing hazards. more »

Closing the Gap

A jumper who recently received a USPA A license stated that he wished he had learned the functions of the front and rear risers in detail, how to avoid canopy collisions, the appropriate times to disconnect a reserve static line (RSL), the best way to get back to the airport from a long spot and how he should flare his canopy during low-wind landings. If his instructors had trained this jumper properly, wouldn’t he already know this stuff? Yet somehow, his instructors still signed him off to receive his USPA A license. It is sad that some drop zones continue to provide student training that leaves so many gaps in skills and knowledge. more »