Safety Check

Dear Santa

Another year has flown by, and it’s time to send you my wish list. While there have been lots of good things happening in skydiving lately, we have had some low points, too. So, as usual, I have lots of stuff on my wish list. more »

Rules and Recommendations

It seems like a simple enough idea: Skydivers should follow USPA’s rules and recommendations, which have proven to make skydiving safer. After all, not following them has been the cause of almost every skydiving fatality. However, skydiving attracts a unique bunch of people, and whether it is due to sheer ignorance or “rules are for other people” arrogance, jumpers don’t always follow the rules and sometimes ignore the recommendations. And periodically, it leads to tragedy. more »

Landing Off

Almost every skydiver will have to deal with an off-field landing eventually. It might be the first jump or jump 10,000, but most of us will miss the drop zone landing area at some point in our skydiving careers. Visit almost any drop zone and you’ll find jumpers with loving nicknames based on their colorful exploits while landing off: Sparky, Chevy, Tree Hugger... the list is seemingly endless. more »

Wingsuit Flights: Communicate, and Don't Forget the Pilot

Wingsuiting seems to be one of the main reasons skydiving students show up at the drop zone these days, and it’s likely that the inspiration of horizontal flight is a trend that will continue. Although wingsuiting presents specific challenges—most significantly, the addition of horizontal navigation in freefall and a larger surface area to control—it is also driving the growth and popularity of our sport, and it’s not going away. The most effective ways to promote safety and avoid incidents during wingsuit jumps require communication between skydivers, drop zone owners and managers, Safety and Training Advisors, manifest staff, aircraft loaders and jump pilots. more »

Propeller Safety

We get pretty comfortable moving around airplanes in the skydiving world. We board aircraft while they’re running, climb around outside their doors in flight and jump out of them at altitude. With all this familiarity, we can sometimes lose perspective on one plain and simple fact: Spinning propellers maim and kill. And if you make the mistake of getting any part of your body near a spinning propeller, chances are very good that it will be the last mistake you will make. more »

Dropped Cameras

Almost 14 years ago, I received a call from an angry man who had been working peacefully in his garden when “one of those surfboard things smacked into my yard 10 feet away from me!” As it turns out, a new skysurfer lost control in freefall and released his board, which proceeded to smack into the ground next to the unsuspecting gardener. The small parachute that was supposed to deploy if the jumper released the board had failed, and the board hit the ground with a pretty strong impact. more »

Preventing Hearing Loss

Did you ever notice that most of the skydivers who have been around the drop zone for years can’t hear a thing you’re saying unless you’re yelling at them loudly, face to face? This is not a coincidence, and you will find that most if not all of these jumpers have been regularly exposed to years of loud noises without using hearing protection. Not only are they deaf, they are slowly going mad due to the constant ringing in their ears known as tinnitus. Hearing loss and tinnitus are not the same things, although they are often experienced together. The sad and scary thing about hearing loss is that it is permanent, and so is the ringing that comes with tinnitus. Once you damage the inner ear from exposure to loud noise, there is no magic pill, hearing aid or even surgery that can restore your hearing to its previous level. more »

Canopy Collisions

Canopy collisions are many skydivers’ worst nightmare, and for good reason. And while Skydiver’s Information Manual Section 5-1 provides some guidelines for how to deal with a canopy collision, avoiding one altogether is a much better idea. more »

Developing Altitude Awareness

A jumper with more than 100 jumps totally blows his landing pattern. He flies way too far downwind before realizing it and then turns 180 degrees to face into the wind. He lands outside of the main landing area but manages to avoid additional problems. Another jumper with more than 100 jumps pulls low, saddling out at 1,300 feet. Luckily, his automatic activation device does not activate his reserve, and he is able to land under his main without further issues. more »

Hoop Dives

Did you ever look at a photo of a skydiver passing through a hula-hoop and wonder just how cool it must be to do a hoop dive? The 2009-2010 Skydiver’s Information Manual even had a hoop dive on the cover, so they must be fun and safe, right? Well, they are lots of fun, but in reality, few hoop dives go as designed, so everyone needs to stay heads-up when the original plan falls to pieces. Since most hoop dives end up looking more like Keystone Cops movies than anything resembling skydiving, the jumpers must prepare carefully and have alternate dive plans in place. more »