Safety Check

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 »

Choosing a Canopy

The choices you make when purchasing skydiving gear can literally mean the difference between life and death. The data on the causes of skydiving injuries and fatalities makes it pretty clear that nothing is more important when it comes to gear than the size and type of main canopy you choose to fly and the decisions you make while flying it. more »

A New Year's Wish

Happy New Year! For me, the start of each new year brings the hope that we will somehow be able to get through the entire year without a skydiving fatality or serious injury. While I realize this is not likely, I am still hopeful. And while the statistics are proving we are moving in the right direction—we are reducing the number of fatalities even as the number of jumps skydivers make increases each year—there is really more to the story to consider. more »

Securing Your Toggles

Setting the brakes, stowing the excess steering line and making sure the toggles are secure on both risers seems simple enough, but apparently skydivers need to pay more attention to this easy yet critical part of the packing process. Over the past few decades, premature brake releases (aka “brake fires”) have increasingly led to cutaways, reserve rides and even fatalities. So, with so much at stake, why aren’t we doing everything possible to reduce the chance of having to deal with this type of equipment problem? more »