Safety Check

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 »

Interacting with EMS

It’s great to be helpful at the drop zone, but you also must be prepared. When accidents happen, the members of the responding emergency medical service will need information. If you are the person designated to speak with EMS, you’ll want to provide the full name of the injured person and the primary language the person speaks. If the injured person is able to speak and his primary language is not English, finding an interpreter will help responding personnel complete their evaluation properly. If possible, ask the jumper where his insurance information is and provide responders with it when they arrive. You should also provide responders with the jumper’s emergency contact information (usually found in the DZ’s records). more »

Unintended Consequences

There is no doubt that skydiving is safer now than it has ever been in the past. Better equipment, better student training, advanced coaching and easy access to wind tunnels have combined to allow skydivers to rapidly improve their aerial skills. But are we now seeing fatalities and injuries caused in part by our new technologies? Lack of altitude awareness, poor canopy control and lack of action or improper action during emergencies have made up a large percentage of the fatalities so far this year. We as a community need to reverse this trend. more »

It Takes a Village

There is an old proverb that says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” The skydiving community could easily adapt this to, “It takes a village to raise a skydiver.” For someone to progress as safely as possible and become a competent skydiver, it takes a lot of help and guidance from a variety of people. Instructors teach basic freefall and canopy survival skills, and coaches teach basic group freefall skills. But once a jumper is licensed, he no longer has a structured path to follow and generally relies on advice from informal mentors. more »

Wingsuit Rodeos

As wingsuiting has grown in popularity, so have wingsuit rodeos. YouTube and Facebook contain lots of footage of scary wingsuit rodeos performed by inexperienced—and sometimes experienced—wingsuit pilots (aka “horses”) and riders. Even jumpers with extensive wingsuit experience need to learn new exit positions, spotting techniques and instability recovery skills to perform rodeos safely. more »

A Letter from Skydive Arizona S&TA Bryan Burke

Every Safety Day, Skydive Arizona in Eloy tries to combine practical safety exercises in the daytime with a more generalized, thoughtful look at safety trends during an evening presentation. The latter element has always been my job and my passion. I’ve been a Safety and Training Advisor since they were known as Area Safety Officers, and although I only have a few thousand jumps, I’d be willing to bet good money that I’ve seen more jumps than anyone alive. The downside to my job is the 25 fatalities I’ve worked over the last two decades and the hundreds of serious accidents. I want to do everything I can to reduce that, and education based on solid facts is my best tool. Most of those accidents were preventable. more »

Know Your Gear

As a student, your instructor taught you (or should have taught you) how to perform a proper gear inspection, as well as basic rig maintenance such as replacing a closing loop and maintaining the 3-ring release system. Remember that training? If a recent Safety Day seminar gives any indication, the answer is probably not! During the seminar, a USPA Safety and Training Advisor had participants examine an intentionally fouled-up rig to try to find 17 different rigging errors. A surprising number of participants missed basic items such as leg straps that were improperly routed through the friction adapters, a misrouted main bridle and an incorrectly assembled 3-ring system. Surprisingly, the newly licensed jumpers scored better than the more experienced skydivers! more »