Safety Check

The 2013 Wish List

Dear Santa,

It’s hard to believe another year is down the tubes! While USPA members had a pretty safe year overall, there is always room for improvement. It’s frustrating to see the same mistakes repeated over and over, resulting in injuries and fatalities that could have easily been avoided. So this year, my wish list is all about the basics that have proven to make skydiving safer: more »

Avoiding Tail Strikes

It seems like it should be a simple enough process to exit an airplane without striking the tail. After all, jumpers make approximately 3 million skydives each year in the U.S., and nearly all of those are uneventful. Yet several times a year, we hear about jumpers who are injured (or, on rare occasions, killed) after striking the tail of an airplane in flight. Almost without exception, tail strikes occur during solo exits. more »

Preventing Aircraft Stalls

Recently, a Beech 18 twin-engine airplane that was flying a load of jumpers crashed into the yard of a residence, killing the pilot. Luckily, nobody was killed on the ground, and the jumpers had all been able to exit the airplane before it crashed, landing safely. While the National Transportation Safety Board will not release its report for quite a while, the preliminary information points to the aircraft’s entering a stall as the jumpers were positioning in the door to exit. more »

Helicopter Jumps

Most skydivers—even if they’ve never had a flying lesson—generally have quite a good understanding of airplanes. After several hundred (or thousand) takeoffs and rides to altitude, jumpers tend to pick up a fair amount of knowledge as if through osmosis. However, helicopters are fairly uncommon around drop zones. Even fixed-wing pilots who are skydivers don’t fully understand how they work, and the average skydiver understands them even less. Since only a handful of skydivers also pilot helicopters and since only a few helicopter pilots have experience flying jumpers, educational resources are scarce and misconceptions are abundant. more »

Hook Knives

A hook knife is a pretty basic tool, similar to a letter opener in design. It is usually installed on the container so that the jumper can easily reach it. Some are slipped in behind the mud flap on the main lift web; others are located on the chest strap or down near the leg straps. There are many different brands and styles available, from small, cheap, plastic versions to more expensive, higher-quality models. more »

Dust Devils

Additional Video Content Inside!

Most of the time, it is pretty easy to figure out what types of weather phenomena we need to avoid while skydiving. Thunderstorms? Check. Strong and gusty winds? Check. Extremely cold temperatures? Check. Solid clouds at or below 2,000 feet? Sure. But there is a sneaky little devil out there that has killed and injured several skydivers, and some of them never saw it coming: the dust devil. Dust devils are nothing to fool around with, especially while under canopy. And even though we often see and hear about them popping up in the desert, dust devils can actually form just about anywhere. more »

Braked Turns

If the only tool you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail. But if you have a bunch of different tools, you can use them to fix a bunch of stuff. Wouldn’t it be great to have a ton of tools for flying your canopy? Regardless of whether you have 5,000 jumps and fly a cross-braced canopy at a wing loading of 2.5:1 or 38 jumps and fly a large and docile canopy at a wing loading of 0.6:1, one of the most useful tools you can have is the mastery of braked flight. more »

Preparing for the Worst

The skydiving community has improved its safety record and reduced its number of fatalities over the past decade—mostly due to improved training and better equipment—but there is no such thing as a risk-free jump. Human nature being what it is, many people choose to bury their heads in the sand and pretend that they will never be injured. But given the nature of the sport, it makes sense for skydivers to prepare—to have plans in place that will protect themselves and their loved ones—in case they are seriously injured or even killed. more »

Coronary Artery Disease

You’ve meticulously packed your main; you’ve set your automatic activation device; you’ve reviewed your emergency procedures and landing pattern; you’ve done a final pin check in the plane; and you feel confident all will go well. You know that a skydiving accident could kill you in an instant... but so can a heart attack. Are you just as meticulous about your health? more »

Removable Deployment Systems

Back in the early days of sport parachuting, jumpers considered the slider unusual and perhaps even a bit dangerous. But in the 1970s, parachute designer Greg Yarbenet pursued the idea to help slow the severely hard openings that were common at the time. As the story goes, he started by placing his wedding ring around the lines on a toy parachute. Liking what he saw, he played with the design and created a full-sized fabric slider that had D-rings at the corners. Eventually, designers modified the design to incorporate grommets at the inside of the fabric edges, which helped reduce entanglements, giving us the design still in use today. more »