Safety Check

This Year’s Wish List

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Dear Santa,

Sorry about the buzz job! It was the fastest way I could think of getting my list to you. It’s been another busy year, and I have been behaving most of the time. But it is frustrating to see so many jumpers injured or killed because of canopy accidents. This year, my wish list is all about improving canopy control. I want jumpers to: more »

Opening High

Whether just for pleasure or as a focused training exercise, opening and flying parachutes at higher altitudes has become more common in recent years. A high deployment provides a jumper with lots of time to practice new canopy maneuvers or just relax and enjoy the scenery. Additionally, starting in January, every USPA B-license applicant must complete the canopy drills outlined in Section 6-11 of the Skydiver’s Information Manual. So, even more jumpers are likely to be deploying high to work on those skills. more »

Wingsuit Fly-Bys

An open canopy is a tempting target for many wingsuit flyers. But any buzzing attempt gone awry would spell disaster for the wingsuiter and the canopy pilot. And it doesn’t take a Rhodes Scholar to figure out that a collision between a wingsuiter and a tandem pair under canopy could easily up the fatality count to three. more »

Look Out Above!

All skydivers learn as part of their student training that the low man has the right of way under canopy. While this rule holds true in just about every situation, things aren’t always that black and white in today’s skydiving environment. A jumper at 1,000 feet under a cross-braced canopy will likely land before a jumper at 300 feet with a larger canopy and lighter wing loading. Because of the additional risk of a canopy collision, jumpers must never initiate high-performance landings while sharing the airspace with skydivers flying standard landing patterns. more »

Aircraft Emergencies

Fortunately, the airplane ride to altitude is almost always uneventful. But that doesn’t mean you can keep your head buried in the sand and pretend you don’t have to plan for an emergency. The planning you do for an aircraft emergency might mean the difference between coming through it unscathed and being seriously injured or killed. With no plan, you also risk making the situation worse for the pilot and other jumpers by reacting inappropriately. Just as with skydiving emergencies, there are many different scenarios when it comes to aircraft emergencies, and each requires everyone involved to act correctly. more »

Jumping at Unfamiliar DZs

Jumping at an unfamiliar drop zone can be intimidating, especially to newer skydivers who may have jumped at only one place so far. Jumpers need to approach visiting a new location with caution and planning, whether it is just a weekend jumping out of a Cessna 182 or sharing the skies with hundreds of jumpers at a large boogie. And this caution applies to jumpers of all experience levels. more »

Eliminating Canopy Collisions

With the recent spate of fatal canopy collisions, skydivers around the world are looking for solutions to the problem—and so are the board members and staff of USPA. Unfortunately, canopy collisions are nothing new, and other years have been similar to this one, with the subject becoming a hot issue after several collisions in a short period of time. more »


All of the electronic gizmos available to skydivers—audible altimeters, LEDs that blink in your eye at breakoff time, automatic activation devices (AADs), etc.—are great back-up devices. Unfortunately, some of us are depending way too much on these little wonders of modern technology and on other people at the drop zone and don’t understand enough about basic equipment and emergency procedures ourselves. If the recent reports that follow are any indication, some of us need better training and a change in mindset regarding gear: more »

Canopy Damage

A jumper with about 400 jumps experienced a hard opening on his 170-square-foot non-elliptical main canopy with a wing loading of approximately 1.3:1. When he looked up at the canopy, he discovered that a few of his suspension lines had broken, but the canopy itself seemed to be intact. After a controllability check to make sure that he could turn and flare the canopy, he decided to land it. Unfortunately, the landing was a lot harder than he expected, resulting in a broken ankle and a trip to the hospital operating room for repairs. He later said he didn’t realize that he was in trouble until he was too low to cut away safely. Even though everything seemed OK during the controllability check, the canopy was actually descending more quickly than normal, and the jumper’s landing flare did not slow his descent properly. He said if he had it to do over again, he would have cut away and deployed his reserve. Chalk one up for the school of hard knocks—another lesson learned in a painful way. more »

Going Low

Each of us, at some point in our jumping careers, will end up going low on a formation. Try as you might, there will come a day when you blow past everyone while diving to the base, or drop low after the formation collapses in a funnel, or all seven others on your jump will just seem to suddenly start floating above you. In freeflying, with faster freefall speeds, if a lower jumper suddenly corks (flattens out) below the others, the resulting collision can be fatal. And no matter what kind of skydive you’re on, if you are below someone, you are in the worst possible location for a parachute deployment, whether it is intentional or accidental. So, beneath a formation is not really a great place to be, and if it happens, you should have a plan for getting yourself into a safer position as quickly as possible. more »