Safety Check


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 »

Hypoxia: Impending Judgment on Reaction Times

The Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) set the requirements for the use of oxygen while on aircraft in Section 91.211 of the FAA’s General Operating and Flight Rules. The section applies to pilots and passengers, including skydivers, even though there is no mention of oxygen use in the more familiar Part 105, Parachute Operations. Jump pilots are required to use supplemental oxygen above 14,000 feet mean sea level (MSL), and supplemental oxygen must be provided to each skydiver when the aircraft is above 15,000 feet MSL. The USPA Basic Safety Requirements also mandate the use of supplemental oxygen for skydives above 15,000 feet MSL. more »

Letter to Santa

Dear Santa,

I have been good this year (for the most part anyway), so here is my wish list. It’s pretty long, but every item is really important. more »

Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

Whether you are making your first jump or your 10,000th, flying on your belly or standing on your head, you must rely on your equipment for you to survive jumping from an airplane. So, if equipment is such a critical part of survival, doesn’t it make sense to make sure yours is ready for you to jump before every single skydive? more »

Jumping with Toys

We’ve all seen the great photos in Parachutist of smiling jumpers riding in rafts, dangling from a tube or hanging upside down from an unruly, inflatable shark. It sure looks like fun, and in almost every case, it really is a blast! But jumping with toys presents challenges that can turn a fun skydive into a nightmare in a split second, so you need to use caution and common sense on these jumps, just as on any other skydive. more »

Wings in Water

Everyone who holds a USPA B or higher license is required to have undergone live water training and should have an understanding of how to survive an unintentional water landing. However, wingsuits add another dimension to water landings and can complicate an already difficult situation. Recently, a group of jumpers set out to discover how a wingsuit water landing might differ from one in a traditional suit. They performed a total of 46 water entries into swimming pools, including some into a pool that had a moving current. They entered from diving boards and platforms, with and without attached main canopies, wearing fully zipped and partially zipped suits, and were sometimes fully clothed beneath those suits, including wearing heavy boots. more »

Tracking Dives

Tracking dives are popular among jumpers with a wide range of jump numbers and skill levels. In addition, the size of the tracking group can be very flexible, limited only by the number of jumpers and the type of aircraft available (although common sense dictates that if there are newer jumpers on a tracking dive, the size of the group should be kept small). But regardless of whether a tracking dive includes one jumper or 32, or whether it consists of fresh A-license holders or world-champion record-setters, there are special considerations that every participant needs to understand. more »

The Answer is Blowing in the Wind

Most of the time, it’s pretty easy to figure out which weather conditions—low clouds, rain, freezing temperatures—should put a halt to jumping. However, the one weather condition that always seems to bite skydivers, year after year, is the wind. What some may consider comfortable wind conditions may very well be too difficult for others to handle. So, how do you decide when the winds are too dangerous for you to jump? There are a lot of factors to consider: more »