Tandem Emergency Procedures

After the five different tandem instructor examiner standardization meetings (four in the U.S. and one in Europe) that Tom Noonan of United Parachute Technologies conducted for hundreds of examiners in 2015, it became obvious that some examiners had forgotten critical information regarding emergency procedures. Tandem instructors must study and practice emergency procedures to the point where they respond instantly and correctly to every type of malfunction 100 percent of the time, but some of the examiners at the meetings were not at that level. Additionally, a few of the incident reports filed with USPA in the last couple of years show that tandem instructors did not perform emergency procedures correctly when faced with actual emergencies. 

Tandem systems are more complicated than solo skydiving systems, so it only makes sense that emergency procedures are more complicated on tandem systems. Tandem systems are also more reliable than ever before, so many tandem instructors are going for years and making thousands of jumps without experiencing malfunctions. Additionally, some tandem instructors are rated for two or more tandem systems, each of which may require different emergency procedures. This all adds up to the perfect storm for an instructor making a mistake when facing an actual emergency during a tandem skydive.

Thankfully, there’s an easy fix. The meetings last year worked well to ensure that the attending examiners were up to date and had the correct information. But those meetings only covered UPT Instructor Examiners. There are thousands of other instructors and instructor examiners who could also use a tune-up. Spend some time reading through the user manual for the tandem system you are using. Retake the written test you completed for your initial rating. Practice emergency procedures while attached to a person wearing a student harness. (Use a hanging harness if it is available, or at least perform the procedures while standing on the ground.) This basic refresher will take a couple of hours to complete, but it is something we should all go through at least once a year, if not more frequently. It is easy and free, and nobody has ever died from reviewing and practicing emergency procedures too much.  

Jim Crouch | D-16979 | USPA Director of Safety and Training

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