Basics - The 2014 Fatality Summary

Don’t run into anyone in freefall or under canopy, quickly release an uncontrollable spinning main parachute, wear a functioning automatic activation device and reserve static line, and make your final turn under canopy with plenty of altitude to complete it. If 20 of the 24 people who died skydiving in the U.S. in 2014 had done so, they would still be alive today. Compared to past years, 2014 could have been worse, but it’s still a pity for our sport and our friends that so many of the deaths were so easily preventable.

FEATURE20154-11
Skydiving will always have a degree of risk. The purpose of the annual fatality summary is to remind us of the dangers that resulted in fatal accidents. Awareness should equal avoidance. The price our fellow skydivers paid is too high for us to ignore these lessons.

The incident reports in Parachutist, articles in other publications and online discussions allow a case-by-case analysis of what went wrong. We can learn from these personal disasters, and the details of each incident tell us a lot. On the other hand, the big picture we see by grouping a year of skydiving deaths into categories can often make danger areas even more obvious.

NO PULL/LOW PULL (3—13%)
The three people who died in this category in 2014 were experienced skydivers with an average age of 61. Each had decades in the sport and an average of 3,300 jumps. Two of the jumpers did not wear AADs, and investigators could not determine whether the third jumper had the installed AAD tuned on.

  • Two jumpers did not open their main or reserve parachutes. Investigators determined that both incidents were suicides.
  • Another skydiver had recently returned to skydiving after a long layoff. His recently purchased harness-and-container system was very small for his size and may have made locating the handles difficult. He never deployed his main canopy, and he did not have an AAD. He deployed his reserve just before impact, and it did not have enough time to inflate.

Safety Tips

When someone doesn’t start an opening at all or starts it too low to survive, investigators can often only speculate as to the cause. Sometimes, the circumstances point to suicide. Prior to the widespread use of dependable AADs, the cause of many no- and low-pull incidents remained a mystery. However, many of these jumpers now survive after landing under AAD-deployed reserves and have shared stories of temporal and spatial disorientation (loss of time and altitude awareness), major distractions at main-deployment time and medical or physical problems that explained their failures to deploy their parachutes at the normal altitude. However, the bottom line is that in some instances we’ll never know why a jumper didn’t open a main or reserve canopy in a timely manner.

  • For altitude-awareness or deployment problems, backup systems such as audible altimeters and AADs can be invaluable insurance policies.
  • Altitude awareness is a critical survival skill. Jumpers should frequently reference their altimeters (their own or a teammate’s) and practice awareness of how the ground looks at different altitudes. This is an ability that jumpers can easily fine-tune by practicing on the way to altitude.

MALFUNCTION (8—33%)
Some jumpers experience their first malfunctions early in their skydiving careers and some after hundreds or even thousands of jumps, but all jumpers should have the mindset that a malfunction will happen on the very next jump so they’ll be ready for it if it does. Here are some situations caused primarily by equipment malfunctions in 2014:FEATURE20154-12

  • While performing a diving exit from a small aircraft at 7,500 feet, a tandem instructor and his student experienced a horseshoe malfunction when a seatbelt snagged and stretched the drogue-release cable’s housing, which opened the main container but left the drogue in its pouch. Either the instructor or the main bag’s tension on the bridle pulled the drogue from its pouch, but it entangled with the stretched housing. The instructor then deployed the reserve, but it did not clear the malfunctioned equipment. The tandem pair landed under a partially inflated main parachute, killing them both.
  • In four cases, skydivers experienced spinning main parachutes and did not handle the emergencies in the time and altitude remaining:
    • One very experienced wingsuit jumper started his opening lower than the recommended altitude. His pilot chute apparently was not cocked (set properly for deployment), and although it still opened his main, the canopy deployed slowly and with line twists and began spinning. Because of the slow opening, he was still traveling quickly enough at a low altitude (about 750 feet) for his AAD to fire and initiate reserve deployment. The reserve bridle entangled with the main canopy, which stopped the reserve from deploying. He attempted to gain control of the spinning main parachute for the remainder of the jump but was not successful. Post-mortem toxicology tests showed that he had recently used marijuana and was likely under the influence of the drug at the time of the incident.
    • Another wingsuit skydiver opened his main canopy at approximately 5,000 feet. He then unzipped his arm wings and collapsed his slider. When he tried to unstow his steering toggles for full flight, one side didn’t release and the canopy began to spiral. He tried to free the stuck toggle as the parachute continued to spin for the rest of the jump.
    • Two skydivers did cut away from their spinning mains, however:
      • One jumper, whose rig was not equipped with a reserve static line, cut away about 900 feet above the ground and did not open his reserve manually. His AAD had properly disarmed itself when he opened his main, and although it re-armed and fired after the cutaway, the reserve did not have enough time to fully deploy.
      • The other jumper experienced a brake release on one side of his main canopy during main deployment. The canopy spun itself into line twists as the jumper deployed his reserve canopy while still attached to the main. The jumper then pulled his cutaway handle but only far enough to release one of the main risers. He landed hard under the two canopies, with the reserve spinning and the main, which was in a streamer configuration, attached by just one riser.
    • A jumper, part of a group re-enacting a World War II airborne operation, experienced a line-over malfunction on his military-style round main parachute. He deployed his chest-mounted round reserve but then took no further action. For the rest of the canopy flight, observers saw him hanging limp in his harness under the fully inflated main canopy (which had a line-over) and fully inflated reserve canopy.

Safety Tips

  • Tandem instructors have challenging, complex and physically demanding jobs. The workload can be exhausting, especially when an instructor makes many jumps in a day. The complexities posed by the tandem equipment, as well the student up front, make it important for the instructor to follow a pattern of procedures—including handle checks—that will make the jump as safe as possible. Instructors should check their handles and touch them in the correct sequence on the ground, in the aircraft, before exiting and during the jump. This helps to build muscle memory, and it also helps to ensure that the equipment is configured properly and the handles are unobstructed. A poised exit allows instructors a better opportunity to check their handles. Finally, exiting from higher altitudes gives instructors more time to deal with any problems.
  • Under today’s high-performance canopies, a slow turn can rapidly morph to an altitude-eating spin. Not only does a spin increase a canopy’s descent rate, but it also builds centrifugal force, which increases a jumper’s disorientation and makes emergency procedures more difficult to perform. Highly loaded canopies are particularly susceptible, but most canopies are designed for crisp performance, which means that turns often become spins under even lightly loaded canopies. However, a jumper can often slow or stop a turn by pulling down the steering toggle or the rear riser opposite the direction of turn. If the jumper can’t control the turn, it is time to cut away and open the reserve parachute—the higher, the better.
  • The prevalence of AAD use has greatly advanced skydiving safety, but AADs do have their limitations:
    • Jumpers must maintain a buffer between the AAD-activation altitude and the planned main-parachute-opening altitude, since it is hazardous when a reserve deploys while a main is deploying. One manufacturer recommends 1,000 feet between the AAD-activation altitude and the altitude at which the jumper plans to be under an open parachute (not the altitude at which he starts the opening). While jumpers can change an AAD’s activation altitude, the default altitude on an experienced skydiver’s AAD is 750 to 840 feet.
    • In a cutaway after a full main-parachute deployment, an AAD is not a substitute for an RSL or a manual pull of the reserve ripcord. One of the beauties of a modern AAD is its ability to sense descent rate and disarm itself if the jumper is no longer falling near freefall speeds. This is why an expert AAD doesn’t activate the reserve when a canopy pilot makes hard turns or spirals. However, for an AAD to work after a cutaway, that also means that if a jumper releases an opened main parachute, he must accelerate to near-normal freefall speeds, the AAD must sense this and re-arm itself, and enough altitude must remain for a normal reserve opening. This sequence takes several seconds, and that’s time and altitude that may not exist after a cutaway.
  • Wingsuit jumps add complexity to a skydive. USPA Skydiver’s Information Manual Section 6-9 has recommendations about the use of wingsuits and the qualifications for skydivers who use them.
  • Jumping while under the influence of any drug that affects ability and judgment greatly increases the risks for the jumper, as well as others in the air with him.
  • Jumpers should practice their emergency procedures and decision-making skills frequently, not just during their student progressions. USPA Safety Day is a good time to review these skills, and SIM Section 5-1, Skydiving Emergencies, is a good resource any time of the year. In the event of an emergency, a fast and correct response to the situation at hand is critical. For example, it is appropriate to spend a moment after opening to make sure a canopy is controllable, but it is inappropriate to work with that same canopy for many spinning turns while the situation deteriorates. It is appropriate for students and A-license holders to release an uncontrollable canopy at 2,500 feet (or at least 1,800 feet for B-, C- and D-license holders), but it is inappropriate to release a main canopy at 200 feet.
  • In recent years, some former military members (and even civilians) have taken part in military re-enactment static-line jumps using military surplus gear. Many participants are more than 60 years old. In one case this year, it appeared that a participant likely suffered a heart attack after dealing with a line-over malfunction. A regular medical check-up is a good idea for all skydivers, but especially for those over age 40.

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RESERVE PROBLEMS (1—4%)
A reserve system is built for dependability, but there are few absolute guarantees in skydiving. In the one incident in this category, a very experienced camera flyer opened at a conservative altitude, jettisoned his malfunctioned main and deployed his reserve with plenty of altitude. However, he died after his reserve bridle snagged on his camera mount, creating a horseshoe malfunction and preventing his reserve canopy and freebag from clearing the container. He had disconnected his RSL prior to boarding the aircraft and experienced the entanglement after manually pulling his reserve while in a back-to-earth position. When the reserve bridle snagged on his camera mount, he spent the remainder of his time trying to clear it.

Safety Tips

  • The jumper used his reserve appropriately but opened in the position most likely to create an entanglement. Bottom line: Skydiving is about risk management, and that risk is higher when using a camera on a skydive.
  • For most jumps other than canopy formation skydives, using an RSL is advisable. Although some jumpers, camera flyers in particular, are concerned that an immediate reserve deployment via an RSL will create a reserve entanglement, the reality is this scenario is extremely rare, even for camera flyers. However, every year some of the people who died would have lived if they had an RSL.
  • Cameras have become smaller and less expensive. The result is that almost anyone can jump with them. However, they are not risk free. As well as causing distractions that can lead to dangerous situations (such as forgetting to fasten a chest strap), they also can pose entanglement hazards during main or reserve deployment. Some camera helmets minimize this risk by using “no-snag” mounts. Additionally, some helmets come equipped with a quick-release mechanism for jettisoning the helmet if an entanglement does occur. SIM Section 6-8 contains camera-flying recommendations.
  • In a horseshoe malfunction, part of the deployed parachute is entangled with the jumper or his equipment while the risers are still attached to the harness. This usually creates a loop of suspension line and twisted parachute material that flaps above the jumper. The jumper’s rate of descent likely does not decrease much from freefall, so he has only a few seconds to react. The design of a reserve’s freebag and long bridle maximizes the chance of its opening (even if the reserve pilot chute is trapped), but it still does not guarantee success.
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COLLISIONS (5—21%)
Speed represents energy, and when jumpers with a speed differential collide in freefall or under canopy, their bodies are likely to absorb the energy. Collisions almost always occur because one or both jumpers do not see the other, and often at least one of the jumpers is not in control.

  • Two skydivers, neither wearing an AAD, died in separate tracking-dive incidents after striking the body of another tracker. In both cases, investigators were unable to determine whether the jumper died immediately from the collision or from striking the ground without a deployed canopy.
  • A jumper shooting video struck a jumper who was deploying his parachute as planned. The video person exited directly above a pair of jumpers performing a Mr. Bill jump (in which two jumpers hold on to each other and one deploys a parachute). The videographer deployed his main parachute, apparently to avoid a collision, when he saw the deploying parachute below him, but he still struck the lower jumper hard enough to receive fatal injuries.
  • In two separate instances, a jumper turning or spiraling under canopy entangled with another jumper below 1,000 feet.
    • In one of the incidents, both jumpers were focused on the landing area and not looking for other canopy traffic when they collided. One of the jumpers cut away his main about 200 feet above the ground, and although his RSL initiated reserve deployment, it did not have the time and altitude to fully open.
    • In the other situation, a spiraling jumper received deadly injuries after colliding body-to-body with another jumper.

Safety Tips

  • Horizontal separation between opening jumpers is critical. Deploying above a lower jumper will not guarantee vertical separation. Although it’s a good idea to grab the rear risers as the parachute opens to allow an immediate riser turn to avoid other jumpers, this only works if the canopy is inflated and there is horizontal space between the jumpers.
  • Unless the collision is extremely close to the ground, there’s seldom a reason to stay with an entanglement for more than a few seconds before at least one person cuts away. This will often clear the entanglement or at least slow things down. However, releasing the main with just a couple hundred feet remaining doesn’t give most reserve systems time to open. Both of the entanglement incidents happened at the worst time, when the jumpers were preparing to land.
  • Jumpers should set a hard deck—SIM Section 4 recommends 1,000 feet—below which they will not cut away.
  • Jumpers must continually check their airspace and make sure the airspace in the direction they wish to turn is clear before starting a maneuver.
  • Spirals (rapid, continuous steep turns) near landing-pattern altitudes are unsafe and needlessly endanger other jumpers. (No aircraft pilot would perform a maneuver like this anywhere near an aircraft traffic pattern, and neither should a canopy pilot.) It is not unusual at many drop zones to see a canopy spiraling, especially at altitudes above 1,000 feet. However, spiral turns require a very large area of clear airspace. When there is more than one canopy in the air, it can be very difficult to know with certainty that the airspace is clear enough for this type of maneuver.
  • Tragically, one jumper had removed his AAD for servicing and then died in a freefall collision. AAD users should assess whether the absence of this potentially life-saving device is reason enough to delay skydiving until one is available.

LANDING (7—29%)
Over the years, the failure to safely land a parachute has been a leading cause of death, and it remains so today. In the last 10 years, 76 skydivers died landing properly functioning canopies. The seven incidents in 2014 are typical of those in past years:

  • Four canopy pilots simply started their turns too low. Their experience levels ranged from 80 to 1,600 jumps, and their wing loadings from 1.1:1 to 2.8:1. A post-mortem toxicology report for one of the jumpers indicated that he had recently used marijuana and that he was likely under the influence of the drug during the skydive.
  • Another jumper died when he landed during the last, incomplete turn in a series of turns. The landing, under a canopy loaded at 1.4:1, was not survivable. It appears that a tension knot in one of his steering lines caught on the guide ring and caused a series of hard turns as he prepared to land.
  • A tandem student died and the tandem instructor was hospitalized when the pair encountered a dust devil that partially collapsed the main parachute at about 75 feet and then dragged them on the ground after landing.
  • A canopy pilot stalled his highly loaded (2.27:1) canopy at 600-800 feet above the ground. The canopy came out of the stall in a spiraling turn. After three revolutions, the jumper landed while still in the turn.

Safety Tips

  • A dust devil is a mini-tornado, a vertical column of swirling air formed by ground heating. Dust devils usually occur on low-wind days. The dust and debris drawn into the column is generally visible and canopy pilots should avoid them whenever possible. However, when a dust devil forms over a grass area, it can be difficult or impossible to see because it does not pick up much debris.
  • Line wear and twisting of the brake lines causes tension knots. (To see how tension knots form, hold a piece of line between two hands and twist one side. The line will begin to coil in on itself.) A tension knot can involve a group of lines or just a single line but are most prone to form on brake lines since they are not attached to risers like the suspension lines. Because the toggle end of the brake line is free, it can be twisted to the point where a tension knot will form. Usually, it’s just an inconvenience with some minor twisting that needs to be unwound by twisting the brake line in the opposite direction before packing the main canopy, but when it is not corrected over a longer period of jumps, a tension knot may develop.
  • Jumpers can offset some turn problems by using the opposite steering line or riser to counter it.
  • Any turn initiated close to the ground increases the risk of striking the ground at a high forward speed and descent rate. Trying to judge the height above ground while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is even more difficult and increases the risk to the canopy pilot and anyone else in the same airspace.

OTHER (NONE IN 2014)
This category includes deaths—commonly, medical incidents—that don’t fit into any of the other five categories. Skydiving can lead to stress, which increases the chance that a jumper will experience a heart attack or other medical incident. Hard-opening parachutes and rapidly spinning main canopies can also apply excessive force to the head, neck and aorta. In at least three of the incidents in 2014, investigators strongly suspect that medical issues may have contributed to the jumpers failing to execute their emergency procedures properly. However, even though circumstances may point to a heart attack or other medical problem—for example, a jumper who hangs limp and unresponsive under canopy—if the evidence is not definitive (e.g., the autopsy report was unavailable or inconclusive), the death falls into another category. This was the case for all suspected medical incidents in 2014.

GENERAL COMMENTS

AADs, RSLs and Audible Altimeters
There’s no question about it, a skydiver has the primary responsibility for ensuring safety on every jump. But the use of redundant safety devices adds additional layers of safety. Audible altimeters can provide an extra aid to altitude awareness on every jump. AADs and RSLs are situational backups that are invaluable when needed. Their functions are not overlapping: Using one does not eliminate the need for the other. An AAD initiates reserve activation when the jumper reaches a low altitude at or near freefall speeds. Any type of RSL system, including the SkyHook and similar main-assisted-reserve-deployment (MARD) devices, initiates reserve deployment after a cutaway. Both provide critical backup for the skydiver. Neither was in common use a few decades ago, and their use today is one of the reasons the sport is so much safer. In 2014, the use of AADs or RSLs would possibly have saved seven lives.

Landings
Over the last 20 years, deaths that occurred while jumpers landed properly functioning canopies comprised the single largest category of skydiving deaths. This category accounts for 33 percent (184 skydivers) of overall fatalities during the period. Although this year the landing category was the second-deadliest category, canopy selection and operation remain two of the most important factors that determine a skydiver’s safety.

Experience
Experienced skydivers—those who averaged more than a decade in the sport—made up the largest concentration of fatalities. These experienced jumpers were most likely to use high-performance canopies and sophisticated equipment (e.g., wingsuits, cameras, tandem equipment) that required more complicated emergency procedures. In 2014, those who died averaged almost 2,000 jumps. The need for experienced skydivers to frequently review and practice emergency procedures is painfully obvious.

Health
Early in the history of skydiving, the physical demands on jumpers made it a young person’s sport. That’s changed. As equipment became more forgiving, it allowed jumpers to stay in the sport longer. It also allowed those with a wider variety of fitness levels to jump. But heart, brain and other medical ailments (both age-related and non-age-related) can be deadly on a skydive. Investigators suspected medical problems in at least three of the deaths last year. Tandem instructors must undergo Federal Aviation Administration Class III Physical Examinations before jumping with students, but a physical exam is a reasonable precaution for all skydivers to take, particularly older ones or those with known physical risk factors.

Gender
While women represent about 13 percent of U.S. skydivers, no women died skydiving during 2014.

Substance Abuse
Those who die suddenly are usually subject to medical examination. A routine part of a post-mortem examination is analysis of body fluids, in part to see if any perception-altering substances are present. Two of these examinations in 2014 showed that the skydivers had used marijuana within a few hours of their deaths.

From over-the-counter medications to recreational drugs and alcohol, any substance that affects a person’s time sense or decision-making skills has no place in skydiving. Seconds count in our world. When what we do—or fail to do—can result in injury or death (our own or others’), reducing our capacity to make timely or correct decisions is just plain wrong.

Break the Chain
A skydiving mishap is often a chain of events rather than a single event. For example, a skydiver chooses to fly a canopy loaded higher than recommended for his skill level. He chooses not to equip himself with an AAD or RSL and doesn’t review his emergency procedures frequently. He then jumps while taking cold medication, opens a little lower than normal and opens in a turn because a brake released due to poor packing. Rather than briefly attempting to control the turn, the jumper starts to cut away, fumbles for the cutaway pillow for a few revolutions and finds himself in a nearly horizontal spin. When he finally cuts away, he decides to get stable and face-to-earth before pulling his reserve and runs out of altitude. This fictional chain of events doesn’t reflect any of this year’s accidents, but elements of it absolutely do. A jumper can avoid potential disaster by breaking the chain.

CONCLUSION
We can never completely eliminate the risks in skydiving, but we can manage them. Basic mistakes cause the majority of deaths in parachuting. Use an AAD and a RSL. Watch where you are going in freefall and under canopy. Quickly respond to malfunctions. Don’t turn near the ground. Do these things and you will have minimized much of the risk.

Skydiving-Related Aircraft Incidents

by USPA Director of Government Relations Randy Ottinger

The single fatal aircraft accident in 2014 involved the propeller of a Twin Otter. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined the probable cause to be, “The skydiving operator employee’s failure to see and avoid the rotating propeller blades when she walked toward the cockpit while the airplane’s engines were running.” All aircraft propellers pose a danger to pilots, skydivers and support staff. The Twin Otter’s design requires all participants to be vigilant as they approach the aircraft.

Two other accidents resulted in minor injuries to pilots during forced landings:

  • A Cessna 182 first showed signs of fuel exhaustion while on final approach, did not make the runway and sustained substantial damage in the crash. The post-accident investigation found a limited quantity of useable fuel in the left tank and none in the right tank. The safety board found the probable cause of the accident to be, “The pilot's mismanagement of the available fuel supply, which resulted in a loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion.” Aircraft operators and pilots must calculate the usable fuel necessary to complete each flight with the Federal Aviation Administration-required 30-minute fuel reserves.
  • A Cessna 205 with five skydivers on board lost all engine power during its initial climb at approximately 900 feet above the ground and sustained substantial damage during the forced landing. None of the skydivers were injured. The safety board’s preliminary report says, “The airplane's nose gear struck a ditch and the airplane nosed over before coming to a stop.” The manufacturer's facility will perform a teardown examination of the engine before the safety board makes a determination of the accident’s probable cause.

Five other incidents resulted in no injuries:

  • A Cessna 182 lost engine power as it was on final approach for landing after dropping skydivers. The pilot initially applied carburetor heat as he started his descent from approximately 10,000 feet and then removed carburetor heat as he leveled the aircraft in preparation for lowering the flaps. When he added power to maintain airspeed, he noticed that engine power did not increase. The safety board determined the probable cause of the accident to be, “The pilot’s improper use of the carburetor heat, which resulted in a total loss of engine power due to carburetor icing.”
  • A Pacific Aerospace Corporation 750XL experienced a left-main-landing-gear separation following a hard landing, and the pilot performed a go-around. According to the NTSB preliminary report, the aircraft then sustained substantial damage to its left wing as it landed for the second time.
  • A Cessna 210 sustained substantial damage in a hard landing. In its narrative, the NTSB said, “During the landing, the airplane bounced three times down the runway. The pilot taxied to the hangar and without shutting down the engine boarded the second load of skydivers. Shortly thereafter, the pilot departed and during the initial climb, he attempted to retract the landing gear. The landing gear would not retract and the pilot decided to continue the flight with the landing gear extended. After the skydivers jumped, the pilot landed without incident. He taxied back to the hangar and shut down the engine. After exiting the airplane he noticed that the propeller tips were bent. As a result of the impact, the firewall was substantially damaged.” The safety board determined the probable cause of the accident to be, “The pilot's inadequate landing flare, which resulted in a hard landing.”
  • A Cessna 182 crashed after its pilot bailed out due to flight-control problems caused by an exiting jumper’s premature parachute deployment. The last jumper to exit the aircraft hit his container on the door, which caused his reserve pilot chute to deploy and damage the airplane’s horizontal stabilizer. The jumper had an uneventful descent under his reserve parachute. While the pilot struggled to maintain control of the stricken aircraft, spotters in a chase plane confirmed the damage. After some discussion, the jump pilot agreed to guide his plane to unpopulated farmland east of the DZ. It was there that the pilot used his emergency parachute to make his first jump. In its finding of probable cause, the NTSB used the word “drogue” rather than “pilot chute” when it determined, “The inadvertent deployment of the skydiver's drogue chute when he exited the airplane” resulted in its “contacting and damaging the horizontal stabilizer.”
  • A bird strike damaged a deHavilland DHC-6 Twin Otter shortly after takeoff while conducting routine parachute operations. The NTSB said, “The hawk impacted the left wing, and the pilot elected to perform a precautionary landing. The airplane subsequently landed without incident.” The safety board determined the probable cause of the accident to be, “An inadvertent collision with a bird, which resulted in substantial damage to the left wing.”

Piloting a jump plane is among the most demanding of flying jobs, with multiple takeoffs and landings in a variety of conditions and with a variety of loads, along with the need to refuel often throughout a day. Pilots must plan and fly every flight professionally. The USPA Skydiving Aircraft Operations Manual, Jump Pilot Training Syllabus and Flight Operations Handbook are all available under the Group Members tab at uspa.org. Jump pilots and skydiving aircraft operators are encouraged to utilize these resources as part of a comprehensive and proactive safety-management system.

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Max Peck
Thu, 12/31/2015 - 19:05

This is all very thorough and I appreciate the time spent pouring over all this data. I am curious about how you estimate the number of skydives in a year (which seem to be constant over the last several years)? Do you survey USPA drop zones? It's nice that you estimate the number of tandems, but is there information on the composition of other skydivers? How many jumps were wingsuit, relative work, canopy formations, student jumps, etc? What's the average wing loading, experience level, AAD/RSL usage? Knowing some estimates of trends in the sport might help to give perspective or place emphasis on some of the risk factors that show up in these fatality summaries.

Doug
Fri, 11/04/2016 - 18:24

Some comments from a Pilot reader - not a jumper yet. Very important and useful info for all concerned. Unfortunately, extremely small sample size, but revealing nonetheless. Should introduce more historical data and look at trends to reveal more useful info. Highlights of a few specific fatal accident synopses would also raise awareness of an actual case of "what went wrong" and help jumpers avoid similar fates. Suggest tying in to pre-jump safety self-evaluations (you skydivers use these, I hope), such as IMSAFE.

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