Observer/Expectation Bias

A jumper puts on his rig, boards an airplane and exits the plane at 10,000 feet for a formation skydive with three other jumpers. Soon after the exit, one of his teammates points out that his chest strap is flapping in the wind. It is unthreaded and trailing uselessly behind his back. At deployment time, he manages to hold the two main lift webs together with his left hand and deploy with his right. He lands otherwise uneventfully. The jumper was sure that he checked his chest strap when he went through his multiple gear checks. So if he really checked his gear, what happened? more »

Seatbelt Usage

Has this happened to you?
You’re hot loading a full turbine aircraft, and you’re one of the last on. You scrunch onto that last seat on the straddle bench and scramble to find your seatbelt just as the door shuts, only to discover that someone at the front of the plane skipped a belt. What do you do?
a) Nothing. What are the chances of a plane crash, anyway?
b) Nothing. Seatbelts don’t really save lives.
c) Quietly share a seatbelt with someone next to you and wonder if it’s legal.
d) Shout, “Stop the plane!” and reorganize so that everyone has the correct seatbelt and endure the inevitable teasing and new nicknames. more »

Wingsuit Collisions

Skydivers of every freefall discipline have been injured or killed in freefall collisions. The number of reported incidents seems to increase as a discipline emerges then taper off quite a bit once training and equipment catch up to the new style of jumping. Hard-impact freefall collisions resulting in serious injuries and fatalities were once a common issue with formation skydivers and freeflyers, and now they’re an issue with wingsuiters. Modern wingsuit flying—which now has had more than 20 years to develop training methods and equipment and build a foundation of knowledge—cannot truly be considered a new discipline any longer, but it continues to struggle with injuries and fatalities from collisions in freefall, as well as collisions with the aircraft on exit.So, why are wingsuit flyers experiencing more collisions than jumpers in other disciplines? more »

Aircraft Emergency

It took almost 25 years of skydiving, but I finally experienced an aircraft emergency as a skydiver. Actually, I would not even classify it as a true emergency, since the engine loss happened at 13,000 feet. As a pilot myself with many hours in this King Air, I knew what was going on and I had a good idea of how the pilot who was flying was going to handle the situation. But seeing how everyone reacted was interesting. Some looked nervous, and some seemed confused about what to do. more »

Breaking the Links in the Chain

Survey information provided by members of USPA indicates that “Incident Reports” is one of the most important and widely read sections of Parachutist magazine. Apparently, we all see the value in learning from these reports in hopes of avoiding a similar situation on our own skydives. Skydivers are not unique in learning through this type of process. Airplane pilots, BASE jumpers, scuba divers and all sorts of people who participate in potentially dangerous activities study accident information. An entire government agency, the National Transportation Safety Board, is dedicated to investigating accidents in every form of transportation, all in the name of discovering their true causes and developing recommendations for avoiding them in the future. So it is not unusual at all that you would want to read “Incident Reports” for educational purposes. more »

I Just Earned My A License … Now What?

After months of hard work, countless trips to the drop zone and a painful financial commitment, you are finally the proud recipient of a USPA A License. In the blink of an eye, you have graduated from being a carefully guarded and supervised student to a licensed skydiver under the watchful eye of … well … nobody. So, now what?  more »

Avoiding Deployment Collisions—Group Separation

Last month, “Safety Check” addressed the issues of finding clear airspace for your main canopy deployment and avoiding the other jumpers within your group. This month, “Safety Check” addresses the issues surrounding separation between groups. more »

Avoiding Canopy Collisions - Breakoff Separation

As skydiving continues to progress—with jumpers now enjoying a wide variety of disciplines and piloting faster canopies—it has become more challenging to find clear airspace at deployment time. Since 1999, 11 jumpers have died in canopy collisions. Additionally, there were many instances of collisions that resulted in injuries or cutaways, although the exact number is unknown.  more »

Collision Avoidance

A few years ago, I was driving home from work while deep in thought and not paying much attention to my surroundings. I came to an intersection and quickly looked both ways before I turned left. As I finished the turn, I was a bit surprised to have an angry woman riding my bumper and blowing her horn while showing me a hand gesture that seemed to indicate that I was “number one in her book.” It turns out the intersection had a blind spot that blocked my full view of the road, and I had just pulled out right in front of Ms. Angry Driver. Oops. At least she was paying attention! more »

The Normalization of Deviance

There is a popular old anecdote about placing a frog into a pot of water. If the water is boiling, the frog immediately senses the danger and jumps right out. But if the water is cold and heats up slowly, the frog stays in the pot and boils to death, never realizing that the environment had become dangerous and life threatening.

Frequently, staff and regular jumpers at drop zones all across the country proclaim that their DZs are “super safe” and have great safety cultures. Thankfully, this is actually true at most drop zones. But USPA occasionally receives a complaint (usually from a visiting jumper or one of the regulars who suddenly had an epiphany) about a drop zone that most of the locals seem to think is very safe when it is actually operating in an unsafe manner. Why is that? more »