Brought to you by Niklas Daniel and Brianne Thompson of AXIS Flight School at Skydive Arizona in Eloy. Photos by David Wybenga. Information about AXIS' coaching and instructional services is available at axisflightschool.com.
I hit 50 alone and depressed. My life was not what I expected or wanted. There were some big issues, and I realized I needed to step outside my comfort zone. As someone who always wanted a foot on the ground and needed to know where the next foot went, I thought a skydive might shake up my world. And it certainly did!
A senior parachute rigger discovered this incorrectly closed reserve container during a gear check of another jumper. The reserve ripcord was on the wrong side of the grommet, and the reserve closing pin was flipped opposite of the correct orientation.
As adult human beings, we make approximately 35,000 decisions a day … 35,000! That’s a ton of decision making! If you’re a skydiving coach or instructor, a lot of those decisions involve the safety and wellbeing of skydiving students, and hopefully, your decisions are based completely on those considerations.
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?
Craig O’Brien, D-19294, is a world champion skydiver, world-class freefall photographer and Hollywood stuntman and camera flyer. In the late 1990s, O’Brien and his then-soon-to-be wife, Tanya, formed the skysurfing team Firestarter. With Tanya on the skyboard and Craig flying camera, they were virtually unbeatable in national and world competitions. Later, O’Brien began working in Hollywood. His credits include filming and doing stunt work on “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” “Iron Man 3,” “Godzilla,” “Charlie’s Angels,” “The Bucket List” and many other movies, as well as commercials, documentaries and other productions.
From the first jump, all skydivers know the value of being prepared. We train, retrain, review the Skydiver’s Information Manual, practice in a hanging harness, perform gear checks before every jump, read incident reports to educate ourselves, seek out experts and take myriad other steps to be as prepared as possible for any skydiving eventuality. Doesn’t it make sense that we should also prepare for other eventualities, even bad skydiving outcomes?
Whether we realize it or not, we are all trying to find balance between risk and passion. Have you ever thought about why it is you do what you do? What it is that you love about it? Well, part of it is the unique state of mind that comes over us. It feels unlike anything else we do.
When a canopy pilot moves through air that is itself moving, that air continuously affects the parachute’s speed and path over the ground. When you are trying to make it back to the landing area, merely pointing the canopy’s nose toward the target may not be enough. If you do not compensate for the effects of the surface winds, you will most likely miss your target. Given that wind conditions change constantly, being able to properly read and compensate for them is an important skill set for students and competition pilots alike.
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