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Dan BC summarises the best way to protect yourself from harm…
Contrary to popular belief, skydiving is not a safe sport. It is a dangerous sport we can do safely.
I am sorry to say that after a few recent conversations, close calls, and the tragic loss of a very experienced, competent skydiver I find myself wanting to remind my skydiving family of a few safety tips. I don’t think there is anything new here, but ideas I strongly suggest you consider…
Do a real thorough gear check, right before putting your rig on your back. I’ve recently known about two pilot chutes in tow which wouldn’t have happened if the jumpers had done good gear checks.
Understand that when under canopy, especially a malfunctioning canopy, your cutaway and reserve handles won’t be in the same place on your chest they are when standing on the ground with your rig on. You’ll usually need to see them to find them.
The first step of all malfunction procedures is to “look” and locate your cutaway handle. I have people show me their EPs and frequently they reach before looking. When they reach but don’t immediately locate their handles their arms/hands often block the view of their handles making it harder to find them when they do look. LOOK FIRST!
I recommend locating and pulling your cutaway handle first, not locating and getting a hand on both your cutaway and reserve handles. It can be hard to locate one handle and get a hand on it when having a malfunction. It’s twice as hard and takes twice as long to locate two handles. I put all my attention on getting the first job done, cutting away. Once I cut away and go back into freefall my reserve handle is exactly where I expect it to be and easy to find. And since I jump with an RSL I’ve usually not even had time to pull my reserve handle before the reserve is open.
Many people have had trouble peeling and pulling the “pillow” handles that are commonly used. If you think you might have any difficulties with these another option is a “loop” type handle. The advantage of a loop is you can get your thumb behind it giving you a more solid grip. The downside of the loop is the concern that it could get caught on something and pulled by accident but I haven’t seen this happen. More often I’ve seen the pillows get knocked out of the pockets and be floating around.
Don’t just “know” them, be great at them so you can calmly, confidently and immediately “Look, reach, peel, pull” without any error or hesitation.
Make the decision now that if after opening you look up at your canopy, see an issue with it, and aren’t 100% certain you can clear it that you are going to CUT IT AWAY RIGHT NOW! Don’t try to fix that crap.
Contrary to popular belief, skydiving is not a safe sport. It is a dangerous sport we can do safely. If we have our shit together. And have it together all the time.
Thanks for listening.