When you get on the plane, do you have a plan?
Every time we jump we are exposed to many situations and variables that may trigger an accident. To take care of ourselves and of the other skydivers is the responsibility of everyone.
Making good jumps, one after another, is the result of doing things right and predicting what will be necessary and what could go wrong.
If, every time we jump we have a plan based on the characteristics of the jump and that load, we’ll keep our risk factor low, for a long time.
Some people just get on the plane thinking that they’ll have fun with their friends. Well, for sure that’s the main purpose of skydiving but we can’t get on the plane and just jump, ignoring our environment. Lack of attention can easily result in a dangerous situation.
When something happens, we can think that it happened because of bad luck, pilot, weather, or other factors. Often we don’t realize that the problem arose directly from a specific place – and that place, is usually ourselves.
Here are some recommendations about the things to take into account before jumping:
Follow the plan!
When a skydive is organized, the leader takes precautions, sets rules and designs the plan according to the people on the load and the intended jump. But if the people don’t follow the plan that was created for their safety, it’s useless. So it’s vital that you follow the plan!
Know the DZ
You must know the place where you are going to skydive, especially if it’s the first time you jump there. Are you clear about your landing pattern? Do you know the rules of the DZ? At which altitude do you plan your turns in initial, base and finals? Have you thought about and seen the landing area? Do you know about the obstacles, possible areas with turbulence and whether there are alternate areas?
Assess the conditions
Look at the weather, wind, clouds and temperature. This is invaluable information that can help you be alert and know what to expect in freefall and landing – or even, to cancel your jump if there’s something that doesn’t match with your skills, equipment or experience.
If you have ever seen somebody who was caught by a dust devil and impacted with the ground, maybe it wasn’t just bad luck. If one is jumping in a dry place with high temperatures, it could be smart to cancel or postpone the jump, or land in a different area, foreseeing that this type of accident could happen in these conditions.
Know the landing direction
Check the indicated landing direction before you take off and take into account that this may change, you’ll have to reconfirm when you open your parachute (by looking at the windsock, T or other indicator).
Know the exit order
In every flight, an exit order must be assigned depending on the intentions of every group (freefly, belly, tracking jump etc). Once you have the exit order, think about what position you have on the plane. If you have a clear idea if you are by the door or near the pilot, then you know what to take into account. You can see who is in front and behind, so you can take precautions if any of them has low experience. For example, bear in mind that if you are at the back of the plane and the groups in front of you delay in the door, when it’s your turn you may be far from the DZ. Then this situation won’t surprise you on deployment, because you were conscious of that beforehand, you analyzed the situation and decided if it was safe to jump – or even chose to open your parachute slightly higher, to reach the landing zone.
Communicate with the others
If your jump style is special, or if you decide to stay in the plane during the descent, you have to inform the others, especially the pilot. For example, if you intend to open higher than usual, or are going to do a big-way with many people in the tail of the plane, or make a tracking jump, it is good for the rest of the load to know that – and, most importantly, the pilot, so he/she can fly the plane accordingly, adjust the spot or lights, or vary the descent plan.
Be clear on procedures
Be clear about procedures in the airplane – helmets on, seatbelts, height to remove them, lights for spotting, how the door opens, etc. Plan what you will do, think about and focus on as the plane ascends, as well as what to do in the event of an emergency.
Know the exit separation
It’s useful to know the ground speed of the airplane, because it’s a basic reference to know how many seconds of separation to leave between each group.
Check the spot
Finally, before getting out the airplane, check the spot and see if you’re comfortable with it. Be very sure of this. If you are experienced and know the spot and the DZ, don’t trust in the others, not even the pilot’s lights, still do a visual check. We are all responsible for where we jump. If you don’t have enough experience, rely on people you trust.
Naturally, danger is far away from us, but we can make poor choices that make it get closer and closer till it hits us. Always try to keep the danger at a distance by paying attention to doing things right and being aware of what could go wrong.