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Safety is paying attention to every detail – Image by Gustavo Cabana

3 Ways to Be Safer

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Last week Jacob proposed two safety principles, this time he presents three ways to become a safer skydiver:

  1. Slow down
  2. Have checklists for every stage of jumping
  3. Educate yourself
Slow down in the plane, in the air and on the ground
Photo from the Tsunami Skydivers Seychelles Boogie, by Tom Sanders

1. Slow down

Skydiving is not a race. Skydiving is not about trying to do what other people are doing. Skydiving is about you. When you slow down, you can see the bigger picture. Should you ‘send it’ because you only live once, or should you slow down because you only die once?

Here are three areas to think about “slowing down”:-

Slow down on progression

Too many people (especially beginners) are naively enthusiastic about trying new things in skydiving. Part of skydiving requires being brutally honest with yourself and your abilities. Just because someone meets the minimum requirements for wingsuiting, BASE jumping or cameraflying doesn’t mean he or she is ready. Skydiving isn’t about how many things you can do, how many likes you can get on Instagram, or what kind of canopy you jump. To succeed requires a baseline of skills that takes years of focus and discipline to build up. 

Take the time to pack properly
Photo shows Cornelia Mihai, by Performance Designs

Slow down on the ground

Do gear checks slowly. Take the time to examine every pin, flap, and ring. Your rig is your life-saving device. Is your life worth an extra two minutes for checking your gear?

Pack properly. It’s easy to rush for the next load and forget to cock the pilot chute, quarter the slider, or misroute the bridle. Packing mistakes are very preventable. 

Concentrate during the dirt-dive and develop excellent visualization skills. This is your rehearsal for success. The better you prepare, the better your chances of a successful jump. This is the perfect time to consider every safety aspect of the skydive including climb-out, freefall, break-off, and under canopy.

Visualize the canopy flight. Think about who might be in your airspace after deployment and what evasive actions you may need to take. This is also an opportunity to dirt-dive any canopy maneuvers you want to practice. Also study your holding area and landing pattern using the winds for the day, and ideally the aerial DZ photo.

Slow down in the air

Move around the plane slowly. Keep your pins and handles where they need to be. 

Slow down in freefall. How you approach a formation is just as important as docking on it. Skydives don’t always go to plan and that’s okay. You always have an opportunity to try again.

Slow down under canopy. Canopy flight is where most accidents happen. People tend to forget that skydives also include canopy rides. Fly defensively and stay alert – the skydive doesn’t end until your feet touch the ground. 

Have a checklist for every stage of the jump, including spotting
Photo shows Rich Grimm spotting over the Seychelles, by Tom Sanders

2. Have a checklist for each part of your skydive

Every pilot has a pre-flight checklist before flying. For skydivers, a pre-jump checklist is very useful. 

Here are some safety items to consider at each stage of the skydive:

  • Before the skydive: gear checks, dirt-dives, communication about freefall, canopy safety, awareness of wind strength and direction
  • In the plane: keep handles and pins safe, listen to the pilot, spot properly
  • Freefall: don’t fly over or under a formation, approach the formation safely, honor break-off altitudes, track hard, deploy in clean airspace
  • Under canopy: constantly watch airspace in all directions, look for traffic before turning, honor decision altitudes, fly a predictable landing pattern

3. Continuously improve your skills and understanding of the sport

Skills camps and tunnel trips are great ways to improve your freefall skills. Better skills allow you to fly at higher levels while keeping safety in mind. Most importantly is to learn with an open mind – a strong learning attitude goes very far. 

Speaking to experienced coaches or instructors will also fast-track your understanding of skydiving. They pass on knowledge and experiences that you can apply. When you learn about real-life incidents in skydiving, you become more respectful of the sport. 

Summary

Skydives don’t always go to plan, but you always have another chance if you can keep yourself safe for the next jump. There is a saying, “Any skydive you walk away from is a good skydive.”

Staying safe in skydiving isn’t hard – it merely requires forethought and common sense. It’s easy to gloss over safety when we’re focussed on having fun, but it is necessary. If everyone can foster a safety culture each time they’re at the DZ, the sport will become safer for all of us. 

Image by Viktor Borsuk
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Meet: Jacob Choy

Jacob is an AFF Instructor currently based in the US. 

Having trained many years in classical music, Jacob immediately saw similarities when he picked up skydiving. He quickly fell in love with the physical and mental challenges skydiving provides, which led him to explore the process of learning canopy piloting and bodyflight. 
 
Additionally, Jacob runs a weekly program to continue the learning of A & B license jumpers. By encouraging belly flying in a fun and educational way, he hopes to improve retention in the sport by building confidence through attainable goals. 

Jacob is proud to jump a UPT Vector, PD's Sabre 2 135 main canopy and PDR 143 reserve, Tonfly 2X helmet and Vigil AAD.

Jacob has also lived in Scotland, China, England, and Singapore. He loves traveling, trying new things, and connecting with people from different cultures. You never know when he accidentally books a flight somewhere!

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