Spring and summer are certainly the best seasons for all outdoor sports, and especially skydiving. The days are long and generally characterized by good weather. Almost all the DZs worldwide are filled with happy students, fun jumpers, and tandem passengers enjoying a bit of healthy freefall.
As much as we crave the summer sun and light winds, an invisible agent threatens what we love, heat! It can be hard to believe but some DZs are subject to operational limits due to the extreme heat. Skydive Spain in Seville is one such dropzone. We sometimes feel the heat, so we grab an ice cream or an ice-cold drink. However, the aircraft we use also has limitations. A turbine aircraft has strict operating limits and once shut down is unable to start up again until a safe temperature inside the turbine is reached. On an average day this is usually around 20 minutes after shutting down. If the outside air temperature is high, then this limit may never be reached without forced ventilation in the engine.
Skydivers jumping in hot weather can often encounter turbulence and dust devils during the canopy flight, which is not much fun.!
So, what to do? Deprive yourself of jumping in the summer? Absolutely not! We just need to manage the situation.
Managing canopy flight
Firstly, jumping during the cool hours of the day (morning and late afternoon) or staying on the ground during extremely hot hours would avoid this problem. However, if you are in the air in turbulent conditions, try to fly with the canopy smoothly with less inputs. It is generally not recommended to fly in deep brakes in turbulent conditions.
The landing pattern could be affected by the hot air rising, causing the canopy to float more than normal. Therefore, plan a circuit that is wider and longer than usual, especially for the final approach, without altering your maneuvering heights.
In the landing phase, if you are experiencing turbulent conditions, it may be beneficial to flare a little higher than usual and force yourself under the wing, remembering your first landing priority, “Wing Level”. If you attend a Flight-1 canopy training course we have specific drills for you to try at altitude to simulate this and train the correct responses.
The Dust Devil phenomenon, on the other hand, is quite unpredictable and difficult to manage. Certainly, the appearance of one does not necessarily mean the end of the day but if within a few minutes some are spotted in a radius around the landing zone, it would be good to ask ourselves if it’s worth jumping in such unpredictable conditions. If you find yourself in the air and see dust devils forming below you, they generally make their way downwind, so it may be advisable to land in an alternate area upwind.
Even when we are on the ground, we must be aware of the sun, and take care of our equipment. Avoid prolonged, unnecessary exposure to the sun’s rays of all your gear, such as containers, canopies, digital altimeters and even our precious cameras. Leaving your parachute in the car for an entire day in the sun would be the perfect recipe for a cooking show, which will degrade your life-saving material.
Also take care to hydrate, sunscreen and protect your body and that of your friends. Extreme heat causes rapid loss of mineral salts that will affect your reflexes and movements on the ground as well as in the air.
Finally, a little trick from my father, don’t jump with a sweaty t-shirt; the cold at altitude could stiffen the nerves and muscles of your back, blocking it for a while, so having a spare shirt to use while jumping avoids being stuck on the ground due to back pain.
Enjoy the heat but don’t play with fire!
Catching up with Armando Fattoruso – Find out more about Armando, author of this article.
The Devil You Know – Lesley Gale discusses what causes dust devils, and how to manage them
What You Don’t See Can Kill You – Christy West shows how turbulence flows, using a video with smoke