We don’t have a lot of bad words in skydiving but there’s one we all agree on: Complacency
com·pla·cen·cy n. — A feeling of contentment or self-satisfaction, especially when coupled with an unawareness of danger, trouble, or controversy.
Skydivers are complacent when they think they are safe but they are acting unsafely or in an unsafe situation. This covers a number of situations, but right now we’ll focus on behavior in the aircraft.
It’s rare but any moving or flying vehicle can come to a sudden stop. We often see people put their helmets on for takeoff, but neglect to secure them with the chin strap (usually full-face helmets that people think may stay on because of the liner’s “chin cup”). This is a clear instance of complacency because that jumper assumes the plane won’t crash. Most of the time, he/she will be right, but if he’s wrong, the consequences can be major.
There is a very good reason we require helmets to be on or secured for takeoff. In the unlikely event of an aircraft issue, what good is a helmet that is not secured to your head? If it flies off it’s no help to you and a danger to everyone else in the aircraft. OK, it’s hot. We get it. But really, how much cooler is that helmet without the strap secured? Especially compared to your safety and that of everyone else on the load?
Here are a few more points, from a conversation with Dan Brodsky-Chenfeld (you know, that world-champion skydiver who nearly died in a plane crash in 1992?).
- Aircraft incidents where a helmet protects you range from the rare and obvious (uncontrolled landings) to the more common but less obvious (hard stop due to aborted takeoff, for example).
- A helmet buckled to your chest strap cannot protect your head. It can break ribs and cause internal injuries if turbulence or worse causes you to strike another jumper or the aircraft.
- Dan was not wearing a helmet when the plane he was in crashed. He has a permanent head injury as a result, and feels that had he been wearing a helmet, he would not be taking medication for this injury for the rest of his life.
Secure for Takeoff
Your helmet should be secured for takeoff by either:
- Putting it on your head and fastening it (recommended).
- Clipping it on your chest strap.
- Buckling it and you into the seat belt.
In skydiving, we manage our risk to the lowest level. Why would you raise your risk factor with something as easily avoidable as an insecure helmet or no helmet for take-off?
Article by Christy West, reprinted with permission from Skydive Spaceland’s website here