Get the basics right, don't get complacent. By the APF Safety and Training Team.
There have been a lot of avoidable incidents lately. The majority caused by problems we have created ourselves, such as sloppy packing or a half-hearted attempt at procedures. It seems we may have lost our fear of dying...or are we just lazy?
I hate to say the 'C' word, but it's a never-ending problem: Complacency. We get too comfortable in the sky and on the ground, which can often lead to complacency, which leads to mistakes. And this is on us, as individual skydivers, not our DZSO or CI.
Too many preventable incidents are happening, forcing us to use our last chance. In many cases emergency procedures could be easily avoided with proper preparation, or by paying more attention to detail. This seems to be a common occurrence in the skydiving industry.
Two issues are mentioned below, but there are many other examples.
This year there have been nine incident notifications reporting a toggle stuck or snagged after deployment. Most have been caused by the person pulling the toggle through the brake excess when releasing, and four of the nine mention setting the brakes incorrectly when packing. Seven of the nine conducted emergency procedures, and one of the jumpers who chose to land their main broke their back on landing.
And this doesn't include the numerous incidents involving a brake release on opening.
The means that people have conducted emergency procedures and used their last resort because they may have been too complacent to look up and take care before grabbing and releasing their toggles, or they didn't take the necessary care and attention when setting their brakes while packing.
Can't Find the Pilot Chute:
Last year we had four incident reports in one month where the reserve was deployed because the jumper could not find their pilot chute. This year, we have had eight similar incident notifications, and don't think "silly students", because only one of these was a student; the rest were Certificate A (x 1), Certificate D (x 2) and Certificate E (x 4).
Why is this happening?
Possible causes are not arching on deployment, a change in body weight/shape causing the container to fit differently, or maybe just not being as fit and flexible as you used to be. Whatever the reason, it doesn't matter; you must be able to reach all of your handles. If you think this could be an issue, or if you're unsure, one option is to go to a rigger and ask if they can modify your gear to make it more suitable and user-friendly.
If you are not 100% sure you can reach all of your handles on every skydive, you should not be getting in the plane.
Your Last Resort
Imagine going to emergency procedures and using your last resort because you didn't look up and check your brakes before releasing your toggles, or because you couldn't reach back and find your handle.
I don't know how many other ways to say it. How to get it to sink in. It doesn't matter who you are or how many jumps you've got. Obviously none of us ever intend to have an incident or accident, but there is a very big difference between "not wanting" it and taking every possible precaution to prevent it.
I don't want to be reading your fatality report, especially over something so simple and preventable. So please, take your time, don't be complacent. Take that extra second when you pack, when you exit the plane, when you deploy your parachute, when you grab those toggles and when you prepare for landing. When you skydive.
"Ego is the anaesthesia that deadens the pain of stupidity"
About the Author:
Ria Dobson is an APF Technical Officer with over 15 years of skydiving experience. She has worked at multiple Drop Zones around Australia as a Tandem and AFF Instructor.
[Photo Sources: TBH Media]