Looking In The Rear View Mirror: Automatic Activation Devices

Last updated 12 Mar 2024

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Dave Smith takes us back in time to see how an initiative of the Australian Parachute Federation resulted in widespread adoption of Automatic Activation Devices.


Automatic Activation Devices (AADs) are pretty much used by every APF member these days and their adoption was super quick for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, because the Cypres, invented by Helmut Cloth, used electronics and replaced the unwieldy mechanical AADs like the KAP3 and FXC, which needed to be manually armed. Second, these older mechanical AAD types were intended for the main parachute, used by students. The Cypres was specifically intended for the reserve parachute and would save your life, if you did nothing to save yourself! It was a great advance in safety, for not just students, but for all skydivers.

Speed Cypres

It had appeal for jumpers moving from student training equipment and looking to buying their own parachute. Having become 'accustomed' to having an AAD on their parachute was one thing but, when the jumper bought their own gear, having an AAD fitted provided 'extra protection' while in the 'novice' stage of their skills development. Accordingly, the APF mandated AAD use up until the jumper had their Certificate C.

The biggest problem was the cost. At around $1300 plus 21% Sales Tax, a couple of other electronic AAD types became available too, but all of these were also expensive. These were the days of 21% Sales Tax on 'purchase goods', before 10% GST was introduced. $1300 at the time equates to approximately $2440 today, so some things do get cheaper in real terms.

This is where the APF came up with a novel way of avoiding members having to pay the 21% Sales Tax. The APF established a not-for-profit body and members paid $1300 to join. A 'privilege of membership' was that the jumper was 'loaned' an AAD. In other words, a sale never took place and the approximate $250 Sales Tax was not payable.

Pro Vigil AAD

The APF continued this 'arrangement' until GST came into force to replace Sales Tax. At which time, the loaned AAD was gifted to the member. It saved members money and almost everyone fitted an AAD to their gear. It’s rare to see anyone today without an AAD fitted to their personal parachute in part, thanks to the initiative of your APF.


About The Author

Dave Smith is an Australian Parachute Federation Board Member, with over 50 years of skydiving experience, as well as being a pilot. His series of articles, titled "Looking In The Rear View Mirror", will give examples of how far the Australian Parachute Federation has come since it began, and what it has achieved for its members. 


If you would like to submit an article, or have a topic request for the APF Blog, please email blog@apf.com.au

[Photo Sources: Cypres, Lucy Clacher]

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