Skydivers tend to be pretty confident people. We trust ourselves to save our own lives while throwing ourselves out of (ha) perfectly good airplanes towards the planet, right? We trust that we have the skills to succeed in the dives we plan. We trust that our gear will work, and even if it doesn’t, we trust that we have the knowledge and skills to handle it and still land safely.
Some of us also trust that we have infallible awareness of other skydivers in freefall and under canopy, so there’s no need for backup safety devices. “I can protect myself–you’ll never hit ME!” is something you can hear declared confidently at just about any drop zone in the world.
Here’s a news flash–you’re not THAT good. No one is, and the only way to absolutely guarantee that you will never have a chance of being struck by another skydiver is to not jump.
But what fun is that? We want to jump and play with our friends. But there is some risk–just as there is risk in skydiving, period. So just as we mitigated risk when learning to skydive by paying careful attention to our instructors to learn safe skydiving practices, and performing good gear checks, we mitigate risk when jumping with others. We plan dives within our skill levels, with objectives in mind, to increase our safety and chances of success. We keep our heads on a swivel in freefall when everyone’s not in the formation yet, and under canopy to stay aware of traffic and avoid collisions.
Despite all of our preparation, however, the chance of a collision still exists. One important way to mitigate our risk of injury or worse in the unlikely event of a collision is by wearing all possible safety gear, such as hard helmets (ideally full-face helmets) and automatic activation devices (AADs). Even highly experienced jumpers can lose track of others especially on a jump with many other jumpers, and sometimes stuff just happens. A foot to the face during a transition in formation skydiving. A vertical collision when one skydiver gets in another’s burble. A tracking collision between jumpers who didn’t see each other. Or even a totally unpredictable situation, such as a loose shoe in the face on exit as in the photo above. At freefall speeds, unconsciousness would be a very likely result of a direct shoe to the face. Thus we arrive at the AAD recommendation…
We all like to think we’re perfect, but not a single one of us is and neither are those we jump with. Follow these guidelines to help avoid incidents and injury:
- Plan safe skydives and get advice from instructors and experienced load organizers frequently to reduce the incidence of collisions.
- Give your gear a thorough check before each skydive, check your handles before exit, and get a pin check in before exit.
- Wear safety gear to reduce the “penalty” of any unexpected situations.