Safety Day, for new skydivers who might not know exactly what this is, is a time that we dedicate as parachutists to review safety details within every aspect of our sport. Equipment, boarding, ascent, aircraft procedures, emergencies, exits, free fall, separation, openings, landing patterns, etc – everything that concerns the process of the jump and how to plan for safe skydives.
As far as I know, parachuting is the only sport that does this internationally, devoting a day to reviewing the safety details required for correct practice. In fact, skydiving is a very safe sport, which means that we usually jump very confidently. Because almost invariably nothing out of the ordinary happens, we can easily stop thinking about “what to do if I had an emergency”. The lack of frequency of incidents may make us fall into the complacency trap of not knowing how to solve them because we have not practiced recently. Although accidents are infrequent, when they happen they can be fatal. It is a risky sport, we play at high speed, we are in an environment that was not designed for us, we had to equip ourselves to be able to survive, and our equipment requires attention and maintenance.
When accidents happen, it's usually not one thing, it is a chain of events. Contributing factors can be as follows:
Exceeding limits – The parachutist exceeds the limit of his abilities, he/she does not realize that he is not well prepared to perform some activity.
Not current – Parachutists who do not inform themselves, or keep up to date, or don't practice, or who are not “current”.
Poorly maintained equipment – Equipment maintenance has been lacking so it’s not in good condition. Whether gear is owned or rented, we must learn to identify significant damage, ie, that could cause a problem.
Peer pressure – Not saying NO to something we don’t like the sound of.
Poor coaching – Someone pushing us to do something that we haven’t yet mastered, especially if that person does not have enough experience to direct us. (Poor coaches and inadequate organizers can get us into big problems. It’s hard for the new skydiver just starting in the sport to know what is right or wrong.)
Arrogance – Skydivers who do not accept their mistakes, they don’t like to be told that they made an error of judgement. “I'm never wrong!”
Poor equipment choice - Perhaps the most common, jumpers who want to use a parachute that does not correspond to their experience.
“I'm never wrong!”
The above factors among others, are things that take us on a risky road! This set of situations and mistakes will hurt us sooner or later. But the good news is, we can avoid this by practicing, informing, researching and keeping our equipment in good condition. It sounds easy, but requires diligence.
Safety Day is very focused on people of little experience. But, it’s not only for them, experienced parachutists also need to refresh certain things, because the sport is constantly developing, with new techniques, different procedures, new materials and ever-evolving equipment. Being up to date with all this information is everyone's obligation. Keeping abreast of what is happening in the world – situations, statistics, accidents, devices, etc – gives us the opportunity to learn without having to have a bad experience ourselves.
Always choose to learn in the most “inexpensive” way. Unfortunately sometimes we only learn though very costly errors, when we have the hard experience of spending a long time in hospital or losing a good friend. There are easier ways to gain knowledge by paying attention to what is happening around us. It’s best to learn from others and share with them what we know.
For all these reasons, I always highly recommend participating in Safety Day, no matter your experience level. It's also an opportunity to meet the other skydivers from your DZ, with whom you can learn, share and plan new things.
Article written by Jose Ignacio Alvarez ('Nacho)