P A R A C H U T I N G ' S N E W S M A G A Z I N E

Ask the Editor

Contents of Batch 14:

How can I learn to pack my own parachute?
Can I get back into the sport if I'm on medication?
How do I resume jumping after taking a break?
How can practice a cutaway in the air?
What's a hook turn?

The following questions were submitted by visitors to our Web site and answered by the editor of Skydiving magazine. .

To ask a question of your own, click here.

How can I learn to pack my parachute?

Q. Where can I get instructions on packing a parachute? I recently started skydiving but don't have the ability to do it every weekend. I go out on a Saturday and do a couple of jumps and work with someone packing my parachute, and then it's a month later before I can get out again -- and I forget everything. I would like some sort of instructions to review while I'm not actually jumping.

A. The best sources of instructions on packing a main parachute are manufacturers of the canopy and the rig in which it is packed.

Because they want their products used correctly, most manufacturers will provide their owner's manuals at low cost (such as $3.00 each or less).

You need both manuals to do the job right. The canopy manual will cover the procedure up to putting the canopy in the bag, and the rig manual will take it from there.

The orange warning label on the tail of the canopy bears the name and address of the manufacturer as well as the model of the canopy. The TSO label of the rig contains similar information. (Finding the TSO label might take a little digging; it's often under the reserve protector flap, tucked away out of sight.)

The information you get from the labels will make it easy to order the right manuals from the right companies.

Some manufacturers post their owner's manuals at their Web sites. The links at www.skydivingmagazine.com/advertis is a good place to start; the page is a list of links to the Web sites of advertisers in Skydiving magazine. Since all the major manufacturers advertise in Skydiving -- they want to reach jumpers like you -- the list is quite complete.

Another good source of packing information is "Pack Like a Pro," a video from Pier Media. It contains a bunch of useful tips on handling and packing main parachutes. It's available from many gear shops. It's well worth its $20 price.

Can I get back into the sport if I'm on medication?

Q. As a former skydiver who's now on medication for seizures, I was recently given permission by my doctor to resume driving. I'm wondering what it would take to get me skydiving again.

A. Getting back in the air after a medically induced layoff shouldn't be too hard if you think you're ready. The primary concern is obvious: the safety of you and other people.

You should start by discussing the idea with the same doctor who cleared you to resume driving an automobile. He might want to consult with another physician (such as an aviation medical examiner, which is a doctor that gives FAA flight physicals).

If in his or her professional opinion your condition is controlled enough to skydive, and if the medicine you're taking doesn't adversely affect your cognitive functions too much, then you're almost there.

The next step would be to have an honest conversation with the owner of the DZ of your choice. Give him the reasonable option of declining your business.

Regardless of your experience level, it makes sense to make a few AFF-type dives to get your reacquainted with the sport. The jumps will also give you a lot of confidence, which anyone in your situation needs.

Another obvious consideration: Wear an automatic opener. It's not that you expect to be incapacitated on any jump, but one never knows.

The FAA has no medical standards for solo skydivers (nor should it). This means the final decision rests on the right person: you. If you get hurt because your body goes into conniption fits as you start to flare your canopy, don't wimp out and try to blame your doctor or the DZ owner or anyone else.

I want to resume jumping after taking a break. How?

Q. I started jumping two years ago and ran out of money and time after about six jumps. If I wanted to get back into it soon, how would I go about it? Would I have to start all over? Do my six jumps account for anything?

A. Those six jumps weren't wasted; they gave you valuable experience and Šcan serve as a foundation for subsequent training.

Whether you have to start from square one depends on several factors. What training method were you using, and would you use the same method when you resume your instruction? Would you return to the same DZ? Sticking with the same training method and same DZ increases the likelihood you'll be able to receive credit for at least a few of your six jumps.

Many students take breaks in their training and most DZs have sensible retraining policies.

The best thing to do is take your logbook to a nearby DZ and discuss the matter with an instructor. He or she will help you determine the best way to proceed. You'll certainly receive extensive refresher training on the ground before going aloft.

Even if you have to start over, you'll find you'll learn faster than your classmates and you'll be much less likely to have to repeat dives because of poor performance.

How can I practice a cutaway in the air?

Q. Who does actual in-the-air cutaway training?

A. We don't know of any sources of such training.

One reason it's not more popular is the lack of suitable equipment. Although it's legal to make intentional cutaways with a standard sport rig -- one main and one FAA-approved reserve -- most skydivers would rather have two jettisonable mains and a reserve.

There are no off-the-shelf rigs available that hold two mains and an approved reserve. It's fairly simple to modify a sport rig to accept a chest-mounted reserve, making it legal wouldn't be easy because of the drop testing that would be required.

(One option is to use a rig from the sport's older days that has an FAA-approved chest mounted reserve. The main container can be easily modified to accept two mains. The drawback with this solution is the reserve almost has to be a round canopy. Round canopies are less reliable than squares and aren't as easy to land safely.)

Canopy manufacturer Performance Designs decided a few years ago that the only practical solution was to develop and TSO its own rig for intentional cutaways, one containing three ram-airs and other modern technology. The project hasn't been completed, however, and won't be anytime soon.

Skydivers have other options to in-air cutaways. A suspended harness, of course, is a simple and very good way to learn emergency procedures.

One company has developed a suspended harness that uses virtual-reality goggles to provide computer-generated images of the terrain below and the canopy overhead. The simulator is programmed to present the jumper with images of malfunctioned mains that require different responses.

But the simulator is priced at about $50,000, we're told. This effectively keeps it out of the sport market, which may be the company's intention.

What's a hook turn?

Q. What is a hook turn? What makes it a dangerous maneuver? I'm not a skydiver.

A. A hook turn is a quick canopy turn performed near the ground.

Turning a parachute makes it bank and banking increases its rate of descent. The harder the turn, the greater the bank and the greater the descent rate. The jumper swings out from under the parachute because the parachute is turning and diving while the jumper tends to go in a straight line. The result is a pendulum action: the jumper first swings outside the turning canopy, but gravity pulls him back under it when he stops the canopy's turn.

If the parachute is relatively small (experienced jumpers tend to use smaller canopies because they're more fun, like sports cars), the descent rate and increase in speed can easily be great enough to kill or seriously injure the jumper if he or she hits the ground while still in the turn, or if he's not yet under the canopy.

Some jumpers like to perform hook turns because they're fun, like driving a car at the edge. But if they misjudge their altitude, or if they hit some expected rough air or if they clip a tree, they can -- and do -- get hurt. The ground is very hard, and many orthopedic surgeons are putting their kids through college on the money they made off of botched hook turns.

But other skydivers perform hook turns somewhat inadvertently. For a variety of reasons (to avoid an obstacle, for instance), they'll initiate a sharp turn near to the ground, where there's not enough altitude for a recovery.

Many jumpers have never received training on how to make the best of a bad landing situation. For instance, it's almost always better to land under control downwind (or crosswind) than to attempt a last-second turn into the wind.

It's also much better to land under control on pavement than out of control on grass.

Hook-turn injuries are almost always preventable, and there's nothing mysterious about them. Many jumpers do them routinely and safely. The moral: don't maneuver your canopy radically when you're close to the ground unless you know what you're doing.



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