The very first article I ever wrote for Blue Skies covered all the issues I could think of in regard to the aircraft, its pilot, and all the ways to try and make things smooth and safe from my perspective.
Most of the things I covered in that literary masterpiece have continued to hold true ‘til now, but there are a few additions to the list, and the old stuff is always worth a review.
First, don’t even think of approaching your jump ship without your gear on, secure and totally ready to skydive. I realize that when you’re just too fuckin’ cool, it makes you feel like a badass to be cinching down your leg straps as you climb up the stairs with your chest strap flapping in the prop blast like a wayward ponytail on a hippy—but really you just look like an ass (kind of like the hippie). Not only could it get you killed one day, it also sets a horrible example to the low timers who actually believe you are cool.
Have the dirt dive done and be ready to go before the plane is waiting in the loading area for you. Nobody—not the pilot or the other jumpers on the load—appreciate watching your 4-way jamming the door of the mock-up when you should be climbing in the plane. It also really helps to know your exit order BEFORE you get onboard. It saves problems both during loading, and exit.
Propellers kill. We all know this, so stay WELL CLEAR. We lost someone just last year because she forgot that simple fact.
Seat belts have always been a particular pet peeve of mine, and quite a few of the jump pilots I know. There are so many reasons to wear your seatbelt it’s not even funny, yet people still try and “get away” with leaving them off—although why you would want to is beyond me. The seatbelt is there not simply to keep you from sliding down the bench during the initial climb, or to cause you discomfort … The seat belt is there not only to hold you in place if everything goes to shit, it’s there to make sure that you don’t become the 180-pound projectile that wipes out half the load as you go bouncing through the cabin like a fucking ping-pong ball. Along with you being belted in, your helmet and any other accessories you’re carrying need to be either on you, or strapped in, for the exact same reason.
On the ride up, have fun! That’s what we’re here for, isn’t it? But, be smart about the fun you’re having. Shifting all around the aircraft, screaming excessively, fucking with the pilot (unless it’s to show titties) or otherwise acting like a jackass isn’t cool, and with the exception of you and a friend or two, I promise nobody appreciates it.
Keep your eyes open for anything unusual. You have the benefit of a view that the pilot does not have, which means you are in the unique position to help avert possible disaster by spotting problems with the aircraft, the airspace or the jumpers that he or she can’t see. It’s a big deal! You wouldn’t be the first jumper to spot something seriously wrong with an aircraft, so look around and speak up!
The jump lights are there for a very good reason: They directly indicate when to prepare for the jump, when to open the door, and when to get out. If the light you are expecting to come on hasn’t, there’s probably a very good reason for it. Try to remember that the pilot has access to information that you don’t. He is aware of everything from ground speed and distance to the DZ, to air traffic, problems on the ground and more. If the pilot hasn’t given you the green light, it’s because they don’t want you to jump, so DON’T FUCKING JUMP!
Remember those exit orders you figured out prior to boarding? Put them to good use once the green light is on. Know just how long you should be waiting between groups and then get on with it. If you’re the one who always hears people behind you yelling “GO!” then you, my friend, are the asshole. On the flip side, if you’ve ever found yourself wondering, “Should I try and track past that canopy under me, or pull above it?” you are once again the asshole. Know how long to wait!
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Let the pilot fuck up the spot before you try and fix it. If you’re exiting an Otter with more than 20 people onboard and you had to pull a bit high or ride your rears to make it back, don’t go whining to manifest or the pilot about it, just suck it up! If, on the other hand, you’re landing a mile off the field, speak up—but be NICE!
Hop and pops: PLEASE stop trying to throw your pilot chute back into the aircraft! I like to land with the tail attached!
A note to new or low-time wingsuit pilots: If you’re jumping out of a lower tail aircraft like a PAC 750, a Caravan (any Cessna really), or any other aircraft requiring special consideration, make sure you’re well clear BEFORE you open your wings! I’ve now been the captain of two aircraft which have had wingsuiters hit my tail on exit. Understand that you not only have a very good chance of being seriously injured or killed on exit, but there’s a very real possibility that you could take the plane clean out of the sky! Aircraft like the PAC are constructed of very light materials that are very easy to damage, and don’t require a huge impact to do it.
The tips and suggestions here, along with the million more you can get from long-time jumpers, have stood the test of time in regard to safety and efficiency. None of the rules set into place at your drop zone were put there to piss you off (unless it’s the old Skydive Las Vegas, in which case: Yes, they were all there to piss you off), so pay attention to how things are done. When you’re visiting a new place, make it a point to get a GOOD drop-zone briefing, and ask lots of questions if you aren’t sure.
All of us are here for the love of our sport, so go enjoy the hell out of yourself! Most of the things that are a real concern in skydiving are the things that can put the people we care about at risk, or cause consistent problems for your DZ, and almost all of them are really easy to avoid. It’s all about having a fuckin’ BLAST while making it as safe as possible along the way.
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