Skydiving Safety

ALL JUMPERS ARE REQUIRED TO WEAR An Automatic Activation Device (AAD)!

Without a doubt, safety is our primary concern at Skydive Suffolk. Our best friends and family skydive here, so everything we can do to manage the risks of skydiving... What are those things? We have extremely well maintained aircraft and experienced pilots, well beyond the industry standards. We have state of the art equipment that is on a vigilant maintenance schedule. We have some of the best Skydiving Instructors and Coaches in the Nation. We are not kidding! Skydive Suffolk has a learning environment that is amazing. You will get the most for your time and money every time you jump at Skydive Suffolk. Take the time to read about us and you will see why we are able to guarantee this.

In our long history of training students, we have never had a student jumper seriously injured or killed. Minor landing injuries do happen that usually consist of a sprained or broken ankle. These generally occur with solo students landing their own parachutes, and usually they are not first time jumpers. On a few rare occasions, there has been a broken leg. We usually see one solo student each season who sustains a broken bone.

On the other hand, in our entire history of doing tandem skydiving, only several injuries have ever occurred. Each were broken ankles of the hairline fracture variety. We have had no tandem injuries since the tandem equipment manufacturer began to produce a new style harness that allows for the tandem student's legs to ride in the harness at a different angle. When this new harness became available we immediately replaced all of the existing harness that we owned. That was in 2002. These numbers sound even better when you find out that we have done over 8,500 tandem training jumps since 1997.

At Skydive Suffolk, we have always owned and operated our own aircraft. We do not lease aircraft from other outfits who have only their bottom line in mind. There has never been an airplane crash or major mechanical failure with any of our airplanes. We will made a decision to ground a airplane for a short time to fix a minor mechanical problem rather than to fly it and take any additional risk.. The reasons for this are pretty basic: we maintain our aircraft properly, and we do not hire beginners to fly them.

With all of that said, please understand that no one anywhere, can ever guarantee perfect safety because this is still skydiving that we are talking about, and there are rare moments when even if you do everything right, a person can still be injured or die. There is no such thing as a perfect parachute, airplane or human operator. When you skydive you assume that risk and learn how to manage it through proper training and with the use of good equipment.

A skydiver must always remember that anything can happen on any jump and only the jumper himself can control human error. What Skydive Suffolk's staff does for you, is give you the best training and tools that you need as a new skydiver to know how to avoid problems, and how to effectively handle them if that rare emergency does occur. . We do nearly 14,000 skydives a year at Skydive Suffolk. We have an excellent safety record because we always do our best to give you the best.

Over the years, some jumpers who have trained at other skydiving centers have visited Skydive Suffolk, only to find themselves being quizzed and double checked as to their qualifications, currency, equipment and knowledge by our staff. This, of course, is done only to ascertain that they are current enough in skill and knowledge to safely complete a skydive. Most of them appreciated it, but a few thought we were 'too intrusive'. On more than just a few occasions, our 'intrusiveness' has caught and prevented people from jumping with out of date equipment, weak emergency procedures, and improperly sized parachutes.

Most skydiving centers claim that their equipment and training is "state of the art." Only a few short years ago, this meant only that your equipment was something other than the military surplus parachutes. It has taken on a new meaning today and due to lack of familiarity, the first time skydiving student often does not know whether his equipment, training or aircraft are good, bad, or average. Our purpose in talking about equipment is to educate first time jumpers before they head out to the nearest DZ for their first jump.

A Parachute System consists of a main parachute, a reserve parachute, the harness and container system which holds and deploys these parachutes, and an Automatic Activation Device.

The Main parachutes used today are exclusively ram air or "squares" as we commonly call them. 20 years ago, there were only a few types of these available, but today there are literally dozens to choose from, and the reliability and flight characteristics have improved drastically even from 5 years ago. At Skydive Suffolk, all of our student main parachutes are new within the last 2 seasons and most of them are new this season. They are all of the more advanced airfoil design and will perform and land considerably better than the older style square parachutes used elsewhere.

All of our reserve or backup parachutes are of the square or ram air design. The round parachute is a relic from years past and few if any jumpers use them today. Soft landings and steer ability are only two of the reasons why we use square reserves. If rounds were as reliable we would all still jump them as main parachutes too. The fact is we do not use them at all because the square is simply a better parachute. All square reserves are fitted with a deployment system called a freebag which actually is designed to prevent them from becoming entangled when they are deployed. Round parachutes can not be retrofitted for using this important safety device.

The AAD (Automatic Activation Device) is a backup system that is installed on a parachute rig. These devices have been around for 30 or more years and have proven valuable in saving lives. They work by sensing airspeed and altitude of a freefalling body. In the event the person passes through a preset altitude (usually 1000 feet) at a high rate of speed, the AAD activates the reserve parachute. Just like parachutes, this technology has also changed. At present time there is only one AAD that is truly state of the art. It is called the CYPRES. (Cybernetic Parachute Release System) made by Airtec Corp. in Germany. It was designed and engineered in the late 1980s and reached the American market in about 1990. Since then, it has been upgraded and supported by Airtec to the point where it is considered the only device most jumpers will consider owning.

The old fashioned AADs, with brand names such as Sentinels or FXCs used simple on- off switches or spring loaded trip switches to activate the reserve parachute system. The Cypres actually consists of a small computer which analyzes hundreds of bits of data that is sensed during freefall. It's hi-tech microprocessor knows virtually for sure where you are and how fast you are going and if reserve parachute activation is needed. This type of reliability is simply unachievable with the obsolete analog or spring loaded AADs found on outdated equipment. Although these old AADs are better than nothing, there is little or no use for them in modern skydiving. If you want the best in skydiving equipment, choose only the Cypres AAD.

How can you tell which is which? The old fashioned units look like clunky black boxes that are located externally on the parachute container. They require calibration or resetting on each jump leaving additional opportunity for mistakes when in use. The Cypres has only a small control head visible under a flap or in a window on the reserve parachute container. Ask any experienced jumper which AAD they would choose and the answer will universally be "THE CYPRES" For more information about the CYPRES, see www.pia.com/ssk.

Training

Training has changed as rapidly as the equipment. Back in the "not so good old days", the only way to make your first jump was with the static line. This method has limitations which make it difficult to teach modern skydiving technique. For this reason, all freefall training at Skydive Suffolk is by the Accelerated Freefall Method. The reason for this is that we have discovered over the years, that there is no more important time in a student's progression than his first few freefall jumps. It is during this time that the student has the opportunity to feel in control and gain confidence. In the old fashioned static line training method, a student is allowed to freefall alone for the first few times after he completes five static line jumps. At this time, the majority of students experience a lack of control or a feeling of helplessness. It is during this time that most students quit skydiving. The only way to overcome this is for qualified instructors to actually go out and skydive with the students - and be on each jump with the student until he graduates. The student never freefalls alone until completion of the program, when he is trained, confident and in control. AFF allows students to learn far more rapidly. Your average static line student would graduate from the old static line method with 25 or more jumps and less than 4 minutes of freefall time and little or no coaching while in freefall. The AFF student graduates after 7 levels, often only 7 jumps, and has at least 7 minutes of freefall time all of which have been with a highly skilled coach freefalling with him. There is no comparison between the training techniques and money wise, the two programs will cost roughly the same. With AFF, more money is spent per jump, but even on the first AFF jump the student accomplishes more than he would on his first five Static Lines and five or more short freefalls! The exclusive use of AFF for all freefall training has produced far more skilled novices when they complete the program. The safety factor of never having to freefall alone as a beginner has for the most part eliminated the scary moments, frustration and additional risk of the obsolete static line and solo freefall training progression.

Tandem skydiving has also revolutionized the way we introduce people to skydiving. Some people are not comfortable with the work load that is required of them on an AFF skydive for the first time, or they just want to freefall one time to see what it is like. Tandem offers these people the opportunity to go along for a freefall ride with only minimal training. In fact, a briefing of less than 30 minutes is adequate to take a new person along on a tandem skydive. Often, this student realized that this freefall stuff is really quite fun and they want to do it again. What are the options? A person can choose at any time to start with AFF Category A or they can go ahead and make additional tandem training skydives which include some of the fundamentals that will be used later in the AFF program. Tandem, like static line, has an obvious limitation as a teaching method as it provides a very limited amount of freedom of movement for the student. Regardless of which introductory jump method is chosen, the student will eventually be doing freefall jumps by the AFF method. For this reason, choosing a drop zone with plenty of staff is very important. Skydive Suffolk has more licensed and highly experienced AFF instructors on staff than any of our competitors.

Aircraft & Pilots

Many people who have jumped in the past will remember beat up small airplanes as the norm. Jumpers often had good reason to be afraid because the "perfectly good airplane' they were jumping from often wasn't. Skydive Suffolk and many other progressive skydiving centers have changed this. With a considerable investment, we have procured one of the most modern and comfortable turboprop aircraft available for skydiving today. It is maintained to the same standard as commercial carriers and is flown by licensed commercial pilots who have been specifically trained in this type of aircraft.

A good way to determine a skydiving center's overall attitude towards safety is to look at their planes and talk to the pilots. If the planes are dirty and beat up, or look like an antique, that should tell you something. If the pilot conducts himself as a weekend terror in the sky then he probably is one. On the other hand, aircraft that are clean outside and look presentable usually have the same degree of care in the rest of it's maintenance as well. A competent pilot will conduct himself like a professional at all times. At Skydive Suffolk Skydiving, nearly every time one of our planes goes up, it carries one of our own wives, husbands, or loved ones. This is not a responsibility that we take lightly.

Management & Staff

A skydiving center's owners and staff are really the best representation of a skydiving center's attitude towards safety. Some things to consider: Does the owner of the drop zone actively jump and participate in instruction? Skydiving equipment and technique changes so rapidly it is difficult to stay up to speed if you do not have your hands on by actively jumping. Skydive Suffolk's owners are licensed active instructors in static line, AFF and tandem and they teach and jump every single day. Chances are you will jump with one of them. Is the drop zone affiliated with United States Parachute Association and do they actively participate in programs and require membership of jumpers? USPA is the only representative of skydiving in the US. Being active in USPA is the only way to be in touch with the skydiving world. Skydive Suffolk's owners are active on a national basis with USPA. They are also (MEMBERS) of the Skydiving Operator's Association, Inc. The SOA is an industry group member. Is the staff licensed and current and what is their experience level? Are there enough staff to adequately serve the customers? Are they genuinely interested in providing you with quality instruction or are they more concerned with tonight's party? Skydive Suffolk has on record at the drop zone all of the staff licenses and qualifications. You may ask to see them at any time and you may rest assured that we have chosen not only highly qualified people but only the seasoned, experienced skydivers, from the many qualified applicants who wish to work here. We also have the most AFF instructors of any drop zone in the region. In fact, we have more instructors here than any of our competitors combined. This means less waiting and more knowledge for you to draw from while learning. Because we have chosen our staff instead of having to take whoever is left over, we guarantee that you the customer are the focal point of the staff’s endeavors. Is the drop zone clean and well organized? Is the staff courteous, professional and efficient? The only way to answer this is to visit the competition and then visit us. We already know what you will find.