Now that I have your attention, you can get your mind out of the gutter. We’re talking about the valuable “seconds” of freefall and why they’re better for everyone on a tandem skydive when the harness is properly adjusted. As an examiner, I pay particular attention to harness adjustments and for the most part, I’d say we have some pretty darn good Instructors out there. But, we also have a few that could use some attention and it’s up to us as a community to help each other stay at the top of our game.
Proper harness adjustment is something I take VERY SERIOUSLY and pride myself on. There are many reasons for proper harness adjustment, from the obvious reason of safety to the perceived security a student experiences when they feel fastened in their harness. We also have to accept sloppiness simply “looks” UNSAFE and, in many cases, it is! Mistakes are so much easier to spot when a harness is neat and tidy. A misrouted chest strap or leg strap is much easier to detect if the friction adapters can be easily seen. This is accomplished when harnesses are neat and excess is stowed properly. A properly adjusted harness will also help you as an instructor in freefall, as the student will be much closer to you (especially in the hip area where the majority of the control is).
Caption: Loose excess webbing that’s not properly stowed can catch air and get looser and get in the way of the Tandem Instructors handles at pull time.
When we think about customer service, this becomes INCREDIBLY important. If you have a group of four students, for instance, and three of them are harnessed up properly in a neat and tidy fashion, what do you think the fourth one is thinking when their harness looks and feels loose and sloppy compared to the others? We, as Instructors, should help each other in this area to be the best of the best and always remember it is our responsibility to keep our students safe, but also to make them “FEEL” safe; we accomplish this through professional attitudes, proper training, treating them like students (not cargo), and finally PROPER HARNESS ADJUSTMENT. When you look at fellow Instructor’s harness adjustments, try to imagine the passenger is your mother (or a loved one); Are they safe?
Finally, let’s all be open to constructive criticism and help each other be as safe and professional as possible. As a Tandem Instructor, you are a professional and you not only represent yourself and the sport of skydiving, but you also represent the drop zone for which you work. Maybe it’s the former DZO in me, but when I am acting as a TI, I try to always behave in a professional manner as if I’m being judged on every single skydive, because I AM!
So take that extra minute and re-check your work and support your fellow TI’s in this simple, but highly important step.
Gregory A. Upper
Sigma Tandem Examiner