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parasailing-in-mazatlanWhat makes a person want to do something like this?   Are they being daredevils, showoffs or what?   Is there the thrill of doing something that you normally would not otherwise do?   Or is it something else?

This is something I’ve wanted to do for quite a while, but over the last several years I’ve had a few health scares that have precluded me from doing it, but now I will be going sky diving in the next few months.  Some people that I know think I am nuts to want jump out of a plane, but I’m up for the challenge.   If I’m not scared of going parasailing (have gone up higher every time I’ve gone parasailing), why should I be scared of skydiving?    As I put it “if former President George H.W. Bush can do it.”  So can I.

There are many out there that I know that wouldn’t even consider doing something like parasailing, let alone skydiving (or even christinehang gliding for that matter).  They see it as too risky, dangerous or worse, and they would rather be safe on the ground and leave things like this to the risk takers/daredevils.  I don’t see it that way.   You see things from a different perspective, expand your horizons and learn more about yourself and what you are capable of doing.  If you have a fear of heights, doing something like parasailing, skydiving, hang gliding or even going up in a hot air balloon (which I also want to experience) can go a long way to help in overcoming this fear.

People often ask ”What is skydiving then?”  Skydiving is the action sport of exiting an aircraft and returning to Earth with the aid of gravity while using a parachute to slow down during the terminal part of the descent. It may or may not involve a certain amount of free-fall, a time during which the parachute has not been deployed and the body gradually accelerates to terminal velocity.   The military developed parachuting technology as a way to save aircrews from emergencies aboard balloons and aircraft in flight, and later as a way of delivering soldiers to the battlefield.    It is also performed as a recreational activity as well as a competitive sport, and for the deployment of military personnel airborne forces and occasionally forest fire fighters.

parasail2A typical jump involves individuals exiting an aircraft at anywhere from 3,000 to 13,000 feet altitude. If jumping from a low altitude, the parachute is deployed immediately; however, at higher altitudes, the skydiver may free-fall for a short period of time (about a minute) before activating a parachute to slow the landing down to safe speeds (about 5 to 7 minutes).   When the parachute opens (usually the parachute will be fully inflated by 2,600 feet) the jumper can control the direction and speed with toggles on the end of steering lines attached to the trailing edge of the parachute, and can aim for the landing site and come to a relatively gentle stop.

Many people make their first jump with an experienced and trained instructor – this type of skydive may be in the form of a pty-parasailingtandem skydive.   During the tandem jump, the instructor is responsible for emergency procedures in the unlikely event that they will be needed, therefore freeing the student to concentrate on learning to skydive.       Even with a perception of danger, fatalities are rare, even though each year a number of people are hurt or killed parachuting worldwide. About 21 skydivers are killed each year in the US, roughly one death for every 150,000 jumps (about 0.0007).   Injuries and fatalities occurring under a fully functional parachute usually happen because the skydiver performed unsafe maneuvers or made an error in judgment while flying their canopy, typically resulting in a high speed impact with the ground or other hazards on the ground.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAChanging wind conditions is considered a risk factor. In conditions of strong winds, and turbulence during hot days the parachutist can be caught in downdrafts close to the ground. Shifting winds can cause a crosswind or downwind landing which have a higher potential for injury due to the wind speed adding to the landing speed.

At a skydiver’s deployment altitude, the individual manually deploys a small pilot-chute which acts as a drogue, catching air and pulling out the main parachute or the main canopy. There are two principal systems in use (1) the “throw-out”, where the skydiver pulls a toggle attached to the top of the pilot-chute stowed in a small pocket outside the main container and (2) the “pull-out”, where the skydiver pulls a small pad attached to the pilot-chute which is stowed inside the container.

When I go skydiving (or even parasailing) I have someone along to take pictures. (one of the rare times I’m not taking the xLavaredo-v-79pictures).   A camera flier jumps with the skydiver and films them. The camera flier often wears specialized equipment, such as a winged jumpsuit to provide a greater telecamera-applicatarange of fall rates, helmet-mounted video and still cameras, mouth operated camera switches, and optical sights. Some skydivers specialize in camera flying and a few earn fees for filming students on coached jumps or tandem-jumpers, or producing professional footage and photographs for the media.  There is always a demand for good camera fliers in the skydiving community.

Costs in the sport are not trivial. As new technological advances or performance enhancements are introduced, they tend to drive equipment prices higher. Similarly, the average skydiver carries more equipment than in earlier years, with safety devices contributing a significant portion of the cost.

I have found that novices use parachutes that are large and docile relative to the jumper’s body-weight. As they improve in skill and confidence, they can graduate to smaller, faster, more responsive parachutes. An active jumper might change parachute canopies several times in the space of a few years, while retaining his or her first harness/container and peripheral equipment.  But older jumpers, those who jump only on weekends sometimes tend in the other direction, selecting slightly larger, gentler parachutes that do not demand youthful intensity and reflexes on each jump. They may be adhering to the maxim that: “There are old jumpers and there are bold jumpers, but there are no old, bold jumpers.”   I think there could be old bold jumpers though.

Most parachuting equipment is ruggedly designed and is enjoyed by several owners before being retired. When contemplating their purchases, they are advised to have anything they wish to purchase examined by a qualified parachute rigger. A rigger is trained to spot signs of damage or misuse. Riggers also keep track of industry product and safety bulletins, and can therefore determine if a piece of equipment is up-to-date and serviceable.

Kathy Kiefer


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