Sunday, March 15, 2015

How a Wingsuiter should NOT be exiting your Skydive Aircraft

This is how a Wingsuiter should NOT be exiting your Skydive Aircraft. This guy is very lucky that he did not strike the horizontal stabilizer, severely injuring himself or even bringing the airplane down. Every Wingsuiter knows that you always exit the airplane with your legs together, never step out because this will open your leg wing. Also, keep your arms by your side for at least 3 seconds to clear the airplane's tail. The person pictured here is clearly not following best safety practices or he would not have his wings open while being in front of the horizontal stabilizer.

According Google Analytics over 3,000 people have viewed this article, not to mention the thousands that saw it on Facebook and Instagram. Yet still we have ONE guy named "Ben" that insists on arguing with me that the person in this photo is doing nothing wrong. He also mumbled something about the camera angle yada yada. So now the Wingsuiter and Cameraman are creating illusions? Should they start an act in Vegas? We'll have Ben do the introductions since he's their self appointed spokesperson. Save that BS for someone else guy. Is that why the Wingsuiters that jumped before him still have their arms close to their sides? Is that why every comment from Skydivers and Jump Pilots under this photo on Facebook was similar to, "Yikes!", "No Bueno!", "Wingsuit FAIL!" etc etc.?

Not to mention, he's missing the point to this entire article. We've all met this type of person, they want to debate just for the sake of debating. They do not truly care if they're right or wrong. However, I will use this situation to prove yet another point to my newer Jump Pilots. If you end up flying skydivers for more than a minute, you WILL have a guy that does stupid and/or dangerous stuff in or near your aircraft and will insist (or lie) and tell you that he did nothing wrong and to chill out. You MUST stand up to him as soon as practicable. Sometimes their adrenaline is so high that they don't think straight. It might sound funny but it's true.

I have taken a few guys aside and reminded them of what they did and to not do it again or they're done for the weekend. If they screw up on the Sunday sunset load then the next time I see them at the DZ, they can have fun watching everyone else because they're not jumping out of any airplane that I'm flying. Anytime that I've ever had to do that (luckily only a couple times), the DZO backed me up. If they had not, I would've tied the airplane down and left the DZ within minutes.

As a Skydive Pilot in Command you need to be talking to your skydivers (especially Wingsuiters) on the ground regularly. Also, at the start of the day or in between loads when you have a chance to talk to a Wingsuiter that you do not recognize at the DZ, go introduce yourself. I always do. I also ask them how many wingsuit jumps they have and I remind them to let me know when they are on the load and in which direction are they going to track so that our courses don't cross. I also remind them to stay tucked until they are well clear of the aircraft.

A few years ago I had a Wingsuiter open up (his arm and leg wings) too early and he struck my horizontal stabilizer. The strike only slightly dented the sheet metal. However, it broke his right arm severely, which made it much more difficult for him to deploy his parachute and manipulate his toggles. 

Luckily he landed safely. I waited to yell at him until after he returned to the DZ with his cast on and his pain pills in full effect. 

Remember, if anything bad happens while you're flying that Jump Plane, the FAA will mostly be looking at you unfavorably and asking you uncomfortable questions and making you fill out stacks of Federal forms... not the skydiver. Don't lose your Pilot's License because of some moron. Fly safe guys!