Check Your Personal Reliability at Extraordinary Situations!

Friday, June 5, 2020

Corona –

in the meantime nobody wants to hear this term anymore. The daily news is full of it, hardly anything else is on the headlines. For sure, the virus has a massive impact on our daily life: we can’t meet our friends as usual, we are sitting at home and most of the fun is gone. And worst of all: we can’t jump anymore, we can’t train anymore and all our competitions have been cancelled or postponed.

For us as a competition team, this is a bitter setback: Our training schedule with the goal to compete at the World Championship in August was thrown overboard. However, we could complete all indoor training sessions and were ready for the German nationals and the Indoor World Cup – but at the very last minute the competitions were cancelled. Our outdoor training was postponed to an undefined time and the World Championship in Tanay was getting further and further away. Until it was postponed to 2021.

Team Skynamite
Team Skynamite

Ok, ok –

with all the whining we must of course not forget that the situation has hit many people much harder when they lost their jobs. But well, the own problems are always the biggest ones…

Finally, after many weeks of lockdown, the drop zones are opening again. Although with many restrictions and rules to protect yourself and others from infection, we will be able to jump and outdoor training is no longer just a thing we talk about. The joy in the team is huge – we made our last jumps in October at the World Cup in Eloy – more than seven months ago.

We have never experienced such a long break in jumping. Apart from a major injury, nothing would keep us staying on the ground for such a long time.

But what is the impact of such a long break?

Of course, we trained in the tunnel until March, visualized blocks and transitions during the lockdown period and are super ready mentally. But what’s got lost a bit is how the exits feel, handling your equipment on a nearly daily basis and of course canopy flight. Admittedly – at least I – did not visualize these things.

Actually, you might think that this is the same situation as starting into the new freefall season after winter. But is it true this time? This year two things are different: first, the winter break was much longer than usual. And second, we will have to take some Corona-precautions when jumping, which are new and unfamiliar.

Both not only have an influence on our jumps, but also on the equipment checks that need to be done before every jump. The long winter break reduces the routine, with which we normally do the equipment checks. And the new safety precautions, such as the constant wearing of gloves, masks and helmets – even during the climb to altitude create a huge amount of distraction. Normally, I check the main container flap at the 2-minute call to make sure that the bridle is routed correctly and that the pilot chute is fully stowed. Everything happens blind, because behind my back – with bare fingers I can feel it very well. But how does it feel with gloves on?

So, for us it is time to visualize this situation as well:

Our team training is characterized by back-to-back jumps – doubles, triples and sometimes even four jumps in a row. This is usually quite a race: After landing, quickly hand over the gear to the packer – don’t forget to set the brakes and undo the kill line. Now quickly take the second rig and put it on while on the way to the mock-up – where the coach is waiting. In the background you already hear the plane landing. Oops – there was something else. Before putting on the rig we are doing a quick first equipment check. Open the main flap – check pin, bridle and flaps and then the obligatory look at the “CYPRES-0”. Is the CYPRES (still) on? Personally, I quickly press the button and look at the red LED. Is it lit? Is the CYPRES ready to save my life in an emergency?

Changeable Mode CYPRES

Before boarding, the second equipment check. “Three handles, three buckles, helmet and altimeter” – that’s my mantra. Check your own equipment, but a look at the equipment of your teammates does not hurt.
While becoming an instructor, I have been trained to be responsible not only for the students’ equipment, but also for the safety on the load. Therefore, I automatically scan other people’s gear while staying in the waiting area, when boarding and during the climb to altitude. Are the chest straps closed, does everything look the way it should look? But I’m also not Mrs. Perfect – especially in team training, when things have to go fast. Running from the landing area to the mock-up, changing the rigs in between, taking new instructions from the coach and already hearing the boarding call from the speakers. In these moments I sometimes forget to look at the equipment of my teammates. And I only realize this when I see my teammates checking each other’s rigs.

And that’s exactly the point – Distraction!

With the freefall season starting during Corona-times, we have to deal with additional safety/protection measures. Don’t get me wrong, these extra precautions are certainly necessary and important. But please do not forget all the other checks that are equally important, if not even more. We will all be more distracted after the super long winter break and the extra demands of the protection measures than we are after a normal winter break. But if we just keep this in mind and take the time to think about it, we will all be able to deal with it in a safe way.

So, despite all of this,

remember the gear checks. Not only on your own gear, but have a look at your teammates’ gear too. After all, they are – besides your family and close friends – the most important people in your life, with whom you experience the most wonderful moments in freefall. Take care of them – they are worth it.

Skynamite 😉

Stay safe & enjoy life,
Sylvia, Team Skynamite

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