A jumper with 330 jumps – only 6 of which were on this canopy – was doing a demo jump, with a flag, into a very small landing area, that was surrounded by trees on all sides. WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG!?! The jumper tried to fly between two trees, clipped a tree branch, almost hit a member of the ground crew, and miraculously walked away without a scratch. In his words, “the only damage I received was to my own pride.”
Why did it happen
This jumper was doing a jump he was not ready for. There are a LOT of considerations which go into demonstration jumps like this one. A jumper with only 330 jumps cannot be expected to understand them all, let alone plan and/or react accordingly.
This jumper had only 6 jumps on that canopy — ever. He wasn’t experienced enough to be flying it under these circumstances. USPA Regulations, for example, require a PRO rated jumper to have 5 jumps within the previous 60 days using the model and size canopy they want to use on a demo into this type of landing area.
Whoever signed off on this skydiver participating in this jump made a poor decision. It’s the responsibility of experienced jumpers to tell newer skydivers that they are simply not ready to attempt certain activities within the sport.
This jumper noted that the group did a site visit the day before the jump but he “did not look at it thoroughly enough to remember that that tree was there.” This was almost certainly another factor that led to this incident.
How could it be prevented
This jump occurred overseas – we don’t know where, so don’t ask – but USPA rules are an example of the types of restrictions that should be placed on such jumps. Under USPA regulations, this would have likely qualified as a stadium landing area, “A Level 2 landing area smaller than 150 yards in length by 80 yards in width and bounded on two or more sides by bleachers, walls, or buildings in excess of 50 feet high.” To jump into a stadium landing area, a USPA jumper needs to have a PRO Rating; a certification used to identify highly proficient jumpers who are accurate in canopy control.
When the jumper submitted this video, they noted that they were flying in brakes to get into position and when they let up on their toggles to resume full flight, the canopy dove much steeper than they expected. This portion of a flight cycle is discussed in nearly every canopy course. The jumper’s surprise at the canopy’s dive when he let up on the toggles suggests he needed more canopy instruction and a better understanding of canopy dynamics.
Okay… we’ll admit that karate kicking the @#$% out of that branch was kind of cool… but landing safely in front of a crowd of non-jumpers is a lot cooler.