Training Skydive University Aircraft and Pilots Management and Staff
Without a doubt, safety is our primary concern at AerOhio. Our best friends and family skydive here, so everything we can do to manage the risks of skydiving...we do! What are those things? We have extremely well maintained aircraft and experienced pilots, well beyond the industry standards. We have state of the art equipment that is on a vigilant maintenance schedule. We have some of the best Skydiving Instructors and Coaches in the Nation. We are not kidding! AerOhio has a learning environment that is amazing.
Please understand that no one anywhere, can ever guarantee perfect safety because this is still skydiving that we are talking about, and there are rare moments when even if you do everything right, a person can still be injured or die. There is no such thing as a perfect parachute, airplane or human operator. When you skydive you assume that risk and learn how to manage it through proper training and with the use of good equipment.
A skydiver must always remember that anything can happen on any jump and only the jumper himself can control human error. What AerOhio's staff does for you, is give you the best training and tools that you need as a new skydiver to know how to avoid problems, and how to effectively handle them if that rare emergency does occur.
Over the years, some jumpers who have trained at other skydiving centers have visited AerOhio, only to find themselves being quizzed and double checked as to their qualifications, currency, equipment and knowledge. This, of course, is done only to ascertain that they are current enough in skill and knowledge to safely complete a skydive. Most of them appreciated it, but a few thought we were 'too intrusive'. On more than just a few occasions, our 'intrusiveness' has caught and prevented people from jumping with out of date equipment, weak emergency procedures, and improperly sized parachutes.
This story may be anecdotal, but take it for what it is worth. Recently, a jumper who had not jumped in many years, came to AerOhio for the first time in order to get back into skydiving. He was thoroughly retrained and briefed, and given two currency dives supervised by two AFF Instructors. His comment afterwards was 'You guys sure do a nice job here, but I think you are overly safety conscious' Our instructor's simple response nicely summarized AerOhio's safety philosophy when he said: Yup, we sure are !
Only a few short years ago, "State of the Art" meant only that your equipment was something other than the military surplus parachutes. It has taken on a new meaning today and due to lack of familiarity, the first time skydiving student often does not know whether his equipment, training or aircraft are good, bad, or average. Our purpose in talking about equipment is to educate first time jumpers before they head out to the nearest DZ for their first jump.
A Parachute System consists of a main parachute, a reserve parachute, the harness and container system which holds and deploys these parachutes, and an Automatic Activation Device.
The Main parachutes used today are exclusively ram air or "squares" as we commonly call them. 20 years ago, there were only a few types of these available, but today there are literally dozens to choose from, and the reliability and flight characteristics have improved drastically even from 6-7 years ago. At AerOhio, all of our student main parachutes are newer, many of them are new in the last few seasons. They are all of the more advanced airfoil design and will perform and land considerably better than the older style square parachutes.
All of our reserve or backup parachutes were purchased new in 1997 and are of the square or ram air design. The round parachute is a relic from years past and few if any jumpers use them today. Soft landings and easy steering are only two of the reasons why we use square reserves. If rounds were as reliable we would all still jump them as main parachutes too. The fact is we do not use them at all because the square is simply a better parachute. All square reserves are fitted with a deployment system called a free bag which actually is designed to prevent them from becoming entangled when they are deployed. Round parachutes can not be retrofitted for using this important safety device.
The AAD (automatic activation device) is a backup system that is installed on a parachute rig. These devices have been around for 30 or more years and have proven valuable in saving lives. They work by sensing airspeed and altitude of a freefalling body. In the event the person passes through a preset altitude (usually 1000 feet) at a high rate of speed, the AAD activates the reserve parachute. Just like parachutes, this technology has also changed. At present time there is only one AAD that is truly state of the art. It is called the CYPRES. (Cybernetic Parachute Release System) made by Airtec Corp. in Germany. It was designed and engineered in the late 1980s and reached the American market in about 1990. Since then, it has been upgraded and supported by Airtec to the point where it is considered the only device most jumpers will consider owning.
The old fashioned AADs, with brand names such as Sentinel or FXC use simple on- off switches or spring loaded trip switches to activate the reserve parachute system. The Cypres actually consists of a small computer which analyzes hundreds of bits of data that is sensed during freefall. It's hi-tech microprocessor knows virtually for sure where you are and how fast you are going and if reserve parachute activation is needed. This type of reliability is simply unachievable with the obsolete analog or spring loaded AADs found on outdated equipment. Although these old AADs are better than nothing, there is little or no use for them in modern skydiving. If you want the best in skydiving equipment, choose only the Cypres AAD.
How can you tell which is which? The old fashioned units look like clunky black boxes that are located externally on the parachute container. They require calibration or resetting on each jump leaving additional opportunity for mistakes when in use. The Cypres has only a small control head visible under a flap or in a window on the reserve parachute container. Ask any experienced jumper which AAD they would choose and the answer will universally be "THE CYPRES"
Back to Top
Training has changed as rapidly as the equipment. Back in the "not so good old days", the only way to make your first jump was with the static line. Static Line First Jumps are a fun, lower cost way to make your first jump and get introduced to jumping out of an airplane. After that, this method has limitations which make it difficult to teach modern skydiving technique. For this reason, all freefall training at AerOhio is by the Accelerated Freefall Method. The reason for this is that we have discovered over the years, that there is no more important time in a student's progression than his first few freefall jumps. It is during this time that the student has the opportunity to feel in control and gain confidence.
In the static line training method, a student is allowed to freefall alone for the first few times after he completes five static line jumps. At this time, the majority of students experience a lack of control or a feeling of helplessness. It is during this time that most students quit skydiving. The only way to overcome this is for qualified instructors to actually go out and skydive with the students - and be on each jump with the student until he graduates. The student never freefalls alone until completion of the program, when he is trained, confident and in control. AFF allows students to learn far more rapidly. Your average static line student would graduate from the old static line method with 25 or more jumps and less than 4 minutes of freefall time and little or no coaching while in freefall. The AFF student graduates after 25 levels and has at least 25 minutes of freefall time all of which have been with a highly skilled coach freefalling with him.
Tandem skydiving has also revolutionized the way we introduce people to skydiving. Some people are not comfortable with the work load that is required of them on an AFF skydive for the first time, or they just want to freefall one time to see what it is like. Tandem offers these people the opportunity to go along for a freefall ride with only minimal training. In fact, a briefing of less than 30 minutes is adequate to take a new person along on a tandem skydive. Often, this student realized that this freefall stuff is really quite fun and they want to do it again.
What are the options? A person can choose at any time to start with AFF Level 1 or they can go ahead and make additional tandem training skydives which include some of the fundamentals that will be used later in the AFF program. Tandem, like static line, has an obvious limitation as a teaching method as it provides a very limited amount of freedom of movement for the student. Regardless of which introductory jump method is chosen, the student will eventually be doing freefall jumps with instructors and coaches.. For this reason, choosing a drop zone with plenty of staff is very important. AerOhio has more licensed and highly experienced AFF instructors on staff than any of our competitors.
Back to Top
One of the most bewildering times for a new jumper is right after graduation from the AFF program. He knows how to survive skydiving and flying a parachute, but really does not know even the basics about flying his body in freefall with other people. Until recently, just learning the basics would take a few years and a few hundred skydives for the average person to become competent at body flight. For this reason, few folks stayed in skydiving for very long. It just seemed like it took forever to become accomplished at this sport.
Even in recent years, with many more people starting skydiving than ever before, the same thing happened: They would start, breeze through AFF, jump for another few months making maybe 50 to 100 jumps and then quit because they never got any good at it. The fact is that anyone who tells you that you can learn to skydive with solo freefalls and then jumping with your friends and other beginners does not know much about the theory and technique of modern training. Teaching skydiving is no different than teaching any other sport. It takes a professional coach who has an extensive training background in not only the technical side of training but also sports psychology and effective teaching technique.
At AerOhio and other progressive jump centers throughout the country, the need for a more comprehensive approach to student training was recognized and implemented. With AFF training to start, then having the option of Skydive University to continue training, we are presently producing entry level skydivers with excellent survival skills, and the basic flying skills to build on for the next several hundred jumps. Although it may seem slightly more expensive starting out, there are literally hundreds of jumpers who will attest to the fact that there is nothing more expensive than starting skydiving, buying equipment, jumping a hundred times and then quitting in frustration after spending thousands of dollars on gear and jumps. We have had many jumpers migrate to AerOhio who already have hundreds of jumps but want to start over and relearn with proper technique from a professional Skydive U. coach. Our goal is to produce, safe, knowledgeable and skilled skydivers who can enjoy the sport of skydiving for many years and thousands of jumps to come.
Back to Top
Many people who have jumped in the past will remember beat up small airplanes as the norm. Jumpers often had good reason to be afraid because the "perfectly good airplane' they were jumping from often wasn't. AerOhio and many other progressive skydiving centers have changed this. We fly a a 4 person Cessna 182. It has also been specially modified to allow for a greater safety margin with better climb performance and other safety and comfort features. These modifications include a weight increase kit which allows a greater safety margin for heavier loads, and a 260 hp engine upgrade which allows for faster climb times. Both of these modifications make this airplane far faster and safer especially on hot days, when other light aircraft really struggle. No other Cessna in our region has been upgraded to incorporate any of these same added safety features.
A good way to determine a skydiving center's overall attitude towards safety is to look at their planes and talk to the pilots. If the planes are filthy, beat up and abused or look like a poorly kept antique, that should tell you something. If the pilot conducts himself as a weekend warrior in the sky, or performs aerobatics and erratic flight maneuvers, that should tell you something too. . On the other hand, aircraft that are clean outside and look presentable usually will have the same degree of care in the rest of it's maintenance as well. A competent pilot will conduct himself like a professional at all times and treat the airplane and it's occupants with care and courtesy. At AerOhio, nearly every time one of our planes goes up, it carries one of our own wives, husbands, or loved ones. This is not a responsibility that we take lightly.
Back to Top
A skydiving center's owner and staff are really the best representation of a skydiving center's attitude towards safety. Some things to consider:
Is the drop zone affiliated with United States Parachute Association and do they actively participate in training programs and require membership of jumpers? USPA is the only representative of skydiving in the US. Being active in USPA is the only way to be in touch with progress in the skydiving world.
Is the staff licensed and current and what is their experience level? Are there enough staff to adequately serve the customers? Are they genuinely interested in providing you with quality instruction? AerOhio has on record at the drop zone all of the staff licenses and qualifications. You may ask to see them at any time and you may rest assured that we have chosen not only highly qualified people but only the seasoned, experienced skydivers, from the many qualified applicants who wish to work here. We also have many AFF instructors and Coaches. This means less waiting and more knowledge for you to draw from while learning. We have chosen our staff carefully to guarantee that you, our student and customer, are the focal point of the staff's endeavors. You are the reason we are here.
Is the drop zone clean and well organized? Is the staff courteous, professional and efficient? The only way to answer this is to visit the competition and then visit us. We already know what you will find.
Back to Top