Ernesto has done pretty much every role there is to do in skydiving. He currently works as the Skydive Dubai Assistant Manager, and has been a dropzone operator in the past as well as a test pilot and swoop competitor. His latest claim to fame is Project XCF where he will attempt to the land the smallest parachute ever – a JVX 35!
As a test jumper, stuntman, drop zone operator and former canopy pilot competitor, I have witnessed that injuries and/or even fatalities are occurring more often in swooping due to many factors but mainly:
1. The desire to fly smaller parachutes
2. Not using the proper tools
3. Reliability on audible devices to perform drills or turns
4. Not enough focus on canopy specific skydives (hop n pops)
Here are 6 things every swooper can do to stay alive:
Get Coaching: Coaching can be expensive, but how much is your life worth?
Fun jump vs Training jumps: In my experience, a skydiver who goes to 13.000ft for a fun jump, will have considerably less canopy skills that one that does a low altitude jump (Hop & Pop) with a pre-established plan of exercises to be performed under canopy and stick to it.
More mastered skills equal more tools in your toolbox: The more you train in the same conditions “with the same canopy” (down wind, cross winds, etc.) the more you will have overall. Is not only about landing your canopy 900 times with a 90 turn, it’s about trying and mastering different turns with the same canopy before even thinking of downsizing.
Keep Learning: Don’t be afraid to ask questions - just ask the right people! Read publications by recognized professional pilots and/or manufacturers. Understand the technicalities of the sport and parachutes and be responsible about it.
Realistic short-term vs long-term goals: Set your goals, work towards them and don’t move forward until you have achieved them.
Don’t let trends make decisions for you: Choose a canopy that suits your level of expertise, a canopy that suits your yearly currency jump wise, but moreover, a canopy which flying characteristics suit you the most.
Keeping alive and injury free is not easy, especially when the community sees new records being set every day, breathtaking videos of highly skilled pilots doing amazing things, and people pushing boundaries achieving the unthinkable.
Realistic goal setting, learning new skills, proper guidance, and discipline can be decisive factors to keep alive and injury free.