- Written by Mike Gruwell
On a gusty day this past weekend, three jumpers of different skill levels decided they needed to make a skydive even though tandem instructors along with numerous experienced jumpers had made the decision to wait for the winds to calm down.
The winds were gusting from 7-25 knots and switching directions 100 degrees. The jumper experience level ranged from about 100 to 2,000 jumps. Amazingly enough, it was actually the most experienced jumper who in the end made the worst decision when coming in for landing.
A Cessna 205 took the three jumpers up. The spot, skydives and deployments went pretty much as planned. The two lower-experienced jumpers managed to make a little canopy traffic for themselves on landing. With only three people on the load, canopy traffic should be nil if you pay attention to the other jumpers under canopy.
The first jumper to land was the least-experienced jumper and landed slightly crosswind, sliding in on his shins and butt. The next jumper, who was cut-off slightly for his landing pattern, landed crosswind in a ditch and skidded in on his knees. Both walked away...but the last jumper rode away in an ambulance. His first mistake (if we don't count getting in the plane) was to open slightly low, as he was last out and slightly long. His second mistake was to not give up on making it back to the landing area. And the third mistake was to turn low. While his turn into the wind may not have been "too low" on a no wind day, the gusty, strong wind of this jump made his canopy dive farther and faster than he expected. He started to flare, but way too late, and bounced off both knees and rolled over a couple of times. He was transported by ambulance to a local hospital, and luckily, was okay except for plenty of bruises and soreness.
All three jumpers were not too far from seriously hurting themselves on a day when most jumpers had chosen to sit down. I did talk to two of the jumpers, and both realized their mistakes. Still, making your own poor decisions isn't the only way to increase the quality of your judgment and decisions.
If you see other jumpers sitting down because of winds, just ask them why.