The Third Rule of Skydiving – Safety, Safety, Safety

From the brain of Scott Hiscoe as inexpertly captured by yours truly.

I was at the BURN angle camp at Skydive Oz this week. Unfortunately, we got weathered out on the Sunday but before we all packed up for the day Scott Hiscoe gave a talk on how to show up to the DZ and enjoy a safe day of jumping. There was a ton of good info, some of which I’d never even thought about.  So, I thought I’d madly make some notes and turn it into a blog. 

Scotty has looked over the post and added his magic, so you know it wasn’t me just making shit up -😊

What makes a good skydiver?

A good skydiver is an AWARE skydiver.

Building your awareness is something that needs to be a conscious activity as you progress from your B-Rels and into the sport generally. You need to consciously repeat your awareness routine so that it settles into your subconscious with the end goal that your brain constantly and automatically takes in and processes all the information around you during your jumps.

Getting into some good habits early and making it part of your DZ routine is one of the best ways to keep you and your mates safe in the sky.

And it starts as soon as you turn up to the DZ.

What are you doing when you first arrive at the DZ?

In Scott’s words the first thing he does when he turns up at the DZ is to look up. How’s the cloud? How much is there? Is it scattered, full cover, thick or thin, dark, or light? Rain clouds? What height do I think the clouds are at? Am I thinking that I’ll open above, below or in it?

Are the clouds moving? If so, how fast and in what direction? Is it different from the direction of the wind of the ground? What are the windsocks doing? What the landing direction? Where’s the turbulence likely to be? Where am I going to land? Where are my outs? And for those more advanced jumpers find out what the uppers are doing

There’s a whole heap of stuff you can take on board before you first jump for the day and it’s better to take in the info yourself rather than asking someone these questions on the way to height! 

Gear Checks

With gear checks make sure have a systematic approach, meaning a routine that you do the same way every time, so you don’t miss anything.

Marcus insert -> I also like to follow the ‘see it, touch it, say it’ rule. Whatever I’m doing I make sure I SEE the end result (for example, that the kill line is showing black in the bridle window), then I make sure I TOUCH it and then I SAY it to myself (the pilot chute is cocked). I know it might sound dumb but reinforcing that habit means I don’t second guess myself when I’m walking down to the emplaning area.<-

If you are a student, or a beginner skydiver, and someone else is packing your rig, you should STILL go through these checks. It’s your life. And your responsibility.

And it goes without saying that if you see someone doing their gear checks leave them alone until they’ve done with them.  They don’t need you wittering on and throwing them off their game!

Oh, one last thing from me being a Canberra boy, do you need to power cycle your ditter when you get to the DZ? Might sound odd but I’ve been caught out a couple of times driving down from Canberra (578m above sea level) to Skydive Oz (5m above sea level) and forgetting to do a quick power cycle with the result that the ditter doesn’t reset to ground level and goes off at totally the wrong heights on the jump.

At the emplaning area

Find out what everyone else is doing on the load and make sure the Load Master or most experienced jumper on the load sorts out the exit order. The Load Master is also the one you need to listen to on the way to height, especially if something goes wrong and you need to exit the plane in an emergency. So, it’s good to know who it is before you get on the plane.

Have a look around at roughly what parachutes other people are flying and figure out who’s going to be traffic for you. If you don’t know them, go and ask what canopy they’re flying. If you’re both on small canopies and doing high performance landings ask what turn they are planning to do and from what height. Think ahead so you have a rough idea what will be happening when it comes to landing.

Buddy checks

Super simple and super easy to do. I’ll fess up and admit that I’ve got on a plane before without my alti and then again without my helmet and only realised at the last minute. Would have been an easy pick up if I’d asked someone to buddy check me. It takes two seconds to check the helmet, ditter, rings, RSL, chest and leg straps, alti, and pins and there’s no reason not to do it.

Chin straps

Hands up if you fix your chin strap on your helmet before take-off. You should. If something happens during take-off, you don’t want your helmet flying off your head and hitting any other jumper.

Single Point Restraints

Are important for obvious reasons but also to prevent load shift (in other words, the combined weight of the jumpers moving farther and farther down the plane). Load shift dramatically increases the stall rate of the plane and drastically reduces the chances of recoverability if it stalls. If there is load shift in most cases the situation will be irrecoverable. So, buckle up!

Emergency procedures on the way to height

Most single point restraints now need to be worn to a minimum of 2,000 feet. In the unlikely event of an emergency incident, it’s also worth remembering the following:

  • The Pilot and / or the Load Master will tell you what to do. So, listen for their instructions.
  • If you have to exit the plane below 2,000 ft you should deploy your reserve
  • If you have to exit the plane above 2,000ft you should deploy your main
  • If you can’t exit the plane and it is coming in for a rough landing
    • Make sure your single point restraint is on
    • your brace position is to lean BACK as far as you can (think about it, you’re facing the opposite direction from when you’re sitting on a normal jet but in both cases you’re leaning into the direction of travel to prevent whiplash).
    • you should open the door before you land! If it is going to be a bumpy landing its possible that the plane fuselage might buckle or twist meaning it will be difficult, or potentially impossible to open. Best to have it open prior to landing so you can all exit the plane as easily as possible.

Travelling to height

What are the clouds doing? Where is the base? How thick is the layer? If you’re doing a moving jump, do you have a pre-arranged plan B in case the clouds roll in? If you’re doing a Bigway and clouds are at break off height, what’s the plan B: are you going to send it or just come down with the plane? (That’s a rhetorical question). Visualise your jump and visualise your outs!

3-minute light

Do your gear checks before you start high fiving your mates. And after you’ve done your checks do some visual checks on your mate’s gear. Are their chin straps done up? Chest straps? Are any pin flaps open? Any pilot chutes showing? Get all of that done before you start with the fist bumps. And leave your mates alone while they do their checks.

Ground speed

If there’s a lot of groups on the load (especially if there are groups of new jumpers) it’ll be important to know the ground speed to ensure horizontal separation. Make sure every group knows the appropriate time between groups, especially if the ground speed is super high or super low.


So, you had a sick jump and your track off was awesome what’s the first thing you do after deployment? Turn your canopy and head back up jump run, spiral down, land wherever so you can get and look at your go-pro footage as quickly as possible?

Or do you make sure you have an on-heading opening have a look around to see who is behind, to the front, sides, above or below you? Collapse your slider (without looking at it) so you can keep an eye on the traffic around you? Join the landing pattern and let the wing loading of all the jumpers naturally sort out a landing order, without spiralling into the way of other people. That’s sounds a bit more like it, doesn’t it!


It’s an easy thing to forget but once you’ve landed turn around and make sure there’s no-one coming in behind you. If there is, be predictable and allow them the space to land safely without worrying that you might wander into their path.

Don’t drag your lines perpendicular to the landing direction. You don’t want to cause a trip hazard for someone coming into land. People have broken shoulders by becoming ensnared in another jumpers lines on landing so don’t be the one that causes an accident.

Finally, check that the mates you’ve jumped with are all back at the drop zone and landed safely. Don’t leave it to the GCA to count the canopies.

I’m sure there’s stuff I’ve missed…

I’m sure there’s a million and one other things that go into a safe jump but Scott’s talk about the mental game and how you show up to the DZ was a great reminder. None of it is rocket science, but it’s easy to become complacent. Getting into solid routine and making it part of your muscle memory is a great habit for keep you safe every time you jump!

Cheers Scotty for the talk.  Totally worth it!

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