Reserve canopies in Sigma

We will never endorse the use of any other reserve tandem canopy than the VR-360 in the Sigma/Micro Sigma tandem system for the following reasons. The specifics of Sigma/Micro Sigma tandem operation can be affected by many components. One example; our drogues are designed to be shorter than the canopy lines so when a reserve is deployed while the drogue is attached, the Kevlar bridle will not damage the deploying reserve. This is just one of many criteria that we have. The other side of the coin is that we have no control of any other manufacturer’s product. Example; other reserves have blown up in the past from tandem terminal openings. Ours is designed to open at terminal, hence the deep brake settings. I personally know that there are some good tandem reserve canopies, but we cannot take responsibility for their products in the same way they will not do this for ours. When a change is made with regards to components, it is the responsibility of the users.

Because of the nature of Tandem jumping, the tandem is perceived as a system unlike sport containers. When something goes wrong with any component we are blamed or sued.

Weight limit change

United Parachute Technologies has recently changed the weight limit capability of the Vector Tandem System and the Sigma Tandem System when used in conjunction with the following (airworthy) canopies, regardless of their date of manufacture.

  • PD-360 Reserve Canopy 
  • PD-421 Main Canopy 
  • PD-500 Main Canopy 
  • EZ-384 Main Canopy 
  • EZ-425 Main Canopy 
  • Sigma 340, 370 & 395 Main Canopies

The previous weight limit was 450 lbs.

The new approved gross weight limit is 500 lbs. This translates to approximately 50 lbs. of gear weight and 450 lbs. of personnel weight.

Please keep this official weight-change authorization (in your office files and in the aircraft with your FAA-Exemption) for future reference because the canopies you currently jump are placarded for 400-450 lbs. This notice supersedes current placarding.

Authorizing Authority –  Uninsured United Parachute Technologies, Inc.

Breathing problems

This information was created in response to questions submitted by tandem students that had problems breathing or clearing their ears in freefall.

Breathing Problems:

We don’t often hear about tandem students that have experienced a problem breathing while in freefall or drogue-fall. But if you were having problems breathing, it was probably more related to an anxiety attack, as well as the normal fear/apprehension syndrome that many new jumpers may experience. Some people, when put in seemingly life-threatening situations, tend to hold their breath. They just lock up! Unfortunately, they don’t realize they’re holding their breath until they’re “out of breath.” For them, the experience of jumping from an aircraft was literally “breathtaking!”

The secret is to breathe freely while in the aircraft, and to continue to breathe during the entire jump, just like you would while here on terra firma. And yes, you can breathe in freefall, regardless of the speed, but you may have to make a conscious effort to do so. Sometimes just moving your head will change how the relative wind strikes you, allowing you to breathe easier. If you’ve been holding your breath prior to exit, the sensation you experience at the time of exiting the aircraft may be overwhelming, never mind “breathtaking!” I recommend to all my students to energize themselves prior to exit by taking a couple of deep breaths while in the doorway.

You can breathe through both your mouth and nose. The secret is to just “breathe.” There’s nothing complicated about it. Chances are, when you make your next jump, you’ll have no problem at all now that you’re aware of the situation.

Ear Clearing Problems:

Some jumpers have experienced problems clearing their ears. If you have a head cold, suffer from allergies, or have (or had) a recent sinus infection, you need to be very careful about skydiving or scuba diving while suffering from these aliments. A drastic change in pressure could damage the eardrum and other components of the inner ear. Some jumpers take an antihistamine prior to jumping, which can help alleviate some of the pressure and blockage. A word of caution though: Some antihistamines can alter your physiological balance, which can cause you to perform below acceptable standards. Many tests have been conducted by the airlines and their related training divisions and have shown that professional pilots do not perform up to par when taking a doctor-prescribed antihistamine such as Claritin.

If you find yourself in a position where clearing the ears is a necessity, this is what we recommend to our students. Hold your nose closed with the thumb and index finger, and attempt to blow gently through the nose. This is the exact same way you would clear your ears if you were descending during a scuba dive. You’ll want to do this as often as needed. Never blow too hard, for serious damage could also happen. If pressure is building, this is one of the few alternatives you have to minimize the problem. If you’re too timid for the above course of action, you might try clearing your ears by simply moving your jaw from left to right (repetitively), or by swallowing. If this problem persists, consult your physician.

Jumping with underage Tandem Students

Every drop zone I’ve been to requires each and every person who boards an aircraft to sign an Assumption of Risk Agreement. We do this because experience has taught us that these “Waivers” are often the only protection we have in case of a lawsuit. Simply put, they are the only reason we can still skydive in the USA.

However, there is a growing group of DZ operators who have determined that they are no longer going to make everyone who jumps sign a valid waiver. I am of course talking about those operators who are planning to take up “under-age” students on tandem jumps on a commercial basis. (Having the under-age student, both parents, and grandparents, and all other living relatives sign a “waiver” will NOT make it valid.)

Some of these operators have told me that it is a risk they are willing to take. Good for them! The problem is that the risk they take is not theirs alone. If anything goes wrong, many other people and organizations will also be sued… and I don’t feel anyone has a right to risk my business, or PD’s or USPA’s for that matter.

For instance, a single lawsuit involving a USPA Tandem Master, jumping a Cypres equipped Vector tandem, with a PD reserve, and a Strong main, with no valid waiver, would most likely result in the end of Relative Workshop, PD, Strong Enterprises, Airtec, and USPA. Plus, of course, the foolish Drop Zone that was willing to “take the risk.” If you haven’t yet been sued for $10,000,000, then you don’t have the right to say this is unrealistic. It is not only realistic, it is a near certainty. Think about what would happen to our sport with all those companies gone.

And then there’s the problem of the cute, giggling, 16-year-old girl, who after her jump reports to mommy, “that big ugly man touched my boobies.” Behavior that might be overlooked as simply “flirting” with an adult student now becomes felony child abuse. Add children to the close physical contact necessary to make a tandem jump, and there is little doubt that this type of situation will result.

But won’t I pass up a lot of money by not taking kids up on a tandem? In the long run, the answer is NO. Face it. Most people make only one jump in their lifetime. Whether they make it at 16 or 18 doesn’t make you any more money. Besides, unless daddy owns the DZ, very few children can afford to keep jumping anyway. And one single lawsuit will cost you more than the profit gained from a lifetime of taking up children on tandem jumps.

The risk is simply much greater than the reward. Fight the temptation, and please make the right decision for all of us.

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