Throwback Thursday: BirdMan Pantz

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BirdMan tracking Pantz adorned many of the nicest asses in skydiving back in the early ’00’s.  This ad is from the November 2002 issue of Skydiving Magazine.

BirdMan Pantz ad, 2002.

BirdMan Pantz ad, 2002.

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Buying Used, Part 2

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It’s easiest to buy a used rig complete, but you may have to piece it together to get exactly what you want. When you’re buying in pieces you need to know that a container should come with all handles, reserve toggles (the risers are part of the harness), reserve freebag, bridle and pilot chute, main risers and toggles, main bridle, deployment bag and pilot chute. Main and reserve canopies should come with lines, links and slider. It is common for sellers to not know the above information; make a point of verifying which items are or are not included in the sale. Some of these parts are pricey – new main risers and toggles could cost over $200 depending on the type of hardware used – so be sure to adjust your offer if all parts are not included.

The price of used equipment varies depending on age, make and model and number of jumps. Before purchasing any older item that you are unfamiliar with – especially containers, reserves and mains – talk to someone who has been in the sport for years to help determine if it will be suitable for you. As long as the item is airworthy it can be safe for you to use, but be aware that many older containers were built before freeflying and AAD’s, and many older canopies (main and reserve) were not designed to be wingloaded over 1.0.

Just like cars, container and canopy make and model play a role in determining price. In some areas of the country, certain rigs are worth less than they would be in other areas because they are not as popular in that area. This regional bias can provide you with deals if you know where to look!

The number of jumps on a piece of equipment can tell you how much useful life is left in it. A ZP main parachute can still be flying like new after 1000 jumps, while an F111 constructed main is just about a car cover by then. The ZP fabric has proven so durable it’s not unusual to see canopies with thousands of jump that have been relined multiple times and are still flying fine.

A rough guide to used main pricing is to take $100 off the original purchase price and then $1 for each jump on the canopy. Even with this guide prices will vary depending on current availability of that model/size and how badly the seller needs the money.

For reserves, number of jumps and the number of pack jobs are important. There is no limit on the number of times a reserve can legally be deployed or packed – the airworthiness of a reserve parachute is determined by the rigger, not the FAA or the manufacturer – but a few manufacturers require that the canopy be returned to them for inspection after a set number of packs or jumps. Date of manufacture is very important, as most reserves built prior to the mid-1990’s were not designed to be loaded over 1.0.

Number of jumps is not as reliable a gauge for harness/containers. The overall condition of rigs often depends more on the landing skills and maintenance habits of the previous owner. If cosmetics are less important to you than price, you can pick up perfectly airworthy gear at bargain basement prices by simply buying a somewhat battered looking container. Again, have a rigger inspect it before you jump it! Pricing for used containers will depend on number of jumps, brand, overall condition, options and numerous other items.

By talking to a number of different people and scanning classified sections you’ll get a good feel for what is a fair price for gear that is suitable for you. Like buying any used item, strong bargaining skills may be helpful.

Ordering Your New Harness/Container , Part 1

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Commonly referred to as a container, the harness/container system is the heart of your rig. It is also one of the most confusing pieces of equipment to purchase, since they come in an infinite variety of container sizes, harness sizes, colors and options.

Most containers, new or used, are or were originally built to custom specifications, If you are ordering new, this is only an issue when confronting the bewildering number of options and color choices. If you are buying used, this can make your search a bit more difficult. We’ll discuss the ins and outs of used purchases later. For now, we’ll be looking solely at new, custom containers, If you are planning to buy used; you’ll find lots of helpful information here too.

You have a number of decisions to make when purchasing your new container. First off, which one? There are so many containers out there, and each has it’s own squad of cheerleaders and detractors.

In no particular order, here are a few things to consider when choosing your container:

1) Safety: Every container manufacturer strives to produce the safest equipment possible; dead skydivers don’t buy new gear! That said, there are a few container manufacturers that offer additional safety related options (the Skyhook is an example). If those options are important to you, your pool of container choices is a bit smaller.

2) Delivery time: Delivery times – the number of weeks the manufacturer estimates between order and shipping – can vary depending on the time of year, if they have a big military order, problems sourcing hardware, or even moving of the factory. As such, your chosen manufacturer may have a delivery time that is weeks or months longer than other manufacturers. If you are currently renting gear, an

additional month of wait for your container could get expensive (or very boring and frustrating if you can’t afford to rent after buying a new rig).

3) Location: If there are container manufacturers near you, put them at the top of your list. If you have an issue with your new container, upon delivery or in the future, having the manufacturer on the same side of the country (or in the same country) will make communications easier and shipping less expensive and faster.

4) Price: Containers are sold much like cars. There’s the base price, which includes everything you need to attach two parachutes, install an AAD and skydive. And then there’s the price you end up paying after loading it up with harness rings, custom color patterns, your name on the mudflap and padded everything. Some manufacturers include as standard things that other manufacturer charge extra for, so be sure to consider the out the door price for similarly set up containers when comparing prices.

5) Looks: Hey, it’s gonna be on your back for awhile. Might as well choose something that you like the look of.

6) Comfort: Many skydivers insist that the container they jump is the most comfortable rig available, which may be true – for them. Don’t listen. Instead, try on as many different brands in your harness size as possible. Jump them if you can. One or more will stand out as being the most comfortable, for you.

7) Customer service: Although you will likely be ordering your container through a dealer, the reputation of the manufacturer for customer service could be important to you if there is a problem with your new rig, or if you need replacement parts or have a problem in the future.

In Part 2 of this article, we’ll be discussing how to fill out that order form.  Watch for it in a couple weeks!

Gotta Have It – Skydive Mag

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Another Gotta Have It publication – this time from the UK and online only.  Lesley Gale finds all kinds of interesting stuff from and for an international audience over at Skydive Mag

Mostly safe for work, and a bit of something for every skydiver.  Bookmark it.

Weekend Wind Hold – Canopy Upsizing?

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Weather keeping you down on the dz today?  The Weekend Wind Hold is here to help you safely pass the time until the Weather Godz allow you to play in the sky again.  Safely… because we all know what happens when skydivers are on weather hold….

To keep you busy instead of rolling golf carts on the runway, we’ll be randomly throwing out interesting topics for discussion.  Talk about them with your buddies at the dz, or in the comments here or on our facebook page..  Be nice.

To start things off, here is an interesting take on canopy sizing.  What do you think?

Jumpsuit Basics, Part 1

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Nothing you can buy will affect your freefall flying more than your jumpsuit. This is true no matter what body orientation you prefer to fly in, thus making your choice of jumpsuit one of the most important gear buying decisions you’ll make.

Because your suit affects your flying so much and because every skydiver is built differently, jumpsuits are one piece of equipment that are best ordered custom. It’s difficult to find a used or new “in stock” suit that fits well; depending on your body shape and size it can be impossible to find one that fits perfectly. If your budget insists on used, don’t buy any suit unless you’ve had a chance to try it on. If you’re buying long distance insist on a money back guarantee in case it doesn’t fit or fly the way you need it to.

Many novice skydivers haven’t decided which freefall discipline they want to pursue and hope that there’s a suit out there that will work for both belly flying and freeflying. Unfortunately, for the majority of jumpers there is no one magic suit that does it all. Some heavier jumpers may be able to add grippers to a baggy freefly type suit and use it for both disciplines. Some highly experienced skydivers can fly in any body position in any suit. The majority of skydivers need at least one suit for RW and at least one suit for freeflying. Many experienced recreational jumpers have an entire fleet of jumpsuits – one or more snug suits for fast falling RW jumps (like competition 4 and/or 8 way or when they are in the base of a big way), one or more slightly bigger suits for slower falling RW jumps (like on the outside of a big way or when jumping with lightweight people), and a freefly suit and/or a pair of freefly pants for sitflying, head down and tracking dives.

Think of jumpsuits as tools. You can drive a nail with a screwdriver but the job will get done faster and better if you use a hammer. Likewise you can do basic RW in a freefly suit but the extra drag on the arms and legs of a freefly suit make flying precisely on your belly much more difficult. Few average recreational skydivers can sit fly or fly head down well in an RW suit, especially one with booties. Having the right tool for the job makes the average jumper’s skydives more fun and their flying more precise. For the novice, having the right tool for the job will make learning to fly in whatever body position easier and far less frustrating.

Since most skydivers learn to fly on their bellies before proceeding to other orientations let’s look at RW suits first. There are three basic types of suits available for belly flying – snug fitting “fast” suits worn by most competition jumpers and many lighter weight skydivers, looser fitting but still somewhat trim suits worn by many average sized recreational jumpers and baggier fitting suits with a lot of drag or “wing” designed to slow the natural fall rate of heavier jumpers. Each of these suit types can also be built out of different fabrics to increase or decrease the jumpers fall rate.

Snug fitting “fast” jumpsuits will generally be built with a nylon front (taffeta and zp nylon fabrics are common), spandex on the backs, hip area and forearms and a lightweight nylon or polyester material (supplex is a common choice) for the butt and back of legs. The spandex on the back and hips make the suit fit snug while still allowing for freedom of movement. The spandex on the forearm eliminates drag in this area, resulting in a faster fall rate. Nylon taffeta or zp nylon is less porous (ie less air can pass through it) than other materials, also resulting in a faster fall rate. Material used on the butt and back of legs is chosen for durability since it is not exposed to the relative wind as much as the front of the suit is.

Looser fitting suits for average sized jumpers generally substitute supplex or it’s equivalent for the spandex in the forearm and often in the hip area but may still include spandex backs. The front of the suit is usually built from a more porous material such as the ones used on the butt and legs of snugger suits.

Baggier “big boy” suits are generally built completely out of a porous mid to heavyweight cotton or polyester material. Often more than one layer of fabric is used to add drag without requiring large amounts of extra fabric (or “wing”) which can beat up the jumper’s arms and legs.

If you have questions about which type of RW suit and/or fabrics are right for you, call or email the manufacturer. Most have been building jumpsuits for years and can quickly tell you which of their suits and fabrics will work best for your body type and size. Since freeflying is constantly evolving, freefly suit fabric choice and suit cuts are also constantly evolving. It may be a good idea to talk to an experienced freeflier or freefly coach in addition to the manufacturer about which material and cut will work best for you before ordering.

NOTE: Watch this space next Friday for part 2!