15 October 2010

Jumping in Lodi.....

***Post Edited per organizers request***

In early October I was at Lodi for another cutting edge event. However, during and immediately after the event I decided that this will be my last visit to Lodi unless several things drastically change.Please read on for more.

If you are looking for the post for the Ladies Lodi Sequentials please click this link!

I'll pick up on my original post now:

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As great as these jumps were, I do have to say that I think this will be my last trip to Lodi.  It's a huge double edge sword for me, some of the best freefliers in the country are pushing their limits on a regular basis there and the jump tickets are cheap.  But on the other edge of the sword, in general, I just don't feel safe there.  I like to think that survival in this sport is furthered along by educating yourself, never becoming complacent and at the end of the day, taking only calculated risks.  After all, we are hurling ourselves out of an aircraft and that is an obvious risk.  By following some of the Basic Safety Requirements those risks have now been lessened.  Why jump with just one audible device when you can jump with two, batteries after all do have a life span.  To be honest, I just don't feel that it's worth going to this dropzone any longer simply because of the safety issues that I personally have seen.  Those issues were recently compounded by the action taken by the FAA against the owner of the Parachute Center.  This is what the FAA knows about, what else don't they know about?  Bill has not exactly had a stellar streak with safety in the past.  Between this action and other things I have seen, I would strongly suggest to my Lodi based friends to re-evaluate their DZ choice.  Look at the dropzone's policies and see if they reinvest profits into maintaining their aircraft.  I'd rather not grieve over another plane load of friends crashing in.  It was hard enough the first time, I can't image how hard it would be with an otter load of skydivers, especially if it was preventable.

I would invite you to comment about this and start a discussion on the subject.  Negligent Maintenance is Inexcusable.  Neglecting basic safety issues are inexcusable.  Am I wrong?  (Granted, at this stage these charges are merely just that, charges.  Is Bill the victim of a witch hunt? Please chime in and tell me how it really is.)  Once a verdict has been reached and negligence has been proven, how can anyone continue to support such a place and such a DZO?  Is it really worth saving $7 on a jump?  How can a DZO ground a jumper for doing a 180 degree turn and yet at the same time not connect the static discharge reel to the aircraft in order to ground it as the pilot is hot fueling the plane yelling at the jumpers to board the running, pilot-less aircraft?  It might be your home, but is someone else's negligence worth risking your life?  If you jump there, am I out of line saying these things?  How do you feel about the situation?  Please help and enlighten me.

4 comments:

  1. I have never jumped there before, and I will probably keep it that way for now. Thanks for sharing, I had no idea.

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  2. I have jumped there before, I was aware of their non-USPA status, the rumors of their light maintenance approach, and other claims about their safety. I have not personally observed incidents or safety issues, but I certainly have been more careful myself when I've been there. I'm not sure I'll ever go back though. Too many good choices of places to jump...

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  3. Your point is that Lodi is a relatively unsafe dropzone as compared to other dropzones while acknowledging that there is an inherent risk to skydiving in general. Lodi is in fact a safe dropzone with safe aircraft. You state that safety in this sport is furthered by educating yourself, never becoming complacent, and at the end of the day taking only calculated risks. This is true, as a Lodi jumper I agree with you. You also mentioned the abundance of talent present at Lodi.

    I understand that you may not know this since you were just visiting and preoccupied with an event during your short stay so you weren't really exposed to the normal routine here, but we actually have continuous coaching going on provided by those talented jumpers you praise. This includes both freefall and canopy coaching. You mention the firing over a 180 degree hook turn, yet you call this place unsafe. It is because of safety that turns over 90 degrees under 1000' are not allowed here. Due to the high volume of canopy traffic large turns are prohibited unless they are during a specified training session after normal operations are over - because it is safer.

    The only real "safety" breach example you cited was hot fueling the plane without the static discharge reel hooked up. Since it was your whole point that Lodi is less safe than other dropzones, it's interesting that you don't mention the fact that other dropzones do the same thing as long as the plane is being fueled with Jet A and not Av Gas. Jet A is about as volatile as kerosine. You can throw a lit match into a puddle of it and it's going to put the match out before it lights the puddle on fire.

    Complacency is dangerous, very true, which is why all of us as jumpers should practice our emergency procedures and keep the reality of what we're doing in mind. I'm not sure why you stated, "Why jump with just one audible device when you can jump with two, batteries after all do have a life span." A jumper who is not complacent shouldn't need two audible altimeters, even if one fails it's just a back up to a wrist mount and is not a replacement for maintaining altitude awareness throughout the entire skydive. A jumper should not be relying on the audible to dictate when to open.

    As for airplane maintenance, negligence is indeed inexcusable, and Bill does not neglect maintaining his airplanes. The planes are not unsafe, and the same mechanic who works on one of the airplanes is also one of the pilots who flies it. Lodi has never had a plane crash that resulted in any fatalities. Keep in mind also that Lodi operates everyday, not just on weekends and has been in operation since 1964. The volume of loads flown here is tremendous. We also have ongoing safety briefings from the pilots to stay current on practicing safe takeoffs and exits. Our latest briefing was about center of gravity and keeping the weight forward during takeoff, as well as exit order with large groups going first. We didn't have a problem to preempt this briefing, it's just regular preventative safety training. Our pilots also practice emergency procedures and ongoing training such as emergency aft center of gravity stall recovery.

    From pilots to jumpers, freefall and canopy control - we have ongoing training for each aspect of skydiving and regular safety briefings both of which help fight complacency, rules in place to promote safety, similar fueling habits to other dropzones, and proper airplane maintenance. You said it, ongoing education and not becoming complacent are the ways to survive in this sport, which is why Lodi is a safe dropzone.

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  4. I've jumped in Lodi since the 80s and learned most of what I know from Bill and the local jumpers there. Lodi is one of the last bastions of the true spirit of skydiving -- an expression of personal freedom and choice -- America for short. Not just words there, but embodiments. It's the only place in the world where you can make a hundred dollar skydive, so a regular person can afford to enjoy the freedom and thrill of a skydive and it's the only place where the waiver is printed on the back of the $15 ticket. These bureaucrats are just looking for another opportunity to fill up their coffers to guarantee their fat pensions.

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