Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Blue skies at last...

Woohoo, the weather's cleared up, lets go skydiving...Didn't post anything yesterday as a took the day off work to go jumping, which was nice.

I'm afraid this rant won't be much interest to non-jumpers/pilots but I have to vent...I've just read an article in the Guardian regarding a plane crash that happened a few years ago at a UK drop zone. A small Cessna took off from Dunkeswell airfield in Devon but soon experienced engine problems and was forced to make a crash landing. Sadly the pilot and three of the load's jumpers died on impact.

A pet hate of mine is badly written skydiving stories, many of which show the sport in a bad light in order to make good copy. This piece initially praises the action of Major Mike Wills, an experienced tandem instructor who shielded his passenger (sorry, "student") when the plane hit the ground, sacrificing his own life for his student. It then goes on to cover the current inquest into the crash and whether or not the drop zone was negligent in sending the plane up in the first place.

Right, please bear in mind that this is a load of wild guess work and bitching on my part (that's half the fun of blogging though, isn't it?) and I've never jumped at Dunkeswell so I can't comment on their procedures. However I have an issue with the inquest write up, namely one Mr Robin Prisk, "witness".

Mr Prisk said on record, "I noticed the pilot did no external checks at all. He just got in and took off. I have done two or three hundred jumps and the pilot nearly always checks the aircraft first."

Now what this statement and the article itself does not make clear is whether that fated take off was the first lift of the day. If so, the plane should get checked over, the same goes after a re-fuel, when the plane's on the ground for an extended period.

Now unlike Mr Prisk I have not done "two or three hundred" jumps (86 as of yesterday) but I have been around drop zones all my life and therefore feel I have some authority with which to label this man a complete pillock;

1) External checks? It was an internal engine failure you idiot. As for external problems I think the pilot would've noticed if a wing had broken or the propeller had fallen off.

2) "The pilot nearly always checks the aircraft first". Where the hell have you been jumping mate? Skydiving is a busy industry - plane goes up, people get out, plane comes down, repeat (until plane needs more juice, then re-fuel). As stated above, we don't know at what stage in the day the pilot, 52 year-old Paul Norman, took over the plane but he may have been relieving another pilot between lifts, if so there would have been no time (or reason) for Mr Norman to check the plane. He would have just got in an got on with it. If it was the first flight of the day the plane should have had the relevant checks (perhaps not by Mr Norman) - I can't believe it didn't.

3) "Two or three hundred jumps". Uh huh, my arse. Don't you know how many jumps you've done Mr Prisk? You may have noticed I know exactly how many I've done (even when I'm unsure I know to the nearest ten) - because skydivers have to record every jump they do. Experienced skydivers with thousands of jumps can be excused vague jump numbers. Novices cannot. When you're starting out in the sport 100 jumps is a lot and the difference between 200 and 300 is quite important. This guy couldn't even be bothered to check his logbook before giving evidence in official proceedings....

I could go on but you will have lost the will to live by now. Any thoughts would be appreciated (especially if there are any pilots/jumpers out there who can correct me if I'm being unduly harsh) and you must have come across people like Mr Prisk in their line of work/hobby?


James said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
James said...

Is this your toy? I found it by the side of your pram.

I read the guardian article before reading the rest of the post and I knew you'd pick on the 'witness' quote. I guess from a reporting point of view the article is only writing what has been said in the inquest and trying to make an interesting angle for the article. I imagine in the inquest the defence will be quick to point out some of the arguments you made.

Having said that, unfortunately you often find that any articles/stories about a subject you know a lot about are actually a pile of rubbish. There was a story last week in two national newspapers that referred to a previous company I worked for. They completely mis-described what the company does and the fact was that the company was not actually involved at all, as it doesn't trade in the products the stories where describing. This would of cause become apparent if the journo had done more than a wikipedia research of the company.

Em said...

Yes I accept that the media sensationalises to sell, I'm not ignorant of journo methods having trained as one :P (I wrote an article for my student mag about media coverage of extreme sports) - as I said - pet hate.

I wasn't really having a go at the Guardian (despite the fact that its not that hard to check facts and sources properly). My issue was a personal one - with the moron they quoted (not the paper).

James said...

Oh yeh I forget to say.

Negligence or accident, this adds another reason to my list of why I shall never be going skydiving.

Jenny! said...

OMG...you skydive! That is kick ass...can I join you?

Em said...

Sure hun, next time I jump in the states I'll let you know :) It's not just kick ass, it's the most fun you'll ever have (apart from sex, of course..)

Jenny! said...

Have you bungy jumped before! I wouldLOVE to skydive!