Rating Corner | Hand-Camera Hazards
Tandem instructors began using hand-mounted video cameras (aka handcams or handicams) in the last 20 years or so, and in the last decade, their use has become commonplace. This means that a large number of tandem instructors added using handcams to their already significant responsibilities. After problems occurred, mostly among inexperienced instructors, USPA established a Basic Safety Requirement requiring instructors to have made a minimum of 200 tandem jumps before using a handcam. Despite this very clear BSR, each year USPA learns of and imposes sanctions for violations.
Handcam use by unqualified USPA Tandem Instructors must stop. USPA calls on everyone—USPA Group Member drop zone owners, Safety & Training Advisors and USPA Tandem Instructors—to ensure strict adherence to this BSR.
The use of handcams on tandem jumps coupled with tandem instructor complacency has caused a spike in drogue-bridle and drogue-canopy entanglement incidents. This is due in part to tandem instructors adjusting established exit procedures to get handcam shots. They roll out of the aircraft, left hand down and head low, and time their drogue deployment based on their perception of when they will roll belly to earth. This procedure, which runs contrary to what instructors learned in their tandem rating courses (exit in a stable position and fly your body), is frequently the root cause of tandem drogue entanglements.
There have also been increasing cases of entanglements between the steering or control lines of tandem main parachutes and hand cameras, their mounts or their gloves. These entanglements can lead to catastrophic results. Anyone using a handcam on a tandem skydive must ensure:
- that their handcam glove or mount has a single point of release or that they can remove it with a single movement.
- that they adhere to the emergency procedure decision altitude of 3,000 feet AGL when attempting to untangle the handcam from the control line or toggle.
- that they release the handcam—even if it means losing it—high enough to ensure that they meet the minimum 3,000-foot decision altitude.
USPA Board of Directors Safety & Training Committee
in conjunction with USPA Director of Safety and Training Ron Bell