I know it’s hard to not be nervous during your first skydive. However, many experienced skydivers have gotten together to develop a safer way to jump out of airplanes.
If that is not enough, the United States Parachute Association has created many skydiving regulations to ensure safety and improve the skydiving experience.

Fear is normal. If you are not afraid, something is wrong. We are about to jump from an airplane at 14,000 feet with a backpack full of material that is supposed to save our lives. My biggest fear when I did my first jump was about the parachute. Is it going to open? If something happens and I can’t deploy my parachute, and neither can my instructors, am I going to die?

The answer is a big NO. One of the most groundbreaking skydiving creations was the AAD – Automatic Activation Device. As the name says, it automatically activates the deployment of your reserve parachute at a preset altitude and speed.

Do I need an AAD?

I have a few friends who have been saved by the AAD. I’m not here to point fingers or to tell stories about it. I just want to say that it works. I’ve seen it.
Many, but not all drop zones in the US require the use of AADs. Some countries, like Denmark, require by law that all skydivers, students and experienced, must use one. Other locations require it for students but allow the licensed jumpers to choose for themselves.

I highly recommend jumping with an Automatic Activation Device (AAD). We hope never to have to use it, but if the day arrives, I’m sure I want a parachute over my head, even if I’m not able to make a decision or open my parachute.

AAD Xray Card for skydiving travel show in the airport security

AAD Companies

In the early 1990s, Cypres started to replace the original mechanical devices with modern AADs. Followed by Vigil (launched in 2003), these devices come equipped with built-in computers that have real-time estimates of altitude and speed that are more reliable and accurate.  M2AAD Also started to operate in 2003 but only in mid 2011 launched the new generation of AAD represented by the M2AAD.

How it works?

The AAD has to be activated to work. Its function is pretty simple to understand, but we all need to remember to turn it on before starting a day of skydiving and to turn off when the day is over. Many people have issues with their AADs because they forgot to turn it off after jumping. If you are an
AFF student, your instructor will show you how to operate your device and also will make sure it is on before you jump.

The AAD has to be activated on the ground. You can’t turn it on as you are climbing up with the airplane. To work, it measures ground elevation and air pressure– this way, it can determine the skydiver’s altitude and speed throughout the jump. It recalibrates every 30 seconds to register weather fluctuations and atmospheric pressure, so we don’t need to turn it off and on for each jump.

Essentially, the AAD’s computer tracks your speed of descent and altitude around 8 times per second, depending on which device you’re using. In the event that a skydiver reaches 750 feet or 230 meters in free fall speed, the computer sends a message to the cutter, and it activates the reserve parachute.

The cutter is basically a bullet with knife-like qualities that, when triggered, fires and severs the closing loop. The reserve parachute is held inside the container by a closing loop attached to a pin. When the loop gets cut, the reserve parachute is released.

AAD Malfunctions

Nothing is perfect. However, most accidents and malfunctions are caused by human error. There are two main malfunctions that we can avoid in our skydiving careers by paying attention:

  1. The device is not set correctly.
  2. The ground level has been measured and the jump zone changes location without adjusting to the new parameters.

It can be dangerous if the deployment occurs while inside the plane or while exiting it. We all need to pay attention to our gear and (with enough time) set everything correctly.

There is no jump ticket more valuable than a life.

As I mentioned before, we can have two canopies out. It happens frequently, and it’s caused by the change of location without turning off the AAD. If you’re lucky, your parachute will not deploy during a fast angle jump or at any free fly speed.

Also, there is the chance the AAD could activate during the airplane descent. If the pilot has to land the airplane with the skydivers inside the plane, he needs to be aware of the speed vs. altitude to avoid activating the AADs. Besides this malfunction, be aware that it can also happen inside of your car driving from the DZ to other places. It the altitude changes, and the speed is faster than the limit, the AAD will be activated.

The risks of an AAD malfunctioning are much lower than taking the risk of jumping without one. The lives saved since its invention are undeniable, and every year they become more and more reliable.

two parachutes out emergency malfunction because of the AAD automatic activation device - cypress, vigil, m2aad

Accident Rates

The fatality rate for skydiving is at the lowest it has ever been at .006 per every 1,000 jumps.

For comparison, in 1961, the average was 3.65 per 1,000. That means it’s 608 times better now. With advancements in parachute design and computer-assisted jumps, even the injury rate has dropped to only one injury in 1,806 jumps. And those injuries include tripping during landing and twisting ankles. 

Fear is a Good Thing

Fear gets the adrenaline rush on your skin, making the experience even better. Just keep in mind to not let a little fear prevent you from accomplishing remarkable things -read about how to overcome your skydiving fear. Safety measures are the highest priority in the skydiving sport, and wherever you choose to jump, your safety and experience are of the utmost importance.

If you are thinking about doing a tandem  jump, go for it. The skydiving community has your back, and engineers are continually making advancements with your life and enjoyment in mind. Let your instructor worry about the technicalities. The joy is behind the fear. If you are unsure, try indoor skydiving, the technology behind wind tunnels are great and the entire family can enjoy it together.

On the other hand, if you’re doing your AFF course, get your stuff together and pay attention to how the gear works. Your instructors are ready to help with any question or issues on the ground or in the sky. Use them when you need, but cooperate and do the best you can during the skydiving course. There are many articles on the blog to help you excel in your training. Read more about how a parachute works or if you’re making your first skydiving trip, how to travel with your skydiving gear.

Keep coming back

It’s important to remember that if you have any specific question about the AAD – Automatic Activation Device, you should get in touch with the company of your preference and or download their device manual. Only the manufactures have the final word about their products.

Cypres AAD – https://www.cypres.aero

Vigil AAD – https://www.vigil.aero

M2AAD – https://www.m2aad.com

If you like the article, please let me know. If you have anything to add to it, please send me an email or a message on Instagram. I value your experience and thoughts.

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