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Skydive Suffolk hosts Safety Day

The unofficial start to the 2021 skydiving season took place Saturday at Skydive Suffolk with a full Safety Day program of seminars, training drills and, yes, skydiving.

Though Skydive Suffolk stays open for jumps through the winter, many take the winter off and use the Safety Day workshops to brush up on basic skills while getting in their first jumps of the season.

“We bring all the jumpers in and go over, just as a refresher, (get) back to basics,” said Mike Manthey, Skydive Suffolk operations manager.

The 25th annual Safety Day program — established by the U.S. Parachute Association in 1997 — included seminars on aircraft, freefall and open parachute safety procedures, equipment inspections, skydiving emergencies and more.

Besides Manthey, Performance Designs test jumpers Brad Cole and Allison Reay led seminars on rigging safety and canopy control, respectively, safety and training officer Blaine Theroit reviewed emergency procedures and Gregory Upper led an instructor emergency procedure review. Pilot Dylan Borer went over aircraft safety, and John Newman and Cam McMahon reviewed programs and camps.

Everyone also had the opportunity to have their gear inspected for free, and Skydive Suffolk staff also provided inspections of skydivers’ reserve parachutes, as the Federal Aviation Administration requires skydivers’ systems to be inspected every 180 days.

Following the Safety Day seminars, skydivers had the opportunity to jump.

“There’s guys in there that have been jumping 40 years,” Manthey said, “and they still come out every year for Safety Day.”

Before every Safety Day, the USPA analyzes data and puts out a report on injuries and fatalities from the previous year. Skydive Suffolk then takes that and gears its training toward the things that caused those incidents.

“We take this day, and we get a bunch of instructors here and we help people get current again, go through safety dives,” Manthey said.

In the 1970s and early 1980s before Safety Day became the norm in skydiving, Manthey noted higher fatalities, which have dropped by about 70%, he said.

“We track the data of why accidents happen and then how do we train to prevent those, and we also do these refresher trainings all the time,” Manthey said. “We look for trends.”

USPA Mid-Atlantic Regional Director Chris Wagner provided an overview of what’s happening with skydiving in the region.

Skydive Suffolk owner Laura Manthey noted that the type of training it does for the skydiving community, it does for its instructors also a few weeks ahead of time, going over proper procedures and learning about any changes or new safety procedures from the previous year.

And they all said it is key to focus on safety to start the season.

“This starts the season off on the right foot by placing safety and training in the forefront of our minds,” Theroit said, “providing us with the best opportunity to competently and confidently continue doing what we love to do — skydive.”