The summer's near and the time is right ... for jumping out of planes!

Just returning from a deployment' Haven't been to the drop zone in a while' Visiting a new drop zone or just new to skydiving' No matter what your reason for skydiving, you want to ensure your experience is enjoyable and safe. Although this article is not meant to be a complete course or a replacement for a qualified coach or instructor, here are some tips to think about before heading to the drop zone.
According to the U.S. Parachute Association, the biggest cause of skydiving fatalities during 2010 was individuals who, while descending under perfectly good canopies, failed to follow basic safety procedures. Paying attention to the drop zone layout, winds and obstacles - in the air and on the ground - is the key to safe and successful landings. Here are some things you can do to help raise your level of awareness:
Aca,!AcKnow your drop zone's layout, obstacles and possible "outs" (landing areas not on the drop zone).
Aca,!AcCheck the wind direction and speed before boarding the aircraft and know your limits.
Aca,!AcFollow the landing pattern established by the drop zone's standing operating procedure.
Aca,!AcWhen returning to jumping after a break, ensure you jump with a canopy comparable in size and type to what you were proficient with before the break and don't be afraid or embarrassed to upsize.
Aca,!AcDon't downsize canopies too quickly. The faster you downsize, the faster you become a statistic.
Aca,!AcAvoid attempting high-performance landings when you're not ready. A good downwind, base and final is the safest and best technique to use and is a safe way to start off right.
Aca,!AcNever try to impress anyone on the ground. The paramedics don't care if you can do tricks. The most impressive landing is the one that allows you to immediately jump again.
The best way to determine if you are being safe is to ask yourself this question: "Am I proficient at what I am getting ready to do and am I comfortable with it'" If there is any doubt, then the answer should be, "Don't do it!" As a regular part of pre-landing checks, consider making the following a part of your landing rituals and routine:
Aca,!AcPerform a controllability check after the canopy is open and you have cleared your airspace.
Aca,!AcWatch jumpers below you to see what the pattern is. The wind direction could have changed since you took off.
Aca,!AcKeep an eye on your altimeter. It is just as important on approach and landing as during freefall.
Aca,!AcIdentify where you are in relation to hazards on the ground and make preparations to avoid them.
Aca,!AcWatch out for fellow jumpers and keep your head on a swivel. The lower jumper has the right of way.
In the end, make sure you have fun and be safe! "Blue Skies!"