Managing the risks

As I walk back to the classroom, one guy in the air actually has to use his reserve chute. It’s rare, about 1 in 2000 jumps. But that’s not the point.

Skydiving isn’t about taking risks; it’s about managing them. Every jumper, every jump, has a reserve chute backing him up. There is a risk you’ll have trouble with your main chute; you manage that 1-in-2000 risk away by taking a spare, squaring the problem to 1-in-4-million. But that’s not the point either.

The point – as I realise over the afternoon’s training – is that the reserve chute is not an emergency procedure. It’s a normal procedure, because emergencies are part and parcel of your normal checks at the start of each jump. A normal jump is simply one where you considered all the options and decided not to deploy your reserve. On the very rare occasions you need it, you’ll simply take the other decision and deploy it. Based not on panic, but on having one ‘No’ answer among the three you ask yourself on every jump.

Life is not about avoiding risk, it’s about recognising and managing it. That’s what’s wrong with Britain’s ever-tighter Health & Safety culture: it assumes risk is something bad, something to be veered away from instead of confronted head-on. In newly risk-averse Britain, Health & Safety people are the biggest risk of all.

Because by trying to legislate away risk, they make us less capable of dealing with it. They forget that we are alive because we took risks. And learned how to manage them. We bob and dip a lot, but we soar. Luminous beings we are, not this crude matter.

There are no emergencies in parachuting; there are simply alternative courses of action.

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