How often are skydiving accidents

The task in speed skydiving sounds quite simple: reach the highest average speed in free fall. Moritz Friess from Neu-Ulm is a perfectionist and current world champion. His previous record is 571 km / h. He has been practicing this discipline since 2010 and has driven the national and international scene since then. The 47-year-old works as a middle school teacher on the floor.

SZ: Mr. Friess, when you jump out of the plane at 4000 meters, your aim is to plunge into the depths as quickly as possible. What goes on in your head with such a crazy project?

Moritz Friess: In competitions, it's a balancing act between tension and concentration. Ideally, I try to almost fall asleep on the plane or to get into a trance-like state. When I actively try to be fast, none of it works.

So just letting yourself go would be wrong?

Yes. If I get stiff like a dart, I'll eventually hit a wall of air and won't get any faster. On the other hand, if I am too loose, my arms and legs flap too much in this air canal that forms when I fall. I also have to constantly change my posture as the speed increases.

How does it look?

This is, to a certain extent, my trade secret. All jumpers are constantly experimenting with this. But I kept my hands on the side of my body for a long time, for example. Now I keep her in front of the crotch. This has the advantage that I curl my shoulders and have less air resistance. The disadvantage is that I can no longer control with my hands and have to do everything with my toes.

Many skydivers simply want to enjoy the free fall for as long as possible. You yourself have already participated in a number of disciplines, such as formation jumping and high-speed landing. What is it that appeals to you so much about speed skydiving?

In every discipline I always tried to reach the limit of my ability. When at some point I got to the point where I said to myself that it couldn't be better, I looked for new challenges. The fact that I got stuck with speed skydiving is because I can still improve there. In the meantime, the normal free fall with the team seems downright meditative and contemplative. Speed ​​skydiving is just such a much more intense experience. From the moment I leave the plane, the jump has to be practically error-free until the evaluation ends and you start to brake at 1700 meters above sea level. In other disciplines, however, there is still time for corrections. The special difficulty makes the special attraction.

How do you know that a jump has been made?

I don't even notice it when I jump. When it's perfect, I don't have that much aerodynamic drag, despite the high speed. If that were there, I wouldn't be going so fast. It is only from the point at which I start to brake that I suddenly notice how fast it really is. But if I suddenly turn onto my stomach at 500 km / h and more, it is of course like a whole body slap.

Doesn't it really take an incredible amount of routine to do such extreme jumps?

Routine is always very dangerous. This is also shown by the statistics. It goes in waves. Beginners often have accidents because they can't do better. And it becomes dangerous again when people have 500 to 700 jumps behind them. Then many consider themselves professionals, even though they are ambitious amateur jumpers at best. And too much routine is not good either, which leads to negligence. Skydiving should never be confused with getting off the tram.

How often do accidents happen?

Most of the time, but not always, it ends lightly and very often it is sold like this: The most dangerous thing about skydiving is the drive to the airfield. Since then I have a different opinion. When I look back on my time, I have seen a lot of people die in this sport and lost friends. They were also good jumpers. If someone makes several 10,000 jumps and the statistics say that every 50,000 jump is fatal - then it is clear that accidents cannot be ruled out.

Because of material defects?

The majority of serious injuries and fatal accidents occur with fully functional, fully open main parachutes. Accidents are much more likely to happen due to human error. Like a mistake when landing, for example when the curve is too low and you hit the ground. But we attach great importance to the control of our equipment.

In mid-October you jumped to the world championship title in Australia, but in the meantime you were only in 25th place. Some of your first jumps were invalid. How can this happen?

At a world championship, I can't go into the ranking with safety jumps. I definitely can't win this thing like that. For a jump to be considered clean, the air pressure difference between the measuring devices on both sides of the body must not be too great. It's not always easy to do that. The best in the world are so good because they take full risk and get away with it. You have to be ready to play this game. In the end, it was an all-or-nothing finale. The last three of eight jumps all had to be valid and fast - which is almost a contradiction in terms. I was quite tense. In terms of dramaturgy, it was my most extreme experience ever.