Forums: Skydiving: Incidents:
Canopy Collision SDAZ 30 December 2016

 

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bryanburke  (D 8866)

Mar 19, 2017, 12:25 PM
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Canopy Collision SDAZ 30 December 2016 Can't Post

This is in reference to the incident thread titled az collision - non fatal.

Canopy Collision at Skydive Arizona on 30 December, 2016
By Bryan Burke, S&TA at SDAZ

Two parachutes collided on short final at Skydive Arizona on December 30th. This event is very instructive and would make a good subject for Safety Day. We have two videos that make clear what happened. One is from the perspective of a canopy in the collision. The other is from an outside party whose camera shows the seconds leading up to it as well as the collision itself. It might be a good lesson to play them both a couple of times, then go through them a frame at a time rather than jumping to the conclusion that “low person has the right of way” was violated by the overtaking canopy.

https://vimeo.com/209099505

https://vimeo.com/209099164

We’re all taught that in canopy traffic the low person has the right-of-way. This makes sense to some extent because we can’t fly safely if we are constantly looking up and behind us, any more than we can drive safely constantly looking in the mirror or over our shoulder. It is my responsibility to avoid colliding with cars in front of me, while those behind should be leaving enough space to avoid me if I need to suddenly brake or swerve.

It is understood, however, that you don’t make sudden lane changes without looking or signaling your intentions and for no good reason. For years I have preached that every turn under canopy is a potential collision. Unnecessary turns should be eliminated completely, and necessary ones should be executed very carefully because unless you left the plane alone, you cannot assume you will see all the traffic. In this collision there was plenty of it, with other parachutes to both sides and behind.

The two canopies that collided were both in a left-hand pattern. It is evident early on that the top canopy has a slightly higher descent rate and speed than the bottom one. (The top canopy is a conventional 9-cell, while the bottom canopy is a 7-cell, and based on the video the top canopy was at a higher wing loading.) Note that there are other parachutes approaching from the south, planning to execute a right-hand pattern. It is emphasized in the briefing and safety materials that under no circumstances should anyone cross the center line of the landing area. Left hand canopies land on the left, right on the right.

Many people apparently do not pay full attention to the briefing video, or their previous training and practices override the information we give them. When the part about traffic patterns comes on some people are probably processing it as “I already know how to land my parachute, so I’m not going to pay attention to this.” Training also comes into play. We have all heard that “practice makes perfect.” The consequence is that people who practice bad flying habits such as S turns or flying as though there is no one overtaking them from behind get very good at bad flying, to the point where they often don’t even realize they are doing it.

In both videos we clearly see the lower canopy cross the center line all the way to the south edge of the landing area and then make about a 70 degree turn back to the left, perhaps out of concern for canopies approaching from the south or perhaps to avoid overshooting the grass. As you watch the videos frame by frame, the top canopy does not have a lot of options as the bottom canopy turns directly into his path. Go right? Go left? How can he possibly know what the lower canopy will do next?

About the only way out might have been for the top canopy to flare in the hope of floating over the lower canopy. This is something nobody practices or does on landing so even good instincts wouldn’t put it in play. Of course, had the lower canopy turned back onto a straight final sooner, this would have been very helpful, too. On the other hand, if the top canopy had tried to go around to the right, that might have made things worse.

It appears in the third party video that just before the collision the top canopy makes a split-second decision to turn right in the hope of passing behind the lower one, but there simply wasn’t time or space. About five years ago I watched a man die in very similar circumstances. He made a completely unnecessary S turn in heavy traffic and struck the legs and body of a jumper immediately above and behind. His canopy collapsed and he spun into the ground from about fifty feet up. Luckily this time although the lower canopy collapsed, it re-inflated just before impact, at least enough that the injuries were not too serious. Another factor was that the foot mounted GoPro of the top person broke loose in the collision. Again… luck.

The pilot of the low canopy probably never saw the person she turned into because he was above, behind, and to her left while she was almost certainly focused on the landing area (now to her right) rather than the traffic. Even if she was looking around, you can never assume you see all the traffic, partly because the traffic is constantly changing position and partly because skydivers have a much bigger blind spot than they think. We only have two effective tools to avoid collisions in the pattern: fly defensively by minimizing turns and reducing our pattern to absolute predictability, and concentrate not just on our landing, but everyone else’s too: leave room for the others.

Let’s not forget that a parachute/skydiver system has both mass and velocity, and therefore momentum. When a collision threatens, you need several seconds to recognize the problem, devise a solution, and put it into effect. In traffic we don’t always have that, so the only way to avoid a collision effectively is to prevent it. That means staying in your lane so faster canopies can pass safely. “Low person has the right of way” is not the same as “low person gets to hog the entire final approach area.”


jumpsalot-2  (D 33093)

Mar 19, 2017, 1:00 PM
Post #2 of 88 (18712 views)
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Re: [bryanburke] Canopy Collision SDAZ 30 December 2016 [In reply to] Can't Post

http://vimeo.com/209099505
http://vimeo.com/209099164


JohnMitchell  (D 6462)

Mar 19, 2017, 5:33 PM
Post #3 of 88 (18380 views)
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Re: [bryanburke] Canopy Collision SDAZ 30 December 2016 [In reply to] Can't Post

bryanburke wrote:
That means staying in your lane so faster canopies can pass safely. “Low person has the right of way” is not the same as “low person gets to hog the entire final approach area.”
Great way to sum it up.. Thanks for all the info.


chuckakers  (D 10855)

Mar 20, 2017, 6:24 AM
Post #4 of 88 (17833 views)
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Re: [bryanburke] Canopy Collision SDAZ 30 December 2016 [In reply to] Can't Post

As evidenced by the top jumper's video, the lower jumper was in clear, direct view for a full 6 seconds prior to the collision. 6 seconds. Think about that.


(This post was edited by chuckakers on Mar 20, 2017, 6:28 AM)


Crispy.

Mar 20, 2017, 8:42 AM
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Re: [chuckakers] Canopy Collision SDAZ 30 December 2016 [In reply to] Can't Post

"... clear, direct view for a full 6 seconds prior to the collision."

I saw the lower jumper in the upper jumper's video for 54 seconds prior to the collision. (2:04 to 2:58)

The moment the upper jumper entered his pattern, the lower jumper was visible. Frankly, things looked okay until the lower jumper turned to final ... and kept turning. However, the collision was still avoidable at that point.

The upper jumper made a conscious decision to turn onto final and did so in a manner that dove him down to the lower jumper's altitude. Look how far to the right of his canopy the upper jumper is at 2:50 (his POV). Look also at 0:04 of the other video (third party camera). You can easily see the top skin of the upper jumper's canopy, which is a good indication of how aggressive his turn was. He did not perform a braked or flat turn, nor did he turn far enough to stay away from the lower jumper.

When the upper jumper made his aggressive turn he did so for one of two reasons: 1) his altimeter/ground position indicated that it was time to turn or 2) to keep an inside track on the lower jumper and avoid a collision. If his reason was #1, there is not much left to discuss. He simply did not fly appropriately when around traffic. If his reason was #2, he failed to execute appropriately. The lower jumper's decision to continue turning (even though it was wrong) and the upper jumper's decision to fly an inside track meant that the upper jumper needed to continue his turn until after the lower jumper stopped turning in order to maintain separation.

Last, but not least, as Chuck pointed out, the lower jumper "... was in clear, direct view for a full 6 seconds prior to the collision." I saw the upper jumper take an evasive action approximately AT the point of contact. Way too late.

Bryan Burke: "That means staying in your lane so faster canopies can pass safely. 'Low person has the right of way' is not the same as 'low person gets to hog the entire final approach area.'" Excellent point and I completely agree, but people mess up and do stupid things (I'll be the first to admit that I have). When flying around other canopies, we need to expect for/prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

This incident sucks because it was completely avoidable (as are most). We are all human and we all make mistakes. The best thing we can do is study the videos and learn from them to avoid repeating those mistakes. And don't forget that the skydive is not over until you are on the ground AND out of the landing area.

Actual question for anyone who may know: was wing loading a factor in the exit order for this jump? I understand that there are a number of factors that must be considered and that wing loading is a lower priority that fall rate and opening altitude, but all too often wing loading is not discussed prior to boarding. Even if jumpers with higher wing loading jumper cannot exit first, it is helpful to know who will be in front of and behind you while landing.

Chris


jumpwally  (D License)

Mar 20, 2017, 10:35 AM
Post #6 of 88 (17359 views)
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Re: [Crispy.] Canopy Collision SDAZ 30 December 2016 [In reply to] Can't Post

No reason to fly that close....a bit of brakes and a slight turn to the right and all could have been avoided....Unsure


Premier airdvr  (D 10977)

Mar 20, 2017, 11:29 AM
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Re: [jumpwally] Canopy Collision SDAZ 30 December 2016 [In reply to] Can't Post

Plant more grass.


Crispy.

Mar 20, 2017, 11:35 AM
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Re: [airdvr] Canopy Collision SDAZ 30 December 2016 [In reply to] Can't Post

airdvr wrote:
Plant more grass.

When I lived in AZ, the yards were sand and gravel. If it's too expensive to maintain a large grass LZ, make the world's biggest pea pit! 100% accuracy every time.

LaughLaughLaugh


chuckakers  (D 10855)

Mar 20, 2017, 6:43 PM
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Re: [airdvr] Canopy Collision SDAZ 30 December 2016 [In reply to] Can't Post

airdvr wrote:
Plant more grass.

+1

No amount of training, education, practice, or coordination will ever eliminate the danger of a small landing area at a high volume drop zone.

The reason the lower jumper crossed in front of the higher jumper in the first place was because he was trying follow the local rule requiring jumpers to land only on the half of the landing area from which they approach. Yes it was his error that he crossed the center line, but the fact is he was acting in good faith by trying to repair his mistake.

Making matters worse, that small landing area is in reality two even smaller side-by-side landing areas that are only half the size. According to google map's measuring tool, the south side is 400 by 160 and the north side is 400 by 125. How many drop zones of any size or volume have a landing area that is 125 feet wide?


kuai43  (C License)

Mar 21, 2017, 7:08 AM
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Re: [bryanburke] Canopy Collision SDAZ 30 December 2016 [In reply to] Can't Post

This is only incidentally related to the incident in discussion, but did anyone else notice/have a problem with this screengrab?
Personally, I wouldn't want anyone flying in the pattern near me finger-tipping their toggles. This person's just asking to lose it and turn into another jumper.
Attachments: Screenshot (113).png (897 KB)


mirage62  (C 15580)

Mar 21, 2017, 8:06 AM
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Re: [kuai43] Canopy Collision SDAZ 30 December 2016 [In reply to] Can't Post

Bryan Burke has forgotten more about skydiving than I will ever know but I see this more of a "I must land on the correct side of the landing area" issue - if not that than a total inability to simply hold and not turn into the other lower canopy. At 2:51 the upper canopy could have held and landed safely on the right side of the landing area - the "wrong" side as it may be but certainly better than running into the lower canopy.

So the sin of the lower canopy not flying a predictable pattern is correct but to my way of thinking the primary fault still lays with the high canopy failure to see and avoid compounded possibly by a fear of getting in trouble for landing in the "wrong" area. Given the video footage I'd have to think he would have been given a pass.


Premier airdvr  (D 10977)

Mar 21, 2017, 12:01 PM
Post #12 of 88 (15926 views)
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Re: [chuckakers] Canopy Collision SDAZ 30 December 2016 [In reply to] Can't Post

chuckakers wrote:
airdvr wrote:
Plant more grass.

+1

No amount of training, education, practice, or coordination will ever eliminate the danger of a small landing area at a high volume drop zone.

The reason the lower jumper crossed in front of the higher jumper in the first place was because he was trying follow the local rule requiring jumpers to land only on the half of the landing area from which they approach. Yes it was his error that he crossed the center line, but the fact is he was acting in good faith by trying to repair his mistake.

Making matters worse, that small landing area is in reality two even smaller side-by-side landing areas that are only half the size. According to google map's measuring tool, the south side is 400 by 160 and the north side is 400 by 125. How many drop zones of any size or volume have a landing area that is 125 feet wide?

Almost like being on a demo every time.


accumack  (D 4825)

Mar 21, 2017, 12:56 PM
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Re: [chuckakers] Canopy Collision SDAZ 30 December 2016 [In reply to] Can't Post

To me it looks like the higher jumper got target fixation (Fixated on the other canopy)about 6-8 seconds before the collision. It happen riding motorcycles and other high stress sports.
just my $.02


AdD  (D License)

Mar 21, 2017, 2:58 PM
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Re: [chuckakers] Canopy Collision SDAZ 30 December 2016 [In reply to] Can't Post

To be fair, there is no danger overshooting the grass heading East at Eloy...


Divalent  (C 40494)

Mar 21, 2017, 3:16 PM
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Re: [chuckakers] Canopy Collision SDAZ 30 December 2016 [In reply to] Can't Post

chuckakers wrote:
... The reason the lower jumper crossed in front of the higher jumper in the first place was because he was trying follow the local rule requiring jumpers to land only on the half of the landing area from which they approach. Yes it was his error that he crossed the center line, but the fact is he was acting in good faith by trying to repair his mistake. ...
I would think the best thing to do at that LS if you discover that you crossed the center line after turning onto your final approach, would be to proceed ahead in your new lane, not try to *repair* things by moving back to where you should have gone.


chuckakers  (D 10855)

Mar 21, 2017, 3:51 PM
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Re: [Divalent] Canopy Collision SDAZ 30 December 2016 [In reply to] Can't Post

Divalent wrote:
chuckakers wrote:
... The reason the lower jumper crossed in front of the higher jumper in the first place was because he was trying follow the local rule requiring jumpers to land only on the half of the landing area from which they approach. Yes it was his error that he crossed the center line, but the fact is he was acting in good faith by trying to repair his mistake. ...
I would think the best thing to do at that LS if you discover that you crossed the center line after turning onto your final approach, would be to proceed ahead in your new lane, not try to *repair* things by moving back to where you should have gone.

I completely agree. This was an example of a jumper feeling compelled to follow rules rather than deviate in the interest of safety. Unfortunately it happens all too often in a sport increasingly governed by rules over best practices and procedures over understanding.


chuckakers  (D 10855)

Mar 21, 2017, 6:38 PM
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Re: [AdD] Canopy Collision SDAZ 30 December 2016 [In reply to] Can't Post

AdD wrote:
To be fair, there is no danger overshooting the grass heading East at Eloy...

For you.


fcajump  (D 15598)

Mar 22, 2017, 5:31 AM
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Re: [chuckakers] Canopy Collision SDAZ 30 December 2016 [In reply to] Can't Post

chuckakers wrote:
AdD wrote:
To be fair, there is no danger overshooting the grass heading East at Eloy...

For you.

Chuck - for those of us unfamiliar with the LZ, can you clarify?
JW


chuckakers  (D 10855)

Mar 22, 2017, 6:25 AM
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Re: [fcajump] Canopy Collision SDAZ 30 December 2016 [In reply to] Can't Post

fcajump wrote:
chuckakers wrote:
AdD wrote:
To be fair, there is no danger overshooting the grass heading East at Eloy...

For you.

Chuck - for those of us unfamiliar with the LZ, can you clarify?
JW

The landing area is about 400 feet long (east to west) and about 275 feet wide (north to south). All landings are east or west with the landing direction typically favoring any headwind present. (see attached image)

Patterns can be flown right or left, so to accommodate traffic coming from both directions the landing area is split down the center (more or less) with markers, and jumpers are required to land on the side of the landing area from which they approach. This keep jumpers from creating traffic for jumpers making an opposite pattern coming from the other side of the drop zone, but it also creates essentially 2 very small side-by-side landing areas (one is 400 by 160 and the other is 400 by 125) with converging traffic coming from both sides on the base leg and side-by-side landings on final.

What I meant when fcajump said "there's no danger of overshooting the grass" was that a 400 foot long landing area is not tight for the more experienced jumpers, but because the landing direction can be into the wind, quartering wind, or cross wind, and there's often converging traffic to serve as a distraction, less experienced jumpers or those not used to crowded skies can find a 400 foot "runway" more sporting to consistently land within.
Attachments: landing area layout.jpg (778 KB)


mirage62  (C 15580)

Mar 22, 2017, 7:48 AM
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Re: [chuckakers] Canopy Collision SDAZ 30 December 2016 [In reply to] Can't Post

At the risk of getting off topic. The two direction landing zone of Eloy has always turned me off. I don't like the fact that you can't just land into the wind. Understanding that the cross landing could take you over the buildings....and I'm guessing (??) that is a large reason for the two direction landing rule. This accident shows (I believe) another weakness.

I'm sure that the powers have thought this through better than me - but it would seem that the landing area out by the wind tunnel could be a land into the wind area. (Not sure of the conflict with the other landing area)

I for one would land in the second area every time.


dreaming13000  (C 43315)

Mar 22, 2017, 4:48 PM
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Re: [bryanburke] Canopy Collision SDAZ 30 December 2016 [In reply to] Can't Post

Top jumper still at fault, no matter the variables. This is an extreme sport, there are always variables, top jumper could have extdnded the base leg a tad further, then watched what happened. Lower canopy pilot has right of way PERIOD. I read the initial post, thinking I'd see some drunk canopy flying by the lower jumper, that didnt happen! Hey, if you are flying the faster canopy , you should know WTF YOU ARE DOING . IMHO.

Ps. How to prevent, head on a swivel, if you cant make your 2 m of target because you decide not to die.... well, it is probably worth it


AndyBoyd  (D 16728)

Mar 22, 2017, 5:43 PM
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Re: [dreaming13000] Canopy Collision SDAZ 30 December 2016 [In reply to] Can't Post

dreaming13000 wrote:
Lower canopy pilot has right of way PERIOD.

This is just flat-out wrong. As Bryan correctly points out, a lower jumper simply cannot make whatever turns he or she wants and everyone else has to scramble out of the way. That's a recipe for disaster. This was a classic case of an S-turn on final. That's a no-no, regardless of whether the jumper is lower or higher in the pattern.


chuckakers  (D 10855)

Mar 22, 2017, 8:33 PM
Post #23 of 88 (14301 views)
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Re: [AndyBoyd] Canopy Collision SDAZ 30 December 2016 [In reply to] Can't Post

AndyBoyd wrote:
dreaming13000 wrote:
Lower canopy pilot has right of way PERIOD.

This is just flat-out wrong. As Bryan correctly points out, a lower jumper simply cannot make whatever turns he or she wants and everyone else has to scramble out of the way. That's a recipe for disaster. This was a classic case of an S-turn on final. That's a no-no, regardless of whether the jumper is lower or higher in the pattern.

You are incorrect. The lower jumper having he right-of-way is an absolute!!

The lower jump has the right-of-way even when they are not following best practices. The lower jumper has the right-of-way even when they are being stupid. The lower jumper has the right-of-way even when they blah, blah, blah. THE LOWER JUMPER ALWAYS HAS THE RIGHT-OF-WAY!

We can discuss and debate this incident specifically or any number of real or rhetorical scenarios you like, and this fact will not change.

You are correct that a jumper failing to follow accepted practices at a given drop zone creates an unwarranted danger, but THEY STILL HAVE THE RIGHT-OF-WAY! If that jumper has created a problem, discuss it on he ground, but the responsibility to yield is ALWAYS with he higher jumper.

Canopy collisions continue to plague our sport and one reason is that people continue to make up their own best practices based on personal preferences. STOP IT! The accepted practice for many good reasons is that the lower jumper (and the jumper ahead, BTW) has the right-of-way regardless of any other variable. This understanding allows our procedures and reactions to be consistent and predictable.

If you are the lower jumper, follow accepted practices for the drop zone where you are jumping. If you are the higher jumper, YIELD TO EVERYONE BELOW AND AHEAD OF YOU, even when the jumper you yield to is wrong.


johnmatrix  (E 9999)

Mar 23, 2017, 12:24 AM
Post #24 of 88 (14190 views)
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Re: [chuckakers] Canopy Collision SDAZ 30 December 2016 [In reply to] Can't Post

+1

Lower jumper screwed up for sure, but the higher jumper had heaps of time to adjust and avoid. And what looks like massive landing area available outside the grass area.


Lineset

Mar 23, 2017, 3:18 AM
Post #25 of 88 (14062 views)
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Re: [chuckakers] Canopy Collision SDAZ 30 December 2016 [In reply to] Can't Post

It scares me to hear that there are jumpers out there that cant grasp the very simple rule that the lower canopy has the right of way no matter what .


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