I was very happy with the Monarch as a first canopy.
Review by: C.J., 2000-12-07
I bought a Monarch 215 for use as a first main canopy. My belief at the time was that it would be much like a Saber, but it was considerably cheaper (I bought it used). When I started jumping the canopy I had about forty jumps. I was loading it at about 1.05 (suspended weight 220). After putting nearly fifty jumps on the canopy, and about fifty on smaller, high performance canopies (170's), I began to realize just how high performance the Monarch was.
First, it has an amazing forward speed. I never once found myself backing up under the canopy, even when jumping in 20+mph winds. Every high-performance pilot on my dropzone was always amazed at the speed the canopy had on landing. After putting nearly 20 jumps on a Sabre 170, I think the Monarch and the Sabre have nearly identical forward speeds. Second, the Monarch has a much flatter glide angle than almost any other square parachute I have jumped. It approaches what I achieved on elliptical 170's with a little brakes applied. To give an idea on the speed and glide of my 215, I was once on a cross country jump under the canopy, and a buddy of mine was on a Stiletto 150 with a suspended weight of 215. We managed to do some end cell-bumping under canopy with very little effort. He had to apply a little brake (less than 1/4) and I had to ride with my front risers down about 1", but in this configuration, we flew completely relative to each other.
The responsiveness of the canopy was fine for use as afirst canopy, but I after I got up to around 150 jumps, It was getting a little sluggish. This is probably just because the canopy was so big. I found that the canopy spiraled with a toggle pulled to about halfway between my hip and the bottom of the control range. The "sweet spot" of the flare was about at this point, as well. I found that if I buried a toggle and held it, I the canopy would stall-turn and twist the lines up, so the canopy was still capable of fast turns. Front riser pressure was very stought with a slow rate of turn. On the flare, the canopy had plenty of lift to plane out, but the flare was pretty deep in the control range, as mentioned above. Due to the forward speed and flat glide, the canopy would surf unbelievably well.
The openings on the canopy could get ugly. I found that it had end-cell closures almost every jump, and if the closure occurred on only one side, I would get a diving turn in that direction. I had several hard openings under the canopy, but I also had a few soft ones as well. I found that rolling the nose did almost nothing, but slider placement was critical. By pulling the slider mostly out in front of the nose, it seemed to make the openings comfortable. All in all, I would say the Monarch opens comparably to a Sabre, with the exception of the frequent end-cell closures.
All in all, I was very happy with the Monarch as a first canopy. I no longer believe that the canopy is basically a Sabre copy. I think the Monarch has a flatter glide, higher forward speed, and better "swoop-ability". I think it would make a good intermediate to high performance canopy as well if flown at higher wing loadings. I would be interested to fly a 195 or a 175 to see if the responsiveness and the flare got any better.