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safety : Canopy Control : Canopy Control - A DVD Review

Canopy Control - A DVD Review

When I started skydiving more than 25 years ago, the leading cause of skydiving deaths was the failure to pull on time, or at all. Skydivers just failed to do the one thing every one of us knew we _must_ do: pull.

Education, regulation specifically addressing this issue, and not least the development by Helmut Cloth of the first AAD widely accepted by experienced skydivers in the 90's helped to control this problem… only to show the emergence of another, more insidious: skydivers were dying in increasing numbers under perfectly good parachutes, hitting the ground at unsurvivable speeds sometimes after colliding at low altitude with other perfectly good parachutes. And this happened not only to hot shots under handkerchief-sized canopies, it also affected jumpers flying conservatively under big canopies.

Once more, the response adopted by the skydiving community has been to put an increased emphasis on the education of skydivers, their instructors, safety officers and DZ operators.



It is here where “Canopy Control: Core Essentials” fits right in. Produced by and authored by Chris Gay and Chris Warnock, it is aimed primarily to new skydivers. To them, it will be an invaluable tool to complement and clarify what they are learning in the first jump course. But while reviewing it I found it is also extremely useful for experienced skydivers as a refresher of basic concepts that may or may not have been adequately acquired, and sometimes forgotten, years ago.

The DVD is divided in several sections totaling 55 minutes, with another 12 minutes of bonus material plus a couple of printable charts. In the beginning the host Chris Gay introduces a key concept: “the person most responsible for your safety, is you”, and it is with this in mind that one should view this DVD, regardless of experience level. Throughout the DVD the importance of different aspect of flying our canopies in relation to others is constantly reminded and related to, as a way to increase our awareness of other canopies in the air and to reduce the chances of a collision. It is also constantly reminded to seek advice from an instructor or canopy pilot coach.


In the “Terminology” section, Chris Gay introduces and proceeds to explain basic terminology and concepts related to canopy flying. As through DVD, well conceived and executed graphics, both static and animated, are used to clarify the point being made. This, in addition to the even more prevalent footage of canopy pilots executing the maneuvers being discussed or explained.

In “Planning and Landing Pattern”, this process is thoroughly explained. While more experienced skydivers jumping at their local DZ may not be conscious of doing it, it is a skill that must be acquired and developed. And when we are on a new DZ… well, then we all are “new” skydivers. In this regard, great importance is given to acquiring local knowledge on the peculiarities of any given DZ we may be visiting regarding local regulation, obstacles, landing areas, not to land zones (a.k.a. Farmer McNasty’s fields), wind indicators, etc. Also, it is explained how to explore the landing area and what to watch out for.


The section “Flying the Pattern” follows, in which great emphasis is given to adapting the landing pattern to changing conditions. There is an extensive treatment on how to modify the landing pattern according to different wind conditions, and what to do if they change after take off. Similar treatment is given to the effect canopy traffic on the landing pattern and how to adjust accordingly, or what to do is you find yourself in the landing pattern at altitudes different than planned. And what to do if, in spite of all our planning and best efforts, we find we are not going to land where intended? That is also explained in this section.

“Canopy Controls” is the most technical of the sections, in which a in-depth explanation of the diverse methods of controlling the parachute is given, as well as in what situation every kind of input is appropriate, always relating it to the aerodynamic forces involved.


“Getting Back From Long Spots” deals with how to recognize the probably landing site and how to adjust the flight of our canopy to correct it in order to land in the intended site in different wind situations. It also explains the ever important how to plan and what to watch out for if we end up having to land out.

“Flaring” advices on how to improve our landings. Explains how the canopy reacts while flaring for landing, different flaring techniques, and how to learn more efficiently this aspect of canopy control.

The main section of the DVD finalizes with a “How to Learn More” section, in which different training aids and techniques are advised.

In the Bonus section a variety of complementary topics are discussed: wing loading, technical aspects of canopies (7 vs. 9 cells, elliptical vs. “square”, cross braced vs. standard, flight characteristics of small vs. large canopies), on heading openings, packing for better openings, when to learn swooping, and finally a safety review Q & A. As a bonus of the bonus, if I may call it that, there is footage of the Canopy Formation 4-way world champion team Clean Air demonstrating what it is meant for “canopy control”.

In summary, as stated by Chris Gay, “Our goal to make this DVD is to help to make you a safer skydiver”. I believe that reviewing and following the advice in this DVD, both by beginners and experienced skydivers, will certainly be a big step in that direction.

By Eduardo Guillen on 2009-04-06 | Last Modified on 2017-01-30

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