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