At the end of the day, skydiving is a dangerous sport. I’ve lost many friends and even family members– under properly functioning parachutes. We can’t regulate stupid behavior, but we can at least spread good information so more people can make wise decision.
So why would someone consider upsizing?
10. Cannot land consistently standing up. If you’re having troubles standing up consistently or even in the same area in all weather conditions, then you need to upsize and take a canopy course to understand the concepts basic flight characteristics.
9. Not current. You can be uncurrent after a winter vacation without skydiving, coming off an injury or just life getting in the way. According to USPA, you are uncurrent if:
- A-license holders who have not jumped within 60 days
- B-license holders who have not made a freefall skydive within the preceding 90 days C- and D-license holders who have not made a freefall skydive within the preceding six months
- DZ policy: Every DZ has their own policy for uncurrent skydivers. Be sure to check in with them before coming out to the DZ to see what you may have to do. Also check the USPA Skydiver’s Information Manual for more info.
8. Jumping at a Higher Elevation. At higher elevations the canopy is going to perform faster and act more responsive because of the air being less dense. So landings will feel faster and turns will feel more aggressive. If you’re traveling to places like Colorado or Utah, you may want to pack a larger canopy.
7. Gained Weight/Wearing Weight. Well, what can I say? Sometimes during the winter, it’s easy to pack on some pounds and that invariably negotiates your wingloading. Also, if you haven’t jumped all winter and you’ve accumulated a new wingloading, you may want to consider getting current on a bigger canopy.
Next, if you’re a small girl, or decide to get on a 4-way team, you may be wearing weights. This added weight will definitely make your canopy fly differently than expected. So before making a decision on what canopy to buy or whether or not to downsize, consider the use of weights to make the best wingloading decision for your experience.
6. Reserve Size. Generally, your main and reserve should be about the same size. If you were quick to downsize or couldn’t find the right sized container, but have a larger reserve, with little experience under a bigger canopy, may be a good reason to upsize your main. (Having the same sized canopies also reduces other problems should 2 canopies out occur.)
5. Types of Jumps. Doing big ways? Wingsuiting? Demos? Some jumps may warrant a bigger parachute. When I do world record jumps, I usually opt for my bigger canopy so I’m not fighting my way through traffic and have a larger range of floating. Wingsuiting can cause line twists or other malfunctions and jumping a more docile canopy can help you negotiate them better. On demos, having a lower wingloading will give you more range to negotiate smaller landing areas or areas surrounded by obstacles – as long as you understand the flight dyamics of your wing.
4. Age/Health/Agility. Take an inventory of your overall health. How are your knees? Wrists? Ankles? Eyesight? Depth perception? Reaction Time? These may be considerations to upsize.
3. Attitude/Experience. Someone’s overall experience and attitude about the safety of themselves and others is a vital component in skydiving safety. Disregard for your own experience and/or safety is an obvious sign to upsize.
2. Because You Downsized and You Shouldn’t Have. Having inconsistent landings? Not standing up your landings? Stabbing out your flare? Landing by touching down on your knees first then popping up to your feet thinking it was an awesome swoop? Spiraling in traffic cause it’s freakin’ fun on a small canopy when not necessary? Scared of line twists? Having a hard time kicking out of line twists? Not paying attention to others in the sky? Land downwind for fun? Don’t follow a landing pattern? What the hell is a landing pattern? Don’t understand the flight characteristics of your wing? Pretty much don’t follow the rules?
1. Finally, if you cannot answer yes to all of these questions, you need to upsize:
- Can you land your main crosswind?
- Are you comfortable landing crosswind?
- Can you land your main downwind?
- Are you comfortable landing downwind?
- If you had to land out and the only option was a tight area surrounded by obstacles, do you know you could land your canopy accurately?
- Do you feel that you completely understand the flight characteristics of your wing?
- Do you understand what happens to the flare, landing pattern, stall characteristics and overall flight characteristics when you downsize?
- Have you used your rear risers & do you know why and when you’d need to use them?
- Have you used your front risers & do you know why and when you’d need to use them?
- Have you performed braked turns? Braked turns for landing?
- Can you land within 10 meters of a target center at least 5 times in a row?
- Did you take a canopy course beyond the B-license requirements?
When I first started skydiving, I was young and pretty much invincible. I was on the fast track to get on a small canopy and go fast! And it’s all fun, until you get hurt or you watch someone die. I’d seen a lot of crazy things (especially people “getting away” with bad decisions) in my 20-year career, but in 2003, I witnessed my father’s fatal canopy collision. Then without your permission, things change.
It’s amazing how death will completely transform your perspective on safety, especially when the sport is your livelihood.
We spend more time under canopy than we do in freefall, so this is a moment to check in and evaluate how much canopy education have you gotten? My dad used to tell me, “take stock into your destiny.” So, take that Flight 1 course you’ve always wanted to, finish your B-license canopy training, ask questions, and just know, there ain’t no shame to upsize that thang!
How at risk are you?
Below is a canopy risk calculator that was created by the USPA, which can give you an idea of just how big of a safety risk you're at with your current canopy and experience level
Barry Williams on Canopy Safety (Skydive Elsinore 2013 Safety Day) [Video]
Barry Williams on Canopy & DZ Safety (Skydive Elsinore 2012 Safety Day) [Video]
Performance Design's "Survival Skills for Canopy Control"