Jump to content

When Should You Upsize Your Canopy

By admin ,

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













Useful Resources



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"



Contributors: Melissa Lowe, Barry Williams and Jason Moledzki



0
0

SIGN UP OR LOGIN

Create a free account or login to comment on this article.

Sign Up Login

User Feedback




voilsb
Interesting calculator. I haven't jumped in 9 months. It says I'm "average risk" under my Storm 150 @1.4, but "high risk" under my Silhouette 210 at 1:1. I'm still going to jump the 210 for my recurrency.

Share this comment


Link to comment
Share on other sites
cptchaos
just a point I'm wandering about. in point 8 the article mentions that Canopies respond faster at altitude due to denser Air at Altitude. I am only an intermediate Skydiver, but my understanding is that air is less dense at altitude, not more. This is why canopies fall faster and are thusly more responsive. am I wrong?

Share this comment


Link to comment
Share on other sites
naystcb
Uh, it says air is denser at higher elevations??? I thought air was thinner at higher elevations.

Share this comment


Link to comment
Share on other sites
Meso
More than likely a typo by the author, I will correct the article so that the phrasing correctly relates to the point being made.

Share this comment


Link to comment
Share on other sites
Marcossifu
awesome !!! very very good article !!!

Share this comment


Link to comment
Share on other sites
JeffCa
The calculator sucks. I have 135 jumps, I'm loaded at <1.0 on a Pilot 188, don't do anything stupid for landing and am pretty good with accuracy (instructors are noticing). It called me high risk. What should I do, fly a Navigator 240? Maybe get back on the Pilot when I get to 600 jumps?

Share this comment


Link to comment
Share on other sites
diehard01
Yes, I scored in the high risk category even though I am a canopy coach and a competitive swooper. Something tells me they may need to rethink their calculations and come up with a better solution.

Share this comment


Link to comment
Share on other sites
randyb
The article Performance Design's "Survival Skills for Canopy Control" states to use front risers in a headwind getting back from a long spot, it this just a bad edit or am I missing something. I was taught rear risers to keep the canopy flying flatter.

Share this comment


Link to comment
Share on other sites
JeffCa
Randy, Brian Germain's book had the same, and I thought it must be an error in editing, but it turns out that it's not. Somebody more qualified than myself should explain why and in what situations it's useful.

Share this comment


Link to comment
Share on other sites
randyb
It must be that you are increasing penetration speed with front risers...makes sense I guess if the wind is preventing you from going forward across the ground.

Share this comment


Link to comment
Share on other sites



Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account. It's free!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×