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Jremington

Shattered ankle on 1st jump ever, an AFF in "military" chute.

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Hanging with the flight crew in San Diego it was decided to go skydiving. However, I weigh 243 lbs due to avid bodybuilding. I was told the limit for tandem was 230 lbs. But, I could do an AFF the next day. I went through the training, suited up in gear I was told was borrowed form Air Tac Cal and rated for 500 lbs. Jump Master guided me in per radio. I flared exactly when he said to, about 10 feet off ground. Was told my jump was perfect until I hit the ground. My ankle was broken in 3 places and needed 2 surgeries despite a PLF. Looking at the video it's estimated I came in at 25 + mph forward speed and decent of the same.
Any advice of what could of been done better? Is it normal to not do a full flare until 10 ft. ? Should I not of done some braking during the last 250 ft to slow speed? Any comments are welcome. Please.

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I'm at 119 jumps so I'm not an expert by any means, but I do have some experience.
It's my understanding that not flaring until ~10 feet is good practice. It was explained to me like this:

Your flare is your brakes. What gives you power to flare is forward speed. If you come in a 2 or 3 stage flare, or half brakes until you finish your flare, you're giving up some of that forward speed early and your flare will be less effective.

I've seen a handful of jumps where AFF instructor says FLARE and there's a 1 or 2 second delay while the student brain registers and then flares. Then they get on the ground and said "I flared when you said to". Maybe this happened with you?

I've repeatedly seen students swear up and down that they flared all the way down, but then when we watch the video it's quite clear that their 'full flare' was actually half or 3/4 brakes.

Last piece of advice I can give is go to your local DZ, review the video with multiple AFF instructors. really pay attention to when you started your flare, what position your legs were in, and how completely you flared.

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Should I not of done some braking during the last 250 ft to slow speed?

Square parachutes land softer because they can generate lift. Lift is generated only by wings having airspeed. Less speed = less flare. So no, giving up speed early for nothing is not a good idea if what you need is softer flare.

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The wingloading on the parachute has a lot to do with landing speed. Normally a student would be very lightly loaded. If you were out the door at 300 lb with gear on and had a 350 square foot parachute, your wingloading would be 300/350=0.85 pounds per square foot (of fabric). Less than that would be a slower landing, more would be a faster landing. That does not mean you would touch down faster, but approach faster. The flare slows you down. If you put on the brakes too early, it slows you (yes) but is less effective in creating a gentle landing. The flare timing is critical for a good landing but for a student (lightly loaded) should be pretty easy to do. Even done poorly (most beginners) it should not be a hard landing.

Students are often likely to flare too high. I was told to flare about 10 feet or when you could kick someone in the chest. For me that was too low and too late. No harm done but I had it on video and could determine that I had flared and fully flared, starting when my feet were about 9 feet from the ground. I started sooner next time and worked to find what was best for me.

While you are recovering, if you plan to keep jumping, read the SIM. There are some good canopy piloting books out there as well. Understanding how the canopy should behave is a good step in learning how to fly one.
Instructor quote, “What's weird is that you're older than my dad!”

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To add to what dthames wrote about having to find "what works for you", it isn't just altitude but speed of flaring, how fast the brake lines are pulled down. Students can vary a lot in whether they slam down the brakes (fast but with no time to adjust) or whether they gradually start flaring at the point they were told to.

The instructor on the radio typically tries to watch the student's behaviour in practice flares and during turns, to help anticipate how the student will react when it comes time for the actual landing flare.

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Thank you for your knowledge. I'm still a little confused on the exact dynamics of the flare. As I understand it flare warps the shape of the canopy/wing causing lift. With lift increasing with speed. Therefore a higher forward speed is desired just prior to touchdown to affect descent rate. So, your coming down slower, but isn't flying forward to fast harmful? Because I think that is what broke my ankle was forward speed. It happened so fast I can't remember if my PLF was right but I know I was dragged because of the grass stains.

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Any comments are welcome. Please.




My comment is that you should find out exactly what canopy you were using and exactly what it is rated for. Brand name, model, and exact size. Nothing less. Students should be given parachutes that are large enough so that even if they screw up the flare they won't break bones.

Students regularly do poor landings. Over sized canopies that are forgiving enough to handle this are standard. You are too heavy for that to work apparently.
Always remember the brave children who died defending your right to bear arms. Freedom is not free.

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I really wish I knew the specs on my chute. The company seems nervous to tell me. I've called and asked. I live in Chicago and this happened in San Diego. All I have is photos of the front part of the harness. It didn't have a "hacky Sac" rip cord. They were in the front. It was said to have been borrowed from the Seal team training there. Do you know if companies have to keep records of gear used?

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Well, another thing to consider is wind direction, but this is a great reason that this kind of conversation is better had at a DZ face to face with an AFF instructor.

When in full flight, no brakes applied, the nose of your canopy (the front) is pointed slightly towards the ground.
That is to say that the nose is lower than the tail (the back)

As you apply the brakes, your canopy flattens out. As you complete your flare, the nose should be raising up and higher than the tail.

I'm a bad artist but this image may help you understand.
a fully applied flare, that is the picture all the way to the right, will bring the nose up and counteract your speed. if you were going too fast forward you may have started your flare too late and not fully flared all the way down.
This will keep you flying forward faster.

Also, remember before we mentioned that braking too soon will decrease your ability to flare. If you flare all the way down after having already been at half brakes, you wouldn't slow down as much as you would have if you had your arms ALL the way up until the last 10'

I encourage, again, go over this again and again with an instructor, in person. This time you broke your ankle. A friend broke their back (and fully recovered) as a consequence of bad flaring decisions.

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Jremington

I really wish I knew the specs on my chute. The company seems nervous to tell me. I've called and asked. I live in Chicago and this happened in San Diego. All I have is photos of the front part of the harness. It didn't have a "hacky Sac" rip cord. They were in the front. It was said to have been borrowed from the Seal team training there. Do you know if companies have to keep records of gear used?



It's very possible that you are within the weight limit for the gear. Looking at the container will tell you nothing about the canopies inside it. They have their own specs and limits. But just because you are within the limit does not mean it's appropriate for a student first jump.

There probably is no record of which particular rig you were using. But the instructors who were there know EXACTLY what you were using. If they will not tell you when you ask then you have to wonder why.

But it makes no real difference. You signed the waiver and you took your chance will be the bottom line.
Always remember the brave children who died defending your right to bear arms. Freedom is not free.

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all of my jumps as a student were filled out in my log book, one should be able to consult log book get type/make/size and let google do the walking.

my first jumps were on an old goliath can o pee, it flew like a 2.5 ton army truck but got the job done, you (OP) need to work on a little thing that skyjumpers need to know called the PLF. i'll bet ya 5 bucks your feet and knees weren't together as you (OP) were landing.

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Jremington

I recall Slamming the brakes as hard and as fast as I could. I did this because the Instructor kept saying "Hands Up, Hands Up" and then Screamed "NOW NOW FLARE FLARE"! What exactly does a hard flare do?



A hard flare basically just makes it all happen faster -- appropriate if a few feet lower. So a hard flare in this case sounds appropriate.

The "hands up" might have been a matter of course reminder to any student, or might be said if the student were letting his hands come down a little, before it was time to flare, due to getting ground rush and wanting to slow down. Having hands partially down before the flare could lead to a poorer flare and harder landing.

You may just have gotten unlucky. Radio instructors can't see student altitudes perfectly and there is some variation in human performance, timing things right to radio to the student to then take action. It is possible the command was started a little low. Still, the student has to be ready, feet together, ready to roll if the landing is rougher. Student body position can't always be perfect on the first tries either.

Sometimes things don't work out, a foot catches awkwardly, and even experienced jumpers will on rare occasions break an ankle in what should have been a not too bad landing.

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Jremington

I recall Slamming the brakes as hard and as fast as I could. I did this because the Instructor kept saying "Hands Up, Hands Up" and then Screamed "NOW NOW FLARE FLARE"! What exactly does a hard flare do?



If you plan to jump again as a student, you might go to the DZ now and just watch a lot of people land. Student and A license jumpers that have large canopies would be the ones to watch. After a few dozen you will be able to see, Flaring to high, too late, to fast, not fast enough. You will also be able to see how the canopy reacts to the flare. With a better understanding of how that all works, you will be a better student, regarding your landings.
Instructor quote, “What's weird is that you're older than my dad!”

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I'm not an instructor so take this for what it's worth.

It's tough to make out too much from that video, but the height of the flare, the speed, it all looks good for a first time student. The landing doesn't look abnormally hard.

As a bigger guy you might just have gotten unlucky with exactly how you put your feet down. I managed to break my ankle in 3 places playing badminton of all things, so I know it doesn't take a lot of pressure. If you're just off square with 270lbs behind it's going to hurt.

What I don't see on that video is any sort of PLF. You seem to land and get hurt, then go straight to your knees and hands. A PLF has a rotation component that has you rolling from touchdown to the side and through your hips. It's not elegant, but it is fantastic.

Look at free-runners. The huge jumps those guys do off buildings that are absorbed by a tuck and roll at the end - that's basically a REALLY good PLF.

Heal fast, but don't let it put you offf if you enjoyed the experience. There are some challenges being a bigger jumper but they're not insurmountable. :)

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and I'm just a bystander

Saw it happen, twice. Just like your video. If they didn't raise their hand for help, nobody would notice anything strange.
Jumpers of average height/weight, fitter than most, 70/150 jumps, wing load 1-1.1, conservative canopy, grass field. One bad ankle break, one looking bad but just popped out and 180 deg :)
It happened maybe 5-7 years ago, one of them remained casual jumper, the other one became highly skilled swooper, instructor etc.
I know them both and I'm pretty sure they've accepted the cause of break as weird angle of foot/ground contact.
Both of them avoided stress landing that leg for a long time, it is only natural.

Heal asap
What goes around, comes later.

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243, that canopy and that landing. Nothing unusual.

I trained a couple bodybuilders and one of them had the worst landings imaginable. For some reason a coordinated PLF was almost impossible. But his overall physical conditioning allowed him to walk away from a couple real poundings of the ground.

An angled foot contact with the ground is the only thing that comes to mind. Weight lifting should result in strong foot and ankle bones, muscles.

Heal and try again.

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A few weeks ago I landed out on a really long spot. Found a good plowed field and landed parallel to the rows. Nice easy flare and landing until just upon putting my back foot down caught an uneven clump. No injury except a roll in the dirt. I felt very lucky not to have gotten injured. It reinforced 2 lessons I should have already known: check the spot before leaving the plane and when in doubt especially when out plf!!!

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