3 3
Duvain

Spiraling Down Under Canopy

Recommended Posts

During my AFF, instructors warned students not to do spiral turns as what lots of fun jumpers do. But after I got A, until now with around 230 jumps, I normally like to do several spiral turns (no more than 3x360deg turn) above 1500 - for fun, or get under someone to have a less busy pattern. 

Fun jumpers talk about “spiraling down to get down faster” all the time. And with more than 100jumps I did in my home dz over 1 year, no instructors/S&TAs had problems with it. So as long as I’m aware of the airspace/traffic/altitude, I thought spiral turn is just a normal maneuver.

But recently, another (the very safe kind of) fun jumper lectured me about not doing more than 90deg turns, and also said spiraling down is not even allowed in some dzs. What do more experienced jumpers think? 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Many drop zones discourage spirals and some even prohibit them as a way to reduce collision risks.

I'm ok with spirals above pattern altitude as long as the jumper has cleared the air around and below. From pattern altitude to the ground I discourage any turns not required for reasonable accuracy.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
(edited)

Get a big wingsuit! That way you have the sky to yourself under canopy ;)

For realsies though my rule is: If I can count every canopy on the load (like a 182 DZ), then I'll be a total asshole under canopy. Spirals, stalls, have a good pee... You know the works
 

If I can't count all canopies easily then I fly like a conservative grandma going to church.

So just depends on the DZ/load specifics

Edited by RolandForbes
  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That initial advice was valid with student canopies, because you were never going to out-spiral a smaller, heavier-loaded canopy.

At the other end of the scale, it can be to everyone's advantage if the tiny (sub-100 square foot), heavily-loaded pond swoopers land first. The challenge is for them to spiral down off to the side of tamer traffic.

Spiraling in the pattern is discouraged for two reasons (below 1,500 feet and near the target). First, spiraling makes it difficult for others to predict where you will be 10 or 20 seconds later. They are trying to fly their landing pattern in a way that does not cross your landing pattern. It helps if you landing pattern is predictable.

The second reason for discouraging spirals in the pattern is to discourage the radical turns (old school hook turns) that lead to radical pond swoops. Many DZOs have banned hook turns because they are tired of calling ambulances and attending funerals.

Hook turns were the pre-cursor (circa 1990) to modern high-performance carving approaches. Hook turns often started with toggle-whipping at such low altitudes that the canopy barely had enough altitude for its recovery arc. If you were even a little late hook-turning, you were forced to slab your toggles again (late flare) or get a ride in an ambulance on the way to meeting nurses, surgeons, physio-therapists, etc.

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Spiralling should be heavily discouraged everywhere with more than 2 canopies in the air, except if you are the lowest one and with a fall rate in full flight comparable to the ones above you. It develops 0 skills, it is an unsafe practice for the one doing it (can collide with other canopies that he/she didn't see) and for others (don't know where to go because the one spiralling is not flying predictably) and it gets boring rather quickly, so it is not even fun compared with other things you can do under canopy if you have the skills for it.

To minimize conflict under canopy, you want to maximize both horizontal and vertical separation, and "pipeline" the canopies landing. A typical situation in medium size dropzones is having 18 canopies in the air at the same time. If you are in the middle of the bunch and have a canopy loaded at, let's say, 1.5, the safer way for everyone is if the heavily loaded canopies after you overtake you up high, and the vertical separation between these 2 groups is not reduced after that. That way there are no conflicts close to the landing pattern. If you start spiralling they can't overtake you at a safe altitude, since you artificially accelerated your fall rate, just to stop to your normal rate as soon as you stop spiralling. If you start-stop and then start and stop again, that makes it even worse. Like a car in the highway driving on the left lane and slamming on the brakes just to swerve to the right, accelerate, move again to the left lane and slam the brakes again. So the ones behind with highly loaded canopies need to do either of these:

 

- Overtake you in the pattern. Take into account that the *last* turn for many canopies starts at 1000 feet. So your pattern starts when theirs finishes. Nobody wants to overtake or be overtaken at this point, every one should be focused on the ground and landing safely, not on canopy slalom.

- Land out. Not always an option, depends on the DZ.

- Hold on to breaks as much as possible, forcing everyone behind to do the same. This is not always possible, as even in brakes some canopies that are heavily loaded fall faster than other lightly loaded canopies in full flight.

 

All these options are bad. This situation is quite common, as belly flyers typically fly lightly-to-medium loaded canopies and exit first due to free fall drift, and freeflyers have a higher tendency to fly medium-to-highly loaded canopies and exit after the belly groups. The exit order helps to keep horizontal separation between groups, but minimizes vertical separation as both groups open at a similar time and altitude. To fix that heavily loaded canopies should land first for everyone's sake, but can't do that if the lightly and medium loaded canopies are spiralling. Some would blame the small canopy and say they have the right to spiral down. Others would blame the spiralling pilot for lack of canopy etiquette and being equally skill-less and a dick.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Deimian said:

To minimize conflict under canopy, you want to maximize both horizontal and vertical separation...

 

Horizontal separation is irrelevant if vertical separation is maintained. Skydivers who are never at the same altitude at the same time will never collide.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
(edited)

 

Quote

It develops 0 skills, it is an unsafe practice for the one doing it (can collide with other canopies that he/she didn't see) and for others (don't know where to go because the one spiralling is not flying predictably) and it gets boring rather quickly, so it is not even fun compared with other things you can do under canopy if you have the skills for it.

Seems a bit harsh. Spiralling is still fun. Spiralling can teach a lot. Doing spirals doesn't mean "simply hold one toggle full down for at least 3 full turns".  After all, every swoop starts with some sort of a spiral entry, like brakes & single riser, double risers, harness, etc. Plenty to practice there.  Swoop recoveries or emergency recoveries from dives also need a spiral entry. Practicing popped brake scenarios gives you spirals. Testing canopy stability using harness turns while brakes are set, that's another thing that can use spirals.  Catching up to another canopy to do proximity (or CRW) canopy work can involve spirals. And, heck, I've done crossbraced swoop canopy 2-stack CRW spirals. (Well, I did that way high up!)

Sure, mindless spirals aren't that much fun I guess once one is used to the canopy one is flying, and one is no longer just impressed by the speed of one's newer, smaller canopy. But there are plenty of things to practice that may involve steep diving turns of 180 degrees plus, or maybe 360 degrees, depending on one's personal definition of spiral or partial spirals.

Edited by pchapman
  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, Deimian said:

 The exit order helps to keep horizontal separation between groups, but minimizes vertical separation as both groups open at a similar time and altitude.

correct me if i'm wrong but doesn't the exit separation help make up for vertical separation?  if a group exits a plane and falls for 10 seconds before the other group left, that gives about 1000 feet of vertical.  does the fall rate of the free flyers make that up before pull time?  it seems that if so, then it doesn't take long for the free flyers with heavier loaded canopies to be under the belly flyers.  i don't need to worry about any of it at my cessna dz, except in those rare cases when they get both planes out at the same time, doesn't happen often.  i'd still like to have an idea for if i ever travel to a larger dz.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, Deimian said:

Spiralling should be heavily discouraged everywhere...

The tone of that whole diatribe reads a lot like, "I jump a highly loaded canopy, therefore I have more madd skillzz than everyone else, therefore everyone else should stay the hell out of my way!"

 

Hmmm...

11 hours ago, Deimian said:

being... a dick

carry on...

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
(edited)
19 hours ago, chuckakers said:

Horizontal separation is irrelevant if vertical separation is maintained. Skydivers who are never at the same altitude at the same time will never collide.

Totally agree (in the context of canopy flying). But it is difficult to maintain vertical separation if there are spiralling canopies in the pattern. Maintaining vertical separation can become quite difficult in that situation.

 

18 hours ago, pchapman said:

 

Seems a bit harsh. Spiralling is still fun. Spiralling can teach a lot. Doing spirals doesn't mean "simply hold one toggle full down for at least 3 full turns".  After all, every swoop starts with some sort of a spiral entry, like brakes & single riser, double risers, harness, etc. Plenty to practice there.  Swoop recoveries or emergency recoveries from dives also need a spiral entry. Practicing popped brake scenarios gives you spirals. Testing canopy stability using harness turns while brakes are set, that's another thing that can use spirals.  Catching up to another canopy to do proximity (or CRW) canopy work can involve spirals. And, heck, I've done crossbraced swoop canopy 2-stack CRW spirals. (Well, I did that way high up!)

Sure, mindless spirals aren't that much fun I guess once one is used to the canopy one is flying, and one is no longer just impressed by the speed of one's newer, smaller canopy. But there are plenty of things to practice that may involve steep diving turns of 180 degrees plus, or maybe 360 degrees, depending on one's personal definition of spiral or partial spirals.

As you said, I guess that you and me understand "spiralling" slightly different. I understand spiralling as quick turns of at least 360 degrees, often more. All the points you mentioned are totally valid, but for me those are canopy exercises that are typically recommended to be done in hop and pops with clear airspace. I wouldn't recommend removing one brake in a normal load with 18 people, as an example. Many other exercises (like harness turns, swoop practices) are rarely more than 270 degrees during a full altitude jump, and that is fine IMO in a normal load, provided that you don't get on the way for others.

 

13 hours ago, sfzombie13 said:

correct me if i'm wrong but doesn't the exit separation help make up for vertical separation?  if a group exits a plane and falls for 10 seconds before the other group left, that gives about 1000 feet of vertical.  does the fall rate of the free flyers make that up before pull time?  it seems that if so, then it doesn't take long for the free flyers with heavier loaded canopies to be under the belly flyers.  i don't need to worry about any of it at my cessna dz, except in those rare cases when they get both planes out at the same time, doesn't happen often.  i'd still like to have an idea for if i ever travel to a larger dz.

A typical freefall time for belly flyers is about 60 seconds. Freeflyers fall for 45 to 55 seconds. So normally the last belly group opens more or less at the same time than the first freefly group. You hit the nail on the had when you said "it doesn't take long for the [...] heavier loaded canopies to be under [...]". But that does not hold true with spiralling canopies, as they are constantly changing their fall rate. That is exactly the source of the problem.

 

10 hours ago, dudeman17 said:

The tone of that whole diatribe reads a lot like, "I jump a highly loaded canopy, therefore I have more madd skillzz than everyone else, therefore everyone else should stay the hell out of my way!"

 

Hmmm...

carry on...

I explained all the relevant points I could think of as good as I could, none of them were "I have mad skillzz". Let me summarize it, maybe it was too much: Canopy collisions are a real problem. The point is not "I have mad skillz, get out of the way", the point is "canopy collisions kill people, everyone should get out of everyone else's way". I was advocating for conscious flying and proper "canopy etiquette" long before I was jumping heavily loaded canopies. Heavily loaded canopies can't stop falling from the sky until other canopies land, but other canopies can stop spiralling if there is potential for conflicts. Do you have any counter argument to that, or is insinuating that I am a hot shot wannabe and a dick all you have?

Edited by Deimian
Clarifications

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Mindless spiralling isn't good, but then again being mindless in the sky isn't good no matter how one chooses to express that.

In my opinion there's nothing wrong with spiralling down as long as the spiralling pilot is aware of their surroundings, high enough, knows where all others are, and knows that they are not in the way of anyone trying to fly a neat pattern. Whether or not fun is involved is not for me to judge.

For me, those criteria are easily met at my C182 home DZ, but not often at a C208 (or bigger plane) DZ. For students, spiralling is rightly discouraged in general because they are not likely to have enough awareness of their surroundings yet.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote

All the points you mentioned are totally valid, but for me those are canopy exercises that are typically recommended to be done in hop and pops with clear airspace.

That is still a valid opinion.  I'm still in the old school where the point of skydiving is to have fun, while the new schoolers started not only clamping down on swooping (to avoid all the canopy collision carnage, plus occasional swoop landing carnage), but now are also clamping down on doing anything fun under canopy when up high...   

I thought or hoped that at least when higher up, people are a little more spread out, so one could have some fun under canopy, even if as people come together in the pattern or LZ, tighter rules need to apply.  I personally only have had the rule "don't do anything unpredictable under canopy" when at some multi-airplane formation event with everyone supposed to be on their best behaviour.

Anyway, this all does fit with the OP trying to find out what the rules and perceptions are at different DZs.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

not to mention that at places like mine, we all spiral down all the time, but there are only four of us in the air at a time maximum.  like last time when i was on a 2 way and we ended up landing toward each other because the wind changed.  it wasn't a problem because the tandem was still in the air and he was on the ground by the time i turned on final.  we talked about it and the spectacular plf i did in front of everyone.  the spectators were all like "are you ok?" and thinking i was hurt, so i jumped up and just said, "no i'm fine, just need to hang this stupid thing now.  it doesn't hurt when you do a proper plf".  and it doesn't really, but then again it was only about a 2 mph wind, but i did manage to bang my elbow so i guess i need to work on form.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We have a guy at our dropzone. He is a lovely guy, very nice fellow. He started jumping in the late 80s/early 90s with his wife. They both quit when the got their kids. He started again like 6 years ago. One day, after jumping, his wife was there. At some point in the conversation she said "I don't get why you need all these rules, patterns and recommendations. We were all able to fly our canopies safely before without any of that."

I think she didn't realized how much of a difference it makes, to have 18 people in the sky at the same time with wingloads from 0.9 to 2.5, with respect to her times, when they had 4 people in the sky all of them with 200 sqft canopies. The size of the loads and the variety of wingloads makes proper canopy flying critical. Everyone should fly their canopies with everyone else in mind. And that involves in many cases not spiralling just for shit and jiggles. If you want to spiral down when you have 3 other canopies in the sky and you are perfectly aware of where they are, and how they fly, go for it. But that simply does not apply in bigger dropzones with loads with massive differences in wingloads.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When doing big-ways, I like to open at a medium altitude (e.g. saddled-out by 2,500 feet) and hang in half brakes off to the side of the "cloud" of canopies. Hanging out on the side of the "cloud" of canopies means that I can devote most of my vision to avoiding canopies on one side, with just the occasional glance over my other shoulder. Below 500 feet, I liked to do a large radius, front-riser carving turn towards the bowl. While carving, I keep my eyes on a swivel.

"Eyes on stalks" in British parlance.

If the big-way has more than 20 canopies, I tend to land well away from the bowl, on the outer edge of the landing field ... all to get more horizontal spacing from other canopies.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Vertical separation can be pre-planned before you board the airplane. When doing exhibition jumps or team stacks for precision landings, we always put the guy with the smallest (most heavily-loaded) canopy out first and told him to "suck it down" to open at 2,000 feet. Once open, he would spiral down over the stadium to gain even more vertical separation.

The guy with the biggest (lightest-loaded) canopy exited last and opened immediately (say 3,000 feet). Then he hung in half or 3/4 brakes to watch the rest of us land. That sort of stack is easy to plan from a 4-seater Cessna.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

To me, spiraling is a fairly advanced tool to manage the landing stack at DZ's with bigger aircraft; it's just fine when combined with judgment on who else is jumping, their wingloads, and the stack. At smaller DZ's, jumpers should be made aware of the fact that what works with 4 jumpers in the sky isn't a good idea with more jumpers.

Wendy P.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, riggerrob said:

Vertical separation can be pre-planned before you board the airplane. When doing exhibition jumps or team stacks for precision landings, we always put the guy with the smallest (most heavily-loaded) canopy out first and told him to "suck it down" to open at 2,000 feet. Once open, he would spiral down over the stadium to gain even more vertical separation.

The guy with the biggest (lightest-loaded) canopy exited last and opened immediately (say 3,000 feet). Then he hung in half or 3/4 brakes to watch the rest of us land. That sort of stack is easy to plan from a 4-seater Cessna.

Much of that is built into the protocols by default. More experienced jumpers (heavier wingloading) tend to be with larger groups, exit early, and deploy low. Young jumpers in small groups or going solo exit next and deploy above the more experienced group, then AFF and tandems in the same way. That order also happens to correspond with routine descent rates.

All that being said, it would not be very practical to predetermine exit order or deployment altitudes in routine DZ ops. There are too many variables on one load and in any single group.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
14 hours ago, Deimian said:

We have a guy at our dropzone. He is a lovely guy, very nice fellow. He started jumping in the late 80s/early 90s with his wife. They both quit when the got their kids. He started again like 6 years ago. One day, after jumping, his wife was there. At some point in the conversation she said "I don't get why you need all these rules, patterns and recommendations. We were all able to fly our canopies safely before without any of that."

I think she didn't realized how much of a difference it makes, to have 18 people in the sky at the same time with wingloads from 0.9 to 2.5, with respect to her times, when they had 4 people in the sky all of them with 200 sqft canopies. The size of the loads and the variety of wingloads makes proper canopy flying critical. Everyone should fly their canopies with everyone else in mind. And that involves in many cases not spiralling just for shit and jiggles. If you want to spiral down when you have 3 other canopies in the sky and you are perfectly aware of where they are, and how they fly, go for it. But that simply does not apply in bigger dropzones with loads with massive differences in wingloads.

please,  you think everybody jumped from cessnas in the 80s  ?

canopy loadings,  yep fair comment

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, yarpos said:

please,  you think everybody jumped from cessnas in the 80s  ?

canopy loadings,  yep fair comment

No, of course not. But this particular dropzone did (and grew up to Caravans today, after a phase with Pilatus Porter). Sorry if it was not clear, didn't mean to imply that all dropzones were small in the 80s.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
(edited)
12 hours ago, chuckakers said:



All that being said, it would not be very practical to predetermine exit order or deployment altitudes in routine DZ ops.

it's not impractical, and not that hard, but time consuming.  it would almost be like conducting an interview on each jump with each jumper and then giving a briefing, making it like an airborne operation.  i do miss the prejump circles sometimes but not thing about the hours sitting in the sun or snow on green ramp. 

Edited by sfzombie13
comma

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, sfzombie13 said:

it's not impractical, and not that hard, but time consuming.  it would almost be like conducting an interview on each jump with each jumper and then giving a briefing, making it like an airborne operation.  i do miss the prejump circles sometimes but not thing about the hours sitting in the sun or snow on green ramp. 

Or as I call it, impractical.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

3 3