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evh

Student canopies

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Hello all,

My skydiving club is looking to replace our fleet of Manta 288 canopies within the next few years, mainly because they are getting too old.
There are lots of options available. I jumped a Navigator 260 last weekend and I liked it... Mainly beacause of the much better flare and responsiveness to toggle input. I did not like the fact that it also responded fairly well to harness input, unlike the Manta. Terminal openings are a lot less painful tough :-)
So basically I am looking for options and opinions... So please share your thoughts!

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We have been using Navigators for a long time. We did try to switch over to the Solos two years ago, and although they flew well, we had a lot of issues with their sub terminal openings on SL and hop and pops. Aerodyne also uses untreated spectra line which is a bad match with our velcro brake stowes.

After a little back and forth with Aerodyne, we sold them and are currently using Navigators.

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evh

Hello all,

My skydiving club is looking to replace our fleet of Manta 288 canopies within the next few years, mainly because they are getting too old.
There are lots of options available. I jumped a Navigator 260 last weekend and I liked it... Mainly beacause of the much better flare and responsiveness to toggle input. I did not like the fact that it also responded fairly well to harness input, unlike the Manta. Terminal openings are a lot less painful tough :-)
So basically I am looking for options and opinions... So please share your thoughts!



In case you did not know, Flight Concepts now makes the Manta with 3 fabric options, including fully zero porosity. The opening is simply wonderful. It is still rectangular, so it does not have some of the issues a tapered canopy does. However, it has a "traditional" flare, so students would not be learning much about landing a canopy that "planes out" with partial brakes.

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TommyBotten

Aerodyne also uses untreated spectra line which is a bad match with our velcro brake stowes.



The DZ I jump at has had Solos for students and Pilots for rentals for some years now.
Even without velcro, those soft lines seem to let the lines, especially the brake lines, fuzz up quickly, from what I've seen. Ugh.
In contrast, the DZ has not had any major complaints with Solo openings on static line and short delays. (I don't know if there are any minor complaints.)
(Mind you the full ZP version Solo's sometimes opened brutally hard at terminal, until the DZ finally got some bigger sliders from Aerodyne. I have some fun PFF videos of students rapidly disappearing upwards out of view...)
Aerodyne's coloured line attachment points are nice for newbies learning to pack.

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Solo's are absolutely not the best option for student canopies.

Frequent off heading openings and line twists, for my taste not enough flare power. I also witnessed multiple injuries on them. Not saying it is all about the chute, but from what I have seen there are better canopies out there.

While I admit that colored lines are great at the start, they won't help u evolve your feeling for proper line group lenghts and separation, which will result in a confussion later packing the non Aerodyne models.

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That is interesting. We have one Navigator and multiple Solos. The Solos seem much more forgiving of bad flares. I have seen numerous students flare at 5 feet and 30 feet and still stand it up.

We don't do static line so don't have a lot of subterminal openings on them but we definitely have not had any issues with line twists on them with AFFs. It is quite rare (and usually predictable from the student's body position when it is happening!)

I've jumped them on a dozen demos or more and found them to fly really well. I like Pilots better than Sabre 2's as well so it might be partially personal choice.

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I have Navigators, 300, 280, 260, 240 and they are pretty forgiving for students. We also have 2 Silhouette 210s that have been used will for students at light wing loadings.
Charlie Gittins, 540-327-2208
AFF-I, Sigma TI, IAD-I
MEI, CFI-I, Senior Rigger
Former DZO, Blue Ridge Skydiving Adventures

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It may seem I really trash talked the Solo, but maybe it is a personal preference or a single bad canopy. I must also state that I like them better with spectra lines. The flare seemed better and so did the responses. I also didn't like the forever long deployment speed, it should be soft but I found it was too much making the canopy go off heading and as I recall the problem with bad sliders is common.. again maybe a personal preference.

And to be clear this happened on a 270, the 250 seemed better.

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Over the years I have dropped (S/L, IAD and AFF) students with a bewildering array of main canopies: military-surplus rounds, Para-Commanders, big (300?) docile CAS canopies, DC-5s, Mantas, Skymasters, Lasers, Navigators, Solos, etc. I have also jumped most of those canopies.
Mantas are the industry standard for student canopies. Mantas are available with all F-111, hybrid (half F-111 with ZP top skin) or all ZP. Unless students exceed 200 pounds (90 kg) all ZP Mantas take forever to land, so we only hang the heaviest students under all ZP Mantas. All ZP Mantas are also slow to pack. Fortunately, these days most student and tandem mains are hybrids with ZP top skins and the rest F-111 which makes for quick packing and consistent flares.

I was most impressed with Solos. During my first jump on a Solo 270, I enjoyed the opening and turns but was most impressed with the flare! That Solo 270 "hovered" for a couple of seconds before setting me down softly. When packed neatly, Solos open neatly.

In conclusion, if I were buying canopies for a school, I would recommend 9-cells in the 230 to 300 square foot range with ZP top skins, but the rest F-111. For suspension lines, I recommend a zero-stretch line like Spectra or Vectran. All of the major manufacturers make decent student canopies these days, so test jump and shop around (major dealers) to determine which will sell at the best price. Finally, when debating price versus quality, always go with quality because you will only regret buying better gear once.

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Maddingo

It may seem I really trash talked the Solo, but maybe it is a personal preference or a single bad canopy. I must also state that I like them better with spectra lines. The flare seemed better and so did the responses. I also didn't like the forever long deployment speed, it should be soft but I found it was too much making the canopy go off heading and as I recall the problem with bad sliders is common.. again maybe a personal preference.

And to be clear this happened on a 270, the 250 seemed better.



You're just off of student status right? It's good to get your input, as I recall you're kind of a beefcake and were jumping the larger canopies. Which ones, and what did you think? Also, did you get any coaching on harness turns?
"I encourage all awesome dangerous behavior." - Jeffro Fincher

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Yes I am and that's why I wanted to give my input on this matter.

So if you are interested I can give a very detailed idea of how Solo's react compared to some other models and how I see my progression from very early to early canopy piloting. I tend to observe details in everything I do.

I jumped Solo's on Dacron and Spectra lines of which I really like spectra way better. The heavy stretchy dacrons are just not my thing and I find the response a bit sloppy and not so reasuring, so from my perspective (maybe it's just me) I really liked that the canopy "listened" to me more trough spectra lines on 250 than a 270 with dacrons. So from this point I really do not feel that a slow unresponsive canopy can be an advantage for a first time student, it really just feels heavy and not reasuring at all, I found that flare timing was way easier on spectras. As a student you also get a better feel for your errors. Since you have a student canopy above your head it does not really punish you, even though you have a bit more responsivenes in your toggles. It is not a bad thing right off the bat and it should be evaluated if the student is naturally inclined towards canopy piloting or not and give them the spectra lines.

Solo openings: As stated the Solo's mostly open SLOOOWLY. Like in some cases I really started my EP's with pumping risers and brakes and this was confirmed by a fellow jumper who said he saw me deploying before him (hop'n pop) and while he was already under the canopy I was just about to get a fully inflated wing. I deployed at 1200m and was open at just bellow 800m mark. This was my pack job and I used some tricks for slower openings (never again haha), like tucking the stabilisers under the slider and pulling the slider a bit out. So from packing perspective you can just flake it out and jam it in, it will open slow (only when it does not and it slams you ... huh). So beyond this point I noticed that theese slow openings induce canopy turning while inflating. The canopy searches the sky and it is frequent to get atleast 90° of heading openings. As a student during my early jumps I panicked a few times as I was getting the feeling it will twist up on me, which exhibited in harness inputs that got the canopy unstable. No, the canopy won't turn with harness input when it is deployed but it will react to it while in deployment stage making it somewhat twitchy for a bimbo seeing the thing above his head for the first time. After that I learned I just need to relax and let the canopy do it's thing of searching. Most of the times it just resulted in me leaning back evenly in the harness and relax my arms. This can be quite a tricky spot if you are not one of those "I trust my nerves" students. Nervous students tend to grab risers and hold on for dear life, not a good idea on this one.

So the flying part: Solo flies really slow and very flat, which is good. I tried to stall it but without any luck, so no worries during this stage. It flies really predictable, recovery arc is very short. The pressure on front risers is immense almost immposible for weaker students to bend the nose. For myself I noticed later on that it is harder for me to land where I want to with flatter glide, I like steeper trims, they are more predictable. So another food for thought regarding student safety. I noticed most student injuries came with flaring too high and a flat trim does not give you any better chance at making it. The power is way more important to me. So from my perspective: Rather fly steeper and when u fuck up have power to lift yourself up from the ground rather than come in flat and don't have power to compensate your mistake. From canopy perspective I saw way worse flare performances on older Skymasters. So it has decent flare power, but it can surprise you on hot windless days if you are too late or to early.

I observed some Navigators on the DZ and they seemed pretty similar in terms of trim/glide and flare performance. I cannot comment anything beyond this because I have not jumped one.

The Solo's pack easy and the color coding is great. Just remind students there won't be any colors later and they should also learn to naturally observe line groups and lengths.

My biggest revelation till now was the Parachute Systems zp.exe. It still falls into a student status canopy and it flies and reacts like a dream (even for never jumpers).

zp.exe compared to solo:

+faster on heading openings even with shitty pack jobs
+docile if you put slight inputs (up to 50%) but way more fun on the lower end, it gives you a taste of what is beyond the student canopies without putting you in danger
+steeper trim (one of the steepest for student canopies as I heard) so it dives a bit more with sudden toggle inputs, recovery arc is also a bit longer but not frightening
+strong flare power (strongest I've seen on student canopies)

-It is zp.exe material, it is slippery as hell so not the best option to learn packing, but nontheless the canopy is very forgiving
-The sudden transition in response in lower 50% can surprise early students, especially ones who are a bit more nervous and do not trust themselfs playing around with the canopy in the sky.

I am not sponsored by any brand so it is just my personal observation. Feel free to ask additional questions.

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Thanks, there are a lot of aspects of those canopies that make them harder to distinguish from one another, especially since DZ's sometimes further modify them. For example we make our brake lines a little longer because we don't want students stalling the canopy until we can have a thorough lesson on finding the stall-point on a canopy.

You'll find that front riser pressure is going to be through the roof on larger canopies and especially ones with a flatter trim since more suspended weight is on the front.

I don't know much about the Solos, at DZs where I've worked the larger ones are Navigators and the smaller are Sabre2s. Larger canopies will be much more mushy in their input for various reasons.

Thanks for the feedback. Nice to get that perspective.
"I encourage all awesome dangerous behavior." - Jeffro Fincher

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Thanks a lot for the detailed response everyone, this is really interesting to read and very helpful.


DJL

...we make our brake lines a little longer because we don't want students stalling the canopy until we can have a thorough lesson on finding the stall-point on a canopy.



We do that too for our Mantas and Furys.
It works relatively well, but one of the downsides is it reduces the responsiveness and flare, especially for people with shorter arms.

What surprised us was that the Navigator 260 was very responsive for even small inputs, yet we were not able to stall it. Even when we let a big guy jump it with a weight belt (15 kg if I remember correctly), so exit weight probably around 125 kg (275 lbs).

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I don't see the need to leave them longer, it only criples the perfromance of the canopy.

I understand all instructors want their students make it back unharmed, but underperforming canopy can be problematic as an overly responsive one. When you start jumping you don't have that natural feel of stepping down from the air and you tend to overstretch your legs to get that stand up landing or you just let the bum hit the floor. If you translate that into longer lines, you can hurt your knees or back really bad.

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Maddingo

I don'tt see the need to leave them longer, it only criples the perfromance of the canopy.

I understand all instructors want their studets make it back unharmed, but underperforming canopy can be problematic as an overly responsive one. When you start jumping you don't have that natural feel of stepping down from the air and you tend to overstretch your legs to get that stand up landing or you just let the bum hit the floor. IF you translate into longer lines, you can hurt your knees bad or u can hurt your back really bad.



That's all a result of poor landing technique and instruction. You should not try to reach down to the ground and you definitely should not butt-slide a landing, especially as a new jumper. The first typically results in a harness shift because the person puts on leg farther down, the second absorbs the shock along your spine. To paraphrase canopy coaching from Greg Windmiller, attempting to not land will result in the softest landing. The best landing will result in the canopy just floating straight over your head as you touch the ground, even in windier conditions.

While you cannot fix the added responsiveness of short lines, you can improve the aspect of lines being too long by having the student take a wrap around their hands. This is an EXTREMELY individual topic and I otherwise would not have brought it up because it's only applied to specific students with specific coaching. It's more important to properly coach a PLF landing. A student (or new jumper) absolutely should not plan to land with straight legs or on their butt.

To take another step up the decision tree instructors are putting students out in conditions that are acceptable for that student with that canopy. You as an A-license jumper are free to configure your brake lines as you wish.
"I encourage all awesome dangerous behavior." - Jeffro Fincher

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Yes, I just want to put my insight into this topic before I forget how it was to be a student.

I really never had any major issues with free fall or canopy piloting (landed on my legs after a jump or two), it all came natural to me, but it's better to highlight some problems that instructors with 1000+ jumps cannot understand anymore because of the sheer time in sport. It's like you can't understand how somebody can't ride a bicycle because you have forgotten the process. You know you have to learn it but you cannot understand it anymore. :)

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Just my 2 cents. Look into having at least 2 rigs that are a bit smaller for lightweights. I am a smaller female and during high winds the 270 canopies are too billowy -- the instructors don't like me on them. We have a 220 and 240 which are still nice and safe for students, but better for lightweights. Even during regular winds, they still let me jump the 220 because it is easier for me to flare and control. It works great for me and the other students who are smaller. :)

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thetreehugger

Just my 2 cents. Look into having at least 2 rigs that are a bit smaller for lightweights. I am a smaller female and during high winds the 270 canopies are too billowy -- the instructors don't like me on them. We have a 220 and 240 which are still nice and safe for students, but better for lightweights. Even during regular winds, they still let me jump the 220 because it is easier for me to flare and control. It works great for me and the other students who are smaller. :)



This is a good idea, and in fact we already have some small rigs for small people. At the moment they contain Fury 220's, but we will also replace them with (probably) navigators.

We already have some Navigator 240's, and the plan for now is to replace the Manta 288 with Nav 260's. So in the near future we will have 1 type of canopy in diffrent sizes... I like that.

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>Just my 2 cents. Look into having at least 2 rigs that are a bit smaller for lightweights. I
>am a smaller female and during high winds the 270 canopies are too billowy . . .

I would add that on small, flexible women, larger harnesses can be downright dangerous. We almost had a small Japanese woman (also a gymnast) fall out of a "standard" Telesis rig cranked down to the smallest setting when she arched really hard. Both main and reserve side held her in the rig until she pulled, then rotated her upright. She landed fine.

After that we had a mini-strike and refused to take any smaller jumpers until we got a smaller rig. We ended up with a small Telesis (still adjustable) that took a Triathlon 190.

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