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  1. 2 points
    When first learning to skydive, at least in the US, you attend a first jump course (FJC) that usually lasts between four and five hours on the ground, then you go up in a plane and jump. There are several methods of instruction including Accelerated Free Fall (AFF), Instructor Assisted Deployment (IAD), Static Line (SL), or a combination of the three called the Integrated Student Program (ISP). While all of these methods of instructions are different, they all have one thing in common: gravity. You have to land your parachute. This is where the PLF comes into play. It is also where numerous accidents happen, sometimes due to sliding in, rather than doing a PLF. This is understandable, since tandem pairs land this way for safety reasons. Besides standing up the landings (the preferred method), this is the landings students see most often. When skydiving first began, all of the equipment was military surplus. This included round canopies, so naturally the PLF was brought along as the safest way to land. Over time, and thanks to the innovation of early pioneers of the sport, the equipment evolved into the square (and now elliptical) canopy, which brought its own problems, like needing a slider to control the opening, and also alleviated the issue with hard landings, mostly. Now, rather than falling more or less wherever the wind blew you, you could steer and fly the canopy much the same as a glider, since the canopy is now a pressurized wing. When you want to land, you fly a landing pattern and pull both steering toggles down and flare, much the same as an airplane would by using flaps. This allows you to bleed off forward speed and land softly standing up (theoretically). Like all things skydiving, when it works, it works really well, but when it doesn't work, it can kill you. I was a skydiver before going airborne, so when it came time to learn how to PLF, I thought I had an advantage since I had been taught how. Boy was I wrong. They had a platform you climbed on and rode a zip line to gain forward speed and then you let go to learn how to PLF in a simulated landing. I could not keep my feet together, so the Blackhat (instructor) tied my boots together. I had to hop around all day, but I have not had a problem keeping my feet together since. In airborne school, they take two weeks to train you how to jump out of planes compared to five hours in skydiving. Most of that time is preparing you to land. As there is no way to steer the round canopy other than slipping on landing (pulling the risers to go sideways a little) or facing into the wind, and no way to flare or slow down the speed, the PLF is needed to prevent injury. I have seen a jumper fall about 50 feet and do a PLF and walk away with a few bruises. While I understand that time is limited and it is hard to prepare a student for all possibilities, I feel that more time should be spent on PLFs during the FJC, at least an hour, and that students should do at least five correct PLFs before every jump. This is standard procedure before doing an airborne jump, and includes all jumpers being led through the entire jump by a jumpmaster, including their emergency procedures. If we put every student through this before every day of jumping, it would help prevent injuries. The reason students choose to slide in rather than PLF is observation. Since this is the way a tandem pair lands in order to prevent injury, it is assumed to be safe. It is, when properly taught. It is easier to injure yourself sliding in or trying to run out a landing than doing a PLF. I know of at least two serious injuries sustained sliding in that a proper PLF would have prevented. One case ended with a cage around the lower vertebrae. I made a jump at an unfamiliar DZ on rental gear and the winds were a little high, about 15 mph, so I ended up landing long. When I turned on final, there were some power lines in front of me and I was headed straight for them. I turned around and did a downwind landing, and a PLF into the hard-as-a-rock, newly plowed field, ending up with some scratches when I landed. I was going about 20 mph forward speed. Had I slid in or tried to run it out, I would most likely have broken something. Another time I jumped at an unfamiliar DZ, I chose to PLF instead of running it out, and while walking back stepped in a gopher hole. Had I hit that while running out the landing, I would have broken my ankle. A proper PLF has five points of contact: the balls of the feet, calf, thigh, buttock, and pull-up muscle (deltoid). When you prepare to hit the ground, keep your feet and knees together, slightly bent, in preparation to absorb the impact. When you fall, hit all the points of contact in order, while rolling on the ground. A proper PLF will allow you to absorb all of the energy and dissipate it by rolling, rather than staying stiff and breaking bones or tearing ligaments and tendons. I kick my feet together when approaching my landing to ensure my feet are together and knees bent, ready to hit the ground and roll. That way, if I don't bleed off enough speed to land standing up, I am already prepared to roll and do it without thinking. If I am going slowly enough, I have a nice stand up landing. Although the goal is standing it up, it is best to be prepared for a PLF, especially if you are fond of your ankles and spine. Blue skies. Article written by @sfzombie13
  2. 1 point
    This article by Alain Bard is meant as a general guide. We highly recommend contacting your local rigger and instructor before using any of the information provided in this article. In the years I’ve been a rigger, I’ve often seen the results of skydivers’ gear buying experiences. Most experiences go well, but some do not, and result in the buyer having to re-sell an inappropriate piece of gear they bought. In this article, I am going to try to lay down some advice on how to go about choosing gear. I’m going to try to not go into brand specifics, but rather which components you should get and in what order, buying new or used, and sizing. New vs. Used? Let’s tackle this one first. Should you buy new or used? Traditional advice is that if this is your first set of gear: you should buy used. You’ll probably only use your first set of gear for the first 100 jumps or so. If you buy used skydiving gear, you can save some money (over new) while jumping your first set of gear, and take your time figuring out what you really want before you commit to buying new equipment. Let’s break it down though. So to put together a rig, you have to get 4 components: a harness/container, a reserve parachute, an Automatic Activation Device (AAD) and a main parachute. Whether to buy each of these pieces new or used depends on the piece. AAD Let’s start with the easy one: the AAD. Used or new does not matter, as you’re paying a fixed cost per year for these units. This fixed cost per year varies between $80-160 per year depending on which unit you choose. If budget is an issue, and you can find one used, grab it. Used AADs are rare as they expire faster than the skydiving gear they are in. If your budget allows, you can buy new. AADs are super easy to re-sell if you ever need to. Reserve Parachute Next up: the reserve parachute. For newbies, I always recommend buying a used reserve parachute, as you can save a significant amount of money here, and the benefit of a new reserve isn’t really justified over the cost of a new one. Reserve parachutes don’t get used very often, and even after 10 years, are usually in next to perfect condition. A 10-year old reserve of the same design is the same as a brand new one, it’s just cheaper to buy. Ensure the reserve has less than 5 or so “rides” and is no older than 15-18 years old. Also, ensure it has no holes, patches or repairs, or if it does, make sure the cost is much less, and consider sending it back to the factory to have it checked out first. Main Parachute For the main parachute, my advice is the opposite to a reserve. I recommend buying a main with as few jumps as possible (under 200 if possible). Buying a new main parachute is preferable, if budget allows. You will use this parachute to save your life 99.9% of the time. Its condition matters. Age isn’t really that much of a concern as much as the number of jumps. I like to make sure a main parachute still has its original lines, because you can tell the number of jumps by the condition of the lines. Trying to estimate the number of jumps on a canopy after a reline is sometimes difficult if the parachute fabric has been kept clean, dry and out of the sun. Another consideration is where the jumps were made. A parachute that was jumped in the summer in Canada or the US Northeast on green grass for only 6 months of each year will be in much better condition than one jumped all year round in desert-like or beach locations. Sand really eats away at the fabric coating and gets into the seams. If budget is really an issue, then a modern-design (last 10-15 years) used main parachute with more jumps is OK too, but make sure to have your rigger take a look and don’t pay too much for it, as it’s not going to be worth as much. Again, ensure it has no holes, patches or repairs, or if it does, make sure pay much less, and consider sending it back to the factory to have it checked out first. Harness/Container Last is the harness/container, for 80% of newbies, a used harness/container is probably the right way to go. Newbies tend not to land on their feet 100% of the time, and if you get a used harness/container a little dirty or scuffed up, it won’t matter as much. The problem is getting the right size for both the canopies *and* for your body (ie. harness size). Sizing for canopies is easy enough, but then sometimes it’s difficult to find the perfect sized harness. Having a harness that is a little too big or too small isn’t the end of the world, but it’s not as comfortable as a made-to-measure harness. If the harness is more than a little too big or too small, then resizing a harness is always an option, but it may cost more to have a harness resized than the harness/container is worth. For 20% of newbies, their body type makes it almost impossible to find a used harness/container. I’m talking about the 6’ guy who weighs 120lbs, or the 4’8” girl who weighs 95lbs, or on the other end of the spectrum, what you’ll find advertised as “big-boy rigs” for really large and/or heavy people. For these people that fall outside the average body types, while resizing a harness is sometimes an option, getting a new harness/container is sometimes a better option. Some manufacturers make basic rigs with no bells or whistles that end up costing less than a used, fully featured harness/container. I’m talking about rigs like the Shadow Racer and the Rigging Innovations Genera. These are great rigs at an even better price. Also, if you are a serving military member, some manufacturers offer incentives (up to 30% off) on new gear. This is a great deal, and a no-brainer. If you are eligible for such discounts, get new stuff! Before I move on, I want to mention that when you buy used, you will have to keep an open mind when it comes to colors. It’s the price you pay to save some money. So now WHAT should I buy, but more importantly – in what order? So you’ve been jumping a certain size main for a while and think you’re ready to downsize and get a different set of gear. Great! Let’s go through it. One of the biggest gear-buying mistakes is choosing (or buying) a harness/container first, and then trying to fit the canopies into a container that was not sized for those canopies, so…. Here’s the order in which you should think about it: Select the Reserve canopy first. Select an appropriately sized reserve. Your reserve should be big enough to not seriously hurt or kill you in the event of an unconscious reserve landing (no flare). This means that your reserve should be sized according to your wing loading on that reserve. For most people, that means I recommend getting a reserve at least one size bigger than the main you intend to jump. So if you think you want to jump a 150-size main parachute, get a 160 or 170-size reserve, and if you're a big guy that jumps a tiny cross-braced canopy, you'll maybe still want a 170-sized reserve (4-8 times larger than your main). You’ll thank me when you actually need to use the reserve. Then, pick a main, any main. Well, not really, but decide on the size of main you want to jump. You can pick the type of main later, but decide on size now. Now you can think about a harness/container! Then and only then start doing the research on what brand of harness/container you want based on the features you think are important to you. Look at harness/container manufacturers’ published volume charts to see which size container you would need to fit the reserve. You want to pick a size of container that fits the reserve and is described as “soft” or “normal” fit (if those descriptors are available). Stay away from a “tight” reserve fit at all costs. You’ll quickly notice that not all the manufacturers offer combinations that will fit a reserve that’s larger than a main. That’s really a shame. You should really ask those manufacturers why they don’t offer this. An expensive solution to this problem is a low-bulk reserve, which is marketed a being able to pack one size smaller than a regular reserve. So, if you want a container combination that fits a regular 150-sized main, and only fits a 150-size reserve, a low-bulk 160 reserve may be an option. Careful though, it doesn’t scale down. For instance, a low-bulk 126 reserve may not fit in a 113-sized container, or it may fit but be so tight that it interferes with the normal deployment of the reserve. This is bad, and should be avoided. So you’ve picked a reserve, and you know what size of harness/container you need, only then should you start looking at the classifieds to see if you can find something that has the right size harness attached to it. If you find something that you think fits, or described by the seller as fitting someone your size, ask the seller for the serial number of the harness/container. Then contact the manufacturer of the rig (even if it was made 10 or 20 years ago), and ask them what size the harness was made to fit. Most manufacturers keep data on all the rigs they have ever built, and will be happy to disclose this information to you, and discuss whether it would fit you based on your measurements. There is no need for guessing games. You can know before you even buy whether or not the harness/container will fit you. The only exception to this rule is if the harness has previously been re-sized, which is uncommon. Main Parachute 7-cell, 9-cell, F111, ZP, Hybrid, low bulk, square, semi-elliptical, elliptical, air locked, cross-braced, etc., etc… There are many mains on the market today. There is no right or wrong answer here. It depends on what you want to do. I’ll have to save this topic for another article. Refer to my comments above on age and condition. Don’t forget the AAD! The last part is to get an AAD. As long as the AAD in question is within its service life, has been maintained at the proper interval (if required), operates normally, and is approved for the harness/container you want to put it in, then you’re good to go. So there you have it. It’s not always obvious at first, so I hope this guide will help some of you out. Alain Bard has been an active skydiver since 2003. Alain holds the following CPSA ratings: D CoP, Skydiving Coach Level 2, Jumpmaster (JM), Ground Control Instructor (GCI), Skydive School Instructor (SSI), Skydive School Examiner (SSE), Exhibition Jump Rating (EJR), Parachute Rigger (RA). He is also a Tandem Instructor. Alain is a certified Hot Air Balloon Pilot (Transport Canada) Alain is a certified Paramotor Pilot (Transport Canada) Alain is a certified Paraglider Pilot (HPAC) You can find out more about Alain at his website: http://bard.ca
  3. 1 point
    By Bryan Burke, S&TA; at Skydive Arizona Identifying the ProblemAll of the following events took place during our spring 2013 season here at Skydive Arizona. Some have been repeated several times. Since I started to look into this subject and inquire as to what other drop zones are seeing, several similar incidents have been brought to my attention. In addition, there are several reports of serious freefall collisions that have resulted from tracking, angle, and wingsuit dives around the world. Example One Angle flying dives, also known as atmonauti or tracing dives, are recording fall rates comparable to freeflyers. They not only fall faster than true trackers, they do not cover nearly the horizontal distance that true tracking dives do. (Inexperienced trackers, especially on their backs, often have essentially the same flight characteristics, much faster down than experienced trackers and not much horizontal travel.) In one case, a group of very experienced angle fliers insisted on exiting first, saying they were trackers. They fell at freefly speeds, about 170 miles per hour. The dive was planned to go roughly 90 degrees to the line of flight, but they didn’t go very far, covering less than half the distance a real tracking dive would. This type of dive tends to include a lot of highly experienced freeflyers experimenting with new stuff, so they were jumping very fast canopies and opening between 3,000 and 3,500. A conventional belly flying group followed them out. They had a long climb-out, about 15 seconds, broke off at 4,500 feet, tracked, and deployed between 3,000 and 2,500. All of them were experienced and competent trackers in the conventional sense of the word. There was nothing unusual about the conditions. Up on the jump run, the airplane was covering ground at 150 feet per second (about 90 knots) and the horizontal distance between Group 1 and Group 2 at exit would be about 2,250 feet. Because of the longer freefall time for the second group, about 500 feet of that was lost to freefall drift in the winds aloft. This leaves their hypothetical center points at opening about 1,750 horizontal feet apart, still adequate separation for two conventional belly flying groups opening within a few seconds of each other. However, because of their fast freefall speed, followed by the climb-out time for the second group, the angle fliers deployed their parachutes nearly thirty seconds before the second group, but also 500 to 1,000 feet higher. They immediately turned towards the landing area under canopy; otherwise they would not get back, at least not with enough altitude for a big swoop. During that thirty seconds, they only dropped about 700 - 1,000 feet or so vertically, but they covered between 1,500 and 1,800 horizontal feet in that time. This does not even take into account the ground covered by tracking at break-off from either group. Canopy winds were light. In thirty seconds, a modern fast canopy in normal straight flight will do 60 feet per second horizontally. That puts them 1,800 feet back towards the DZ and line of flight. Mentally, skydivers tend to think freefall separation is an exit problem, not a canopy problem. Once they have a good canopy, they are conditioned to think about canopy traffic and their landing – not about what might be in freefall overhead, because in the past this has not been a problem since we figured out that fast fallers should follow slow fallers out in the exit sequence. So, at about 2,500 feet the two groups effectively merged into a single large mix of deploying freefallers and people already under very fast parachutes. The only reason there were no collisions was blind luck. Mind you, every one of these jumpers was experienced, current, and well trained within the existing paradigm. Example Two A very experienced jumper with a cutting edge wingsuit was logging freefalls of over three minutes and opening at about 3,500. We had three aircraft flying. Our procedure is to leave a minimum of two minutes between drops for conventional freefall loads, three with wing suits or students, and four after a load with tandems. The wingsuit jumper exited. The plane behind started a three minute clock. Although the wingsuiter opened about half a mile away from the jump run, he then made a riser turn towards the landing area and left the brakes stowed as he fiddled with his suit. A minute later, he was just under 2,500 when canopies were opening around him. Example Three Taxiing out from the loading area, the pilot called me to ask which way trackers should go. This piqued my curiosity, trackers are supposed to know this when they manifest. I told him “east” and asked if he could tell where they were in the exit order. Meanwhile I checked with the manifest to see if anyone on that load had reported they were planning to track or asked for information about which way to go. None had. A bit later the pilot replied that they would be exiting first. I got out my binoculars to watch. The three-way tracking group exited and flew straight up the line of flight, opening between the next two groups in the exit order. Naturally I noted their canopies and rounded the three up in the landing area for a discussion. Initially they were confused about what the problem was, although they did acknowledge that there were other canopies in the sky closer than they had expected. The leader of the dive had seventy jumps. It was his first tracking dive, and he was leading it on his back. He had planned to turn off jump run and fly east and was completely unaware of his failure to do so. The other two had about 150 and 200 jumps, not enough to be aware that he had failed to turn. Even if they had been, there was no plan on how to signal course corrections to the leader, and they were not close enough to do so in any case, due to the lack of experience. Two of the three, including the one with 70 jumps, had GoPros on, which no doubt distracted them from the navigation problem as they tried to video each other. It was a de-briefing nightmare as I learned more and more about how much they did not know. It was their first time at a large, busy drop zone. They had never received any coaching or advice on tracking. They had no idea about USPA’s recommendations for jumping with a camera. This episode made me realized that the manifest in-briefing that had served us well for years, with minor modifications now and then, was no longer adequate. In the past we never felt the need to screen for camera use or horizontal flying, merely informing them that if they were planning to track or wingsuit they would need to get a daily update from the safety officer. Example Four A total of twelve wingsuit jumpers landed out, the nearest almost half a mile from our normal landing area, the farthest over a mile out. After I rounded up the entire group (not one of them local jumpers) I made it plain that this was unacceptable, not just from a safety point of view, but also because many of them landed on private property or public roads, not a good thing in terms of our relations with the community. Questioning them about their flight planning, I learned some very interesting things. First, it was two groups, not one. The less experienced group was planning to take an “inside track” while the second, more experienced group was planning to fly a wider course, both of the tracks parallel to the original jump run. (This is a fairly common practice at DZs with a lot of wingsuit activity.) To make this easier, the individual who had taken charge of planning asked the pilot to turn 90 left at the end of the regular skydiver jump run. In theory the two wing suit groups would then simply exit and turn 90 left, paralleling the normal jump run back to the DZ and gaining horizontal separation from the climb-out time on jump run. Unfortunately this plan did not take into account that the winds aloft were about 30 knots out of the west, and the standard jump run was south. Thus, a left turn gave the plane a ground speed of about 130 knots, and each group took quite a while to climb out. Once in flight, they were already well down wind of the planned flight area and would have more cross-wind push the entire flight. Clearly this plan was doomed from the start, and anyone who had the slightest idea what the winds aloft were doing would know this. Winds aloft are very easy to find on line these days, or someone could have simply asked the Safety Officer what his observations were. Not one of those twelve wingsuiters questioned the incredibly bad plan the group leader had come up with, which was based on completely wrong assumptions. Even if anyone had looked down, they were already committed and had no Plan B. Example Five I picked up a wingsuit jumper who landed over a mile off the dz. (Nearly 1.5 statute miles, in fact.) The only reason I even knew about him was a bystander saw his canopy in the distance and pointed him out. I never would have seen him, his opening point was well beyond our first exit group on the normal jump run! His story? With very little experience on his new high performance suit, he was jumping a new helmet and camera set-up for the first time. He reported that he had problems with the helmet throughout the flight (shifting and vibrating) and forgot to pay attention to where he was going, flying downwind and away from the DZ the entire time. Example Six Trackers landed out, on the approach to the runway. When I inquired about the flight plan they said that when they got to the airplane, there was another tracking dive. The two groups decided to exit first and second, each going 90 degrees to the jump run in opposite directions. This put the out-landing group exiting at the extreme early end of the jump run, tracking downwind, then faced with penetrating back into the canopy winds. They had no chance to make it to the normal landing area and their opening position put them in a canopy descent to a clear area directly on the extended centerline of the runway. These are real world examples at one drop zone over the course of a mere couple of months. Along with similar problems reported from other drop zones and the incidents of actual and near-miss collisions associated with horizontal dives, it seems clear that training in these fields is completely inadequate. Before Freeflying came along in the early 90s, the skydiving environment was very simple. Everyone fell almost straight down and parachutes flew about 25 miles per hour. In the 90s, we had to figure out how to deal with a new, much faster fall rate in some groups, and canopies almost doubled in horizontal speed. In the last decade, even more variations in skydiving have popped up. These didn’t really show up much on DZO’s radar because so few people were doing them, but now they are increasingly common. Approximate Speeds of Various Forms of Skydiving Activity* Activity Vertical Speed Range Horizontal Speed Range Freefall time (13,000) FS 120 – 130 mph 0 – 20 mph** 00:60 - 65 Freefly 150 – 180 0 – 20** 00:40 – 50 Tracking 120 – 140 30 – 60*** 00:55 – 65 Angle 140 – 160 20 – 40*** 00:45 – 50 Wingsuit 40 – 70 50 – 80*** 01:30 – 3:00 *Approximations derived from videos and recording altimeters. **Random drift due to things like backsliding, one side of the formation low, etc. ***Best guess, based on distance covered in freefall time. Thus, on a single load there might be freefall times from exit at 13,000’ to opening at 3,000’ as little as :40 seconds and as much as three minutes. Horizontal speeds will range from zero to 80, with distances of up to a mile on tracking dives and flights of several miles possible for expert wingsuit jumpers. Note that these speeds will vary considerably. For example, experimenting with tracking myself and observing tracking contests, I could get well over a mile in 60 seconds and many people can out-track me by a significant margin. However, actual tracking dives are usually not done in a max track position because it doesn’t lend itself to maneuvering with others. On a calm day, a tracking dive going 90 off the line of flight usually only covers about half a mile. Identifying the RisksCollisions within Groups Within groups, tracking, wingsuit, and angle dives are showing a disproportionately high rate of collision injuries. Even the best planned dives can still involve high closing speeds as the group forms and breaks up. And, as Bill von Novak has pointed out: On a tracking dive there is no focal point; no base you can dock on or, failing that, at least keep in sight for break-off. Everyone tracks in effectively a random direction at the end of the dive and hopes for clear air. In some cases they even barrel roll just to add some more randomness to their directions. To a newbie a tracking dive sounds lower pressure than a big-way; you don't have to dock, you just have to go in a similar direction as the leader. This tends to attract lower experienced jumpers, and those jumpers often shed the jumpsuit they are used to for a freefly suit or no suit at all - resulting in new and hard to predict fall rates/forward speeds. To that I have to add the potential for huge closing speeds, sometimes due to lack of skill but often due to poor organizing. Tracking dives in particular have a history of being “loose” or “pick-up” loads. Many times I have seen people “organizing” a tracking dive by making a general announcement to give a ticket to manifest if you want to come along. There is often very little screening for experience and ability. Then, it is common to group the more experienced people close to the leader, and that person is often in a floater position on exit. Anyone who can remember learning to do larger formations knows that novice divers tend to dive too long, even if they have been forewarned about the problem. (If you dive out two or three seconds after the base, that base is way ahead of you on the acceleration curve, so they appear to be getting further away – which they are. You dive more aggressively, something you don’t have much practice at. Then, when the base hits terminal velocity, they suddenly rush up at you because you are now going much, much faster than the base. You then go low, or collide.) Now add to that the significant horizontal movement, burbles that aren’t directly above the lower jumper, multiple vertical levels, and huge blind spots since you are looking ahead, not around. The potential for collisions is incredibly obvious once you think about it, but apparently few people doing tracking dives are thinking about it. Collisions Between Groups Although these are still rarely found in the accident record, I have seen many near misses, which suggests that it is only a matter of time. This is particularly disturbing to me because in a group-to-group collision, it means someone was exposed to an extreme hazard that they had no knowledge of, expectation of, or control over. Skydiving is risky enough with the known hazards. As drop zone operators and safety professionals it is morally wrong to expose our customers to a risk where their only real control would be to look at who else is on the load, and pull off it. Landing Out Out landings have two problems, one a risk to the jumper and the other, to the drop zone itself. The record shows that out landings have a high risk of landing injuries, especially from low turns to avoid obstacles or turn into the wind. This risk is exacerbated by the fact that the drop zone staff might not even know of an injury, and if they do, the response can be complicated. The second risk is aggravating the neighbors or airport authorities. Every drop zone has at least some neighbors or authorities who are opposed to skydiving. As long as these are a small minority a DZ can usually get by. Once skydivers start dropping into neighborhoods, landing on runways, and otherwise drawing unwelcome attention, the political balance can change. A classic example of this is the tracker landing on the roof of a two-story house 1.3 miles south of the DZ at Longmont, Colorado early in July of 2013. He not only broke his leg, he damaged the roof and required a complex rescue. At the time of the incident, he had 64 jumps in over a year in the sport. The wind was blowing from the north, but he tracked south, towards a heavily developed suburban area. In his own remarks, he accepts no responsibility for the incident, blaming it entirely on the winds rather than his extremely poor planning. Changing the Paradigm What do these activities all have in common, from the standpoint of skydiving culture? There is very little expectation, or even definition, of quality. Success is defined as mere participation and survival. Near collisions, actual collisions, landing out, and other problems do not seem to be perceived as failure. The video evidence alone is proof of this attitude. Just randomly browse YouTube for tracking, wingsuit, and angle dives and you’ll see some really bad, sometimes frightening, flying. Yet the comments are almost never critical. In order to turn this around, drop zones will have to set higher standards and change the definition of acceptable. This is not the first time we’ve been down this road. I started skydiving in 1978. Sequential FS was really starting to take off, but for the typical jump group there was no reason to plan a second point. As an old friend of mine said of those days, “I remember when a good 8-way was a 4-way!” It was learn by doing, and we had a lot of accidents from the hard docks, funnels, and collisions on the way to and from the funnels. But we learned a lot, and fifteen years later, when freefly came along, RW was at a pretty advanced, safe stage of technique. Those who were around in the early days of freeflying saw history repeat itself. Freeflyers didn’t want to dirt dive, debrief, or set goals. That was for RW jumpers, and anything to do with RW wasn’t cool. It was simply “Let’s jump together and do some tricks.” Eventually, they came to realize that just led to a lot of wasted jump tickets, AAD fires, and hard knocks in freefall. Now freeflying uses exactly the same philosophy as FS: train, set goals, set standards, and most of all, plan dives appropriate to the experience and ability of the participants. Now we see a new discipline emerging. On the one hand, angle flying is somewhat like freefly, where the recruits are already fairly experienced skydivers. Tracking is often more like early RW, where there was not a lot of skill among many of the participants, and not much meaningful leadership from the ones who had managed to survive. Wingsuiting seems to be in a class by itself, a population split between regular skydivers wanting to try something new, and BASE jumpers who feel that rules are a curse. One thing most of them seem to lack is good training about the surrounding environment. Training The general lack of training, supervision, and experience in this field is part of the problem. For example, although most wingsuiters take a first flight course of some type, I have visited web sites naming instructors with as few as 300 total jumps and only 100 wingsuit jumps! Based on the quality of some wingsuit jumpers, clearly some instructors have pretty low standards as well as low skills. All of the training materials I have seen make some mention of navigating and awareness of wind conditions, yet not one of the wingsuit jumpers I have spoken to after they land out has reported that their instruction included specific details on how to plan an effective flight path. After debriefing countless wingsuit incidents including malfunctions, traffic problems with other jumpers, out landings, and so on, I have come to conclude that a USPA Wingsuit Instructor Rating is a good idea. Training should included a detailed syllabus and written and practical tests, including flight planning, before they receive a wingsuit endorsement. At present it cannot be assumed that any wingsuit jumper has adequate training. Tracking attracts people with very little experience and has even less formal training than wingsuiting. It is perceived as something anyone off student status can do, since there is no need for enough skill to dock on a formation or turn points. In fact, some tracking dives are put together with the clear expectation that some participants won’t even be able to keep up. Since tracking itself is perceived as easy, I believe this translates into a mind-set that there is nothing to worry about. Hence we see very poorly organized dives with little or no screening for ability or experience, and often no meaningful flight planning. Angle flying also requires better screening for skill. Initially this activity was mainly undertaken by highly skilled freeflyers, but now that it has been popularized on media sites a lot of less experienced jumpers want to get involved. Like tracking, these dives require a flight plan that takes into account the rest of the load, and the high descent rate. In my opinion angle flying is more akin to freeflying than to tracking, and should exit in conventional freefly order with great attention to flying 90 degrees off the line of flight but not into the same airspace that slower falling trackers may also be heading for. Standards for Experience and Participation Unlike Freeflying and Formation Skydiving, horizontal flying cannot be learned in a wind tunnel. The only way to acquire skill is to actually do it. As everyone knows from learning Formation Skydiving or Freeflying, you don’t take people with 70 jumps up on large formations with mixed experience levels and minimal planning – at least not with a reasonable expectation of safety and success. We also know that you don’t develop skills very effectively if you have no expert coaching - or at least competent leadership. This should include goals set for the skydive before you are on the way to altitude, a useful dirt dive, and then a good post-dive debriefing, ideally with a video that is useful, not a sloppy, shaky GoPro video with constantly changing reference points. After giving it extensive consideration, I’m planning to screen new arrivals much more aggressively and have minimum standards they will have to adhere to. Just as most skydiving associations feel 200 jumps is a good minimum for wingsuits and cameras, fifty is a good number for a night jump, and so on, I feel that tracking dives should not be undertaken, except as one-on-ones with an experienced coach or instructor (or approved solos after consulting with an I or STA) until 100 jumps. At that point, the jumper can go on slightly larger tracking dives led by a coach, instructor, or approved organizer. For those with more jumps just taking up tracking, I feel that regardless of experience your first ten tracking dives should be with an approved Coach, Instructor, or organizer and these individuals should have an understanding with the dz about keeping the dives small and simple, just as we would with an expert FS jumper exploring freeflying. To lead a tracking or angle flying jump, I am thinking about a minimum of five hundred jumps, including at least 25 tracking jumps (and 25 angle flying jumps for that activity, not a total of 25 combined). The minimum skill set to lead will include awareness of collision risks and how to mitigate them, the importance of staying away from the jump run, how to make a flight plan that guarantees everyone will get back, how to plan with other groups on the load to ensure adequate separation, etc. Leaders must screen all participants for skill and have a well planned dive from exit to opening. Dives for which anyone can sign up by bringing a ticket to manifest are not allowed. Leading on the back is not allowed unless paired with another skilled tracking leader as a co-pilot flying face down. Information, Screening, and Guidelines Skydive Arizona’s plan to get better information out and establish our intentions and expectations with the horizontal community is simple. Once our procedures are established, or whenever we change them, the procedures will be posted on our web site, displayed near the loading area on a multi-sided “Safety Kiosk,” and available as flyers or hand-outs at manifest. As jumpers arrive they will be asked if they have any intention of participating in horizontal jumps. If so, they will receive the hand-out and a special briefing, in addition to the usual DZ briefing. Depending on their experience level they may be limited in what they can do, or directed to our coaching department. (Although the GoPro problem is only peripheral, we’ll be adopting a similar strategy there.) Drop Zone SOPs Besides improved training, screening for skill and experience, and better coaching and organizing, drop zones can also implement standard operating procedures to mitigate some risks. Exit Order The phenomenon discussed in Example 1, above, indicates that angle flyers should never go before belly flyers. If they do, we not only have the well known problem of differential freefall drift in winds (the faster fallers drift less, the slower ones, more) but we then combine that with fast canopies having 20 or 30 seconds of flight to eliminate any remaining horizontal separation. This has already happened here, at Elsinore, and on the east coast that I know of; doubtless it has happened elsewhere. Trackers can leave just about anywhere in the order, provided the flight plan works with the overall scheme of things. If they have a slow fall rate and a fast horizontal rate, leaving first works fine, providing the leader takes a course that does not put them too far away. In practice, the pilot is always trying to get the first group off the plane at the earliest possible point from which they have a reasonable chance of getting back. This creates the best opportunity to get the entire load out on one pass. If the trackers leave first and fly 90 off the jump run, they are now further out than that “earliest possible” point. Leaving first, they must do a minimum of 45 off the line of flight, or 90 for half the jump followed by 45 for the rest, or 60 the entire time - something that gains a little ground back towards the dz while at the same time getting well clear of the jump run. Clearly, any exit position still presents the possibility of a tracking group flying up or down the jump run. The only way to mitigate this risk is to limit tracking leadership to experienced, well trained skydivers. Flight Planning I will be asking everyone in the horizontal community to take much more responsibility in flight planning. As I see it, the proper planning procedure has several steps. Get a clear understanding of the overall DZ geography. If, for example, going to the right of the line of flight will put you over the ocean while going left will put you over a safe, open field, left might be the best choice if winds allow. Get current wind conditions, exit to surface. Find out if there are any other special concerns, such as a second plane dropping military or CF jumpers in an airspace box adjacent to the normal jump run. Plan an opening point from which everyone can safely get back to the DZ. From that point, reverse engineer the freefall portion taking into account never flying under or over the jump run and avoiding other horizontal groups on the plane. In the event that winds, geography, other DZ activity, or some other issue makes it unlikely that all points of the flight plan will be successful, cancel the dive until conditions are more favorable.On every dive we will hold the flight leader responsible for devising such a plan and executing it properly. Any safety infractions or out landings will result in grounding until they can prove they understand the situation better and have devised a strategy to prevent a repeat. Per Load Limits Depending on whether or not the DZ and jump run offer the option of flying to both sides of the line of flight, it is possible to get up to four horizontal groups out of a plane safely. If the airspace is limited to just one side of the jump run, three seems to be about the limit. I’m more concerned with keeping everyone safe than with pleasing everyone if significant risks are involved, so we will start limiting the number of horizontal jumps on any given load. On this subject of pleasing customers, the situation is analogous to the HP landing problem. If the risk is to the participant only, then a little extra risk might be considered acceptable. However, when other skydivers have no control over the risk, it is completely unfair to expose them to it. Just as HP landings don’t belong in the normal traffic pattern, horizontal flight that might endanger other groups on the load is not acceptable. Minimum and Maximum Opening Altitudes I am not a great believer in relying on vertical separation, since a stuck pilot chute, premature deployment, or spinning malfunction can erase it in seconds. However, there is no reason not to add it to the arsenal. Some drop zones are mandating a minimum 4,000 foot deployment altitude for wingsuits and a maximum 3,000 for trackers and angle flyers. I haven’t made a decision on this yet, but it makes sense in some situations. Enforcement After the alarming close calls in our last season, and looking back on the canopy discipline problem that plagued the sport for years (and still does, in places) Skydive AZ recognizes that modifying behavior requires both positive guidance and, when necessary, some penalties. We’ll be asking horizontal flyers who create safety problems to stand down from their activity until they can demonstrate a better understanding of our concerns.
  4. 1 point
    While I was an S+TA, I spent a considerable amount of time telling people they shouldn't be loading their canopies so heavily. 90% of the time it didn't work. Skydivers can have a bit of an ego, and when I told them they probably shouldn't downsize yet they heard "I think you're a crappy canopy pilot who can't handle a smaller wing." So they downsized and broke their legs, backs and pelvises with some regularity. A few years back I met up with Brett, one of the people I'd been lecturing to whle I was an S+TA. He told me that he wished he'd listened to me back then. He had broken his femur during a botched landing, been out of the sport for a while, and then came back and really learned to fly his canopy. He took a canopy control course and actually upsized to get more performance out of his canopy. He ended up coming in first in one of the events at the PST that year. That started me thinking. Maybe the approach I was taking was wrong. Since jumpers tend not to listen to other people who tell them they're not as good as they think they are, perhaps if you could give them better tools to evaluate themselves they could make better decisions about canopy choices. It's one thing to have some boring S+TA guy give you a lecture about not having any fun under canopy, quite another to try to perform a needed manuever under canopy - and fail. In that case there's no one telling you you can't fly the canopy, it's just blatantly obvious. So I came up with a list of canopy control skills everyone should have before downsizing. Some are survival skills - being able to flat turn would have saved half a dozen people this year alone. Some are canopy familiarization skills - being able to do a gentle front riser approach teaches you how to judge altitude and speed at low altitudes, and how to fly a parachute flying faster than its trim airspeed, a critical skill for swooping. It's important to do these BEFORE you downsize, because some manuevers are a little scary (turning at 50 feet? Yikes!) and you want to be on a larger canopy you're completely comfortable with before trying such a thing. The short version of the list is below. Before people downsize, they should be able to: flat turn 90 degrees at 50 feet flare turn at least 45 degrees land crosswind and in no wind land reliably within a 10 meter circle initiate a high performance landing with double front risers and front riser turn to landing land on slight uphills and downhills land with rear risers Details: 1. Flat turn 90 degrees at 50 feet.This is the most important of all the skills. The objective of this manuever is to change your direction 90 degrees losing as little altitude as possible, and come out of the manuever at normal flying speed. Coming out at normal flying speed means you can instantly flare and get a normal landing. If you can do this at 50 feet, and come out of the manuever with normal flying speed at 5 feet, you can flare and land normally. Every year people die because they decide they simply have to turn at 100 feet and know only one way to do it - pull down a toggle. The parachute dives and they hit the ground at 40mph. To prevent this, not only do you have to know how to flat turn, but you have to practice it enough that it becomes second nature. Then when you do need it, you won't have to think about it. To pull off this manuever, start by toggle turning the parachute gently. IMMEDIATELY follow that with some opposite toggle. The idea is that you want to flare just a little to counteract the canopy's desire to dive. Continue adding opposite toggle until you've stopped the turn. At this point let both toggles all the way up. If you feel the parachute accelerate after you let go of the toggles (i.e. it feels like you just flared) use less opposite toggle next time. If you feel like the parachute is diving, like you just did a toggle turn, use more opposite toggle next time. Basically you want to start the turn with one toggle, stop it with the other one, and use just enough toggle to keep the wing from diving but not so much that it does a flare. It should go without saying that this manuever should be practiced up high before you ever try it down low. If and when you do try it out low, start at lesser angles (i.e. try a 15 degree turn first) make sure the pattern is clear and make sure conditions are good (soft ground, good winds.) Work up gradually to a full 90 degree turn. I do think it's important to try at least a gentle flat turn very low; we are horrible judges of exact altitudes when we're at 1000 feet, and it's hard to tell if you've lost 50 feet or 200 in a turn. By trying it out down low, you'll get a better sense of what it can do for you, and you'll have the "sight picture" better set in case you have to use it for real one day. A variation on this is to go to half brakes and then let one brake up. This gives you a flat turn, but by flaring first you "use up" some of the canopy's energy so you can't turn as effectively. On the plus side the turn happens more slowly. If you are about to hit a tree and want to make a last minute turn, this variation might be the way to go, as it combines a turn and a flare, thus reducing your speed before impact. A version of this is currently taught in the ISP, so it might be a good way to make your first flat turns before transitioning to the less-braked variety. 2. Flare turn at least 45 degrees.This does two things - it gives you another tool in your arsenal to dodge last minute obstacles, and teaches you to fly your canopy all the way through to the landing. The #1 mistake jumpers with new HP canopies make is to "reach out to break their fall" while they're flaring; this of course turns the canopy in the direction they are reaching. Most people decide that this is due to a side gust just as they're landing. I remember one jumper at Brown who, amazingly enough, experienced a side gust seconds before he landed (and always from the right) 40-50 times in a row! Learning to flare turn will help eliminate this problem. To flare turn, start with a normal flare, then flare slightly more with one toggle. The canopy will turn. Bring the other toggle down to match it, and the canopy will straighten out. It's a dynamic process; rather than put the toggles at a certain position, you have to speed up one toggle for a second, then speed up the other to match it, before you level them and finish the flare. If you balloon upwards, then don't flare as quickly. If you drop to the ground, bring both toggles down more aggressively when they are 'split.' One thing that helps people is to think about where your canopy is rather than what it's doing. Use the toggles to put it off to one side for a moment, then use them to put it back over your head. This can be hard to practice with a large canopy. I can pull off a 45 degree turn on a Manta, but the flare is over so fast that it's hard to explain what I just did. It's much easier on a canopy loaded around 1:1, so you may want to wait on this one until you get to that loading. Note that if you combine a flare turn with a flat turn, you can pull off nearly a 180 degree turn at just above 50 feet. Also note that knowing how to do flat and flare turns doesn't mean you can always turn at 50 feet and get away with it - sometimes it's better to accept a downwind landing than make a turn at a dangerously low altitude. But if you do have to turn low (say, you're on course for the electrified fence around the pit bull farm) a flat/flare turn will let you either turn and land normally or turn and minimize the damage caused by landing in a turn. 3. Land crosswind and in no wind.These are straightforward. No wind landings are pretty easy; the only issue is that your perception of speed and altitude will be off. Since you seem to be moving faster over the ground when there's no wind (which you actually are) it can seem like a good idea to add just a little brake to 'slow you down' before you land. Resist that urge! Keep that speed in your canopy; you can turn the speed into a good flare only if you start the flare with decent (i.e. full flight) speed. Crosswind landings can be a little more tricky because of that strong tendency to want to "reach out to break your fall." Counter this by flaring with your hands in towards the center of your body. You may have to PLF on these landings, since you'll have some decent forward speed and have some sideways motion from the wind. If you want to get fancy, try a flare turn after you start your flare on the crosswind landing - you can easily pull off a standup landing if you get turned enough before you put your feet down. If these work well you may want to try a downwind landing. The benefit to doing that is it will prepare you to accept a downwind landing in the future; you won't be tempted to turn too low to avoid it. Choose an ideal day for this one, with a slippery landing area (wet grass is perfect) low winds and a clear landing area. Prepare to PLF, and think about "laying it down" on your thigh as you land to start sliding. You can slide across grass at 30mph without getting hurt, but planting your feet and cartwheeling at those speeds can be very dangerous. 4. Land reliably within a 10 meter circle.This is essentially the PRO requirement. This is critical because your accuracy skills are what will keep you from having to turn low. It's very comforting to know that you can land in any 50ish foot clearing if you find yourself having to land out; it's especially important as you get to smaller canopies that need longer and longer runways to land well. Your only option may be a section of road, and you may have to hit the beginning of the road dead-on to have enough room to slow down. The subject of canopy accuracy is too long to do justice to here, but the top 3 hints I've heard are: - If you're not sure if you're going to make it over a wire or tree, look at what it's doing with respect to the background. If more background is appearing from beneath the wire or tree, you're probably going to make it. - As you look at the ground, most points will seem to move away from a central point. Some will rise, some will fall, some will go out to the side. If you look long enough you'll find one point that's not moving - that's where you're going to land if the winds don't change all the way in (which is rare.) - Going into brakes usually makes you land short in high winds, but can extend your glide in no wind. Front risers almost always make you land shorter. 5. Initiate a high performance landing with double fronts, and a front riser turn to landing.I am pretty convinced that front riser high performance landings are a lot safer than toggle turn high performance landings, and double fronts are the safest of all. If you do it too low, or become worried about the landing - just drop the risers and you're back to normal flight. For double front riser landings, set up a normal landing, aiming for a point a little farther away than you normally do. At 100 feet or so, pull down both front risers. Your canopy will drop and accelerate. At some point above the ground (30-10 feet depending on your canopy) drop the front risers. Your canopy will begin to recover. Before it completes the recovery to normal flight, you should be at flare altitude. Start the flare normally. You may need to use less toggle than normal, since the canopy is now going faster than you're used to, and the same amount of toggle gives you more lift. You will also plane out farther, since you have more speed you have to bleed off before you come to a stop. For front riser turns to landing, first try front riser turns out above 1000 feet and get used to how your canopy recovers. Then start by coming in 10 degrees off the windline, and making a gentle front riser turn to line up with the wind at ~100 feet. The canopy will dive and accelerate, so be prepared to drop the front riser instantly and flare if you have to. Also be prepared to steer in the flare, since the canopy may not have stopped turning completely before the flare begins. Done correctly, you'll start the flare with more forward speed, giving you a longer planeout. Make sure your flares are smooth for this! A smooth flare generates more lift for a longer period of time than "stabbing" the brakes. However, don't start the flare at 30 feet - starting the flare that high will slow the canopy down, negating the effects of the front riser approach. If you do find yourself stabbing the brakes to prevent hitting the ground, move the altitude at which you start front risering up. Probably the most critical skill you will get from this exercise is the development of the "sight picture." Below 200 feet your altimeter is pretty useless, and you should be looking at traffic and the landing area anyway. Eventually you'll develop a sense of what "picture" you should see just before you start that riser turn. The picture will vary with wind, landing area etc. If you arrive at the point where you would normally start the front riser turn, and the picture's not right - abort it and land normally. Once you have the picture down, and are doing front riser turns that transition to gradual flares, then start increasing the angle. Once you get to 90 degrees you're going to be gaining a lot of speed, so be sure to adjust your sight picture up to compensate. As always, bail by dropping the risers if you feel like there's anything wrong. Once you drop the risers, level the wing with your toggles and prepare to flare. At worst you'll have to land crosswind - but that's a skill you should have by this point anyway. 6. Land on slight uphills and downhills.Often, land away from the DZ isn't perfectly flat; sometimes you can't tell this until you're at 20 feet. To prepare for this, find a place in your LZ that's not perfectly flat, scope it out, and plan on landing there. There's not too much magic concerning landing on a slope. You flare more aggressively to land going uphill, less aggressively to land going downhill. Obviously not all DZ's have slopes. If you don't have a good slope on your DZ somewhere, you may have to put this one off until you're at a DZ that does have one. Beaches are a good place to practice this, since they have pretty predictable slopes down to the water, and overrunning the landing just means you get wet. 7. Land with rear risers. Knowing how to land with rear risers can help you deal with a canopy problem like a broken or stuck brake line, and can help you make a better land/cutaway decision when you do have such a problem. Again, this is best practiced up high. See how far you can pull the rear risers before the canopy stalls. It will stall much earlier with rear risers; memorize where that happens so you don't do it near the ground. When you try it for real, choose an ideal day - steady moderate winds, soft ground, clear pattern. Be sure to try this for the first time on a largish canopy (one of the reasons you should do these things before downsizing.) Leave your hands in the toggles and wrap your whole hand around the rear riser. That way if things go awry you can drop the risers and flare normally. Start the flare at a normal flare altitude, and prepare to PLF. You may get the sort of lift you're used to, but you probably won't slow down as much before you're near that stall point. Make sure your feet are on the ground (sliding preferably) before you get there. On smaller canopies, you may want to start the flare with rear risers. Then, once the canopy is leveled out, drop the risers and finish the flare with the toggles (which are still around your hands.) That way you get your vertical speed to zero, which is the critical part of a safe slide-in landing, and can still stop the canopy without hitting the ground going too fast. (This is also a technique used by swoopers to extend their swoops BTW.) The above list is not meant to include all the skills you need to safely fly a canopy; it’s just a checklist for a cross-section of skills you should have before downsizing. Some of these will be easier on a larger canopy, and can be practiced right away. Landing downwind, for example, is easier on a larger canopy simply because it can slow you down more before stalling. Some skills are more difficult on a larger canopy. It can be difficult to get a planeout at all on a larger F-111 canopy, so practicing things like a flare turn may best wait until you approach a 1:1 loading on a ZP canopy. At that loading, the canopy begins to perform more along the lines of how we expect a HP canopy to fly. More importantly, skills like the flare turn become both possible and necessary to practice, so you can hone your skills while you are under a canopy that tolerates minor mistakes. As I mentioned in the beginning, these are skills you should learn before you downsize, although some (like the flare turn) can be difficult to practice at very light loadings. If you can't do some of them yet? Get some coaching; it makes a lot more sense to learn them on your larger canopy, before you start jumping a smaller canopy that scares you. Once you can do them all, then try the smaller canopy. And if someday someone cuts you off under the smaller canopy, you'll have the reactions you learned under the larger canopy. Even if you haven't completely adapted those manuevers to the smaller canopy yet, those reactions will more likely than not save your life.
  5. 1 point
    One of the most dreaded conditions of all is the no wind scenario. This fear is so profound that many jumpers in fact avoid jumping in no wind conditions. Although landing with the benefit of a headwind is unarguably easier, there are specific methods that markedly improve the chances of standing up your landing. Here are a few tips that will help you to land softer and safer when the wind goes away: 1) Make sure you level off within touching distance from the ground. If you finish the flight with some space between you and the earth, you will have more than just forward speed to deal with at the end of the landing. All parachutes stall above zero airspeed, which means that as soon as the extreme slow flight capability of your parachute is attained, it will drop you into the ground with both forward and vertical movement. The best way to deal with this is to be sure that you have already arrived at standing height when the stall breaks. That way, the only remaining kinetic energy is forward movement, which can be diminished by taking a few controlled steps. 2) Make sure your brakes are short enough. Most manufacturers set the brake lines to allow for a certain amount of slack so that when the front risers are applied with the toggles in the hands, there is no tail input. This, coupled with shorter risers (most parachutes are set up for 21 inch risers), will prevent you from reaching your parachute's slowest flying speed. With the help of your rigger, shortening the brake lines is an easy task. Take out not more than one inch at a time and give it a few jumps before taking more out. 3) Keep the parachute over your head. Any tilt in the roll axis will result in a premature stall of the parachute, which will drop you into the ground while you still have ground speed. This is due to an effect known as "load factor". When a wing is in a bank, it requires a bit of increased angle of attack to keep it flying at the same height or descent rate. This results in an increased relative weight, which in turn increases the stall speed. Keep your eyes looking down the "runway" and you will be able to notice variance in your bank angle easier. Making smooth corrections to the bank angle all the way to the end of the landing will result in a softer touch-down and less forward velocity at the end of the ride. 4) Be sure that you are finishing the flare. Keep smoothly adding brakes until you run out of arms, or ground-speed, whichever comes first. In other words, if you are flying into a significant head-wind, flaring all the way down will make you go backwards, as the speed of your parachute will be less than the speed of the wind. Flaring straight down is the only way to accomplish a complete flare, as stylish outward sweeping of the arms out to the sides or to the back will only result in a stylishly ineffective flare. The brake lines can only work if they are pulled. 5) Assuming that a PLF is not necessary, put one foot under your spine, as the "main landing gear", and the other out in front as the "nose gear". That way you will not plant both feet at the same time and pivot onto your face. Slide your main gear along the ground as long as you can, and then when the friction finally grabs your foot, take that first step onto the front foot. 6) Loosen your chest strap and lean forward in the harness. This will allow you to get your weight over your "landing gear", rather than back on your heels. The parachute will increase its pitch angle as you progress through the landing, but your body doesn't have to tilt in accordance. Freeing your body from the pitch of the system will allow you to feel more comfortable finishing the flare, as you will not feel the urge to let up on the toggles as you put your feet down to get to a more balanced pitch angle. 7) Let the wing sink down below standing height during the second half of the swoop, and then use the canopy's lift to bring you back up to standing height. Referred to as the "Seagull Landing", this allows you to arrest any excess forward speed, as you will be in a climb at the last part of the landing. Be sure not to climb above standing height as you do this, as that will result in a drop at the end that will put you on your face. 8) Practice slow flight up high. The more comfortable you are with the low-end range of your canopy's performance envelope, the longer you will be willing too keep your toggles down at the end. Fear of the stall results in incomplete flares, as well as letting up the toggles at the end of the landing. Keep the canopy in brakes for at least 30 seconds (up high), and perform smooth turns right and left. This will help you fly your way out of any bank angle created by an asymmetrical level off during the flare. 9) Believe it is possible to land perfectly. It is. Only when a pilot thinks: "I am going to crash" is the crash inevitable. 10) Get video! There is no greater tool than actually seeing yourself land. The best way to get filmed, I have found, is to film other people. Landing in no wind can be great fun. Ultimately, this is how we counter the fear of landing our parachutes. If you lean forward into the experience, your positive body language results in more fluid, appropriate actions that actually improve your situation. When you are comfortable with landing in no winds, you begin to actually look forward to those zero-wind sunset loads. Scooting across the ground with maximum forward speed can be incredibly enjoyable when you know you have the skills to handle the situation. In the end, the only way to achieve this is to jump on a regular basis, and enjoying the learning process is how this is reinforced. Find something about every landing that you can smile about, even your crashes. Everything that is not the path shows us where the path is not. Happy Landings! Bryan Germain www.CanopyFlightInstructor.com Editors Note: Also see - Another Look at No-Wind Landings by Scott Miller
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