Summary: Buying a small parachute greatly increases your risk of injury or death
So, two friends, very experienced, competent, safe skydivers hurt themselves last week under good canopies. Fortunately both got lucky and aren't hurt as bad they could have been. Both were also jumping 84 square feet high performance canopies. They both made a few flying errors. But had they made the same errors with a bigger parachute they would have probably walked away.
Seeing that they both went to the hospital the facts would dictate that neither of them was as ready to be flying a high performance parachute of that size as they thought they were. In their minds they both had hundreds of jumps under the same parachute, which they landed safely on. What's to worry about?
'I don't want to have to work so hard to land my canopy every single jump" — by Gordon Lindsey
This reminded me of a time when I was jumping with Airspeed. We were doing back to back to back loads and I grabbed Christopher Irwin's rig by mistake. I had a Stiletto 120. He had some kind of Velocity 70-something I think. After deploying and looking up it quickly became apparent that I was going to be landing much sooner than usual !
You can have a lot of fun with a moderate canopy
I took a few seconds to set up a good landing pattern. I did a few turns and some practice flares to feel out the canopy. I decided I was going to have to hook it to get the speed my fat ass was going to need in order to land safely with this little bit of nylon over my head. I hooked it hard and high, came screaming in, surfing across every inch of grass in the landing area and skidded to a stop on my feet.
Christopher came over and said “Wasn't that awesome! Wasn't that fun! That's why I love jumping that canopy.” I have to admit, it was pretty fun. But I don't want to work that hard every jump just to land safely. I had to be completely on top of it, calculating every move for every second until I was on the ground. That may be ok if all I'm doing on the jump is swooping. But that is way harder than I want to work under canopy on every jump I do with lots of other parachutes in the air.
My point here being, just because you are capable of landing a canopy safely in ideal conditions doesn't mean it's the “right canopy” for you to be jumping all the time.
I lost a good friend recently, who might still be here if he had made the exact same mistake in the same conditions with a bigger canopy. Please think about this, because there are way too many skydivers jumping way too small parachutes. And if you don't believe me ask your local kick ass Canopy Pilot, I bet they'll tell you the same:
Know your abilities, know the canopy you're jumping and get the proper coaching so that you know you're right.
One more thing, don't be stupid enough to grab the wrong rig. What a dumbass!
Above All Else: A World Champion Skydiver's Story of Survival and What It Taught Him About Fear, Adversity, and Success
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