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Another great article by Skydive Spaceland on Safety …
Ask any group of non-skydivers what they think would be the scariest part of skydiving, and at least a few will answer, “The landing.” Ask a group of skydiving students, or even experienced jumpers, and you’ll get the same answer from a few of them.
We have the guts to throw ourselves out of airplanes in flight, yet we’re sometimes scared of piloting the assembly of nylon and string that saves our lives. But if a skydiver is scared of the parachute, he/she is often more likely to become injured on landing than a skydiver who flies confidently and safely. So the fear can become a self-fulfilling prophecy – but no one wants that!
Why do some skydivers fear their parachutes and how do we fix that?…
Fear is often caused by the unknown. No one grew up flying parachutes from childhood, so as adults learning to skydive this is a skill that we don’t know yet. It is related to the skills required to pilot an aircraft or even a car, but not quite the same, hence the potential fear.
Another potential source of fear is loss of control – and we often feel out of control on our first few skydives even if we’re not, just because everything is so new. After all, you can’t get off this ride until you reach the ground!
Put together fear and perceived loss of control, and you sometimes see skydivers that seem scared to fly their parachutes. They may perform very gradual turns and often hear radio guidance along the lines of, “Pull that toggle down further… keep pulling the toggle down to your chest… there you go.”
They may also flare the parachute timidly while landing, resulting in not slowing their descent enough to land smoothly. These skydivers are also the ones that may say things like, “The wind blew me off course” after landing out or far from the target.
Flying a parachute doesn’t have to be scary
Flying a parachute doesn’t have to be scary. Parachutes obey the laws of physics pretty well, so all you need to do is understand the basics of those physics and take charge of the parachute. You are the pilot, so listen to your instructors and fly that thing!
“You need to realize you have control just as you do when you are driving your car,” says instructor Raul Quinones. “Understand that you are the pilot of your own canopy. It will not go where you want it to unless you tell it to. If you want the car to turn, you have to turn the wheel. It’s the same as with your parachute–make the correction you want with your toggles (or risers once you have learned how). If the air is turbulent or bumpy, just relax and fly the canopy. Feel the canopy and where it is in relation to your body, and keep it where it’s supposed to be on landing – directly over your head.”
Raul describes the following common mistakes he often sees students and less experienced canopy pilots make:
“Be positive and take control!” urges Raul. “Don’t stop thinking until you’ve landed.”
Whether you have 25 jumps or 2500, you may want to consider a canopy course if you are not confident in your landings. A good canopy coach will pick out all sorts of details of canopy flight and sight pictures to get you in the right headspace to pilot your parachute instead of feeling you are at its mercy. And the video you see of your landings may be exactly what you need to understand just what's up and how to fix it.
We pay coaches to teach us how to freefall better all the time, so consider investing similarly in the survival skills you need to land safely. Who knows, you may even find a new passion in canopy piloting!
Related article: Landing Patterns video series by Rhythm SDC