Hannah Betts over Perris — by Nicole Elliot
With the popular use of wind tunnels new skydivers are progressing their freefall skills faster then ever, yet they lack in the experience of flying the one thing that gets them to the ground safely, their canopy. Every time we board the airplane and take to free fall there is only one for sure thing that gets us safely to our family, friends, and loved ones: as always, that is our parachute!
Now, take into account the possibility of a malfunction, can you safely land your reserve in all the above mentioned scenarios? Almost every manufacturer has reserve demos available. We would recommend to get a demo of your reserve and take it to the sky for a hop and pop! You will be amazed at how fast, yet soft, the openings are and at the amount of lift and power a reserve will offer when you gain experience flying it. Don't let the first time you fly and land your reserve be after a malfunction when your adrenaline is pumping.
The key to landing safely and accurately always comes back to the fundamentals of canopy flight. You must master your pattern, fly it accurately, and have set points throughout it. Your downwind and base legs should be at least 250 feet in length, minimum. A good pilot should not have to make side to side corrections on final to get the parachute to stop where they want. With an accurate pattern you should be able to let the canopy fly in full flight, or have to only trim its recovery ever slightly by using your rear risers or toggles to make these final adjustments, and land where you desire.
Rob Wallace of SoCal Evolution — by Michael McCann
Side to side movements greatly increase the opportunity for you to cause, or to be involved in, a canopy collision. Give yourself the opportunity to fly an extra 50 meters to touch down. Sooner or later you may find yourself in a tight spot, this is when we get hurt. Master your flare and landings into the wind, then apply those skills in light cross and downwind conditions. Train for the worst case scenario so if and when it happens that the situation comes up you are ready to react appropriately.
We challenge you to do 20 hop and pops consecutively sometime over your next 100 jumps. Dedicate them to learning to be a safer, better, and a more accurate canopy pilot. Get a coach or friend to take outside video of your landings. Have a target, debrief, and evaluate each jump from your exit all the way to your landing. Learn your canopy's stall points on rear risers and toggles. This is important to know so that you don't find yourself risking a stall 10 feet off the ground.
Finally, remember our parachutes function at their best when they have adequate inner wing pressurization, which is in full flight. It is best to minimize your inputs on final because the more inputs you give your canopy the less pressurization then exists, resulting in having little to no flare left when you need it the most. A good pilot lets his/her wing fly to its full potential, and harnesses all that it has to offer on landing.
Contact a canopy school or coach.