As I stood there, watching a canopy collision occur only 1,000ft above the ground, my heart skipped a beat….
My relief at the miraculous outcome, in which neither of the participants were injured, did not calm me, as I fully understood how easily that incident could have resulted in injury or even death.
A canopy collision is not something that just happens, but like all other incidents the result of a chain of events that has not been interrupted before it’s too late.
We work on separation with the correct exit order, we time our exits, spot for a good separation, separate ourselves from the rest of the group at break-off and fly perpendicular to jump run after opening until the next group is open in order to establish and maintain a clear airspace under canopy.
But go to any given DZ on a busy day and you can observe people spiral through traffic, S-turn on final approach and big portions of each load end up at the same altitude in the landing pattern as a result of improper canopy separation and everyone wanting to land first. Effectively with this behavior, we undo all good efforts that we made previously.
Most of the time all is well that ends well, but when we get away with unsafe behavior a couple of times, it becomes habit, and before we know it, we have a close call or an accident.
No one puts themselves or others in danger on purpose, but when our parachute opens, another part of the jump starts that requires just as much attention and planning as the free fall portion.
The Canopy Collision Cone
There have been countless articles on canopy traffic, separation, exit order, collision avoidance etc, and I urge you to read all of them and put reliable advice to practice. I would like to add a visual reference to the list as a guide at what point during canopy flight we are likely to encounter risk of canopy collision, what causes the risk, and how to best prevent it.
The Canopy Collision Cone highlights the collision risk at different altitudes and how to take precaution. It does not go into any detail on how to execute each technique, as there is a multitude of articles on each of them, but is rather intended as an orientation of canopy traffic’s rules of engagement and what we should be prepared for.
To put it in a nutshell, the graph focuses on the risk of canopy collision throughout the canopy descent at different altitudes, as well as the contributing factors and how we can minimize risk of collisions.
There are several easy steps you can take before and during every jump to prevent yourself and others from getting in harm’s way:
Communicate before boarding – Ask for wing-loading, canopy size, and know how many people land in the same area as you, are there wingsuiters, trackers, High pullers, students, Tandems etc. use this information to make a plan where your position in traffic will be.
Establish good separation –This includes a good exit order, appropriate separation between groups on exit and within your group on break-off.
Conserve your altitude – Altitude is your most precious commodity. It directly translates to time at your disposal if anything doesn’t go as planned. Do this early on during your canopy flight to avoid traffic in the landing pattern.
Establish and maintain vertical separation –Do this by comparing your descent rate to other canopies and finding your place in the stack.
Avoid Spiraling, S-turns and other unpredictable maneuvers –This type of flying makes you a wildcard in traffic.
Land away from the popular spot –There’s a popular spot in every landing area that everyone is aiming for in the landing area, fr example, in front of the hangar or close to the exit gate of the landing area. If you’re willing to walk a minute more, you might just save yourself the stress and danger of the crowded airspace on final approach.
Take a canopy course –The information delivered and skills acquired in canopy courses are invaluable. They will makes your canopy flight safer and more enjoyable.
Download Canopy Collision Poster
Download the Canopy Collision Cone Poster as a printable pdf for the DZ wall:
- The Road to NOWHERE - 18th March 2021
- Flare technique and airspeed - 11th December 2020
- What is your Decide and Act Altitude? - 27th April 2020
- Mutant Review - 6th December 2019
- Malfunction Flowchart - 18th December 2018
- The Canopy Collision Cone - 2nd August 2017