Phil Webley explains how to achieve the maximum possible from your canopy skills course…
Going into my third season as a full-time canopy instructor with Flight-1, having taught over 400 students so far and many more with the military department, I’ve started to notice patterns and trends.
In particular, how some students get a lot more from their canopy course than others. This article is for anyone who has booked on, or is thinking of booking on a canopy course, to explain how you can best maximise your learning, progression and fun!
Students often comment how full-on a canopy course is at the end of it. So, help yourself by being prepared and rested. Travel the night before if possible, instead of a very early start and long drive. If you can, visit the DZ where the course will take place and get your Kit and Docs checked out and a DZ brief – maybe even a familiarisation jump or two. This will certainly help things run smoothly on the day. This is the main reason courses can be delayed from getting started. Of course, sometimes this just isn’t possible, in which case, be very prompt in the morning for kit, docs and DZ brief so as not to hold everyone else up.
Stopping long for lunch isn’t possible on a canopy course if we want to get through it before the end of the day. Bring drinks and snacks to last you the day and eat on the go. Ordering food on the DZ and waiting for it kills a lot of time; instead, you could be filling your head with canopy knowledge! If you have to order DZ food, best to do so before a jump or lesson, then collect it afterwards so as not to keep the whole course waiting!
Efficiency during the course
The format for most of our courses is 5 jumps. Particularly on the 100 series a lot of the students who attend have never done 5 jumps in a day! Use a packer to stay fresh, calm and alert, especially if you take more than 10 minutes to pack. All those minutes add up if you’re a slow packer, take a while to walk off the landing area and a long time to gear up. As soon as we finish a lesson/debrief, we’re on a call to jump, so get ready for the pace. As an example, a 101 course can sometimes exceed 12 hours if we’re not using packers, whereas a 201/202 course where everyone can pack faster can be done in under 8 hours. Simply put, save all your energy and time for the lessons and jumps on the course so you will progress further and learn more.
Do the exercises!
Every lesson on a Flight-1 canopy course comes with a practical exercise which will complement the lesson and deepen your knowledge of that particular skill and canopy control in general. I’m surprised just how many students I talk to after a jump regarding the exercises who didn’t try them. Aside for some isolated safety reasons where it wasn’t possible to perform the exercises, this is the best time to attempt them. On a hop and pop jump, such as those on the course, you have plenty of airspace due to controlled separation and thousands of feet to practice the prescribed drills – so go through those exercises! Best of all, having experienced them you can discuss them with your instructor once you’ve landed especially if there’s something you need clarifying.
After the course
Ok so you’ve finished your course and completed your jumps and exercises, now what? Improvement sometimes happens long after the course where you get a chance to assimilate the new skills and techniques. You won’t be an expert by completing one exercise once on one jump! Repeat the exercises again and again in your own time to ensure you have a good feel for them and that you’re building in consistency and skills you can replicate again and again. Repetition is the only way to make improvements.
Flight-1 offers a whole range of courses for every ability so when you’re ready to go the next level you can be sure we have something more for you. For instance, the customised course 301 can be a great way to check in with your Flight-1 instructor in-between courses to make sure you’re on the right track.
Looking forward to seeing you on a course.
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