Let’s talk Canopy COLLISIONS

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Dan BC explains his process to avoid colliding with another canopy…

Big-way jumps have an extra risk of canopy collisions – but this can be minimized by following Dan’s checklist
Photo by Dennis Sattler

Let’s talk Canopy COLLISIONS  … 

…As in how not to have one.  

I was trying to count how many jumps I’ve made with a hundred or more skydivers. My rough estimate is 500. That’s a lot of “big-ways”. Only once did I have a canopy collision. But that wasn’t on a large formation. It was when I was jumping as an AFF evaluator out of a Cessna with one solo jumper I forgot was on the plane with us. Four canopies total in the entire sky and the solo jumper and I ran head on into each other at 1,500 feet. Didn’t even see him coming. The only reason we both walked away was pure luck.  

At that time, I had several thousand jumps, was a Nationals Medalist, DZO, STA, AFFI, TI and fancied myself a pretty squared away skydiver who was always safety conscious and heads up. Head up my ass apparently. How many other close calls had I escaped and not even seen happen? It was at that moment I had a very important realization.  

Despite what I previously thought, in reality I had regularly underestimated the potential risk of any given situation and overestimated my skill and readiness to deal with that risk. I figured if I was going to live skydiving, I’d better get it together and not make a mistake like that again.  

I had regularly underestimated the potential risk of any given situation and overestimated my skill and readiness to deal with that risk

On deployment, know where the closest person is – and expect your canopies to turn towards each other on a collision course, because that’s what canopies do!
Photo by Emanuele Bielli

Lesson learned

When I break off from a skydive now, whether it’s a 2-way or a 200-way, I do the same thing every time:  

  1. No matter how small a group I’m with, or how hard and fast I’m tracking, I expect other skydivers to be close to me on break-off and deployment and I’m looking everywhere for them.  
  2. When I’m getting ready to deploy, I recognize who is the closest person to me.
  3. I expect that closest canopy and my canopy to turn right at each other after opening. Because that’s exactly what they do way too often.
  4. I’m on my back risers before the slider is even all the way down turning away from that closest canopy.
  5. Before looking down to see where I am I check all the airspace around me for other canopies.
  6. I set myself up in the pattern to minimize traffic and try to create both vertical and horizontal separation with others in the pattern. While still on my downwind leg I choose the lane I expect to be the least crowded where I plan to fly my final.
  7. The closer I get to the ground the more I’m watching for traffic, we are all converging into the same area. When I’m on downwind I look for people I’m converging with on a long base. When I’m on base I look for people I’m converging with who may be on a long final and people I may be converging with on the opposite base leg.

Just sharing.  Thought it might be useful.

Nothing makes Dan BC happier than everyone landing safely after a jump
Photo by Dennis Sattler
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Meet: Dan Brodsky-Chenfeld

Dan is Manager of Skydive Perris & Author of the highly acclaimed “Above All Else” book. He was a founding member of Airspeed and a multiple 4- and 8-way World Champion, competing for more than 20 years. Dan developed a training system through Airspeed and coaching so many teams. It works. His personal and coached teams consistently performed at their best in competition and often won – three consecutive and different Women's World Champion 4way teams for instance; Synchronicity, Storm and Airkix. He has so much passion for the sport, competing at Nationals every year, organizing at World Records, and trying new areas like Crew and freeflying. As a P3 skydiving organizer, coach and motivational speaker, he is inspirational.

Dan is sponsored by Skydive Perris, Sun Path, PD, Kiss and L&B altimeters.

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