Collision Avoidance Plan

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Dan BC shares his personal plan to prevent canopy contact…

I think I have over 500 jumps with more than 100 people. That’s a lot of big-ways. But I’ve made over 30,000 jumps and only ever had one canopy collision.

That wasn’t on a large formation, it was a jump out of a Cessna 182 with only four jumpers in the sky. Four canopies total and two of us ran head on into each other. How is that even possible?! The only reason we both walked away was pure luck. 


I remember saying, “I didn’t even see him coming.” Has anyone in a canopy collision ever said, “I saw that coming.” I don’t think so. If I’d have seen him coming we wouldn’t have hit. I thought I was looking. I meant to be looking. I could swear I was looking. 

Obviously, I wasn’t looking anywhere near as much as I needed to be. 

Are any of us as aware under canopy as we need to be? 

At that time, I had several thousand jumps, was a Nationals Medalist, Pilot, Rigger, DZO, S&TA, AFFI, TI, SLI 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? Nothing like this ever happened on a 100-way. What was I doing different on those big jumps? 

In crowded skies we pay attention. We need to bring that same mentality to every jump. Photo by Gustavo Cabana

I realized that on a 100-way from break-off to walking in from the landing area, I’m in constant canopy collision avoidance mode. It’s priority number 1, more important than anything else. We know the sky is crowded. We know there are canopies everywhere. We know we have to pay attention every second. We can’t just intend to be looking, we NEED to be looking. 

But, we need to be looking on every jump, not just on large formations. Collision avoidance should be priority number 1 on every jump we make, no matter how small. 

Collision avoidance should be priority number 1 on every jump we make, no matter how small

Dan BC
Look for traffic immediately your canopy is open
Photo by Bill Von Novak

Personal Collision Avoidance Plan

I thought about what it was I did on large formations to avoid a collision. I turned the same process into a plan I do on every jump I make, no matter if it’s a solo or a 300-way.

Here is the plan:

  • If I’m jumping a new canopy I’m not that familiar with, which requires extra attention to fly, I make sure I also have extra space between myself and others.
  • Prior to deployment, I am aware of every person near me and I expect the closest person’s canopy and mine to turn right at each other on opening. 
  • I’m on my back risers steering away from the closest canopy before my canopy is even fully inflated.
  • After checking my canopy and before looking down to see where I am, I check my airspace again. I don’t look down until I know I’m clear. 
  • For the first 5 to 10 seconds after opening many skydivers are checking their canopies, collapsing their sliders, releasing their brakes, starting to fly and looking down to see where they are. They’re not looking for traffic. I’m looking for them.
  • I then look down and decide what is the smart place and direction for me to land. “Smart” place being an open space I can get to by flying a smooth pattern with as few turns as possible. The fewer turns I make, the easier it is for others to anticipate what I’m doing and for me to keep track of any and all traffic. I smoothly fly towards a place upwind of my target.
  • I immediately pick my head up again to look for traffic, realizing that the other jumpers on the load are also probably looking at the ground to plan their landing and not checking their airspace.
  • We don’t all get open and fly away from each other. After checking our airspace to be sure we’re clear, for the rest of the canopy flight jumpers are converging. The open airspace we create after deployment will become less and less as we descend into the pattern. 
  • As we get lower in the pattern our tendency is to focus on our own approach and landing and look less for other traffic. This is at the same time that we’re converging with other canopies. As we get closer to landing we need to look more for traffic not less! 
  • While still high and entering the pattern I will look to see how crowded the landing area is going to be. If it’s too crowded, while still high I will choose to land further away.
  • On my downwind I’m looking for jumpers coming from outside the pattern on a long base. I’m looking for faster, higher canopies to go past me, for slow canopies I may overtake. I decide what is going to be the clearest lane for me to do my final. On base I’m looking for other jumpers coming from outside the pattern on a long final. I’m looking, a lot, constantly.
  • Prior to turning final, I will confirm that my choice of the clearest lane was correct. I’ll turn in for a very straight final, keeping my canopy on heading, still confirming my airspace is open.
  • Immediately upon landing, I’ll collapse my canopy and turn around to see what other canopies are coming. I’ll clear out of the way as soon as it is safe to do so.
As we get closer to landing we need to look more for traffic, not less!
Photo by Terry Weatherford


When I had the canopy collision, I was sure I was looking and aware. But I wasn’t. My guess is that many skydivers are doing the same thing. 

How do you know for sure if you are aware under canopy? 

If you are under canopy someone should be able to call you on a radio, ask you about the canopy traffic you have and you should be able to report every canopy nearby. Could you do this? If I called you on a radio at any moment under canopy, would you need to look or would you be able to report on the canopies in your airspace? 

Think about it. Thanks.

Stay safe out there.

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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, Cookie helmets and L&B altimeters.

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