Canopy Safety Discussion

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One of USPA’s responsibilities is to track and analyze safety data, and disseminate it so that others can be aware of accident trends. My “Gearing Up” commentary in the October Parachutist was intended to elaborate on the recent advisory we sent out about the rising trend in canopy-related fatalities. [See advisory here.] The piece went on to describe the many steps taken to educate skydivers and mitigate the problem.

Already, the USPA staff and the board’s Safety & Training Committee are developing ideas on possible solutions to present to the full board. We’re doing so with an open mind and are trying to investigate all possibilities. Here are some of the questions we’re asking:

Does USPA need to …

  • alter the Integrated Student Program to include more canopy-skills training?
  • alter any licensing requirements to include more canopy-flight training?
  • certify canopy flight coaches and/or instructors?
  • require jumpers to attend dedicated canopy courses for licenses or ratings?
  • restrict wing loading by license level?
  • require DZs to post landing areas and patterns?

We’d like your thoughts, too. We’ve created a web page for you to post and share your comments. You’ll see a more in-depth explanation of our thoughts and you’re welcome to respond to those, or share your own ideas. We’re all in this together, and we’re all going to need to work together to reduce canopy-related accidents.

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5 Responses to “Canopy Safety Discussion”

  1. C J Says:

    The one thing I really want to say concerns seperate landing areas for high-performance pilots. I think that is a great idea, but the point that I think most DZs miss is that it is the landing PATTERNS that must be seperated more than the actual landing areas. I’ve been to multiple DZs that have set up two different landing areas, bu the way they are set up the regular jumpers are still flying their patterns right over the area where the high-performance pilots are trying to set up their turns. THIS IS WHAT MUST BE STOPPED. Fatal collisions occur in the pattern – so seperate the patterns!

    On some of the other issues, I think more training is a great idea. However, a jumper at the student (pre-A license) level simply is not advanced enough to get this training. As such, if you are going to require more training, it needs to be integrated into the higher license levels. An alternate idea is to have a seperate ‘high-performance’ license…but realize that if you do that, it will be highly restrictive as many small DZs will not have the staff to teach and issue the license.

    On restricting wing loading to license level, I don’t think that will work. First of all, how will you police the regulations? Is someone going to sit in the landing area all day with a scale and weigh everyone as they land? Second, in my 2800 jump career as a high-performance pilot, I really have seen people that ‘get there’ faster than everyone. Some folks are perfectly safe at higher wing loadings earlier in their careers; others never get there no matter how many jumps.

  2. AH Says:

    As a newly stamped A License diver, I am glad my drop zone – Perris Valley has various additional training options to improve canopy safety / skill. I do think it would be great to require a brush up at each license level, but if not great to be at a DZ that has options for me on the “being proactive” side.

  3. pedro liria Says:

    I am one year old in USPA. After my AFF and A license in Spain I had two canopy courses. Why? because I am not more assisted in my landings by my AFF instructor. During AFF I was told that the jump finishes in the pack job zone, so I think it´s a good idea more canopy training in AFF, better canopy performance to acquire licenses, and of course, certify instructors so students can be sure who is teaching them. Separated areas is a good idea but sometimes it is not possible because of the small drop zones, so, why not better concious of the perfomance and take care of the regular jumpers so they can reach the high performance level?. Thank you very much

  4. Rudolf Albrecht Says:

    From reading the incident reports it is more than obvious that something must be done to stop the growing number of canopy-flying related accidents.

    A reasonable first step is to include canopy handling in the instruction program. Whether this also requires a change of licensing procedures or special canopy coaches/instructors I am not sure- manly because it would be exceedingly difficult to implement.

    It is also a good idea to get drop zones to assign landing areas and approach patterns. Most drop zones do that already, it is in their own interest.

    As a European USPA member I also want to stress the importance to get any changes to the training program accepted on an international level (FAI/ICAO?), so skydiving licenses continue to be valid world-wide. Thanks.

  5. Weekend Kyle Says:

    I think clear regulations/recommendations should be posted for downsizing progression. I usually see jumpers start AFF jumping a 230 or above and then work their way down in 20ft/2 increments (230 to 210, 210 to 190, 190 to 170 and so on.)
    However, what happens if a jumper barely weighs 100 pounds?
    For example, a person who weighs 120lbs and has downsized (according to the 20ft/2 rule) from 230 to 210, then 200 to 190 and now she is flying a 170. The people at the DZ where we are spending the winter keep urging her to downsize rapidly and that she should be on a 135 at this point (ignoring the fact that her flare height, accuracy and landing pattern need some work.)
    These people who recommend the downsize have never actually watched her fly her canopy but strongly believe that she should downsize due ONLY TO HER WEIGHT.
    Of course she avoids jumping in high winds or when even moderate turbulence is present due to her light loading, but are there other safety concerns about being ‘too lightly’ loaded?
    Should we ignore everything I have ever been taught about canopy safety and put her on a 135 to force the 1:1 wing loading?

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