Cloud Dancer
Canopy Control
2001 World Freefall Convention, Quincy, IL USA
August 7, 2001 (Tuesday)
Speaker: Brian Germain


The following material does not necessarily represent my opinions and represents my best effort to capture the material actually presented in the seminar. This material may contain significant errors.

Jump with your canopy and learn your canopy. Go on a CRW load, so you have a reference to learn to fly. Or, fly near clouds, which can serve as a reference.

There are the chances that you will find yourself with a bad spot. And then realizing you have to land in someone's backyard. And then on very short final, you see a clothes line. Oh ****!

After the first square canopies came to the market, 9 cell canopies became available. At that time, people didn't believe that it was possible to do accuracy with a 9 cell canopy. At some point in the past, the Sabre 150 was considered very impressive or scary. Since then, the sport has advanced.

A higher wing loading is more fun. It's responsive and you can go over the top of the canopy! However, if you are skillful with your canopy, you can enjoy longer turf surfs with lower wing loadings. At noon, the next day, Brian demonstrates a nice turf surf while flying a 150. Brian can achieve a longer turf surf under a 150 than an unskilled jumper under a 69.

Take your time to learn your canopy.

There are several different kinds of toggle turns, punch and swing, smooth turn, and deep spiral turns. The punch and swing toggle turn loses line tension.

Play with the rear risers. Try popping one. You could land using the rear risers. If the wing loading is higher than 2 lbs per square foot, it is not a good idea to try to land using the rear risers.

Don't take your hands out of the toggles. Be sure there is enough steering line so that you don't pull on the steering lines as you use your front risers. Spectra steering lines can shrink a foot over the course of 400-500 jumps! The outside suspension lines and the brake lines receive the friction heat of the slider coming down during deployment. 297 degrees F is the melting point of spectra. If you pull with your hands too low on the front risers, you pull more on the steering lines. If you pull on both the brakes and the front risers, this causes the C & D lines to go limp.

What are your outs? Every good pilot knows outs for each flight phase.

As you play with your canopy, you can give yourself line twists. This is more likely if you unload your lines. Aggressive S turns can do this. Soft lines twist more easily.

Turns in brakes (flat turns) are not ideal under a high performance canopy.

Whether or not you can make it back from a bad spot, depends on the canopy, wind direction and wind speed. If you are upwind, hang in the brakes to minimize sink and stay in upper winds as long as you can. You can pull the rear risers down and out (which makes the airfoil more flat and therefore provide more lift) and bend the knees to reduce drag. Porpoising, flaring repeatedly, is not helpful for getting back.

Shifting your weight in the harness with the brakes still stowed causes quicker turns. You can end up with a panorama view of Quincy! Turning by shifting your weight in the harness is smoother when the brakes are unstowed. Pull the toggles down to the hip ring and steer with harness.

What makes a parachute stable or unstable?

Turbulence makes your canopy unstable. To be more stable, line tension must be tight. During a stall, the canopy loses line tension. During a recovery from a stall, the line tension is high. A maneuver with a lot of G force produces a lot of line tension.

When doing dramatic stalls, you can end up a brake line over the top of the canopy by letting up on the brakes completely and too abruptly. When recovering from a stall, raise the toggles to the stall point and not all the way up. Letting the brakes completely up decreases line tension and, at right moment, the wind can roll the nose of the canopy under. Perform turns that maintain line tension.

Smooth graceful maneuvers are great...they result in a smooth change in direction. A sudden application of brakes increases line tension. Do this when you feel nasty turbulence.

Windshear at the interface between stronger and lighter winds is nasty and air pressure in the canopy is crucial. It is the air that makes your canopy a wing, not the fabric. This is why canopies are called ram-air parachutes. The faster you travel through the air, the greater the air pressure in the canopy. A higher wing loading or aggressive flying results in more air pressure inside the canopy.

When you loose a half of the canopy, it will turn toward the deflated side. You should turn away from the deflated side.

A canopy can turn on opening because one side inflates first. Applying a rear riser is the fastest way to stop this.


The objective of flaring is to achieve zero airspeed with no descent rate.

Turn final with a feeling of calmness. This allows you to make good decisions. A good landing is fluid and graceful. If it feels scary, something is wrong. Start with straight on approach, facing the wind.

A slow flare does not adequately pitch the canopy. During the flare, your body should swing out in front of the canopy. Delay your flare to a lower point and then level off quicker. This will get your body in front of your canopy. Canopies with longer suspension lines take more height to level off.

As you level off, let yourself sink and proceed to level off again. Your knees should be slightly bent so that your feet are under you. If you drop by surprise, your legs can be fixed more easily than your spine. If you stall from chair height, it's a hard landing. While leveling out, have your feet at ground level.

Good airfoils at a higher loading, allow you to raise your hands again while leveling out. This is related to trim.

As you are getting ready to land at a big boogie, someone will cut you off. At your loading area, communicate with others. Agree on a landing direction, such as land towards the west or in the direction of the tetrahedron.

Picking up speed to land...If you do it right, it's fun. If you do it wrong, it is not fun. If you surf further, it was better. If your surf is short, you added speed too low. You were probably scared and had to stab the brakes.

The first method for increasing speed for landing was to make a toggle turn and to transition into flaring regardless of the direction you are facing. If you stop turning too high, the canopy will level out too high. If you stop turning too low, you will not have enough flare authority. Toggle turns are not a good technique. The toggle turn has low margin of error, hence hook turns are regarded as dangerous. In a toggle turn, you don't stay under canopy and you can't quickly get under the canopy to flare.

In the days that the PD-170 was regarded as a hot F-111 canopy, front riser turns came about. While doing front riser turns, you can "drive" with the front risers and control heading. By using the front risers, you can change your mind. If you are too low, you can stop sooner and land crosswind. If you finish the turn too high, you can continue the landing approach by pulling on both front risers. Gracefully release the risers and move into the flare.

If you use your front risers, you can surf 50 feet in the landing area. However, you are a hazard if you can not evade.

Pulling on the front risers also pulls the A & B lines. Therefore, you can see dimple in the canopy as you watch someone use front risers.

Prior to initiating a front riser turn, jumpers flare to reduce front riser pressure. During this procedure, the canopy changes from a high angle of attack to a low angle attack. You go into the dive by surging. This decreases line tension, hence, the feeling of going over the hill. Using this maneuver makes you lose more altitude. It's fun but you don't have to do it. Some jumpers do this "Over the Hill" maneuver, followed by a 90 degree right turn and a 270 left turn. The lines go slack. You see their legs swirl. These jumpers are not in control.

Swinging out and swinging back under the canopy does not achieve as much speed as spending more time in the dive. (BTW, body drag is just a small variable.) You want to make a shallow entry into your turf surf.

The highest speeds can be attained by shifting your weight in the harness. Get into a front riser spiral, lean into the leg strap and release the riser. This is a very clean configuration and you will have a longer turf surf. Finishing a turn by using weight shift results in less altitude lost in the turn.

Swooping water...Water is not forgiving. You can smack it and really hurt. Treat water as if it were concrete. First, get good at swooping grass. Then, practice swooping near water. Focusing on water tends to alter your behavior. As you level out, lower the heels to the water with some weight on the feet. This allows you to go further. If you misjudge, you will get wet.

Cloud Dancer
© Copyright 2001. Tamara Koyn. All Rights Reserved.