Cloud Dancer
Safety with DJan Stewart; Surviving the Convention
2001 World Freefall Convention, Quincy, IL USA
August 6, 2001 (Monday)
Speakers: DJan Stewart and Winsor Naugler III


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.

At the load organizing tent, DJ works with new skydivers. Winsor works with novice, but more skilled jumpers.

Approximately a year ago, DJ was injured needing a major hip brace and serious physical therapy to recover. DJ jumps at field elevations around 4,000 to 6,500 feet. This accident would not have happened if she was more knowledgeable about what her canopy can perform.

Men get hurt due to aggressive behavior. Women tend to get hurt due to lacking knowledge. Lacking knowledge can continue for thousands of jumps! Women tend to be afraid of speed.

What can your canopy do? Learn! Try turns with the rear risers. Try front riser turns. How does your canopy behave in brakes? On final, S turns shorten the landing trajectory. But don't use S turns. Use partial brakes. The amount of brakes applied controls your glide scope. Using brakes slows things down, it gives you more time to make a decision.

Flying the pattern. People can think in a very linear way, simply just thinking that they fly a downwind, base, and final leg. However, flying the pattern is also about judging height. Consider at what height you should be when you are halfway through your landing pattern. Know whether or not you have to cut off the corner of your base leg due to the effects of wind.

Each canopy performs a little bit differently. For example, Winsor finds that his glides better into the wind with some brakes applied. Other canopies will glide better with application of rear risers.

Go into brakes and find the stall point. Do this at a high altitude. Remember that Blue Tracks, Stilettos, and other hot elliptical canopies have ugly stall characteristics. It can wrap itself into a mess. Hotter canopies can not be landed slowly.

In the case of getting two canopies out with the main being a high performance canopy, Winsor will apply a full brake to put it into side plane. When it comes off to the side, he will cutaway the main. The high performance main will zoom forward away from a low performance reserve.

Many people don't know how to flat turn their canopy.

When flying up high, you might think your canopy is doing something that it is not. It's similar to the disorientation that a pilot feels if he fails to transition to instruments when he should.

Some jumpers don't realize what their canopy will do when let off the brakes after flying around in brakes. These jumpers are in for a rude surprise when they let off the brakes to land. Ouch! A hot high performance canopy can actually dive so much that the jumper can fell into his canopy.

John LeBlanc claims that it takes 300 jumps to learn a canopy well.

If your an experienced jumper, go to the CRW tent. CRW teaches you to fly your canopy. CRW jumpers are more skilled in teaching canopy control skills.

Watch instructional videos such as "Fly Like A Pro" and "Basic Canopy Flight." "Basic Canopy Flight" is more expensive.

Find the best canopy pilots and pick their brains. Visit with Brian Germain, John LeBlanc, Bill Hazlett, etc. Ask what you should do to learn more. Some of these people won't shut up once you get them started! They enjoy discussing canopy flight. Ask them, "How do I extend my glide?" Try out the canopy simulator by SSK. Explore using the brakes, stalls, etc. Try different wind conditions as well as canopy types and sizes.

Talk to new skydivers about canopy control. Ask them, "Have you downloaded the ISP from USPA's web site?" The ISP contains a lot of useful information about flying your canopy. ISP is a beginning of promoting education.

It's important to promote learning and education to improve safety. One of the main challenges is that how can we experienced skydivers accomplish that?

An A license candidate must show proficiency in 6 different areas including, freefall, spotting, aircraft procedures, canopy skills... However, for this more complicated program, there are less qualified people to teach it. How much is a jumpmaster willing to study and train? Are jumpmasters and jumpmaster candidates, who already started studying, willing to relearn a program to meet new requirements when a program is changed? Some are not. There are SL jumpmasters that just do not jump and therefore don't need a coach rating. Furthermore, if an experienced but unrated skydiver teaches and jumps with a student who does not yet have an A license, s/he can lose his or her USPA membership. This reduces the amount of coaching from experienced skydivers to students.

Tandems are a money maker for a DZ. The student progression is not a money maker. Putting out students does not pay for a DZ's turbine aircraft. Therefore, less effort is put into the quality of student progression programs.

So, how do we fix the problem of poor education? Come back next year and let's discuss what we learned about how to promote education.

Heat is taking its toll at this year's WFFC. To keep safe, be sure to hydrate. Watch your friends and be sure that they hydrate.

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