Considerations of spotting, the wind, and wind cone affect how well you are able to get into an ideal position on final at 200 feet. We will discuss the last 200 feet of final approach.
The "Seven Sins of the Final Approach"
1) Failure to be on the windline. This is the most common mistake. Jumpers even get 45 degrees off the windline and try to slide in sideways. Being on the windline is most important for achieving an accurate landing. If you are on the windline, this guarantees that you will either land before, on, or after the target. An airplane pilot needs to be able to line up on the runway. The windline is your "runway."
2) Failure to "Aim It." Set up your sights. Cheryl Stearns visually puts the target between the knees. Establish a perspective that works for your canopy. You need to Aim It ALL the way to the ground.
3) Wiggling. "Didn't you go to the restroom before boarding?" Novice accuracy jumpers tend to wiggle to make the sight picture appear correct when it is not. Another wiggling behavior is pawing with the foot. Just sit still in the harness and fly your body to the target. Stay steady. Relax. Fly your whole self to the target.
4) Failure to Go Slow. Cheryl is having a bad day if you see her hands move more than a couple inches during the last instances of her final approach. Make slow controlled inputs. As you are under canopy, you are like a pendulum and radical input ruins your perspective.
Make a stair-stepped descent. To loose altitude, deepen the brakes. To make your approach angle more shallow raise the brakes. Do not use S turns. Every S turn takes you off the windline. Do flat turns by lowering one hand and raising the other slightly. A normal turn loses perspective as you pendulum out from under your canopy and you go off the windline.
5) Failure to Relax. This is a hobby for fun! Jeff has observed strain on competitors' faces on short final. They are ready to say "Aaarh." If you relax, you'll usually do better.
6) Failure to Be Serious. Skydiving is serious, i.e., it is dangerous. Work to stay safe. Be sure that you put out your accuracy rug so you can practice accuracy on every jump. Check the winds before jumping. Serious accuracy jumpers will measure the wind speed and their distance even place visible land marks, such as small reflective mirrors, out there for themselves. Log the conditions and your results for each jump.
7) Failure to Observe. Observe the winds and other jumpers. Watch what they do correctly and what they do wrong.
Be Safe - this is the most important criteria. An award is nice but it is certainly not worth breaking a leg. Do not do Hook turns. Hooking will get you disqualified.
22% fall down, 80% land short. When you see that you are going to be short, the natural reflex is to raise the toggles, letting the canopy surge forward. However, due to the pendulum effect, you do not go forward. When you think you are going to be short on short final, use a hard flare. This will cause you to float and the canopy will throw you forward a little, putting you closer to the target.
Pick a leg that you are going to use. Classic Accuracy people use a favorite leg or elect to not try at all, simply land, and just walk off.
Learn to fly in half brakes. New jumpers use an "on/off" flying style. They are either in full flight or flaring. They are not learning to fly with brakes. Find out at how much brakes your canopy stalls at. Do this while high aloft. Hotter canopies have more dramatic stall characteristics. There is no need to abruptly stall the canopy with sudden control movements. How does your canopy behave when it stalls? Is it just the end cells? Or, does it make a "U" shape? Look to the side and watch the horizon...how much tilt is there?
Learn to speed up and slow down, all on the windline. If, in last 200 feet, you are using front or rear risers, you are outside of the envelope.
One audience member has a problem of always landing a little long. To solve this problem, look at a false target that is closer to you by the same amount that you are consistently overshooting.
US accuracy competitors tend to fly into the pad for dead center. They tend to not reach for the pad. The last 10 inches is a blind hit. French competitors don't fly close but they reach with either foot to achieve consistent dead centers. The French practice foot placement.
FFI: Jeff Steinkamp, 217 224 6284, firstname.lastname@example.org