Friday Freakout: Swoop Fail, Skydiver Hits Ground Hard!

Posted by Zej Moczydlowski

What happened

This jumper was coming in for a planned 180-degree swoop and initiated the turn way too low, but they failed to recognize their mistake quickly enough and didn’t attempt to abort. The end result was a pretty hard impact and a bounce; there was no mention of the injuries, but they noted: “although it’ll take some time to recover, it’s looking very promising that (they) will be back in the sky soon enough.”

Why did it happen

Lack of Situational Awareness

This jumper flew a smooth pattern and did a good job checking their air space, but when they began their turn, it quickly becomes evident that they do not have enough altitude. However, at no point do they appear to really abort. This suggests they may have lacked the necessary situational awareness or level of experience for swooping.

Questionable Decisions

Generally speaking, most canopy pilots believe a 180-degree turn is a poor choice. It’s a blind turn that cannot be initiated from base leg so the jumper loses sight picture of the landing area. Comparatively, with a 90- or 270-degree turn, a jumper is on base leg, perpendicular to their landing area and can see where they are going.

How could it be prevented

Coaching

A canopy pilot we consulted in this analysis unequivocally said they do not know of a coach who teaches a 180-degree turn. This suggests the jumper may have been learning on their own or getting advice from people who were not qualified to offer it. Most of the best canopy pilots in the world still continuously reach out for coaching and advice so, suffice it to say, someone doing a beginner turn should be reaching out to qualified individuals as well.

Abort!

Some budding canopy pilots forget that you can land without swooping! (Seriously, it’s totally doable 😉) They will initiate a turn, realize they’re in a questionable position, and still decide to follow through on their planned swoop. If/when you realize that you have put yourself into a dangerously low turn, a jumper should be prepared to stab out on toggles. One of the first drills some canopy coaches teach for “intro to swooping” courses is having a student do a turn at altitude and then stab out of it just so that they become familiar with what it feels like to bail out on toggles.

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