Friday Freakout: Skydivers Avoid Canopy Collision After Off-Heading Openings

Posted by Zej Moczydlowski

What happened

After breaking off and “tracking” away, both of these skydivers had 180-degree off-heading openings which nearly resulted in a mid-air collision. #GoProClose

Why did it happen

Poor tracking

These jumpers only tracked for about 4 seconds and it appears that they didn’t cover much distance in that time. They opened pretty close to each another and the proximity definitely played a part in this near miss.

Target Fixation

The second jumper appears to freeze as she’s coming towards the camera. She sees her partner coming at her but she never moves to grab a riser and turn away.

Packing / Body Position

One of the biggest factors that came into play in this incident is that both jumpers had 180-degree off-heading openings. It’s hard to tell what caused these but most of the time it’s related to body position upon deployment or a packing error.

How could it be prevented

Track Harder

On a two-way there may be instances where jumpers decide to have one person pull in place and have the other track or there may be instances where there are concerns about tracking into another jump… but had these jumpers tracked further this situation would have likely been avoided. The “Track like everyone is trying to kill you” truism definitely applied here.

React!

Target fixation is a well-known phenomenon in skydiving but it’s typically associated with landings where people stare at an obstacle right up until the second that they slam into it. In this case, the second jumper was staring right at the camera with her hands on her risers… but she never made any inputs. Had she reacted and turned away, these two would not have gotten so close to one another

Pack Better / Have Better Body Position

As noted above, one of these two factors probably caused the off-heading openings. Take your time packing, don’t rush, and don’t get complacent. And, when deploying, make sure you’re in a good stable body position and that you remain symmetric as you pitch.

Fly your opening

Some jumpers argue that, while your canopy is deploying, you should let it do its thing and keep your hands off your risers. However, in this scenario, had either one of the jumpers controlled their off-heading opening they could have potentially avoided this close call.

Additional Notes

On Training

The cameraman did exactly what jumpers are trained to do if they see someone coming at them: turn right to avoid collision. However, in this incident, the other jumper was coming towards him to his right side. His muscle memory almost turned him towards a collision rather than away from one. Sometimes jumpers need to be pragmatic about blindly following their training and, if possible, consider the circumstances before reacting.