This scary canopy collision occurred at 400 feet between a jumper who was flying a predictable landing pattern and a swooper who was unknowingly practicing his 180-degree turns in the standard (non-high performance) landing area. The swooper's canopy clipped the other jumper's feet, but fortunately the canopy didn't collapse and both jumpers landed safely — including an apology and hugging it out.
The swooper from this video explained that he "hadn't been to this DZ in three years and didn't realize there was a separate high performance landing area." This is a huge oversight. Anyone doing high-performance turns needs to proactively check the dropzone's policies for turns bigger than 90-degrees, if a specific area is set aside for high-performance turns, and if they even allow it after a jumper has gone to full altitude. Simply put, if you think you're experienced enough to be even attempting to swoop, you should be experienced enough to check the policies. For more on this issue, check the "Additional Notes" section below.
The jumper who was hit mentioned that he had target fixation on the ground as he was coming in on his final approach and didn't notice the other canopy until it was too late.
The swooper said that he hadn't been to that dropzone in in three years. We don't know if he failed to get a ground briefing or if he didn't pay attention to a ground briefing. Either way, had he known the expectations and the rules of the dropzone, this incident could have been prevented because he wouldn't have been doing a 180-degree turn and colliding with an unsuspecting jumper who was following a predictable left-hand pattern landing.
Let's start by saying that it certainly didn't help that the other canopy was mostly black and sort-of blended into the trees.
However, if you're going to be doing a big turn, it's your responsibility to know where everyone around you in the sky is located. This swooper was flying straight at the other canopy for a full five seconds during which he could have easily aborted had he seen them. His failure to see the other jumper was probably at least somewhat due to the fact that he was focused on looking up, grabbing the front risers, and setting up for the turn.
We think it's worth nothing that the USPA Group Member pledge includes a stipulation requiring that dropzones "Establish landing procedures that will include separation of high-speed and normal landings. These landing procedures must be prominently displayed and communicated to all jumpers at the drop zone." I happen to know the dropzone in question and I'm pretty sure that the last time I jumped there they told me that anyone doing a high-performance turn should request a low-altitude pass.
We've discussed this issue before in previous posts, but we'll rehash it. Generally speaking, most professional canopy coaches don't like 180-degree turns and tend to skip them in turn progression. The reason is that turning 180-degrees doesn't allow a jumper to have a sight picture of the landing area. Effectively, they're turning blind and have no idea what they may be looking at when they suddenly turn around.