Aerosoftware - skydiving


(or How to know if you'll get back to the landing area with enough altitude to turn around.)

by Jan Meyer

There you are, open far, far, away from the landing area, wondering if you will make it back. You start heading for the landing area, flying over the alligator farm and then a tree line until you can turn into the wind and land safely.

A safe habit is to know where you will land as you descend through 1000 feet. If you do not routinely make this decision now, someday, a long spot may raise its ugly head and snag you doing a low hook turn, landing in trees or some other obstacle. On every jump, decide where you will land by the time you are at 1000 feet.

Where can I land?

Where CAN I land? There is a relatively easy way to know exactly how far back to the DZ you will get. You have to observe your motion across the ground. The first point to look at is the horizon. It appears to be rising. Now look at a point almost directly underneath you, but slightly in front of you. The ground appears to be moving behind you. There is a point on the ground, in-between the horizon and directly underneath you, that will appear stationary. That is, it will not rise and it will not move towards your feet. That is the farthest point you will reach. That is where you will land if you do not turn. Hopefully, your long spot was upwind of the landing area. This means that you will have to turn into the wind at some point. This shortens your range. You can estimate where you will land by picking a point 200 to 500 feet towards you from the stationary spot.

The real question is, "Is my projected landing point clear of obstacles?" If yes, go for it. If no, find some other clear area to land. You can always land at any point between where you are now and the projected landing point.

Honing in on the Projected Landing Point

Once you are under a good canopy and are clear of traffic is a good time to practice observing the projected landing point.

  • Put your canopy into a steady flight path on a constant heading.
  • Look at a point near the horizon. (Observe that the ground appears to move up.)
  • Look at a point in front of your feet, nearly straight down. (Observe that the ground appears to be moving past your feet.)
  • Look at a point midway between the two points for several seconds. Ask yourself if that point moving up or down or neither?
  • If the point is moving up, then look at a point closer to your feet and observe the apparent motion of the point.
  • If the point is moving down, then look at a point closer to the horizon and observe the apparent motion of the point.
  • Keep adjusting the point you look at until you find the projected landing point.

The more you practice observing the projected landing point the easier it will become to see it in less time.

But I'm backing up?

The discussion above assumes you have some forward speed. If you are going backwards, then the projected landing point is behind you. Check that potential landing site for obstacles too. See High Wind Landing Approaches for more information. If it is not clear, run with the wind to a clear area. As you run with the wind, the projected landing point is much farther away. After you land, reconsider why you are jumping in such high wind conditions.

Other factors:

Wind speed and direction at different altitudes may significantly change your projected landing point. You have to know the weather conditions to make corrections to your landing site. Winds may be faster or slower, closer to the ground. Keep monitoring your projected landing site as you descend.

You can adjust the amount of brakes you use on your canopy to get the maximum range. Most canopies have maximum glide with slight toggle pressure. You will have to experiment with your canopy to determine it's maximum glide.

You can decrease your drag by pulling your legs up.

Your future:

Will you say, "I thought I would make it back."?
Will you hurt yourself because of a low hook turn?
Will you back into power lines or a fence?
Will you will land safely on all of your jumps?

The choice is yours. Make your choice at or before 1000 feet on every jump.

© 1998 by Jan Meyer. All Rights Reserved.

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