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High Wind Landing Approaches

by Jan Meyer

The Scenario

The winds picked up after you jumped. You go backwards when you face into the wind. The wind speed is greater than your canopy's airspeed. That means your ground speed into the wind is backwards.

The Question

What does a conventional pattern to the target look like?

Conventional Pattern:

Has three legs:
Downwind, Crosswind and Into the wind.
AKA Downwind, Base, Final

Under most conditions, the pattern resembles a J, as shown:
Convention J pattern

The canopy uses AC 'lighting' green on right, red on left. The pilot chute is shown trailing.
X marks the touchdown spot.

Under High wind conditions, where the wind speed is greater than the canopy's airspeed, the pattern looks like a Z, as shown:
High Wind Z pattern

You may want to disconnect your RSL, once under a good canopy, if you are jumping in high winds. This should be done by 1000 ft, so as not to distract you while flying your landing pattern.

On the downwind leg your ground speed will be the highest. You will cover a LOT of ground in a short amount of time. Your turn to the base leg will be much sooner than normal.

Crab Angle - The angle between the track or flight line and the longitudinal axis of the parachute system.

On the base leg your canopy heading will be almost into the wind. The crab angle will be almost 90 degrees. Your ground track will not be perpendicular to the downwind leg. You will move downwind as well as crosswind.

On the final leg your canopy should be into the wind. Since the wind speed is greater than your canopy airspeed your ground track will be downwind. You will be moving backwards. The projected landing point will be behind you.

Your flare will be closer to the ground. You may or may not want to do a full flare. You only have to arrest the vertical descent of your canopy.

Once your feet touch the ground, you need to drop one toggle and run around the canopy to prevent being dragged. You can stand on the bridle line to prevent the canopy from re-inflating. If you drop the right toggle on landing, pivot around your left foot, then you will have your right hand free to cutaway if you get knocked to you feet or dragged.

If you loose your balance on landing perform a backwards PLF as you pull in one steering line.

©Copyright 2004 by Jan Meyer.

Dedicated to enhancing sport parachuting safety by disseminating information about equipment, environments and human factors.

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