Canopy Collision, What should I do ?
With todayís modern parachutes and larger loads, the risk of collisions under canopy has increased. Whether you do intentional CF or not, if you jump with others you are doing a form of canopy relative work in reverse - its called "Collision Avoidance". Although tight canopy formation team exits may not appear to have much to do with FS / Skysurfing / Freestyle or Freeflying. Many of the lessons in escaping from canopy collisions have been mastered by the canopy formation jumpers and are applicable to all disciplines when they open there parachutes.
Jumpers should view flying there canopy as they would do driving on a dodgem ride at the fair. With a view that everyone is out to get you under canopy and resorting to a more defensive type of flying being aware of everyone around you until you are safely packing in the hanger packing.
The first thing to do after a freefall dive is to get good separation before opening. Good separation equates to more time to avoid collisions. When choosing canopies, find out how reliable the models are at opening on heading and if you do choose a model that is frequently giving you off heading openings. STOP !!!! - either you are doing something wrong in packing and deploying the canopy or there is something wrong with the canopy. This is the point to consult either the manufacturer or rigger and find the cause. Carrying on without dealing with the problem is just increasing your chance of a collision.
So you have an off heading opening and you find yourself face to face with a fellow jumper with line twists and unable to steer coming straight at you.
What next ?
Time is short and now is not the time to be thinking about what to do. On opening you should get into the habit of getting immediately onto your rear risers and steering yourself into clear airspace before stowing the slider and releasing the brakes. How many people do you see stowing there sliders and searching for there brake toggles after opening. ?
Why rear risers ?
Rear risers are firstly easy to get hold of quickly and require little searching to find them unlike brake toggles which requires you to look for them. The canopy will also be in brakes on opening - releasing the brakes merely increases your closing speed whereas rear riser will still leave you canopy in 1st gear. Using rear risers is very responsive and requires only a small amount of movement to stall the canopy. This reduces you closing speed still further. You can let up on one of the risers which will cause a rapid turn which may get you out of trouble.
Why not front risers ?
Front risers can be used for avoidance but using them increases your airspeed and therefore time before collision. Increasing the closing speed also makes impacts that much more painful.
So, you try avoiding the other jumper but you are just about to make contact.
What should I do ?
Two situations which can occur as a result of a collision. The first is called a canopy wrap. Make yourself as big as possible. This stops you going through any of the lines which makes the situation a whole lot worse. If you can grab hold of the canopy and keep it down below you. Canopy wraps are possibly the easiest collision to get out of. Once the canopy wraps around you, it will loose pressure and deflate. It will then become heavy and the top jumper can normally climb out of the canopy by sliding it off his body. Special care should be taken to make sure that you donít catch a reserve or cutaway pad as this could really ruin your day.
The second situation which is more serious is called a line wrap or entanglement. This is where you have gone through some of the lines of the other jumpers canopy. This is more likely to happen if you curled up in a ball instead of getting big. Once again, many of these situations can be successfully climbed out of (Altitude permitting) .
How do I know how to get out ?
The easy way to climb out of an entanglement is to follow the risers. This will lead you through the lines and out to freedom.
When do I get my hook knife out an start laying waste to the other canopy ?
A difficult question to generalise on but most situations can be climbed out of or resolved by a cutaway. The knife is really a last measure, when there is no other solution. Amongst a whole collection of lines and material, do you know what you would be cutting. Your canopy, there canopy ?
Who would need to cutaway and when ?
In a canopy wrap. The top person with the canopy wrapped around them is likely to have a good canopy. This canopy is now supporting two jumpers. If it is not possibly to climb out of the wrap or the altitude is getting down to around 1200 feet should a cutaway by the bottom jumper be initiated. When the jumper cuts away the tension comes off the canopy and climbing out should be made easily.
Line wraps are a more difficult situation to determine who cuts away but if it starts spinning then one jumper is often orbiting around . If this situation is starting to spin at high speed then this jumper cutting away will slow the whole process down, giving more time for the other jumpers to try and get clear.
Before anyone cuts away it is essential to make sure that you are not still entangled with any of the lines or material. Cutting away will turn a relatively slow malfunction into a high speed malfunction. Make sure that you have enough altitude for a cutaway. It is generally acknowledged that any cutaway below 500 feet has a low chance of success. Attempting a canopy transfer or deploying your reserve for more drag may save you.
During the whole process communication is highly beneficial. If you can see your altimeter - call out the altitude every five hundred feet or so. The other jumper may not be aware of the altitude or might be unable to see it.
If your wearing a full face helmet - you may not be able to hear and your communication may be severely limited. Donít rely on the other person to hear you. Any commands giving should always be positive - "CUTAWAY!!!". Do not use any negatives like "Donít cutaway" as these can be easily misunderstood if you donít hear the start of the message.
To summarise on the points for survival
- Everyone does CRW when your in the air with others - be aware of all those around you in the sky and donít assume because you see them that they have seen you.
- Collisions are a reality and you should be prepared for one to happen to you. Have a plan.
- When it happens , donít panic.
- Be aware of you altitude and give yourself plenty of altitude to cutaway and deploy your reserve.
- Experiment with your rear risers for quick avoidance manoeuvring.