The only canopy course I’ve done was an official requirement by the USPA to get my skydiving B License. Today (Sept 18 2019), I have completed almost 2000 jumps. But between 2015 and 2019 I had done only one canopy course. At the time, I didn’t speak English very well and it was quite challenging to understand what my instructor was saying. However, I now see it as an important course for developing the safety, accuracy and confidence of the skydiving athlete.
In 2019, I moved from San Francisco in the USA to Empuriabrava, Spain. The skydivers at Empuriabrava are so good, it inspires every canopy pilot to improve their skill set. At my home drop zone, only two of the many amazing canopy pilots–Pete Allum and Julian Barthel– are Flight 1 Canopy Course instructors.
Great canopy pilots always have valuable insights to share. For that reason, I went to talk with Pete and Julian a few months ago. I had a few questions about my progression and where I should focus my next steps in the canopy pilot discipline. They invited me for the 101 and 102 Flight 1 Canopy Course. By that time, I had the second-most jumps of anyone in that classroom; and, to be honest, I didn’t expect to learn very much.
I was a little bit skeptical about the course because in my mind it was developed for beginners. However, the knowledge shared during the course was a tremendous shock to me and nowadays I recommend it to everyone. The teaching method is effective; the format they use with classes, briefing, practice jumps and debriefing is extremely useful and helped me to get the best progression possible during the canopy course.
I’m not going to talk about how much a canopy course makes us more safe under canopy. Instead I’ll talk about how much safer everyone is when more people have done a good canopy course and made progress towards this discipline.
Every day in any drop zone where I’m skydiving, I can see a lot of people doing the wrong patterns, low turns, and spiraling down. I’ve seen many things and have been in dangerous situations under canopy that could have been avoided if the other person had completed a good canopy course. By using knowledge learned in a good canopy course, many accidents could be avoided.
“The real question is: How important is it to keep taking canopy courses throughout your skydiving career. Swoopers are not the only ones that should continue taking canopy courses throughout their skydiving careers.” – Siddharth Choudhury
To be safer under canopy, we need to get more people interested in canopy piloting. It’s very important to understand the basics and to follow the rules. The coach’s explanation is super relevant and can introduce the student to new layers of knowledge. For example, I completely changed my landing pattern from points A to C. Nowadays, I have much more distance between points B to C, which gives other people more clear space, among other things.
I want to be clear here, this is my opinion and experience. Even though I don’t have 20 years in the sport or 30,000 skydives, I believe my perspective has value– it’s kept me safe ever since I started skydiving.
Once, when I had around 150 jumps, I almost hit a tree and a fence all at once. The wind changed and I was accustomed to the “I always do the same thing over and over” and because of that, I didn’t change my pattern or take any actions that could have helped me avoid that easily avoidable situation. I got lucky!
With a canopy course, we learn how to basically understand the weather and wind, how we can plan our pattern for each jump, and also a few tactics and maneuvers to gain range or lose altitude if we need it. Besides that, practice jumps provide the chance for all the students to try the canopy maneuvers in a safe environment and be ready to use them close to the ground when needed. Knowing what to do in a sketchy situation and having had a little practice doing it can make a huge difference in how you react to danger.
I believe the most important thing you will get from 101 and 102 Flight 1 Canopy Course is self confidence. I saw many people struggling with that during the course and at the end everyone was nailing all the landings. The confidence level increased notably.
From my experience, my self confidence has increased because of the knowledge I learned during the course, exercises I did under canopy and the analysis of the video of my landings. On every jump, I was doing something new or fixing a wrong canopy behavior or body position. My landings performed much better from the first hop n’ pop to the last.
Keep Coming Back
After two days of intense canopy course, I feel much more prepared to be under canopy. I learned many new things as I rechecked the ones I already knew. From flying a predictable pattern to landing safely, I was taught a lot of new information in the course. I learned about traffic, altitude and position, how to flare my own canopy in a more effective way, front and rear risers stall, flight circle and more.
No matter how many times you’ve jumped, a canopy course can improve your skills and keep you safer and more confident.