Stay Calm and Open Straight
by Kevin Gibson
If your canopy flies straight both in brakes and with the brakes released but it turns to the right on opening, you have a common problem that frequently has a simple, no-cost solution. This is often an issue for jumpers with between 100 and 300 jumps, especially those who have recently purchased a new main canopy, and even after they’ve checked that their leg straps are even, measured their harness and risers and exhausted every other equipment-based possibility.
The possible solution? Relax on opening. A great technique is to take a big, deep breath in and out while waving off to signal your opening. Soften your body. Then, rather than looking up or grabbing the risers right away, just focus on the horizon and leveling your hips and shoulders. (If you know how long your canopy takes to open and what it should feel like, then you don’t need to watch.)
When concentrating on relaxing and controlling your body like this during the opening, you’ll notice much sooner if your canopy starts to pull in one direction or another. You can correct by gently dropping a hip or shoulder in the opposite direction, but don’t overdo it. Even a slight torso correction is very powerful, which is most likely why your canopy has been turning on opening. Your body has been stiff and probably a little off center from your right-hand pull. As the canopy opens, that translates into harness input. The canopy responds by turning. You may get away with being stiff and asymmetrical during the opening on a larger canopy, but a smaller one reacts more readily to subtle inputs. That’s part of the reason that it’s wise to delay downsizing until you’re capable of thinking about all this along with all the other stuff that happens during opening—traffic, spot and, of course, altitude.
The stimulation peaks associated with both exit and opening make it challenging to concentrate on the task at hand. To improve performance, many jumpers employ breathing techniques on jump run and just before the exit count. The same techniques just prior to and during opening will help you transition more smoothly and safely to canopy flight.
Kevin Gibson | D-6943 and FAA Master Rigger