Photo by Eddie Phillips.
This photo shows the aftermath of a canopy collision that occurred just a split second earlier. The yellow canopy, piloted by a C-license holder, had just entered the final leg of the landing pattern when the A-licensed skydiver piloting the green canopy turned onto the final leg of his landing pattern and struck the other canopy. Fortunately, neither canopy pilot sustained injury and both landed safely.
After opening their main canopies, jumpers tend to spread out and keep a respectful distance from one another until they all head for the same landing area. Naturally, this draws everyone closer for the remainder of the canopy flight. Therefore, the closer jumpers get to the ground, the more likely a collision becomes. This is one of the reasons that the turn from the base leg to the final leg of the landing pattern is the most hazardous portion of a skydiver’s canopy flight.
A canopy pilot’s situational awareness also changes as they approach the ground. It’s natural to start expending more energy focusing on the ground, which in turn takes away from focusing on the ever-changing situation around them. However, when a skydiver’s distance to other canopies is diminishing, that is precisely the time they should broaden their awareness of their surroundings.
Jumpers can ease this workload by adequately preparing for the precarious lower legs of the landing pattern. Before a pilot leaves their holding area, they should once again take note of all the canopies around them, especially parachutes that could cross their flight path. The pilot should exert extra caution to track smaller canopies above them that might pass them during the landing pattern or larger canopies below them that they may have to maneuver around. Spreading out your workload under canopy can make for a safer and less stressful flight.
Nobody wants to have a collision under canopy. Plan ahead and stay alert. It takes only one person to see what is happening and react to dodge a collision, but we should all strive to prevent it.