This is the second part of two on the topic of landings – in particular the strength it takes to flare. The first one was is written by Katie Hansen. This one comes from the male perspective – authored by Australian Canopy Piloting competitor Robbie McMillan. Katie and Robbie are a part of The Canopy School team, dedicated to furthering awesome human flight.
The idea for the topic of “I’m not strong enough to flare” came about after discussions with someone at the dropzone, who learned that a jumper wanted to downsize believing that a smaller wing would be easier to flare. Many good and not so good tips were offered, and some respondents mentioned technique would be the most important factor in this equation. So assuming your harness, risers and brake lines are correctly sized for both your experience and body size, here are few tips and ‘Food for Thought’ to help improve your technique for the most important stage of your flight, landing safely!
Flight v’s Ride. (Change your Attitude!)
Long gone are the days where sport parachutists regularly use Round Parachutes to ‘Get them down to the ground’. Unfortunately this attitude still exists among skydivers even though modern-day parachutes have evolved greatly. Canopies can now glide further and faster than ever before. So are you a pilot or a passenger? Do you Fly or Ride your parachute to the ground? Do you plan your canopy flight? Are you travelling in two dimensions or three? If you want to improve skills and your confidence then start thinking like a pilot must; prepare, plan and practice the skills necessary for safe flight and particularly landing.
Push not pull. (Change your Technique!)
Strength and Technique will undoubtedly work together to produce a better result. However, in many activities individuals who can’t rely on brute strength to achieve an outcome develop better technique – this is commonly seen in activities like rock climbing where the difference between power and technique is easily observed.
Try this exercise. Look out onto your local DZ landing area and take a quick poll on who is a pusher and who is a puller. Pilots that pull will fly with their elbows lower than their hands for the majority of the flare. Pilots that push will roll their shoulders and elbows to allow them to push the toggles down, after the initial plane out (ie. once your hands get past your shoulders) This technique you will find will allow you to have better use of your strength. While pulling does work, you body posture suffers and generally leads to poor arm and body position which ultimately leads to poor landings.
Fly your body. (Tune in your senses!)
Body Posture is obviously a key ingredient to flying well in freefall, regardless of your chosen discipline. It seems that far too many skydivers forget this immediately after deployment and solely use their hands to pull toggles down, without giving much thought to how they are flying as a result. Your wing is an extension of your entire body and not just your arms. Start thinking outside the square that you live in learn how to fly your body and not just your arms – under canopy.
Breathing. (Change your style, feed the machine!)
If you hold your breath and try to do a chin up, push up or any form of exercise, then undoubtedly you’ll find it difficult. You have managed to breathe your whole life thus far without having to remind yourself to do it. However, you can always tell what is going through someones mind, by what is written on their face, particularly while landing. Observing people as they land, look at their faces and note the difference on the faces of pilots that are landing well. Do you remember how much easier free fall became when you learned to regulate your breathing? Well, piloting your canopy is no different. Throughout your canopy flight, breathe deeply and smoothly, particularly when you are on short finals and about to flare. Just before you flare take a long slow deep breath in so you have lots of O2 to help you think and flare. Once your reach the push stage of the flare, you should be breathing out all the way until the very end of your landing. Even the most experienced swoopers still need to remind themselves to breathe properly, so you are not alone, keep working on it, you’ll be amazed at the difference.
Look Forwards. (Plan for your future!)
Look out towards the landing area and beyond. Look at what others are doing and look where you are going. Of course all of these techniques are best learned from someone who can isolate your bad habits and help replace them with new ones. So sign up for a canopy piloting course somewhere near you soon, so you can look, listen and learn from other people’s experiences. All of these skills will require all five of your senses and not just your eyes. Tune your senses and spend as much time, if not more on working on your technique for flying your wing and not riding your parachute.