I’ve seen and heard a lot of rumour and speculation recently about the proposed changes to the canopy system used in the UK. There seems to be a great disturbance in the Force with much worry about what the Dark Side are trying to impose.
I was not part of the working group but I am, as a Chief Instructor, a member of Safety and Training Committee (STC) and hence have been periodically updated and had the opportunity to add input at various times.
The essence is DON’T PANIC – for almost everyone NOTHING CHANGES. The whole purpose of this working group is to make future skydiving safer, not to limit those currently skydiving.
I’ve had a lot of jumpers ask “Will this stop me being allowed to…” the answer is NO. Wherever you are in your progression, your current progress is recognised by the new system. The work you’ve done for your next grade or sticker will be carried forward.
I’ve written this article to assist our jumpers in understanding what’s changed.
What has changed?
There have been four basic changes to the British Skydiving Operation Manual. For those not familiar with the Op’s manual it’s the general regulation book that lists the rules to be followed for skydiving in the UK – You can download it from the British Skydiving Website – https://britishskydiving.org/safety-manuals/operations-manual/
There have been changes to sections 2, 10, 7 and finally section 6.
Section 2: Classification
CH1 has disappeared
The primary change here is the adaptation of the current Canopy Handling (CH) 1, CH2, Canopy Piloting (CP) 1 and CP2 into a single, more consistent Canopy Training (CT) program consisting of CT1 to CT4.
What was CH1 now forms a natural part of the student training syllabus and so doesn’t need a name or title in its own right, hence CH1 has disappeared. In terms of what is taught nothing has changed. Students learn more about how their canopy functions and are introduced to basic safety skills like flat turns.
One benefit is that prospective instructors planning to attend a Basic Instructor course are no longer required to be CH coaches. Instructors now teach what was CH1 as part of their normal instructional role so the process of applying for a place on a BI course is simplified. The burden of having additional “Hoops” to jump through is removed.
CH2 becomes CT1
As per CH2, CT1 will be required for your B licence.
Pre-declared landings in CT1 are easier – you now need to land within a circle of 50 meters diameter around your planned point rather than 30 meters.
Front riser inputs have been removed. Rear riser input to extend your range has also gone at this stage. Overall, getting your B licence is now easier.
Don’t Panic – If you are currently an A licence jumper then any work you’ve done towards your CH2 will count towards your CT1. It’s all fully transferable.
If you already have your B licence then you can regard yourself as already having CT1 – you’ve already met the needs of CT1 by completing your CH2.
This bit is new. CT2 is required for your C licence at 200 jumps but there may be benefits to completing it earlier (See the section 6 bit later on).
CT2 simply adds more practice of the CT1 skills and now introduces the other bits of CH2 that aren’t in CT1 – Front riser and Rear riser input to extend your range.
You continue to progress your accuracy. Now to within a circle with a diameter of 25 meters.
AGAIN, Don’t Panic – If you are currently working on your CH2 then any work you’ve done towards this is transferable.
If you already have your C licence then you don’t need to go and get your CT2. You’ve already met the standards required for your C licence. Having said that, it’s not a bad thing to safety test your skills every once in a while. Can you land within a 25 meter circle on 5 consecutive jumps?
Canopy Piloting changes to be part of Canopy Training
CP1 splits in two.
One of the major problems with the old system was that in order to gain your CP1 you were required to complete 270° turns. The effect of this was to force what should be a period of progressing through 90° turns to be rushed. There are skydivers that really only want to do 90° turns but were forced into bigger turns in order to gain their CP1. The new CT program sets out to resolve this. CT3 focuses on the ability to complete consistent and safe 90° turns.
CT4 will then progress you through the larger turns.
By splitting into two this new system allows more practice at the 90° stage, something that can only improve the safety of our skydivers.
The added benefit is there for those who only want to use front risers to increase performance for landings without the desire to participate in the higher level 270° turns etc.
CAN WE PANIC YET?
No, AGAIN, Don’t Panic – I know it’s getting repetitive but, again, if you are currently working on your CP1 then any work you’ve done towards this is transferable. You can continue your progress towards your CT3.
As the requirements for CT3 are lower than CP1 you may already be eligible for your CT3 and can then use your other CP jumps to keep progressing towards CT4
If you already have CP1 then you at least have CT3 and may also qualify for CT4. Just go and see your CI and they have the authority to award you the relevant sticker depending on where you are in your progression. e.g. If you have CP1 and are seen to be consistent with your 270+ turns you’re going to automatically qualify for CT4.
A quick note on coaching.
I’ve seen commentary suggesting that adding restrictions on canopy size is the wrong thing to do and that education is more important.
Yes – Education is a vital part of this change. In previous years when new systems have been put in place there has been a tendency to automatically allow for coaches to be upgraded and awarded the new coach rating. Not so this time.
Separately to this working group, British Skydiving have started a review into how to improve coaching but I expect this will take a while. There is the potential for skydiving coaches to have a transferable and nationally recognised coaching qualification.
But… Waiting for the coaching group to complete their work could simply mean that the introduction of parts of the work of the canopy group keeps being kicked further and further down the road without ever getting implemented. The improved safety benefits of this groups work are ready to go. Do we wait for another low turn fatality before we ask why this work hasn’t been introduced yet?
In the meantime, subject to their CI approval, current CH coaches will be able to teach CT1 and CT2. CP coaches will be able to teach CT3 and 4
The manuals for CH and CP have been fully re-written and updated for the new CT system. By simplifying parts of the old CH progression, removing some requirements and combining CH and CP into one smooth, single progression system this allows for a simpler education setup.
The reality is that if someone had the skills to teach flat turns under the CH system, they have the skills to teach flat turns under the new system. Where those skills are now to be taught is laid out in the section 2 amendments. For those who coach and need further guidance, that’s where your CI and these new manuals can assist.
The manuals were seen in draft form before the STC meetings that approved this new system. British Skydiving have promised that these and the specific forms for CT will be finished and published well before the 1st April inception date.
Section 10: Safety
This bit is simple. It’s not expected to change anything that’s going happening in the landing area. This update just seeks to clarify what is generally seen at parachute training organisation (PTO’s).
Historically the Operation Manual simply said that “Under canopy the responsibility for avoiding collision rests with the higher skydiver”. Canopies now descend at much more varied rates than ever before. We are seeing much more varied styles of landings. Essentially, this change says if you want to complete a high-performance landing you should only do so when your airspace is clear. You shouldn’t be putting others at risk.
Students get priority, we can’t expect a student jumper to have the awareness under canopy that we have developed through our experience. Then it’s tandem and then solo jumpers.
To further assist with landing safety there is the introduction of the concept of a high performance landing area.
Section 7: Parachute Landing Area
Each parachute training organisation where high performance landings are taking place are to designate an area for these to take place in – a High Performance Landing Area (HPLA).
The majority of skydivers don’t do high performance landings. For each of these skydivers you now have the security of knowing that those wanting to perform such turns must do so in a specific area.
If you are landing outside that HPLA you know that the risk of a canopy collision with someone flying into you at high speed whilst they are turning should now be massively reduced. This rule just makes it safer for you and imposes no changes to your canopy flight or jumping. Just like before, you can still land in the landing area that has now been designated as the HPLA and you now have the added benefit of knowing that after landing you need to be aware of other, potentially fast moving, canopies that are landing.
Section 6: Equipment
The dreaded charts…
NOW THERE IS WIDESPREAD PANIC!!!
The new canopy sizing charts are designed to help future skydivers progress through any downsizing at a sensible rate.
There are 3 charts, Forms 330 i, ii and iii. The first one (and the most restrictive) is applicable to anyone who doesn’t yet have CT2. As soon as you have CT2 you then use form 330ii. Although needing CT2 isn’t required until you want to apply for your C licence at 200 jumps you can see there is a benefit from a canopy downsizing point of view to getting your CT2 earlier. The last form covers those with high performance landing experience (such as the current CP1)
BUT – before you jump to conclusions – Don’t panic…keep reading…
One of the first, interesting, points that came from the working groups analysis of jumping in the UK was the fact that in the last decade UK skydivers have been downsizing at over twice the rate of those seen previously. In the same period jumpers were changing their canopies far more often, gaining much less experience on any particular canopy before moving on to another. It’s when processes like this are allowed to continue unchecked that it leads to fatalities on the smaller canopies where the margin for error is so much smaller.
Limitations on canopy size and wing loading for students have been around for years. This process will extend this over the next few years into the wider jumper population. It’s not something that should worry people…Don’t Panic…
I’ve seen quite a bit of reactionary comment about these charts. Much of this looks to be fuelled by dis-information and a leaked, draft, partially completed version of the most restrictive of all the charts with no explanation of how it was planned to be implemented. There are comments about having to sell current equipment or being banned from using them. NONE of this is true.
If you currently have a B licence you can continue to jump your current canopy. If you think you currently fall outside of the charts figures – GO AND SEE YOUR CI… We have the tools to help you.
If you do sit outside the figures of the specific chart that applies to you your CI can just let you carry on jumping or in cases where you are more than 10% outside the chart they will go through a risk assessment/dispensation form and give you a copy – either way you just keep jumping your current canopy.
If you have an A licence, go and see your CI. Let’s get you working towards (your now easier to obtain) B licence. You have the opportunity to practice and demonstrate your improving canopy skills. In the meantime, a few jumps on a 190 or 210 is probably the right canopy for you as you downsize from the student kit you were using only a few jumps ago.
I suspect that it will only be in very extreme conditions that a CI would not want to sign the dispensation. An example might be a 16 stone jumper with 300 jumps on a sabre 120 or Valkyrie 84 – and to be fair, these are exactly the future fatalities and demonstrations of poor canopy selection that need the CI’s intervention and we would like to prevent.
In reality this is just the same process that’s being happening at DZ’s for many years. When a person arrives for kit and docs with a smaller parachute or someone plans to downsize aggressively then they would go and talk to the CI to seek approval. It’s going to be just the same process but now it’s written down on paper. That’s not a skydiving thing, that’s now the world we live in, everything has to be written down, risk assessed etc.
A quick look at Langar database and I’ve failed to find anyone that I’m not happy to continue on their current kit. I would suggest that the rumours that this will have a devastating and terrible effect on licenced jumpers continuing to use their own gear are just unfounded and untrue.
When I started jumping, I remember one guy had the fastest, smallest, most radical canopy on the DZ. Maybe I’d get to a skill level one day where I’d be able to jump such a canopy…
…It was a 170
Our perceptions of what is a normal canopy size has changed so much. The range of canopies commercially available now extend right down to the sub 70 square foot size. It has become normal for mid-range jumpers to be far more rushed and aggressive with their canopy selection.
Most of us know that one or two jumpers on our DZ who have that canopy that’s a bit too small for them. Sometimes they just need a bit of guidance to keep them unhurt or alive for a bit longer.
This new system will not be banning you from jumping. It may, in future, save someone’s life.
Don’t Panic…It’ll be fine…