The Rating Corner

Ground Controllers

It’s common to see one or more jumpers on just about any load having difficulty flying their parachutes in a way that promotes a smooth flow of canopy traffic. Whether it is someone who unintentionally flies an incorrect pattern or a arrogant jumper with no judgment whatsoever who insists on making a 270-degree turn through traffic because he thinks his “mad skillz” make him an awesome canopy pilot, many skydivers could use additional guidance about canopy descents. more »

Tandem Commandments

Last February at the Parachute Industry Association Symposium, representatives from all three U.S. tandem manufacturers (Nancy LaRiviere of Jump Shack, Bill Morrissey of Strong Enterprises and Mark Procos from United Parachute Technologies) and Frank Carreras from Germany (a tandem examiner who is rated for all U.S. and European tandem systems) joined together to give a presentation entitled, “The 19 Commandments of Tandem Parachute Operations.” The group had developed a common list of rules and presented them to a crowd of nearly 200 tandem instructors, instructor examiners and drop zone owners at the Symposium. Previously, each of the three manufacturers differed in some of their recommended altitudes and procedures, and they wanted to decide on a common set of rules and then bring USPA into the mix. more »

The Category E Aircraft Briefing

Once students are in Category E of USPA’s Integrated Student Program, they have been around long enough for instructors to introduce them to additional information about aircraft operations. The Category E aircraft briefing is designed to impart the information about jump airplanes that students will need to know once they are independent A-licensed skydivers (and Category E students will soon be wrapping up their license requirements to become just that). more »

Perfecting Your Students’ Flares

Anyone who has spent time observing students can probably recall a few awkward and ungraceful flares that resulted in some pretty scary landings. By and large, the most common error in a student’s progression is flaring the canopy too high above the ground—particularly during the first few landings, when a student is working on getting used to executing an entirely new and foreign skill. Fortunately, students use large canopies that are fairly forgiving of mistakes. more »

Choosing the Correct Canopies for Your Students

There are many variables to consider when deciding what size canopy a student should jump. Years ago, this was not really an issue—every student jumped a 300-square-foot canopy, and instructors didn’t need to make a choice. But while larger canopies allowed for soft landings (at least in most cases), the very low wing loadings meant that even the slightest amount of wind caused students to fly backward. In those days, it was not unusual for students to back into trees, power lines or other landing hazards. more »

Closing the Gap

A jumper who recently received a USPA A license stated that he wished he had learned the functions of the front and rear risers in detail, how to avoid canopy collisions, the appropriate times to disconnect a reserve static line (RSL), the best way to get back to the airport from a long spot and how he should flare his canopy during low-wind landings. If his instructors had trained this jumper properly, wouldn’t he already know this stuff? Yet somehow, his instructors still signed him off to receive his USPA A license. It is sad that some drop zones continue to provide student training that leaves so many gaps in skills and knowledge. more »

Teaching by Example

As an instructor, you need to ask yourself whether you are setting a good example with your canopy piloting. While hanging around the drop zone waiting to jump, students will often watch canopies landing. It doesn’t make much sense to tell them that they must fly an established landing pattern when you fly your own canopy like an out-of-control moron. Canopy collisions are a big problem and have caused many fatalities over the last decade, so it only makes sense to show students what a good pattern looks like by demonstrating the correct procedure during your own landings. more »

USPA Instructional Programs Through the Years

When the Integrated Student Program (ISP) was approved at the July 2000 USPA Board meeting after two years of testing and development, the next task at hand was restructuring the instructional rating system. The rating system that originated with the static-line program had become a confusing patchwork, pieced together when the Accelerated Freefall (AFF), Tandem and Instructor-Assisted Deployment (IAD) training methods and the Coach rating came along. The Instructor Examiner rating also needed a complete overhaul, since it had remained virtually unchanged since its introduction in 1962. It was definitely time to simplify this hodgepodge. more »

You Make Me Sick!

Some tandem instructors rarely have a problem with students becoming nauseated under canopy, while others frequently land with their students (and themselves) covered in vomit. Is it a coincidence? If it happens with any regularity, probably not. more »

What Danger Lurks?

Almost any weekend, tandem instructors and skydiving school managers hear some variation of this question from a licensed jumper: “Hey, I brought my (insert one of the following: girlfriend, brother, mom, boyfriend, sister, buddy) out for a tandem jump; is it OK if I tag along on the skydive?” more »