Enjoying the Flight
One of the great things about being a tandem instructor is the longer canopy flight that comes with making tandem jumps. On hot and busy days, it provides a chance to relax in cooler air, breathe deeply and spend a few minutes providing up-close canopy training to the student. It’s also nice to enjoy the clearer airspace and limited canopy traffic for the entire descent. Pulling the drogue release around 5,000 feet leaves a tandem pair with most canopy traffic far below and only other nearby tandem canopies to worry about during the descent. It also provides more time and altitude to deal with any canopy problems. An easy day.
Deploying any lower than 5,000 feet frequently puts tandems in the landing pattern at the same time as solo students, wingsuit flyers and the occasional licensed skydiver who pulled high. Flying the pattern with other tandem instructors is easy, since they all fly fairly consistent patterns. But throw a solo student canopy into the mix and the chances of a canopy collision or landing problem increases. Solo students and new jumpers sometimes fly unusual landing patterns. It’s difficult to predict where the canopy is going when a student really blows a flight plan, and a tandem instructor may have to use evasive maneuvers, which scares everyone.
It is definitely not a great way for either of the students to end their skydives, much less the tandem instructor.
More and more, tandem instructors seem pressured to get on the ground and grab the next student so the next load can go “hot.” Some tandem instructors are speeding things up by pulling a bit lower,
maybe even lower than the 4,500 feet mandated in the Basic Safety Requirements, which is unsafe and can result in disciplinary action. So slow down, pull higher and enjoy all the benefits that come with the extra time and altitude under canopy.
Jim Crouch | D-16979 | USPA Director of Safety and Training