Parachute Association of South Africa

Tel: +27 21 553 3398      Fax: +27 21 553 3398
Postal address: P.O. Box 423, Melkbos Strand, 7437, Western Cape, South Africa


What a fantastic forum to communicate with all the PASA members. Safety and training is a subject that can take many hours as there will always be new ideas and the constant reiteration of the basics that have worked for many years. I remain committed to a dynamic environment where the Manual of Procedures remains a live document and is accessible to all.

In deciding where to begin or rather what subject to highlight I looked at the incident reports for the past 3 months and thought that something related to these events would be applicable.

There was a recent incident where two members of a team had a canopy collision. The outcome could easily have been much worse than it was and needs to be looked at more carefully. The members involved are not beginner skydivers and amazed and surprised themselves with the speed and the outcome of the incident. Experiences like this make for great lessons and hopefully they will pass this knowledge on to others.

Lazy and/ or ineffective tracks combined with off-heading openings are a recipe for disaster. As usual there were warning signs and they had been approached by a chief instructor at another club after he noticed that the openings were in close proximity. Just because you have had no problems in the past does not mean that you are doing things correctly.


  • In formation skydiving, groups of six or more should break off by 4,000 feet; all others can break off by 3,500 feet (although these are minima and should only be used if you are a proficient tracker)
  • Holding the point a little longer, taking that extra second to turn and initiate a track, short tracking because you are low are all things that will compromise you having a fully inflated canopy by 2200 feet.
  • If your canopy takes a long time to open or you cannot turn, track, wave and deploy in 5 seconds, then break off earlier.
  • In freeflying, break off higher, especially for larger groups.
  • Track 180 degrees from the centre of the formation and maintain a visual heading.
  • Practice flat tracking and ensure that you are actually creating horizontal separation between yourself and the other jumpers. This is a skill that should be practised at every opportunity.
  • Watch for other jumpers as you track; low man has the right of way.
  • Check for other jumpers before you wave off.
  • Once you wave off, deploy immediately.

.Other incidents during the last 3 months are due to poor canopy control and a basic lack of understanding. Here are some exercises.

For those canopy pilots downsizing or moving to a higher performance parachute, there are some exercises that will help you to understand and fly your canopy better: Speak to your chief instructor and ask for advice.

Riser Turns
Once you’re open, leave your toggles stowed. Practice turning with your rear and front risers. Try to see if you can control the canopy simply by shifting your weight in the harness. Practice flaring with your rear risers with the toggles stowed. Do this same series of exercises with one brake released, simulating a broken steering line.

Once again, leave your brakes stowed. Pull down on the rear risers as quickly and as far as you can until the canopy starts to stall. Pull down on the rear risers smoothly and evenly, inches at a time. The canopy will eventually stall, but much more gently. Find the stall point by seeing how far you can pull before the canopy begins to stall.

Repeat the riser drills with both brakes unstowed. Then, repeat the drills with the steering lines.

These exercises are what students should practise when moving from a student parachute to a high performance parachute. The interesting thing is that it is these very exercises that the experienced boys use when learning to fly a swoop canopy.

“Safety remains everybody’s concern!”

Mark Bellingan
National Safety & Training Officer