Canopy Flight versus Canopy Ride

February 5, 2018

I was inspired to write this article on “canopy flight versus canopy ride” by the tales of Ike Arus in the Skysailor magazine (HGFA Publication). He was a new pilot who had driven to the airfield to take delivery of his first-ever, brand new aircraft – a Boeing 747. Sound familiar?


Today, far too many people are flying canopies which they are not capable of flying effectively or efficiently and often suffer the consequences. This article is aimed at emphasising the role of your parachute as a wing rather than just a decelerator. Wings require pilots, not crash test dummies to fly them. Which one are you? Who would you rather be?

An experienced jumper proclaimed to myself and others one afternoon, that landings are more guaranteed when you jump a smaller canopy. This ironic statement could not be further from the truth. Step out the door and you are guaranteed to land, one way or another.

How you get there will only be dictated by choice, experience and skill. Be cautious as to whose advice you choose to listen to. Your first and last mistake may be that you listened to someone who has led you in the wrong direction.


Often the biggest hurdle in the learning process is being able to admit to yourself that you are still a student and will always remain as such, regardless of experience. The first step in the learning process is to listen. The stories people tell around the bar, the advice they give before getting on a load are all proclaimed in good faith, in the hope we will benefit from each others’ experiences.

Ultimately it is always your decision to step out the door, as it is your choice of which wing you fly. You shouldn’t make decisions without giving a lot of thought to the pros and cons.


Respect is very difficult to teach, yet it is the single most important thing to learn in canopy flight. Respect is learned in two ways, the easy and the hard.

The easy way is to learn from the mistakes of others because you will not live long enough to make them all yourself. Is there an echo? Why do we keep hearing this?

The hard way is to make all the decisions yourself, trying to run before you can even crawl. Don’t learn the hard way, it is only going to hurt. Respect the opinions of your peers!


How often have you heard jumpers say: “I had a nice canopy ride today”? A ride is something that you pay $5 for at a fairground. It whirls you around for a few minutes and then comes to a sudden stop. A flight is something that you plan for and execute as best you can, then debrief with others in order to improve future flights.

How do you treat your canopy descent? Canopy Flight or Canopy Ride? Which way should you treat it?


It frustrates me that most jumpers never learn to do anything else aside from pulling the strings (toggles)! Your parachute has seven input devices: two toggles, four risers and weight shift. And you can also use a combination of them.

What skills will you practice on your next jump? Will you practice any? Ask an instructor or an experienced canopy pilot to help you brief and debrief all aspects of your descent. Ask someone to video your approach and landing to make debriefing easier.


Skydiving is a constant learning process. Choose canopy flight over canopy ride. Stay on the learning curve because it will likely be a pretty hard landing if you fall off!


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Emergency procedures and plan Bs
10 examples of skydiving mistakes
6 lessons on how to get current for skydiving
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