Rating Corner | Tandem Canopy Education Project
The Rating Corner | Jun 21, 2024
Rating Corner | Tandem Canopy Education Project

Angie Aragon

Tandem skydiving is representative of the sport to the outside world, so keeping safety standards high is paramount. To do so, the Tandem Examiner Working Group is focusing on enhancing education and training for tandem canopy flight. As part of this effort, a dedicated team of industry professionals has undertaken the Tandem Canopy Education Project to research tandem-canopy-flight issues and develop comprehensive training protocols aimed at increasing safety standards in tandem skydiving.

Landing issues, including encountering dust devils and making low turns, make up a significant portion of tandem incidents. In the past 24 years, 28% of tandem fatalities (12 of 42) were attributable to landing problems. To help improve the safety of tandem landings, the Tandem Canopy Education Project held discussions with more than 50 USPA Tandem Examiners via Zoom. This team came to unanimous agreement on two items:

  1| Structured canopy education and training needs to be a priority. Standardization of initial canopy flight education will help new instructors develop proper technique and avoid the safety hazards associated with picking up bad habits.

  2| Industry leaders must follow through with the enforcement of existing rules and standard practices.

To address the first item, the team researched the issue and collaborated to produce a structured Tandem Canopy Training Program, a curriculum of canopy dive flows for tandem training jumps 1 through 10. This program aims to help instructors master landing techniques and equip them with essential skills, including responding to emergencies with proper Tandem Canopy-Flight Emergency Procedures (CEPs).

Research

To ensure the effectiveness of the proposed training program, the members of the Tandem Examiner Working Group responded to a Tandem Education Questionnaire. These insights helped identify crucial training priorities in two phases.

The first phase focuses on fundamental skills:

  • Finding the Sweet Spot
  • Flare technique and practice
  • Mechanics of the flight cycle
  • Basic pattern and straight-in approach
  • Flat turns
  • Braked approach
  • Half-braked flares
  • Identifying turbulent areas, including areas of lift/sink

Phase two delves deeper into advanced maneuvers:

  • Accuracy, accuracy, accuracy
  • Landing in high winds
  • Penetration checks and crabbing
  • Sink/surge, surge recovery
  • Landing in turbulent conditions
  • Turbulence recovery
  • Turn recovery
  • Situational awareness
  • In-flight communication
  • Proper stacking

The dive flows are available here: https://bit.ly/TandemCanopyDiveFlows
Moving Forward: Beta Testing and Implementation

With the curriculum finalized, the program has received USPA Board approval for beta testing. The working group requests that examiners use the dive flows during their tandem instructor courses to accumulate feedback for further refinement of the program. Drop zone operators, USPA Safety and Training Advisors and chief instructors may also want to encourage their instructors who have fewer than 100 tandem jumps to practice these dive flows. Tandem instructors who have had a long layoff will also want to practice these jumps as they regain currency.

The Tandem Canopy Education Project represents a pioneering effort to address safety concerns within the tandem skydiving community. By prioritizing education, standardization and continuous improvement, the community is laying the groundwork for a safer, more informed generation of tandem skydiving instructors. The aim is to present the finalized training program at the Winter 2025 USPA Board of Directors Meeting and propose its incorporation as a USPA requirement.

Angie Aragon | D-30898; AFF, Tandem and Coach Examiner; IAD Instructor
USPA National Director

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