Control Your Parachute with Rear Risers 3

Last week  Two weeks ago, we talked about controlling our parachute with our brake toggles.  This week it’s all about rear risers, and they are typically the second set of inputs that we learn to use (Category D jump for all those that are following USPA’s AFF program).

Did you get a chance to read our poem that we posted?

Rear risers, rear risers

How I love you today

You always help me out

When another canopy is coming my way

….especially right after opening!

A fairly bad poem, you say?  Well, we agree.  But it does highlight just one reason that rear risers are a useful tool.

parachute line groups

Modified from The Parachute Manual, Vol. 2 by Poynter

So, let’s get back to being a little bit serious:

What are the rear risers?

The rear risers are the black webbings that connect to the C and D lines of your parachute.  Generally speaking, if you have a 9-cell parachute then you will have 10 A lines, 10 B lines, 10 C lines, and 10 D lines attached to the parachute.  If you have a 7-cell parachute then you will have 8 A lines, 8 B lines, 8 C lines, and 8 D lines attached to the parachute.  Due to the magic of line cascades, you will notice that you only have 4 or 5 lines that are attached to each rear riser.

Caution: the above paragraph does not always hold true with high performance parachutes.

What happens when we pull down a rear riser?

rear riser turns

Adapted from the APF Intro. to CReW Manual

When you pull down on one rear riser you are pulling down on half of your C lines and half of your D lines (either the left-half or the right-half of your parachute), effectively one-fourth of your parachute.  This makes for a lot of pressure when compared to pulling on your brake toggles (they are only attached to the trailing edge of the parachute).  However, we don’t need to pull on our rear risers nearly as much as we do on our toggles to turn, and the range with which we can pull our rear risers is reduced too.

By pulling down on a fourth of our wing, we are not dramatically altering its shape like we are with toggle turns.  You’ll find that rear riser turns do not lose as much altitude as toggle turns do.  But the principle of the turn is the same…pulling down on a rear riser pulls down on the rear half of the parachute, causing more drag on that side while the other side continues to fly normally.

Back to the poem:

There are two times when in-air collisions between two parachutes are quite high.  First, is right after deployment.  If you (or your jumping friend) cannot or did not track away very far, then an off-heading opening could mean potential disaster.  The second time that the risk of canopy collision is highest is, as we would expect, in the last portion of the landing pattern (turning from the base leg on to final).

tracking separation

from Line of Flight article

What to do if someone is heading towards you right after opening?

Shall we take precious moments to release our brakes so that we can make a turn to the right?  The answer is no (leading question, we know).  By pulling down on our right rear riser we can turn to the right with the least amount of time wasted, and avoid hitting one of our sky friends.

How can rear risers help if I’ve got a long spot AND a head wind?

By pulling down on our rear risers slightly (and we mean maybe an inch), we can reduce our drag just a bit and fly faster.  Combining this maneuver with “getting small” body position-wise, you just might make it back from a long spot.

Have a ridiculously long spot?

Then you will have to choose an alternate landing area…a topic to be discussed at another time.

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