USPA Category C Information for Student Skydivers

Exit and Freefall

Alternate Freefall Reference Points

You can judge your altitude in freefall without looking at your altimeter by employing some alternate freefall reference points.  One strategy is to determine at what altitude the cloud base is at on your ride to altitude.  Another strategy to use, especially with more practice, is to estimate your altitude based upon the relative size of ground objects.  For example, the size of cars is relatively consistent from one location to another.


How to Calculate Wing Loading

Wing Loading = exit weight/square footage of the parachute, where your exit weight is your weight plus the weight of all the gear you are wearing

All canopy manufacturers publish recommended wing loadings for each model.  If two different sized people (one heavier and the other lighter) jump the same model canopy with the exact same wing loading, the smaller canopy will show livelier performance characteristics.  This is due in part to smaller canopies having shorter lines and the pendulum effect.

Landing Off: Alternate Landing Areas

When you land off the airport (and one day you will) in an alternate landing area, then you should scan your intended landing space every 500’ for landing hazards/obstacles.  At 500’ and below you need to be continuously looking for obstacles.  You also need to anticipate hazards.  For example, if I have chosen to land at a baseball field, then I should be looking out for fences, bleachers, and light poles.  By anticipating obstacles you increase your chances of a safe landing.

If possible and prudent, transfer your landing pattern to the alternate landing area.  Remember your landing priorities (wing level, avoid obstacles, flare to at least half brakes, PLF) and be considerate of private property.

Encountering Turbulence

  • Turbulence can be found 10-20 times the height of an obstacle on the downwind side, and the effects increase with increased wind speed. For example, if the wind is flowing over a building that is 15 feet tall, then you would expect to find turbulence 150-300 feet away from the building on its downwind side.
  • Turbulence can be found where two areas of different colors or textures meet, behind other canopies, and downwind of propeller wash.
  • If you encounter turbulence then you should fly your canopy at full speed, use smooth inputs, and be prepared for a hard landing.

Stalling Your Parachute

  • Dynamic stall: occurs at the end of the flare when the jumper begins to rock back under the canopy
  • Full stall: occurs when the trailing edge (tail) is pulled below the leading edge and the canopy begins to fly backwards and may collapse, resulting in injury/death if performed too close to the ground
    • If you stall your canopy while flying around (not when coming in for landing), then you should smoothly let back up on the toggles, allowing your parachute to begin flying again.

Emergency Procedure Review

Be careful with your equipment inside the plane when you are leaning back and moving around, especially near the door.  A pre-jump equipment check is always necessary and you should also get into the habit of visually inspecting the equipment of those people around you (proper routing of the chest strap, pilot chute accessible, etc).  If you see a pilot chute or a canopy out in the plane while the door is closed, then you should immediately work to contain it while communicating (loudly) to others.  If the door is open, then you should still work to contain the fabric while yelling out to others to close the door.  If any part of the canopy or the pilot chute exits the plane, then the jumper must immediately follow it.


  • There are a few federal regulations that pertain to skydiving.  One of them is the training and certification of riggers.
  • A USPA BSR (basic safety requirement) is that students must wear a rigid helmet, visual altimeter, AAD, RSL, and use a main ram-air canopy with a ripcord-activated pilot chute or BOC throw out pilot chute. At Skydive Palatka students must also wear clear goggles until obtaining an A license.
    • The AAD is a backup device that causes activation of the reserve parachute.  Hence the name, Automatic Activation Device.
  • Pre-flight equipment checks should be performed before putting your gear on.  USPA recommends that you check your gear from top to bottom, back first and then the front. The acronym SHAGG (shoes, helmet, altimeter, goggles, gloves) can be used as a reminder for personal equipment.

Spotting and Aircraft

Left and Right Hand Landing Patternsmodifying landing patterns from USPA SIMLanding patterns are a very important part of piloting a canopy; by following a landing pattern your movements become more predictable to everyone else in the air.  Just like when driving a car, predictable movements from everyone makes the whole environment safer.

There are two instances when in-air collisions under canopy are most likely.  The first instance is right after opening and the second is in the landing pattern, when turning from the base to final leg.  To understand why this is true, you must imagine two people under canopy: one is performing a left-hand pattern and the other performs a right-hand pattern (see the diagram on the left).  At which point are the jumpers closest to each other and the ground?

A higher wind speed will affect the landing pattern in the following way: shortened base and final legs, a longer downwind leg, and the holding area will be further upwind and narrower (see figure at right).  In order to have more accurate landings it will become increasingly important to be able to modify your pattern while flying your landing pattern.  Review the diagram to the right and be prepared to talk with your instructor about strategies that can be used when you are either too high/low or too far/close to your target during your landing pattern.

category quiz button