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Category C

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Category C: Learning and Performance Objectives

  • unassisted freefall with heading maintenance
  • hover control
  • solo deployment
  • landing patterns for higher winds
  • downwind landings
  • wing loading
  • accidental opening review
  • turbulence
  • landing off
  • obstacle recognition
  • the FAA rigger
  • the closed parachute system


A. Exit & Freefall

  1. Pull priorities:
    1. Jumpers must deploy at the planned altitude, regardless of stability.
    2. Priorities are in the following order of importance (top down):
      1. Pull
      2. Pull at the correct altitude
      3. Pull while stable
  2. Review of smooth climbout and exit (minimal assistance)
    1. exact hand and foot placement
    2. smooth launch to reduce momentum
    3. correct presentation of hips and chest to the relative wind
    4. legs out for a few seconds to add control
  3. Single-instructor exit (AFF, when applicable)
    1. Revise the climbout procedure for one instructor.
    2. Prepare for slightly different results after launch with one instructor (typically more vertical).
  4. Review of stability recovery and maintenance “altitude, arch, legs, relax” (IAD and static-line students only after successful clear and pull)—
    1. A.I.R. Provided you are Altitude aware, In control, and Relaxed (AIR), you may continue in freefall and deploy at the assigned altitude.
    2. If you are above your assigned deployment altitude but cannot control your freefall (spinning rapidly or tumbling) employ the stability recovery and maintenance procedure. If unsuccessful after 5 seconds deploy your main canopy immediately. Deploy your main canopy at the assigned deployment altitude regardless of stability.
    3. If you are above your assigned deployment altitude and falling in a back-to-earth orientation, roll to one side to recover to a stable, belly-to-earth body position. Check altitude, arch, look towards the ground to the right, bring the right arm in across your chest, as your body rolls to the right and you are facing the ground bring your right arm back to the freefall position. Check altitude. This is commonly referred to as the “roll out of bed” technique.
    4. know the altitude by reading the altimeter or counting from exit (depending on exit altitude)
    5. arch at the hips to improve belly-to-wind stability
    6. check your leg position and adjust as needed (probably extend to 45 degrees).
    7. relax by taking a breath and letting go of unwanted body tension.
    8. recognize heading (actively correct only if turn training was introduced in Category B).
  5. Alternate freefall altitude references
    1. Judge altitude by keeping track of time (average ten seconds for the first 1,000 feet, 5.5 seconds for every additional 1,000 feet).
    2. Look at the ground during the climb to altitude and cross check against the altimeter.
    3. Observe the cloud bases on the ride to altitude to use later as an altitude reference.
    4. Look at the ground after initiating deployment and while waiting for inflation; check what you observed against the altimeter after opening.
  6. IAD and static-line students (after first successful clear and pull):
    1. exposure to continuous freefall (two stable ten-second delays recommended to complete Category C)
    2. transition of the relative wind from opposite the aircraft heading to below
    3. altitude, arch, legs, relax
    4. wave-off to signal other jumpers prior to deployment


B. Canopy

  1. Wing loading and canopy size
    1. The wing-loading ratio is the jumper’s exit weight (geared up) divided by the square footage of the canopy.
    2. The canopy manufacturer publishes wing loading or load recommendations for each model of canopy.
      1. in the canopy owner’s manual
      2. on the manufacturer’s website
    3. Canopy performance changes with wing loading.
      1. With a higher wing loading, expect:
        1. faster forward speed
        2. faster descent rate
        3. quicker turns
        4. steeper and longer dive from a turn
        5. more violent malfunctions
        6. more skill to flare correctly
      2. With a lighter wing loading, expect
        1. less drive against a strong wind
        2. slower turns
        3. more forgiveness of landing errors
        4. less predictable in turbulence
    4. Use the example to calculate the wing loading for the canopy the student is about to jump (one of the Category C advancement criteria).
    5. Canopies may appear easier to land with more weight, to a point.
      1. A good landing in ideal conditions does not mean a smaller canopy is safe to jump in all conditions.
      2. A more highly loaded canopy will stall at a higher airspeed.
    6. With the same wing loading a smaller canopy of the same model will exhibit more lively performance characteristics.
      1. faster turns and turn response
      2. quicker dynamic stall response
  2. Converting forward speed to lift:
    1. Flaring the canopy quickly to half brakes causes the canopy to slow down abruptly.
    2. Your momentum causes you to swing forward briefly, raising the front of the canopy and flattening the glide.
    3. Continue to flare, braking the canopy more and holding the high nose angle to maintain your lift while reducing the forward speed.
    4. Time your flare so your feet touch the ground before you begin to swing back under the canopy (dynamic stall) or begin to fly backwards (full stall).

  3. Turbulence sometimes occurs in the landing area.
    1. Anticipate turbulence 10-20 times the height of an obstacle on the downwind side.
    2. The effects and likelihood of turbulence increase with wind speed.
    3. Turbulence often occurs—
      1. near runways
      2. alongside roads
      3. where two areas of different colors or textures meet
      4. behind other canopies (wake turbulence)
      5. over irregular terrain
      6. downwind of the propeller wash of a taxiing aircraft
  4. When flying in turbulence—
    1. Maintain the desired heading using smooth but effective toggle input.
    2. Fly full speed or as directed in canopy owner’s manual.
    3. Prepare for a hard landing.
  5. Recognition of a clear field
    1. Power lines run along roads and between buildings, as well as randomly in open fields.
    2. A row of vegetation often hides a fence.
    3. Rocks, hills, and other terrain irregularities often remain invisible until just prior to touchdown.
    4. Inspect an unfamiliar landing area more closely at every 500-foot interval during descent and continuously below 500 feet.
  6. Planning a landing pattern (intended landing area or alternate) for smooth flow and separation of traffic:
    1. Jumpers on left-hand (left-turning) approaches should land on the left side of the landing area; jumpers on right-hand approaches should land on the right side of the landing area to prevent conflicts.
    2. The turn from base leg to final is the most hazardous because of opposite approaching traffic
    3. See and avoid.
  7. Downwind landings are better than low turns.
    1. On calm days, unexpected wind shifts sometimes require jumpers to land with a light wind, instead of against it.
    2. On windy days, jumpers sometimes fly downwind too long and run out of time to complete a turn into the wind, also requiring them to land with the wind.
    3. When faced with deciding between a low turn or a downwind landing, the downwind landing is the correct decision.
    4. When making a downwind landing—
      1. Flare at the normal altitude, regardless of ground speed.
      2. Roll on landing, using the PLF hard-landing procedure.
      3. Tripping when trying to run out a high-speed landing can result in serious neck injury or death.
  8. When to attempt a stand-up landing:
    1. when you’re in control of all the variables
    2. after a good flare at the appropriate altitude


C. Emergency Procedure Review

Note: Tandem students should additionally review all Category B emergency procedures on the same day before making any jump in Category C. IAD and static-line students should additionally review procedures for deployment handle problems, premature container opening in freefall (hand deployment), and pilot-chute hesitations before making any jump in Category C.

  1. Open parachute in aircraft
    1. extreme care required when leaning back against anything in aircraft
    2. importance of a pre-jump equipment check before leaving the aircraft
    3. importance of careful movement near or outside the door, especially with an AAD
    4. If a parachute opens in the plane:
      1. If door is closed, secure the parachute and land with the plane.
      2. If the door is open, contain the parachute, close the door, and land with the plane.
      3. If the parachute goes out the door, so must the jumper.
  2. Importance of deployment at the correct altitude, regardless of stability
  3. If an off-DZ landing is unavoidable—
    1. Look for an open, clear, accessible field.
    2. Decide on an alternate landing area by 2,000 feet.
    3. Fly a predictable landing pattern.
    4. Transpose the planned landing pattern from the intended field onto the alternate field.
    5. Land well clear of turbulence and obstacles.
    6. Prepare for a hard landing in any unfamiliar landing area.
    7. Be considerate of the property owner when leaving the landing area.
      1. Cross only at gates or reinforced areas.
      2. Leave all gates as they are found.
      3. Do not disturb cattle.
      4. Walk parallel to (between) any rows of crops until reaching the end of the field.
      5. Repair or replace any damaged property.
  4. Review of landing priorities
    1. Land with the wing level and flying in a straight line.
    2. Land in a clear and open area, avoiding obstacles.
    3. Flare to at least the half-brake position.
    4. Perform a parachute landing fall
  5. Collapse an inflated canopy on landing by pulling in one toggle and running toward it.


D. Equipment

  1. The automatic activation device:
    1. activates the main or reserve parachute
    2. is worn only as a back-up

    Note: Detailed AAD operation is explained in Category D.

  2. Observe the instructor performing the pre-flight check:
    1. top to bottom, back—
      1. reserve pin in place and straight.
      2. reserve closing loop must have no visible wear.
      3. reserve ripcord cable movement in housing.
      4. reserve packing data card and seal (especially on an unfamiliar or rental rig).
      5. AAD turned on and/or calibrated.
      6. main activation cable or pin in place, free of nicks or kinks.
      7. main closing loop worn no more than ten percent.
      8. pilot chute bridle routing or ripcord cable movement.
      9. main activation handle in place.
    2. top to bottom, front—
      1. overview operation of three-ring release—pulling the cable releases the rings

        Note: Pre-flight details for the three-ring release are covered in Category D. Disassembly and maintenance are explained in Category H.)

      2. RSL connection, routing, and basic function to back up the jumper in pulling the reserve following a cutaway

        Note: Comprehensive RSL operation is explained in Category E.

      3. chest strap and hardware intact
      4. cutaway handle in position
      5. reserve handle in position
      6. leg straps and hardware operational and correctly threaded


E. Rules & Recommendations

  1. The BSRs list gear requirements for student jumps in Section 2-1.M.2 through 5.
  2. The FAA also regulates the training and certification of the FAA rigger, according to FAR 65.
  3. Some skydiving centers are subject to state and local rules or restrictions concerning landing off the DZ.
  4. The student should discuss with the drop-zone staff how an off-field landing may affect the jumper and the DZ.


F. Spotting & Aircraft

  1. The landing pattern is square on a calm day, with each leg based on the canopy’s projected glide distance from 300 feet of altitude (see illustration).

    1. Each jumper must know his or her own canopy’s glide distance from 300 feet in no wind to plan a pattern.
    2. The instructor estimates the 300-foot no-wind glide distance for beginning students.
  2. The planned final approach must be shortened from the known zero-wind square pattern as the wind increases; for example, cut the final approach approximately in half for ten mph.
  3. The base leg also shortens as the wind increases; for example, also cut the base leg approximately in half for a ten-mph wind.
  4. Plan the 1,000-foot pattern entry point farther upwind as winds increase; for example, double the length of the downwind leg used for calm conditions, ending at the new projected 600-foot point for ten-mph winds.