Please note: This article was updated on October 1, 2015.
You know how the first time you came to a busy drop zone, it seemed like all the parachutes were flying randomly around the sky? But now that we are skydivers and understand flight plans, we see some degree, at least, of order in the chaos. We’d like to further increase the amount of order in our canopy flight traffic by reminding everyone that we have three separate landing areas at Skydive Spaceland: One for jumpers with D license experience to address the tighter area, obstacles, and increased traffic; another for students and slower traffic east of the hangar; and the swoop pond/alternate landing area across the runway.
One of the often-missed aspects of separate landing areas is that they’re not just about where you plant your feet–separate landing areas are designed to manage canopy traffic all the way down. Imagine there’s a 1000-foot tall wall separating each of these landing areas, and whenever possible fly your patterns under 1000 feet so you don’t fly over the landing areas you’re not targeting. This keeps students and lower-performance parachutes flying together, and the same for swoopers, so we don’t have large discrepancies in canopy speed and approach type that can lead to someone getting “run over.”
Also, remember to fly a predictable pattern regardless of where you’re landing, so other skydivers can have a reasonable expectation of where you’re going. It’s fairly common for newer canopy pilots to arrive in the pattern too high and sashay back and forth to kill altitude, but this forces all the skydivers above you to continually adjust because they can’t tell where you’re going. If you find yourself high in the pattern, learn from that for next time, and for now use a deep brake approach or your front risers to lose that extra altitude.
Landing Area Policies
Low man has the right of way in all landing areas. Do not cross the runway under 1,000 feet when aircraft are using it. The runway splits the property, so be aware that airplanes and skydivers share this property and aren’t completely separated. Both parties must consider the others’ needs to use the property safely. If you are unsure if the runway is in use, don’t cross it below 1,000 feet and you may need to land south of the runway.