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[ Beginner Theory ] [ Beginner ] [ Intermediate ] [ Advanced ]


    Training can be broken down into beginner, intermediate, and advanced.

    Beginner training involves learning the fundamental principles of ram air aerodynamics, CRW safety principles, basic equipment configuration, flight characteristics, and basic docking methods. The practical component starts with 2 way formations (student & instructor). It includes non contact control input emulations, stack docking (both as pilot or base and pin), and then progresses to 3 and 4 way stack / planes. It is usually conducted under the supervision of a chief instructor with a qualified CRW instructor &/or tutor running the course.

    Intermediate training builds on the beginner training. It then extends to offset docking techniques and formations. It is usually conducted by experienced CRW tutors.

    Advanced training is mostly related to the competition disciplines, but also to complex manoeuvres. It is usually conducted by teams with coaches overseeing the training program.

    It is useful to define the different types of parachutists who can teach CRW.


    Usually a qualified parachuting instructor that supervises ground based theory training courses. May have limited practical CRW experience but usually has extensive knowledge and experience in general parachuting activities. An instructor ensures that the tutors and coaches are suitably qualified and experienced, that the equipment meets minimum standards, that the students are suitably skilled and experienced, and that all appropriate paperwork is completed. He may delegate this responsibility to tutors or coaches. 


    A tutor usually conducts the practical components of student training (beginner & intermediate). This involves planning the jump, making the jump, and then debriefing it. A tutor usually has competent CRW skills. He may or may not be a qualified skydiving instructor or just completed a CRW tutor rating.


    A coach is usually employed by competition teams or groups of individuals who want to progress together at a faster rate. They tend to work with advanced CRW jumpers. A coach usually possesses the following attributes:

  • a successful competitive history at national & international level.
  • strong communication, motivational, political, and social skills.
  • the ability to impart theoretical & practical knowledge whilst ensuring that the parachutists have absorbed this knowledge.
  • the ability to be impartial to individual members of a team. He is an outside eye whose measure of success is determined by how successful the whole team becomes, not just its individual members.
  • advanced technical knowledge and a good understanding of all aspects of CRW including: equipment, configuration, safety, aerodynamics & the affects of the controls, team psychology, briefing techniques, ability to detect opportunities for improvement, ability to detect changes in style and performance, etc.


Beginner CRW Theory Course

    If not managed properly, CRW can be riskier than standard skydiving and parachuting activities. Hence it is imperative that all prospective CRW jumpers undergo a ground based theory course prior to attempting a aerial practical training course. The theory course should be mandatory. If you follow fundamental CRW safety procedures, the risk is quite minimal.

    Following is an outline of a classroom (theoretical) based CRW course.



    The students should arrive the afternoon before the planned jumps (or some other earlier occasion) and complete the theory course. Complete all paperwork such as DZ & course waivers and check validity of licenses & equipment. Check the overall experience & currency of the student, and experience on canopy type.


    Describe the experience and skill of both the theory course instructor and the tutors who will supervise the practical component of the course. Outline the course and its aims and objectives. Answer any questions.


    Adhere to National and local regulations. Advise the DZ safety officer, manifest, other jumpers on your load, and pilots that you will be doing CRW.


    Ensure a basic understanding of aerodynamics and canopy formation flight principles including:

  • Gravity.
  • Lift/Drag ratio.
  • Glide ratio.
  • Relative wind.
  • Angle of attack.
  • Wing loading & suspended weight.
  • Descent rate.
  • Forward speed.
  • Effects of each of the control inputs - brakes (toggles), front risers, and rear risers.
  • How each of the above variables & inputs affect each other (i.e. suspended load on descent rate & forward speed).
  • Flight characteristics of single canopies compared to other formations (stack, plane, stair-step).
  • Turbulence, and how it effects ram air canopies.
  • Piloting a formation (turning, descent rates, etc).


    Discuss suitable (riser grips, retractable single point bridle, hook knife, big toggles, cross connectors, long sleeves, pants, and gloves) and unsuitable equipment (long bridle, SOS, RSL). Explain equipment configuration and how it operates. Discuss canopy compatibility in terms of wing loading.


    Use clear and concise verbal instructions and ensure jumpers are not wearing equipment that dampens sound. You may have to clear your ears during descent.

    Key signals include: Left, Right, Slowly, Come up, Come down. Drop me, Break, Cutaway, Risers, Brakes, Hold on, etc. Agreement should be made prior to the jump. All terms should be positive ("don't cutaway" may sound like "cutaway" to someone whose head is wrapped in canopy material). The terms should sound very different to others (e.g. "no" sounds similar to "go" when there is wind noise).

    Never panic and given sufficient altitude, do not initiate emergency procedures until you communicate with other jumpers involved.


    Each stage of the jump should be pre-planned. Break it down into spotting, exit & deployment, approach & set-up, building the formation, transitions, plan B, break off, and landing procedures.




  • predetermine winds at various altitudes using information available whilst still on the ground (wind sock, cloud movement, meteorological forecasts, feedback from earlier loads, etc).
  • avoid turbulent areas and areas of poor visibility.
  • allow for other parachutists and airspace users as well as local airfield air traffic rules when calculating your spot.
  • maintain wind-line (upper winds likely to differ from lower winds). Deep enough to avoid landing down-wind off the DZ.

Exit & Deployment

  • Wait until each participant is ready to exit.
  • Clear / concise exit count.
  • Clear the aircraft prior to initiating deployment.
  • Maintain symmetrical face to earth body position throughout exit and deployment.
  • Ensure pilot chute enters the air stream (no lazy pulls). Especially for shorter bridles.
  • Immediate heading control (rear risers).
  • Maintain peripheral vision - awareness of other canopies / people.
  • Dive the plan.

Approach & Set- up

  • Work to the aircraft heading. This is often along the wind line depending on the circumstances. The base should set up to the correct heading and you should set up relative to the base. But don't assume they are correct. This becomes more important as the size of the formation increases.
  • determine base location and heading asap. This determines your first input and flight path to the formation.
  • use risers and toggles to control height relative to the base. A sashay is more controllable than a spiral.
  • keep visuals on the base at all times. It is easier to fly away from the centreline and then to turn in towards it.
  • position yourself approximately one canopy width away from the base unless directed otherwise by your tutor. DO NOT go too far behind or below the formation.

Building the Formation

  • signal to the base that you are about to dock.
  • make smooth docks that are on the same heading and with a speed similar to the base.
  • put your centre cell or A lines onto the body of the base parachutist (assuming a stack/plane build).
  • the catcher should catch with both hands and feet.
  • the pin (person docking) should apply some brake to make it easier to ascend.
  • the pin should also check that the the canopy does not tangle with the container of the base.
  • for plane formations, the base should lock their feet into stirrups or cross connectors.


  • ensure you are not tangled with any lines prior to braking off any formation.
  • set up similarly to the build and do not fly too far away from the formation.
  • do not fly lower and behind the base.
  • maintain visuals and communication.
  • do not fly up from underneath or fly in front of the formation.

Break-off and Landing

  • Adhere to safety principles below.
  • Dive the plan, but break-off earlier if necessary.
  • No changes below 2500 feet.
  • Check for line or pilot chutes entanglements before break-off.
  • Maintain communication.
  • for larger formations, break off to alternate sides and get away from the formation to make room for others.
  • do not fly too far behind the formation, that is the camerapersons slot.
  • if you decide to land a formation, remember that it has less flaring potential than a single canopy.


    See the emergency section for details & adhere to the safety principles below. Following is a summary.

  • Plan your dive, and dive your plan.
  • conduct regular gear checks and practice your emergency procedures often.
  • maintain communication throughout.
  • maintain altitude awareness throughout.
  • react according to the following scenarios:
    • protect handles on all entanglements and wraps.
    • spread arm and legs if you are about to pass through lines (one hand should protect emergency handle).
    • if the emergency is supported by an fully inflated canopy, you have more time to make a decision - communicate with other parachutists. The low person cuts away if sufficient height is available. Otherwise, decide to land the formation (higher descent rate & reduced flare potential) or the lower person may attempt an in flight transfer (potential for wrap with good canopy).
    • if there is no inflated canopy supporting the formation, you have less time to deal with this problem. The high man should cutaway if sufficient height is available. The low man then checks that the area below is clear prior to cutting away. If below a safe height, you may have to subscribe to the philosophy that something out is better than nothing. Hence, deploy the reserve.


  • Effective communication.
  • Prevention is better than a cure.
  • Complete ground based training.
  • Ensure docks are made in the same direction that the formation or base is flying.
  • Ensure closing speed during docks is minimised.
  • Altitude awareness. Predetermine your decision altitudes.
  • Use CRW compatible equipment with similar flying characteristics (match wing loading, etc).
  • Jump in suitable conditions.
  • do not fly in front of any formations.
  • Know generic parachuting & CRW specific emergency procedures.
  • Adhere to canopy traffic rules (low person has right of way, fixed landing patterns, peripheral awareness, etc).
  • No CRW below 2500 feet. Especially no changes.


Beginner CRW Course


  • must have successfully completed a ground based theoretical course. 


    I strongly suggest completing a canopy handling program prior to a CRW program. The APF has a canopy handling program in its licensing requirements. See Appendix 5 of the APF Op Regs. The CRW training descent tables is in Appendix 4 of the APF Op Regs. A ground based theory course should be followed by a practical program like the one described below. 

Step 1 - Theory Course (Equipment, Aerodynamics, Techniques, Safety)

Step 2 - Canopy Handling Exercises - Non Contact CRW

    This series of jumps should include a minimum of front riser turns (dives), rear riser turns, toggle turns, dynamic stalls, static stalls, stall recovery (fast & slow), hook turn recovery, braked turns, spirals, sashays, and slow flight. The student should also attempt combinations of the above inputs.

    Canopy handling can be done in three ways.

  1. Emulation (Copy) dive. This is where you learn the manoeuvres. The student jumps with an instructor. The instructor sets up as the base and the student sets up next to him. The instructor then attempts a manoeuvre which the student tries to emulate. The objective is for the student to end up in the same set up position after each manoeuvre. This can also be done alongside another student.
  2. Solo dive. This is where you consolidate your learning's from the first series of jumps. The student plans a series of manoeuvres and then executes them on a jump.
  3. Follow the Leader. This is where you force your learning's to become second nature. One parachutist follows another parachutist. The dive (apart from safety considerations) is not planned. This forces the parachutist following to quickly assess their position relative to the leader and then to execute the appropriate action to maintain proximity.

Step 3 - First Contact CRW

    This step may be included or omitted as required. It is thoroughly recommended for students who are nervous at the prospect of coming into direct contact with another parachute whilst in the air. Its aim is to make people comfortable at coming into contact with parachutes and show how stable & solid they can be. It also reinforces heading control.

    The student takes on the role as base. His goal is to fly a constant heading with brakes partially applied. The tutor flies adjacent to the student, and then makes a gentle stack dock (canopy on body). Whilst connected, the student can experiment with the following things: piloting a 2 stack = turns, moving across the canopy, taking feet in / out of suspension lines, handling the canopy material with hands and feet, the affect harness balance has on heading, the affect that using your control inputs has on the canopy below you, etc.

    It is also an opportunity to begin bumping end cells to teach the student how the canopy is affected by this manoeuvre. Given that many later formations involve docks where you bump end cells, it is important to learn. Bumping end cells can also be done at the lower end of other drill dives.

Step 4 - Stack Docking - Contact CRW

    The first docks that a student will learn are initiated from a position where both parachutists are side on. During the first exercise, the instructor is on top, during the second exercise, the student is on top. The parachutists position themselves side on. The canopy of the bottom person should be level with the body of the top person. Once the key is given, both parachutists turn in a little towards each other, as soon as the inner end cells intersect, both parachutists turn back on heading. The momentum will cause the parachutes to move half a canopy width such that the feet of the top parachutist are now at the centre A line attachments of the bottom parachute. The top person puts their feet in. Break off and repeat the exercise. Repeat the exercise from both sides.

    The emphasis on these dives are clean, accurate, and speed controlled docks. The fundamentals of piloting a canopy formation are also taught here. 

    You could also design these dives such that the initial position is incorrect and the student is forced to learn the use of control inputs and techniques to get into correct positions. For example, the tutor could set up a a little too low and just behind the student. The student would then have to do some light front riser sashays to get into the correct set-up positions.

Step 5 - 3 / 4 Way Vertical Formations

    The next step is to learn to dock on multiple person formations as opposed to just one parachutist. The main differences here are that the descent rate and forward speed of the formation you are docking on will be faster than a single parachutist. You are also required to do most of the work this time. On the 2 Ways, both parachutists moved towards each other to make a dock, now you will have to do all the flying. As long as the base is stable, and you set up appropriately, docking 3rd or 4th will actually become easier than building a base - pin formation.

    At this stage, you should learn how to transition from a stack to a plane and back to a stack with emphasis on good line handling discipline, and then learn how to deplane.

    You could also begin building larger vertical formations to give the student practice at setting up on formations of various sizes and flying characteristics. Move the students around the various positions of the formation to give them experience at the various skills required for each slot.

Ongoing - Pilot

    Throughout each phase, the student is given experience at piloting the formations. Students learn about heading control, control of descent rate and forward speed, dampening oscillation in the formation below, and emergency procedures.

    You have now learned how to execute stack docks and to transition to a plane. You should also be familiar with CRW safety procedures. You should also have a clear understanding of the equipment you are using.


    A landing training program needs to be conducted in parallel with the aerial component of the program, especially for CRW specific canopies. This landing program needs to include straight in approaches, braked approaches, key hole approaches, and flaring capability. This is imperative from the first jump. It is beneficial to build up speed for landing and then to make a controlled transition from the speed build up to ground flaring.

Intermediate CRW Training


    Prior to participating in intermediate CRW activities, the student should meet the following criteria:

  • have successfully completed both the basic theory and practical courses and can apply all the skills developed.
  • have a advanced understanding of basic safety principles and emergency procedures.
  • understanding of CRW terminology, including safety, equipment, formations, and grips.
  • know CRW communications.
  • have a basic understanding of the differences in flying characteristics of various types and sizes of formations. Specifically, you should know how and be able to set up and dock on "growing" vertical formations.

    Intermediate CRW is where we start attempting all those larger trendy offset formations. Effort should be made to consolidate & refine all the skills learned in the beginner phase of CRW and to continue to focus on CRW safety.

    If you look at the position of one canopy formation parachutist to another, there are two main planes that they can build on, vertical (stack or plane) or offset (not vertical but angled = stair step or wing). Intermediate CRW builds on vertical and teaches offset skills.

Step 1 - Stair Step Docks (2 Way Sequential)

    Stair steps  and wing docks cause more wraps than planes and stacks. Hence it is important to focus on safety when making offset formations. The main reason for the extra caution is only one attachment point between the two canopies and it is offset. Hence if one canopy moves relative to another it will pivot on this attachment point and tend to spin around it. If both canopies move towards each other at the same time, then the spin and collapse will happen even quicker.

    Refer to the 2 Way Sequential Dive Pool for possible formations.

    The stair step is when you position the end cell of your canopy onto the leg of another parachutist and he grips your outer A line with his inner (closer) leg.

    The stair step is the most common docking technique for any offset formation involving 2 or more persons. The important stages of a successful stair step dock are: assess situation, approach, set up position, move into slot (matching flying characteristics of the parachutist you are docking onto), adjust control inputs to stabilise your canopy (it must be in "equilibrium" with the remaining parachutists - usually an outside front riser and inside toggle), continue flying your slot whilst awaiting other parachutists and/or break off.

    The student should also learn how to walk an offset formation. This means building a stack and then moving over to the end cell.

Step 2 - Lock Off Slots

    This is where you close off the gap between two adjacent wings in the row above you. For example, the bottom person in a 4 way diamond. An important slot for all offset formations involving 4 or more parachutists. The lock off slot is critical for stabilising the outermost wing in offset formations. It loads it up and reduces its pivoting action. Hence it is important to get to the lock off slot in a reasonable time with a smooth dock.

Step 3 - Wing Docks & Diamonds

    Refer to the 4 Way Sequential Randoms Dive Pool for example formations.

    The wing dock is a stair step dock onto the leg of a parachutist where there is already a stair step dock made on the other leg. It is more difficult that the stair step as allowance must be made for turbulence around the adjacent stair step and for the fact that there is less room to move.

    Normally, the wing is built prior to a lock off slot. But I have put the lock off ahead in this training sequence because it is an easier slot to complete and there are normally other parachutists around to make the wing slot whilst you are learning. Hence, if you are building a diamond with several inexperienced CRW jumpers, I suggest placing them in the initial stair step slot and the final lock off slot. Leave the pilot and wing slot to the more experienced jumpers until the others are ready.

Step 4 - Rotations

    The focus here is to learn how to fly from one slot (usually pilot) to another (4th or bottom) in a formation as quickly as possible. This training usually relates specifically to the Rotations discipline but the skill can also be beneficial for efficiently and rapidly flying to other slots on sequential dives. It teaches you to become comfortable flying immediately adjacent to canopy formations.

    Note that this is where we also refine our plane docking technique (riser or line docks as opposed to stack docks).

Step 5 - Flying 2 Way Pieces

    Refer to the 4 Way Sequential Blocks Dive Pool for example formations.

    This takes more skill than most other facets of CRW. Not only are you required to make the initial docks (stacks, stair steps, wings), but you are also required to break them off, and then fly them into another slot. Initial training would focus just on trying to fly stable two way pieces in the various configurations (plane, stack, stair step). Then building larger formations and breaking off two way pieces, and then finally, re-docking the 2 Way pieces. 

Step 6 - Larger Formations

    Refer to the 8 Way Speed Dive Pool for example formations. 

    Canopy compatibility becomes more important as the size of the formation increases. Large formations also involve more discipline than smaller formations. You must keep to your designated exit order, line of flight, set up slot, formation slot, break off sequence, and landing pattern. Your docks must also be smoother as the consequence is greater - destabilise a wing on a large diamond and there is every chance that it will become a tangled mess in no time.

    It is very likely that you will also begin to attempt various CRW "stunt" manoeuvres at this stage. Down-planes, drag-planes, side by sides, etc. Remember to follow all your safety principles and maintain constant altitude awareness and communication with other parachutists whenever you are doing CRW.

Advanced CRW Training & Future Direction


  • have successfully completed all the skills in the basic theory course, basic practical course, intermediate practical course, and be able to apply all the skills developed.
  • understand everything taught in the above courses and be able to explain them.
  • have a complete understanding of basic safety principles and emergency procedures.
  • have a basic understanding of the differences in flying characteristics of various types and sizes of formations.
  • be able to teach basic theoretical and practical CRW to beginners.
  • show good set-up & formation discipline and have clean docking skills.
  • have a high success rate building formations or flying slots with people of similar ability and experience and have a good success rate doing the same with beginners.

    Advanced CRW is where instruction merges into coaching. At this stage the parachutist is competent in all fundamental areas of CRW and wants to specialise in a related field at any given time, use the skills in other areas, or become an elite CRW jumper. Where to from here? leads to a number of possibilities in CRW or utilising the skills learned in CRW. Some are:

  • competitor
    • 4 Way Rotations.
    • 4 Way Sequential.
    • 8 Way Speed.
    • 2 Way Sequential.
  • large formation specialist (e.g. Diamond Quest in the 1990's).
  • parabatics or canopy freestyle.
  • demonstration jumper or precision display team.
  • stunt jumper (for media activity, personal satisfaction, etc).
  • test jumper for manufacturers, teams, etc.
  • team swoop specialist.
  • specialist in ground launching, swoop accuracy, BASE jumping, 
  • judging, administration, etc.
  • instructor, tutor, and/or coach.
  • expert aerial canopy cameraperson.
  • fun jumper.

    Whatever takes your fancy, remember to plan your dive, and dive your plan. Risk management is crucial to your safety. Each dive should involve a potential problem analysis beforehand (what can stuff up), how we can manage those problems, and how we can execute the jump as safely as possible.

    By the end of all your training, you should be able to do the following:

  • teach theoretical and practical CRW to beginner and intermediate jumpers.
  • be very consistent in your practical skills (base-pin, smooth docks, formation discipline, canopy control, set-up, etc). 
  • have a thorough knowledge of all theoretical aspects of CRW including equipment, safety, practical skills & techniques, terminology, procedures & regulations, etc.
  • be able to design and successfully implement formations of various configurations.

    Remember that we NEVER stop learning until we make a decision to do so. And when we make that decision, it is not because we know everything, it is because either we think we know everything, or we do not want to learn anymore.

    Go to the techniques section to find out details about skill development in specialised areas.

Following are notes & other ideas relevant to this section that require further development. Please ignore.

  • TOM - Training Operations Manual section 6.3 (& 5.10 + other canopy sections)
  • echelon flying ?????

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Copyright 2005 OzCRW. Last modified: May 16, 2005