[ 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
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
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.
CANOPY RELATIVE WORK BEGINNER THEORY 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:
- 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.
COMMUNICATION UNDER CANOPY
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.
PLANNING THE JUMP
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.
PLAN THE DIVE & DIVE THE PLAN!
- 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
- Ensure pilot chute enters the air stream (no lazy pulls). Especially for
- 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
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
- 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
- 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
- ensure you are not tangled with any lines prior to braking off any
- set up similarly to the build and do not fly too far away from the
- 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
- 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.
CANOPY RELATIVE WORK PRACTICAL TRAINING
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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
The emphasis on these dives are clean, accurate, and speed
controlled docks. The fundamentals of piloting a canopy formation are also
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
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
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
- have a advanced
understanding of basic safety principles and emergency procedures.
- understanding of CRW
terminology, including safety, equipment, formations, and grips.
know CRW communications.
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
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
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
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
- understand everything
taught in the above courses and be able to explain them.
- have a complete
understanding of basic safety principles and emergency procedures.
a basic understanding of the differences in flying characteristics of
various types and sizes of formations.
able to teach basic theoretical and practical CRW to beginners.
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:
- 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
- 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
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
- echelon flying ?????