After deploying a parachute in skydiving or other parachute sports, you must steer yourself to your designated landing area. There are many different ways to steer a parachute, or canopy, but the most common method uses steering toggles. These toggles attach to brake lines connected to the rear of the parachute. When you pull them both simultaneously, the canopy slows down, while pulling on either one individually turns the parachute. Steering a parachute is one of the easiest aspects of skydiving, albeit one of the most important.
After the parachute deploys in skydiving, or after launching from a hill in paragliding, look up and find the two steering toggles. In most cases they are attached to the risers -- wide straps with the appearing of seat belt webbing. Pull the toggles off the risers with a strong tug.
Hold the toggles above your head to achieve full speed while flying. Pull down on the right toggle a few inches to initiate a slow turn. Lift your hand back to the neutral position above your head to stop the turn. Repeat with your left hand for a left turn.
Pull a toggle 12 inches or more to initiate a sharp turn. Do this with caution, a sharp turn results in rapid altitude loss. Smaller parachutes are more sensitive to steering-toggle input.
Pull down a few inches on both toggles to slow down the parachute. Pull further to slow down even more. Some parachutes are capable of flying backwards with enough toggle input, but note that this also results in rapid loss of altitude.
Identify the rear risers on your parachute harness. These are the rearmost straps emerging from your harness and attach to the rearmost lines on the parachute above you.
Pull down several inches on the right riser to make a right turn. Repeat this with the left riser for a left turn. A riser turn requires more arm strength to steer the parachute as it applies pressure to more lines.
Lean to the right in your harness to put more body weight on the lines on the right side of the parachute. Observe your parachute turning slightly to the right. Repeat this by leaning to the left for a left turn. Smaller parachutes are more sensitive to harness-weight shifts, but this is a good way to turn without your hands if they are preoccupied.
- Round parachutes are usually not steerable and you have little input on the direction of flight. These steps only refer to modern square parachutes with steering toggles.
- Never initiate a sharp turn while flying close to the ground, especially as a novice parachute pilot. Sharp turns result in rapid loss of altitude, potentially leading to serious injury or death if not performed properly. According to the United States Parachute Association, novice parachute pilots should not initiate a sharp turn below 1,000 feet above ground level.
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