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avoiding "jousting"

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All individuals relying on this material do so at their own risk. Sport Parachuting or skydiving is a potentially dangerous activity that can result in injury or death. Each individual participant, regardless of experience, has final responsibility for his or her own safety.

Jousting is the act of landing against the established pattern. The term is particularly apt when the practice occurs while other people are landing in the prescribed direction at the same time, which often necessitates low-altitude avoidance maneuvers. When there isn’t enough left in the luck bucket, those involved can hit the ground hard, hit obstacles in or near the landing area, collide with other canopies and jumpers already on the ground, collide with a neighbor in the pattern, or at worst have a head-on collision with another canopy pilot on the opposing course.

Photo by Kay Robinson

How can I avoid jousting?

1. Note the prevailing wind pattern before you get on the plane

2. Remember that the wind direction can change without warning

3. If you’re going to be first down, take a careful look at both tetrahedrons to make sure you will set the most favorable pattern direction

4. If you’re not going to be first down, pay attention to which way the pattern is set by the person who does land first

5. If you’re not going to be first down, particularly in light and variable conditions, hold outside of pattern airspace even with midfield, using a bit of brakes to conserve altitude; avoid committing to one direction or the other until you see the first person land. ***Remember that high-performance parachutes making 180s into the main may look like they are setting up one direction, only to suddenly huck it back the other way. Wait until the first person is on the ground.

Photo by Kay Robinson

What should I do if I’m under canopy and see people jousting in the field I’ve planned to land in?

Don’t contribute to the problem.

1. If you have the altitude to merge into the pattern for the other field without cutting over or through the pattern for the jousting arena, go land in the other field

2. If you don’t have the altitude to make it to the other field, transfer your pattern to the desert and land out. The GSO will come get you if possible (and even if s/he can’t make it out there, a bit of a walk is better than not being able to walk). Choosing to land out to avoid jousting is a good way to get praised for making good decisions.

3. If you’re already committed to your pattern, remember your outs. If you don’t have the altitude to safely change your landing direction but you can still avoid the grass without causing a collision with your neighbors in the pattern, do so.


1. The only way you are guaranteed to be the only one in the sky is if you are making a hop-and-pop, you are the only one getting out on that pass, and only one aircraft is flying. In all other circumstances, no matter how “sure” you are, fly your canopy as though there is another canopy in your blind spot.

2. The grass is not the only landing area. There is a lot of wide open space in the desert. If you aren’t in the pattern yet, and you see people jousting in the grass, go land somewhere else!

3. Pay attention. Conditions (and therefore the landing direction) can change from load to load. The most common reason people give for flying an opposing pattern is that this was the direction they’d landed on the last load and they hadn’t noticed the tetrahedron had spun and that someone had already set the new pattern accordingly. They’d assumed nothing had changed and so hadn’t looked for any changes. And you know what they say about “assume….”

4. Target fixation can be deadly. Making a sharp turn away from the field mid-pattern (especially on final!) to avoid the jousting you’re staring at can send your canopy straight into the one that’s just next to or behind you in the pattern. Look before you turn! Remain aware of the other canopies around you.

The best way to avoid jousting is to stay aware. Aware of the wind indicators. Aware of changing conditions. Aware of which direction the pattern is set by the person who is first down. Aware of how others are flying in the pattern so that you see problems before you find yourself in the thick of one. Aware of your altitude and your options at all times.

Photo by Kay Robinson

Reading The Tetrahedron:

Some skydivers get confused when it comes to reading a tetrahedron versus a windsock, especially if they started at (or have done a lot of jumping at) a dz which uses only windsocks. When using a windsock to determine landing direction, we are taught to “eat the carrot” – the pointy end should be pointing toward you as you come in on final. With the tetrahedrons, it’s the other way. The tetrahedron points in the direction you should be facing on final. This means you want the fat end, not the pointy end, facing you as you come in on final. SDAZ’s tetrahedrons have faces painted on the butt ends to help you remember this. Another way to help you remember is to think of the tetrahedron as the head of an arrow. Land the direction indicated by the arrow.

Occasionally, at bigway events and during busy boogies, in a direct crosswind situation or when the winds are light and variable, the GSO may suspend a weight from the end of the tetrahedron to prevent jousting due to people trying to outguess the tetrahedron. Note that this weight will only prevent the tetrahedron from pivoting if the winds are very light; the tetrahedron will pull free in stronger winds. If the tetrahedron is fixed, land in the indicated direction even if it’s a few mph downwind.


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