OEW Canopy Choice

 Originally posted on the Performance Designs Blog.

Joe Grabianowski in Freefall

Operation Enduring Warrior – Skydive is a non-profit organization that works to empower wounded veterans by helping them to achieve Extreme Goals. Operation Enduring Warrior has seen a number of inspiring veterans welcomed into our sport and skydiving family. Most of us have seen the inspiring images of Todd Love and other wounded warriors that have gone through AFF training and continued to become licensed skydivers. Axis Flight School has been a big part of this training, and has helped these wounded warriors to fulfill their personal goals of becoming licensed skydivers. We sat down with lead FS coach for Axis, Brianne Thompson, to better understand the challenge of choosing the appropriate canopy for these new skydivers.

“As with all things, there is a learning process. We take our best educated guess, try it, then assess the next best course of action. In some cases, you wing it. In the case of the Spectre 170, when it was first sent to us for Todd Love, I was a little bit concerned that it would be too small. I was expecting a Navigator 200. I tend to be on the conservative side of things, and putting a student, regardless of their size or body shape, on something below a 200 seemed a bit out there. Granted, it was a complete emotional response; I had no scientific evidence of that being bad, just that “we’d never done that before”. Dangerous words, to be sure. So, when the Spectre 170 came I was a bit skeptical, but Nik felt confident that it would be awesome. He did a test jump and we agreed that shorter brake line length would be critical in order to preserve the arms and hands of Todd. We needed the canopy to flare at or above his belly button, rather than past his hips. Once the brake lines were shortened, we were ready to go. Todd did his first couple landings with the confidence of someone who had done that before, and as someone constantly trying to learn their canopy. It was actually pretty exciting to watch.

Spread in Parachutist

The landings were soft and forgiving, but the power of the Spectre had yet to reveal itself. After several jumps, Nik figured it would be time to follow Todd under canopy in order to get some pics. Nik jumped the Pulse 190, thinking that that had more glide and size than the Storm and he would be all set. What was amazing was that because of Todd’s lack of legs, it affected how he hung in the harness and it directly affected the glide of the canopy.

Todd Love on Spectre 170

Todd sat in the harness much like a paraglider pilot: he reclined in the harness. With the combination of the recline, and the lack of drag on his legs, the Spectre had more glide than the Pulse! A surprising amount more.

The Spectre’s powerful, yet forgivable flare was the other big keeper. The Spectre allowed the students to correct mid-flare, rather than having to commit to the process and hope for the best. We all want soft landings for our students, but we must confess, it seemed even more critical for these students because Todd and Joe had no landing gear. Their landing gear is their seat/tailbone and spine. The Spectre offers a flare that allows the student to adjust and correct, mid-flare, with good response from the canopy, yet without an adverse affect. As the students grow and evolve, it will be important for them to try other canopies. Their canopy skills will evolve just like their freefall skills, and it will be important for us to foster those changes. But, during the learning process, the Spectre seems to be the most forgiving canopy for the wing loading and body style that these students have.”


Brianne Thompson
AXIS Flight School
4900 N. Taylor St.
Eloy, AZ 85131 USA

Photos by Mike McGowan

90Percent Cover – July/August 2013!

I would like to thank 90Percent (Italian Skydiving Magazine) for utilizing one of my Todd Love photographs for the July/August 2013 cover spot. It depicts Todd doing some head up flying during his A-License check dive  over Skydive Arizona.Todd Love on 90Percent Cover

TODD LOVE – Accelerated Freefall Training

Todd Love is a USMC veteran who lost both of his legs and his left hand to an IED in Afghanistan, who’s determined to not let that get in the way of ANYTHING (Watch Todd’s story: http://vimeo.com/23424390). He has been surfing, skiing, scuba diving, wrestling alligators, and now learning to skydive. After completing his first tandem skydive with Mike Elliott into the start of the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship in Hawaii he was hooked! And since “impossible” and “can’t” are not part of Todd’s vocabulary, his teammates at Operation Enduring Warrior turned to AXIS Flight School to make his dream of solo skydiving come true.

Todd’s Tunnel Training just two months earlier.

Here are some of my selects from Todd’s AFF progression:

Brianne and Todd spot from the aircraft door.

Brianne and Todd spot from the aircraft door.

Todd flying a Performance Designs Spectre 170.

Todd flying a Performance Designs Spectre 170.

Todd flying a Performance Designs Spectre 170.

Todd flying a Performance Designs Spectre 170.

Todd Deploying his Parachute

Todd refining his tracking skills with Brianne in the background.

Todd refining his tracking skills with Brianne in the background.

IMG_4942 Todd Opening

Todd demonstrates control in free fall by recovering from  a front flip.

Todd demonstrates control in free fall by recovering from a front flip.

Smile MURV, Brianne, and Todd

Todd reviews photos of possible canopy malfunctions while suspended in his harness.

Todd reviews photos of possible canopy malfunctions while suspended in his harness.

Here are some additional photos courtesy of Mike McGowan:

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Testing New Canon Lenses

Thanks to Cameron, one of my skydiving students, I was able to make some test jumps on a couple of new Canon lenses that he let me borrow:

Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye and Canon Super Wide Angle EF 14mm f/2.8L.

Let me just start by saying that both of these lenses are fantastic. Even though they weigh noticeably more when they are on your head, the shots you land with are well worth it!

I tested both of these lenses on the Canon 7D, which is what I jump primarily, and the Canon 5D Mark II.

“The fixed 14mm is a bright lens that provides an ultra wide-angle view, and has the shortest focal length in the line-up of L series lenses. Its diagonal angle of view is an impressive 114° – anything larger would be a fisheye lens.” – B&H

“The 8-15mm delivers 180° diagonal angle of view images for all EOS SLR cameras with imaging formats ranging from full-frame to APS-C. When the lens is used with full-frame cameras you can choose between a circular fisheye image or full-frame image by using the zoom.” – B&H