Straight To Toggles

Last updated 22 May 2024

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This is an account of a recent event that was almost an incident and is a great lesson on avoiding serious injury whilst canopy piloting. Bailing out on toggles saves lives and should be practiced often at height by all people performing high performance landings.

Avoiding Injury Whilst Canopy Piloting

As skydivers, we all understand that high performance canopy piloting needs to be approached with the utmost respect. But we are all human and we all make mistakes sometimes. It is how we respond to and what we take away from these mistakes that can make the difference.

Shane Onis at Sydney Skydivers by Andrea Haysom

Below is an account of a recent event that was almost an incident. It is a great lesson on avoiding serious injury whilst canopy piloting.

Please note the images used in this article are for demonstrative purposes only and are not from the event described.

DZSO Account of Event:

Myself and five mates, were told “the local tandem factory was closed tomorrow, due to lack of bookings”, so we decided to organise a morning of hop 'n' pops at a drop zone less than half an hour away (best one in the country!). Two athletes were super keen on training for the up and coming nationals, one requiring nominated accuracies to gain his Display Pro, and the other three jumpers were experienced jumpers who loved any opportunity to fly their own wings.

We arrived at the DZ bright and early, to find the most perfect conditions any pilot could ask for - blue skies with 3-5 knots straight south. With all the boring stuff out of the way, everyone picked straws to see who would GCA the first load and Load 1 was manifested.

Pre-boarding, as DZSO of the day, I emphasised that exit order is the landing order. The first three exits would land downwind, whilst the following two would land in the normal direction of DZ, towards the east. Jumper #3 pointed out his audible batteries where flat, but was confident he wasn’t reliant on them as had done many swoops without one. After buddy checks, we boarded the aircraft for a three minute ride to height (5,500ft).

From above, I watch Jumper #1 do an absolute pearler of a swoop. Next it was my turn. I could have finished a little higher as I was very heavy on the rears, but that’s another story! I had a chuckle with Jumper #1 about how he out swooped me, then turned to watch the last 90° of Jumper #3's turn...

And that’s where this story gets interesting.

Jumper #1, the GCA and myself all shouted as hard as we could, “flare!” - not that he could have heard us. The thought passed through my head “I’m losing another mate”. It is amazing how fast the brain works in high stress situations.

At that point Jumper #3 removed his hands from his front risers, going straight to toggles (rather than the rear risers), dropping his wing to one side giving the ground a slight glance then touching down 15 metres away, rolling to standing back on his feet. He gave us an “I’m ok double thumbs up, meaning you don’t need to run over or call anyone, and immediately started apologising.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry you had to watch that!”.

Both Jumper #1, the GCA and my reaction was “We are just glad you are okay bro!”.

Zack Rosser at Sydney Skydivers by Mel Campeau

Jumper #3 Account of Event:

Before the jump I realised my audible batteries were flat. I chose to still do a hop 'n' pop, as I’m not reliant on my dytter for gauging height.

Uneventful exit and opening.

When I got to my holding area, I noticed I was going to be too low to do my normal 630° approach and chose to do a 270° as my back up turn. However, I started my 270° the same way I start my 630°; a lot slower, coming out of turn and realising I was way too low.

I went straight to deep brakes to try and save myself, but still had too much downward trajectory so tilted the wing to the right to try and take the blow as more of a glance than an impact. I tucked and rolled with it performing a PLR and ending up back on my feet.

I was left standing there feeling like a proper f*ckwit!

Accuracy Landing at Skydive Arizona by Bina Maja

Whilst packing our rigs we all debriefed our first jump. As DSZO I took the course of action after hearing Jumper #3's self debrief to get him back on the horse. My recommendation was to use his digital visual alti as an audible and to take the digital alti of the person off the load who was acting as GCA. He proceeded to do three more beautiful 630°s, to the high standard of what I know of him, completely redeeming himself after a huge scare.


Injuries: Just embarrassment

Total jumps: 11974

Total jumps on wing (Leia 69): 832

Jumps in last 6 months: 534, 15 on wing

Jumps in last 90 days: 248, 6 on wing

Landings on wing:

 630°: 47 - 1/4 brake to full harness

• 450°: Around 100 - 1/4 brake to full harness

• 270°: More than 650 - 1/2 brake pattern to deep brake surge to double fronts

• 90°: Stuff all - Deep surge to double fronts

Witness statement: “That recovery arc was a similar height to the accident I witnessed at SkySisters”.

Danielle Goodwin by Mark Szulmayer

Cheese Holes

Upon reviewing the chain of events, you will notice the cheese holes lining up and this is why critical reflection is crucial in our sport.

• No audible - It could have helped.

Landing in a different direction than usual - Unfamiliar.

 Noticing he was too low for a 630° - Good awareness.

 Choosing to do a 270° - Good decision.

 Didn’t do a 270° how he usually does - Mistake.

• Noticing he was low and went straight to toggles - Best decision ever.

 Extending his recovery arc by using the harness to drop his wing tip and performing a PLR - This stopped the impact from being straight on, to more a glancing blow. Great choice (his experience really helped him here).

Accuracy at Pink Open 2022 by Bina Maja


There have been several accidents in the last few years where people have forgotten to dig themselves out of a low turn, resulting in long recoveries from injury and worse, fatalities.

Please, please, if it looks wrong it probably is! Get on your toggles to save yourself!

And for anyone who has made it this far (and cares) Jumper #4 just missed his entry gates, landing safely but disappointed, and Jumper #5 landed within 2 metres of his target gaining another signature towards his display pro. Yay!  

I have never been a fan of distorting a wing or understand why anyone would want to, whether it be by using brakes to slow the wing down to then accelerate, or heaving on the fronts to distort it. Distortion equals drag! Drag equals slow! Who wants to go slow?

If you are doing high performance turns, please make sure you are getting coaching from a High Performance Canopy Coach, you fully understand the inputs you are putting on your wing, and practise your turns and bailing out of your turns using toggles at a safe height in clear airspace.

 Daniel Kokic at Sydney Skydivers by Andrea Haysom

Thanks to the author for their contribution to this article.

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Images used are for demonstrative purposes only and are not from this specific event.

[Photo Sources: Cameron Puttee, Andrea Haysom, Mel Campeau, Mark Szulmayer, Bina Maja]