Published: February 21, 2017
What is a Parachute Landing Fall (PLF) & When Do You Need To Use It?
A parachute landing fall (PLF) is an important skill to have as a skydiver. Landing even today's modern and highly controllable parachutes still has small risks associated in certain conditions, so having a way to manage those risks through a practiced 'fall' keeps us safer.
What is a parachute landing fall (PLF)?
To answer this question, we really need to go back to where it all began...
Back in the history of skydiving, everyone jumped with round parachutes. When compared to today's modern equivalent, the risks on landing with a round parachute were far greater.
With round parachutes, the skydiver was unable to really pilot the parachute beyond making it turn on its axis, so control was lacking compared to today's square chutes.
This meant that skydivers with round parachutes would often find themselves coming in to land with little control over where they'd come to rest.
An added risk to round parachute pilots was that the rate of descent was hard to control, too. Whereas modern, square parachutes can be slowed down dramatically to allow for a nice, soft landing, pilots of round parachutes had no such luxury and could only slow the parachute down the smallest amount.
Both of these things combined meant round parachutes resulted fairly regularly in the skydiver landing with a bit of a bump, shall we say! The parachute landing fall was invented as a way of taking the edge of this bump by giving skydivers a way to touchdown that would cause them least harm.
How to do a parachute landing fall (PLF)
The PLF itself is designed to reduce impact in the places it's going to cause most harm. For example, a landing on the backside could result in reverberations up the spine and some nasty pain, if not worse, in that area. Landing incorrectly on the legs or ankles can result in bruising or breakage.
The PLF therefore encourages skydivers to land on the more hardy parts of the body, those which can take the impact with less risk. Think non-core, softer parts of the body found down both sides, including the flesh of the side of the buttocks and the upper arms.
To do a parachute landing fall, the skydiver simply rolls to their side as they touch down feet first and allows the momentum to push them all the way over. It's a simple thing that means most of the pressure of the landing is absorbed without affecting those higher risk areas.
When would you use a parachute landing fall?
PLFs were, as we explained, invented for round parachutes at a time where the risks associated with landing were far greater.
That's not to say they don't have a place in today's square parachute world. Here are a few situations in which you'd use a parachute landing fall:
When wind speeds on landing are lower and therefore the speed across the ground is increased, making it difficult to run the landing off
In the event of a parachute issue that makes slowing the parachute's rate of descent more difficult, such as a broken brake line
When landing in an unfamiliar or difficult area outside of the usual parachute landing area (PLA), as in an off landing (where the parachutist lands outside of the drop zone for any reason)
The reality is that most landings these days are soft and issue free. With the invention of square parachutes came the ability for skydivers to have greater control of their flight patterns and landing zone and to slow the rate of descent significantly, allowing for the soft touch downs you'll see when you come to jump with us.
...would go back again
» Bonnie M.