Spaceland Landing Area Policies: A Time and Place for Everything

Updated 2021

We all know that Skydive Spaceland is a world-class dropzone with excellent facilities and aircraft. What you may not know is that when we opened our doors in early 2000, Spaceland was conducting about 5000 skydives per year. Now, 15 years later, our air traffic has increased by about 20 times; we’re up to around 100,000 skydives per year. With this increase, the risk of a canopy collision during flight, landing, and post-landing has also increased quite a bit.

A good analogy is that when we opened our doors, we were the size of a small airport. We have now grown into a major international airport in terms of air (aircraft and canopy) traffic volume. We simply have to evolve our air traffic practices along with our business volume to ensure the ongoing safety and care of our sport skydivers, customers and staff.

It is an acknowledged fact that canopy flight (collisions) and landing incidents have become leading causes of skydiving fatalities worldwide. To combat this trend, Spaceland has made changes to our original landing area and airspace management to increase safety for skydivers, customers, and staff. Also, it is part of our pledge as a USPA Group Member to separate high-performance traffic from conventional pattern traffic.

Background

What is the issue with the way things are, you may ask?

Higher volume–Primarily, our original airspace and landing plans have become outdated with the increase in volume.

Increased traffic complexity–There has also been a major increase in the complexity of this more crowded traffic. Not so long ago, a 180° hook turn to land was considered radical. These days, a 720° landing turn or more starting at 1000+ feet above the ground is hardly unusual among the swoop crowd flying the fastest canopies. These canopies can be traveling well over 50 miles per hour after such turns, taking up a good deal of real estate both vertically and horizontally. Put this type of traffic in the same area as lightly loaded canopies doing standard 90° turns and flying at 20-25 mph, and you have a lot of potential for canopy collisions both from the very different ways these two types of traffic use the airspace and from the wide variance in approach speeds. By exercising strong awareness and defensive flight (and no small amount of luck), we have managed to avoid serious collisions for the most part, but luck and skill won’t save us from inherently high-risk situations forever. It’s only a matter of time, and the only way to reduce the risk of traffic complexity is by separating different types of traffic, regardless of the license the skydivers in question hold.

Increased encroachments by canopies flying over the runways and taxiways when landing, leading to more potential for conflict between aircraft and skydivers. (Guess who wins that one? Nobody.)

Increased risk of collisions between two skydivers once one is on the ground (getting “taken out” in the landing area) due to limited space and heavy traffic.

Increased risk of collisions with obstacles such as the wind indicators (yep, the arrow and the windsock have both been hit) due to limited space and heavy traffic.

Increased risk of challenging canopy traffic situations, the pressure of which can result in poor reactive canopy handling and thereby landings on the taxiways, runways, or crossing the safety lines (beer line). We shouldn’t need all of our skills and luck to keep us safe during normal operations.

To ensure that we provide the safest and most enjoyable experience for you, and as part of Spaceland’s ongoing quality assurance, we redefined the existing landing areas and procedures a few years ago for your safety and enjoyment. Know that these are not off-the-cuff changes, but the result of months of discussion among Spaceland’s staff and many experienced jumpers to come up with a plan that suits our safety needs of reducing traffic complexity in any given area, while still providing areas for you to land straight in or spiral and swoop, whatever your pleasure.

Separate Landing Areas

General Landing Area (Green Zone north of the runway)

The general landing area is for everyone–all license holders (A-D) and Skydiver Training Program Students. You must land in the direction of the landing direction arrow, and fly a left-hand pattern turning no more than 90° under 1,000 feet. Fly and land within this landing area under 1,000 feet to avoid conflict with jumpers landing in other landing areas. We have also mowed  additional acres of short grass on the northwest corner of this area.

Alternate Landing Area (Green Zone south of the runway)

The alternate landing area is for use by all (A-D) license holders and students as needed. You may land facing any direction regardless of the landing arrow direction. Fly a left-hand pattern turning no more than 90° under 1,000 feet. Fly and land within this landing area under 1,000 feet to avoid conflict with jumpers landing in other landing areas. When landing here, please also be aware that our aircraft will often land on the grass runway next to and just south of the paved runway (it’s easier on the tires), so it’s best to land at least 20 yards (ish) south of the pavement or to kneel down at least that distance away from the pavement if an aircraft is approaching.

High-Performance Landing Area (Yellow Zone)

The high-performance landing area has roughly 5 acres of mowed, maintained short grass area for use by authorized skydivers only. You may land facing any direction and fly either left- or right-hand patterns (left-hand preferred) as long as your planned turn is no less than 270° (unless participating in an organized canopy course, organized individual coaching, or competition event). Requiring planned turns of no less than 270° is intended to ensure that there is no conflict between vertical and lateral approaches to the swoop pond or surrounding areas. Turning less than 270° is permissible (and encouraged) if conditions are not safe for that turn amount at the time of landing.

When landing here, please also be aware that our aircraft will often land on the grass runway next to and just south of the paved runway (it’s easier on the tires), so it’s best to land at least 20 yards (ish) south of the pavement or to kneel down at least that distance away from the pavement if an aircraft is approaching.

To stop airspace conflict and congestion in this area, any skydiver wishing to use this area must:

  1. Declare their landing intentions to other jumpers on their load, and especially to other skydivers using the high-performance landing area on the same load.

Any skydiver identified as having an unsafe landing technique may have their high-performance landing area privileges revoked.

D License and Student Support Landing Area (Red Zone)

The D license and student support landing area is for use by D license holders, Skydiver Training Program instructors, tandem instructors, and videographers directly supporting tandem and STP skydives. Land here via left-hand pattern in the direction of the arrow, turning no more than 90° in the landing pattern. Never overtake tandem canopies closely in this area! (Or anywhere else.)

Any jumper landing here who exhibits unsafe landing technique will have their privilege to land in this area revoked.

Exceptions

We understand there will be times where individuals or groups may need to land in an area that is not in accordance with the new procedures. We request that you speak with our Dropzone Manager in advance, and on a case-by-case basis, we will work with you to meet your requirements within our safety framework.

We understand that many of you have been coming to Spaceland for a long time, we trust that you understand that the changes to the landing areas have been made in the interests of safety and improving the way in which we enjoy our sport. This system provides everyone, whether an experienced sport jumper, beginner, tandem customer, or customer support jumper, a safe and practical airspace to operate in. We thank you for your ongoing support and look forward to working with you all to make our sport and dropzone even more amazing than it already is.

Fair winds and safe landings!

Landing areas are 3-dimensional under 1,000 feet. Please contain your pattern from 1000 feet down to your intended landing area. The goal is to separate the different types of traffic below 1,000 feet, not just on the ground.

6 Replies to “Spaceland Landing Area Policies: A Time and Place for Everything”

  1. How do you learn to do turns greater than 90 degrees if your only choices are less than 90 or greater than 270. Seems you need a bunny hill or something.

    1. Hi John, thanks for asking! Anyone wishing to land outside our published policies can request an exception as noted above. In the scenario you mention, likely the manager will allow you to do turns between 90 and 270, but will ask you to work on your turns on hop and pops and/or land in the alternate area (or something like that). Please check in with us on site and we’ll work out something. 🙂

  2. I will gladly trade convenience for safety any day of the week 🙂
    Can we just get more clarification out on landing patterns? Now, that is an issue we had even with the old landing area but it became more noticeable when we redistributed the traffic load. Should we all start at the same downwind and determine the base and final based on the descent rate which may be different than the traffic before and after us? When we had northern wind I have notice that some lightly loaded canopies try to make the base leg as short as possible (almost a 180 instead of 2 90s) to land closer to the hanger or even on the new short grass. That may be doing exactly what we are trying to prevent.
    Your guidance is greatly appreciated.

    1. Hey Majed, thanks for asking and I’m glad you see safety as a higher priority than convenience (so do I)! We should all fly a landing pattern with 90 degree turns (contained within our designated landing area) and time for the canopy to recover to full flight between turns if we are landing north of the runway. Your observations are spot on and not surprising, and I hope that when we have a pickup plan in place for more distant landings, this will make landing further away more comfortable and practiced. Thank you for your polite comments!

  3. I’m a safety over convenience guy. I always land in the weeds. I totally understand the traffic separation. I would rather walk further than ride to the hospital. I learned to skydive here in 2008 and yes the traffic has gotten more congested and so warrant the new rules. Thanks SS for having the foresight to enact these new landing areas. You guys always have my back!

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