Bryan Buechler has been skydiving for over 20 years and has 10,000 jumps. He jumps a Comp Velocity (sizes 71, 75 and 79) and a Peregrine 64 at his home DZ, Skydive Spaceland. Bryan represented the US at the 2009 World Cup in South Africa and again at the 2012 World Championship in Dubai. He also qualified for the 2010 US canopy piloting team. He's the next athlete to sit down with us in a series of interview about canopy piloting. Here's what he had to say.
At what point in your
skydiving career did you start swooping?
I started learning the basics of “performance flying” around 150 jumps on a Sabre I 150. I was blessed by a number of experienced jumpers at my first home drop zone who recognized, long before the concept of canopy courses, the need to instruct young jumpers on the various modes of flight with canopies and the basic exercises that helped to develop canopy “survival skills.”
For someone interested in starting to swoop, how do they know when the right time to start is?
Swooping is like any other discipline in skydiving, its appeal is not for everyone but those who hear its calling should begin when there is the availability of proper coaching. This will not only enhance the safety of training, but also limit the development of negative habits and techniques which can hamper progress and success.
How critical was it for
you to have experience under your canopy before doing high-performance
My personal belief is that the basics of canopy flight have to mastered on each and every canopy platform before progressing to another platform or performing more advanced maneuvers. Regardless of experience, understanding how each and every canopy will behave differently when changes to weight, wingload, approach pattern and turn technique are applied is a must. I feel a progressive approach with changing one element at a time is the key to ensuring the fastest learning curve while preserving safety. The basic skills never change, but understanding how each canopy reacts to these changes is essential.
What were the most important fundamentals of canopy flight that helped you to succeed and stay safe as a canopy pilot?
All of them! Progression to more advanced platforms and maneuvers begins with basic skills, overly aggressive downsizing often overlooks the basic survival skills of canopy recovery. Once a pilot has explored all aspects of a canopy’s potential then progression enhances performance while limiting risk.
What was the best advice ever given to you?
“Fly your pattern”. Pattern flight is the one aspect I feel is the most perishable skill canopy pilots rely upon. A good pattern will usually lead to a good turn and “swoop”, however; a bad pattern rarely results in either.
“Get more coaching!” I was told, but didn’t make good use of this advice and my success has often suffered for not following this advice.
What was the scariest experience you’ve had swooping? What did you learn from this experience?
My first swoop competition. Putting yourself out there to be judged by your peers and those you look up to is extremely intimidating; but without taking that first risk I wouldn’t be where I am today. I am eternally grateful to my friends and family who challenged me then and continue to push me to better myself as a pilot.
Was it hard to take that step from just swooping to actually competing on a course?
I am a very competitive person by nature, so of course all it took was a good friend, a personal challenge and opportunity.
Do you think people should be training new maneuvers over water?
No. Training new maneuvers should always be trained “up high.” I am afraid to say, that from personal experience, water isn’t as forgiving as we would all like it to be.
We know that with today’s high performance canopies, CP pilots are achieving incredibly high speeds in their turns...how does that affect the use of an AAD?
The advent of the Speed Cypres is a blessing, especially with the continued advances being made to improve their performance for performance pilots.
What does the future hold in store for you?
I am excited at the hopes of representing the United States again as a team member in future World events. To me, the greatest possible honor for any athlete is to represent their county in competition. Wish me good luck at US Nationals!