Assessment and Nuisances

Canopy Assessment

The Three S’s: Shape, Stable and Steerable

The canopy assessment is comprised of a visual inspection followed by a Flight Control Check or “steer-ability check.”  The inspection process is known as the “Three S’s.”  The end goal of the “Three S’s” is to determine if you’ve had a normal opening, that the canopy is rectangular in shape, and you are able to control the parachute. Your canopy must be able to be turned and flared for a successful landing.

The “Three S’s” are a list of inspection priorities.  

  • Shape:
    • A quick visual check will show a Rectangular shaped canopy, Straight Lines and the Slider Down within reach.
  • Stable:
    • Canopy flying straight ahead, no more than a slow turn
  • Steerable:
    • Flight Control Check: Pull toggles down to full extension and hold for 2-3 seconds, ease them back to full flight
    • Look right, turn 90° turn to the right
    • Look left, perform 90° turn to the left

One you have completed a flight control check and made a couple turns to ensure the canopy is steerable you can officially consider your canopy assessment complete.

Minor Canopy Issues: “Nuisances”

Occasionally, you may experience canopy inflations that are almost complete, providing all the necessary deceleration and support for a safe landing. These situations are manageable and meant to be corrected only once your canopy has passed the SHAPE and STABLE portions of the canopy assessment. Only then should these deployment issues or nuisances be corrected. The action of performing a FLIGHT CONTROL CHECK and flaring the canopy will normally complete inflation.

With that in mind, it is still critical to maintain altitude awareness and respect a predetermined altitude to make the decision about whether or not to cutaway. This is called your decision altitude and it will be discussed further in this section and the chapter on Malfunctions and Emergencies.

Common Nuisances

Line Twists

Line twists are self-explanatory. Somehow you, or the parachute system, have rotated around during the canopy deployment causing the twists. Line twists can occur for few reasons:

  • improper body position during deployment
  • a minor packing error
  • sometimes they simply just happen.  


  • Reach up and grab your risers
  • Assess the twist direction
  • Kick your legs opposite the direction of the twists.

The toggles must remain in the stowed position until you have completely untwisted yourself.  

Determine by 2,500 feet (decision altitude) if the canopy is Controllable for landing. Perform the “Three S’s check,” once untwisted.

Slider Up – Slow Opening

Slider up occurs when the slider fails to come all the way down the lines during inflation. The slider should be down at least 30% of the length of the lines to be considered correctable.


Aggressively flare the canopy down to the hip-groin area and smoothly return the toggles to full flight. This action may have to be  repeated several times to bring the slider all of the way down.

Determine by 2,500 feet (decision altitude) if the canopy is Controllable for landing. Complete a “Three S’s check,” once slider is down.

End Cells Closure

End cell closure occurs when one or more end cells have failed to inflate upon opening; often due to a lack of pressurization during deployment prior to the canopy surging forward to flight speed. End cell closures usually do very little to the flight control of the canopy, if anything perhaps a very slow turn. 


  • Flare the canopy all the way down to your hips-groin area
  • Pause for a moment
  • Slowly return the toggles back to full flight. 

Determine by 2,500 feet (decision altitude) if the canopy is Controllable for landing. Complete a “Three S’s check.”

Pilot Chute Over Nose

This is when the pilot chute has gone over the nose of the canopy rather than trailing behind it. Do a flight control check testing the canopy’s fly-ability.  If controllable, fly as normal but with smooth passive steering inputs until landing.

Determine by 2,500 feet (decision altitude) if the canopy is Controllable for landing. Complete the “Three S’s check.”

Opened Normally But Turns On Its Own

When the canopy is turning on its own, this is a signal that there may be a nuisance or problem.  First be sure both brakes are still stowed or both are released. Then perform a Flight Control Check.

Determine by 2,500 feet (decision altitude) if the canopy is Controllable for landing. Complete a “Three S’s check.”


It is critical to develop the habit of assessing your canopy after every deployment and opening.

Once you have deployed your parachute and performed a canopy assessment and flight control check, you can make the right decision about whether or not your parachute is in the proper condition to land safely.

Always remember the list of minor nuisances that can be corrected with enough awareness and altitude. It is important to know the difference between a minor nuisance and an unrecoverable malfunction. Familiarize yourself with these nuisances so you can make good decisions about your canopy and its ability to get you on the ground safely.