A good thing to know when you're going skydiving. If for some reason you don't steer your parachute just right, or if the wind has a mean streak that day, you just might land hard enough to break something. So you do a plf. Turn your lower body sideways, hit with your feet, then roll to your knee, then thigh, then butt, then your back. Your feet will swing up in the air, and you can go with your momentum and swing yourself all the way around and stand up. If they don't teach you this when you go skydiving the first time, ask them to demonstrate. It could save you a lot of pain and money.

Unlike civilian sport parachutes, the T-10C and MC1-1B/C (aka Dash 1) troop parachutes used by the U.S. military provide absolutely no chance of a making a stand-up landing. The rate of descent (~21 feet per second (fps) for the T-10 and Dash 1B, and ~15 fps for the Dash 1C) combined with lateral movement make the experience something like jumping from the top of a slowly moving big-rig truck. Anyone attemping to make a stand-up landing will more likely than not break one or more legs, so much of jump school concentrates on teaching the parachute landing fall (PLF). According to the U.S. Army FM 57-220 (Static Line Parachute Techniques and Training) here are the steps to making a good PLF:

  • Keep feet and knees together, with knees slightly bent and toes slightly pointed earthward. (This is the most important.)
  • Rotate the body to face the direction of drift.
  • Keep chin tucked into the chest and keep the neck tense.
  • When the balls of the feet touch the ground, perform the PLF by falling in the direction of movement and hitting all five points of contact:
  1. Balls of feet
  2. Calf
  3. Thigh
  4. Buttocks
  5. Pull-up muscle (latissimus dorsi is an awfully big word for anyone dumb enough to jump out of a perfectly good airplane)
  • Complete the PLF by swinging the legs around 180ยบ in the direction of the fall

All of this looks good on paper and the PLF seems fairly easy to do during ground training, but on the drop zone (DZ) many troopers end up performing the rather less graceful PFL (pretty f***ed-up landing). This usually involves hitting three points of contact instead of five and comes in two basic varieties, depending on whether the jumper is drifting forwards or backwards: the painful feet, ass, head landing or the even more painful feet, knees, face landing. There are, of course, many variations on this, as G.I.s can be pretty creative. Generally, if you keep your feet and knees together, don't try to stay standing when you hit the ground, and never, ever, try to break your fall with your hands, you'll be ok no matter how ugly the landing.

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