Exit and Freefall
Tracking is the most important skill to learn to be able to jump safely with other people. After the end of a skydive, jumpers must turn and track away from each other in order to achieve sufficient horizontal separation before deploying their canopy. Therefore, heading control (being able to track in a straight line) is of utmost concern when tracking. In order to maintain a heading, you need to pick out a ground reference point before you begin to track.
The body position for tracking is initiated by fully extending the legs and pointing the toes. The arms are then brought down into a delta tracking position. This basic tracking position is the most stable position, but typically causes the jumper to tilt a bit head low and increases the fall rate. In order to make any heading corrections you should dip one shoulder slightly in the direction you wish to turn. After mastering this basic position, you will begin to learn how to flatten out your track to conserve altitude while tracking.
During jumps where you are practicing tracking it is imperative that you track perpendicular to jump run in order to avoid flying into other groups up and down the line of flight. You should try to determine the direction of jump run before your jump if possible.
Braked turns can provide a heading change while losing the least amount of altitude, if performed correctly. A braked turn may be your best option if you need to avoid a canopy collision at a low altitude, a person in the landing area, an obstacle, or whenever you may be too low to recover from a normal toggle (full-flight) turn. You perform a braked turn by getting into brakes (without stalling the canopy) and smoothly raising the opposite toggle from which you would like to turn. For example, if you would like to turn left, then you would raise the right toggle slightly.
If time permits you should practice flaring from different toggle depths (¼, ½, ¾ brake position) so that you can see how this effects the canopy’s ability to flare. Begin by pulling the toggles down to the appropriate depth and then holding them at that position for 2 seconds before finishing flare. You may find that a shorter, quicker stroke is needed to produce a better flare when flaring from a braked position. You should also allow the canopy at least 7 seconds of full flight before beginning another flare.
You should also be working on your landing accuracy, and ideally be able to land within 25 meters of your target. One “accuracy trick” is to find the point on the ground that does not rise or fall in your field of vision – if all variables remain the same then that point is where you should land based on your canopy’s glide path.
Power lines are an obstacle that can be difficult to see and one should expect to find them along roads, in between buildings, and in straight paths cut in the forest. If you are landing in an alternate landing area then you should scan your new landing area every 500 feet during descent and continuously during the last 500 feet, paying particular attention to where power lines may be found.
If you are going to land in power lines then do the following:
- Try to land parallel to the lines and drop anything metal from your hands.
- Touch no more than one wire at a time.
- If suspended in the wires: the parachute can conduct electricity, so the power needs to be off before making contact with anyone or anything on the ground.
The most important points of packing include: lines straight up and in the center of the pack job, slider up, and tight line stows.
You should also begin performing pre-jump equipment checks on other jumpers. You should first check their personal equipment and may wish to use the acronym SHAGG: shoes, helmet, altimeter, goggles, and gloves. Then you should perform a thorough gear check on the ground (USPA recommends starting with the back of the rig then moving to the front while always starting at the top and working your way down. The “check of threes” (3-rings, 3 points of harness attachment, 3 operation handles) is a great tool to use when you are in the plane for your pre-jump check and you can always ask another jumper for a pin check (reserve pin, main pin, correct bridle routing, pilot chute indicator panel, deployment handle) for a more in-depth inspection of the back of your rig.
Spotting and Aircraft
Jumpers must always maintain correct weight distribution in the aircraft. Please do not crowd the door on jump run.
The winds aloft forecast can be used to help plan the ideal exit point. You should already be able to calculate the expected freefall drift during a jump, but keep in mind that after exiting the aircraft jumpers first get thrown forward on exit from residual aircraft speed (roughly 0.2 miles in calm winds and less with headwind) and then fall straight down or drift downwind.
In order to maintain a horizontal ground separation of approximately 1000 feet between groups you must know how long of a delay to give in between exiting groups. Slower-falling groups should exit before faster-falling groups if jump run is into the wind (and it usually is). Once your parachute has opened you should delay flying up or down the line of flight until the groups, before and after you, have opened their parachutes.