Exit and Freefall
When performing a group exit, practice is needed to ensure an efficient climbout and launch. Each person’s exit position should include exact hand and foot placement for the best launch position and presentation of hips and limbs into the relative wind. If grips are taken, then all jumpers should be able to leave in a natural flying position. Practicing the exit count so that everyone knows what to expect is also important for a simultaneous launch.
You will begin practicing forward movement and docking on another person. Forward movement is achieved by extending the legs smoothly and evenly. Your arms should remain in a neutral position during the forward movement and docking; if you extend your arms during docking, then this will cause you to move backwards, away from your target. In addition, you will find that you will need to extend your legs slightly when docked to counter any tension in the formation. Use the mantra: legs, grips, altitude, pressure.
You should also begin to practice changing your fall rate. Generally, it is easier to increase your fall rate than decrease it. An increased fall rate (falling faster) is achieved by exaggerating your arch. A decreased fall rate (slow fall) is created by cupping the shoulders and rounding the spine – a position that reminds people of an angry cat posture or someone that has just been punched in the stomach. You may also need to extend your arms or legs slightly to maintain a level attitude.
A jumper is always responsible to break off and open at the planned altitudes. The most positive way to signal a break-off is to turn and track away from the other person.
In addition, to prevent hard openings you should slow to average freefall velocity before deploying.
Reverse turns are done by turning 90° one direction and then immediately turning 180° the opposite direction. The purpose of doing this maneuver is to know the maximum safe rate of turn entry for the parachute that you are jumping; by practicing reverse turns you can determine the maximum safe toggle turn rate before inducing a line twist. A line twist at landing pattern altitudes may be unrecoverable in time for a safe landing, particularly with a higher wing loading. Therefore, you may only perform this maneuver when you are above 2500’.
The potential for canopy collisions increase when making performance maneuvers in traffic or close to the ground. Other jumpers, especially those that are inexperienced, may be more focused on their target than on canopy traffic. The good news is that it only takes one person to avoid a canopy collision. You should always look before you initiate a turn, give lower jumpers the right of way, and turn to the right if you are on a collision path. As you begin to downsize and jump a smaller canopy it is critical that you pay more attention to other canopies in the sky.
To avoid canopy collisions you should always be aware of the location of other jumpers. Begin by identifying the location of those closest to you (those in your group) and then find other jumpers that were on your load.
If you do collide with another jumper and are entangled, then you need to check your altimeter FIRST. If you are under 1000’, then both jumpers should pull their reserve handles to get as much fabric overhead as possible. If above 1000’, then you should try to establish communication with the other jumper, and together decide on a course of action.
You should also try to steer clear of trees. In the event of a bad spot, it is always better to look for a safe, alternate landing area with plenty of altitude, than to hope that you will clear a bunch of obstacles and land on the airport. Remember to look to your sides and behind you when evaluating possible alternate landing areas.
If you are going to land in trees then aim for the center of a tree trunk and protect your face and chest with your hands and upper arms.
You must always keep an eye out for wear and tear that occurs to your equipment. Packing is generally the best time to inspect the equipment, and there are certain high wear areas that are more prone to damage. If you notice anything out of the ordinary, then you should immediately bring it to the attention of a rigger.
Rules and Recommendations
It requires at least an FAA rigger to maintain and repair a parachute system. If an AAD is installed, then it must be maintained according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Spotting and Aircraft
You should always be alert to changes in the weather. Certain weather patterns are known to be hazardous to skydivers, such as fronts approaching, area thunderstorms, and dust devils. When jumping at another dropzone, it is good to know what types of hazardous weather conditions are most prevalent in that area.
Approaching fronts may be proceeded by a gust front and can also be associated with rapid and significant changes in wind direction and speed, both near the surface and aloft. Thunderstorms in the area can also cause rapid and significant changes in wind direction and speed.
Dust devils are mini-tornadoes that may form during days of high thermal convection activity.