Feb 28, 2001, 7:53 AM
Post #1 of 29
It seems that with the advanced GPS systems pilots are using these days, spotting doesn't really seem that necessary. If the winds do change while riding to altitude, surely the pilot will be the first to know and adjust accordingly. How important and relevant is spotting as a skill in skydiving today?
Even with GPS basic spotting skills can still be considered survival skills imho. I haven't actually "spotted" an aircraft since I moved to Perris but I do look down prior to exit to be sure that I'm not going to have to pull at 5000 just to make it back.
Lots of small dz's have aircraft without GPS; at these places knowing how to spot can be important. It's also important if you have a round reserve.
I'm with Skybytch. Personally, I really want to improve my spotting skills. I know the basics, and do look before I leap! I've been jumping for 5 years, and usually I don't have to spot- the pilot or the organizer of the first group out does it, but it is important to know how.
Yes, it is becoming something of a lost art, but take the time and learn the basics. Try it, but be prepared to make some mistakes. (OK, don't try it over a gator infested swamp, or over the ocean- safety first, give yourself some outs!) I remember one jump, I was first out with a friend, just a 2 way and a plane full of students. Ground winds were light, but the uppers were honking which I hadn't realized. I thought the pilot was taking us way too far out, and left early. Big mistake! My friend landed in a bean field, had along hike back, and I ended up in a cow pasture, and had to turn a little low and plf to avoid a fence. It was not pretty! And the cows weren't too happy about it either! But, no injuries, aside from my ego- even my jump suit came clean! So chalk it up as a learning experience.
There are places where you don't have to spot?! Cool! I still haven't quite figured that one out, but imagine I'll be working on it more this weekend. At our DZ someone spots on every load! (or tries to...with mine and two other off-DZ landings last weekend, I think we could probably all use a bit of practice ..I didn't spot mine tho or it would've been worse! The winds were pretty unstable.)
First, I should confess that my spotting has improved dramatically over the years... in the days of rounds my spotting was distinctly iffy, but now that most folk fly 9-cell ram airs my spotting is a lot better!
Still, it is as much an art as a science.
One of the things I have noticed at big US DZs is that no WDI is thrown on the first lift of the day... and that seems to be the one where out-landings happen. I may be something of a dinosaur, but wind does change strength & direction with altitude & while most folk can make educated guesses for their DZ they're still guesses.
How many experienced folk have thrown a WDI at 2,000ft agl at the assumed opening point (so it lands on the DZ & saves a walk to collect it) only to see the thing disappear in a totally unexpected direction? Yeah... Me too!
While wind strength & direction at specific altitudes can be ascertained by a pilot comparing his HSI & IAS with GPS, the pilot who can do this on top of flying, monitoring engine state, communicating with AIr Traffic Control etc... is rare! I do know one pilot who can do this (& does routinely), but this is the pilot who insists that a WDI is thrown to establish the opening point and only then he suggests exit points at altitude. He is also VERY experienced at the DZ he flys at.
IMHO the DZs who say they don't need to throw throw WDIs on first lift actually do... If you're on the first lift, you're the WDI!
Sorry to break it to ya Skreamer, but most pilots aren't going to be able to tell if the wind has shifted or increased/decreased in strength unless it's VERY dramatic and they are paying VERY close attention to drift angle and groundspeed(assuming they have a GPS to tell them groundspeed).. When you get the winds aloft at the DZ, it's just a forecast.. Often those are way off.. I have seen 100 knot winds at 15,000ft when only 40 knot winds were forecast.. The airplanes that I fly are equipped with multi-million dollar avionics to tell us things like the wind - most jump aircraft don't have anything but a GPS.
After the group before me exits, I like to go to the door right away. I KNOW I'm going to wait the required 5 seconds before going out, I just like to spend those 5 seconds looking down at the ground to see where I am. The problem is, people see my walking towards the door right after the last group & think I'm about to jump right out on top of them. I'm actually just trying to spot for a few seconds before I leave, but apparently this is such a rare custom that people don't understand what I'm about to do.
I just spent the past 2 weekends jumping @ a "big" Dz and got hosed on the spot on just about every load. They use GPS and all and I couldn't check the spot because this was my first time at the DZ, I'm just not familiar with the area. As for my home DZ, I have no probs spotting. Since most of the people around my home DZ are "old timers" spotting was drilled into us from early on. We were being taught how to spot after our 3rd or 4th jump. We (the students) would have to stick our heads out the door and the JM would show us what he was looking for and how he was spotting. We were also taught about upper level winds and stuff on the ground, and how to pick a spot according to the winds. Now, I am by no means a great spotter, but probably 7 times out of 10 I'll spot ok. I don't see how anyone could NOT learn how to spot, it seems pretty darn important IMHO.
AggieDave '02 ------------- Blue Skies and Gig'em Ags! BTHO t.u.
as someone who jumps at a bigger dz (2 otters) and sometimes at perris (3 otters, van, dc3, any other planes?) I feel a need to remind you that with bigger planes, not everyone gets a perfect spot. It's part of the game, you have to trust the gps too not hose the load. spotting is only really done to check for traffic.
I also jump at a large dz, and yes, sometimes you do have to defer to the PILOT (not just GPS) to choose the spot. The pilot is doing more than just checking for traffic though- he'll get in lots of trouble if all the tandem masters land out and new tandems have to wait for them. Our pilots will take corrections, but they don't like to do go arounds or second passes. The idea is to drop the load, land and go up again. So if you are leaving late after more than one group, all on the same pass, plan on looking down and pulling high.
Good habit Speedracer. Even if your pilot is proficient on the GPS, you should still hang your head out the door to check for other airplanes, or heaven forbid: your position relative to the DZ. One other thought: freebags are not free any more. A good spotter will land freebags on the DZ.
I had an interesting experience last weekend. The group in the back of the Otter just sat there when the red light came on, finally openned the door when the green light came on then closed it and sat down for 30 seconds, then openned it again and jumped. They totally hosed the rest of us, including my buddy who was doing his IAF-6. He had to land in the briars to avoid the plane that was at the end of the taxiway ready to takeoff. His JM was really pissed and had a serious talk with the guy who hosed the rest of us. That group hauled ass away from the DZ as soon as they landed because they didn't want to face anybody else.
When I asked about spotting during AFF I was told not to worry about it cause of GPS. It only took one load where no one made it back for me to realize that I wanted to know more about spotting - GPS or not! So I made it a hobby to ask those who clearly knew a lot about spotting (could even give corrections with hand signals I knew nothing about) and get them to give me some tips. You will find most people are more than willing to open the door a few seconds early and show you what they are looking for. Is spotting important? That's up to you. DO you mind landing off the DZ every once in a while?
You're very smart dove!! Keep that attitude throughout your skydiving career and you're gonna be a great skydiver. It's the people who are always looking to learn something and aren't afraid to ask that get the most out of this sport and usually keep themselves reasonably safe in the process!
Well, I'm glad to hear that most people here feel spotting is important... since we only jump C-182s, no GPS, at my dz, spotting is *vital* We even have a Braille Playboy Award for the worst spot of the year. (It's an actual copy of Playboy - in Braille) My $.02 - spotting is not too hard - to do, or to screw up. And if you're trusting that guy at the front of the airplane to take care of it for you, try talking to him about the spot sometime. I do it anytime I'm spotting the first load I'm on for the day,(one good thing about the Cessnas - you sit right next to the pilot) and I've gotten every resonse from "Spot? where ever you say, I guess" to a very helpful discussion of the winds aloft and ground winds, etc. Bottom line - if spotting for you is spotting the green light when it comes on, and you don't look when you leap, don't get worked up about your participation in the exciting sport of parahiking. A wise man once told me that anyone can spot - a spotter is someone who can take the heat when the spot's not good.
hey guys! guess who?! haha anyway, i trained with good ol' aggie dave and we had to learn spotting! thing is, i changed dz's right before my A license, because i wanted to jump turbine planes...woohoo well i am glad i learned spotting before, at a small dz, where things like spotting are critical! thing is, i haven't done it in about 8 months, but i don't feel that uptight about it. sure i love to jump at a dz where the green light comes on and you bail! i haven't ever had an off dz landing (knock on wood) even when i spotted my first load at granbury from a c-182. in my limited experience, i have not ever seen someone throw a WDI. i have only been to 8 dz's...so I have seen a WDI once, at granbury, at like noon or something. those WDIs are weird because I can't hardly see them!
so...first load, jumpers at the small dz call the weather service thing for winds aloft. you draw out your runways, etc. by degrees of the runways and direction of the winds, etc....(on a dry erase board, blah blah.) essentially you need to know how fast the winds are going, in what direction. you take it out a half mile per 5 mph of winds (as a rough estimate) is this semi-correct? (assuming i left out the details)
very quick, beer induced explanation of what goes through my mind when spotting. i remember my first few times at a dz with GPS, i thought, how the hell does he (pilot) know where he is, just based on some digital thing? but i have been very fortunate. not all pilots are clueless. many are very experienced and they know what is going on...of course this is not always the case, but my experiences have been positive.
The manager at my dz told us that spotting is becoming a lost art, but they really want us to learn how. GPS is great, but he pointed out that the satellites are periodically reconfigured without warning, and if you're depending on the gps and don't know how to spot, you're going to get hosed when that happens! -zelda
I haven't seen any mention of it so far in this posting, but the real worry given today's ram air canopies is not really where you get out of the plane. The fact of the matter is that if you are aware of your surroundings and situation, you can almost always find a safe place to land. Jumping according to GPS will most likely get you in the right area, but what is below you? I can pretty much guarantee that yours is not the only plane in the air and I can't count the amount of planes I've seen flying over the DZ while our plane was on jump run. There are other things out there to worry about than getting your jump suit muddy in an off landing... And that's my $.02
I agree with barrett, at a bare minimum, if you are going on the assumption that the spot is good (and if you arent the first group out...you cant take a look and know that you are in the general area) you should be counting and watching the group in front of you. I go on the 45 degree rule. When they get 45 degrees away from the plane, its now time to go regardless of the time that you count because the winds could be changing. If you blindly count, you count jump right into the group in front of you. You want to make sure that you have vertical as well as horizontal separation. Back to Barretts point, if you are going on the premise of a good spot. I would recommend that you look down...there is a good chance that there is a plane below you. You never know, i have seen it happen before...even with huge air force planes...
essentially you need to know how fast the winds are going, in what direction. you take it out a half mile per 5 mph of winds (as a rough estimate) is this semi-correct? (assuming i left out the details)
Whoa....half mile per 5mph of wind? That's a bit excessive.. In freefall, you will be pushed half a mile in a minute in a 30mph wind.. How far you will be pushed by the wind under canopy depends on opening altitude, canopy speed, whether you are running or holding, etc.. If the winds are so strong that you are pushed more than .5 mile under canopy(assuming you open at typical altitudes) while holding - you probably shouldn't be jumping.. In my opinion, your spot should never be more than 1.5 mile from the DZ.. That is assuming strong winds..
Several people have mentioned that spotting isn't important because of GPS. My question is who is programming the GPS? Obviously the pilot. Ever been on a flight with a "new" jump pilot? I have. Ever seen a GPS unit lose signal or power? I have.
Understanding where YOU are going to deploy, where you are in exit order, what the winds are doing at all levels, and what your group's fall rate through those winds is ALL play into your spot.
The first guys out need to be ahead of the "perfect" spot so everyone can get out in time to get back. The last ones out will be behind, while the guys in the middle get the best spot. Unless, of course, you are planning a high-pull or going dirty low or tracking or wingsuiting.
The spot your pilot gives you is a good general spot, but when you're doing something a little different, communicate with your pilot. At the end of the day, it is YOUR responsibility to check the winds (do you know where they are posted?), know your fall rate and canopy descent rate through them and get out in a safe spot.
That green light means the pilot has made his best estimation and the plane is ready and safe for you to exit.
Learn how to spot well. It could save your butt ...and canopy ...and container, and teeth...