Aug 11, 2009, 6:09 AM
Post #1 of 31
I'm looking at getting my tandem rating. I know all of the requirements, but my questions aren't just about that.
My questions are about what to expect.
Tandems can be alot of fun, but they can also be very scary - if things go wrong. To those new tandem masters out there, how do you know that your ready to handle things that you don't know about, and have never experienced?
I had similar thoughts when I first became an instructor, but I went through it anyway, and am now much more comfortable acting as an instructor.
Is it similar with doing tandems? I couldn't imagine anyone feeling comfortable doing tandem jumps for the first little while.
Can anyone share their experiences from when they first became a tandem instructor.
Most jumpers are not ready to be TMs when they have 500 jumps. Some are, but not most. Many countries are raising their minimum jump numbers for tandem. There is a reason for that. Do you have a coach 2 yet? If not I would reccomend persuing that first. It will give you experience with people doing the unexpected while you are in the air. If you are a freeflyer it will also give you a bunch more belly exits. If you persue that angle you can also get your PFF rating. I realise that there is more cash in being a TM, but I still think they are better options in your development (as I don't know you, this is a generic view).
If you train your student you can expect them to be nervous, but they will respect and trust you, and will try to perform well for you.
If you tell them what to expect, they will not be so scared when "things happen".
The day that you "come of age" as a tandem instructor is when you ask yourself right before exit, "I wonder what this person will do.", yet not be nervous about it because you know you can handle anything a well trained student will do.
At the base core of being a tandem instructor is you are accepting the responsablity for another persons life that for the most part will not be helping you through this skydive, if that is too much for you or if you question your ability then maybe you should take anogher look at being a tandem instructor.
I am a new TI, I got my rating with just over 500 jumps, with the first 300 or so spread out over many years, I made over 200 jumps right before getting my rating, and I am 42 years old. I too was very nervous I knew in my heart I had the ability and other very experienced TI's told me I did as well. I just did not know what it would be like to have someone on the front trying to fly them or landing them. I now have 171 tandems ( I just had a cutaway last weekend, the right side was waded up with a tension knot. I did not pack it) I am feeling pretty comfortable with what I am doing although I keep in mind this is not a normal skydive ( you never know what a student will do on their first jump). When i first got my rating I tended to be a quick draw trying to get the drouge out too quick, I have learned to be more relaxed and take my time to make sure a little more stable.
My best advice is to pay attention, ask lots of questions, master the decision tree, practice practice, practice.
My first few real tandems I had to ask myself what the hell did I sign up for? But I'm much more confident now, yet I prepare for the worst every time.
I don't think jump numbers really are a good measure of someones ability, It is how do they handle situations, how serious do they take what they are doing. I had three cutaways before i got my rating so I felt I felt I could deal with emergency situations but you handle them differently with a tandem you have to keep your head in the game, and you and more importantly your student will be fine.
A couple other TI's as well as myself said it took them around 100 tandems to get comfortable.
and any old tandem whore who is not nervous is just plain crazy.......LoL
Ok maybe not nervious but always concerned with your gear the winds aloft the aircraft the clouds the camera guy roters on landing changing wind directions always checking the spot the harness on their student and yes the student. If you dont know that you will do everything in your power to save them and put your body through hell to keep protect them from injury don't do it till you will
Yeah, one is less comfortable at first with tandems, just as with coaching students or doing video or any new skill.
One ends up having to work at it a lot more at first, thinking harder to keep ahead of things, when later on it becomes more routine.
Some thoughts (as a tandem instructor and video flyer):
-- Don't get complacent when a few tandems start to go easily -- out of the blue you'll get some big challenge, a problem student, or catching the wind in a weird way on exit. There are plenty of things that you'll deal with eventually, but that only show up at rare intervals.
-- Work a little more with your students to make sure everyone is on the same page, that they'll cooperate with you, because you may be less able to deal with them going knees up on exit or doing the wrong thing on landing.
-- There are all sorts of ways to do tandems, and DZ's vary a lot in what is "acceptable". Some may prescribe a certain exit; at some all sorts of exits are done. It is nice to have some direction from the DZ as to what standards to keep. It's tough to learn what to do if nobody tells you what to do. (e.g., "You screwed up. You shouldn't be doing that at your level!" "How was I to know that? Nobody told me that, and I see other instructors doing it".) Not sure what the lesson is here other than to keep asking questions. (In a related matter, it is nice for the tandem instructor to know what's allowed for the video flyers -- what is acceptable vs. too much "I love me" screwing around on their part.)
-- Have patience with throwing the drogue. That's a big problem, and seen with some experienced but sloppy tandem instructors too. There's too much tendency to try to whip it out the same time on every exit, without thinking of the circumstances. That includes people tossing the drogue "when they are belly to wind" , who fail to notice that they aren't actually in a stable belly to wind position. They just happen to be passing through belly to wind, they start to toss, and by the time they let it go, they're head down or rolled to the side and the drogue goes out by their feet.
-- Look to learn some of the "tricks". (Why do fat people sink deep in the passenger harness? What might you do with the chest strap to anticipate this? What are a couple reasons the occasional passenger might go unconscious? What options do you have if the passenger has a problem raising their legs when practicing for landing?)
-- Take the side spin training seriously. Even if you're going Sigma, make sure to watch the Strong video.
-- Be careful of too much maneuvering just before landing. Tandem canopies are maneuverable enough but it takes a bit of time to recover from a dive. Same goes for holding brakes for accuracy reasons, then letting up to get speed again for the flare. It is easy (well, it'll depend on the canopy) to get stuck trying to flare when the canopy is still in a bit of a dive or still trying to pick up speed again.
-- Student harnesses can be too loose of course but can be too tight too, whether at the shoulder attachments, chest strap, belly strap, or hip attachments. Work on learning what a good range is.
-- Remember the little things to make the passenger enjoy the ride. Even if the instructor is completely "safe", the experience may suck for the passenger if say they didn't know to get the goggles seated right down around their nose. So they spend the whole freefall squinting and with the goggles digging into their eye sockets.
-- Use a jumpsuit, one with some bagginess on legs and arms. In later seasons I didn't mind going without a suit, but early on, control was somewhat lacking when trying to maneuver the bulk of a tandem pair with bare arms.
-- In most aspects of skydiving, subtle movements are important. Whether doing RW or freeflying, less experienced people making large motions are often overcontrolling. With tandems, to control the mass of the tandem pair, it helps to use all the control power available. Don't by afraid to stretch the arms and legs way way out, grab air, whatever it takes to get good control!
I filmed almost 600 of them before I got my rating. I saw a LOT of stuff go bad.
On my first training jump with 100+ jump buddy, the reserve pin got snagged and the bridle snuck out. Fortunately we got back in before the pilot chute got out the door. My evaluator put us in a flat spin on my hell dive, my first paying customer passed out on me 50 feet before we landed (I stood it up) I had a double malfunction, that we walked away from (my 75 year tandem student never touched the ground) and I was in a plane crash. When I told my student to put her head down (as I tightened her seat belt) she said, "Are you kidding me?" ... I wasn't!
Tandem rating is no biggie ... right ... just another skydive ... right? (remove tongue from cheek)
"Also, don't correct the student in freefall because you're taking away what little flying surface area that you have to "fix" the student. Fly your body to compensate for the student. "
I have to disagree with this some students are bigger and stronger than you and some more limber. most times thats ok but when they put something outside your control area that you cant out reach it can become dangerous in micro seconds.
I had a girl at couch freaks a few years ago who did a split with her legs on exit one leg was bent at the knee and way forward of her hips both were outside mine.
We started turning instantly and were heading for break neck speed and I could not compensate enough. Not that I wasted to much time trying. I brought my knees to her sides and hooked both leg with my feet sand pushed them together. That is when she remembered the arch position.
Any way some times it is better to adjust them. You should not be spending all your focus and energy stopping a turn when a simple adjustment would correct the problem.
(This post was edited by douwanto on Aug 20, 2009, 10:05 PM)
I sometimes fallow that by pushing my heels down their leg and attempt to grab their feet then arch fully pulling them into a better position. all in a matter of 2 to 3 seconds. Nothing is lost in the effort and lots can be gained. I correct most passengers not because I have to but because I am there for 45 to 60 seconds and have little else to do after my handle checks. LOL
some of this came before the mods to the current harness' because I didn't like opening with the student in a knees forward position. Ejection always seemed more likely.
(This post was edited by douwanto on Aug 23, 2009, 9:12 PM)
I just received my TI rating, about 5 months after getting my AFFI rating. I find tandems to be much more stressful because they are wedded to you whether you like it or not. You can do everything right and the student can still do a pretty good job of killing you, while in AFF if it goes bad, you pull for the student and debrief the "why" on the ground. Every tandem is stressful for me and I hope that gets a little better with experience.
Stressful is a great expression for tandems. That will go away with time and experience. Tandems are very rewarding because most are with people who will never jump on their own and you share a once in a lifetime moment with them. I know I can make mistakes and could kill us both. I also they cant kill me. If you have the rating and use the tools you exhibited in acquiring it this is true for you also. There is little if any room for mistakes. Some times you have to know you are in trouble and act. 2 month ago I left the plane at 10K and deployed around 8.5K because I was spinning out of controle and could not stop. Set drouge started spinning spin spin faster and dump. dude was boxing and kicking even after the canopy opened. 4200+ tandems and then this... Was I scared?????? don really but I knew I had to stop it.