Forums: Skydiving Disciplines: Relative Work:
Tracking teams on Big-way FS

 


jumping.bean  (D 3697)

Feb 4, 2013, 8:39 AM
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Tracking teams on Big-way FS Can't Post

I know this is going to be controversial but I think sometimes we need to keep questioning things. The next big way that I am on where the organisers want tracking teams I will just do as I'm asked and not argue. I would just like to elicit rational, not angry views from others. I am not convinced that the concept of tracking teams brings the best results for separation and deployment at the end of a big-way skydive. At ‘wave-off’ time the objective is for skydivers to track away from the formation, and from each other to obtain clear air in which to deploy and to avoid conflict with the remaining formation and with other trackers moving away from the formation.
In a tracking team we are asked to stay together for the first few seconds of the track, how does staying together help separation? Tracking team members are asked to maintain formation with the tracking team leader, to do this some will have to slow down to stay with the team leader, how does slowing down help when we need speed to get away?
Then after several seconds of tracking, without any means of communicating to indicate exactly when it is meant to happen, we are asked to virtually ‘bomb-burst’ away or at least increase our separation from the others in the tracking team. Now at this point the other tracking teams will be doing the same thing, our tracking team members who will have been watching their tracking team leader may not be aware of the proximity of a different tracking team tracking off nearby. So the bomb-burst at the end of the team track may set people on the outside edges of two teams on a collison course.
Dirt diving big-way formations involves the skydivers having to absorb a lot of information about aircraft formations, exit order, diving, sheep dogging, quadrants, radials, red-zones, concentrating on the formation fall rate, concentrating on getting into the correct slot, no momentem docks, flying the formation and finally break off altitudes, the break-off ‘signal’ if there is to be one, then turning into their tracking teams and so on until deployment. It seems to me that for very doubtful and unsubstantiated benefits the concept of tracking teams just adds a further layer of complexity. The more complex things are the more likely it is that something will go wrong.
It seems to me that the concept of tracking teams has no empirical evidence to support it, it reminds me of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale of ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’. Instead of the clothes being invisible, for me the alleged benefits of tracking teams are invisible.


kallend  (D 23151)

Feb 4, 2013, 10:58 AM
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Good post, and I agree with you.


Douggarr  (D 2791)

Feb 4, 2013, 12:15 PM
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Re: [jumping.bean] Tracking teams on Big-way FS [In reply to] Can't Post

I've jumped with Peter, and I'm only qualified to talk about the 60+ SOS formation loads I've been on, but at least for that level skydive (under 100), I don't think tracking teams are necessary. One reason is that the organizers are very good at the sectional break-offs of groups between 6,000 and 2,500, so vertical as well as horizontal separate is also considered. In many ways I feel safer on a big way than I do on a typical twin turbo load where there are five different groups in the staging area and because there's only one pass, everyone's asking everyone else what altitude they're opening at. I'm wondering, when the first big ways up to 200 were organized, were there tracking groups assigned? If they are indeed necessary, at what number of skydivers in the formation would you suggest the threshold?


elightle  (D 5966)

Feb 4, 2013, 1:27 PM
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Re: [jumping.bean] Tracking teams on Big-way FS [In reply to] Can't Post

It's good to question this sort of thing. And it's good to solicit opinions. It is also good to get the reasoning behind tracking teams directly from the world's top big-way organizers. With that said, here is my opinion...

I believe the purpose of tracking teams is to avoid collisions right after breakoff. The tracking leader sets the heading and his/her team members stay relatively close for the first few seconds. Then they veer slightly away from the leader. "Fanning out" is probably not the proper terminology.

Of course, I am visualizing this from a slot on the outside of a formation larger than 100. The outer wave tracks the farthest anyway and has more time to obtain separation. For the inner waves, I can see Peter's point. These waves might be better off turning 180 and paying attention to what is ahead and around them.


jumping.bean  (D 3697)

Feb 4, 2013, 1:38 PM
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Re: [Douggarr] Tracking teams on Big-way FS [In reply to] Can't Post

I really should say what I think is the best method for break-off and tracking away, without tracking teams. The traditional way but with more discipline! Depending on the size of the formation there should be 3 or 4 break off altitudes, lets look at an example with 3 break off altitudes, working in from the outside of the formation,say 6,500 ft, 5,500 feet and the base 4 to 12 people at 4,500 feet. The people breaking at 6,500 feet should track to 2,500 and deploy, the 5,500 ft people to 3,000ft and the 4,500 people to 3,500ft. The signals for these breaks off MUST come from the center of the formation by two deployments out of the centre at 6,500 ft and 5,500ft. The break off must ONLY be initiated by the deployment of the parachute designated for the breaks off at 6,500ft and 5,500ft. Audible altimeters seem to have a variability of +/- 250 feet so the people in those waves should set their audibles for a break off say 300 to 500 feet LOWER than planned break-off. The signal to go is the deploying canopy, not the audible bleeping. This will minimise the chaos on break off as people turn to track when their audibles all go off at slightly different altitudes. Depending on numbers of variables all these altitudes, may be adjusted upwards. If the formation is getting out in oxygen territory then 500 to 1000 feet may be added to these suggested altitudes, or even better to increase separation an additional break off wave can be included in the process. Break off and deployment altitudes can be adjusted to suit the circumstances.


kallend  (D 23151)

Feb 5, 2013, 9:07 AM
Post #6 of 19 (2540 views)
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Re: [jumping.bean] Tracking teams on Big-way FS [In reply to] Can't Post

In reply to:
I really should say what I think is the best method for break-off and tracking away, without tracking teams. The traditional way but with more discipline! Depending on the size of the formation there should be 3 or 4 break off altitudes, lets look at an example with 3 break off altitudes, working in from the outside of the formation,say 6,500 ft, 5,500 feet and the base 4 to 12 people at 4,500 feet. The people breaking at 6,500 feet should track to 2,500 and deploy, the 5,500 ft people to 3,000ft and the 4,500 people to 3,500ft. The signals for these breaks off MUST come from the center of the formation by two deployments out of the centre at 6,500 ft and 5,500ft. The break off must ONLY be initiated by the deployment of the parachute designated for the breaks off at 6,500ft and 5,500ft. Audible altimeters seem to have a variability of +/- 250 feet so the people in those waves should set their audibles for a break off say 300 to 500 feet LOWER than planned break-off. The signal to go is the deploying canopy, not the audible bleeping. This will minimise the chaos on break off as people turn to track when their audibles all go off at slightly different altitudes. Depending on numbers of variables all these altitudes, may be adjusted upwards. If the formation is getting out in oxygen territory then 500 to 1000 feet may be added to these suggested altitudes, or even better to increase separation an additional break off wave can be included in the process. Break off and deployment altitudes can be adjusted to suit the circumstances.

Tracking ability should be accounted for. Putting slow trackers in the first wave is not safe.


ouch

Feb 5, 2013, 10:27 PM
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Re: [jumping.bean] Tracking teams on Big-way FS [In reply to] Can't Post

I've done this and it works really well.
There's something about the orderly departure and initiating the track slowly together that makes for a faster, longer, more directional track to separate from others. It's not a bomb burst at the end. It's a case of fanning out, not enough to cross into the next group but enough to get away from each other in the team.

As for the question of communication between the team trackers, it's all really obvious when you're actually doing it.

Somebody suggested it's not needed for smaller groups but the 20+ skydives are the perfect ones to practice this technique on. I've been on 25ish ways where supposedly experienced people wander off in all directions. This doesn't happen with tracking teams.

The precision of a tracking team is considered to be part of the formation skydive plan. If you cant do it, you might be capped. It is one extra thing to think of. Some might say the most important thing to think of in the whole exercise.

I've only done tracking team breakoffs about 80 times, on 20 to 100+ formations. I've found this style of tracking surprisingly successful.

I'd like to hear from some load organisers who promote it. Or, better still, from the camera flyers who see it in action.


elightle  (D 5966)

Feb 7, 2013, 7:24 AM
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Re: [elightle] Tracking teams on Big-way FS [In reply to] Can't Post

In reply to:
It is also good to get the reasoning behind tracking teams directly from the world's top big-way organizers. With that said, here is my opinion...

Jeez, I made it sound like I was a world class big-way organizer. Sorry if it came off that way. Laugh I'm just a guy who's been on a few 100-plus ways and liked the tracking team idea.


BillyVance  (D 18895)

Feb 8, 2013, 6:36 AM
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In reply to:
I'm wondering, when the first big ways up to 200 were organized, were there tracking groups assigned? If they are indeed necessary, at what number of skydivers in the formation would you suggest the threshold?

I don't think the tracking group concept was introduced until after 2000. I certainly didn't see it used on the big ways I did in the mid to late 90's.


Peterkn  (D 7417)

Mar 2, 2013, 1:42 AM
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Re: [jumping.bean] Tracking teams on Big-way FS [In reply to] Can't Post

Hey Pete, how are you doing?

I can see both sides of the argument, but in general I think that tracking teams do work quite well on extremely big formations, or on some smaller formations such as large stars where most people are on the outside of the formation and there isn’t scope for a staged breakoff.

If you look at the theory, then it seems to make sense…

If you have a circular formation that has 120 people in the first breakoff wave then 360 degrees divided by 120 people is 3 degrees per person. That’s 1.5 degrees either side, and you and your neighbour’s trajectory only have to be off by 0.75 of a degree to cause you to collide or cross paths.

If 10 people are grouped together in a tracking team then they have a 30 degree slice of the pie in which to track together. They can then start to fan-out when they are 500+ yards away from the formation and give themselves enough separation from each other to safe deployments.

The World Team organisers came-up with another plan to help breakoff, which was to have ‘tracking pull-outs’. These are usually lightweight people who can track better than most and their job is to be a part of the tracking team, but to gain height relative to the other members of the team then to deploy part-way through the breakoff process. This means there are fewer people in the tracking team when they come to fan-out and we’ve used horizontal as well as vertical separation to make the breakoff process as efficient as possible. I never really liked this approach and don’t think many others did either. Once again, I can see the logic in this approach, because the bigger the formation the earlier we have to start breaking off, unless we can come-up with innovative ways of making the breakoff more efficient. Thinking in three dimensions is one approach, but executing this plan safely is another matter, especially when there are cameramen around who have been briefed to film the breakoffs so that they can be critiqued as part of the debrief process.

Obviously in practice breakoffs never work quite as well as they do on paper but the biggest issue I have with this type of breakoff plan is that it’s designed for a completed formation that’s flying well. On bigway attempts there will probably be 10 unsuccessful jumps for every completion and that’s when things get messy. I know you were there when Sandy Wamback was killed, and from what I understand that was a classic example of a breakoff getting messy when the formation hadn’t completed. Having a complex breakoff plan with tracking teams and tracking pull-outs also requires fall-back scenarios in case the tacking team leader isn’t in place at breakoff, or something else goes wrong. All of this adds to the complexity and increases the odd of it all going horribly wrong.

At the end of the day we have to either put our trust in the organisers and go with the flow, or choose to walk away from those events where we’re not happy with some aspect of the plan. However, even when we’re happy to go with the plan we all know that things can go wrong. I always aimed to be a better tracker than anyone else, so that I had the option to turn things up a notch and get myself out of trouble if I needed to. Most people, even those who are part of the bigway circuit, don’t seem to put nearly enough effort into refining their tacking skills so it’s not difficult to be well above average and have the capacity to track yourself out of a tight spot.


Blue skies and safe jumps.

Pete.


Jonsmann  (D 487)

Apr 10, 2013, 2:03 PM
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The rationale of tracking teams goes like this.
When using tracking teams the overall average separation is reduced because a tracking team will move slower than individual trackers. The gain is that everyone in the tracking team will be aware of the others, and very close deployments can thus be avoided.
I've been on 100-ways without tracking teams and it can be pretty scary at deployment time because everyone just tracks solo. In tracking teams I've never experienced people being very close on deployment.

I like tracking teams when all are diciplined and know how to do it, otherwise I prefer just to go alone.


elightle  (D 5966)

Apr 11, 2013, 10:28 AM
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Re: [Peterkn] Tracking teams on Big-way FS [In reply to] Can't Post

In reply to:
...I always aimed to be a better tracker than anyone else, so that I had the option to turn things up a notch and get myself out of trouble if I needed to...

Well said, Peterkn! I'm doing mostly 4-way this season but practice my tracking skills on each and every jump.


dthames  (B 37674)

Apr 12, 2013, 10:37 AM
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Re: [Peterkn] Tracking teams on Big-way FS [In reply to] Can't Post

<snip>
Quote:
If 10 people are grouped together in a tracking team then they have a 30 degree slice of the pie in which to track together. They can then start to fan-out when they are 500+ yards away from the formation and give themselves enough separation from each other to safe deployments.
<snip>

Are you talking about being 250 yards from the center of the formation? If so, what is the est. of altitude needed to move a group out that far? I would expect greater than 2,500 feet....more, less ?


kallend  (D 23151)

Apr 12, 2013, 1:46 PM
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In reply to:

I like tracking teams when all are diciplined and know how to do it, otherwise I prefer just to go alone.

Concept of the "lowest common denominator" is at work, too.


Peterkn  (D 7417)

Apr 14, 2013, 2:49 AM
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In reply to:
<snip>
Quote:
If 10 people are grouped together in a tracking team then they have a 30 degree slice of the pie in which to track together. They can then start to fan-out when they are 500+ yards away from the formation and give themselves enough separation from each other to safe deployments.
<snip>

Are you talking about being 250 yards from the center of the formation? If so, what is the est. of altitude needed to move a group out that far? I would expect greater than 2,500 feet....more, less ?

I'm talking about being 500+ yards from where you started. Maybe 8-10 seconds of tracking time and -2k of altitude.
On the 400 ways we were initiating breakoff at around 7.5k, so if you're in the first wave you'd be fanning-out at around 5.5k and aiming to be in the saddle at around 2k.


Peterkn  (D 7417)

Apr 14, 2013, 3:04 AM
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In reply to:
In reply to:

I like tracking teams when all are diciplined and know how to do it, otherwise I prefer just to go alone.

Concept of the "lowest common denominator" is at work, too.

I think that was Pete Stone's (the OP's) main gripe with the whole concept of tracking teams and it's certainly a factor.
Skydiving is dangerous and bigway skydiving is even more dangerous. Because of the numbers of people and the angles involved I think it's probably safer overall to go with the tracking team approach and have a more leisurely yet controlled and systematic approach to breakoff rather than having lots of individuals tracking off like they've just been fired out of cannons.


kkeenan  (D 22164)

Apr 15, 2013, 1:17 PM
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Re: [Peterkn] Tracking teams on Big-way FS [In reply to] Can't Post

Having had some recent experience with tracking teams on the recent World Team 222-Ways, the results were mixed. I have to think that what we were doing was the "latest and greatest" tracking plan, as WT is known for progressive ideas in Big-Ways. There were no accidents during the event and no really serious injuries - safety being another WT trademark.

The Tracking Team method was explained in detail, and it seemed very good in theory. But some TTs worked better than others. A lot of variables were in play, especially if the formation was less than stable at breakoff or during particularly gnarly funnels. It's very easy to get thrown off at the beginning of the TT formation and never really get into position. Then, unless you're a very superior tracker, you don't really have the performance to get into place. The only thing to do is to stay as close as possible to your expected path, because other sections are all doing the same thing on different radials. The WT plan also called for sequential deployment altitudes throughout each TT.

There was no shortage of close passes. The staggered opening altitudes made for some scary moments as people were tracking and pulling in what some may call "close proximity".

In big-ways, some plan and the majority executes. This is the only way they can work. I think we all carried out the TT plan as best we could. There are a lot of theories. We tested this one. Maybe the planners can adjust and improve as they have in the past.

Your post mostly concerned tracking seperation, but the breakoff also helped in landings. Landing safety is always a big factor in big-way jumps. This event was at Skydive Arizona. SDAZ is a fabulous place. There are, however, limited places to land that are not desert. The best landing in the desert is unpleasant and the worst is pretty bad. So, most people try for the grass. The WT breakoff worked incredibly well for staging the landings. The opening times were spread out so much that landings were pretty safe, if hectic. As the group worked together, the landings and traffic pattern became much more orderly - full but orderly. This was an event comprised of very experiences jumpers and all conducted themselves very professionally.

Kevin K.


Granimal  (D 22445)

Apr 17, 2013, 12:48 PM
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Re: [kkeenan] Tracking teams on Big-way FS [In reply to] Can't Post

I think this is a good topic for discussion.

Based on my personal experience, I actually like the tracking team thing on large skydives. I believe it assists in achieving maximum separation. I also like staggered deployments within the tracking team.

On a big way formation, if everyone attempted to turn directly from the center, it would not necessarily provide adequate separation. Additionally, jumpers may be in a line on a wacker with 4 other skydivers with people directly in front or behind them who are also on the same breakoff group.

The reality is that most breakoffs in big way happen with people not in their slot in the formation, and people have the tendency to choose a bigger angle than necessary in attempting to get away from the people in their immediate proximity at breakoff. This causes overlapping with people from other sectors that may be doing the same thing.

By remaining in a tracking team, you ensure your group is away from every other group. You keep visual contact with the group you are in and are able to get enough separation from your tracking team when it fans out while not getting in the airspace of people you don't see.

As an exercise, look at the first point in the recent 222 way at SDAZ. Here is a link to the plan http://theworldteamblog.com/...trax-break-off-plan/
There were 4 breakoff altitudes which required lines in front of each other to track off together. If they all fanned out from each other upon beginning their track, there would be overlap.

It is perhaps possible to assign everyone an exact individual radial that would ensure separation. However, the problem is that such a plan assumes the best case scenario where the breakoff occurs after the formation builds as intended with everyone in the correct slot and everyone being able to identify and maintain a track on a specific radial within a degree or so of the completed formation. This is not realistic.

Alternatively, each line could be assigned their own breakoff, but that would require 6 breakoffs. Considering that we were already beginning at 7,300 ft on the 222 way, additional breakoffs would eat up more altitude and precious time.

If you jump in a big way formation, you are going to have to deal with opening and landing in closer proximity to other jumpers than most people (including me) are comfortable with. Big ways are simply more dangerous than regular skydiving.

Skydiving and safety are constantly evolving. Procedures are modified based on experience. Just because tracking teams were not used 20 years ago does not mean that the old way was a better or equally good approach. However, these discussions are good because the one thing I am certain of is that these procedures will continue to evolve over time.


(This post was edited by Granimal on Apr 17, 2013, 2:14 PM)


Premier cpoxon  (D 11665)
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Apr 18, 2013, 1:59 AM
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Re: [jumping.bean] Tracking teams on Big-way FS [In reply to] Can't Post

Attached is an article from the April 2013 edition of the BPA's Skydive The Mag
Attachments: SkydiveTheMagApril2013TrackingTeamsCompressed.pdf (987 KB)



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