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danornan

What to do if you enter a cloud

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This was posted in an incident report without a response. I have re-posted it in hopes that it will generate a positive discussion.

"One more thing to consider is what you should do when you enter a cloud, either tracking or under canopy. I don't think that happened in this incident, but I think that it is important to discuss what EVERYONE is going to do if it accidentally happens.

My guess is that there are different approaches and unless we all do the same thing, there is another opportunity for an accident at brake-off. "

I have asked others what they would do and the responses are varied and if followed could easily be responsible for an accident. What do you do when you enter a cloud? What SHOULD you do? Is it every agreed upon before a skydive?
Dano

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Interesting that SIM makes no mention of what to do.
I suppose that's because we are not supposed to be there in the first place.

Since this topic is strictly opinion with no guidance from USPA, I'll post my thoughts and what I teach:


Freefall (including tracking):
Stop what you are doing (before you enter the cloud) and stay in your column of air until you either come out the bottom or reach pull altitude.

Under canopy:
Slow, right-hand turns until you come out the bottom.

Yes, it should be discussed on the ground prior to the jump just like all other potential "gotchyas".

Part of that ground training includes knowing what the cloud base is. You check it, always, on the climb to altitude.

Being in a cloud, while fun in its own way, scares me simply because of what others may be doing that will cause a collision....not good.


Edited to add:
The bigway boys may have something different....I'll let them respond to that situation. My opinon applies to normal, single plane-load jumps.
My reality and yours are quite different.
I think we're all Bozos on this bus.
Falcon5232, SCS8170, SCSA353, POPS9398, DS239

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Not that we would ever jump through a cloud - but should one happen to get in the way the response would be different depending on what part of the jump we were on, what the type of jump was and what the cloud was like.

If I was swooping to a formation and lost sight of it due to a cloud I'd stop the swoop, maybe to a fast fall depending on how close I was when I lost sight.

If I'm in formation and the cloud was thick I wouldn't key to the next point until we were out of it in a big way but would continue as normal on a small jump (8-way).

If tracking on a small jump and I knew there was no-one in front of me I would keep the track on straight through the cloud. If I were in a tracking group close behind several people post a big way I would back off slightly (but not stop) to give more space between me and the people around me.

On deployment I have always maintained deploy at the pre-determined altitude (if you wait, how long do you wait - the base may be down below 2K). If you wait and come out the bottom you may see others around you have done the same - now what. If you are in cloud at deployment you are already in a sh*t place. Buy yourself time by slowing the dive down with a canopy (note - I am NOT saying pull higher than normal).

Under canopy you generally have more chance to avoid cloud - and if the clouds are this low and solid (not scattered) you have really mis-planned your dive. General rule, no sudden hard turns, eyes and ears open, spot where as many people are as possible before entering the cloud and hope you come out the bottom quickly and alone.

Blue skies

Paul

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Let me present a theoretical situation:

The plan is for the first wave of a big-way to leave the formation at 6,500 and track until you are under canopy at 4,000.

After leaving the formation, at 6,000 feet you enter a cloud. You think that the base of the cloud is around 4,000 feet.

Others might be coming behind you and if you follow the plan, you will be opening in a cloud.

NOW - What do YOU do? Follow the plan or make up your own plan?
Dano

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Let me present a theoretical situation:

The plan is for the first wave of a big-way to leave the formation at 6,500 and track until you are under canopy at 4,000.

After leaving the formation, at 6,000 feet you enter a cloud. You think that the base of the cloud is around 4,000 feet.

Others might be coming behind you and if you follow the plan, you will be opening in a cloud.

NOW - What do YOU do? Follow the plan or make up your own plan?



Looks like you would be tracking with your group in zero visibility for 15-20 seconds. Not only will you be unsure of whether you are maintaining your planned direction and speed, you also don't know where the others are or whether they are also lost. Further, you are being followed by another bunch of folks who not only can't see you but who will also soon lose their bearing. Are they trusting you to keep to the plan when you don't even know which way you are going and they can't be sure that they can maintain speed and direction after they enter the cloud? Best to wait and do the jump when clouds are not at critical altitudes. (I've never been on a jump bigger than 40-50 so I've got no experience with really large formations requiring these specialized break-off techniques ...not that that would make a difference tracking through clouds.)

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Tony,

I liked the cartoon...

In the above situation, you are there and have to make a decision. It is too late to say you won't jump. The cloud surprised you and now you must act.



Well, first wave? Maybe stand up (or head down) till you clear the cloud and take it down to 2000-2500 and dump ...and hope no one else thought of it.

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Follow the plan and PRAY. I'd probably keep tracking at least to 3000 hoping to get clear of clouds and be able to see. Do everything you can not to be in this situation. Hopefully jump with trusted organizers who will have 200 people ride the planes down if we can't get out safely. This is not uncommon.

I was on a 100 way over solid clouds many years ago. I was the pullout for the second breakoff wave. I deployed into solid thick cloud. I was terrified for my 60 friends who just turned and tracked. We all lived through no fault of our own, but I never want to do that again.
Janna

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If tracking on a small jump and I knew there was no-one in front of me I would keep the track on straight through the cloud.


Hmmmmm...you are more sure of yourself than I am. I can't bring myself to assume that I know the whereabouts of everybody at all times. Tracking through a cloud is highly dangerous. You may want to re-consider.

Quote

If I were in a tracking group close behind several people post a big way I would back off slightly (but not stop) to give more space between me and the people around me.



Again, you have to be assuming that those in front of you DIDN'T stop. You may want to re-consider.


My reality and yours are quite different.
I think we're all Bozos on this bus.
Falcon5232, SCS8170, SCSA353, POPS9398, DS239

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Hi pops,

Quote

Under canopy:
Slow, right-hand turns until you come out the bottom.



My simple geometry says to go into deep brakes & stay on heading to create the smallest target available.

Anyone else???

JerryBaumchen



Good enough...IF:
1. Everyone is flying a divergent radial
2. Everyone has the ability to determine heading maintenance in a cloud.

I have less confidence in others than to assume those things. Hell, I have little confidence in myself to maintain a heading in a cloud!
My reality and yours are quite different.
I think we're all Bozos on this bus.
Falcon5232, SCS8170, SCSA353, POPS9398, DS239

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So....... We get back to, do you follow the plan or do you do something different? There was a break-off plan before the jump and the only difference was, entering a cloud, that was necessary because it was in your radial away from the formation.

Entering a cloud should not be done, but in a large formation, you might not have a choice. The question still remains, What do you do?
Dano

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Breakoff and tracking: Ignore the cloud, follow the plan, deploy at the assigned altitude.

Under Canopy: fly away from the formation until you can see.

Quote

So....... We get back to, do you follow the plan or do you do something different? There was a break-off plan before the jump and the only difference was, entering a cloud, that was necessary because it was in your radial away from the formation.

Entering a cloud should not be done, but in a large formation, you might not have a choice. The question still remains, What do you do?

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Breakoff and tracking: Ignore the cloud, follow the plan, deploy at the assigned altitude.

Under Canopy: fly away from the formation until you can see.

Quote

So....... We get back to, do you follow the plan or do you do something different? There was a break-off plan before the jump and the only difference was, entering a cloud, that was necessary because it was in your radial away from the formation.

Entering a cloud should not be done, but in a large formation, you might not have a choice. The question still remains, What do you do?



I seriously doubt that any of the folks who find themselves blindly tracking through 2500' of clouds are even close to maintaining their assigned radial or relative speed with the others ...I don't care how good they think they are. No one in the clouds will have to worry about where I am. I'm bugging out, straight down. I know where the cloud bases are because I always know where they are since that is part of my ritual during the climb and I always use cloud bases as "waypoints" during freefall. After I land and reprimand myself for being a lemming I will accept being booted from the dive. If I'm not kicked off I will insist on being replaced. And I will make a note for future reference to never jump with that idiot organizer again. I don't care how great this sport is, it is not worth dying for. (I'm pretty sure that "dying while doing something he loved" is not all that it's cracked up to be.)

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So you have a better idea? Let's hear it.

Quote

Quote

Breakoff and tracking: Ignore the cloud, follow the plan, deploy at the assigned altitude.

Under Canopy: fly away from the formation until you can see.

Quote

So....... We get back to, do you follow the plan or do you do something different? There was a break-off plan before the jump and the only difference was, entering a cloud, that was necessary because it was in your radial away from the formation.

Entering a cloud should not be done, but in a large formation, you might not have a choice. The question still remains, What do you do?



I seriously doubt that any of the folks who find themselves blindly tracking through 2500' of clouds are even close to maintaining their assigned radial or relative speed with the others ...I don't care how good they think they are. No one in the clouds will have to worry about where I am. I'm bugging out, straight down. I know where the cloud bases are because I always know where they are since that is part of my ritual during the climb and I always use cloud bases as "waypoints" during freefall. After I land and reprimand myself for being a lemming I will accept being booted from the dive. If I'm not kicked off I will insist on being replaced. And I will make a note for future reference to never jump with that idiot organizer again. I don't care how great this sport is, it is not worth dying for. (I'm pretty sure that "dying while doing something he loved" is not all that it's cracked up to be.)

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So you have a better idea? Let's hear it.

Quote

Quote

Breakoff and tracking: Ignore the cloud, follow the plan, deploy at the assigned altitude.

Under Canopy: fly away from the formation until you can see.

Quote

So....... We get back to, do you follow the plan or do you do something different? There was a break-off plan before the jump and the only difference was, entering a cloud, that was necessary because it was in your radial away from the formation.

Entering a cloud should not be done, but in a large formation, you might not have a choice. The question still remains, What do you do?



I seriously doubt that any of the folks who find themselves blindly tracking through 2500' of clouds are even close to maintaining their assigned radial or relative speed with the others ...I don't care how good they think they are. No one in the clouds will have to worry about where I am. I'm bugging out, straight down. I know where the cloud bases are because I always know where they are since that is part of my ritual during the climb and I always use cloud bases as "waypoints" during freefall. After I land and reprimand myself for being a lemming I will accept being booted from the dive. If I'm not kicked off I will insist on being replaced. And I will make a note for future reference to never jump with that idiot organizer again. I don't care how great this sport is, it is not worth dying for. (I'm pretty sure that "dying while doing something he loved" is not all that it's cracked up to be.)



That's the point. An entire quadrant of dozens of jumpers tracking blindly through a cloud for a half mile is bad. Me leaving and diving straight down is bad. There is no "better" idea other than an organizer team that uses common sense and plans the entire dive safely. If that means aborting the attempt because of the possibility of clouds at critical points then so be it. Potentially an expensive decision but that's one of the difficulties in organizing these types of events.

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Now that I agree with. I've ridden the plane down a few times and once at the warm up jumps for the NV State record I refused to exit (even though everyone else did).

However I have a plan for finding my chest strap being undone in freefall, and I have a plan for break off through clouds. I've tracked through clouds a couple of times on these things and my plan (I hope) maximizes my predictability and chances for survival.

The plan is the plan, the plan is never executed perfectly but it's what everyone is expecting, Introducing a wild card response during a bad situation can only make things more chaotic.

Quote

Quote

So you have a better idea? Let's hear it.

Quote

Quote

Breakoff and tracking: Ignore the cloud, follow the plan, deploy at the assigned altitude.

Under Canopy: fly away from the formation until you can see.

Quote

So....... We get back to, do you follow the plan or do you do something different? There was a break-off plan before the jump and the only difference was, entering a cloud, that was necessary because it was in your radial away from the formation.

Entering a cloud should not be done, but in a large formation, you might not have a choice. The question still remains, What do you do?



I seriously doubt that any of the folks who find themselves blindly tracking through 2500' of clouds are even close to maintaining their assigned radial or relative speed with the others ...I don't care how good they think they are. No one in the clouds will have to worry about where I am. I'm bugging out, straight down. I know where the cloud bases are because I always know where they are since that is part of my ritual during the climb and I always use cloud bases as "waypoints" during freefall. After I land and reprimand myself for being a lemming I will accept being booted from the dive. If I'm not kicked off I will insist on being replaced. And I will make a note for future reference to never jump with that idiot organizer again. I don't care how great this sport is, it is not worth dying for. (I'm pretty sure that "dying while doing something he loved" is not all that it's cracked up to be.)



That's the point. An entire quadrant of dozens of jumpers tracking blindly through a cloud for a half mile is bad. Me leaving and diving straight down is bad. There is no "better" idea other than an organizer team that uses common sense and plans the entire dive safely. If that means aborting the attempt because of the possibility of clouds at critical points then so be it. Potentially an expensive decision but that's one of the difficulties in organizing these types of events.

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Jeff, I agree with your plan, as it's mine too. The only problem with it is that many others, including those who have responded is that it isn't their plan.

THAT is the problem. Lots of plans and not following the initial plan, in my opinion.

NOW, where do we go...... Maybe have something in the training manual? Sort of like an unexpected water landing. It wasn't planned, but it happened.

My fear in a cloud is lots of plans and a lot of unexpected things happening.
Dano

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If you enter a cloud what should be the reaction ? : Well, it depends on what you are doing and at what altitude is the cloud.

1) in FS or VSF with cloud way higher than the opening altitude : keep your moves to a minimum, try to locate any other jumpers not connected to the formation, wait to exit the cloud to resume action

2) in FS or VSF with cloud at the opening altitude (the most dangerous) : start to track slowly and keep an eye on other jumpers nearby, when out of the cloud resume your normal tracking. A very embarrasssing situation, not easy to give a general technique.

3) Doing style or alone : continue your work but keep a eye on your altimeter, some clouds can be very thick.

4) during your parachute descent with clouds or fog near the ground (can happen suddenly in the morning when the sun starts to heat the wet ground) : don't do any drastic move with your canopy, try to use your altimeter to evaluate when you are about to be near the ground, keep an eye around you to avoid other canopies if any. Fly your parachute far away from the landing area to avoid crowded traffic, put you upwind for landing and when you see the ground do a normal flare.

Good luck
Learn from others mistakes, you will never live long enough to make them all.

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Hi pops,

Quote

Good enough...IF:



No 'ifs' about it; you create a smaller target by staying in place ( or as close to in place as possible ) under all conditions.

As I said, simple geometry.

Remember, you are not dealing with a snapshot in time; you are dealing with some timeframe.

JerryBaumchen



OK, Jerry. We differ.
I'm thinking of an analogy.
Put cars in an open parking lot and blindfold the drivers. They are less likely to collide if they don't move....regardless of how long they stay there.
My reality and yours are quite different.
I think we're all Bozos on this bus.
Falcon5232, SCS8170, SCSA353, POPS9398, DS239

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My fear in a cloud is lots of plans and a lot of unexpected things happening.



Bingo. That's why the planning happens on the ground....before the jump.

Sadly, in the big scheme of things, we can't predict what others will do...plan or no plan.

Sadly, today I watched and listened as jumpers prepared to go and nobody discussed clouds even though there were many, many big puffies in the sky.

When I mentioned it to them, the response from every single group was, "Nah...we'll be OK."
[:/][:/]
My reality and yours are quite different.
I think we're all Bozos on this bus.
Falcon5232, SCS8170, SCSA353, POPS9398, DS239

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Follow the plan as closely as possible, so your actions are predictable. To wit:

If it happens within sight of others, continue the skydive. Break off at normal altitude. Do a _very_ good job of turning 180 and tracking for the appropriate amount of time. Open and fly straight ahead away from the group (as best you can tell what "away" is.)

If you're on approach on a bigger dive continue the approach going as slowly as possible. The safety goal here is to get everyone in approximately the same patch of sky so there can be some semblance of a breakoff. In _general_ (90% of the time) you will see people in time to stop.

Under canopy fly straight ahead for as long as possible. The more you turn the more likely you are to hit someone. At about 1000 feet you have to start setting up a landing, and if you still can't see at that point you're pretty much screwed.

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