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Found 10 results

  1. Image by Joel StricklandDoes exit order seem like some kind of obscure semi-religious ritual? Do you go through the motions without really understanding the moving parts? If so, yikes--but you’re certainly not alone. Luckily, understanding the logic behind the order is a pretty straightforward affair, and the entire sky will be better off if you wrap your head around it. Ready? Okay. Commit this to memory. 1. In the name of science, get the $#&$ out.It may seem like hollow tradition to hustle out the door on exit, but it’s not. As a matter of fact, there are serious calculations behind the art of exiting the plane efficiently. On a calm day, an aircraft on jump run covers around 175 feet per second of flight (that equates to a mile every 30 seconds or so). Translated into stopwatch terms, that means that--on that same calm day--no more than 60 seconds can pass from the moment the first jumpers leave the airplane to the moment the last jumper exits. For practical purposes, taking into consideration how much ground the average square canopy can cover, every jumper in the plane has to be out during a two-mile jump run. If they don’t, some are bound to land out (or a chilly second pass is going to be served up to the sulky remainder). 2. Don’t mess up the pilot’s math.If your group is about to be the first big handful of meatballs out of the plane but you suddenly split up into smaller groups, you’re messing with the pilot’s chi. After all, the jump pilot has more to calculate when he/she turns on that little green light than you might realize. He/she has to calculate about how much time each group will take to exit, and make sure the green light goes on at the correct distance from the DZ to accommodate the aforementioned 60-second countdown. As a rule, the group that will have the slowest climb-out should leave first. Big group? Light goes on farther out from the DZ to allow for a slower climb-out. Little group? The light goes on closer to the DZ. How can you help? Jump the plan you give manifest, and the pilot can give everybody a good spot. 3. Jealously guard your real estate.If you’re a Big Sky Theory kinda jumper who assumes vertical separation is going to save you from a meat-traffic collision, you are not working from scientific facts. Horizontal separation is the only separation that really counts up there, so make sure your group has a chunky slot of sky all to yourselves. Never place big bets (like: your continued existence) on your fellow skydivers pulling at the altitude they swear by. A tiny brainfart (or a big malfunction) will eat up that vertical separation before you can say “what happened to pulling at 3,500, toolbox?!.” 4. Horizon-pointing belly buttons go behind downward-pointing belly buttons.When freefly folks get out first, they tend to become part of an undelicious freefall sandwich. Here’s why: On a typical skydive, a pair of freefliers will clock a 45-second freefall and open at around 3,000 AGL. Let’s say that pair is followed by a belly group with a 10-second climb-out. This is going to sound like a math word problem, but bear with me: If one of those freefliers has a canopy with a 30MPH forward speed (which will move forward at around 45 feet per second, assuming little-to-no wind), opens 30 seconds before the belly group and turns right back toward the DZ, the variables are stacking up for a collision. Those 30 seconds of flight will drive the freeflier forward by about 1,300 horizontal feet--a measly 400 feet from the middle of the belly folks, which a solid six-second track can cover. If you add wind to the equation and the RW group gets blown even further into the path of the freefly pair, the likelihood of a meetup gets even uglier. When freefly groups get out after belly groups, the picture gets a lot healthier. The fast fallers get their horizontal separation, predicated on their shorter climb-out and faster descent rate. Wind becomes a positive safety factor instead of a negative one; slower fallers simply blow farther away. 5. With longer flights comes greater responsibility.Tracking groups, high pulls and wingsuits get to snuggle with the pilot (and/or the tandem pairs) in the way back of the plane. Why? First off, they’re mobile: if they’re doing it right, they’ll use all that horizontal power to get the hell away from jump run--and get back from a longer spot. If they’re not doing it right, however, they’re fully within their capability to truck through everybody’s personal piece of sky on the way down. The moral of the story: longer freefall (or, in the high-pull case, general airtime) requires greater awareness and responsibility on the part of the nylon pilot. 6. Don’t be the heat-seeking meat missile.That’s the bottom line, really. Everybody in the sky is counting on you. (Me, for instance.)
  2. admin

    Wind Drift & Exit Order Graphic

    This graphic is based directly on the output of John Kallend's freefall simulation program set to the following conditions: Aircraft speed of 85 mph (125 fps) Fast faller exiting first Slow faller exiting second, 10 seconds later Winds aloft of 35 mph (51 fps), ending at 8000 feet To view a graphic of the same conditions but the exit order reversed, click here. This is what CAN happen under THESE conditions. It goes without saying that there are endless possibilities and variables besides those presented here. I believe it is important to note Kallend's remarks regarding the creation of his program: I tried to avoid anything that included the vagaries of human behavior, as far as possible. The two cases I consider could be considered as extrema. One is a belly flier who maintains constant attitude with respect to the relative wind, and falls at a speed achieving a 65 second freefall from 14000 ft. The second is a head down flier maintaining constant attitude and taking 50 seconds. I determined the ballistic coefficients by back-calculation (fancy term for "trial and error"). I don't think a belly flier will go less far in forward throw than my calculation, and I don't think a head downer will go farther. Someone who 'mixes it up' will go some intermediate distance. Most of the belly fliers I know maintain an essentially constant attitude unless they funnel. I suspect the head downers may vary (I don't freefly). Also missing are such things as systematic backsliding, freaking around, etc. I believe these will impose a random spread on the calculated paths." -John Kallend, Ph.D. Conclusion Many people have assumed, based on the arguments posed by this graphic, that it is a case for making fast fallers always exit after slow fallers. This is not the purpose of the graphic. There are instances where, as a DZO, I would have the fast fallers exiting first. An example might be if I had a DZ on an island and the spot was critical; I might consider the risk caused by a premature deployment to be less than the risk posed by drowning skydivers. At a wide-open DZ (like Skydive Arizona), out landings are less of a hazard, and the horizontal separation ensured by putting fast fallers out last becomes the deciding factor. The bottom line is that there is much more to consider than wind drift and fall rates. Every drop zone needs to adopt a policy that provides the best safety under the conditions and types of skydiving that take place. There is no single solution that works for everybody all the time. Perhaps most importantly, skydivers need to be educated about the effects of wind drift, fall rate, and time. Time is the key to understanding freefall drift; it is a basic observation that a slow falling group will experience more drift because it is drifting for a longer period of time than a fast falling group. While they are in the same moving air mass, they are drifting horizontally at the same rate, but they experience different periods of time in that air mass (in the above example, 29 seconds for the fast faller and 36 seconds for the slow faller). In conditions where there are extremely high winds aloft, it is possible for a slow falling group, exiting well after a fast falling group, to open up several thousand feet downwind of the first group. -Tim Wagner, D-10552 Further Resources: Winsor Naugler's Another Look at Descent Kinematics John Kallend's Interactive Java Freefall Simulation
  3. admin

    Exit Order Safety

    Brian Germain and wife Laura Kraus launch an exit over Voss, Norway. Photo by Ron Holan There are many different views on exit order, although only some of them are based in science. The following exit order plan is based on the principle of "prop blast penetration": the degree to which a jumper remains under the aircraft based on the drag produced by their body position. When a jumper assumed a low drag body position, head down for instance, they follow a longer arc through the sky on their way to vertical descent. The fastest falling skydivers are freefliers, which means that they remain under the aircraft longest. If freefliers exit the aircraft first, their trajectory will take them toward, and often beyond the trajectory of flat flyers exiting after them. This fact has been proven time and again in the numerous close calls that have led to the creation of this exit order model. Therefore, the best way to create maximum separation between jumpers at deployment time is to have the FS "flat" jumpers exit before the freefliers, regardless of deployment altitude. Beyond this, we must also consider formation size when planning exit order. Since the last groups out of the airplane are more likely to land off the dropzone, large groups tend to exit before small groups based on the "needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few" principle of human civilization. I concur that this is a good plan, but for another set of reasons. Large groups tend to open lower than small groups due to task fixation and the need for adequate tracking time to create safe separation. This means participants of large formations should open closer to the dropzone. Further, smaller groups have the option of breaking off early, tracking perpendicular to the jumprun and pulling high to compensate for long spots, while the complexity of building a large formation makes it difficult to take such steps toward safety due to the peer pressure associated with the situation. Photo by Ron Holan The Exit Sequence So this brings us to the preliminary plan of sending the flat flyers out first, in groups largest to smallest, then the freefliers. However, since inexperienced freefliers most often remain under the aircraft for a shorter period of time than vertically oriented freefliers performing perfect zero angle of attack exits, the order should be lowest experience to highest. This also allows the more experienced freefliers to observe the exits of the novices, giving them the opportunity to give helpful advice, and to provide extra time in the door if necessary. If the previous skydiver or group is still under the airplane, do not jump. When in doubt, wait longer. Following the flats and then the vertical skydivers, we have the students and tandems. The order can be varied here, although there are some reasons to support sending the tandems out last. First, landing a tandem off the DZ is safer than landing a student into an unknown location. Second, students can sometimes get open lower than planned, which not only increases their risks of landing off, but puts the instructors at risk of landing off even more as they open lower than their students. Tandems on the other hand have the option of pulling whenever they see fit, which allows the camera flyer to get open high as well. The last groups to consider are those involved in horizontal skydives, such as tracking, "atmonauti" or steep tracking, and wingsuit pilots. The truth is, experienced horizontal skydivers can safety get out of the way of other jumpers quite easily, and can exit in any part of the order. However, in the case of two or more horizontal skydiving groups, plans must be created and followed with vigilance. For instance, one tracking group can exit first and track out and up the right side of the jumprun, while another group can exit last and offset toward the left side of the jumprun. Three horizontal groups on the same aircraft are best handled by adding a second pass, although there is a great deal of room for creative answers when wingsuit pilots are involved. Photo by Ron Holan Timing the Exits The amount of time between groups must vary based on the groundspeed of the aircraft. On a windy day, with an into-the-wind jump-run, the aircraft may move quite slowly across the ground, reducing separation between jumpers. This requires significant time between exits, perhaps as much as 15 seconds or more on a windy day or a slow airplane. The separation between groups can be increased quite easily on windy days by crabbing the aircraft with respect to the upper level winds, a practice that has become increasingly common at large dropzones. For a scientific explanation of exit separation, please read John Kallend’s PowerPoint, found here. Many jumpers believe that once the freefall is over, there is no way to prevent a collision. However, given the glide ratio of modern parachutes, we have the ability to close the gap quickly after opening by pointing our canopies in the wrong direction. Given the fact that the vast majority of skydivers will be opening reasonably close to the jumprun, immediately flying up or down the line of flight is pretty much always a poor choice. Therefore, once you have cleared your airspace and pulled, your job is to look for traffic in your immediate vicinity and then fly your parachute perpendicular to the jumprun heading. I like to call this “Canopy Tracking”. Once you verify that the others are open and note their location, you can begin to navigate toward the play area and then to the pattern entry point. This all requires a great deal of awareness and adaptability, as even the best plan can change quickly in a complex environment. The bottom line is this: keep talking. Every load is a brand new set of circumstances, and requires a good deal of thought and planning. Make sure everyone arrives at the loading area no later than the ten minute call to allow for healthy preparation time. Most accidents and close calls could have been easily avoided by skydivers talking to skydivers, and skydivers talking to pilots. Take your time in the door, keep your eyes open and take care of each other. It is a big sky up there, and when we work together, safety is the likely conclusion. Brian Germain is a skydiving safety advocate, and has written numerous books and articles on the topic. He has a regular spot on Skydive Radio called Safety First, and has made over 150 safety related videos, all available through AdventureWisdom.com
  4. joelstrickland

    Exit Checklist For Camera Users

    If you add a little pressure, simple things can quickly become not-simple things. For the amount that most of us understand about how they really work, the modern cameras we employ for skydiving are close enough as to be made of magic. Yet despite their tiny size, amazing quality and all-round wonderfulness - we still regularly miss out on capturing quality footage of a jump for the most arbitrary reasons. A little bit of forethought and the application of a simple routine can aid ones consistency when it comes to getting the shot. You may well snort derisively and roll your eyes at the thought of reading an article about how to switch a camera on - yet let you that has never missed a great bit of action for the sake of some small piece of angry-making bullshit stupidity cast the first stone. The best analogy I have to represent the advantages of a sensible and efficient method for a repeated process is think about packing and how much of a frustrating pain in the ass it was (be honest) at the start. Learning to pack and getting it right is not only about understanding the need to fold your parachute a certain way so it will go into your container (and come out again) - it is as much about the knowing right spot to put your knee so the fabric doesn’t escape and where to hold it down with your elbow so you can have both hands free for the next bit. How many things in your life are there to which you can draw parallels with this? There is much satisfaction to be found in developing your ability to get ready quickly and efficiently in the plane. Here are a few tips: The Plan: Adding things to your in-aircraft routine should not come at the expense of any of the stuff you have learned to do that makes you safe. If you are skipping over running through your drills because you are constantly fucking around with your camera you might forget them at the crucial moment - so don’t. Even in the speediest of flying machines you have time to do things both necessary and desirable, but always remember your priorities. Checking that your pilot chute is not hanging out is vastly more important than which recording mode you are in. Lenses: It is very easy to get some manner of obfuscating crap on your lens. Action cameras all have teensy little apertures onto which a single grubby fingerprint is enough to ruin your footage of the bestest jump ever and make you very sad. Condensation is very popular too - especially with big temperature changes from altitude to ground level. Moisture developing on (or even in) your camera during a jump is unavoidable but not cleaning it up before the next one definitely is. You should have a suitable cleaning cloth somewhere about your person - tucked away into the lining of your helmet is good as it makes it very difficult to bring one without the other. For extra points you can attach it to your helmet with some string, or you could even carry a spare one which you might magnanimously gift to some clothless boob and appear as a minor hero/enormous geek in front of like four people. Cutaway: More and more frequently dropzones are requiring that any helmet with a camera on is fitted with a cutaway system - which are available in many forms and levels of quality. The best idea is always invest in a good one that someone has made using science that will actually work rather than bodge something together yourself from that box of old skydiving bits you keep under your bed for no good reason. A worthy part of your pre-jump process is to give this a quick look and see if all is well, and that nothing has become worn or unseated that might result in no camera attached to your head and some cognitive dissonance about wether you can be bothered to scour the landscape looking for it. Using Time: For maximum sensible-ness you should perform your camera checks with enough time that you can fix potential problems without freaking either yourself or anyone else out if something is amiss. Realising on jump-run that your memory card is full or your lens is dirty is too late. If you had a spare thirty seconds you might be able to go into your settings and delete something to free up space, or give the front a quick clean - but not when everyone is already climbing out on the side of the plane and waiting for your ass. Conclusion Being correctly prepared in a timely fashion is but one step in getting good footage, yet an important one. Felling relaxed and properly ready lends itself to nailing the jump, and the exact form of your personal routine will develop with time and practice. Stick to the plan, don’t bump your head on the way out and remember that you get what your head is pointing at, not just your eyes.
  5. admin

    Essay on Exit Order

    From an aircraft operations standpoint, as a general rule whichever group will have the slowest climb out should leave first. On a calm day the aircraft on jump run covers about 175 feet per second, or one mile in 30 seconds. Assuming the practical distance that a square canopy open at 2,000 feet can cover is at most about one mile, that means that the first people out would just barely make the landing area from one mile short, while the last would be able to make it back from one mile long. In other words, all jumpers have to be out in a two mile long jump run or some will land out, or a second pass will be required. In time terms, on a calm day no more than 60 seconds can elapse from when the first jumpers leave the airplane to when the last jumper exits. At busy events with several aircraft flying, second passes are not an option. Let's take a sample jump run, where a large group will take up to 20 seconds to climb out, a 4-way 12 to 15, 2-ways six to eight, solos five, and AFF students about 12 to 15. Our load has an 8-way, two 4-ways, two 2-ways, a solo, and one AFF. That adds up to between 70 and 80 seconds from green light to last out. But it is possible to make it all on one jump run if the eight way gets out first, because the pilot figures at least 15 to 20 seconds for the first climb out. That brings us back to 60 seconds from first out to last out, and one pass. Needless to say, we don't want to do an extra pass because 2-ways want to leave before 8-ways. (If the 2-ways get out first, the pilot can only count on a five to ten second climb out. He has to put the light on 1/3 to 1/2 mile closer to the dz than he would for the slow climb out.) That's the timing reason why small groups shouldn't leave first. Now lets talk about separation from other jumpers. First of all, anyone who counts on vertical separation for safety is out of touch with reality. I see people in freefall at 1,500 feet and lower routinely, so just because someone plans to open at 2,500 doesn't mean you should bet your life on it. Everyone needs to open in their own column of air. Horizontal separation is the only guarantee of security. The only real reasons - and they are good ones - why students and tandems get out last are that a student is more likely to balk or ride down, and that canopies opening high can get back from a longer spot. I repeat, horizontal separation is the only guarantee of safety. Vertical separation is a nice idea but cannot be counted on since a minor loss of awareness or a long snivel will eliminate it instantly. Now, a quick digression about fall rates. Follow these categories out or time their videos if you don't believe me. Light freestylists doing routine freestyle do not fall significantly faster than a fast falling four way. Freeflyers fall about 30% faster than normal. Small skyboards fall fairly fast, if the rider is standing, but big ones fall very slow - slower than most RW, usually about the same speed as tandems. Because of their exits, they must leave first, and because of their complex emergency procedures, they must pull high. Leaving first and pulling high defies conventional wisdom, yet not once have we had a problem with slow falling skysurfers getting out first and pulling at 3,500. In fact, as long as the first person pulls higher than the break off altitude of the following group, they are a contribution to safety, not a detriment, provided adequate time was left between groups at the exit. We do have a recurring problem maintaining safe separation when the freeflyers get out first. Typically a freefly pair will have a forty five second freefall and open at 2,500 to 3,000 feet. Let's imagine that they are followed by an RW group that has a 10 second climb out. Now, let's say you are a freeflyer jumping a Stiletto. A Stiletto (assuming a 30 mph forward speed, which I can document is a reliable figure) covers about 45 feet per second on a calm day. If you open 30 seconds (shorter freefall plus exit separation time) before the RW group leaving after you and turn directly towards the dz (which you will, since otherwise you can't make it back from getting out first unless you cheat on the climb out, spot for yourself, and force the pilot to go around, which REALLY pisses us off) in that 30 seconds you will cover over 1,300 horizontal feet. This would put you about 400 feet from the center of a group leaving the plane ten seconds after you. In theory, that would just barely be enough, except that a good tracker can do about 70 feet per second, so if they track towards you for six seconds they are right on top of you. Furthermore, a modern canopy descends about 800 feet in 30 seconds (also documented) so if one of you pulls at 3,000 to get back from a short spot, for camera effect, or whatever - by the time you are at 2,000 you are well into the danger zone of the group that followed you. So far, the big sky theory has taken care of us most of the time but I have heard of a couple close calls and more than once found myself directly over the freeflyers if they leave first. Having seen the consequences of freefaller/canopy collision more than once, I want to minimize the possibilities. And they go way up as soon as we add wind to the exercise. Here's why. In a 30 mile per hour breeze, the plane only covers 130 feet per second, instead of 175. In ten seconds of exit separation, the airplane only covers 1,300 horizontal feet instead of 1,750. Worse still, the RW group is in freefall for a longer time, and consequently gets blown further. Let's say the freeflyer is in freefall for 45 seconds, and the RW for 70. In 45 seconds you get blown nearly 2,000 horizontal feet. The RW blows just over 3,000. That leaves only 300 feet of horizontal separation without taking tracking or canopy movement into account! Make the winds 50 miles per hour, and the RW group drifts over 1,800 horizontal feet further than the freeflyers! Meanwhile, in ten seconds the plane only covers 1,100 feet. A 20 second exit separation will still have the RW group opening 400 feet from the freeflyers, not counting canopy movement or tracking! Having opened right over freeflyers before, and having just heard from several expert skydivers who narrowly missed freeflyers, and having watched RW groups blow over freeflyers on windy days, I think we have a problem. You might say, make sure the groups leave longer between exits. Well, we do tell them, but if they wait 20 seconds instead of ten, that still doesn't solve the problem because Freeflyers still fly under them under canopy. So for fast fallers your only choice if you want to get out first is to always fly perpendicular to the line of flight for 30 seconds before turning towards the dz. While I am confident most of you are aware enough to do this, it brings us back to the original time on jump run problem. Basically, Skydive Arizona isn't willing to do a lot of second passes just so freeflyers can get out first. Getting out last except for students solves virtually every problem. You control the horizontal separation, so you can ensure you won't be overtaking anyone in freefall. The windier it gets, the safer you are because you get extra separation by having slower fallers blow away from you. Students take long climb outs and pull real high, so no problem there: just get open and fly off the wind line for a few seconds to be clear of them in the unlikely event that they are in freefall at 2,500 feet. As for the argument that the canopy separation is necessary in the landing area, I don't buy it. Opening over the top instead of short, you can spiral down to make sure you get on the turn around loads. As for congestion at the landing area, no one else on the loads seem to have any problem, although you may not always get to land right by the fence. Please give this some thought. Unless one of you gives me an extremely convincing reason why you need to leave first, such as a safe spot for the skyball, I will make it standard policy that exit order will always be 1) skysurfers 2) freefall groups, largest to smallest, regardless of fall rate (Note (Skr): I believe this is a typo since the real rule is: ) (2a - relative work groups, largest to smallest and then ) (2b - fast fall groups, largest to smallest and then ) (3 - AFF and tandems ) 3) AFF and tandems, plus any other very high openings. The main reason for high openings leaving last is not separation, it's that they can make it back from a long spot!
  6. johnfallo

    Exit Separation

    On Saturday October 26, 2013 there was a near canopy collision by experienced jumpers. There were several factors which may have contributed to this event. I feel that a lack of understanding of exit separation was a major contributor. The winds of the day were posted: 24 knots at 12,000 feet, 22 knots at 9,000 feet and so on. I was on the first load, first out with a three way formation. I turned to the group behind me and asked for 10 seconds of separation. The response was “Why? That’s a lot of time.” Both of these jumpers have around 500 jumps. One has been jumping for over 10 years, the other for 9 years. One of these jumpers was part of the group that was involved in the near collision later that day. The incident: a near miss at opening time between two skydivers we will call jumper 1 and jumper 2. Jumper 1 left the plane first as part of an 8 way relative work group. Jumper 2, as part of a less experienced 2 way relative work group, left next with 5-6 seconds of separation. The second group left the plane flipping and having fun then got stable and continued a normal relative work dive. Jumper 1 was oriented to track up the line of flight decreasing his separation from the 2nd group. Jumper 1 further decreased his separation from the 2nd group by continuing to fly his canopy up the line of flight for 12 seconds. At which time he noticed one of the jumpers from the two way open pretty close. He then started looking for the other jumper from the two way group (jumper 2) and started a right rear riser turn. At this point, jumper 2 under a still deploying main fell past and within 20 feet of Jumper 1. Here is a link to the video of the opening sequence. This video was taken with a gopro camera and the jumpers in it are closer than they appear. Conclusions: 1. The initial flipping on exit of the second group may have had the two way in an orientation to slide down the line of flight and therefore contributed to the second group moving towards the first group. If so this would have been only momentary and not a large contribution. 2. Jumper 1 decreased separation by tracking up the line of flight. Although a contributing factor to the lack of separation, this was an appropriate action as on groups of 2 or larger all jumpers should track away from the radial center of the formation regardless of whether that puts them tracking up or down the line of flight as this will give them the greatest amount of separation from the members of their own group which would pose the greatest danger of collision at opening time. Jumpers tracking up the line of flight away from larger groups should always be aware of their direction and not “over track”. 3. Jumper 1 was flying a small fast canopy, continuing to fly up the jump run, holding into the wind with his brakes still set. This decreased separation with the following group. Every skydiver should know where jump run is planned to be before boarding the aircraft. All jumpers should upon opening orient themselves as quickly as possible to fly perpendicular to jump run at least long enough to ensure the groups before and after them have opened. 4. There is no question that mistakes were made on both sides, but there should also be no question that there would have been greater separation with 8 seconds at the door as called for in the chart below. In this case an extra 2 seconds separation would have equated to between 224-252 more feet of separation. We are also reminded of another incident we had a while back. Jumper 1 on a hop-n-pop leaves opens and flies up the line of flight. Jumper 2 leaves with about 5 seconds of separation and tracks down the line of flight. Jumper 2 tracks through Jumper 1’s canopy ripping it in half. Luckily neither one was injured. Another example is the video posted Iloveskydyving.org. This video clearly shows the following group giving 8 seconds of separation. Judging from their flying style it is obvious they are very skilled and not likely sliding through the air unintentionally. However, they still end up opening dangerously close to the group before them. We don’t know about what mistakes the group ahead may have made if any, but consider the problem may have been enough wind to dictate more time for adequate separation. Close Skydive Canopy CollisionAs Jumpers, we must have a basic understanding of the effects the ground speed of the aircraft has on the amount of time that we need to allow for the same amount of separation. I have heard swoopers say that the only good wind is no wind. They are saying this because in a no wind situation all things remain constant and consistent. Likewise at altitude if the aircrafts speed relative to the ground was always the same we would always give the same amount of time for the same amount of separation. What is adequate separation? In distance, the number I was taught is 1000 feet from center of formation to the center of the next formation for small groups. This number increases up to 2000 feet or more for groups of 8 or larger. Consider two 4 way groups lined up perfectly with jump run which will result in a jumper from each group tracking directly at one another. This allows each jumper to track 250 feet with 500 feet still left between them. The Skydivers Information Manual goes farther and recommends 1500 feet of separation for small groups and solos. What is adequate separation? In time, that will depend on the speed of the aircraft and the wind the aircraft is encountering. In other words, it will depend on the ground speed of the aircraft on jump run. See the chart put together by Phil Litke. These numbers should be considered minimums for 1000 feet of separation to be doubled for following groups of 8 or larger. Here are some examples of experienced jumpers and Tandem instructors giving between 13 and 31 seconds exit separation when the winds were very high. Also consider that these instructors are, for the most part, giving such separation on solos and 2 ways. As stated earlier, larger groups should be allowed more distance and therefore more time. We are all concerned about hosing the guys in the back of the plane by taking too long. I am not advocating that we give more time unnecessarily. If the speed of the aircraft dictates a certain amount of separation between groups this should include your set up, climb out, and count. I am not suggesting anyone taking longer than the conditions call for as this would create different problems such as people landing off, unnecessary go arounds, and wasted fuel. Most of us have had experienced people in the back of the plane yelling for people to hurry up and get out. This is because they feel you are taking too long to exit and will end up with them getting too far from the airport to make it back. If the winds are strong enough to necessitate a certain amount of separation then likewise the plane is moving slower relative to the ground, Freefall drift will be greater, and the acceptable opening spot may be farther from the landing zone. Every skydiver should know the acceptable exit and opening points for the conditions of the day. Many people land out without trying to make it back because it looks father than they are used to seeing. Without looking at the winds and calculating the opening spot before you go up you have very little chance of knowing for certain whether you will make it back, especially as the winds get higher and the spots get longer. One thing that you cannot control when you leave the aircraft is what the group behind you will do. We all should look after each other. By knowing how much separation to give you are looking out for yourself and the group ahead of you. Don’t be afraid to confirm with the group behind you that they will also wait an appropriate amount of time before exiting. Recommendation to reduce the likelihood of these type incidents: 1. Phil Litke’s exit separation chart should be posted near the jumper closest to the pilot for easy reference on jump run. 2. Upon turning onto jump run after the cut, the pilot will inform the close jumper of the aircrafts ground speed. This close jumper will look at the chart and determine how many seconds are needed. The number of seconds separation to give will be passed down to all jumpers on the load. 3. If this turns out to be too great a burden for the pilot we should install a GPS unit near the door so that the jumpers can determine ground speed themselves and make all jumpers on the load aware of how many seconds separation to give. We all have to get on board for this to work. Our landing direction at our dropzone is mandatory. This has been the best proactive step towards promoting a safe landing area and smooth landing pattern I have seen since I have been with my dropzone. The chaos of 22 jumpers landing in every direction in light and variable winds seems to be behind us. Each of us knows no one landing against the assigned pattern will escape a talk with a staff member. Exit separation is as important a safety issue and should be treated with the same respect. It needs to be a matter of policy for consistency. There is not an original idea on this subject here. This is the best knowledge which my mentors passed on to me. Here are a couple of related articles which go into greater depth about these concepts and solutions to these problems. I hope it is clear we must go about things in a more thoughtful and consistent way to avoid similar incidents in the future. http://www.dropzone.com/safety/Exit/Exit_Separation_Revisited_628.html http://indra.net/~bdaniels/ftw/sg_skr_dealing_1_uppers.html
  7. admin

    Exit Separation Revisited

    Exit separation has become a point of contention at many DZ's lately. Years ago, when belly flying was the rule and the Cessna 182 was the aircraft at most DZ's, exit separation wasn't too much of a big deal - you gave the other group (if there was another group) some time and then you went. With the aircraft in popular use 15-20 years ago, it was hard to exit very quickly to begin with, and so the issue never came up very often. Bill von Novak started skydiving in 1991 at a small DZ in New York. Since then he has become an S+TA, an AFF, tandem and static line instructor, and has set two world records in large formation skydiving. He lives with his wife Amy in San Diego. Since then, several factors have conspired to make exit separation more of an issue. First off, there are more people freeflying. Freeflyers, especially head down groups, drift differently than belly flyers, and thus need different considerations when planning for exit separation. Faster canopies mean that people who open facing each other need more distance to deal with a potential collision. Large aircraft with big doors can hold several larger groups, and those groups can get out those big doors more quickly. Finally, GPS spotting has removed some of the delay between groups. It's rare to see people even check the spot before beginning their jam-up. I first became aware of this issue in 1994, when I started jumping at Brown Field in San Diego. We went through a series of aircraft as we grew, from Cessna 206's to King Airs to Beech-99's, none of which had GPS. In addition, we were less than a mile from the US-Mexico border, which meant our jump runs had to be east-west and our spots had to be dead on. Several instructors were "designated spotters" and we would argue over 100 yard differences in jump run offset and exit location. After a while we got pretty good at spotting. As our aircraft became larger, exit separation became more of an issue. We had a few close calls, and so we agreed to start allowing more space between groups. At first it was essentially trial and error - we would leave some amount of time (10 seconds or so) between groups and increase that time whenever someone felt they were too close to someone else. After a while, we began to get a feel for how much time was required. We knew that if the upper winds were strong and the plane was just creeping along the ground, we had to leave more time. We also knew that if we let the freeflyers get out first, we had a problem almost every time. We ended up with a system that worked for us, and had essentially no problems with collisions or close calls after that. During this time I was also traveling in the summers to different boogies and I noticed a wide variety of exit separation techniques. By far the most common technique was some amount of fixed time - the next group would pause, then climb out and go, without knowing what the upper winds were doing or what the spot was. The next most common technique was similar but they added a "leave more time if it's windy" clause to their delay. There was also a class of jumpers who looked out the door to tell how much separation to leave; these jumpers either looked at angle of the departing group or the ground to tell how much space to leave. This got me thinking. What really works and what doesn't? I tried a few methods on my own, from the "45 degree" method to a purely ground-based method. After some experiments, a group of skydivers collaborated via email and internet and came up with the actual math behind separation, the physics that determines how far the center of group A will be from the center of group B after they open. But before diving into the math, there are a few basic concepts to cover. What we care about. When we're talking about separation at opening time, we don't really care about where we are in relationship to the plane or even the ground - what we care about is how far we will be in the air horizontally from the next group that opens. So for our purposes, the airplane and the ground don't really matter, and someone watching from either of those places may not get the same "picture" of things that we get. (Of course, we do care about our relationship to the ground when it comes to spotting and landing on the DZ, but that's a separate issue.) How we fall. In most freefall (tracking dives and wingsuits excepted) we fall essentially straight down with respect to the air. If there's wind, the wind blows us at whatever speed it's blowing. If the wind is doing 30kts at altitude, a group of skydivers will be doing 30kts as they drift with the wind. It's also important to realize how your trajectory changes after you open. At a freefall speed of 100kts, a 30kt wind will slightly deflect your trajectory, because it's a small fraction of your total speed. Once under canopy and descending at 10kts, it will deflect your trajectory a tremendous amount, since it is now a very large part of your speed. Of course, under canopy you have much more control over your own horizontal speed, and the winds may add or subtract from your canopy's groundspeed depending on the direction you are facing. Speeds. When discussing speeds, it's important to define units. There is feet per second, which is very useful for people who are trying to figure out how far they want to be from another group. At 100 feet per second, 10 seconds gives you 1000 feet, which is about as easy as it gets. You may also hear the terms indicated airspeed, true airspeed, and groundspeed, in both knots and miles an hour. These can all be converted back and forth as needed . Now that all that's out of the way, the math is pretty simple. The distance you will get between group centers is the speed of the aircraft plus the speed of the winds at opening altitude, multiplied by the time you leave between groups. That's it. So if the aircraft is flying into the wind doing 80 knots per its GPS, and the winds at opening altitude are 10 knots from the same direction, and you are waiting 10 seconds between groups, you are going to get (80+10 = 90 kts, which is 153 feet per second) 1530 feet between groups. It gets a little more complicated when the winds are not from the same directions. If the winds at opening altitude are opposite jump run, you have to subtract them rather than add them. If the winds at opening altitude are from the side, it's the same as zero winds at opening altitude when it comes to separation. If you put these equations into a spreadsheet and play with the numbers, some basic patterns emerge. If the headwinds at altitude are strong you have to leave more time. If the plane is slow (i.e. it's indicated airspeed on jump run is low) you have to leave more time. If the winds at opening altitude are strong as well, and from the same direction, you can safely leave less time. (Or, preferably, just leave the same amount of time and you'll end up with even more separation.) If the winds at opening altitude are opposite from jump run, that's the worst case, and you have to leave even more time. Some people have a problem visualizing how winds at opening altitude can possibly cause them trouble if they leave enough distance on exit. The question is usually phrased as "don't all jumpers follow the same path out of the plane?" And they definitely do. To visualize why this can still cause you problems, take a look at the separation diagram shown below. Drawing showing exit separations In the first drawing, there is no wind after exit, and the first group breaks off, tracks, opens, and flies their canopies away from the center for the first few seconds, which is what they should be doing on most formation skydives. (After that, it's a good idea to turn away from line of flight once you're sure you are clear of others in your group.) The second group arrives 10-15 seconds later, shortly after the first group has opened their parachutes, with some room to spare. The second drawing shows what happens when there are winds are the same all the way down. Notice that the "cone" caused by the breakoff and the canopy flight has shifted strongly to the right. This is because (as mentioned before) once their parachutes are open, the wind affects their trajectory more strongly. As with the first example, it is assumed that everyone flies away from the center for the first few moments. That means the jumper flying into the wind makes no progress and comes straight down, while the jumper flying downwind gets a boost in groundspeed.. The third drawing shows where you can run in to problems. In this drawing, the winds after exit are from the opposite direction. You get the same skewing of the cone, but now the edge of the cone is getting dangerously close to the trajectory of the next group. This is a case where the same separation at exit led to trouble because of opposite winds at opening altitude. This leads naturally to the question "how much separation do you really need?" That depends on the group. 1000 feet should probably be an absolute minimum for any belly formation skydiving. That means that two four-ways can exit, fall straight down the pipe, track 300 feet from center on breakoff, and then still have 300 feet to deal with avoiding a potential collision after opening. With the speeds of today's canopies, that's a bare minimum. If the group size grows to two 10-ways, 2000 feet might be a wiser separation. If a low-time RW group backslides a bit, again, 1500 feet might be needed to be clear of them at opening time. So how does a jumper who doesn't want to carry around a calculator figure out how much time to leave between groups? One very simple way is to just look out of the plane and wait until it has covered 1000 feet, then go. This method, originally suggested by Skratch Garrison, takes much of the figuring out of exit separation. It can be hard to determine how far 1000 feet is on the ground, but fortunately most DZ's come with a handy ruler - a runway. A 3000 foot runway allows you to put 3 groups out along its length with a bit of margin thrown in. This method also has the tremendous advantage that it requires people to look out the door, and that means they are more likely to see traffic, high canopies or clouds that could pose a hazard to their skydive. Another simple way is time-based. There are several tricks you can use to determine how long to wait. One common one is to always leave at least 7 seconds, then if the upper winds are strong divide them by 2 and wait that number of seconds. (Faster aircraft sometimes use divide by 3.) So if the winds are 30kts you wait 15 seconds between groups. This technique uses some math but isn't too bad. A third technique that seems to be popular for some reason is the 45 degree method. In this method, jumpers wait until the previous group passes through an imaginary 45 degree line before they exit. The problem with this method is that the jumpers never pass through that 45 degree angle, or pass through it so quickly (under 1 second) that it's not useful for determining separation. The numbers confirm this. What you see out the door depends purely on speed of the aircraft, fallrate of the jumpers and type of exit. If the plane is going slower than freefall speed, the group may start out above the 45 degree line, but will drop below the line in less than a second and never rise above it again. If the plane is going faster than freefall speed (which is rare) the jumpers stay above the line and never cross it at all. A good head-down exit will tend to move jumpers lower in the picture. Winds will not affect the picture; an exit in 5kt uppers looks the same as an exit in 50kt uppers. There has been some friction over this issue. The 45 degree method has a lot of supporters because it's so simple and makes a sort of intuitive sense. Beyond that, it actually seems to work for some people - although it's likely that the extra time it takes to locate and stare at the previous group has something to do with the reason the next group usually leaves enough time. To show that this doesn't work, two cameras were fixed at a 45 degree angle and mounted on a boom outside an Otter's door (see pictures below.) Pictures and video of several jump runs both into the wind and downwind were taken and magnified to determine how close each group was to the imaginary 45 degree line, which was essentially the center of the images. The pictures confirmed the basic problems of the 45 degree rule. RW groups, falling a little faster than the aircraft, never quite passed behind the 45 degree line. Freeflyers, going much faster than the aircraft, stayed well below the 45 degree line for as long as they were visible in the stills (about 30 seconds.) Some version of the 45 degree method may work for some people. It may be that the simple act of looking out the door delays them enough, or their subconscious may see the group moving slowly along the ground (because the aircraft's groundspeed is low) and send a warning message to the rest of their brain - "hey, hold up a minute." But waiting for a true 45 degree angle simply does not work. Another issue that has become more important lately is exit order. Some places still put freeflyers out first, and that doesn't make much sense. In 30kt uppers, a belly flyer who leaves 10 seconds and gets out after freeflyer will open 100 feet from him, but if the belly flyer goes first and the freeflyer leaves the same time he will open 2200 feet from the freeflyer. RW groups, since they are in freefall longer, drift farther downwind before opening. It seems like a no-brainer to choose an exit order that used this to your advantage and increased, rather than decreased, separation distances. You can certainly wait 20 seconds after the freefly groups before the belly groups exit if there is some other reason why the freeflyers have to exit first, but at most DZ's it's hard to ensure that 20 seconds, especially since waiting so long almost guarantees long spots or a goaround. Below are two diagrams that show how exit order can affect separation. Belly out first diagram Freefly out first diagram One reason given at DZ's to explain a backwards exit order is that freeflyers open sooner and therefore are beginning to descend before the next group gets there. Bryan Burke of Skydive Arizona has pointed out that you simply cannot trust vertical separation - one premature deployment or malfunction and all that vertical separation is gone. Even during a normal skydive, when you add up altimeter error, pull timing and snivel distance, you can easily get a jumper opening 1000 feet from where he expected to be open. In fact, Bryan points out that at Skydive Arizona, the primary reason high pullers get out last is not for separation but rather because they are the ones that can make it back from a bad spot. Every drop zone is going to have a different set of rules and a different approach to exit order. Some work well, some don't work as well. Jumpers have to understand the factors that can reduce group separation so they can make informed decisions about when they want to exit and what kind of exit orders they are comfortable with.
  8. Funneled exits are bound to happen once in a while on recreational RW loads, but they do not have to be the norm. With the leadership of a good load organizer and thorough dirt dives, jumpers with relatively little experience can soon be pulling off stable exits. In recreational RW, the most common type of exit is a Star (or “round” as it often called). In a Star exit, it is easier to control the exit chunk and maintain levels because all jumpers are looking into the center. The number of jumpers in the Star exit depends on factors such as jumper experience and the complexity of the skydive. For recreational loads with mixed experience levels, a 2, 3 or 4-way Star is probably large enough. Any bigger and the chance of a funnel increases. This article focuses on Star exits from left side-door aircraft such as Otters, Cessna Caravans and PAC750s because they are commonly used for formations larger than a 4-way. Also, because many recreational skydivers don’t do a lot of 4-way, terms such as Middle Floater and Rear Floater are used instead of 4-way terminology such as Outside Center and Tail. Deciding Who Will Be In The Base The simple solution is to put only experienced jumpers in the base, but that often doesn’t leave enough experienced jumpers further back in the lineup. An alternate solution is to put experienced jumpers outside the plane and lesser-experienced jumpers inside. This mix of experience levels can work quite well if everybody leaves on ‘GO’ and presents to the relative wind. Then, if the exit is less than perfect, the experienced jumpers are in a better position to control the exit chunk. For example, if one of the inside jumpers starts to flip over, it is sometimes possible for one of the outside jumpers to push against his back pack and help him settle back down into his slot. The Importance Of Dirt Diving The Exit The exit is just as important as remembering the points of the skydive. If the base is not there, no points will be turned anyway. So during the dirt dive, jumpers should pack it up and take grips exactly the way they expect to do it on jump run. This can prevent a lot of fumbling around for grips when they are lining up for real. If a mockup of the aircraft door is available, jumpers should use it. If not, they can make marks on the ground to represent the door. Typically, the organizer is positioned in the middle of the door and facing in so that he can see when everybody is in position before giving the count. Since full face helmets make it very difficult to hear the count, many organizers move their head or leg in time with the count. Some organizers swing their left leg out-in-out to indicate the Ready-Set-Go. (The second swing out represents the ‘Go’). Launching A 2-Way Star This exit uses a Middle Floater and 1 jumper inside the plane. As mentioned earlier, the most experienced jumper should be outside the plane because he is in a better position to control the inside jumper as the 2-way leaves the plane. Getting Into position 1. With both hands holding onto the bar (or the top inside of the door if there is no bar), the Middle Floater rotates his body to the left so that his back pack goes out the middle of the door (so he doesn’t snag anything). His head follows until he is standing outside the plane with his right foot on the edge of the door and his left knee presented to the prop blast. His hands should be approximately shoulder-width apart. 2. As soon as the Middle Floater turns around in the door, the Inside Jumper reaches between the Middle Floater’s arms then right and left for his arm grippers. This leaves both the Middle Floater’s arms free to fly and control the exit. 3. As he takes grips, the Inside Jumper steps forward with his left foot, placing it on the edge of the door and crouching down (not on his knees) while keeping his chest cheated toward the prop blast and his back straight up and down. His right foot should naturally be a foot or two back inside the plane (helps ensure his body is cheated toward the prop blast). The Launch When the Inside Jumper is ready, he looks up at the Middle Floater. The Middle Floater gives the count and launches out, leading with his left knee and presenting his chest and hips to the prop blast. With his free hands he can help control the Inside Jumper if he starts to twist or turn off heading. He can also double grip the Inside Jumper for added stability. The Inside Jumper DOES NOT push but goes with the exit, keeping his head up and rotating his chest and hips toward the prop blast as he helps fly the 2-way on the relative wind. Both jumpers are responsible for keeping the 2-way on heading relative to the aircraft’s line of flight so that other jumpers on the skydive can go directly to their slots for a faster build. The 2-way is also responsible for maintaining a good fall rate. Launching A 3-Way Star This exit uses 2 floaters (a Rear and a Middle) and 1 jumper inside the plane. Again, the most experienced jumpers should be outside the plane. Getting Into Psition 1. The Rear Floater climbs out first (see the photo of the Middle Floater climbing out for the 2-way). 2. On the heels of the Rear Floater, the Middle Floater climbs out the same way, except he rotates his body to the right and stands pretty much in the middle of the door. 3. As the Middle Floater climbs out, the Rear Floater grips the Middle Floater’s right arm gripper with his left hand. 4. Both floaters are now standing outside the door and should be turned slightly toward the front of the aircraft with the inside of their left knees presented to the prop blast. 5. The Inside Jumper gets in position the same way as described for the 2-way Star except he takes a left-hand grip on the Rear Floater’s right arm gripper and a right-hand grip on the Middle Floater’s left arm gripper. (Again, he steps toward the door with his left foot and places it near the edge of the door to ensure he is cheated toward the prop blast.) Launch When the Inside Jumper is ready, he looks up at the Middle Floater. The Middle Floater gives the count and launches out, leading with his left knee and presenting his chest and hips to the prop blast. The Rear Floater should anticipate the count and leave a split second early, hardly noticeable but just enough to place him on the lower end of the 3-way and looking up at it. (In 4-way, the Rear Floater, called the ‘Tail’, is always on the lower end of the formation to help anchor it on the relative wind.) The Inside Jumper DOES NOT push. He simply steps off, keeping his head up and rotating his chest and hips toward the prop blast as he helps fly the 3-way on the relative wind. All jumpers are responsible for keeping the 3-way on heading relative to the aircraft’s line of flight so that other jumpers on the skydive can go directly to their slots for a faster build. The 3-way is also responsible for maintaining a good fall rate. Launching A 4-Way Star This exit uses 2 floaters (a Rear and a Middle) and 2 jumpers inside the plane. As with the 2 and 3-way Star exits, the most experienced jumpers should be outside the plane. Getting Into Position 1. The Rear and Middle floaters climb out the same way as described for the 3-way Star exit. (Note: The Rear Floater should stand a few inches forward of the rear door jamb so that the Inside Rear jumper does not hit his arm on exit.) 2. While the two floaters are climbing out, the 2 inside jumpers (let’s call them Inside Rear and Inside Front to indicate their relative positions in the door) should step forward with their left foot and place it on the edge of the door, keeping their back pack backs straight up and down and their chests cheated toward the prop blast. They should crouch but not be on their knees. Their right foot should naturally be a foot or two back inside the plane. 3. The Inside Rear jumper takes a left-hand grip on the Rear Floater’s right arm gripper and a right-hand grip on the Inside Front jumper’s left arm gripper. 4. The Inside Front jumper takes a right-hand grip on the Middle Floater’s left arm gripper and can either leave his left hand free or reach back and double grip the Inside Rear jumper’s right arm. The Launch When the inside jumpers are ready, they look up at the Middle Floater. The Middle Floater gives the count and launches out, leading with his left knee and presenting his chest and hips to the prop blast. The Rear Floater should anticipate the count and leave a split second early (the same way as described for the 3-way exit). The inside jumpers DO NOT push. They basically step off and go with the Middle Floater, keeping their heads up and rotating their chests and hips toward the prop blast. The Inside Front jumper should also think about launching toward the front of the plane, and the Rear Inside jumper should think about helping to place the Inside Front jumper up and forward. No grip switching is necessary. If the 4-way is the base for a big-way, jumpers can take double grips for added stability. All jumpers are responsible for keeping the 4-way on heading relative to the aircraft’s line of flight so that other jumpers on the skydive can go directly to their slots for a faster build. The 4-way is also responsible for maintaining a good fall rate. Safety Tips Before boarding the plane and before jump run, jumpers should give each other pin checks. During the lineup and the exit, jumpers should always protect their handles. Before planning to launch larger exit chunks, jumpers should know how many jumpers are allowed in the door and at the back of the aircraft (so that the aircraft’s stall point is not jeopardized). If they don’t know, they should ask the pilot! As with other types of exits, methods for launching a Star can vary from one organizer to the next, from one 4-way team to the next, or even from one DZ to the next. The methods described in this article are ones that have worked successfully for this author on both 4-way and recreational loads. But no matter what method is used, success is much more likely if jumpers present as much as possible to the relative wind when lining up in the door and continue this through the launch. Finally, bigger is not always better. Most skydivers would rather swoop on a solid 2-way than chase a funneled 6 or 8-way base. A solid base allows everybody on the load to turn more points and get the most bang for their buck.