Ahhhh…. It’s fall in Eloy, where we welcome back every-day-of-the-week load organizing, sub-100 daytime temperatures, pleasantly cool nights… and a slew of jumpers from all over the world as our boogie and event season kicks off in force. October 2019 was even more exciting than usual – not only did we have the annual Halloween Boogie at the end of the month, we also hosted the FAI World Cup of Formation Skydiving and Artistic Events at the beginning of the month as well as a UPT Flight Camp smack dab in the middle!
What does all of this mean for YOU?
More people jumping = more aircraft flying = more crowded skies (and landing areas)…
More visiting jumpers = more opportunities to make friends…
…and more opportunities to get distracted from making routine checks…
…and more people on the plane and under canopy with you who are less familiar with the dropzone.
Skydive Arizona boogie season
1. Arrive prepared. Make sure your USPA membership, your dropzone waiver, and your reserve are in date. Make sure you’re current! You can find USPA’s currency requirements here: https://uspa.org/SIM/5#2
If you need to make a re-currency skydive, contact AXIS Flight School or Adventures in Skydiving.
Part of arriving prepared and being current is being current on your emergency procedures. Take some time to think about how you would respond to a high-speed or low-speed malfunction. Take some time to think about your deployment sequence – which should include proactive attempts to avoid deployment collisions.
2. Gear checks!!! Give your equipment a thorough look-over before your first jump of the day. Make your check-of-threes (rings, straps, handles) at least once before every skydive. Check your pins, the condition of your closing loops, and the screen of your AAD before every skydive! Make sure you have all of your peripherals (altimeters, helmet, gloves, etc) and that all batteries are charged. Make sure your altimeter is turned on and calibrated.
3. Check the conditions. Give yourself enough time to check the Daily Conditions board on the Safety Kiosk before boarding the tram. This board tells you the winds, the jump-run direction, and the average jump-run speed. Spend a few minutes watching the windsocks and the tetrahedron to get an idea of the ground winds. If there’s a load in the air, observe the canopy descents to get a feeling for the canopy-level winds. Use this information to determine exit separation, your canopy holding area and pattern options, and your preferred landing area. The spot (green light) is determined by the pilot working together with the GSO. This team has the goal of spotting the load such that everyone will be able to land in one of the two grass landing areas. Unless you are making a hop-and-pop, please do not spot exit location for yourself!
4. Manifest only for loads for which you are SURE you will be ready in time. This means packed, gear checked, gear on and jump-ready. Dirt-dive including exit mock-up complete. A minute to check the DC board. And in the tram loading area with a few minutes to spare so you have time to find out who else is on the load and what they’re doing, so you can determine exit order before you get out to the plane. If you’re going to need time to eat/hydrate or use the bathroom, factor this in. If you’re jumping with a group, everyone in the group needs to be ready in time.
5. Visualization includes your canopy flight. Skydivers spend many minutes dirt-diving and mocking up their freefalls – and very little time dirt-diving and visualizing their canopy flights… though the canopy flight is the bulk of the skydive. Take the time to visualize the canopy portion of your skydive, from break-off and deployment, to where you’re likely to open based on where you are in the exit order, where your holding area is, and what your landing pattern is going to be for the current ground winds. Remember that the winds CAN change; part of your visualization should include finding the tetrahedrons and windsocks early so you are not surprised at low altitude. Visualize looking for traffic. Are you going to be first or second out? Visualize flying off the line-of-flight until you’ve seen the next couple groups open before you turn back toward the landing area. Are you going to be out late? Visualize flying off the line-of-flight until you’ve accounted for the groups which exited before you. Think about where your outs are – if you’re on a short or long spot; if you have to avoid something in the pattern; if you misread the conditions (or someone sets a downwind pattern) and you can’t make the intended landing area in the direction which has already been set. Remind yourself what your decision altitude is.
6. Multiple planes flying means full skies. If you linger under canopy, or you have a very long freefall (e.g. skilled wingsuiters), be aware that you may find canopies from the following aircraft opening very close to you. Boogies are not the time to take your time getting to the ground. If you do find yourself under canopy higher than expected, or
in freefall longer than usual, stay out from under the jump-run until you are below 2000 feet. If your canopy has a very slow descent rate, consider staying off line-of-flight even longer.
Some quick reminders about landing patterns at Skydive Arizona
Land parallel to the field direction. First person down sets the pattern. This person should obey the tetrahedron. Everyone on that pass needs to land that same direction if they are going to land in the same field. If you disagree with the established pattern, land out. Jousting = collisions.
South (“alternate” or “student”) landing area – no turns greater than 90 degrees
North (“main”) landing area, including ponds – 100-jump minimum. No turns greater than 180 degrees.
Tunnel landing area – off limits w/o permission from the GSO
If you want to make a bigger turn, you must be on a hop-and-pop pass
South landing area – set up over the desert; base leg is always flown to the west
North landing area – has converging base legs. Avoid crossing the center-line!
7. Full skies means full landing patterns and full landing areas. The importance of being predictable under canopy cannot be overstated! Minimize turns, especially below 1500 feet. Fly straight pattern legs. Hold your line on final, parallel to the field direction; stay in your lane! No matter what you think you see, expect someone to be behind you in your blind spot and fly your pattern as though there’s another canopy on your tail. Once you land, collapse your canopy and turn around to face oncoming traffic. Avoid kiting; if you are running your canopy into the grass you are making your wing into a dangerous obstacle for incoming jumpers. If possible, get out of the field before stowing brakes and messing with your slider. If you must do this in the field, make sure you are remaining aware of incoming canopies from your load while doing so, and be out of the field before the next pass is in the pattern. If you land in the swoop lane, clear the swoop lane before messing with your gear, period.
8. Remember to recover. Stay up late on Friday or (and!) Saturday night? Sleep a bit later. Jumping hard? Sit down a load every now and then. Pace yourself! Catch your breath. Eat something! And no matter the outside air temperature, stay hydrated. We have an RO-filtered water fountain with bottle-filling station; take advantage of it. It’s easy to forget to take care of yourself in the hum and excitement of a busy jump-day. Pay attention to your body. When you are tired, hungry, and/or dehydrated, you are more likely to make mistakes. Missing a load or two to answer your body’s needs might keep you from missing the rest of the weekend from a fatigue-induced mistake.
9. Ask questions. Finally, if you’re unsure of the policies or recommendations for something you would like to do on your skydive, ask the GSO (the person walking around with radios on his/her hips). If you can’t find the GSO, you can ask Manifest (who will contact the GSO by radio) or a SDAZ tandem instructor.
Further your education
“Safety in Numbers: Creating Separation by Using Canopy Control” by Jim Crouch, Parachutist magazine May 2009
“Survival Skills for Canopy Control”: https://www.performancedesigns.com/docs/survival.pdf
Minimize your turns under canopy: https://www.skydivemag.com/new/2018-03-05-stop-turning/