The requirement for a flat track is that it be adequate distance for separation from a 4 way. This is a more refined track than for the 2 Way Endorsement for the "A" CoP. It must be a track capable of providing good horizontal separation; with small, often unpredictable canopies being common for new jumpers, a novice needs as much horizontal separation as he or she can get prior to opening! One entire dive, including lots of ground training and formation of the body, should be dedicated to teaching the track. Build on what the novice should know from the 2 way endorsement: that is, they should know how to provide forward movement for horizontal separation, including flattening or de-arching of the hips.
The Track is an integral part of the Group Endorsement. It should be demonstrated as a part of the break off procedures on 4 dives, demonstrating directional control and altitude maintenance.
The opening avoidance drill is performed immediately after canopy opening so that the novice can turn in one direction or the other using rear risers before undoing the toggles. This skill can be observed from the air or ground.
Canopy Dive & Recovery:
The canopy dive & recovery drill is a 180 degree front riser turn, followed immediately by a flare, above 2000 ft. The purpose of this drill is to experience a rapid increase in vertical descent and speed, and the forces required to flare out from it.
"Awareness during final" means ensuring that one is aware of the other canopies in the circuit during landing. Everyone’s head should be constantly scanning from side to side, as well as above and below for possible traffic.
The novice should know the answers to the following questions for the FS Endorsement:
- Define: Initiate, Coast, Recover, Final approach zone
- Describe the correct sequence of the break off procedure, and at which altitude it is recommended to occur.
- Name the four common exit positions from a 182/206 aircraft or large cargo door.
- After a FS jump, is it safe to do unplanned CFS? Why?
- Is participating in FS without being FS Endorsed breaking a BSR?
- While participating in a FS jump, the formation begins to funnel. What are your actions?
- While beginning your final approach, you notice the approach and target area is congested with other canopies. What should you do to ensure a safe landing?
- In order to close a long vertical distance, where should you dive in order to minimize the possibility of a mid-air collision?
- While on a 5-way jump, you find yourself low on the formation. You begin to slide underneath it. What are your immediate actions?
- As a B CoP holder, are you allowed to do FS skydives with an A CoP holder? Explain?
- As you are tracking away at break off, you notice another jumper tracking right at you. What are some options you can take to prevent an incident?
- While participating in a 4 way FS jump, you notice your altimeter is reading below break off altitude. Describe your immediate actions?
- After your canopy has deployed, you notice another canopy is about to collide with yours (horizontally). What is your immediate action?
- When learning the basic skills or FS, why are "big formations" not necessarily "better"?
- What are some procedures you can perform during the ride to altitude that will enhance your performance?
Coaching the Track
Break-off and the track are two critical parts of the skydive for anyone participating in 2 way or group freefall. What happens in these final 7 to 10 seconds of freefall can determine how eventful one's canopy ride is going to be. Coaching the break-off and track requires discipline as the excitement of doing two ways often overshadows these important "solo" skills. Let's focus initially on tracking.
Tracking theoretically should not cause a higher vertical descent rate than a normal belly to earth box body position. In fact, it should actually descend slower, vertically. The best trackers are often seen as going "up" relative to others during this phase of the skydive. Check out your track using video. It may surprise you to see how well you are doing.
Over the years of observing the delta position adopted by many people claiming to be tracking, I have come to the conclusion that the process/coaching used to teach people how to track is perhaps causing the problem. The most important part of the track and hardest for individuals to accomplish is the de-arched (cupped) upper body postion. So rather than teach tracking by shaping from the delta, perhaps we should shape from a de-arched "cupped" position. An alternate way to teach the track is in the following 3 steps.
Have the individual de-arch in the box position with their head up. This position should have the elbow and knees lower than the torso. Now the individual has the base from which the track can be shaped. If this has not already been practiced as part of the levels (up/down) exercise for the 2 way endorsement, have the SOLO Certificate holder go up and practice this in the air!
From the de-arched position, have the individual straighten and lock their knees (not their hips) to extend their legs, which will bring their toes below them (their toes should be on the ground if practicing this on creepers). This is tough to accomplish as it requires the individual to push aggressively against the airflow and a resulting tilt of the body will occur. Explain that this feeling is normal. Note that even if the arms are still in the box, this position will provide reasonable horizontal separation with limited vertical loss. As a Coach 2 observing and performing skill analysis, you will have to chase them. Watch the upper body to ensure the de-arched (cupped) body postiion is being maintained as the legs are locked at the knees and straightened out. If the individual is going into a dive, chances are that the de-arched position is not being held and the person is doing a delta. Go practice in the air before going to the next step.
Now it is just a matter of shaping the arms and legs to maximize the efficiency of the track. On the next dive have them slowly bring their arms to 90 degrees (now an iron man track), 45 degrees and then to within 20 cm from the sides of their bodies (beside and not behind). Maintain the de-arched upper body position! Often an individual will break the de-arch when bringing their arms back, and go into an arch with their upper body... and a resulting dive! Not desirable! The last bit of tweaking required is to bring the knees about 15 to 30 cm apart and bring the head up to watch where they are going. Note that as the stance is narrowed - arms are brought closer to the sides and knees closer together - stability tends to become harder to maintain. This will require practice!
The time issue: when tracking for 7 to 8 seconds the individual must develop an internal clock, as it is difficult to watch an alitmeter or rely on electronic devices for this timing. The best thing to do is to have them count off the seconds. Tracking less than 5 seconds - unless altitude dictates - is not makingthe most of the track. Remember the purpose of the track? People generally double the distance they cover in seconds 5 to 7 of the track. Losing track of time while tracking may also be responsible for low pulls. When the candidate has demonstrated a good 7 second track, flare-out, and wave, they will be ready to use it at the bottom end of the skydive and NOT before.
Irregardless of how tracking is taught, the individual should practice the track from altitude with a Coach 2 or video. Remember to track perpendicular to the flight line so one does not collide with other jumpers on the load. Also remember to stop tracking by 4000', flare out and prepare for deployment. Do not pull in a track. If the three step process described above is used a good track will be accomplished in about 3 skydives.
Now the individual can go up and practice the track as well as break off procedures. A typical jump including both would be:
- turn perpendicular to the flight line,
- wave-off and turn 180 degrees looking for potential traffic,
- track for at least 7 seconds (about 1,200 feet) while watching for traffic below,
- flare out and wave while checking the airspace above for traffic
- then if clear of all traffic,
- pull (practice pull if above 4,000 feet) while maintaining a stable shoulders level, belly to earth body position.
Break-off altitudes have changed over the years from 3,500 to 4,000 feet for a few reasons. One of them is to allow for more time to track (full 7 seconds - 1,200 feet); and secondly, it allows for a higher pull altitude (2500 feet) for those smaller high performance, often unpredictable opening canopies that can lose 1,000 feet quite quickly during a strange opening. So a higher activation altitude is a good thing! But remember, don't sacrifice tracking for "opening high"; because someone may be above you trying to avoid you during opening and is hoping that you will be pulling at 2,500 feet.