United States Parachute Association > Experienced Skydivers > SIM > Section 5-7

5-7 Spotting

A. Why spotting is important

  1. Choosing the correct exit point and guiding the pilot to it (spotting) helps fulfill each skydiver’s responsibility to land in an appropriate clear area.
  2. Jumpers must demonstrate basic spotting abilities prior to obtaining the USPA A license.
  3. Spotting in more difficult circumstances requires continued practice and study.
  4. In addition to considerations for getting one jumper or group out of the aircraft at the correct point, spotters must consider the correct exit points for multiple individuals or groups on the same pass from a larger aircraft.

B. Priorities

  1. Be familiar with the DZ and surrounding area, including exit and opening points.
    1. Jumpers should observe and talk to those on previous jumps to help determine the correct jump-run direction and exit and opening point.
    2. Methods for estimating the exit and opening point based on winds-aloft forecasts are explained in the Aircraft and Spotting sections of Categories F and G of the Integrated Student Program, Section 4 of this manual.
    3. A wind-drift indicator (WDI) is effective for determining drift under canopy.
      1. A piece of weighted crepe paper is released at canopy opening altitude over an observed position or at half of the opening altitude so the ground travel will be doubled for the jump.
      2. The jumpers aboard the aircraft observe the drift of the WDI to determine the distance and direction of the best opening point upwind of the target.
      3. Jumpers should be responsible for wind drift indicators after they land.
      4. Observation and calculation of the spot from the winds-aloft report have replaced the WDI for most routine drop zone operations.
  2. Look out of the aircraft­:
    1. for traffic below
    2. for clouds
    3. to spot
  3. Identify the DZ, the climbout point, and the exit point from the open door of the aircraft.
  4. Techniques for determining the point straight below the aircraft are discussed in Category D of the ISP.

C. Group separation on jump run

  1. Slower-falling jumpers and groups are exposed to upper headwinds longer and are blown farther downwind than faster-falling jumpers and groups.
    1. Slower-falling groups should exit before faster-falling groups if jump run is flown into the wind.
    2. On days with strong upper headwinds, allow more time between groups on the same pass to get sufficient horizontal separation over the ground.
      1. Provide at least 1,000 feet of ground separation between individuals jumping solo.
      2. Provide at least 1,500 feet of ground separation between small groups, adding more as size of the groups increases.
    3. Once the parachute has opened, delay flying up or down the line of flight until—
      1. Any slower-falling group that exited before has opened their parachutes and turned toward the landing area.
      2. The group exiting after has completed their freefall and opened.
  2. Flying jump run across the upper winds (crosswind) helps achieve separation between groups.
  3. Whether flying one or more aircraft, each pass should allow enough time for jumpers on a previous pass to descend to a safe altitude before dropping jumpers from the next pass.

D. Exit and Flight Plan Considerations for Different Disciplines

  1. Larger jump aircraft may include several different groups of skydivers performing different disciplines, some of which use more airspace than others.
    1. Formation skydivers falling in a belly-to-earth orientation.
    2. Freeflying formations falling in head-down, standing or sitting formations.
    3. Freefall students with instructors.
    4. Tandem students and instructors.
    5. Tracking groups
    6. Angle flying groups
    7. Wingsuit flyers.
  2. Some of these groups will tend to descend straight down after exit, drifting horizontally with the effects of wind, but otherwise not moving much in the airspace.
  3. These groups include formation skydivers, freeflyers, solo students and tandem students, and they gain adequate separation from one another by exiting in groups largest to smallest per discipline and waiting the appropriate length of time between groups before exiting the airplane.
  4. Tracking groups, angle flying groups, and wingsuiters will cover large horizontal distances that must be taken into account when planning a descent strategy.
    1. These groups must fly a specific flight path planned before boarding the aircraft.
    2. Exiting last is the most common exit order for tracking groups, angle flyers and wingsuiters.
    3. Immediately after exit, the group needs to fly perpendicular to the jump run to provide lateral separation from the other groups on the aircraft.
    4. After gaining sufficient lateral distance, the group may then turn in a downwind direction, flying parallel to the other groups that exited earlier.
    5. The jumper leading this type of group must keep the group flying in the planned direction for the entire freefall distance, maintaining adequate lateral separation.
    6. The break-off point must be far enough laterally to allow for these jumpers to gain horizontal separation from each other as well as any of the groups that exited the airplane earlier.
    7. Airplane loads that include more than one group of tracking groups, angle flyers or wingsuiters will add additional complexity to the airspace requirements necessary to allow each group to open in a clear area.
    8. Depending on the situation, it may be safer to restrict each airplane load to only one group of tracking jumpers, angle flyers or wingsuiters.