United States Parachute Association > Experienced Skydivers > SIM > Section 6-4

6-4: Night Jumps

A. Why jump at night?

  1. Night jumps can be challenging, educational, and fun, but they require greater care on the part of the jumper, pilot, spotter, and ground crew.
  2. As with all phases of skydiving, night jumping can be made safer through special training, suitable equipment, pre-planning, and good judgment.
  3. Every skydiver, regardless of experience, should participate in night-jump training to learn or review:
    1. techniques of avoiding disorientation
    2. use of identification light, lighted instruments, and flashlight
    3. target lighting
    4. ground-to-air communications
    5. reserve activation
  4. To maintain safety and comply with FAA Regulations, any jumps between official sunset and official sunrise are considered as night jumps.
  5. Night jumps to meet license requirements and to establish world records must take place between one hour after official sunset and one hour before official sunrise.

B. Qualifications

  1. Skydivers participating in night jumping should meet all the requirements for a USPA B or higher license.
  2. Participants should complete a comprehensive briefing and drill immediately prior to the intended night jump.
    1. The training should be conducted by a USPA Safety & Training Advisor (S&TA), Examiner, or Instructor who has completed two-night jumps.
    2. The training (including the date and location) should be documented in the jumper’s logbook and signed by the USPA S&TA, I/E, or Instructor.

C. Challenges

  1. Night jumps provide the challenge of a new and unusual situation that must be approached with caution because of:
    1. the opportunity for disorientation
    2. the new appearance of the earth’s surface and the lack of familiar reference points
    3. Vision and depth perception are greatly impaired by darkness.
    4. Be thoroughly familiar with the effects of hypoxia (oxygen deprivation) on night vision (from the FAA Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) online at faa.gov:
      1. One of the first effects of hypoxia, evident as low as 5,000 feet, is loss of night vision.
      2. It takes approximately 30 minutes to recover from the effects of hypoxia.
      3. Smokers suffer the effects of hypoxia sooner than non-smokers.
      4. Carbon monoxide from exhaust fumes, deficiency of Vitamin A in the diet, and prolonged exposure to bright sunlight all degrade night vision.
    5. Night vision requires 30 minutes to fully adjust.
  2. A jumper’s own shadow cast by the moon can resemble another jumper below and cause confusion.
  3. Skydivers infrequently make night jumps, and are less familiar with and less proficient in handling themselves under the conditions of this new environment.
  4. Since the skydiver cannot perceive what is taking place as rapidly and easily as in daylight, it takes more time to react to each situation.

D. Special equipment

  1. A light visible for at least three statute miles displayed from opening until the jumper is on the ground (an FAA requirement for protection from aircraft)
  2. Lighted altimeter
  3. Clear goggles
  4. Jumper manifest
  5. Flashlight to check canopy
  6. Whistle
    1. to warn other jumpers under canopy
    2. for after landing to signal other jumpers
    3. to aid rescuers in locating a lost or injured jumper
  7. Sufficient lighting to illuminate the target
    1. Lighting can be provided by flashlights, electric lights, or such devices.
    2. Road flares or other pyrotechnics and open flames can be extremely hazardous and should not be used.
    3. Automobiles can be used for lighting, but they clutter the landing area.
  8. Cycle the automatic activation device to ensure it is within the time-frame operational limits for the night jump.

E. Procedures

  1. General
    1. Night jumps should be conducted in light winds.
    2. visibility
      1. Night jumps should be made only in clear atmospheric conditions with minimum clouds.
      2. Moonlight greatly increases visibility and night-jump safety.
    3. advice and notification
      1. Consult the local S&TA or a USPA Examiner for advice for conducting night jumps (required by the BSRs).
      2. Notify FAA, state, and local officials as required.
    4. Use a topographical map or photo with FAA Flight Service weather information for appropriate altitude and surface winds to compute jump run compass heading and exit and opening point.
    5. One senior member should be designated jumpmaster for each pass and be responsible for accounting for all members of that pass once everyone has landed.
    6. Each jumper performing a night jump who is not familiar with the drop zone should make at least one jump during daylight hours on the same day, to become familiar with the drop zone and surrounding areas during daylight conditions.
  2. Target configuration for accuracy:
    1. Arrange lights in a circle around the target area at a radius of 82 feet from the center.
    2. Remove three or four of the lights closest to the wind line on the downwind side of the target and arrange them in a line leading into the target area.
      1. This will indicate both wind line and wind direction.
      2. By following a flight path over this line of lights, the jumper will be on the wind line and land upwind.
    3. Place a red light at dead center, protected by a plexiglass cover flush with the surface.
  3. Emergency: Extinguish all lights in the event of adverse weather or other hazardous jump conditions to indicate “no jump.”
  4. Ground-to-air radio communications should be available.
  5. Night Spotting:
    1. Current wind information for both surface and aloft conditions is critical at night.
    2. Spotters should familiarize themselves with the drop zone and surrounding area in flight during daylight, noting ground points that will display lights at night and their relationship to the drop zone and any hazardous areas.
    3. The spotter should plan to use both visual spotting and aircraft instruments to assure accurate positioning of the aircraft.
    4. During the climb to altitude, familiarize each jumper with the night landmarks surrounding the drop zone.

F. General

  1. A jumper making a first night jump should exit solo (no group skydiving).
  2. Strobe lights are not recommended for use in freefall, because they can interfere with night vision and cause disorientation.
    1. Constant lights are preferable.
    2. Flashing lights can be used once the jumper has opened and is in full control under canopy.
  3. Warning on pyrotechnics:
    1. Road flares and other pyrotechnics exude hot melted chemicals while burning and are hazardous when used by skydivers in freefall.
    2. In addition, the bright glare greatly increases the possibility of disorientation.

G. Group jumps: freefall and canopy

  1. Freefall
    1. It is recommended that night relative work be planned for a full moon.
    2. Skydivers should wear white or light-colored jumpsuits.
    3. A safe progression from a 2-way to larger formations should be made on subsequent night jumps.
    4. Staggering the deployment altitudes can reduce the risk of a canopy collision
      1. During deployment, in the event there is a lack of horizontal separation
      2. During the canopy descent and landing pattern, when all canopies are converging above the landing area
      3. The deployments should be staggered in order, with the lowest wing-loaded jumper deploying at the highest altitude, continuing in order until the highest wing-loaded jumper is deploying at the lowest altitude
  2. Under canopy:
    1. With others in the air, jumpers should fly predictably and avoid spirals.
    2. All jumpers on each pass should agree to the same downwind, base, and final approach and the altitudes for turns to each leg of the landing pattern.
  3. Jumpers planning canopy formations should practice together during daylight and rehearse prior to boarding for each night jump.
    1. It is recommended that night canopy formation activity be performed during a full moon.
    2. Brightly colored clothing should be worn by all jumpers.
    3. Lighting
      1. Constant beam lights are preferred.
      2. Strobes can interfere with night vision and depth perception.