Learning Spotting: One Jump at a Time
Before earning a USPA A license, you are expected to learn to spot in routine conditions. “Spotting” simply means choosing the opening point and guiding the pilot to the correct position over the ground for exit. You can calculate the spot from a winds-aloft report. FAA Flight Service provides these reports, which you can get from the pilot.
When you’re in the door before exit, spotting starts with determining exactly what’s straight down and how the plane is moving across the ground. A good spotter’s training never ends.
When you’re in the door before exit, spotting starts with determining exactly what’s straight down and how the plane is moving across the ground.
Here are some tips for beginners:
- Be familiar with the DZ and surrounding area, including the correct exit and opening points for the day’s conditions. The USPA Instructor will simply tell you at first and then show you how to figure it for yourself later.
- Look out of the aircraft, obviously done best with the door open and your head all the way outside. Small aircraft give you more opportunities to practice spotting. In larger aircraft, your instructor will arrange some door time. First, just get comfortable looking out. Put your head all the way out into the windstream.
- Identify the DZ, the climbout point, and exit point from the open door of the aircraft. Point them out to your instructor or coach.
- Look straight down, using horizon reference points. Avoid using the aircraft as a reference. On jump run, the plane is often climbing, banking, skidding, or crabbing.
- Determine the track of the aircraft. Once you can identify two points straight below the plane on jump run, you know the actual path of the aircraft across the ground. If you see that it will take you too far to the left or right, suggest a correction to the one supervising your jump, who will relay your corrections to the pilot.
- Allow enough time (distance) for your climbout and set-up to separate you from other jumpers. Learn when to climb out.
Soon, you’ll give directions to the pilot under supervision. After a while, the USPA Instructor or Coach won’t interfere unless your spotting appears unsafe.
Your spotting training will require several jumps, and the staff will log your progress. Spot as often as you can during your training as a student so you’ll feel confident later when you’re on your own.