Skydive Mag

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So, you wanna jump with a TANDEM?

Words by Jose Alvarez

tandem exit
Take care on exit – the instructor will throw the drogue, we don't want it in our face!  — Image by Jose Alvarez

First we must understand that jumping with a tandem is not an activity we should use to learn or practice approaches. You can accompany your friend/relative, but only once you understand and will control important details, and have a specific plan for this jump.

We can start with the fact that the passenger and Tandem Master have their jump under control and to be conducted in a completely safe manner. A third person flying around must not take over the jump, in case you change this important premise.

The tandem master, like a pilot or captain, is in charge of the jump. Period.

The Tandem Master is in charge

Carrying a passenger is a great responsibility for each instructor, who must ensure the student’s safety above all else. The passenger has paid to have fun and try an incredible experience. We must respect that and understand that the instructor is in charge of the jump. Like a pilot in an aircraft, or a captain on a ship, the Tandem Instructor has received specific training to keep the dive safe. A person with little experience jumping with the tandem can put this at risk, but a very experienced skydiver could also do this.

Often we feel we’re good enough flyers to accompany our friend on his jump and do not accept the instructor ‘s recommendations because “we know what we’re doing”. Or, the instructor does not dare to set out rules of the jump because he knows that we are very experienced skydivers – but that does not change this premise:- the tandem master, like a pilot or captain, is in charge of the jump. Period.

happy tandem pair
Image by Jose Alvarez

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What is different about this jump from a ’normal’ skydive?

  • The instructor is in charge of a person who does not know the sport.
  • The weight is the equivalent of two people, so that until the instructor takes the drogue out, the speed of this “package of two” will be greater than yours.
  • The tandem pilot deploys the drogue as a brake.
  • The instructor has very limited scope for evasive movements when throwing the drogue during freefall.
  • At the opening, the tandem pair tends to go down a few meters, with respect to other skydivers flying nearby.
  • The instructor may not be aware of anything but the passenger, because everyone reacts differently. He/she may need to make corrections or apply procedures to keep the jump safe and the student enjoying it.
tandem and friends
The cameraflyer should fly a little lower than this, to better see the student's face

Recommendations

It’s important to bear several points in mind with great care, if jumping with or filming a tandem:

Planning

It begins as always planning the jump. This must be done in accordance with the instructor; who is going to go inside/outside the plane, the exit count, if there are any grips to be taken, break-off height and plan, communication signals, etc.

Loading

When boarding the plane, as with any jump, the exit order implies an order of loading, in reverse. You are likely to be leaving at the back end of the load so be ready to board early.

it is essential that people who want to jump with a tandem are experienced, capable skydivers who know what is required to make a safe, fun jump

Exit

Take great care on exit, especially when following the tandem out, as a few seconds after exit the tandem master will throw the drogue, and we do not want it in our face! So, we need to be careful not to get too close to the tandem, and definitely not overhead. If we inadvertently get too near to the drogue, we can avoid it like avoiding a person in freefall, without fixating on it.

The tandem pair will accelerate quickly out the door so we may need to dive hard in the beginning (but always erring on the safe side!).

If we are leaving before the tandem, we need to understand the acceleration of the tandem pair will be greater than ours, and calculate our flight path to ensure we do not hit them, or gain a large separation.

tandem and friend
Take grips on the passenger, never the instructor — Image by Jose Alvarez

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Approach

On approach, especially if diving, we must pay attention to the drogue, as landing on it or becoming entangled with the bridle could result in a serious incident.

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Remember there is a burble in a cone behind people in freefall, so we mustn’t fly above the tandem pair or we could fall on them. Approaching from below, we must be careful of our own burble, so we don’t take out the tandem, or it could be a nasty collision.

Whether approaching from above or below, we must get on the same level as the tandem, equal the fall rate, and then advance smoothly, slowly and – very importantly – at an angle the instructor can see us.

Grips

If we are taking grips with the tandem, it is important that we never take them on the instructor. Any grips should be with the passenger – and only if included in the brief.

Break-off

Once the freefall is over, and it’s time for the tandem to deploy, the instructor will make a signal that they will open the parachute. Now it is vital to make a little separation, because when the instructor deploys the tandem pair will fall about 1.5 meters below. So, if we remain close we could enter the burble, and fall on them just when the canopy is opening – with obvious consequences.

Flight and landing

The tandem always has right of way in flying and landing, we should not obstruct it at any time.

Landing on the beach
The tandem has right of way under canopy and landing

Because of all these important details it is essential that people who want to jump with a tandem are experienced, capable skydivers who can fly well and know what is required to make a safe, fun jump.

DOs

Remember the three most important things:

1. We focus on following the plan, so the jump remains safe.

2. Consider what the passenger would most like, not us.

3. Follow the tandem master’s rules and respect the way he/she works). Everyone has his own way to do his job where he feels comfortable and in control, don’t try to change it.

hugs and elation

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DON’Ts

Wanting to practice our approaches or something we have not yet mastered with the tandem, or insisting on joining the jump because the passenger is our friend/boyfriend/family, or wanting to be the ‘hero’ in front of the passenger, instead of helping him to have a great time – these are the wrong reasons; we are risking the safety of the jump and is something we should always avoid.

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