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My inspiration to write this article was being the second 4-way team out on a pass and tracking off with tandem canopies under us!

I asked the video guy of the first team out if he saw them on jump run and he said yes. I asked him if it occurred to him to let groups following them know, and he said, “Yeah, but I figured your team would check before you got out”. I take pride in my ability to not punch him in the chest 😉

The first group to leave the jump plane has an extra responsibility to the safety of the rest of the load. “Huh? We only have to open the door on the red light, and get out on green” Er, No… Here are important things to think about when you’re the first group to exit…

##1. Pilot has a lot going on

  1. Talking to air traffic, the ground control, pilots in other planes

  2. Monitoring instruments

  3. Scanning the skies

  4. Hoping no one farts 😉

##2. Pilot bases spot on facts


  1. Winds at various altitudes (uppers, ground, in-between)

  2. Clouds

  3. Number and size of groups on load

  4. Other jump plane(s)

##3. Pilot bases spot on assumptions

  1. Best guess at climb-out and exit time of each group
  2. Someone is checking for traffic and clouds

  3. Jumpers exit in proper order (FS, FF, tandems, etc) as defined by the DZ

##4. Climbing to altitude

  1. If you open the door, open it all the way. If a pilot chute goes out the door, that person doesn’t need a door in their way
  2. Be vigilant – look for traffic

  3. Be aware that if you see the other plane descending, chances are pretty good that there may be canopies open when you get to exit altitude

Screaming at the spotter should only be done if there’s a canopy going through the door

##5. Jump run (before red light)

  1. On jump run you’ll probably get a “2 minute” from the pilot – but don’t’ count on it

  2. Be ready for climb-out – helmet secured, leg straps tight, check or buddy check your handles, buckles, etc

  3. If you are sitting on the floor, get off your ass
  4. Get in a position to minimize movement after the door is opened (so that handles don’t get snagged accidentally)

##6. Red light comes on

  1. Announce “Door”. Yes, it’s funny when someone’s helmet gets hit by the door but not so funny when the door catches a pilot chute hackey or rips someone’s container

  2. Be ready to exit when the door is opened. Don’t be sitting on the floor, don’t be ogling the hot tandem student (they’re too scared to remember you anyway)
  3. Don’t have your eyes closes visualizing – if you don’t know the dive by then, it’s too late

Zach Lewis

##7. Know who’s looking out the door

  1. Pre-determine (on the ground or during ride up) who is checking the spot and traffic 

  2. If possible, an experienced local jumper is best
  3. Person who is checking spot and looking for traffic should be scanning from door open to green light
  4. Pre-determine who is looking for the green light while the spotter is looking out the door

##8. While scanning


  1. Be ready to climb out on the green
  2. Look up and down the line of flight for aircraft, canopies, flocks of birds [wingsuiters]

  3. Look perpendicular to line of flight for aircraft, canopies, flocks
  4. If you see something that following groups should be aware of – clouds, canopies – let them know

  5. Someone else should let the spotter know when green light goes on (gentle tap, no need to shout)
  6. Green light is permission to go. Scanner may wait for any safety reason (but not to get his group a better spot at the expense of the last group out)
  7. When it is time to climb out, be quick, no lollygagging h. Screaming at the spotter should only be done if there’s a canopy going through the door
  8. Knowing where you started climbing out will help you discuss spot adjustment with the pilot (telling him “shorten it up” will get you top billing the next time pilots sit around and talk about dumbass skydivers)

Article adapted from Skydive Dallas new skydivers Facebook page

If you have not operated the door before then here’s a handy video

Skydiving Airplane Door Operation: Twin Otter, Caravan, SuperVan (Super Caravan).

Meet: Lesley Gale

Lesley has been in love with skydiving for 35 years. She is a multiple world and national record holder and a coach on 20 successful record events worldwide. She has over 100 competition medals spanning more than 25 years and has been on the British 8-way National team at World events. She started Skydive Mag to spread knowledge, information and passion about our amazing sport.
Lesley is delighted to be sponsored by Performance Designs, Sun Path, Cypres, Cookie, Symbiosis suits and Larsen & Brusgaard

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