Flocking

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Why could flocking be good for you?

Flight-1 Flock, by Paul Dorwood

Do you treat the canopy ride as:

a) a necessary evil?

b) a form of transport?

c) something to do inbetween the cool stuff?

d) the scariest part of the skydive, where you worry about the upcoming landing??

or

e) all of the above?

If you ticked none of the above boxes, it is probably due to the fact that you love your canopy ride almost as much as the other skydiving disciplines that you partake of, it may also be because you have attended a canopy course, or already dived into the newest discipline that our wonderful sport has to offer: Flocking…

Synchronised flying at the Empuria Canopy Project, image by Roy Wimmer-Jaglom

What is flocking?

Let’s have a look at the timeline and make a guess as to how it could have developed.

In the 1980s some demonstration teams were either flying contact or no-contact canopy stacks into their shows. My first exposure was watching the RAF Falcons flying an 8-10 way no contact stack into an arena, I thought that was much more impressive than watching the formation canopy stacks bounce into their landing area, the bottom jumper always seemed to get slammed. Just looking up and seeing the ‘snake’ as it ebbed and flowed, like a flock of birds, in tight formation was impressive.

We also cannot ignore Canopy Formation, as it has given us a lot of the language, safety training and skills that can be applied directly to the no-contact up-start cousin.

(Check the time-line of any group discipline in our sport: We start flying together in small groups, hanging on to each other, making small moves, getting bigger and more creative as our knowledge of the discipline grows.)

As a four-way FS-team we did so many training jumps together, that we started to play after opening and work on a team stack for landing, this took the synchronicity and team work from the free-fall part of the jump, seamlessly into the canopy flight, plus the canopies were becoming even more responsive, making the group flying more intuitive and forcing us to use our bodies more than the other controls.

By the 1990s and early 2000s the PD Factory team and others were releasing cool videos and we saw images of formation Velos cruising above some iconic landscapes, igniting dreams of synchro canopy flight in a host of newer jumpers.

Then over the last few years we have seen specific events pop up to cater to people’s creativity and passion and it has become a discipline in its own right.

Flocking at the Empuria Canopy Project, by Roy Wimmer-Jaglom

So, what is currently happening in the flocking world and how do I get into it?

As I said, events are being scheduled around the world, some catering for the first steps and some that are pushing the boundaries of what we know. The boundary-pushing (higher wing-loading) events tend to be invitation-only, as a high, pre-existing skill level is required, these are the events that you see on social media that hopefully whet your appetite. On these camps you see dynamic, synchronous moves, fly-bys, vertical transitions etc (and so much more to come!).

pushing the boundaries of what we know”

There are other events that require a previous knowledge of group canopy flight and also set a wing-loading parameter, on these camps the goal is normally to check the skill level and basics of the group, working on, safety, approaches, finesse flying and static formations that can progress onto multi-point dives.

Start by flying in 2-ways, then in small groups
Image by Roy Wimmer-Jaglom

If you want to make your first steps into flocking, what should you do?

First of all, get to know your canopy intimately. If you have not already taken a canopy course, please do, you will learn about the basics of how they fly, how to fly a pattern and how to land consistently. I can hear you shout: “I want to flock not just land, why do I need to know the basics?” Well… in every sport and in every skydiving discipline the basics are what carry you throughout all levels and doing the basics incredibly well will make you an expert!

Doing the basics incredibly well will make you an expert!”

Once you have got a decent idea of how your canopy flies, you have some options, you could do some Canopy Formation, or you could do some Air to Air training. When we take our students up for air to air, we give the same safety briefing that a CF coach would give, even though we don’t plan on any contact, we also use radios, giving immediate feedback that really helps people progress through the first steps. This can be done on whatever canopy you are currently flying, as the coach will find something compatible.

Most of the flocking events are asking for a pretty aggressive wing-loading of 2.2-2.9 but there are some that offer lower loadings and I would love to see a group of sufficiently qualified pilots together on their Sabres and Crossfire 3s [insert the name of your canopy here]!

Before attending a flocking event, you should have done enough 2 ways to have an idea of the basics and to gain a recommendation from your coach to attend an event.

Pilot’s eye view, by author Pete Allum

What can flocking do for you?

It can:

  1. Give you more value for your skydiving $ (as the jumps last way longer)
  2. Make you have more fun with your friends
  3. Make you a better and safer canopy pilot
  4. Give you skills that allow you to move away from, as well as towards others

Flight-1 has worked on a progression system for introducing and teaching/sharing flocking knowledge that starts with their 201/202A courses and moves onto the 301A Flocking camps. Julian Barthel and I ran the first camp this summer, everyone immediately wanted more!

Momentum is a group in the US and Europe that is also offering camps.

Flock Yeah is an annual flocking event at Empuriabrava.

Image by Pete Allum

Flock with Pete


“When the travel restrictions let up, we would love to see you… Grab some one on one coaching, join a Flight-1 course or one of our flocking events”

Pete Allum, pete@flight-1.com

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Meet: Pete Allum

34,000+ jumps
FS and CP national teams, world meet podium in both disciplines.
Flight-1 coach
FS indoor/outdoor coach
Baby free flyer

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