Group Tracking Tips

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Father and daughter team Harry and Alabama Shanker, who coach and compete together, advise on ANGLES… 

A cool father & daughter team – Harry and Alabama Shanker

Harry and Alabama, how are you related and what do you do together?

We are a father & daughter team, who do a little bit of everything, a little bit of skydiving, a little bit of tunnel and a little bit of work to keep us sane from all the natural madness of skydiving we can all so easily get lost in sometimes!

We coach and hold a lot of skills camps to help people progress & have started to compete together… we were super excited to do loads of training this year but CV19 put the brakes on that!

What are some commonly overlooked things happening when people are learning how to fly angles?

Once you get your TR1, you are allowed to go out into the wide blue yonder and take your 3 mates who got their TR1s the same morning and burst out of a plane, but potentially have no idea how to plan and lead a safe jump.

In the past we’ve known of people getting their TR1 sticker based off of only their flying ability, but not being taught the core elements of flying an angle.

It’s key that the teaching/learning is thorough on the ground including lessons on safe kit, navigation, understanding the jump run and wind and how it influences the flight pattern, the jump order all the bits that are going to make your jump an amazing and safe jump.

Aside from the ground knowledge, you do need to be a strong flyer so you can avoid any issues or in-case anything goes wrong in the air you can recover from it quickly and continue the jump safely, so the best thing is to fly in small groups, 2 ways for dayz 😉 and on as many skills camps as you can, even after getting your TR1 and understand the jump orders, jump run, navigation, wind and the DZ itself, before taking on all the responsibilities!

Group Step Exit

It’s all about the exit – what tips can you give for staying with the leader on exit?

Things change as to whether you are outside the plane, in the door, inside the plane or in the hero slot as last diver on a 15 way, but generally staying parallel with the plane as you exit, head forward with chin on chest, staying small for a moment on exit and then stretching into the track keeping eyes on your destination/leader is more likely to keep you on heading than launching out the plane like a ballistic missile with no guidance system (but at the same time go ballistic 😉)

Multiple Exits

What are the factors to take into consideration when making a Flight Plan for a group tracking dive?

Always go through the basics of angle flying planning, if it’s a new DZ you should consider having a DZ orientation and discuss factors with DZ control, know the location and surrounding areas and pick up any advice about dos and don’ts of area’s you should fly, knowledge is power!!

We want to check the jump order and what other groups are doing on the lift, specifically any other moving groups and where they plan on flying so we can make sure our group flies a safe pattern away from all the other groups on the lift but opens in a safe place over the DZ where no-one struggles to make it back (Don’t be the leader who makes it back without their group. 😉)

Next, we should be checking what level everyone is at, you should also explain the type of jump, speed, and angle you are doing and check everyone is happy that they can fly it! If they are not then the options are to change the jump to something they can deal with or you may have to be the bad guy and split the group, safety first.

Talk the plan through make sure everyone gets it and they are all in a slot from exit to break-off they are happy with.

Group jump Harry and Alabama organized at Skydive Algarve

What exit order is usually best for group tracking jumps?  If you have more than one group on the same load is that safe and how would you arrange their flight plans if so?

The jump order has mostly been trackers go last but that has evolved since tracking became the flavour of the day over the last several years or so and everyone is doing it.

It can be safe to have multiple tracking groups on a load as long as an experienced coach/LO/tracker is the JM or at least on hand to organise the groups if people are unsure.

The order usually depends on the experience level of the group(s), generally any experienced groups should have no difficulty going first, last or in the middle while staying away from jump run and everyone else exiting the plane. We would always put the least experienced group out at the back of the plane, just before wing suiters/Track suiters & potentially AFF, TIs.

If there are 2 lower experienced groups you need to make a call and maybe send the smaller group first, if they are the same size then look ‘em in the eyes and make a call; maybe a group has to change the plan and sacrifice for one lift, remember to share the love ;). In the ideal world, lower level groups shouldn’t go first unless they’re on a camp.

If the group is a big way and takes up majority of the plane, it’s best to send them out first as the rest of the jumpers on the plane can help distribute the weight and prevent the aircraft stalling, it is also imperative that you plan the exit with no more people behind the line than specified for the aircraft, practice the exit timings and tell the pilot if you’re a big group.

FSU Bigway Sky camp, Skydive Algarve

What is the biggest danger in angle dives? How can we keep them as safe as possible?

The biggest dangers we see in angle dives are chasing and approaching the group off level at speed which could be fatal at any point and especially at breakoff could be fatal.

That’s why it is crucial that during the teaching process, us coaches do our utmost to make strong navigators and flyers out of our students who can not only fly the position well but can also plan and navigate a group. It is again also key that with each level TR1, TR2, TR3 we keep flying in smaller groups until we are comfortable and able to fly in steeper or larger angles.

We must remember and keep practicing, from walking the jump to doing the jump, what level looks like, chins on chests looking at the leader and constantly working to keep in slot, this way we can approach the jump safely. As well as our position, we should be aware at all times, chasing the group down to break off while off level is always a no go, because it could result in you seeing the whites of someone’s eyes as you zoom past them or worse going through someone or their canopy – No Bueno!

The merry group of Week 2 FSU Bigway Camp, Skydive Algarve

You run group tracking dives together and had an event lined up at Skydive Spain that was cancelled due to Da VIRUS… where can we catch up with you now?

We were booked up to do TrackDayz at Skydive Spain and then soon after back to Skydive Algarve (which is now open again, woo hoo!) for 2 FSU skills camps back to back, both of which we were super stoked and excited to do, and super gutted about having to postpone, but same as with all sky events around the globe, it ultimately was the right decision, keep your eyes peeled 😊.

Right now you can catch up with us on our socials, drop us a message, say hi, let us know how you’re lockdown is going, we’re still posting and trying to keep spreading positivity and love and some laughs too!

Facebook: @FSUnicorns, Instagram: @FSUnicorns, YouTube: @ShanksFilms

As soon as it’s safe to do so we’ll get events on the go which will be released on our social media pages, so if you don’t want to miss out like, share and subscribe to see all the latest updates!

Tracking Tips Series

Read more from the world’s top coaches on getting started and learning safely with group tracking jumps.

Tracking Tips 1 – by Efraim Folgerts

Tracking Tips 2 – by Matti Miilumäki

Tracking Tips 3 – by Tex

Tracking Tips 4 – by Harry & Alabama Shanker

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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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