Jumping at a New Dropzone

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Photo by Griffin Hernandez

On a recent trip to UAE for some training I reminded myself how lucky I am to travel the globe, jumping at so many amazing dropzones

It doesn’t come without admin though, and preparation. Different DZs have varying rules and procedures, things probably won’t work the way they do at your home dropzone.

Here are some tips on visiting new dropzones… 

Communication

If you’re planning a foreign trip, make contact with the dropzone as early as possible before your intended dates. Check that they can accommodate you and your plans or your group. Do they have any restrictions on your planned activities? Are they open for the duration of your stay? Do they have everything you need? 

Paperwork

Paperwork – the skydivers’ nemesis! Make sure before you leave your home country you have all your paperwork neatly stored, signed up and your reserve repack is in date. Things like association memberships, licenses,  logbooks, rig paperwork, insurance information. 

Pro tip – I take all my paperwork in my hand luggage; in case there are any lost bags, I could potentially still jump with rental gear. 

Check all your paperwork is in order and up to date to make checking in go smoothly
Image by Rhythm Skydiving

Wellbeing

Travelling is exhausting at times. Usually not enough sleep, airline food and dehydration can take its toll. When you arrive in a foreign country, it can be tempting to go straight to the dropzone and get on the first load. It’s a good idea to plan a rest day at the start of your trip. Tired skydivers can be dangerous skydivers without even realising it. Your first jump and the rest of the holiday will be more fun when you have more energy, and start on the right note.

Tired skydivers can be dangerous skydivers

Dropzone Brief 

When you’re at the dropzone checking in, you will at some point receive a dropzone brief. Pay close attention to all the details and ask relevant questions to make sure you understand the local rules. Things like exit order, load control, flightline checks, jumpmastering, aircraft procedures, opening altitudes, canopy pattern, landing areas.

I had a dropzone brief recently and it was comprehensive and included everything I wanted to know, however during the ‘where you land’ part I was told the classic, “You’ll be fine, you’re a Flight-1 instructor”. Whilst very flattered, I asked a few more pertinent questions, to confirm exactly pattern flow, no-go areas, windsock, arrows, landing directions, etc. 

Pat attention at the DZ brief, and ask about anything you’re not sure of
Image by Rhythm Skydiving

First Jump 

This leads nicely on to your first jump at this new dropzone. I highly recommend a solo hop’n’pop. I know this may feel a bit ‘safety overkill’, but it is a vital part of a solid process to ensure you know what to do. Most dropzones would be quite happy to drop you at 6,000 feet or so if you ask them and they can fit it around their other commitments. 

A solo hop and pop gives you so much valuable data. 

  • A clear head so you can focus on aircraft drills for this particular dropzone. 
  • Clear airspace to open your canopy and take a calm look around
  • Time to identify the landing areas, windsocks, arrows etc, in a clear-minded unstressed state
  • Ability to dial in the local area for easier identification on future jumps
  • Maybe even time to enjoy at the scenery once you’re comfortable under canopy. 
A hop’n’pop is a fun and safe way to make your first jump, especially at a scenic location
Photo shows Brian Germain by Levant Tinaz

Clear approach 

Once you descend into your pattern (which hopefully you planned pre-jump, right?!), you should have a relatively clear approach on to the target. If you don’t quite reach your target, you could take a few notes and perhaps adjust your plan/pattern for your next jump. 

Landing

The type of landing is of particular importance. Now is not the time to bust out some crazy moves! Let’s say you are a little more experienced, and usually do high performance landings. Please be disciplined enough to not do it! ! Take a conservative approach, a straight-in, or perhaps a non-aggressive 90 degree. Maybe increase your heights. If you’re there for more than a few days, you will dial it in, in no time but meanwhile, just take it easy, work out the pattern, work out the approach, work out what the locals are doing and if you can fit in to that or not, etc. Also bear in mind going to a super-hot dropzone at a different elevation changes everything. 

Going to a super-hot dropzone at a different elevation changes everything 

Take it easy for your first landing
Photo shows Chris Judd, by Paul Dorward

The Alternative

Instead of all the above, imagine jumping at a new dropzone jetlagged, feeling a bit tender from airline food, you’ve rushed to the dropzone, you can’t find your paperwork, eventually get on the first available load and be invited on a 10-way low experienced tracking group. 

No matter how much you think this approach might not be so fun, I promise you, you will enjoy this ‘in the moment’ first jump experience with less distractions. It won’t be a ‘waste of a jump’. This will set you up for a fun, safe and fantastic holiday.

Have fun and keep safe.

A great first jump sets you up for the perfect skydiving vacation – Enjoy!
Image by Julianne Grau, at Skydive Spaceland San Marcos
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Meet: Paul Dorward

Paul Dorward 11K jumps
Jumping since 1997
5000 AFF jumps
Loads of Belly flying
Flight-1 Instructor
Flight-1 Instructor Manager
British Skydiving Examiner
Lead Guitarist in DZ BAND Winging IT 😊
 
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