Most skydivers have already led a jump or know how to organize a skydiving jump. Many skydivers plan to be a load organizer in the future. When we assume this kind of responsibility, the safety of the group is a crucial factor. The liability behind being a load organizer is often underplayed. The overestimation of skills can be very dangerous for everyone in the sky. That includes the safety of those in the jump or in other groups sharing the sky.
Instructions about skydiving load organizing are not easy to find. Seemly, many people are not interested in learning more about how to be a good load organizer. We all just want to become that badass skydiver that is organizing at a boogie. No one overthinks on how that person got in that position in the first place. Although, I am glad if you’ve already thought about this and researched the topic. Also, by reading my other article about how to nail a skydiving jump, you may find more inspiration. Unfortunately, many skydivers only have a little experience with real loading organizing, and there is always more to learn than what we may think (that includes me).
I know two skydivers teaching courses about becoming a good and responsible skydiving load organizer are Will Penny and Jesse “Tex” Leos. They cover many topics including, safety, free fall, canopy, and more. All of the theoretical course is connected with practical training. Personally, I’m eagerly waiting for the next course!
*Update: Flaj Flaj Master Class is one of the longest Load Organizing courses in the market. They are doing the course for 3 weeks, and it looks exciting. I think I’m going to do it in 2021.
Organizing a skydive – the briefing
We’ve all been in a jump that could have gone better, right? My opinion is that we can always do a better ground briefing to improve results in the sky. It will increase the safety and the group’s chances of having a more successful jump. Do not waste a good briefing; it is crucial to take the time to explain and talk about it little by little. The way the load organizer communicate his/her ideas and answer other skydivers questions will determine how successful the skydive plan will be.
There are so many different things that we can do in the sky—belly to wingsuit, free-flying to jumping with an inflatable. In fact, what we are doing is not so important as the steps we follow to explain it to our group. Essentially, we need to find a personal way to communicate, and naturally, some people do this better than others. However, anyone can be a good communicator by breaking the jump into steps and following them one by one.
I usually break my jumps down the same way I do with my landing. That helps to keep it clear in my mind.
- The plane,
- exit order,
- initial formation,
- peoples places/slots,
- end formation,
- break off and deployment.
- safety thoughts – what can go wrong?
Each word mentioned above is a step that we must go through when explaining our plan. Depending on the group’s level, the load organizer will spend more or less time on it. For example, when I’m organizing a belly jump with new A licensed skydivers, I focus part of my briefing on how to approach the plane, gear checks, and why exit order is essential. On the other hand, if I’m jumping with more experienced skydivers, I know I don’t need to focus on it that much and play other cards.
The skydiver load organizer job
The load organizer’s job is to create a safe environment where other skydivers can enjoy the skydiving sport and our community. People often assume load organizers must be super experienced skydivers, have lots of jumps, organize big skydiving events, and have years in the sport. Even though we do not have all these attributes on our belt, we become a load organizer as soon as we decide to lead a jump. Are you ready for it?
Even the most experienced load organizers, such as Dan BC (Skydive Perris), Amy Chmelecki (Skydive Arizona) and, Luis Prinetto (Skydive Deland), started the same way we all do. They all organized a jump for the first time, made mistakes, and learned from it. The best tip I got to evolve as a skydiver was to learn from others and not compare ourselves with them.
I want to share three things I think about when I’m organizing a skydiving jump.
Load organizers need to think about the best way to keep everyone safe. For example, many groups are jumping simultaneously. The group order, exit time between groups, and trajectory groups are moving can be the difference between a high five after the jump or a sad moment.
“We need to think everything will go wrong in every jump. So, we will be ready when it happens.” – Dan Brodsky Chenfeld, Skydive Perris DZO.
The load organizer’s biggest job is to think intensively about safety. When I follow a plan, I trust that the person behind it used his/her experience to keep the group safe. I already jumped with many famous and non-famous LO’s worldwide, and many times I do not focus on the safety part. Sometimes the jump is so challenging that I don’t even understand the safety parts. Said that, the load organizer must understand that skill levels are different and never forget that what he/she knows is distinct from what someone else knows.
Nowadays, I try to pay more attention to how load organizers build a skydiving jump. Sooner or later, we will need to give it back and start helping other skydivers that started after us. When we do it, it’s our turn to THINK about safety and be RESPONSIBLE for that group.
The load organizer must have done before what he/she is planning to do. If I feel I’m not ready for that jump, I’ll try to find another person to lead it, or I’ll bring the level of the jump closer to my skill level.
Canopy guidance also can be done by the load organizer! Check out the article about finding the right wing for each pilot if you are thinking about downsizing your canopy.
When we jump with our friends, we will usually try new things that we haven’t done before. It’s much better doing it with guidance from a more experienced skydiver. This way, we avoid mistakes and do not jeopardize our group’s safety. Even though this professional skydiver giving advice is not jumping with our group, the briefing guidance is priceless. It addresses things that we are not prepared to visualize. Do not be ashamed of asking for advice.
Theoretically, we should know our group level individually to set the best goals possible. Only this way will we be able to plan a jump with reachable goals. Attainable goals create a more recreational environment. Goals are a mix of safety, challenge, and motivation. When our group has a great combination of these three points, celebrations and smiles are what we will find on the landing area. A celebration is the secret to a happy skydiving day.
Part of our safety goal is to have everyone from the plane back to the packing area. Do not forget to check and make sure that everyone has made it back safely. A few years ago, I landed out in a sunset jump, and everyone was so stoked with the skydiving that they didn’t check who made it back. As a result, I had to walk a mile and a half to return to the DZ. The view was great; I still have the pictures of that sunset. However, I was very disappointed with my friends. I could have injured myself, and no one would have come to help me.
A few things to think about
There are many unconscious decisions we make before each jump. People are so used to do what they do that they don’t focus much attention on those things unless the environment changes. However, I made this list to help me visualize all the things I should consciously think about when skydiving. I did some research and talk with other load organizers to make this list as real as possible. Please let me know if you would add or modify anything to it. #sharingiscaring
- The size of the group is a vital decision. When there are only people we are used to jumping with, this part often gets overlooked– until the group gets too big.
- Exit order – What everyone else is doing in the sky is also my business. Please know what you will do before getting on the plane. Exit order is a big deal, and rules can change from one drop zone to another. Check the rules, and be sure to respect them.
- The Spot – I usually jump from where the pilot has a GPS to follow. However, we must be aware of where we are before jumping. It doesn’t matter if we are the first or the last out. One person in the group needs to always check the jump light and the spot before exiting the plane.
- The time between groups and aircraft speed is super important. It’s better to have the plane do a second pass because we waited too long than to land on top of an open canopy during free fall. Of course, visual is the best way to measure whether we should leave the plane or wait longer. However, numbers really help. Giving people an amount of time to count (based on the ground speed) before the exit is not wrong–it’s just another safety tool to help us do a good job.
- How to exit the plane is a topic that seems simple but can generate lots of doubts on skydivers of all levels. Often people prefer not to ask questions. Or choose not to ask to repeat the exiting practice on the ground because it’s something “everyone who is in this jump should know.” To organize a skydiving jump, the load organizer takes responsibility for making sure everyone feels comfortable and knows what to do.
- Break off altitude is a general decision; we usually do it at 5000 feet, but it’s always good to discuss it during the skydiving briefing and consider variables such as the group’s level, place, number of people, and so on.
- Canopy planning is essential to all of us. The ones with more experience make it down faster and more intuitively. However, to organize a skydiving jump with new skydivers, the landing should be a big part of the briefing, and it’s a great idea to ask people about it after the briefing.
- The pilot is the primary person responsible for the aircraft and passengers. He appreciates any kind of information, such as the group’s size, if you are jumping with an inflatable or perhaps following the plane because your group is last out, etc.
- The wind is something people often forget to check before jumping. It is super relevant when the group moves in the sky and is also crucial for exit separation (upper winds vs. aircraft speed).
- Outs – Where are we going to land if something goes wrong? Do we have clear options in our minds? All jumpers should know this before the jump. Especially when jumping at new or unfamiliar dropzones.
- Water landing is a big deal where I jump. However, most people don’t face this dilemma daily. It’s essential to mention it or check if everyone has the water landing procedures on the top of their minds before boarding the airplane.
- What can go wrong will go wrong. That mentality saved me many times. When we know the people we are jumping with, it’s easier to forecast what will happen based on each person’s skill level. However, if you don’t have much info about the group you are organizing, you will need to use your experience to forecast possible issues and brief them before the jump. It’s crucial to plan actions that will help maintain safety within the group. Everyone loves a morning coffee. Use it to find out more about your group skill level.
Following the load organizer’s plan
The skydiving briefing is a plan that all people in the jump agree to follow. It’s essential that if you disagree with the plan to tell the load organizer before getting into the airplane. Or, at the very least, before exiting the plane. Once the skydivers are outside, flying their bodies in the sky, it’s imperative to follow the plan. If we all decide to change the plan, our jump will be a total mess and hyper-dangerous for everyone. We will probably make it to Friday Freak Out!
Always follow the plan, unless you don’t!
Three years ago, I was in an angle jump with a few friends in California. The group went in the wrong direction. I was back flying and didn’t have the experience to check the sun position to recognize we were doing something wrong. The rest of the group (belly fliers), seeing where we were going, backed off and stopped following us. As a result, I opened very far away and landed close to the airport runway.
Of course, we all have common sense (like my friends in the example above). If the jump leads us to imminent danger, we all have free will to change its course. Just be mindful of the safety of yourself and others when doing so. Try to clearly show your movements and be aware of other skydivers and canopies.
Keep coming back
I wrote this article to put together some free information to help me be a badass load organizer. I tried to think as much as possible and bring the best tips I got from experienced load organizers to understand how they think and how they build groups that can do impressive things. Now it’s time to experience the knowledge I got writing this article. Please, always gear-check your people, plan in advance, look for safety issues, and keep in mind that we are all responsible for each other.
If you like the article, please let me know, send me an email or a message on Instagram. I want to know about your experience and thoughts!
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