Ah, the sunset tracking dive. What could be more fun than flying along with your skydiving friends in a flock with a beautiful sunset? After all, all the cool kids are doing it! Graduation jump tracking dive, anyone? Just kidding!!!!
If the dive goes wrong, a whole lot of things could be more fun than that tracking dive.
Tracking and angle flying dives that plan for the group to move across the sky are very fun and cool, but they can also be very dangerous both within the group and to other groups. Not to be a wet blanket, but they seriously do require solid planning and skill from each flyer to execute safely. Some drop zones are considering requiring at least 100 jumps before allowing individuals on group tracking dives, and 500 to lead such a dive.
Think about it… if a tracking dive is doing up to 50-60mph horizontal speed and the flight path angles incorrectly up or down line of flight, how long will it take you to cover the distance between your exit point and the next group on the load? How long will it take you to pass them? Not very long at all, and now you are opening in the “wrong” airspace where at the very least you’re not expected by others on the load, and at worst you are in the same airspace as other groups and opening collisions are a major risk. (Remember last week’s tip about predictable skydiving?)
There is also a significant additional risk from freefall collisions with other jumpers on your dive, particularly if any of those jumpers are inexperienced in general or with tracking dives.
So what it all boils down to is this: Tracking/angle flying dives have the potential to be much more dangerous than “regular” falling-straight-down jumps. Don’t try group tracking dives right off student status, and make sure any tracking dives you are on are well-planned. If that little voice in your head says this doesn’t sound safe or organized, speak up!
If you are considering joining or leading a tracking dive, please read the following articles to inform yourself about the risks and proper planning of these dives. Consider jumping with a coach if you really want to work on tracking. We want you and the rest of us to stay safe!