Go Low Slot
by Jan Meyer
A load organizer just assigned someone to a "Go Low Slot". A go low slot is a place for a skydiver to practice swooping, maintaining levelidity, proximity and synchronicity. The job of a go low jumper is to dive out after the group and move to a position level with the formation, but about 20 feet horizontally away from the outer edge of the formation. The go low jumper deliberately gets about 5 feet low or high on the formation and then recovers levelidity. The go low jumper gets above and below the formation as many times as he can during the dive. At break off, he tracks away from the center point.
The Dirt Dive
A go low jumper must dirt dive with the entire group. The rest of the jumpers must be told that there is a go low jumper on the dive, who he is and where he will be. The quadrant that the go low jumper will fly to, is determined in the dirt dive. The quadrant should ensure that the go low jumper is not in the same area as photographers or in the field of view of the cameras. The load organizer should identify a jumper in the base that the go low jumper should line up behind. The jumper directly across from that base person should know who the go low jumper is, that he won't be docking and should not wait on him before giving a key. The approximate distance from the base jumper should be noted in the dirt dive. The organizer should be realistic. Keep the go low jumper as close as possible, but not so close to pose traffic problems for other jumpers.
A go low jumper exits the aircraft behind the last person of the group. His job is to dive towards the formation to his quadrant. There may or may not be waiting time after the last person of the main group leaves the plane and when the go low jumper leaves the plane. It's important to realize that the go low jumper has a non-participating and non-interfering job with the rest of the group. This means that the go low jumper never touches the formation, and he also does not disrupt the line up and exit in any way. Some organizers may even ask the go low jumper to leave extra space between himself and the last jumper of the group. This accounts for the, sometimes, overzealous exits go-low jumpers try to make.
A go low jumper dives out and pushes his own personal diving performance envelope. The purpose is to become a better diver. A go low jumper does this by pressing his abilities and possibly even going low on the formation. A go low slot teaches a jumper how fast he can dive, when he must start his flare and how to recover from a mis-swoop. It's OKAY for a go low jumper to go low. The formation's success does not depend on the go low jumper. A go low jumper is not on the dive to be an observer of the dive. The photographers do that.
Occasionally, a go low jumper may overamp. A go low jumper should not take out the formation or be anywhere underneath the formation. A go low jumper should have enough sense and the ability to turn quickly and track away from the formation if he believes he might collide with it or get underneath it. The load organizer should not assume that the go low jumper has this plan out and ready for action. The load organizer should ensure everyone's safety by reminding the go low jumper of this evasive action plan.
The Breakoff & Canopy Ride
At or before breakoff altitude for the formation, the go low jumper should track away from the center point. He should track until at least 2500 feet and pull by 2000 feet. Less experienced jumpers may be asked to start tracking before the formation breaks off. This puts additional space between the go low jumper and formation jumpers. The go low jumper and all formation jumpers should always maintain vigilance under canopy, especially the last few hundred feet. Wave to a nearby jumper to indicate siting and awareness of that jumper.
A go low jumper should attend the debrief. He should listen to what the formation jumpers say about their dive and compare that to what he may have observed. A go low jumper should not give a play by play of the dive to the formation jumpers. A go low jumper should seek input about his body positions while regaining levelidity from those jumpers who may have noticed him.
Originally published in Sport Parachutist's Safety Journal,
V2, #3 Jan/Feb. 1990.
Dedicated to enhancing sport parachuting safety by disseminating information about equipment, environments and human factors.