How to Organize
by Jan Meyer
Jumpers are not on your load until they give you a ticket with their name on it. Get people of similar skill levels on the same dive. Extract useful information from unknown jumpers in a minimum of time. Ask each new (to you) jumper what drop zone, what types of planes, what size loads, how many jumps total and how many jumps in the last month he has been doing. Ask him to show you his jumpsuit. If the jumper fits into the typical profile of the other jumpers on your load, then invite him on the load. If not, tell him he's too experienced or not experienced enough. The overall success of the dive is your concern. You must ensure that everyone else doesn't waste their money because you let someone with 50 jumps onto a 20-way. If a jumper needs a different jumpsuit, then help him find a loaner.
Plan the formations around the overall skill level of the people on the load. Dives become harder as the number of people increases. Formations are easiest when everyone docks facing the center of the formation. The more people facing out or sideways, the more difficult the dive will be. Be realistic in the number of formations planned. Most of the time on a skydive is spent doing transitions, not in a completed formation. Draw out the formations and pencil in the names of the people you want to do each slot. You can change this later, but have something ready before you call a dirt dive.
Have a dirt dive call announced, specifying the place, when (now) and with jumpsuits. Circle up and count off to take attendance. Make sure everyone knows they should not be the last one there. If you use a bench, you can easily substitute for the late players.
Make some general comments about how you run a dirt dive, so you won't have someone asking about the exit when you're working on keys. Dirt dives don't have to be long to be good. Expedite everything. Control the flow of the dirt dive. Show the formations and transitions (puzzle), look at the angles and orientations (angles), specify how and who will be responsible for the keys (keys) and cover some of the tricks to successful skydives (secret stuff). Teach those who need to be taught. Dismiss others with sufficient experience from the "same old boring, centerpoint, levelidity, proximity and synchronicity talks". Ensure the right jumpers learn what they are supposed to do. After the jump, "But I didn't know I was supposed to do ...." can really make the organizer look bad. Provide an opportunity for jumpers to ask questions or obtain clarifications. Provide avenues of information solicitation from other experienced jumpers in a controlled manner. Debates on the best way to do this or that can sometimes get out of hand. Cut them off and move on.
Practice the exit and manifest. Announce the plane and call to all of the jumpers on your load. Meet at the 10 minute call for some more full gear dirt dives.
Define the line of flight and the jumpers that will have line of flight slots. The easiest way to show jumpers their slot is to put yourself in their slot and take the grips. Show them and then let them stand in their slot. Other times you can just say the formation and people will know what it is. This works for diamonds and zippers, but more complicated formations tend to blow people away. Even easy pod or side body docks will confuse some jumpers.
Who goes where is your final decision. You can ask people to volunteer for favorite slots or you can rotate people into slots they haven't done or don't like to do. If they object with "But, I've never done that before" or "I'm no good in that slot", then tell them this is the best opportunity they'll have to learn the slot. You'll tell them everything they need to know to do the slot well. If you're doing a dive where overall success is the highest priority goal (demo, competition, record), then put people in their most comfortable, best suited for slot. Put people where they'll do the best job, even though they might not be personally challenged.
You can always cut the difficult, whiners right off the load. These folks are easy to spot, because no matter what you do, even if you use their suggestion, they'll complain about the dive. You can be nicer and offer them a go-low or super floater slot. The most effective way to get these guys to shut up is to turn the organizing over to them.
The skydive starts when you board the plane. Get everyone to visualize and concentrate on the upcoming jump during the ride to altitude. If you must, enforce a no talking rule above 9000 feet.
Be mellow on jumprun and get a gear check early. Do the dive as you planned. Make it happen, regardless of things that might go wrong. Get everyone to do their job and not worry about others doing their jobs. Skydive as best as you can.
Pack first and then post dive. The extra time allows everyone to think and recall the dive better. Parachutes and gear get out of the sun faster. Post dive and dirt dive the next dive all at the same time. You'll get more jumps in this way. Jumpers should know to give you a ticket with their names on it for the next dive as soon as possible. They shouldn't wait for the post dive because their slot may be gone.
Post dives should be upbeat and positive. Concentrate on the things that went right. Figure out what needs to be changed or done differently for the things that went wrong. Fix the problems and move on to the next dive. Figure out what things need to be done to make the dive faster, smoother and better. Get everyone's mind thinking -"Make the picture right!"
Originally published in Sport Parachutist's Safety Journal V2, #5 Jan./Mar. 1991.
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