Too many times I’ve been at the loading area and ask people if they’ve figured out Exit Order and too many times I’ve received a blank look!! It seems as though Exit Order is taught by the School of Hard Knocks and/or many come from Cessna DZ’s and have never encountered how to determine it. I believe that we all should know and understand Exit Order for several reasons – let’s cover the goods!
Why is there an Exit Order?
(In these examples, we’ll be discussing Exit Order from larger planes for common conditions and will be excluding CRW and Tracking because this will vary from drop zone to drop zone.)
Today we have so many disciplines to consider when loading a plane. Let’s look at all the disciplines:
RW/Belly Fly Groups
The purpose of Exit Order is to ensure clear freefall and canopy space to avoid collisions. Let’s visit USPA’s Skydiver Information Manual, page 119 under “Group Separation on Jump Run”:
“Slower-falling jumper and groups are exposed to upper headwinds longer and are blown farther down wind than faster-falling jumpers and groups.”
In other words, Exit Order is determined by Freefall Drift, rather than Freefall Speed. Interesting, huh? Generally when I ask this question to students, “Who should exit first?” they say Freefliers because they fall much faster. Seems logical, but let’s review why this isn’t so.
What is THE Exit Order?
If we were to put the above list in order from last out to first out, we would also have to consider how high groups or individuals are pulling as well because this also affects the order.
Here’s our Exit Order (using our Winds Aloft forecast from the last article) but let’s illustrate why Belly Fliers go first.
As you can see, the green line represents the Freefly Group as the first group to exit. When we exit an aircraft, we leave with the initial inertia of the plane’s speed, hence the line curving towards the plane before we accelerate going to terminal velocity. Let’s look at the next illustration when a Belly Group exits afterwards:
In this illustration the blue line represents the Belly Group – Also, the plane has traveled forward representing the distance between groups. Belly fliers are more susceptible to freefall drift and WOAH!! The blue line crosses the green line in freefall!! Since freefliers fall faster, generally they’ll be opening before belly fliers. In this illustration, the belly fliers could possibly drift over freefliers during their deployment!! This is one MAJOR factor why Belly Fliers exit first. Look at the next illustration and note the horizontal distance between groups:
Looks much better with more clear airspace for both groups!! But wait a second! Why do solo Belly Fliers pulling high or AFF/AFP Students exit after Freefliers!?! Even though they will gain the drift of a Belly Flying group, they should essentially be opening before they cross over in freefall. This will also create vertical separation under canopy which we’ll discuss in a later topic.
If you’d like to see another interactive illustration or learn more about this topic, check out these websites:
We must also be aware of other scenarios as we fall through the sky. The biggest thing is drifting out of our column of air. We should take note of the Line of Flight so we can avoid running in to other groups. If you need to, revisit the article in the blog called, “Line of Flight: The Missing Info.”
What are the Other Important Reasons for Exit Order?
This strictly comes from my DZO background so I figured I’d share the wisdom that also benefits us as paying fun jumpers.
Generally, one of the biggest costs to drop zones (and essentially our jump tickets) are fuel costs. When a plane pulls around, the longer it idles the more it costs the DZ. Planes idle because someone is running late to the plane, we’re trying to figure out why there’s too many people trying to board, or trying to figure out how to load appropriately as the plane sits, etc.,. When the entire load arrives five minutes prior, everyone can count the people on the load, figure out Exit Order and be ready to promptly board the plane without making it idle more than it has too. Doing so will save the DZ money and essentially you, because they won’t have to raise prices!
Disclaimer: There are many other variables that may differ from drop zone to drop zone. You will have to get either with your DZO, S&TA or Pilot to determine if you share the same exit order. You may also refer to the USPA’s Skydiver Information Manual for more information.