Exit, Exit, Exit!!
by Jan Meyer
You take a grip here, maybe climb out, take a grip there, wait for everyone to get just as contorted as you, and then you go. Exits play an important part in relative work jumps. A smooth exit may only take a second, but a funneled exit will cost you 10 seconds or more.
Good exits need to be practiced on the ground. They require much more emphasis than the rest of the jump. For every 20 minutes of dirt diving, you may spend 10 minutes on the dive and 10 on the exit, even though the dive is 70 seconds and the exit is only 1 second long.
Exit grips depend on the formation, aircraft and jumpers. One way to figure out an exit for chunks is to follow these steps:
(1) Find out the type of aircraft you'll be exiting from. Is the door on the right or left or a tailgate?
(2) Determine how many floaters you can put out. Are there handles on the plane?
(3) Build the first formation.
(4) Decide which slots will be in the chunk. Are these slots critical to the formation's success?
(5) Decide which slot will be line of flight. This position is usually the center floater.
(6) Slots to the left of the center floater's position become front (rear) floaters if the door is on the left (right). Slots across from the center floater are inside the plane. Slots to the right of the center floater become rear (front) floaters if the door is on the left (right).
(7) Take as many grips that are in the first formation. Floaters should take the grip that will present everyone into the relative wind as best as possible. If you're unsure of the best grip, then run out the exit with one grip and then the other grip. Change only one person's grip at a time. This should give you an idea on what will work. Possibly both ways will work equally as well. Try doing this with the front floater's grips when you launch a round to understand the importance of this concept.
(8) Inside chunk people bridge any gaps caused by missing grips among the floaters, as well as take as many of the formation grips as possible. Cross grips give additional stability to larger chunks. The second inside chunk person should have a slot to the front floater side of the first person in the door.
(9) Determine the key exit person. This person is in charge of and leads everyone to a successful exit. The center floater must move during the exit count to let the front and rear floaters key in on the exit timing. Make sure everyone can see or feel the exit motions. Timing is the key to successful exits.
(10) Have the key exit person lead the group in a "deep breath to mellow out" on jump run. Have someone who wants to spot, spot. Avoid yelling and screaming on the aircraft.
(11) Execute your plan.
Some formations are easy to launch because everyone is naturally presented into the relative wind. Other exits funnel because of poor timing. Ensure that everyone is in step with your key exit person.
Chunk exits can be slightly more dangerous than other types of exits. Gear can get rubbed against door jams, struts and other jumpers. Tight chunk exits have been known for zapping people or giving them floaters and other assorted malfunctions.
Fortunately, equipment manufacturers have developed improved gear that prevents premature openings cased by these chunk exits. Riser covers prevent stray hands, legs or aircraft protrusions from pulling the risers out from your container. Without riser covers you may see toggles floating above someone's back. Pin protective flaps are now made with a tongue. This makes it really hard to accidentally dislodge a ripcord pin. Grips on the left main lift webbing should be avoided because of the good possbility of dislodging a reserve ripcord on exit. Everyone wants their gear to survive the exit intact. Make sure you don't ask people to take grips that will zap someone or give them a malfunction. You can't do the first formation if you leave someone at 12,500 feet under canopy.
Take enough time to plan your exit properly. Sometimes you might make adjustments for newer jumpers or jumpers, like Al Krueger, with artificial limbs. Feel free to ask other experienced jumpers and the people on your dive. Your last recourse would be to assign the exit mechanics to someone else and be done with the problem.
Originally published in Sport Parachutist's Safety Journal,V1, #5 Jan./Feb. 1989.
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