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Optimize Floating

by Jan Meyer

Floaters sometimes have a tough job. Some days are cold, if not downright frigid, near the door on the ride up. Floaters get to spot a lot, since they are by the door. Climbouts can be easy or hard. Experienced floaters wait for the aircraft to slow down after the cut. They realize it's easier to climbout with less airspeed. This sounds so obvious, but you can watch people climbout before the plane slows down all the time. Less experienced jumpers may struggle with three floaters in a DC-3 door and then become throughly flabbergasted when they see other groups put five or more floaters out. There are a couple of not so obvious techniques you can use to make floating easier.

Climb Out Order

Put people out in an order that lets people break the wind for each other, as best as possible, and minimizes everyone's direct blast from the wind. Consider a typical 3 floater exit sequence on "large" aircraft.


The thoughts behind this exit are that the front floater blocks the wind for the other two. This exit is hard for the front floater because he is in the direct wind for the longest amount of time. His climbout will be difficult, especially if there is no outboard handle to pull himself out on. The rear and center floaters have an extremely easy climbout.


In this sequence the rear floater gets a direct wind blast as he climbs out. This is quickly blocked off by the front floater as he climbs out. The front floater gets a direct blast during his climbout and the center floater's climbout. The center floater never gets a direct blast. However, his space in the door may be blocked if the front floater lets himself get blown back.


This method has everyone get a direct blast during his own climbout. Everyone, except the front floater, will get the air blocked as soon as the next floater climbs out. The front floater, who is always in the direct wind, is out there for the shortest amount of time.

Undesirable rear floater grip.Fig. 1 Undesirable rear floater grip.

Desirable rear floater grip Aircraft GripsFig. 2 Desirable rear floater grip Aircraft Grips

Hand and arm placement of the floaters depends on the formation being launched. A rear floater should grip the plane with his right hand. Fig. 1 shows a rear floater taking a grip with his palm facing up and holding the top of the door or cable. This arm position twists the right wrist. The forearm can get pressed against the aft side of the door. This arm position for a rear floater is undesirable because of the potential of arm injury due to the twist or the leverage against the arm. Lots of jumpers use this arm position when they are front or center floating. It is quite acceptable in those positions because the forearm is not directly pressing against the door. Fig. 2 shows an easier right hand placement for the rear floater. A rear floater's right hand is placed palm against the uppermost part of the door jam with his thumb down. With this grip the rear floater is further aft in the door and leaves more room for other floaters. During a climbout, a rear floater can place his left hand palm with thumb up directly below his right hand on the door jam. He can swing out the door quite easily, as long as he ducks his head below the top of the door.

Floaters should turn sideways into the wind once they are outside. This gives all floaters more room and presents everyone into the relative wind better on exit. All floaters should have only one foot in the door. The upwind leg should be "dragging" out in the relative wind. Sometimes a rear floater must keep his upwind foot in the door. In this case he must drag his downwind leg.

Floating takes practice, just as all other skydiving skills. Practice each position several times with different people. Floating is fun and easy.

The Secret of Floating
"Just fall off early so they don't make you do it anymore." - Al Hawthorne

Originally published in Sport Parachutist's Safety Journal, V2, #1 Sept./Oct. 1989.
©Copyright 1989, 1996 by Jan Meyer. Republished with permission.

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