Relative work is the relating of one to another in the air. It happens on the ground, too. These relationships have created a brotherhood of freefallers, and as brothers we should help each other. It's our sport. We must try to avoid ego-trips, politics and hassles. We should concentrate our energies on those aspects which foster the RW brotherhood. Permitting backbiting and bad vibes is like spitting in the soup we all must eat later.
Learning Through No-Contact Relative Work.
I was flying eighth in the line-up one Sunday afternoon on another garb - excuse me, on another SCR/SCS attempt from our DZ's twin Beech. At least twenty jumps earlier I'd earned my Star Crest, and I sort of hoped for a seven star before I closed. That, of course, was too much to hope for. I closed instead on a turning, sliding 3-man. We were dive-bombed by people whose accuracy (fortunately) was worse than their relative work! My hope was rapidly turning to fear as one more 40-jump Star Crest recipient arrived nicely at wrists only to "spaz-out" while fumbling for grips and solidly take out the star. I tracked out of the funnel only to find more traffic below; the dive-bombers who went low were unloading more surprises in our faces. Canopies blossomed. I looked for a hole, brushed a cheapo, and saddled out at 1800 feet! Safe, at last!
I've spent the past fifteen months alternately participating in and (mostly) avoiding jump adventures like the one described above. I have, at least, been on both sides of the tracks.
I believe I share a desire with many to bridge the gap between the learners and the most-learned, and to reverse the trend toward greater segregation. Thus far, however, no one has suggested a way which does not impinge on the experienced jumpers by either jeopardizing their performance, or asking for too much of their available time and/or limited funds. Harness holds, organized SCR (free beer) jumps, RW seminars, magazine articles, even SCR Scrambles are not up to the task. What we need is a simple method for critiquing the learners from the ground on a regular, every jump basis.
I suggest formations that combine contact and "no-contact" relative work, which would make it possible to learn quickly and safely from our mistakes.
How can you expect inexperienced people to fly in a weird formation and without contact if they can't even get into stars? It should be obvious that if inexperienced RWers can't arrive and hold a position near a stable two-man base. they will undoubtedly fly poorly in any star they do break into. It is this poor flying that makes it difficult for learners to build stars in the first place (trying to catch a sliding, roller-coaster star).
Learning to pick out a specific position will seem strange to everyone at first. However, once accepted. it becomes quite natural. With ordered slots we increase awareness, and most importantly, reduce the likelihood of collision.
Some of the most fun skydives I've ever made were no-contacts. It is a great way to learn to fly, and a good way to sharpen up anybody's flying. Like anything else. you'll have to try it to know if you like it.
As soon as all participants are satisfied with their consistent performance in no-contact, and just as airplanes fly formations first at 100 feet and then 50 feet apart, we should be tightening up our formations until we "may as well" hookup. There is no reason to abandon the initial no-contact, however. By preserving it, we retain the emphasis on clean flying.
Dave Bellak, Spotter, July-August 1975.
Teaching Relative Work.
We relative workers are a unique breed. We usually spend far more time promoting ourselves onto a load or in non-constructive politicking than promoting our sport. RW is an exhilarating experience which we should help others to learn ... and to enjoy.
As editors of RWunderqround we get a lot of mail from RW'ers all over the world. They pose questions "How to ... ?", suggestions "What if... ?", ideas, and some mighty fine thoughts about relative work and our growing world-wide fraternity of people who do it.
There has been more interest in the techniques of teaching relative work to novices than ever before. This is a good thing, a constructive step in the growth of the sport. A lot of attention has been focused on the safety factors of doing relative work. Obviously a well-trained student of tiny discipline is more likely to be a safer student.
It took those of us who've been into relative work for a while a long time to learn it because there was no one to teach us. Because it was difficult for us to master, we sometimes forget that we now have the skills to teach relative work to novices.
RW novices today will learn much faster than we did, and they won't make our mistakes. One of the quickest ways to build bigger formations is to have more qualified jumpers to build them. And one of the best ways to ensure safe relative work is to have plenty of qualified relative workers to choose from.
All we have to do is have every accomplished relative worker work with a novice, or two or three of them. The aim is to impart not only the mechanical skills required to fly the body, but also the mental attitude that releases the ecstasy of RW.
We'd like to share some of the suggestions sent us by relative workers:
The first are from Lt. Bob Iverson, SCS-456, who has some things to say to RW novices:
"Perhaps you find yourself in this situation. You've got a few relative work jumps and want more ... big stars! But there aren't really any other good RW people around or maybe you're just not quite good enough to get in on the big ones. Or maybe you finally got on some big loads and bombed it ... or nobody even saw ya ... despair not!
"Big stars do not necessarily indicate that people in the star are good relative workers. The really good flyers know who's doing it and who's just hanging on ...
"It's been my observation that many people asking to get on ten-man loads aren't capable of making consistent two-mans! Two-man stars can be where relative work is at. I'm talking of a two-man proficiency that's beyond the old "C" license qualification of chasing safely a flat and stable base and hooking up.
"Grab another would-be Boogie Freak and practice. Sub-terminal practice is a really good polisher if ya plan on basing biggies ... it even puts finesse into those late flyers.
"Neither jumper should lose visual contact with the other. Always be aware of where the other man is. Both people are moving, working together, constantly adjusting for each other's idiosyncracies. Together!! Smile!
"Now ... Are you good? Did you get it at sub-terminal ... six seconds out? Did you bang into each other? Could you fly next to each other, not touching? Were you stable, no turns? You know the right answers - what they should be if you're going to be a good relative worker.
"If you've got two-mans licked, or think you do, try switching the exit order. Get the two-man. Backloop. Do it again. All before reaching terminal!! Send the "base" out. Give him a three to five-second headstart. Go! SWOOOOP! Can you still get him in about twenty seconds??
"Now you're talking RW - big stars and formations - 16-mans and bigger! By doing two-man stars, funky ol' hookups, you know your capabilities. You know when you ask to be on the next big load whether you're good or not.
"Smooth, confident, aggressive, safe ... and all those other things which go into making a good flyer. Get yourself together. Chase grapefruits if no one else is around. Really!"
Ken Coleman and Sam Brown, of Michigan, put down on paper for us the procedures they've devised to teach relative work to novices:
* * *
Relative work is "new" - we've hardly just begun. If we start today to plant the seed for a growing tradition of friendship we'll be able to reap the many pleasures of relating to others in aerial ecstasy for a long time. Work with novices to promote your sport.
Pat & Jan Works, Parachutist, 1974
"How I yearn to throw myself into
Endless space and float above the awful abyss."
Behind The Viewfinder.
I can remember when the only people you saw with cameras were friends of first jumpers or whuffos, I jump on several DZ's and it seems that more and more people are getting into 35mm single lens reflexes. I also can remember when rolls of film came back black. Here are a few things I've picked up since then.
The name on the viewfinder has little influence on the quality in the final print. The most important point to make in getting a good picture is to KNOW YOUR CAMERA!
Many a great photo has been lost because the neophyte photographer had to concentrate more on his camera (focusing, film advancement, etc.) than on his subject. Practice with the camera controls until it is an overlearned experience, like eating with a fork. You don't think about it, you just do it.
The next major point is understanding light. Your light meter "lies" to you, all the time and you have to know how to expose accordingly. Memorize the exposure guide that comes with the film. Daylight filming on the DZ concerns the photographer with only one real problem. This is the difference in exposure between sun and shade. Partly cloudy days are a real headache as you constantly have to adjust the exposure. Subjects in the shade are only receiving diffused reflected light from objects around them. Exposure should be increased 1, usually 2, and sometimes 3 f-stops to correct. This also holds true if you are shooting into the sun. You will be filming the shade side of your subject. Correct exposure for the shade side will wash out the background.
If the desired effect is a silhouette, take a light reading of the sky, omitting the sun in your reading. For a shot with the sun included in your viewfinder, expose by taking a light reading away from the sun using a small aperture. F-11 works best. Open up 1 f-stop and shoot another frame.
Once you become familiar with your film you can depend lesson the light meter and more on your experience. The best daylight color film is Kodachrome 25. It is very slow and difficult to learn on (you'll have many out of focus and blurred shots.) Kodachrome 64 is an excellent compromise and recommended for the less experienced. High Speed Ektachrome is also good for lower light levels or when maximum depth of field and high shutter speed is needed. Don't use color negative film unless you are doing weddings,
Black and White film is scaled like this:
Use a shutter speed of 1/250th for canopy shots or slow action (walking, etc.) Anything slower and you'll sacrifice to camera shake or unsharp subject. Always have your camera cocked, pre-focused with the lens cover off and set for the light you're in. just being ready is vital in sports photography.
DZ photographers are dealing mainly with human interest. I see too many shutters tripped from "discreet distances". To get a good shot, walk in close, say Hi, and Fill the Frame. then shoot. It'll be the difference between a dramatic shot with visual impact and just another snapshot.
Carl Nelson, Freak Brothers Flyer No. 6
Your progress ... "All of a sudden the progress will stop one day, and you will find yourself, as it were, stranded. Persevere. All progress proceeds by such rise and fall."
"What can't be said can't be said, and it can't be whistled either."
Boogie Mechanics. The Dirt Dive Lurk.
To learn my legs I close my fingers
To learn back-ins I do back-in Diamonds
To learn expanding-contracting attention. The Hobbit Dive
To learn altitude, The Oreo Cookie
To learn that which I thought I already knew
The Dirt Dive Lurk. which goes like this:
I get my load all dirt dived up
Then sign us up and lurk for five
Are students doing sensible things
Or should they grow more certain wings
That's all. No more. just eavesdrop.
A very light touch indeed.
Practicing this state of Lurkfulness
Can't hope to catch them all
But it will make me more receptive
Next time someone's about to fall
And if there's something I can say
To help them out or shorten the way
To make their jump less scary
Or maybe more
That's far out too.
Lurkfulness can resonate.
Right now is time to do each our own thing
So far we've used 19/100's of our dives
And some time again when the feeling is there
We'll chip off another five or ten in the air
And start something new
There's no hurry as long as we remember
Up high is time to fly
Down low is time to go.
Sport Death is still around.
(to the tune of "Let it Snow')
F Oh, the DC-3 is really climbin'... C7 Ready to build a 16-man diamond, Gm Twelve-five and we're ready to go... C7 Don't go low, don't go low, don't go low! F Love to jump an' there'll be no stoppin... C7 And I don't mean any hop 'n poppin', Gm Gm Ready-ready, three-two-one-go... C7 Don't go low, don't go low, don't go low! Interlude: F C G7 C Clear the door, what a rush, exit's hot, C G7 C Feels so good that it must be a sin. C In your dive, point your toes, there's my slot ... D7 G7 C-C7 Flare out, Slow down an' you're in . F Well, the formation is really building'... C7 Better be in-there'll be no sniveli Gm 'Cause there's a camera on the load, C7 Don't go low, don't go low, don't go low! Interlude: C G7 C The diamond is hot ... it's beautiful... . C G7 C It's on film and nobody was a geek. C Three-five, track away, clear and pull, D7 G7 C-C7 Is that that my pilot chute on my feet?! F You're workin' hard, yes- your mind's a-humpin'... C7 The adrenalin is really pumpin' Gm Then it clears, you put on quite a show ... C7 Don't go low, don't go low, don't go low! F The high speeder was so damn frightful, C7 Now your canopy looks sooooo delightful! Gm Imagine ME! stopped at five - "oh" - "oh" C7 Don't go low, don't go low, don't go low!
Greg Burrows, 1976
Thoughts on Teaching Relative Work.
Everybody oughta train a few first jump students. It really makes you aware of just what you are doing up there. But, it is a lot of work to do it right, and Freefall students are a lot more fun.
I figure they are ripe when they can go do a 30 all by themselves with reasonable understanding, and they have that kind of excited, turned-on aura ... slavvering at the mouth for a hookup or something. You can always tell a real freefall junkie by the way they keep coming back, and then it is easy.
Then there is another set of people who have the potential ... but they are a little unsure ... and jumping is putting them through a lot of changes.
For the real addicts, the best thing you can do is tell them all you know as quick as you can and get them into the mainstream of jumping while they are full of enthusiasm and their viewpoint is still fresh. For the others, you have to rap to them in the parking lot and while they are packing and just generally enthuse on them.
Jumping seems to affect people in a lot of different ways, but one of the good ones is the self-worth, confidence trip. Sounds like a karate instructor, but I think that is true of lots of these activities like rock climbing and hang gliding ... where people get out and do something significant. Where ... as Matt put it ... you are making decisions that count.
The best kind of jumps we have found to make with these people are ones that involve the most flying. At first it has to be just you and the student, so he can concentrate on his own flying, not on what someone else might do. Then more jumps, more people, more complicated ... then you have to watch over them while they go through that stage where they can do lots of things but don't yet have that overall parachuting experience to know when to have fun and when to SAVE YOURSELF!!
I have only been able to jump with a few people all the way through. But the cumulative effect of every experienced jumper making a couple jumps with this one, and maybe 5 or 10 with that one. just a couple jumps a weekend ... has got to make a difference. It only takes a few jumps and pretty soon they are all afire to organize loads of their own and you can just kick back and let 'er rip. Students are a good investment ... that's how you get people to jump with.
I don't have any set procedures, just try to design a jump that fits their level. In the earliest stages I have them do all the work, spotting, etc., and have them go first. It saves time, teaching them the close-in stuff first, and diving down or floating up are easier to learn if they already know what to do when they get there.
Have them go first, then dive down and set up in front of them and a little low, and let them start working. With a stable reference to work on, most people pick up the basics pretty quick ... mostly consciousness-raising about being in freefall ... pointing to the ground once in awhile to get them in the habit of looking ... effective breakup-track-look-pull-save your ass - canopy avoidance and hazard hopping. Then some good 3-5 man jumps.
One nice thing about the sequential upsurge is the de-emphasis on size. I think all this is going to result in some pretty noticeable changes in a couple years. Those students take all this stuff they see in the movies for granted ... like, well, that is what people do up there. And it is not that hard to learn if you are doing it with people who already know a little bit.
No contact flying works about as good as anything. Add some good four-man sequences, flying stairsteps and so on. Really enjoy those jumps ... relaxing, sometimes try out a few things myself ...
Skratch Garrison. excerpted from a letter to BT, 1975
"Think of the night
As the plane lifts off
With her engines singing high.
Just you, your friends, and small dim lights
In a great dark empty sky.
You hear the plane
You feel the Wind
You see the lights below
As you step into a wonderous world
That few will ever know."
After coming from the Gulch with nine consecutive pre-stars and six after-stars, I'm deciding pre-stars are safe and make you a better skydiver. It gives you one extra approach each jump for your money. It makes you super-aware 'cause you got to hustle. When at the end of a load, plan a pre-star: the bigger the load, the bigger the pre-star.
Some people don't approve of pre-stars, but if you're quick and know how to track, you should get there just in time to watch the man you dock on dock. There's a lot to pre-stars besides 2 to 4-man stars. You could make lines, caterpillars, and even wedges, and slide or track together in formation to the next target.
It's all a matter of awareness and not all jumpers got it. Just don't knock it till you tried it. I haven't found anyone who hasn't dug it.
R. Nelson. Freak Brothers Flyer, No. 4
Pre-Stars? "Hey Man, You're Late..."
Well, I finally ran into another Roger Freak Brother named Roger Clark. He was employed bv a good friend and master rigger, Bill Buchman.
I had been experimenting with pre-stars at the Gulch last winter, seeing how much time would be lost or how late I would arrive. Teaming up with Steve Gras, Mike Snoid, Clarice Garrison and Jeff Taylor, we found no loss in time, an extra rush, and one extra maneuver per jump.
As the Gulch died for the winter, I migrated back home to jump with my old friends. Here, I met Roger Clark. He was of similar height and weight and to say the least, quite an excellent skydiver. We made some swoops and, as usual, I watched his approach on entry. I found him to be "easy" for any kind of crazy ideas, so I boggled his brain by asking his participation in a pre-star. This quickly addicted Roger and soon we found ourselves in the back close enough to make some kind of hook-up. We've made lines, caterpillars, and stars with as many as five people and never arrived late. We got so into pre-stars we no longer planned them, all we had to do was look at each others position in the line up and our smiling faces would quickly snicker.
Soon it became a habit to go for each other. We could have a pre-star as quick as most people went from prop blast into their dive. The secret was the exit. The trick was to go out together, having the rear man flare out in the prop blast and blow even or over the top of the first man or the man who turned around. The base had to dive and clear the prop blast before he turned around so the following people knew right where he'd be. If he turned too soon, the prop blast would alter his position differently every jump, catching him in his turn. In such a case, he would get more horizontal than vertical separation making a longer time gap for the initial hook-up.
We continued this throughout the summer making the best of a skydive. When people would come down from a jump all bummed out that the jump wasn't completed or bombed, Roger and I would be happy talking about our pre-star, not caring about the blown jump.
Many fear pre-stars by themselves and others only because they have never experienced the sensation and excitement of the pre-star. I say it's only an expansion of the sport and I don't want anyone to limit this sport of ours so: "KEEP THE PRE-STARS CRANKING!"
Roger Nelson. Freak Brothers Flyer No. 5