Foundations of Flight | Docking on a Head-Down Formation
By Sharon Har-Noy Pilcher of Modern Skydiving Concepts
- To fly with and dock on a head-down formation, you must have the ability to:
- stay on your head for the entire jump
- fly on level
- start and stop forward movement
- perform a safe breakoff
As you learn to dock, start with small groups. (This is always wise when learning a new skill.) Learning different leg positions (especially the daffy) and becoming comfortable flying at different speeds will help you excel as a formation flyer. Most people are strong with one hand. Once you are comfortable docking with your dominant hand, practice docking with your other to improve your versatility.
1. Get on level
Once you come out of the plane and approach your quadrant, your first priority is to get on level. Only once you’re on level should you approach the formation. On a head-down formation, you’ll want to dock about a head-length low. When everyone is docked, the formation should be shaped like a bell.
Fly with your chin tilted toward your chest. This changes your visuals and ensures you fly on level and are not actually too high.
2. Look for your cross partner
Your cross partner is whoever is flying in front of you on the other side of the formation. Identify your cross partner during the dirt dive to make it easier to find them in the sky. You should look at your cross partner from the moment you reach the formation to the moment you break off. Don’t look directly at your grips or anyone other than your cross partner in the formation. (As you gain experience, you will begin to see more in your peripheral vision, but your focus will always be your cross partner.)
3. Maintain quiet legs
To make it easier for other flyers to fly close and dock, reduce the burbles and the “noise” your body makes. A good way to keep your legs quiet is to flex your feet (toes to the nose), particularly on your front leg if you are flying a daffy.
4. Present the docking hand
Make sure you stay head low as you present your hand for the dock. Most people tend to float up a bit as they extend their hand, so be aware and adjust your level accordingly. There is no need to reach for the dock. If you fly on level, look at your cross partner and present your hand, the dock should be right there and will almost happen on its own. Take a breath and let it happen.
5. Present your other hand and keep flying
Once you are docked, present your other hand so the next person can dock on you. Again, make sure to adjust your level, as you might float up a bit as you lift your arm to present. Make any speed adjustments with your legs. Increase your speed by straightening your legs and/or narrowing the space between them. Your legs should stay quiet the whole time.
Your job is not done once you are docked. You need to continue to fly your slot, stay on level and make any small adjustments necessary to avoid putting pressure on the formation. All adjustments should be small and gradual; don’t move more than needed.
Breathe! Take nice, big, slow breaths throughout the jump. This will help you stay calm, think straight and relax.