If you’re instructing AFF students, you are engaging in formation skydiving. Sharp FS skills—from knowing how to fly the exit to staying close to your student at all times to having the skill to dock on a student in a split second—are key to being a good AFF instructor. Although it’s true that in the worst situations you’ll also sometimes need freefly skills, you prevent those situations from happening in the first place while you’re still on your belly.
A lot of new AFF instructors are great flyers but haven’t spent that much time doing FS and launching FS exits. Here are a few tips for those who instruct AFF but may need to brush up on their FS skills:
Every good FS exit requires the jumpers to know exactly where they want to “put the formation” on the hill and then execute that plan. An AFF exit is no different; it’s a 3-way formation. Here is how it goes:
One of the most important skills a good AFF instructor has is knowing when to redock and when to stay off. Be within reach of the student at all times. You can only redock if you’re close enough to redock. Three feet away is two feet too far!
Nothing is scarier for an AFF instructor than being low on a student. It’s a helpless position to be in. It’s also very hard to anticipate a student’s fall rate. A tiny person who seems like they’d fall slowly may be very flexible and arch so hard that they fall like a safe. A big, heavy guy with a long torso and a flat body position may float.
When choosing your equipment, err on the floatier side. It’s always easier to get down than to get up. Even if you haven’t planned a release dive, it could become a release dive. Use the equipment best suited for the fall rate of the worst-case scenario. In other words, wear what you’d need if you lose the student and end up low to ensure that you can get back up and redock quickly.
As you gain more experience with AFF, you’ll increasingly be able to launch the exit where you want it, know when and if to redock and make more educated calls on what equipment to wear. While you’re getting that experience, stay on the safe side. You’ll never regret it.
Dan Brodsky-Chenfeld | D-8424;
AFF, Static-Line and Tandem Instructor
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