The Golden Knights Vertical Formation Skydiving Team (VFS) began training at the Annual Certification Cycle 2015 in Homestead, FL on 13 Jan 2015. This brand new team consists of SGT John Long, SGT Dan Osorio, SSG Reese Pendlton, SSG Trey Martin, and the team leader SFC Chris Acevedo. Once jump operations started, this team has been hard at work going through the VFS advanced dive pool, mastering the exits and turning points in freefall. Every morning, the team starts off the day by doing a warm-up jump from full altitude and going through all of the points in the dive pool.
The mornings start at 6:00 am when they arrive at the dropzone and immediately get everything prepared for their first jump at 7:30am. This begins with turning on the Automatic Activation Devices on all of the rigs. The team then stretches together to get warmed up and relaxed for the jumps. Fifteen minutes before leaving for the airfield, they then do what is known as walking, which is similar to dirt diving. This is where they literally walk the dive flow of the jumps on the ground. Walking helps because it is the closest way to practicing a vertical orientation on the ground, and it ingrains the dive flow into memory. Everyone then gears up and gets ready to head to the airfield to get on the aircraft.
The first part of the skydive and one of the most important parts is the exit. To practice this, the pilots climb up to 7,000 feet giving the team enough time to work on their exit and get it stable just prior to break off at 5,000 feet. Once that particular exit has been mastered, it is incorporated into flying the dive pool from full altitude at 12,500 feet.
There have been days when weather has not been favorable, but this doesn’t stop the team from constantly working to improve themselves. When not jumping, they mock up all of the exits. The mock up is an exact replica of the door of the aircraft used. This allows the team to engineer and refine all of the exits for efficiency.
Half way through ACC and 150 training jumps in, the team has made leaps and bounds with progress since the first week of training. After becoming proficient with the advanced dive pool, the team has moved to working on the open dive pool. The open dive pool is harder and more technical with both the exits and freefall. It involves more head up orientation compared to the advanced dive pool. With the combined experience and engineering of the team, we have made extensive progress with the open dive pool. Everyone is very motivated and very excited for what the future holds with training and competitions.