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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.

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IMG_5191Folks back home in North Carolina endured some heavy weather this past week and the Team Room was brimming with talk of icy roads and wintery conditions. The poor jumping conditions spanned up and down the coast as low ceilings and gusty winds shortened training opportunities on Wednesday and Thursday here at Homestead. Try as hard as we might, Team Six climbed high into the air every day this week in effort to get as close to Sky Six as possible to hear our cries to chase away the clouds and rebuke the winds, but nay, not a word from the heavens above and more blustery weather in the forecast. Perhaps next week will deliver more accommodating conditions for us to continue to capitalize on the tremendous training momentum built over these past six weeks. “

This Is How A 8-Way Dive Pool Is Selected For Competitions

8Way spring    Everyone knows the Golden Knights 8-Way Team conducts hundreds of training jumps per year to stay proficient as competitors. But why does it take so much training to remain competitive at the top levels of formation skydiving?

A standard competition jump consists of five to six formations repeated as fast as possible for time. The 8-Way formation pool consists of 16 one-point formations and 22 two-point formations. Mix them together in a hat and pull out ten rounds of five to six formations per jump and you have what is called a competition draw. Sounds simple right? Not so fast…

Each formation has multiple ways the jumpers can build it in the air. This effectively doubles the size of the formation dive pool. An 8-Way team is split into teams of two called piece partners. Piece partners generally perform each prescribed maneuver together in concert with the other three sets of piece partners.

Still sound pretty simple? The International Parachuting Commission – the governing body of competition skydiving – thought so as well. To make competition harder they introduced formations called “slot switchers”. Slot switchers are designed to make piece partners change positions with each other mid skydive. This means that a pair of piece partners are not only responsible for knowing their own job, but the job of their partner in every formation as well.

Now take into account that the dive pool has effectively doubled in size to 76 formations because of the different ways they can be built. If you add slot switchers in the mix, the size of the dive pool doubles again as each jumper must know both slots their piece is responsible for in the formation. The size of the dive pool has now grown to 152 possible formations that each jumper must know and master.

But wait, there’s more! Each competition jump is drawn at random. That means that any possible combination of those 152 formations can be seen on any given competition jump. To add just one more degree of difficulty to the competition; teams aren’t given the specific sequence of competition jumps until the night prior to the start of the meet. This gives each team just a few hours to figure out the best possible way to engineer each jump before round one takes off the next morning.

A team will train all year long to see as many possible combinations of formations to ensure the best chance of success at a meet. Hundreds of jumps per year go into preparing for just 500 seconds of total competition.


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