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I am very new into flying skydivers. The aim is to get skydivers to a certain altitude usually 14000ft as quick as possible. They have to be dropped into a certain direction to compensate for wind. The correct direction of the run-in is vital so that the skydivers can reach the field they intend to land in. Are there any good tips / tools to determine the best run-in direction regarding winds aloft, especially when the wind changes during the day and wind shifts exist in the vertical profile? Thanks.

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I used to skydive and was going to fly the jump plane but didn't have a commercial license at the time (required in Canada). I was jumping at the dawn of the ram-air era in the late 70s. I had a lowly short-line Paracommander I bought second hand, because I couldn't afford a Strato Cloud ram air rig that was the must-have for most jumpers as soon as they got off training. Good spotting was a lot more critical in the days of round parachutes, even for the Paracommander, that had a passable glide ratio of about 1:1.

The target location of your drop should be the upwind location the jumper wants to be, at opening altitude, roughly, passing 3000 ft, based on the winds between the surface and 3000 ft. Once that geographical point is established, you want to find a heading that puts you along a track between the bowl and the exit spot, taking into account the winds at the drop altitude.

So in the end for you it is a simple pilotage navigation exercise. You just need to look up the winds at exit altitude, and you simply estimate a heading to get yourself aligned on the bowl-to-drop-point track (established by the lower wind direction and velocity), and follow the jump master's directional corrections as they look straight down to observe the actual track, and cut when told as you get over the spot.

So if the winds aloft are say, due north at 14000 ft, and the bowl to spot track established by the wind speed and velocity below 3000 ft along the ground is 330 degrees and a mile upwind, I would work out the heading required to fly a 330 deg track based on the 14000 ft winds, say 345 or whatever, and start with that.

The other main issue is you need to plan your flying on the way up to get you to the drop altitude just as you are getting on to the final drop run track, (crossing the DZ or maybe just before) so you spend a minimum amount of time in level flight. After the first couple of runs of the day you will have it pretty much worked out so minimal corrections are required during the run.

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