Looking In The Rear View Mirror: Jumping Through Cloud

Last updated 27 Feb 2024

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Dave Smith takes us back in time to see how jumping through cloud came about, and how the Australian Parachute Federation achieved this privilege.


 We are generally told to look forward, to the future, not backwards. A financial adviser will tell you, past performance is no guarantee of future earnings! This is true but it is often useful to check the rear-view mirror to see how far we have come. In the case of the Australian Parachute Federation, things have come a long way in sixty years and, over the months ahead, I’d like to give a few examples of what the APF has done for its members.

Let’s look at jumping through cloud.

RW Jump at Far North Freefall by SPOT Images

Did you know that, with one exception, Australia is the only country in the world where you can skydive through cloud? New Zealand allows it too, but only under certain circumstances. In Australia, it is allowed anywhere where the drop zone has a cloud jumping procedures manual. How did this come to pass you ask?

Well, the APF decided to legitimise something that may potentially have been taking place for many years. The rest of the aviation community considered us skydivers the bikies of the air. We travel vertically though the airspace and everyone else travels horizontally. So we were going against the flow, according to them. The introduction of GPS for "spotting" (i.e. determining the exit point) was a necessary prerequisite to legitimising jumping through cloud and solid overcast too.

Deciding to legalise jumping through cloud was a challenge for the APF, and it was no mean feat to have CASA approve something so radical, and be the first in the world to do so. It took six years to get across the line. Approvals for each particular drop zone needed to be assessed by CASA, along with a risk model of the likely collision between an aircraft passing through a column of air above the drop zone and a skydiver in free fall or under parachute.

A mathematical algorithm determines the risk based on aircraft intentionally or unintentionally transiting horizontally through the column of air and the intensity of parachuting descents through the same airspace. Modelling takes account of the airspace type, air traffic controllers oversight using radar, symbols on aeronautical charts and navigational software used by pilots, and your local Ground Control Officer monitoring traffic. If the risk is "ALARP" (as low as reasonably practicable), then approval is given.

After several years of CASA oversight, the APF now conducts its own risk assessment and can issue cloud jumping approvals on its own.

This is one of the many things your federation has achieved for its members, which is now taken for granted. Other overseas equivalents of the APF are impressed with what has been achieved and so should the APF members.

Whitefish World Cup

Next up, I’ll give members a background about how we managed to have AAD use become universally adopted in a super quick time.


About The Author

Dave Smith is an Australian Parachute Federation Board Member, with over 50 years of skydiving experience, as well as being a pilot. His series of articles, titled "Looking In The Rear View Mirror", will give examples of how far the Australian Parachute Federation has come since it began, and what it has achieved for its members. 


If you would like to submit an article, or have a topic request for the APF Blog, please email blog@apf.com.au

[Photo Sources: SPOT Images]

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