Formation skydiving is one of the most popular disciplines in modern skydiving. That’s because it’s the first one you’ll learn after gaining your A licence, and the one which gives you the skills and ability to jump with others.
And, after all, sharing the sky with your friends is what this is all about!
Here, we’ll outline the steps you need to take to gain your FS1 qualification, what to expect in the programme and how to approach group skydives once you’re qualified.
The FS1 Programme
This is often the first ‘sticker’ you’ll seek to achieve after gaining your skydiving ‘A’ licence. Above all else, the FS1 (formation skydiving 1) qualification is about learning to share the sky safely with other people, and therefore the skills you learn during it will be essential throughout your whole skydiving career.
How to get started with FS1
The first step to gaining your FS1 qualification is to find yourself a coach. FS1 coaches have themselves been taught how to coach and assessed on the ability to do so, so it’s essential you find yourself a qualified coach to help you on your way.
There are loads of coaches at Skydive Langar’s Progression School, plus most of the staff are coaches too, so you shouldn’t have a problem finding one for yourself. Top tip; arrive early to bag a coach early, as they’re sometimes in high demand and will appreciate the time to get to know, brief and debrief you. You can also sign up for Progression Weekends – forms linked from our events page.
The FS1 levels
There are various levels within the FS1 programme, which can be approached one by one, or with multiple skills combined into one jump, depending on your coach and your own flying.
There is a full coaching manual provided by British Skydiving so, no matter what order you learn these skills in, you can expect to learn the following:
- Forwards and backwards movement
- Fast fall and slow fall
- Side sliding
- 90, 180 and 360 degree turns
- Grip taking
- Swoop to pin
You should also expect your coach to monitor your tracking abilities throughout the programme and to give you additional tips to improve the efficiency with which you’re able to move across the sky. This is because, as you start jumping with more people, you’re going to need your tracking to be as good as possible to ensure you stay safe.
You should also expect your coach to work with you on your body position, helping you to transition from the ‘box’ position used in AFF and Category Systems, to the ‘mantis position’, which, though slightly less stable, provides you more flexibility and efficiency of movement once you master it.
Achieving your FS1
The programme aims toward a 2 way sequence jump during which you combine all of the skills you’ve learned to perform a 2 way formation skydive. You’ll be assessed on your safety and control and, if successful, you’ll be able to jump in groups of 2 or 3, and later with larger groups.
Group skydives post FS1
Once you’ve gained your FS1, you’ll be keen to start jumping with your friends and, technically, you’re allowed to.
But, it’s worth thinking of your FS1 like passing a driving test; though you can safely handle the car, you’re by no means a Formula 1 driver so to dive head first into a huge group jump or try to score all of the points right away would be foolish.
Instead, use your first jumps post-FS1 to consolidate your skills. Remember, the people you jump with will likely be less experienced than your coach was, so the chances are you’ll find it more difficult to fly together.
You’ll want to practice your 2 and 3 way skills as much as you can before then going back to a coach to be evaluated for your FS1+ – an additional qualification needed to jump in groups of 4 or more.
Once you do consider larger groups, it’s worth then looking out for events like Bigway Beginners or walk up load organising groups run at Skydive Langar where you can receive free coaching from the load organiser to help you build your skills in larger group situations.
Formation skydiving: what’s next?
Once you’re qualified with your FS1 and FS1+ stickers and you’re comfortable jumping with your friends, you might want to start joining in with some of the events and competitions that run at Skydive Langar, across the UK and globally.
4 way FS
4 way FS is one specific discipline within formation skydiving. 4 way involves four ‘performers’ plus a camera flyer who flies above, capturing the action on video for your coach or competition judges, as appropriate.
4 way is fast paced and highly competitive at the top levels. Skydive Langar is proud to be home to many successful 4 way competitors, including the 2022 indoor and outdoor national champions, Chimera.
8 way FS
Much like 4 way, 8 way is all about making shapes in a group with a camera flyer above – but this time, it’s 8 performers rather than 4!
We’re very proud to have ex 8 way champions on our staff plus many current competitors amongst our regular fun jumpers and coaches, too, and to be the home of the multiple time national 8 way champions, Microclim8.
Big way FS
Big way refers to anything larger, usually, than an 8 way. We jump in larger groups, creating larger shapes and, sometimes, use multiple planes to get even more people in the sky together.
Look out for our Boogie Bigways, where we’re often lucky enough to put together these multi-plane formations for sunset skydives.
We also regularly host Bigway Beginners events, to help you hone your skills, as well as walk up load organising, where you can learn from our approved load organisers and jump with some new people, too.
Keep an eye on our events page for more information about events and, as always, if you do have any questions, about FS or anything at all, feel free to approach a member of staff who will be more than happy to help.