RAF Falcons Exercise Falcon Stack 2017

By Flt Lt David Sellers

The Royal Air Force Falcons Parachute Display Team is widely recognised as the UK’s premier military parachute display team. They can be seen at display venues throughout the UK and Europe during the busy display season that runs from May to September – but what do they get up to for the remainder of the year?

The answer to this question is simple; they train and prepare for the next season, to ensure that their displays are visually impressive for spectators and that the new members of the team are fully integrated and prepared for the display season. In addition to this, second and third year members of the Team will also be working towards gaining anumber of parachuting qualifications, such as Lightweight Parachute Instructor,High Altitude Instructor and Military Advanced Freefall Instructor in preparation for their next role, delivering military parachuting to UK airborne troops.

At the time of writing, the RAF Falcons have just returned from their latest month-long winter training exercise in California –named Exercise Falcon Stack. It is one of two training trips that take place annually throughout November and February.The first two weeks of the exercise involved practicing flying in acanopy stack, gradually increasing the stack size from small, to medium and finally afull stack, as parachutists become accustomed to flying in close proximity to each other.Although the idea of training in California may sound glamorous, the reality of it is that the training is both physically and mentally demanding; especially for

10 Envoy Summer 2017

those fi rst year Falcons, who although they are qualifi ed Parachute Jumping Instructors, will quickly need to learn and put into practice many new skills that are needed for display parachuting. Flying in close proximity to other parachutists during the RAF Falcons ten man non-contact canopy stack formation requires extreme concentration for obvious reasons. It is physically demanding, as parachutists are constantly working to maintain the separation between themselves and the parachute just feet below them.

The intensity of the training increases during weeks three and four,with the addition of the four smoke canisters which are attached to the parachutist’s ankles; these produce the red and white smoke trails which can be seen during displays. The smoke is activated by the parachutist reaching down to his ankle and pulling asmall string loop that attaches to the top of the canister –these are activated on the command of the Team Coach via an in-ear radio piece. The smoke canisters become extremely hot during use so parachutists must ensure they do not get too close to the canopy of the parachutist below them, as any contact between the hot canisters and the nylon canopy could damage it!

The typical training day involved eight jumps, starting with a safety brief and daily inspection of parachutes and equipment prior to the first jump taking place at around 07.30 am. This first jump was immediately followed by another –assoon as the parachutists have landed they will put on their spare

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