Brazil and Chile, Together in Free Fall
By Julieta Pelcastre/Diálogo June 22, 2017Members of the Blue Berets of the Chilean Air Force (FACh, per its Spanish acronym) participated in a cooperative exchange of jumping skills with the Brazilian Army’s Parachute Squadron Os Cometas (The Comets). The instruction is part of the Chilean squadron’s training for an annual international military parachuting competition, and the Latin American championship. Over the first two weeks of April, 11 members of the Blue Berets, four paratroopers from Os Cometas Squadron, and 18 instructors and military technicians attended the training held in a free-fall simulator (wind tunnel) at the Brazilian Army’s Special Operations Command in Goiânia near Brasília. The training was focused on improving solo and group jumping skills, developing control maneuvers, improving communication among participants, practicing landing approaches, and improving flight methods for the service members who operate the chambers. “This training has allowed us to strengthen solo and group skills in order to improve performance in the air, as well as sharing experiences and procedures,” FACh Major Pablo Varela, the squadron commander of the Blue Berets, told Diálogo. During the training period, each participant entered the simulator four times a day. Each paratrooper free falls for 30 seconds, so each 30-minute session represents 60 live jumps. The training for each member of the Chilean team amounted to approximately two hours, which is equivalent to 240 live jumps. “This year, we added four hours with the navigation simulator, which allowed them to practice landing approaches and landing tracks virtually, in various scenarios and in different weather conditions, thereby improving precision and safety in their landings,” Maj. Varela stated. “We know that parachuting is a high-risk activity. That’s why training and safety make it more secure,” said Héctor Ulloa, the president of the Chilean Parachuting Federation and of the Latin American Parachuting Confederation, based in Chile. The military participants experienced the full effects of a free fall in an airflow that varied between 180 and 250 kilometers per hour. In that time, they controlled their bodies, their turns, and transitions. The training was done in a controlled, risk-free environment, with ongoing guidance from the Chilean instructors. World titles “This squadron has always participated in the development of parachuting at the national level, being one of the forerunners of this discipline in Chile,” Ulloa underscored. The experiences and exchange of knowledge that the Chileans received together with their Brazilian peers are part of their annual training to participate in national and international championships both in civilian and military spheres. “Being an Air Force team makes this work a lot easier for us, as our personnel is professional, loyal, dedicated, resilient, and united,” Maj. Varela emphasized. This unit, with its years of training, has won various titles due to its skill and high degree of preparation and focus on risky routines that hundreds of spectators enjoy. In August, the Blue Berets will train on free-fall formation skills in Chile in order to represent the country in the Latin American Championship to be held in October, in Cardona, Argentina. The training will take place “with guidance from a Brazilian instructor who has done more than 10,000 jumps,” Ulloa said. The elite group took first place in the National Free-Fall Formation Championship in November 2016. Paratroopers from the Chilean team will make their best effort to achieve optimum results in the World Military Parachuting Championship in July, in Germany, where more than 30 nations will be participating. The categories in this competition will include solo and group precision landing and acrobatics. “All of this training enables us to do safer and more appealing presentations, and to raise our competitive level,” Major Varela remarked. “Our show squadron is exceedingly strict about safety protocols and quite demanding in its training in order to maintain the standards and the flight performances needed to compete with powerful nations like Brazil and Argentina,” Ulloa added. A better use of resources According to Maj. Varela, the training in the free-fall simulator system lowers the cost of the training process and raises the level of safety during the jumps. For example, each free-fall jump from an altitude of 10,000 feet has a useful free-fall time of 30 seconds. If a mistake is made, the paratrooper cannot continue with the sequence, or with the exercise that he was attempting to perform. In the simulator, each entry is two minutes long, which equates to four sessions. If a mistake is made or the exercise needs to be repeated, the instructor can do so immediately, and continue with the sequence. “This instruction allows our institution [FACh] to improve training for our middle managers, making a more efficient use of resources. Costs are minimized in terms of flight hours, wear and tear, and the risks involved,” Maj. Varela stressed. “Also, it’s impossible to achieve that amount of free-fall time in four days making live jumps. So, you get significant improvement on the team in a shorter amount of time.” The Blue Berets, also known as the Air Knights, belong to the FACh’s Presentation Group established in the 1970s. In the last five years, 5,000 jumps have been made between instruction, training, presentations, and competitions. This group of paratroopers backs the development and mastery of free jumping skills in FACh Special Forces units. It also stimulates scientific research and development in the areas of flight physiology by supporting the activities that the Aerospace Medicine Center carries out in that field, according to the FACh training website.