Formation skydiving, also known as Relative Work (RW), is an event where four cadets exit together from an aircraft in flight and attempt to build as many formations as possible in thirty-five seconds of freefall. The exit altitude for competition is generally 10,500' AGL, and a skydiver wearing a camera helmet films the entire dive. The competition includes a series of points that are drawn from a designated Dive Pool prior to competition. The Dive Pool includes two types of formations: Blocks and Randoms. A Block consists of two formations with an additional maneuver that must be performed while transitioning from the first formation to the second. A Random is a single formation that must be built. At the conclusion of each dive, judges analyze the video to determine the number of formations built within the time limit. Any improper grips or incorrect formations will result in a penalty to the overall score.
Prior to boarding the aircraft for a jump, the team will "dirt dive" on the ground. They also practice exiting from a mockup aircraft door to perfect the timing and positioning of the exit. In a team sport with such little working time, no verbal communication, no room for error, and limited training, each jumper must be completely focused and prepared to work as a cohesive unit on every jump.
Accuracy is the skill a jumper demonstrates when he or she exits an aircraft in flight, deploys a parachute, and lands on a designated target using some form of canopy control during the descent.
During competition, the jumpers typically exit from an altitude of about 4000' above ground level, selecting his or her own release point over the ground, or "Spot." The target is usually a 16cm electronic scoring pad set on an air or foam filled tuffet that absorbs the impact of the jumper's landing. The tuffet allows the jumper to focus on a precision landing rather than a soft one.