Wow, what a good weekend… left town Saturday morning, just before noon and got up to Midwest by 2pm it didn’t take long to get on a load. This was the jump I.d really been looking forward to, back flips!
Still getting used to exiting by myself, I always seem to barrel roll out of the door, but oh well, arch and stable after that with no problem. As soon as I was stable I did a quick COA (Circle of awareness) basically just check heading and alt, then did a back flip (just bring your knees up and flip yourself backwards) which really is pretty fun up there, then did a barrel roll (lol, intentionally, for the first time!) which is really easy too, just pull one arm in and you roll, stick it back out and stop. then had to practice tracking (like, when your in a group of people, right before pull time, everyone ‘tracks’ away from each other so there is enough separation when everyone pulls). Wave and pulled at 5000 and done. Landing was just a little bit off the field in the beans, but I stood it up with no problem (and limited bean damage). Passed the category and on the level 7
This was really the big one. Level 7 is basically the ‘check ride’ to pass the AFF training. The first 7 jumps are always with an AFF instructor to make sure you know all the basics. Then, up till jump 25 when you can get your class A license, you jump with coaches, the big plus here..? Much cheaper to jump with coaches! The first AFF jumps are 185 with two instructors, then 145 with one instructor, compared to the solo and coach jumps for 50 or 70 (depending if your coach makes you pay their spot on the plane, some do, some don’t.. some you just pay with beer at the end of the night!) So on to the jump.
Normally they make you do an unstable exit on this one, a cannon ball or something out of the door, but I think because I always barrel roll out of the door anyway, they didn’t tell me to do anything different! The biggest object I guess of all the unstable exits, flips, & rolls, isn’t about how good you do the maneuvers, but how quickly you can regain stability when you lose it. But I’m having no problems with that. Anyhow, same as before the jump went well, barrel roll out of the door, then a quick COA once I was stable. Started with a front flip, then a back flip, then two 360’s right and left. And then started tracking at 5500, counted to five, then stopped waved and pulled. Landing was great and spot on, dead center of the student landing area, came in and had a nice slide into a stop on my knees.
As soon as I made it back to the hanger, Ed (my instructor) told me the jump was great, and I only had 24 problems to correct…. My first beer rule! Upon any great achievement, any skydiver is required to provide a case of beer for the group. I was immediately sent to the store to solve each of my 24 problems with a beer. (Hence, now I see where all the free beer that I’ve been drinking up there comes from!) Once I was back with the beer Ed was happy to sign off in my logbook and transferring me from “student” status to “unlicensed skydiver”. Yeah!!!
Now this was the one! Actually, this was the one I thought I would be getting the first day! I remember when I first called up Mike at NSC in may, just starting the planning for the skydive on my birthday (jump 1) I had the choice between a tandem jump for 200$, or a solo jump for $300.. (Training 115, jump 185). Now, when I heard “solo”, I thought I.d ride the plane, step up to the door myself, and jump. Of course once I got there that day, I learned how the AFF training works, two instructors, holding your straps to keep you stable, you jump and they jump with you, together as a unit (check my first jump video, you’ll see). Of course, I’d really hate to see how awful I.d flown had I not had nine previous training jumps before I got to do this one! Anyhow…
Now off student status, I had to go up and manifest myself for the next load. Track down my equipment myself, try to rush the packer to hurry up and finish my rig before the plane was ready and all that. Once I was geared up and heading towards the plane, I had to figure out for myself (by discussion with the other jumpers) what the jump order on the plane would be (who goes out first, in what order, with how much time in between) and for the first time, I had no one going out with me!
On the load, we had a three way of experienced jumpers going out first. Then me, then behind me was two sets of tandems and video jumpers for each. On the way up, some asked me what altitude I was pulling at and it kind of stumped me for a second (previously, an instructor has always told me when they wanted me to pull…) so I just answered quickly “5000”. A few minutes later Cliff (one my instructors on jump 4) asked me what kind of dive I was doing… and was again i was stumped (previously, the instructors always told me what to do.. 360’s, turns, flips, whatever) so after a second of “ahh…um..” i answered “i’m gonna do some flips then 360’s down to 5500, then track to 5000 and pull”. He just nodded okay. He was taking a tandem, and you always need to know what the person going out the door in front of you is doing, so you know how long to wait before you follow them out the door.. Such as if I planned on pulling high, he would have wanted to be further away (wait maybe 10 seconds to follow me out the door).
Around about the same I talked to three way, to figure out how long I had to wait after they went, and since they were pulling lower then me (planned on breaking at 3500 and pulling by 3000) we decided I.d give them about five or six seconds lead before I went. Anyhow, we got to altitude and the three way opened the door and spotted the plan. When they went, I stepped up to the door myself (no instructor asking me “okay, are you ready to skydive” or even “okay, lets step up to the door”). I just walked over to the open door and kind of waved by to everyone on the plane, put my toes on the edge of that door, and jumped!
60 seconds. Doesn’t seem like much. Sometime it’s too much time, sometimes not enough. Just depends.
60 seconds at 120 mph. Wow. Jumping out of a plane 2.5 miles high. Wow. Reaching 0 to 60 in four seconds. Wow. Then hitting a quarter mile in about 10 seconds. Wow. Then get stable and look around you… and there is no one there. Wow. Ten jumps, six weeks, and $1,683.00 later, here I was, all by myself, doing back flips at 10,000 feet. Priceless.
No one there to save my ass if something went wrong; No one but me, my training, and my ability to use that training. I did my flips, front and back, then a just started a slow 360 to the left and for the first time, just took a few seconds to look around me. At a mile and a half above Romeo Michigan on a clear day, I could see downtown Detroit, Lake St. Claire, and Canada even.
On my first jump, 60 seconds was barely long enough for me to get out of the plane get stable, do a COA and my three practice pulls. But now, 60 seconds was more than enough time… jump, stable, flips, 360’s, watch the scenery, and still had plenty of time left. So I did another slow 360 and took one last look at everything up there, this time just watching the horizon, seeing clouds coming in from the west. At 5500 I did a ‘break away’ just for practice, just turned 180 degrees and tracked for a few seconds then stopped and pulled at 5000 feet.
Canopy came up as it should have, I did my controllability checks with my toggles, then dropped them and did it the control check again using my rear risers (more practice for some future day if I ever lost my toggles). This time, I wasn’t given a radio, so there would be no help from the ground if I couldn’t find the DZ, but I didn’t need it. Found the DZ, got into my holding area, did some fast 360’s to get down to 1000 feet, then came in for my landing. One more on target standup landing.
Some people have asked me if I kiss the ground when I land, glad to be ‘safe’ again… but i find the ground upsets me… once i land, i just want to go up and be in the air again.
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