An online skydiving logbook

December 30, 2007

Last jumps of 2007

1FS, a 5-way, and 2 attempts at sitfly today.

Sometimes I wonder if I really want to start freeflying, or if it is just a mid-life crisis thing... The average freeflyer at our DZ must be some 15 or 20 years younger than most belly-flyers. Some of them could be my kids!

No, seriously, it is fun being a novice again, it is fun learning a few new tricks. In FS, there are moves I could do better, quicker, more precise, and all that, but there is very little I can't do at all. The stuff I worry about are mainly details. While in FF, it's the very basics I'm trying to learn, and there's at least 99% I can't do at all. It's the difference between cursing myself because a move was a few inches short, and worrying that I'll backslide so much that I'll come too close to the previous group. And I guess that's what makes it so much fun, but also a tiny little bit frustrating.

Almost 250 jumps this year. 93 AFF's. 0 reserve rides. Lots of fun, not too much shit. I didn't count the beers. All in all, it has been a good year for me :-))

Happy 2008: blue skies, safe jumps!

December 16, 2007

Brrrrrrrrr...... (very cold weather)

... but a clear blue sky. Too good to resist (I didn't even try :-). Temperature is around 0°, not counting the cold, northern wind. Temperature at 13.000 ft is something like -20°. In conditions like this, I always prefer diving, rather than floating.

Four jumps today, all belly-to-earth, jumping with everybody who wants to join. Only rule is as soon as we are 8 or more, we split the group. So two jumps are 5-ways, the other two 7-ways. At the end of the day, I have earned 8 free beers: 1 per brainlock (and that's only counting the very obvious ones, not the glitches). Over the years, I learned to cover up my own locks :-)

This is one of the 7-ways we did, a real nice one. No need to think, just swing it around! (this jump made us three beers). For exit, we launched the center spider as a linked 5-way, plus a front floater and a back diver.

Split off the 3-ways and turn them 180°, the outfacing jumper has the nice job! The center also does a 180°.

Next is a very short move to an open accordeon, center does a 180° again.

Direction of the turn is to give the jumpers who must pick up the grip the best visual. And for the center, how about another 180°?

The two switchers cancel each other out, so we can go back to 1.
The faster you can go, the nicer the jump!

December 8, 2007


The weather was supposed to be awful this WE, but come Saturday morning, and guess what: it just looks jumpable. So, a quick reschedule of some planned activities, and I'm of to the DZ. We have to wait a bit, before there are enough people to fill the plane, but after a few coffees, we are 10 and we can go.

During take-off, I sit next to the pilot, so I have a front row seat on what follows. Immediately after we are committed to take-off, out of nowhere appear a couple of hundred birds. We go through the middle of the flock. A loud BANG, so there's at least one dead bird. And then we're through. This took not even 5 seconds, but hey, no thanks, not for me any more please! Jump is a lousy try at sitflying. Not more then 10 or 15 seconds of controlled, stable flight. And for the remainder, well I can go headdown in what I thought was a sit-position, and I can definitely start a turn. So, next time, I can concentrate on stopping one :-)

There's just the time for a second jump. Clouds and bad weather are closing in fast. I go tracking on my back, trying to make big curves and barrelrolls without loosing speed. Around 8k, I enter a haze, can't use the sun any more to keep track of where I'm going, so I do a stand-up for the next couple thousand feet. I exited last, so I open a little high, around 4 k. I immediately notice that the wind has picked up a great deal. I turn against it before doing my slider and all the other stuff, and I am blown backwards. It takes a good deal of (frontriser) work, but I manage to land exactly where I want to: a dry patch (our DZ tends to be rather wet and muddy this time of the year), not too far away from the hangar, but well clear of it's turbulence. From the 12 jumpers in the plane, we are only six to land on the DZ. The other six land out. Among those who land in are the first group to exit, and me (the last one to exit). All those who landed out have less than 500 jumps, all those who landed in have over 2000. There's no such thing as a coincidence.

But there is beer, although it is not even three o'clock. It's gonna be a long afternoon :-)

November 25, 2007

5 jumps (3 FS, 2FF)

November 18, 2007

Off season

This is the most relaxed time of the year for me. I almost did 300 jumps this season, almost 100 AFF's (well, 93 to be precise), everything from now on is just a bonus.

We round up all belly-flyers that have some basic skill, and let's take it from there. First jump, still quiet early in the morning, we are only 6. We exit a great sidebody, also in the jump is a frisbee-frisbee (with the 2 solos missing of course) and some other nice stuff.

As the day continues, our group grows, and the jump quality goes down a bit. After 3 jumps, I 've had enough and for the last jump of the day, I decide to try out my new back- and sitfly stuff from last weeks tunnelcamp. I exit in a sit. Woow, it works! As long as I can watch the plane, at least. Then I fall over, I continue on my back, try to sit up again, but all I do is turn on my back. So I stop thinking and trying, and I go for something else. I use my legs to roll over and stand up, and I fly on my knees for the rest of the jump. Hmmmmm, not bad for a first try, but lots of work ahead. It's gonna be fun!

November 4, 2007

16 way

Only 4 jumps today. An easy one to start, followed by three more difficult jumps. They go rather well. Muscles in my back are aching all over from yesterday's tunnel time, but I fly Ok. Not great, but not too bad either. Apart from the jumps and the fun, I had a terrible opening on the last jump. I had my hands on the handles, and was half a sec away from a reserve ride, when the canopy stopped spinning. When I did my checks, I noticed my PC was under the canopy. No idea how or why, but I don't want to see that again, that's for sure. To be on the safe side, I went for a very conservative landing.

I like this 16 way team. Some people have thousands of jumps, have done 100-way sequential and all kinds of mission impossible jumps. And then there is a guy I released from AFF only last season, and a few who have only been jumping for two seasons. Atmosphere is relaxed, making mistakes is allowed, but there aren't many (maybe just because of this attitude). Only thing to watch out for, apart from people just not turning up, are skygods joking throughout briefing and doing stupid things in the air.

As soon as video is available, I'll post or link it here.

November 3, 2007


First time ever in the tunnel. I booked half an hour with Jasper (from ToraTora), for my first time ever freefly coaching (I have about 2800 jumps: some 50 static lines, some 2700 on my belly, and maybe a few funnels). I loved being a student again! I'll add some video to this post later. If it weren't such fun, it would almost be embarrassing :-)

So here is the video I promised: "My first time..."

October 28, 2007

Shit happens

No instruction today, no arrangements to do 4-way, or 16-way, or anything. Just showing up. From the moment I walk into the hangar, Maus looks at me, and I say "yes, first load?" It turns out we are 7, different skill levels, but a very nice jump.

For the next jump, our group has increased to 10, it gets more difficult to organise a jump that is challenging as well as within reach for everybody. We only do 4 points. Better split it up for the next jump.

We split into a 4-way and a 6-way. I'm on the 6-way, and we can brief a more complex jump now. I propose an open accordion exit, and one of the others (whom I never saw before this morning, this is only our second jump together) asks if I am quite sure about that exit. A few minutes later, back on the ground, he agrees that it is indeed not a difficult exit, if everybody does his job and flies his slot. The whole jump was smooth and very nice.

Another 6-way. We exit a star (we funnel it), then donut flake -> donut flake, and we continue with an inter to in-out. Next is a full donut, and back to one. We recover well after the funnel exit, and there is real rhythm in the jump. Under canopy, I am still smiling. I don't go for the usual in-front-of-the-hangar landing, because it is a bit turbulent there, I decide to fly a good 50 meter further away. While I retire from the landing pattern, I see something in the corner of my eye. There is someone under a partly open main, with the reserve hanging out of the harness, not inflated. It was the AAD firing that caught my eye. Things go quickly now. The reserve inflates, but not completely, both canopies are intertwined, it becomes a kind of downplane with two half inflated canopies. It goes down fast (much faster than me anyway) and it spins fast. Ooh shit, too low for cutaway now, ooh fucking big shit. He hits the ground. He must be dead. I fly towards the spot, land some 50 m short. I see Erwin a bit further, already on his mobile phone, so I run towards him. I expect to find a broken body, but he is conscious, he talks ("my canopy spiralled, I don't know what happened, it spiralled so fast" and so on). No visible injuries at first sight. Woow, that's one lucky bastard. It is the same guy I told you about last week, when I saw him having a line-over and cutaway. His leg is caught up in the lines of the reserve. So that's why he went down with it.

We later hear he has some back injuries, but nothing too serious. I wasn't on duty, and I'm not a rigger, so no paperwork or talking to the police for me this time. Just a few beers. By the time I leave, the police are still taking statements (this is parachute-murder country, they want to make absolutely sure there is no sabotage involved), and somebody has put a few stickers with the club's logo on their car :-).

October 21, 2007

4-way and some

4-way with Door, Jean and Sus today. I am tail. We start with a smooth one: open accordion, bow, tee, zipper, phalanx. Exit is great, and although we didn't jump together for quiet a long time, the jump is smooth, with a nice rhythm.

Next jump we do a few randoms and block 12, bundy-bundy (but with 360° for the front piece, we don't feel like working). Not my favourite block. At one page, we have a funny mess-up : Door and me, the tail piece, we go low, and the front piece was counting on being stopped by us, so they fly by and make a 720° before they manage to stop :-).

OK, now it is time for the fun stuff: just four points, 14 (bipole-bipole) and 6 (stardian-stardian). I love a straight bipole exit, it goes remarkably well, first 540° is completely up the hill. I need to work to stay in position, but I manage. One of the bipoles, I see Jean not starting his 540°, but waiting for Door to turn passed him: he knocks him on his helmet, makes a 180°, and arrives just in time. And swinging your piece around in the stardian, well, that's my idea of fun... Back on the ground Jean denies that he only did 180°, nobody believes him.

We all liked the previous one very much, so we go for something similar: 16 (compressed-box) followed by the obsolete zipper-star. I know about the problems with this block, but I still think it's a pity that it's no longer in the divepool. It has always been one of my favourites. Exit is great, turning towards that box, really steep on the hill, yes! Again we manage a very nice rhythm. Hmmm, this is what I missed during the AFF season. A guy on our load has a line over, and has to do a cutaway. He is still on student gear, so his briefing is not to bother with the stuff, just take care of himself. I see it all happen. Sus also saw it, he follows the canopy, so I start following the freebag. Shit, it comes down in a piece of land with horses in it. I'm not going to land between them! So I land a bit further on, but by the time I am there, two horses are already happily chewing on the freebag. I shoo them away, and recuperate it.

Sus has to leave early, but I still feel like jumping, so I do a quick one with two low timers. It's nice to see them being pushed and liking it.

Sunset load is a tracking jump with 9 or 10 people. A very nice close of the day (although I go low in the end). In the meantime, we have received the news that Hayabusa has won the military world championship. They beat the Golden Knights with a one point difference, and they set a new world record while doing it (41!). Well done, guys, congrats!

October 14, 2007


At 9.30 am, everybody is ready for briefing, only the organiser was 30 sec late:-). First jump of the day is an easy one, everybody's facing in all the time, "hardest" slots are a few cats in the second point. It's been a long time since we have flown together and it shows. The jump as a whole is not bad, but could have been much better. I am rather disgusted with my own performance. Exit is slow, my dive is terrible, I deserve to get axed for the dock I make, and I react slow on the key to the second point.

In the meantime, it became very busy on the DZ. We have a two hour wait, before we can make our second jump. The jump is more challenging. Base is an 8 way, a round with 4 people facing in and the other four in doughnut in between them (like the base for a ruby, with two extra people sideways), and then the base becomes an 8 way doughnut. I am front floater this time, my favourite exit position for this kind of jump. Base makes a 45° turn while building, so we (outer people) have to work a bit. Second point is not complete: there is a collision, and we end up with a 7 way doughnut, and a nice 14 way. I am still not too pleased with my own flying. On the first point, I didn't notice that the base wasn't finished yet, one grip was still missing, so I grip too soon. On the second point, base (well, what's left of it) is finished when I grip, but it is not a well-flying formation yet, so again a bit too early.

We decide to do the same jump again, but we have a three hour wait, before we can go again. And that proves too long to stay focused. We start of well, all the floaters have a good exit, the first point builds OK, cleaner than the first time, but there already are a few minor fall rate wobbles. While building the second point, this grows into a level problem and the centre doughnut collapses. Over and out. It was my best flying of the day, but I choose our poorest jump for it. Pity. There is little wind, and somebody pointed the arrow that indicates the landing direction downwind, I like it!

And that's it for the day. Although it's only 4.00 pm, all the loads for the rest of the day are complete. :-(( It feels too early for beer, but what can you do?

October 6, 2007

My favourite playground

After another week of rain and mist, it is again a glorious weekend! Sun, blue skies, hmmm... Gert, another instructor, has talked some people from his work into doing a skydive. We start with his boss. Lots of joking ("if you need a pay rise, this is the moment to ask for it", etc.), they obviously get along very well. His exit and body position are OK, but his practice pulls are way off. Each time, I have to work to bring his hand to the right place, and while doing so, each time the formation turns about 90°. I can see the cameraman having trouble cause he has to film into the sun, so I turn the formation back in the right direction as soon as I can, but hey, first things first. At pull time, he is a little slow in starting the works, and again he can't find the pull. Time's up, so I have to pull for him. Pity, his mind was on the task, but he couldn't get the mechanics right. Under canopy, he completely disregards my steering him, flies a good circuit, and lands beautifully.

Because there is a shortage of cameramen, we have to wait before we can go up with the next guy. I can just sneak in a funjump. I exit first, all the rest of the load are students and tandems. Backtracking, some very slow barrelrolls, head down, it's my favourite playground up there :-) All the others on the load open higher, and are under big canopies, so there is no one around when I come in for landing, and I make it a nice downwinder.

Gert's second colleague is a younger man. He doesn't arch, his legs are completely tucked in, but he enjoys it, and makes a clean pull. Like the first one, under canopy, he disregards my steering instructions, flies a good circuit, and lands beautifully. Maybe I have to check how they were briefed :-)

Next is level 4 again with last weeks' skinny guy. This is his 5th attempt (and we are in the plane with another level 4, who is on his 6th attempt already). He exits OK, As soon as I release him, he starts to slowly turn, he makes a strange move with his hips to try and stop it, almost falls over, and then at once, click, he's got it. He arches and is in full control, gives me a big smile. I give him thumbs up, and the rest of the jump is a piece of cake.

An hour later, we go up again for his level 5. First part of the jump is good, but then he starts pushing out his legs too much. Instead of turning, he is flying forward in big circles. He doesn't see my legs-in signal, so when I move to his side at pull time, I really have to side-slip hard to stay in position. But it is great to watch how he is aware of the air around him, and how he tries to work with it.

Apparently, lots of people had their birthday this week, so I phone home to tell that maybe, just maybe, I might be just a tiny little bit late in coming home this evening.

September 30, 2007

Bad luck, or ... ?

Yesterday, it rained all day long, but when I looked out of the window this morning, guess what... Blue sky! And what's even better, yesterday was fully booked with a big group of first jumpers, while today there's a loose bunch of higher levels. I like the occasional level 1, but a whole day of nurturing, well, it can get on my nerves sometimes. I prefer "the real stuff" :-)

First thing, they give me a long skinny guy for a level 4. The previous jumpmaster made a note in his logbook, about the fall rate being really slow. And it took him 8 jumps to pass his levels 1-2-3. Hmmm, I like a challenge now and then. His exit is awful. I can't hold it, so I take him on a salto to position him on the relative wind. My first funnel exit (with an AFF at least) of the season (a first, beer is in order). I have to work him in a reasonable body postion, we're at 8000 ft before I can go in front of him. His legs are still very asymmetric, but he is well arched, so I release him. He makes an uncontrolled 360 and I pick up grips again. He looks completely helpless (flabbergasted?).

Next I take time off instructing for Mirka's 500th jump. It will be a 10-way, and we brief stuff like a doughnut with her in the middle, an open accordion, with her splitting it apart, and of course she may pull in the formation, with the other nine of us in a big O around her. We funnel the exit (second jump, second funnel, what's going on today), but it is a very relaxed and fun dive. We even manage to complete it. Ok, the star wasn't completely finished, but hey, back on the ground, it's smiles and kisses everywhere.

Skinny guy again for another attempt at level 4. Exit is still lousy, but way better then his first attempt. His body position is better now, but he is completely tensed up. I release him while still beside him. He starts to turn slightly. I stay in place beside him, and let him gently bump with his left leg against my head to stop him from starting to slide, once, second bump. Third time, I move back a little bit to let his legs pass and to see what will happen, and yep, it accelerates, it's a spin, I have to stop him. I signal him to loosen up, and he stretches his legs, so the remainder of the jump, we fly forwards :-)

Our club operates three dropzones, and the next man did a level 1 on another of our DZ's, and he tells me he was encouraged to continue his training on our DZ. He lives about halfway between the two locations, and his previous instructor told him the ride would be easier if he changed DZ. He has to take level 1 again, his logbook gives no details, and all he can remember himself from that first jump is that his instructor had to pull for him. Well, he manages to make the pull himself this time, so there is definitely improvement, but the road is gonna be long and bumpy...

Skinny guy again, third attempt at level 4. Exit is OK this time. When I release, he starts to slide again, but after about 180°, he manages to control it, good, I fly in front of him, thumbs up. When he wants to start his first 90° turn, he stretches his arms out in front of him, and pushes his one hand 10 cm lower than the other. It doesn't turn, but it sure makes for a dead slow fall rate. And I'm positive this is not how I told him to do it :-) He starts wobbling all over the place, almost falls over, so I have to stabilise him. Under canopy, I go in half brakes, and manage to land only a minute or so before him.

It is late afternoon already, and Brussels traffic control gives us a one hour holding. Mirka starts paying beers, and of course that's an offer I can't refuse. I wonder if it is just bad luck, that lately the majority of my students have been making not-so-good jumps. Or maybe it is some kind of "end of season tiredness" on my part?

September 23, 2007


Can't stay today, I have to leave at noon, so I just arranged for two quick jumps, with two brothers. Theyboth did a tandem last year, and promised to come back once a year for the rest of their lives. I don't know about the rest of their lives, but for this first year at least, they have kept their promise. They took a first jump course yesterday, and are going to make an AFF jump now. They brought their wives, kids, parents, nephews, nieces, neighbours, friends and a few more. A bunch of people, all determined to enjoy this day, and all (apart from the two brothers) drinking champagne already, at 9.30 in the morning.

First brother, the leader of the gang, goes up first, we're in the second load. His jump goes well, he enjoys it tremendously, lands safely. His kid runs up to him with a glass of champagne, even before he starts fieldpacking. Load 4 is the second brother. He is more nervous, exits, arches, but that's it. No GASP, no PP's, no altichecks, ... nobody home. At 6k, he wakes up, checks alti, signals, and pulls, at 5500 exactly. Maybe a bit minimalistic, but a good jump in my book: he pulled, at the planned altitude, with good body position. Under canopy, he follows the directions I give him with the arrow, but with a delay. Something like 10 seconds pass each time between me turning the arrow and him steering to follow it. A bit strange, but I manage to put him on the ground in the middle of the field.

When he gets back, he has this glazed look in his eyes, an estranged smile all over his face. We high five, he says "Wooooow", and gulps down his first glass of many.

September 22, 2007

Indian summer

Monday to Friday, weather was awful. But come weekend, come sunshine. It's a glorious Saturday morning, and I team up with Pascal for the whole day. We're on the first load with a level 3. It's his third attempt, and from his logbook, we can see that he starts of his jumps OK, but can't hold it together till the end of the free fall. And indeed, same this time: rather OK from 13k till 8k, starts wobbling, and at 7k we have to grab him, or he would have been on his back. I can still smell the morning freshness when I'm under canopy. Autumn can be beautiful.

Next is a woman, the girlfriend of a long time friend of mine, a fellow skydiver, whom I first jumped with almost 15 years ago. Everything I tell her, he can tell her too, but he has the good sense to stay out of the way, while we are briefing her, and he doesn't come asking if he can be on the jump. It's her level 2. The jump is not very good (she is too eager, wants to do too much and too quickly), but good enough to pass her to the next level.

Then a young bloke with a face full of piercings. He is about 1.70 meter tall, and weighs 94 kilos. I put on my weight belt, fully loaded, and woohoo do I need it! It is a level 2, and I exit from the inside. By the time my feet leave the plane, my arms are already going well over 100 mph (that's what it feels like anyway). His heels are touching his ass and his knees are lower than his pelvis: we have to work hard to keep the formation stable. Next, under canopy, he's off to la-la land: no reaction at all to our steering, he lands about 2 km away from the designated area, but he is lucky: our landing area is huge, it stretches for about 2.5 km in that direction.

Level three again with the same man from today's first jump. Again, he starts of well, and deteriorates during the jump. Near the end he is steadily turning, almost 360° in 1000 ft. Very strange, most people get better through the jump, they learn. Not him. I believe he thinks too much. Instead of trying to feel the air, he is trying to remember everything that all the instructors he had until now have told him. And in the process, he fixates on too many details at once and gradually looses it.

And to end the day, level three with my friends' girl. She makes a good jump, much more relaxed, much smoother than her previous jump. I love it, flying next to her, and looking on while she makes a great jump. There is no wind at all, I love to land with a bit of speed...

It's only 6 o'clock, but I call it a day. Warm, sun, beer... the simple life :-)

September 16, 2007

Please, hold me?

Only one day of jumping this WE, so let's go for it. I'm there at 9, in the first load, together with Sus, for a level 3, a rejump. The guy explains what it was he did wrong the first time ("I wasn't relaxed"), he doesn't let us brief him, it's more like him briefing us ("I'm gonna be more relaxed this time") :-) And yes, he makes a very good jump, apart from one tiny detail: at 6000 he locks on, at 5500 he is still staring at his alti, 5000 Sus starts to look worried, the guy still staring at his alti, I pull for him. When he comes down, he starts explaining, what happened, and why he didn't pull, but Sus cuts him short (in prejump chitchat, he told us he's a math teacher): "you realise that, mathematically speaking, you are dead now?" I get a fit laughing, but it works: for the next 10 minutes, instead of talking, he listens.

Next is a level 4 with my old Walloon friend. It feels like I am holding an ironing board, not supple at all. I release twice, but I have to regrab him immediately each time. Not a good jump.

Next is a level 1 with Ronald as primary. Just before us, an 18 year old girl is exiting for her level 6, that's her first solo exit. She places herself in the door, looks her instructor in the eyes, and with a tiny voice, she goes "won't you please hold me?" Her instructor, Gert, puts on a sardonic smile, and says "No": she accepts this, and without further ado, she makes her solo exit. I'm still laughing while we make our exit. Our jump is uneventful (for us, that is: the guy will probably remember it for the rest of his life).

Another attempt at level 4 with my friend is next. As usual, he makes a good exit. I feel almost no tension, so I move in front of him, thumbs up, and I release. He's fine for maybe 5 seconds, then he starts sliding, overreacts, too quickly, too eager, and what's even worse: in the wrong direction. Instead of stopping, he accelerates his turn, just the blink of an eye and it becomes a violent spin, I move in, but he turns over and I have to duck his legs. He is now in a kind of sitfly, with his knees up against his chest, and spinning even faster. And all of this took what, maybe three seconds! Woohah, I plunge onto him to stop the spin, I push back his legs, OK, he works with me now, he arches again, I turn him over, back on his belly, and I push him away from underneath me. Pffwwwiii, we're stable and in control again. We are at 9000 ft, those were 10 very sporty seconds. For the rest of the jump, I hold a light leg grip on him, and he flies it out cleanly.

When we debrief the jump, it is amazing how clear he is about what happened. He knows what he did, what I did, what altitude we were. We agree that next weekend, he is going to make a few jumps with another instructor. I can't tell him anything new any more, I feel like I am repeating myself, maybe a new voice will allow him to make more progress. We also discuss the possibility of a tunnel session.

Afternoon winds are starting to pick up, so student activity is stopped. There is a large group of bellyflyers today, and I can join their group. First it's a 14 way, not very good, people going under, etcetera. Then a 12 way, much better, and big fun: a nice dive, the formations fly smoothly, I have a few nice moves at the edge of the formation, yiihaa, break of at 4500, a good track, I love it, maybe a bit too much, it's under 2000 ft before I'm in the saddle.


September 11, 2007

Even more AFF (but with a little funjumping in between)

When I arrive on Sunday morning, weather is overcast, so it is funjump time. We start of with a 4-way that I first did more than 10 years ago, and have done many times since. It goes like star - transition - zipper - transition - opal - transition - bipole - transition - donut - full break - star, and so on. There is always one piece moving and one piece staying in place, and you switch piece partners at every move. All moves are short, so you can really go fast! One of those no-jumping-because-of-the-weather weekends during autumn, I'll post a drawing of it. I guess that will make more sense than this explanation. But for now, believe me that it really is a very fun dive!

By then, sun comes peeping through, so student activities can start. Gert and I take on a girl for her level 2. She is very focused, too focused, but not on the right things: she completely forgets altitude, doesn't react to the signs, and at 5500 ft, instead of pulling, she starts another exercise (flying forwards). Gert pulls for her. When she's under canopy, I use an arrow to steer her, she follows instructions, but when I put her in final, somewhere between 200 and 300 feet, she veers of to her left a bit, and instead of a little flat correction, she throws in a 360°, I already start cursing, but she has enough time to finish the turn and lands cleanly in the right direction. During debrief, she doesn't mention this manoeuvre, and she looks very surprised when I bring it up: she says she doesn't know that she did this. ??? Next couple of jumps are back on the radio for her.

Next is my favourite old man for another attempt on level 4. He exits OK, I have to signal him for legs out and loosen up shoulders, and then I can move in front of him, he flies solo for about 20 seconds, there is that incredible grin again, but when he checks his alti, he turns a little bit, overreacts, and there he goes. I grab him almost immediately, but we still turn 720° together, before I manage to completely stop him.

We talked about the number of jumps it would take him to go through AFF beforehand, so he knows that he has to concentrate on overall progression, rather then on levels and the number of jumps it takes him. And after all, he flew solo and stable for half the jump :-))

I had to leave early, so that's it for Sunday. And since I had family business to attend to for the rest of the day, I couldn't even have a beer before I leave the DZ, life is unfair.

September 9, 2007

5 or 6

I arrive early, almost an hour before the first plane goes up. Werner, another instructor, already intercepts me even before I'm out of my car. Lots of blahblah about other instructors jumping with "his" students and the world not being fair etc. Turns out I'm in the first load with him. But I still have to pack my chute, so I decide that the morning fog hasn't cleared out completely yet, and I change us to the second load. Also gives me time for a coffee first.

Only thing I remember from the first jump is that it was a level one, with a girl, and that my knee hit the plane on exit (I came from the inside and the exit was very vertical...)

Next is a level three, with the same man who held on to his PC a couple of weeks ago. I warned his level 2 instructor last week, but anyway, guess what I stressed in ground training :-) Exit is good, off the hill, stable, OK body position, I signal Werner, he releases, and fuck, I see him disappear: we are falling slow apparently. It ain't comfortable doing a two instructor jump on your own, but we (= the student and I) manage.

Next a rain front is coming over, so we have a few hours of coffee and storytelling in the bar. It takes until mid afternoon before it clears out again. By then, all the students have disappeared, or were sent home (or started drinking), but a bunch of first jumpers have finished their course: we can do them all before 8 o'clock (that's when the airport closes during weekends). I team up with Erik for the rest of the day.

First is a beautiful woman, who apparently is famous. I don't recognise her, her name doesn't ring a bell, but I am told she is a television star (did I already say she 's beautiful?). She is very open and enthusiast, she doesn't have a clue, and she makes a good jump. She is very petite, somewhere in between 45 and 50 kilo I guess, and we are falling very slow. When I try if I can go even slower, I rise some 20 or 30 cm up, above her, and guess what, I am looking straight into Erik's face: he is playing the same game. We smile, and concentrate again on the jump at hand.

Next is a girl, who took the course together with her father. He is very eager, but I think he might have pressured his daughter into something she doesn't really want. Everything goes OK, but throughout the whole thing, it feels like she is doing something she has to, it never feels like she enjoys it. I almost feel sorry for her.

Last jump of the day is a man, who specifically asked if he could jump with me (and waited an extra hour for it). He already made one jump four years ago, and apparently, I was his instructor back then: he recognises me, knows my name, but of course I don't remember him at all, I am a bit embarrassed. By then the sun is already low, and there is a tiny cloud deck between 6500 and 7000 feet. Incredibly beautiful up there above those clouds, light reflecting upwards and bouncing around, what a playground!! I don't remember much else about the jump, and in another four years, I sure won't remember the man.

At the end of the day, manifest insists I made 6 instruction jumps, instead of the 5 I remember, and they also pay me for 6. Well, if their computer says so, who am I to know better :-) None of the other instructors was paid a jump short, so let's all have some beers!

September 3, 2007

AFF, backflying, zoo, FS, AFF

When I arrive at the DZ on Sunday morning, it is already buzzing with the mild chaos I like so much. My gear is back in from annual inspection, so I take a bit of time to check it, and I have to pack to start the day (bwaaah). In the 10 minutes or so this takes me, 5 different people ask me if I can do this today, or that, or ...: I say "yes, sure, go ahead, you can put me in the next load" to all of them :-)

First up is a level 1. He is not too nervous, and really looking forward to it. He's good in the air. Smooth exit, very composed in free-fall, and follows instructions perfectly under canopy. He immediately signs up for a full course. Congrats to him!

By the time we are ready to board for our second jump of the day (a level 3), some low clouds have come in, and the wind starts to pick up, so all student activity is put on standby. OK, that gives me some funjump time. There's one place left in the next plane, so I go up immediately to do some backflying. I am going to exit last. The guy before me is a rookie, he has something like 15 jumps since AFF. When we are on jumprun, I see that his Vigil is not turned on (even when I am not instructing, I check such things, it's a habit). I have to forbid him to jump, and he has to come down with the plane. Not happy.

OK, so I saw it, and that means I can not let it go. Just imagine I decide to let it pass, and something happens. Would I be comfortable then with my decision? Would I be able to explain my decision to his next of kin? Would my decision stand up in a court of law? Triple no. (I could lie about it of course, but only to others, not to myself, and I don't like lying anyway).

The backflying went fine.

Next is a 5-way bellydive. I am frontfloat, and I leave a tiny tidbit early, which makes it a sporty exit, but we manage to hold it. I have a few nice moves in this dive: a back-in-while-backsliding-more-than-a-meter, and than a backwards hop over somebody, completely blind. I didn't engineer the dive :-) I notice at least five brainlocks around me, my first blind hop is way too far, all kinds of stuff happening. We are all laughing through the dive, and manage to do 15 points in the meantime. Nice!

Then a 2-way FS drill: a sequence of turns: 90°, back in, 360°, etc. Ooh, I am very rusty on these things...

By now, the weather has cleared out, and we can restart AFF. I am going to do a level 4 with the older man with the incredible smile from last week. He has tried a level 4 with another instructor yesterday, but he ended up spinning on his back, and under canopy at 9000 ft (5 sec rule). I don't know what to expect, so I ask a cameraman up with us. There is a hesitation in the exit count, but we manage to leave the plane together. He is arched, I signal legs out, and he pushes them out, his body position looks good, but there is quiet a lot of tension. Even when I let go of only one grip, he immediately starts turning. I don't let him fly solo, I don't see what's wrong. Back on the ground, it takes 4 views of the video, with two instructors, to figure out the asymmetry in his arms and upper body... We'll have to do level 4 again, but we survived, we had fun, and he regained some confidence.

Last jump of the day is a level 1, but when I want to start ground practice, I can not find the guy. Simply disappeared (ran off?), so I can start on the beer almost an hour earlier than expected :-)

August 27, 2007

Flying blind (sunday)

No jumping for me today, well... OK I have a few hours to spare in the afternoon, so I'm off to the DZ, just one little jump (or maybe two?). When I arrive, I see the older man that I made a few jumps with some weeks ago. He has been waiting all day to make a jump, but first weather conditions were no good for students, and then all instructors were busy doing tandems for the group of blind people. Well, I like the guy, and I have no tandem rating, so I can jump with him. I organise a second instructor, and within the hour, we can go up for his level 3.

Normally, given the choice I prefer being the primary instructor, it's only on a level 3 that I prefer secondary, because then I can go in front of the student (if all goes well of course), make eye contact and witness the moment they realise nobody is holding them... From exhilaration to panic, I've seen it all :-)

Exit is a bit sporty, but we recover quickly. I signal for legs out first, than arch, his body position is good, I release, Erik releases too, I move 45°, so i am halfway in front of him, he sees me, he realises he is flying solo, starts smiling, it grows into the biggest grin you can imagine: I witness a moment of pure happiness. When he checks altitude, he makes a quarter turn, Erik stops him, the dive is almost over, I have to be back in position, he forgets to signal, but pulls at the exact altitude. He has quiet a lot of static line jumps, so canopy and landing are no problem. First thing when he comes down, he tells his wife all about it for something like 45 minutes (yes, I checked), then he buys me a beer, and says (he 's a truck driver): "I'm gonna smile behind the wheel all week".

An afternoon well spent.

August 26, 2007

Flying blind (saturday)

It's a yearly event at our DZ: a non profit organisation organises sponsored tandems for blind and visually impaired people. So when I arrive, it's full of (guide)dogs, white sticks, people holding hands to go somewhere, etcetera: great atmosphere all around. Imagine someone who can't see a thing, entering a jumpship for the first time in his life, and you having to explain where and how to sit down. This is the one time of the year that I wish I was a tandem instructor rather than AFF...

Because our usual plane (a Cessna caravan) is flying at another DZ for our nationals this weekend, we have to make do with a Porter. I love this plane, mostly for sentimental reasons: I did something like 90% of my first 1000 jumps from it. The ride to altitude can get rather uncomfortable though. Any sardines complaining about the lack of space in their can, have clearly never jumped a Porter.

I'm on the roster today, so I have to be there at 9.30, although a thick fog makes all flying and jumping impossible. It will take until about 3 pm before it clears out. Waiting, waiting, waiting, .... Finally we can go up. First is a level 5. A porter is an easier plane for students to exit than a Caravan, and the good exit develops into a smooth jump. Big smiles and thumbs up all the way!

Next is a level 3. I team up with Sus. Exit is a bit awkward. The guy is really big, and we have to exit first (with me on the inside, I am secondary). The rest of the plane are tandems (blind!) and their videomen, so there is no room whatsoever to move. I fold myself double, and exit sitting on a cameraman's lap. Anything goes! The jump is a difficult one. If a student is really good, you let him fly. If he is really bad, you hold on to him. But if it is something in between, it is not so clear. You let go, but you keep your hand within 10 cm of that grip. Slightest wobble, you have to refrain yourself from immediately stopping him. There are no big or obvious mistakes, he is altitude aware and pulls at the correct altitude, but when Sus and I talk it over when we get down, we both admit feeling uncomfortable about going up alone with him for a level 4. Although I think that's a very valid reason to make him redo the level, it makes for a difficult debrief...

To end the day (I have too leave early, can't even stay for BBQ and beer) level 6 with with the same guy from earlier on. Have I already told you that 6 is my favourite level? Well, now you know :-) He makes a good solo exit, first salto attempt, nothing happens: his legs are going everywhere, but he stays belly to earth. When he sees me laughing, he gives me a thumbs up, and his second attempt is ... well it is at least an attempt. I fly this part of the jump on my knees, rather than on my belly. His tracking is rather horizontal and straight, so that's a good one. Under canopy he flies a very good circuit, exactly as briefed. I hope I get to do level 7 with him also. Sun is already rather low, so I float up there as long as I can. I land together with my student.

August 20, 2007

fun jumping

I was up at 4 am this morning for work, done at 10, so it must be possible to squeeze in a few jumps before 2 pm, when i must leave again for work. The news on the girl that broke her leg yesterday is not very good. Apparently it is not a clean fracture, and it will be a long revalidation for her.

We start off the day with an 8-way. I brief the jump, it 's ambitious for this loose bunch of funjumpers with very mixed experience and currency levels, but should be possible. Stairstep, double satellite, zipper flake, double bipole. Pity, we funnel the exit big time and it's only at 10k that we can start the jump. And, like so often after a bad exit, everybody is rushed, flying is not clean, fallrate is far from constant. We manage to go through it almost twice. Nice start of the day!

Next, I have to leave that group to be secondary on a level 3 AFF. Student is a long, skinny youngster, so they ask me for the jump: I can go slow. Good exit, but he is looking straight down at the ground, with his arms stretched out in front of him. I check if Luk is comfortable, release and go in front. I have to go low before he sees me, and when I come up level again, he keeps looking at me, so that's first problem cleared. Next I take his arms and bring them in position. All this time, he hasn't checked altitude, so I check mine with an exaggerated move, but he doesn't imitate me. Luk is still holding him, and I can see their must be quiet a bit of tension there, but I can't exactly see what's wrong: he arches, he holds pressure on his legs, only thing I see is his upper body is very tense. Then Luk lets go, but he starts swinging around immediately. We end up switched, with me as primary and Luk in front of him, but time is up. He is now altitude aware, and pulls at the right time, but with a rather horrible body position. Flies a clean circuit and lands smoothly.

No more time to make another jump, but hey, that's two more that nobody can take away from me!

August 19, 2007

Saturday august 18: a bad day

Yes, there are those as well...

I had to give a first jump course today, not my favourite activity, but hey, I 've survived worse. 8 students, all of an acceptable level of fitness and brains, so no problem there. I even have an apprentice instructor, to help me! After an early start, I 'm done with it around 4 p.m. so finally I can start jumping. I team up with Gert, we start off with a level one, a 50 year old man, remarkably sharp and fit for someone his age. He makes a good exit, I have to help him quite a bit to find the pull during his practice pulls, but he makes a great jump, until...

5500ft, he signals, pulls, and then HOLDS ON TO THE PC!!! I fuck up big time here: he makes the pull, and I let go too soon, before he throws it away. In the 2 seconds it takes me to fly back in place, Gert reaches over the student's back, and starts pulling the bridle. :-(( Luckily, at that moment, the student lets go of the PC, before any real shit happens. Big sigh of releave, fuck, fuck, fuck, no good... Some reflecting and talking to do when we are back on the ground.

I was trained as an AFF instructor back in the ripcord days, when a primary's job was to secure the pull and then back off, to create as little turbulence as possible for the spring to take of. On a PC system, I have to secure the pull AND THE THROW, before I let go! Of course I know this, but fact is I didn't do it: I did as I was trained years ago. I wasn't alert enough, I was flying too much on auto-pilot and apparently I never made the mental switch to the new procedure completely. Well, I talked about it with a few people afterwards, I'm sure it won't happen again, and extra beer this evening for being lucky on a wake-up call. Also a talk with Gert: I made the original mistake, but his reaction was dangerous to himself, and to the student (horseshoe). By the way, when the student came down, first thing he said was "I think I held on to that little thing a bit to long, no?" I agreed and we high fived.

Next jump is a girl, a first jumper from my course that morning. She is nervous, makes a good jump from 13.000 ft till 50 ft, but then she flares much too high. She holds the toggles down, the canopy doesn't stall, but instead of holding her feet together, she reaches for the ground. She doesn't roll but tries to stand it up, and she is unlucky: she brakes her leg. Fuck, fuck, fuck, no good again. I know this one isn't directly on my conto, I know shit happens, and all that stuff, but of course I wonder what I could have said or done different, how I could have prevented this. She made the mistakes, but I feel like it is my reponsibility...

While she is taken away to hospital, I go up again, with a group of 10, to celebrate the 100th jump of a girl I trained last year. I really like that girl, and we make a very good jump, all the others are thrilled, but I can't enjoy it as much as I usually do on such occasions.

Sunset, I feel I deserve a few beers after a day like this, but the nagging feeling doesn't go away...

August 12, 2007


Home DZ is closed this WE, so going to another, smaller DZ nearby. Couldn't jump last WE, I was on family holiday, so I'm eager to throw in some quick jumps!

Sus is there with a student of his, asks if I can do a level 4 with the guy, so that he can video it. Of course I can :-) Our exit is not great, just OK: student's exit was good, but I left a split second early, so instead of staying in the axis of the plane, our line of flight has turned 180° by the time we level out. When I release him, he wavers a bit, but easily sorts it out himself, and it is a piece of cake from there on. the landing area here is much smaller than at our home DZ, but he flies a clean circuit, and lands OK some 200 meters off target.

There's one place left in the next load, I manifest and go up again immediately. First a bit if tracking on my back. Accelerating, slowing down, controlling the speed, a couple of barrelrolls while maintaining speed, through the clean sky, it's like high speed sunbathing. For the second part of the jump, I transition to headdown, manage to keep the position, feel the speed building up, Wahoo!!

There are a couple of bellyfliers funjumping, but I don't feel like joining them, instead I manifest again for a solo jump. I dive out after a 4-way team, planning to carve around them, sitting on my knees, but it appears that's a bit ambitious. I can't hold the level, and in trying too work on that, I loose the position, spin almost 360° and fall over. I kinda love this helpless tumbling through the sky, but I have to place some distance between the four-way team and myself, so I stop tumbling and track off.

July 29, 2007

my birthday

Well it 's not because I 'm getting old, that I can't do AFF. I 'm on the roster for this saturday, so let's go! I am supposed to be at the DZ early, but because the weather is completely overcast, I don't hurry. I SMS two students to give them stand-by till noon. When I finally arrive there are at least a couple of hours to kill before the weather will be good enough to jump. coffee-time.

It 's already past one o'clock when we can start. First is the same older man from a couple of weekends ago. He made +- 100 static jumps years ago, when he was in the military, and last year, he did 20 static lines and 3 very bad AFF jumps in another club. That's when he was told to try us, because they were no longer prepared to AFF with him. Before we brief, we have a chat (time is about the only benefit of a weather hold :-) where I explain that 7 levels = 7 jumps will probably not work for him, and we discuss the cost of something like 20 AFF jumps, combined with a tunnel session. When I talk about the risk of breaking some bones at his age, he reacts "watch me" and shows me, then and there, the best plf I have seen in some time, right in front of me, on the (hard) floor. Motivation is king!

I team up with rik, an examinator, for a valid second opinion on how to handle this "case". I brief an adapted level 2, only exercise is flying forwards, to force him to pay attention to his legs. In the plane, he is still tense, but less than on his previous jump. At exit, he almost surprises us, by going check in check out and then immediately jumping. Well, we handle it, and he makes a very good jump. Clear and determined, everything exactly like we briefed it. Very acceptable body position, we can go on level 3 with him.

Rest of the day is a bunch of first jumpers, all people who don't have the intention to go on in the sport, so it I switch to what I call "tourist mode". I team up with door for a couple of hours of fun. First one makes a good jump, but the ground crew makes a mistake: they mix up students, and by the time they notice they are talking to the wrong one, it is too late, and they have to make him land in the parking lot. We 're in luck, no people or cars are harmed in the process. Second one, light goes out after exit, nobody home till about 8k, he wakes up, does a gasp, time is almost up, so on his first practice pull, I grab his hand and force him to actually pull.

Third one is a very beautiful jump. Nothing to do with the student, all with the weather. Cloud base is at 14k, so we exit underneath a big cloud, in its shadow. But since the sun is already quiet low, at about 10k we fall out of the shadow, into the bright sunlight. The DZ under us is bright and sunny, the city next to it is a dark shadowy spot, and there are al kinds of reflections and light beams in every direction up there. I can't get enough of it, float around in half brakes under my canopy, land only seconds before our student.

Time to start on that birthday party.

July 23, 2007

Sunday, no 4 way for us today.

We were going to do 4-way today, but Jean phoned last night that he had to work today. Pity, we are probably not the best 4-way team in the country, but it is always great fun. We (= the other three of us) manifest, and just ask the others on the load who wants to join. We end up doing a nice seven way. On opening I have a rather nasty twist, Luckily I fly a conservative canopy and I manage to get out of it, so I keep my count at two reserve rides in about 3000 jumps (not a bad average, huh).

The girl from yesterday comes up to me and asks if, since apparently I am not doing 4-way, I want to jump with her, and how could I say no to that. So up we go for her level 5. Some clouds are forming, and the wind has picked up a bit, but nothing too bad I think. On exit, there are no clouds underneath us, we have a clear view, but just before us, upwind of our exit point is a gigantic tumulus, it goes up to at least 15k I think. The freefall goes great, but as soon as I am under canopy, i feel that the wind is much stronger now, too strong for a very light student under a big canopy anyway. But all the briefing and the explanations about patterns and windchecks do prove useful. She heads her canopy into the wind at 4000 feet, and just comes straight down, staying in place or, for the bottom few 100 feet, even going backwards a little bit. The timing of her flare is perfect, and she even remembers not to flare too deep in a situation like this. I congratulate her on a job very well done, and apologise for putting her in that situation: I know the winds can get heavy just before such a big cloud, I saw the cloud, and yet the penny didn't drop and I gave the go for the exit...

The next plane still goes up, although the weather is now quickly worsening.
This is what it looked like when they were landing. That's it for today. Beer-time

Photos by John Beton

Yep, another weekend!

AFF season is still in full swing, so here we go again. At least today the instructor team is complete, so it promises to be a relaxing day. I get the chance to team up with birky, whom i believe is one of the best teachers in our club. Everytime I listen to him debrief a student, I learn.

First is the 120 bpm girl again with her second attempt at level 3. She hesitates and has to overcome herself before she takes place in the door, lets herself fall out, rather then jumping out, and then, from a horrible no-control start of the dive, she begins to gather her senses, and we can see her improve all the way to through the dive. Birky releases at 8000, I give her 5 secs of solo flight from 7000 on, she makes a clean pull. Uneventfull canopy flight and landing. Birky gives a great debrief, and she decides herself to do it over.

Next is a guy on level 2. Everything OK in ground training, but up there, it 's all completely different. Very stressed, completely forgets about his legs, they are flapping all over the place, reacts ok to signs, as long as he sees them, but from the moment we retrieve a sign, there he goes again! He is mesmerised by his altimeter, stares so hard he starts the pull a little late, can't find it, panicks, birky has to pull.

The 120 bpm girl makes a great level 3. Third time lucky! (well, it 's not luck, she worked for it -:) Witnessing people at the moment they get that "click" in the air, the first time they actually feel they are flying, instead of just going down: i love it!

Next I quickly throw in a fun jump: an FS 7 way, to celebrate the 100th jump of an ex student of mine. It amazes me how quickly people progress nowadays. I wouldn't have dreamed of doing a 7 way at 100 jumps (it was all static line progression back then): things have definitely changed for the good!

Level 4 with the same girl. I am sure she is going to do fine, and she doesn't let me down. When i move in front of her and let her go, she starts turning, but she solves the problem herself after only about half a turn, and from then on she sails through. It is a joy to watch, but I have to pay attention to my fallrate. She is going very, very slow. I check it afterwards, and our average speed was 98 mph. As far as I remember, that's my slowest of the year so far. (btw, the fastest so far this year, excluding funnels and salto's, was an 148 mph average: talk about range!).

Today is our national independence day, and there is a big military parade in Brussels, wich includes the airforce (yes, our army has planes!). The only reason I mention it, is that due to this, traffic control closes us down halfway through the afternoon.

July 16, 2007

Lazy sunday

Already afternoon when I arrive at the DZ. I sneak in and manifest myself on the first available load for a funjump. I am already geared up before the DZO notices me and books me for an AFF. I do a solo jump, tracking on my back, transitioning to headdown, falling over to belly track, etcetera. Simply enjoying the sky.

I am just too lazy to be a good instructor today. I do a level 2, secondary, and i wouldn't recognise the student if i bumped into him today. Shame on me.

Next there is a thunderstorm some 30 km away from the DZ, but traffic control in Brussels has to steer all those big passenger jets around the storm, so they have to close us down for the rest of the afternoon. We now have a weather hold, and a beer in the sun on the terras at the same time. I like it.

Another saturday: I love being an AFF instructor

Saturday, it 's going to be a busy day: almost half of the instructors are doing the mission impossible in brienne, so...

Starting with the guy from last weeks video. He looked at his video every day of the week, and he practised arching, and it pays off: he makes a good jump. first seconds, he is struggling, but then he realises he 's gonna be OK, and a big smile breaks. I love to watch that moment in a student. He has to land out, but handles it very well.

Then last weeks 120 bpm girl is back: she liked her first jump so much she is back for a full course. I team up with Gert again. Uneventful jump (for us at least), but she hurts her ankle on landing: she approaches in half brakes, and lets herself be pushed away by the wind and she lands cross. Nothing too bad though.

The next one is another level 2. Very nervous, but a good jump, apart from the one most important detail. At 5500 ft, he signals, and then the lights go out: he just stares at his altimeter, no reaction to signal, so I have to pull for him. I see him waking up and going for his PC on line stretch.

OK, level 5 with the same guy from this morning. he is starting to have some serious fun up there. It is a pleasure to jump with a student like him, who struggled for a few jumps, but overcame his difficulties, and is flying through the rest of his course now.

Next I team up with "Wacko" Werner. The student is a man in his sixties, who did about ten static jumps in another club last year. This year he wanted to try AFF, but after a few jumps, there were no more instructors willing to jump with him (at least that's his story). So a quick phonecall with the chief instructor from the previous club. I don't brief him much, only ten minutes or so, but I listen to him telling the story of his life for much longer than that. It loosens him up, and he is a good storyteller, so... He makes an OK jump, and is completely thrilled. He is in tears of happiness when he thanks us.

And on to level 6 (which is my favourite level) with my favourite student of the day. Skydiving is such great fun. I still have to do one jump, but he promises he 'll be waiting for me when I come down WITH A COOL BEER!

Last jump of the day is level 3 with the 120 bpm girl again. I team up with Door: I do the serious part of the brief, he throws in the jokes, but she seems tired from the long wait, she 's not completely concentrated, and it shows. I am secondary, so I can release her, but Door has to keep her from falling over. I move in front of her to make eye contact and to give clearer handsignals, she reacts, takes on a much better body position, but two seconds after Door lets go too, we must retake grips 'cause all that good body position is already gone. She is altitude aware, pulls, and lands without hurting herself this time.

Yep, he is indeed waiting for me with a beer, he 'll make a good skydiver :-)

July 9, 2007

Sunday: a few relaxing jumps

Start of the day with a level 3 again, with the same guy from yesterday afternoon. I team up with Gert, a brand new instructor, graduated last week. Heard good things about him from the examiner. We take our time briefing the guy, and it pays off. His jump is much better then the previous attempt. I have to signal Gert a few times to let go, not to retake grips, to give the guy some space to correct his own mistakes and learn. Not a great jump, still some body position problems, but he 's altitude aware, and he flew solo and stable for almost 20 seconds, so I 'll take him to level 4 next.

Next I am secondary with a one jump girl. We chat a bit on the ride to altitude, she goes ooh I'm so nervous, you should feel my heart beating, she takes my hand and pushes it to her chest: well, she has 120 beats per minute and an A-cup. On our way to the door, she stops, a very tiny voice goes "I don't wanna do this", she continues, exits, makes a great jump.

Level 4 with the bloke from this morning. On the ground, he arches OK, but he doesn't do it in the air, when it matters. Two releases, two spins, nothing too violent, but completely out of control.

We go up to do it again almost immediately. I ask Sam, great camera flyer, to come along, so he can see for himself the difference between what he thinks he does, and his actual body position.
The jump is better than the previous one (still one spin, but also 20 seconds of relax & more or less stable flying) but I still haven't seen him start and stop a turn on his own. The video is an eye opener. We take rendez vous for next weekend, and I am confident he'll pass his level 4 on the next jump.

Only 4 jumps, easygoing today. Beer.

Saturday: busy with AFF

When I arrived at the DZ, it was chaos: a few instructors didn't turn up, students queuing all over the place. Well, not really my problem, I am just going to have fun today.

First jump is a level 5. When we are on the plane, the student asks me, if I know a trick to handle his surplus of nerves and energy. Of course I do! I tell him to just leave the plane shouting. On exit, I am floating, and well, he really is giving a performance: I hear him loud and clearly. The 6 tandem passengers in the plane won't know what hit them! Very smooth jump, great student.

Then I team up with Ronny for a couple of lower level jumps. First a level 2 with a guy I had in ground class a few weeks before. When I ask him why he wants to become a skydiver, he starts on a story about wanting more out of his weekends, rather than just partying and booze. Hehehe, if he stays around a bit, we will show him how to combine his old and his new interests. Good altitude awareness, clean pull, but lousy body position: hope I can do a few more levels with him, will be interesting.

OK, on to a level 3. I am secondary, never saw the bloke before we get on the plane. Great exit, he's good, so I release almost immediately, while we 're still on the hill. A few more seconds, primary also releases. I go in front of him, give him a big smile and a thumbs up. The grin on his face makes my day.

A level 2 student is next. I have to admit that I don't remember much about him (well, nothing would be even more accurate), and about the only thing I remember from the jump, is my what-the-fuck-is-this feeling, when he decides to improvise an extra practice pull at 8.5k, and I have to be quick to make sure he doesn't actually pull that high.

Then a jump I'll remember for some time. If there existed an award for "lousiest body position of the year", ladies and gentlemen, we do have a serious contender here... Girl, very scared, done two tandem jumps earlier this year. Very nervous, then sensory overload creeping in, and even before she's out of the plane, out goes the light. She more or less falls out, and there sure is nobody home for the next minute or so. With my left hand I hold a harness grip, and I have my elbow tucked in under her leg to push it up a bit. I try to hold her upper body between my right hand and my head. On the other side, Ronny is doing something similar, and we only just manage to keep it stable. I have 7000 feet to decide how I'll throw her pilot chute without the three of us funneling. I manage, she lands safely, and afterwards, she tells us it was the greatest thing she ever did. :-)

For the last jump of the day, I loose Ronny and I have to team up with Luc. Level 3 with that same guy with whom I did a level 2 earlier. As predicted, it was "interesting": little arch, the knees wide apart and slightly lower then his pelvis, and his hands are lower than his shoulders. It almost looks like a mantis. And of course as flexible and relax as concrete. It takes some moulding and signalling before we can give him the release. As soon as the secondary JM lets go, I can feel where he will go when I release, so I signal Luc into place, I let go, and we give him three seconds of solo flight, straight into Luc's arms. More arch, legs out, heel click, push his arms in position, try again: Luc lets go, feels slightly better then the first try, I let go, one sec, two sec, oh no, he starts rolling, I stabilise him just before he goes belly up. Time's up, he's altitude aware and pulls.


New start

So I am going to try again to blog about skydiving. Maybe one blog per day is more reasonable than a blog per jump. Let's wait and see

February 26, 2007

open acc's

I immediately manifested when I arrived at the DZ, just made the first lift of the day. Quick briefing while walking up to the plane: a 3-way dive with Chantal, a lovely lady but a bit low on jumpnumbers, and Polleke, an old guy (well, older then I am anyway) with lots of CRW and tandem jumps. This is going to be a slow dive: they are both even skinnier then me. Exit is an open accordeon, with me in the middel floating, the other two diving. Shake, OK and go - oops, Polleke is late, well that gives me a free hand to handle Chantal, so i can stop her from flapping under me and we exit a nice two-way. I see Polleke diving towards us, OK, lets start: open accordeon, with the outside man (woman) flying around the other two, to redock on the other side of the accordeon, so the middle man becomes outside man, and so on. Chantal starts of, very slowly, I have to help her with the level, but a clean move. Then its my turn, instead of flying around it, I hop over the others while doing 180°, shit, I hop 20 cm too far and have to bubble up again, now Polleke, ooh he goes too quick, yeah, past it, ok let's close the gap, Chantal again, because it took her so long the first time, I now turn the 2-way piece 90° towards her, I can see in her face that she didn't notice that, and she is very pleased that she so quick :-)) now my turn again, ok I hop right in my slot this time, love the move, I see Polleke looking at me, he 's also gonna try to hop over it instead of flying around, he wobbles his ass around, nothing happens, he looks at me with sad eyes, shakes no and has to fly around it biepbiepbiep Check the others while tracking, ok I 'm in the clear, love those soft on heading openings. Whooohaaa, the weekend has started!

February 5, 2007

2912: AFF, level 7

That level 4 was more then good enough, we can almost immediately follow on with his level 7.
Solo dive-exit. I position myself behind him, so he has the complete void to himself. There we go, well done, he just goes a quarter turn off heading, but no falling over, well controlled! Then a salto, 360 left, 360 right, track while counting to five, hey, he 's tracking a circle, yeah, he has his legs together, and his arms are flapping all over the place, he 's going steeper, this is almost head down, watch it, he falls over, very quick recovery, good, we 're only at 9000 ft and the dive is done. I give him a big thumbs-up, he does three more saltos, at 6000 ft, he gives me a thumbs-up, lock-on and pull a second below 5kft.
Hmmm, if all students were like this, even my mother in law could be an instructor. And the drop was ok this time, Yippie, i love my front risers!

2911: AFF, level 4

Can't continue the 4-way, 2 students of mine have arrived, 2 brothers. I hand one over to koen, I don't feel like working too much today :-) OK, the guy is at level 7, but his previous jump was some 6 weeks ago. I 'm really not good at that kind of rules, so I have to ask another instructor what the book says about this: first a level 4 apparently. Since I did most of the guy's previous jumps, lets make it a level four-and-a-halve. Ground stuff is smooth, some extra stuff about landing out, cause that pilot keeps throwing people out all over the place. I 'm gonna take my mobile.
"Check-out", instead of the usual ok-nod, I give him a very loud YIIHAAAH-nod, I see a big grin appearing, out, in, out, I release him almost immediately, he struggles a few seconds, alticheck, turn left, alticheck, flying forward, alticheck, what's he doing now, he stops arching, and his arms are almost like in mantis??? he turns on his upper body, quick, too quick, he is gonna fall over, no, he 's keeping it together, ok, he 's arching again, he has completely forgotten about his legs now, serious backslide, but this is 5000ft, wave-off, pull, nice and clean. An OK dive.
He just makes it back, I land out.

2910: Door, Sus, Jean & me

We had to wait for the fog to clear, so we all had too much coffee and gossip, but at last, sun 's coming out, so lets go. We are exiting a ritz, but we are diving it out, instead of our usual version of this exit.
Shake, OK, off we go, not a good idea, trying it this way, we lost jean. While we wait for him to take back his position, Sus relaeses grips, what's he doing now, oh yeah, it's his first jump in this new jumpsuit, so he is using this pauze to try it out. Jean 's back and off we go. Move towards icepick is good. We (the sidebody piece) are done early, we can meet them earlier next time around. Some randoms, OK, here 's that move again, good, timing was much better now, but the front piece didn't expect us this early in there move, so they just quack into us. Then some confusion over a sidebody-donut. Sus continuing, me waiting for the sidebody, third ritz-icepick move, beatiful, I love it when a plan comes together.
We start our fourth block move at 4.1 kft, no way we will finish this, so I just start the turn, and throw away my piece partner halfway through it, and track off. He goes almost 360 before he can stop himself. But where the fuck am I?
My first jump here, was 18 years ago, I saw the DZ at exit, but I can't find it now ??? I check the other canpies, waaw, that **** of a pilot must have taken a reverse axis with rather high upper winds to leave us here. I check my mental picture of climbing out, we were third group, and indeed he was flying north instead of south, should have realised it then instead of now. The car ride back to the DZ is exactely 7.4 km! All 17 jumpers landed out.

2909: tracking

Our little group broke up, so I decide to do a solo tracking jump. My friend Luc is going for his tandem rating, and he is on the same load as me, with his first human passenger (maybe "human" is overdoing it a but: the guy's nickname is rambo...). They both look nervous, but Luc has over 3000 jumps, so he should be able to pull this one off.
It 's one of my favourit exits, just stepping out of the plane, into a track alongside it. Then 90° left, towards te village, that's my axis. I go on my back, yeah, nice and flat, love the speed, barrelroll, shit, lost way too much speed in that move, happens quite often, and I don't know what I 'm doing wrong: if I concentrate, I 'm ok, if I just barrelroll without thinking, I loose all the speed. Bellytrack again, so I can check my neptune. 7.5, and I am already past the village, so time to turn around, or I will be landing out.
So back towards jumprun, picking up speed again, I see canopies, I see people falling, that will be the tandem, I see someone pull, opening, it 's not the tandem, but he is higher then I am, fuck, what 's my altitude, 6000 ft, I' m OK, oh I remember now, there was a photographer on the load, who was going to open higher, so he could fly by the tandem, and make some shots. Wave off, pull, opening is smooth, on heading, I love my canopy.

2908: 8-way

The same seven people from the previous jump, plus Walter, who arrived late. Briefing is more ambitious now (we are not a team, we are just a bunch of jumpers who happened to be there): standard exit, start off with a compass, easy transition to a frisbee, then snowflake/in-out and a big star to cool down.
As we launch, I am coming from the inside again, I feel that the guy behind me is late: I pull him out instead of him coming with us. I can hold it, but next to me, it opens up. We also go off heading more then 45°, so it takes us almost 1000 ft to make the first compass, but shit, we 're only seven, where is eight? Koen sees me looking, and points down, ooh Walter is deep, too deep to wait, so 7-way it is.
We 're lucky, he was on the outside (wing on the frisbee, cat on the snowflake), so there needn't be too much improvisation. But our fallrate is now ridicilously slow: I am 1.85 m for only 64 kilos, so no problem here, but there 's people struggling all around me, not a good dive.
Back on the ground, I go to the other skinny guy of our group, we high-five, "I can go slower then this" "Yeeah".

2907: 13 kft with no helmet or goggles

We have briefed a 7-way, an easy one. Just after take-off, koen says "shit, I forgot my helmet", then "does someone has spare goggles ?" and then "my altimeter and my gloves were in my helmet" and "this is going to be a fun dive".
It is about -15° at 13 kft, linked exit, with koen floating, his ears must be freezing off. Shake, OK, there we go, I 'm coming from the inside, practikally no tension, a very smooth exit, I check koen and he has his eyes firmly closed. First time round is a bit slow, 2 guys on the outside are having fallrate problems. Koen can make all his moves in place, and we only have to help him a little: maybe he's crazy, but he 's good...
We briefed 4 points, and only after the fourth time round, my ditter beeps, not too bad. I give koen 2 taps on the head, to let him know we are off, and I track away. Between my legs, I see him waiting three seconds, and then pull in place, like we last-minute-decided in the plane.