An online skydiving logbook

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.