An online skydiving logbook

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.

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