An online skydiving logbook

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 :-)