An online skydiving logbook

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