An online skydiving logbook

December 13, 2008


First take-off is only at 11.30 h. And of course I'm on it. A 5-way with me in the middle. On exit the point flips under the formation, but we keep the faith. Eventually it works out allright. The jump is not great, but fun.

Jump 2 & 3 are sitflies. The second one is fine, I jump with two others, they do their stuff, and I manage to follow their level and stay close to them. On jump 3 I once again completely f**k up the exit, and by the time I am level and start to move in, the jump is almost over. Aaaah, frustrating stuff!

Next is a tracking jump. We are just two, and after everybody else has exited, I close the door and signal to the pilot to continue. The other guy starts acting a bit nervous, and I realise I didn't tell him I was planning to exit about 1.75 mile further than the others (I honestly forgot, I wasn't doing it on purpose). So I monitor on the plane's GPS where we are, open the door, quick glance outside, a nod to the other guy, and there we go. I dive towards the tail, immediately in tracking position, but I go too steep and I go off the right axis for a moment. I have to readjust before I can really take off. I don't see my companion, I barrelroll looking for him, but I don't see him. Well, there's no time to loose or I will be landing in the middle of nowhere, and anyway, if I track like hell, he won't be able to follow me and thus we will have enough separation at pull time. I make it back and I am over the DZ when I pull. When I look behind me, the other guy is already open, way higher then me, and way back, but he'll also make it back.

On my way home, I am stopped by the police for an alcohol test, and I breathe clean. So 3 beers in less than 2 hours is fine :-))

December 7, 2008


Cold but clear weather. Not much people, so no waiting between jumps. Looks good! For the winter season, we are not jumping out of our usual Caravan, but out of our Pilatus Porter. I like that it is a warmer plane, and that we can go up with only 8 people, so we can start earlier in the morning.

First jump, only belly fliers on the load, so we brief a 10-way. Exit is a funnel (I am backfloater, great view on all that mayonaise) but then we cleanly build the first point, 2 diamonds held together by their tails with a bipole in the center, so that's 8 out of 10 outfacing. Not bad for a zoo jump. Rest ofthe jump is also OK. Our landing zone is full of really big molehills. On landing, I have good speed, my right foot sliding a bit, and then, ouch, those molehills are completely frozen, hard as concrete. That's one blue toe for the next few days :-)

I split off from this group for a solo next. I wanna try out diving, but at a steeper angle then usual, you know, when it feels like you're in a void, you can't hold steady, can't hold a direction. In the beginning I'm all over the place, but then, click, body position matches dive-angle and yahoo! speed again! Did I just invent atmonauti? Naah, just a fun dive...

3 and 4 are sitflies. On the fourth, a bellyflier, only 12 jumps this year, comes with me. When he dives towards me, he has trouble with the my vertical speed, he dives all he has, but it looks so uncontrolled... I spend the whole jump backing off, and keeping some distance between us, while he spends his jump trying to close in :-)

No time for beer (not even one). Must run.

December 4, 2008


11/10/2008 - 2 jumps
12/10/2008 - 3 jumps
18/10/2008 - 5 jumps (1 AFF)
19/10/2008 - 6 jumps (we did 8-way, a very nice day)
25/10/2008 - 4 jumps
02/11/2008 - 4 jumps
08/11/2008 - 4 jumps (1 AFF)
22/11/2008 - 1 jump
29/11/2008 - 4 jumps

Sorry for the pauze in my posting. Back to the good old 1-post-per-day rhythm from now on. But we are off season, and the weather preview for this weekend is not great at all :-(

October 3, 2008


Mayhem today. A beautiful, sunny day. Very busy, and only 2 AFF instructors on site. And I have to do some other stuff first, so it is almost noon before I arrive. A bit of organising is needed first. Well, this is an understatement: it is actually plain chaos when I arrive, lots of students waiting to jump, wanting to know when they will jump and what's going to happen. Their mother getting angry at us, etc. Not nice. We manifest for loads 7, 9, 11 and 13. Then a pause for briefings and gear organising, and again on load 16 and 18. We expect 19 loads before sunset. We line up the waiting students in order of arrival. The first 6 are happy-lucky, we have to disappoint the others.

First one is OK in freefall, all over the place under canopy, lands OK. Second one is a struggle in freefall. We both hold his harness grip with our elbows tucked under his legs, to push them up. He struggles with his practice pulls, and at pull time, he can't find the hackey, so I have to pull for him. OK under canopy, flairs too high, good PLF. Third we split: my colleague doing a level 5, and me a level 4. Although I had less time to brief him then I would have liked (sorry for that, man), he makes a great jump, flies a clean circuit, and lands nicely!

This was the first time in almost a year that I did one of the higher AFF levels, without my camera. And it made me realise once more what a great tool for de-briefs video is. On the one side, the video always contains more details then my memory. On the other side, images beat words every time. He exited towards the ground, so he wasn't arching towards the relative wind: it takes a second to show something like that on video, but it is much more abstract to just explain, without images. And so on...

Fourth is a a rather uncertain, nervous girl. It takes some reassuring and talking, but she makes a good jump. If there was a prize for best-first-jump-of-the-day, she would be the winner. And afterwards she is elated about it. Next we have our little break, there's almost half an hour between our student landing, and our next call.

Fifth is a young guy, who has been waiting all day, just sitting there, between his mum and dad. But he manages to stay positive, and as soon as he's on, he is enthusiastic, engages, and works with us. He makes a good jump, lands OK, he enjoys it all. And after the jump, he reassures us (!) that it was more than worth the wait.

When we board for our sixth jump, the pilot gets notice from traffic control in Brussels, that it's too busy, and we are on a 5000 ft max height for the next hour. So that's it. No more AFF for today. And this guy has been waiting for what, 9 hours or something, and then, no jump...

I love making lots of jumps, I don't need more than a few minutes to pack, I don't mind eating and drinking on the way up, but I don't like it when the overall organisation (or better: the lack thereof) obliges me to disappoint people. But I do like beer...

September 27, 2008

I like days like this.

2-way sit with Mario to begin the day. Hmmm, nice, OK :-))) !!! I exit facing the prop, no funnelling, oops, where did that 180° turn come from? steady, control, push on my legs, nice, fly towards each other, slow down a bit, hey no backsliding please, cool, I could just touch his foot, beep beep, end of jump, Yahoo!!!

A level 2 jump next. The other instructor doesn't wear his jumpsuit. He wears a jersey and one of those old leather hats. I have a flash back. This is how we were flying last century :-). The jump is OK.

And another 2-way sit, another good one. I really enjoy this stuff. My sit-to -track transition sucks. Have to pay attention there.

Next is the older man from a few weeks ago. He's back for his level 5. On the ride up, we fly over the factory where he works. He points it out to me, it is one of those real heavy industry factories. I say "Glad I'm up here, rather then working down there" and I give that factory the finger. He grins, says "yeah", and also waves his middle finger to his work place. I have a good feeling about the jump. And indeed, it is a good one.

The new load of students from this week's FJC is ready by now, so it's two more level 1's and that will be it for today. First one is a middle aged man (right, that's about my age, maybe even a tiny bit younger), nervous, quite a bit of work in the air, but in the end he does OK, and like all of them, he really loves it. His 9 year old son is waiting for his dad when he comes back, and with his eyes full of admiration, he says "I want to be here on my 12th birthday". 12 is the minimum age for a tandem here in Belgium.

Second student is a girl. A bit of confusion on exit: she doesn't position herself correctly in the door, she grabs the bar above her head with both hands and holds on to it, I am outside, and my inside colleague doesn't react, so I have to let go of her harness grip to take her arm, and position her correctly for the exit. No problem there, but if she chooses this exact moment to exit, we have a (likely) funnel, with me having only an arm grip on her. But she doesn't do it and we make an uneventful jump. After this initial confusion, she 's really good, very aware, doing all the stuff she has to do, and really enjoying it while she does it. Under canopy, she even listens to my instructions (and lands fine)!

I am thinking about something, it starts with the letter "J", it rhymes with "upiler"... Any ideas?

September 20, 2008


4 16-way jumps today. They were lousy. People weren't disciplined, there were people showing up late and people leaving early. In the air, there was no focus, lack of commitment, plain out of control flying. Manifested myself on the sunset load for a solo jump. Best jump of the day! Maybe it was just me having a bad day...

September 14, 2008


First jump of the day is a solo sitfly, and guess what: the exit works! Facing the prop, leaning backwards. If I don't react to the wind and don't try to stay stable in my sit, if I just don't do a thing, if I just sit, it works! That's what a few thousand belly jumps mis-teach you :-)).

It is going to be a slow day: our national cartographer service (the guys who make Belgium's official maps) are doing some aerial photographing today, and for us this means a 30 minute holding every few hours. And once the rhythm of a dropzone is broken, the day stops flowing and everything starts to slow down.

Second jump is with an ex student. It's his 13th jump (no, it ain't Friday), his first 2-way since AFF. We exit a star (he floats), good exit, I present grips in a few positions, he takes them easily. He makes a few turns, OK, even a back-in and a 540°, and I have seen far worse than his. Turn, track, hey, he doesn't wave off, he just pulls. Very good jump. Well, the freefall part at least. Unfortunately, on landing, he stumbles over his lines and breaks his little finger. Well, how's that for a skydiving accident! You know what they say: if it can't kill you, it's not an extreme sport :-)

Next jump, the roles are reversed. A 2-way sit with an ex-student of mine. He is a good free flyer now, and returning the favour, the jumps I did with him a few years ago. It's great fun beginning to be able to control high-speed flying. Because that's how I think about it in my head (where else would I be thinking anyway): belly-to-earth = low speed, sit and stand = high speed.

There's only time left for one more jump. I exit last (apart from a few wing suiters) and pull a little higher. I love floating up there, and I land well after the birds.

The season is ending. It's too cold to have our beers on the terrace, we have to go inside. The determined and focused students who really planned for skydiving tend to come earlier in the year, now nearing the end of the season, I don' know how to put it, they still enjoy it terribly, but they are more like, it's one of the many things they do, not the one and only thing they ever dreamed about. It's a difference in motivation, it's another kind of students, and it shows. Of course there are exceptions, and maybe AFF fatigue starts to creep in with us instructors too, just maybe, just a tiny little bit. Next year I wanna progress further in freefly, do a bit of 8-way and a bit of 16-way, and who knows what else. But would you listen to me, the year isn't over yet: I want at least 10 jumps next weekend. And another beer right now!

August 31, 2008

3 AFF jumps today

August 30, 2008


At last, a beautiful blue-sky day. The summer we are having, our climate is really getting confused. I guess we are the last generation that will be allowed to burn fossil fuels just for fun, so we might as well enjoy it, no?

It's busy. The bad weather made for a lot of funjumpers that still have some money left, there are lots of tandem bookings that we had to cancel, and of course lots of AFF students, eager to continue and complete their training.

First there is Mieke, she took her FJC end of june, and only now we can do levels 5, 6 and 7. 5 is a good jump. 6, at one point she funnels, gives me a sad look, I can see her mouthing "sorry", than she turns belly to earth again and continues with the dive. I like it when my students are polite ;-)). On her final level, nothing works: she funnels the exit, funnels her frontloop, funnels her tracking, but apart from looking frustrated, she handles it all and she pulls, at the exact altitude, stable. She repeats the dive for her first solo, and this time, it all comes together. I know it went great before she tells me, just by looking at her smile.

Then there is an older man with whom I already made a few jumps. He is stuck at level 3, it is (if I remember correctly) his fourth attempt now. He has resigned himself to wasting his remaining jump tickets on level 3 jumps, and quitting after that. When he tells me this, I refuse to jump with him, and tell him to come back only if he really wants to give it a try. It takes a bit of time and a bit of peptalk, but we do two jumps today: he passes his levels 3 and 4. I am rather proud of myself. Look at it:

Maybe he's not a natural, and maybe he'll never be a skygod, but he will be able to stay safe and have great fun.

A quick level 1 after this, and then finally, beer!

August 23, 2008


4 jumps today. 3 sitflies, one was a 2-way that really went well. The other guy gave me some feedback on why I am so lousy at exiting in a sit, and for the rest of the jump, we really were flying together. At last! I enjoyed it terribly!

There was also an AFF jump, a level 3. During briefing, I asked him how he would react to a twist. At first he tried with "I don't know". When I pushed him a bit, he told me he would land it. He saw my face on this answer, and added that this was what he was told in his first jump course. We took our time briefing him and he made quiet a good jump, but I am going to avoid this guy for his further levels.

Early afternoon, it started raining. And it kept on raining throughout the whole of sunday. :-(

August 16, 2008

Lazy saturday

Schaffen still closed, so Zwartberg again. Level 7 with my Mexican friend, 3 funjumps, and home again by 3 in the afternoon, sleeping in front of the television. Might I be getting old???

August 15, 2008


My usual DZ is closed this weekend. There's an old timer fly in on the airfield. So, let's make some jumps at Zwartberg. Immediately when I arrive, manifest asks if I can help out with AFF, and of course I can :-)

The student is a super light weight (52 kilo) mexican youngster, and we do levels 3, 4, 5 and 6. A quiet day for me, the day of a life for him. He arrived in the morning, looking shy and stressed. After his first jump of the day, he started smiling. By the end of the day, he face was frozen in a big, happy, not-of-this-world grin. This is his level 5. Good exit, floating around a bit in the beginning, confident on his 360°, flying forward is difficult at first, but than he gets it, great altitude awareness on his second turn, good pull. A very nice jump!

What I don't like about this DZ is the lack of beer at the end of the day :-(

August 9, 2008

First Jump Course

8 candidates, 7 showed up. The groundschool bit was done a little after 4 o'clock. I jumped with two of them later in the afternoon.

The first one was one of the most exuberant-enthousiast guys I ever saw in the air: screaming and shouting with adrenaline-joy from exit till opening. The second one, a long time friend of one of our tandem instructors, made a few jumps 20 years ago, and now finally circumstances were right for him to continue with it. He appraoched it with the exact right mindset, and we all had a great time.

One of my students, who jumped with other instructors, completely freaked out. The primary instructor finally pulled for him at around 8000 ft. I was on the same load, and I noticed that a student canopy was missing in the air. When I came down, his instructors were anxiously looking up, searching. For a few more minutes, you can kid yourself that he is hiding between one of those small scattered clouds, or in the sun. For a few more minutes, you can not-answer his wife, asking which canopy is her husband. And then, the incredible sense of relief when somebody yells "there!" and you see a canopy. Almost 5 km downwind, an out landing, but nevertheless: a canopy. He hurt himself rather badly on landing.

August 3, 2008


We planned on doing 16-way today. As usual Luk briefs the jumps. The first one is a boogie-style jump with zippers, transitioning into other zippers. A classic, that I first did 13 years ago with Eddy Vandevonder (I looked it up in my old logbooks, it was a 24-way then). One guy hanging in the wrong slot destroys the jump, 15 others aren't good enough to save it.

So we try again. This time one guy is low. It's the slot before mine. I wait a bit, he doesn't come back up, I decide to take the empty slot. Sus, who is behind me, immediately follows suit and takes my slot, and this leaves us with a formation that we can work with. But improvising the transition is too much. Sus and me don't know where we'll end up, and the people from the other side couldn't see how we solved the problem, so they don't know what to expect either. Funny all you want, but not very effective skydiving.

We still brief a third jump, but the weather (again) goes bad, and we have to cancel for the rest of the day. No beer, too early yet :-)

August 2, 2008

Like a bird

After a few bad weather weekends, and a family holliday (where all things even vaguely connected to skydiving are taboe), at last: jumping again. And nothing planned, not on the roster, no commitments to students, nada! So I just manifest for load 2 (I went for an early morning run: great, but it made me mis the first load), and we end up with 11 bellyfliers on this load. So fate has decided: an 11-way it is.

Quick brief for an easy jump, and off we go. There's one girl going low, but we turn a clean 10 points without her. Nice one to start the day! Problem however is that while being low, she starts tracking away early, a few seconds before we break, but she doesn't track all the way. She just follows her built-in clock and makes a normal-duration-track, and so ends up opening almost 1000 ft too high. Luckily me and the other guy tracking in her sector had our eyes open. It's a mistake I see fairly often: a higher break-off altitude that results in a higher pull altitude, rather than in a longer track And to top it off, she hurts herself on landing. Nothing serious, just "one of those days" for her.

We stay together with more or less the same group for the following jumps. Nr 2 is a more challenging 10-way. Some out-facing positions and stuff like a 10-way donut... It feels really good in the air: smooth flying, smiles all around. Canopy ride gets more tricky: winds are picking up, it starts to get bumpy, but nothing we can't handle. I want more :-)

For jump 3 a few new people join us, and the overall quality of the group is lower than on the previous jumps. I feel a bit pissed because we brief an easy one, and we still manage to fuck it up. But what felt like a lousy dive for me, apparently felt great for some of the others. Excited talk about how we managed to make the second formation, and even nearly completed the third point. I guess I'm spoiled :-)

By the time we go for our fourth jump, the weather is starting to become a problem, but we can't get enough, and if we hurry, we can just beat that fat dark cloud-thing that's closing in... We brief something funky: a long zipper, break it up in 4 pieces, that hop under/over each other to form a new zipper. Nice moves, but after the second hop, there's a collision and we loose a lot of time before everybody is up and running again. But a nice one! I must remember this jump, and try it a few more times.

And that's it for today (it is raining by now).

And if you wonder about the title of this post, it is about a great image I saw today. There was a tandem passenger today at the DZ, a woman with Down syndrome. Sam, who videoed her, showed me his tape. The tandem master did a great job on the briefing and preparation, and then the freefall. After the exit, you see her face opening up in a big smile of pure happiness, and for the next couple of seconds, she flaps her arms, like wings, like a bird. Beautiful, moving... (and it made me thirsty: beer!)

July 13, 2008

A fine day :-)

When I arrive, the DZ is already busy. There is a 16-way training today, and a lot of people who just, after a week of rain, are happy that today, finally, the sun came out again.

Luk gave a FJC yesterday, and asks me if Sus and I can make a jump with a girl from that course. So first load, and there we go. When it is our turn, she hesitates, looks at me, thinking about refusing, but when I give her an encouraging nod, she positions herself in the door. Check in, ckeck out, out, in, out, she doesn't jump but lets herself fall out of the plane, and she goes for the foetus position, wrigling, stamping her feet. We have a full time job keeping it stable. And, amazingly, with her knees almost to her chest and her elbows tucked in, she does as briefed: GASP, practice pulls, GASP... Believe me, not a nice sight: her trying to make a practice pull, not finding it, panicking. And I can't help her, because if I let go of her arm, we will funnel. First time Sus and I can make eye contact is at 7000 ft. A quick nod, and at 6500 I pull for her. Back on the ground, Sus and I do a high-5. Glad we had eachother up there. Under canopy, she follows instructions, and she makes a good landing. She enjoyed it very much, thank you.

Next is a level 7. The guy is not the greatest natural talent I 've ever seen, but he is safe, and he anjoys it tremendously! Congratulations!

Level 6 with big boy is next. This guy is friendly and likable on the ground, and good in the air. A pleasure to teach people like him.

Next is a level 2 with another of those mini-girls I specialise in. She made a good level 1 last week (or was it 2 weeks ago, I don't remember such things, but I do remember that on that jump I had more trouble with the other instructor than with her). She, like most people, is more nervous now than the first time, but she controls it, and makes another good jump. Plus a clean canopy flight and landing.

Ok, graduation jump for big boy next. For his exit, I position him behind the red line, so he runs out and dives. First time in his course that he 's unstable :-). Another very good jump from him. And for the second time today, congratulations!

So, that's it for today. Brussels airport traffic control gives us a one hour holding , and by now I am too thirsty to sit it out. And a graduate, that means beer, 2 graduates means more beer, and it is the first time I complete two students on the same day. Ouch, even more beer...

July 6, 2008

5 jumps

5 jumps today, 4 AFF & and a FF

July 5, 2008

load 1, 3, 5 & 7

So that's 4 jumps before the weather turned bad around 1.30 pm. Not bad :-)

First is a level 4. This guy at first is very nervous, and then he calms down. He becomes very quiet. Seems like he has a full time job containing his fear. But he succeeds in overcoming it and makes the jump

There is always fear in skydiving, but after well over 3000 jumps it has changed a lot for me. It becomes a whole lot less acute, and of course I fear other things than an open door now. It's hard for me to relate to this kind of fear/tension/stress.

Then a level 2. Before the jump, we were joking a bit, but in the end I reassured the guy, that I wouldn't release him. Bit of a pitty really, 'cause he was very good. If we would have released him, he would have stayed right where he was.

Another level 4 with the scared one. He is a little more relaxed (but not that much), and the jump, well euh... A performance like this would probably pass him on level 3, but since this was a level 4, I need to see a bit more control, plus starting/stopping a turn... But, he is altitude aware, doesn't freeze up, tries hard, and lands safely. So even if it won't pass him on his level, it's a good jump, no?

And a quick level 1 next. The man is very focused and really enjoying himself. An almost perfect jump. Under canopy, he doesn't follow the directions we give him, but he does well on his own. He flies something that is recognisable as a pattern, at about 300 ft he is in final. And he makes a good landing. But he has to walk back a few 100 meters more than if he had listened. Well done.

We still board the plane with his friend for his first jump, but John radios the pilot to cancel our jump. The clouds are starting to close in and, more importantly, the wind picks up and becomes very unstable. So it's a plane ride down (long time since I had to do that). But a perfectly good decision from the ground crew. Thx!

And guess what: I feel it's too early yet for beer... Or maybe not... Ok, just a quick one :-)

June 29, 2008

some shit, some fun, some beers

The day starts with low clouds. Some people could argue that they are too low, but enough people are willing to try their luck, so the first load goes up. I am not on it. The cloud deck is under 2000 ft. To clear some trees, Polleke lands with the wind, on a rough far-end of the DZ. He only just started jumping again after he had both his hips replaced. And he is under his mini-Katana. And he is unlucky. Shinbone fractures. On both his legs. What a lousy start of the day...

About an hour later, the sky is almost blue, and I go up for my first jump of the day. It's a level 7. The guy is a fireman, a medic too. I like working with people who are trained in handling stress and emergencies. He is rather nervous in the plane, and at 11000 ft, I tell him to bring down his hartbeat in the next few minutes. He looks surpried, then smiles and just does it. And that's the start of a great jump! Congrats on graduation!

Next is a level 4 with a very big guy. Well over 2 meters, over a 100 kilos. Exit is good, but then he doesn't arch, and since he has a lot of surface, our average speed for this jump is a mere 105 mph. He is not unstable, he makes a good jump, but without arching. OK, good enough for me. But over a 100 kilo and only 105 mph: I don't think I know any other skydiver who can do that...

On to the next: a level 3, an older man I jumped with last week (or 2 or 3 weeks ago, I don't remember). He has over a 100 jumps from 20 years ago, most of them static-lines, but over 30 freefall jumps nonetheless. Last time, he held on to his PC, so I brief him again on the difference between ripcord and PC. And this time, I make him actually do it a couple of times. Up we go. His exit is not very good. Rather than taking control of the jump rightaway, he more or less falls out of the plane. His body position is not good. Much worse than the previous jump we did. We manage to release him for something like 20 sec, so it's not that bad, but at 6500 I start signalling him to check altitude, at 5500 I give him a shake, Gert gives the pull signal, but there's nobody home. 4500 Gert pulls for him, and only then, while he is pulled out of my hands, I see him waking up and giving the 55 hand signal. And this for somebody with over a 100 jumps?? During debrief, he tells me that next time, he will put on his reading glasses so that he will be able to actually see his alti. ????? Some people, I really have a hard time believing...

To end the day a level 5 with the big boy again. Look at it. What a great jump!

And as always, a few well deserved beers to round up the day. Get well soon Polleke!

June 28, 2008


Today was supposed to be a non-jumping day, but since I finished a bit early with all the other stuff... I am at the DZ at 3 pm :-)

Too windy for students today, so it is fun-jump time. First is a sit with Mario. Apart from the exit - it takes me almost 3000 feet to finally arrive in a stable sit - it goes remarkably well. We can work in horizontal and vertical axes. And we stay rather close to each other the whole time. If I accelerate, I still backslide quiet a bit, but I can move forwards too! Under canopy, he follows me when I fly my pattern, but when you are higher up in the air, it is difficult to judge exactly how and where the lower person is flying. He almost lands out :-)

Second is a solo. Let's work a bit on that exit. Still not great, but better. Rest of the jump backfly, plant heels and push to sit (without using arms too much) and backwards again to backfly. Controlling the backward motion is difficult.

Third is another jump with Mario. I funnel my exit again, go on my back, push back up to sit, where is he, look around, oops, he's what, some 50 m underneath me. And in going down, I backslide again. Hmmm, not a vey good jump, this one. I am definitely getting better at this, but progress is slow, ooh so slow...

June 22, 2008


Today is not as hectic as yesterday. We cleared most of our "back catalog". It is rather windy this morning, but nothing too bad, so there we go. A level 2 to start.

Under canopy, she doesn't do a wind check after her canopy checks, and by the time I'm down and can start to steer her, it is too late (we don't use radio, we steer them with a big arrow). She flew downwind too much. But I can see her realising she's not going to make it, change direction and go for plan B. As briefed. Well done!

Shortly after, all AFF is grounded. I go up for a freefly solo jump, but by now upper winds have reached almost 40 knots. I exit on the far side of the little town next to our DZ, and, in freefall, I sail over it. Must be quiet a view for all the people that are having their sunday afternoon coffee and pie on the terraces in the town center :-) But it is also rather bumpy under canopy. I'd rather have a drink and watch the others for the rest of the day. The winner is Grim, making a downwind swoop. Spectacular, 200 meters or something I guess. Hmmm, lets have another beer.

June 21, 2008


So after a few weekends of bad weather and other activities, students are queueing up. I am spotted while walking from the parking lot to the hangar, Sus waves at me, I give a nod, and I am on the next load. Fitting is now. A level 3, one of the guys from my FJC a couple of weeks ago. It is his fourth attempt at level 3. Exit is not too bad, he doesn't arch, his knees and elbows are are lower than his pelvis. Stable for a few seconds, than a 180° sweep, looking like he is going to fall on his back any moment. Altitude awareness and pull are OK. One of those more difficult decisions. Maybe he'll do a good level 4, maybe it will be a disaster. So since maybe is not good enough, we decide to make him jump another level 3. Sorry for him, but when in doubt, you just have to go for the safest option.

Next is another level 3. A tall guy that looks like he will go fast. And he does! 129 mph average. I am wearing my weight belt, so he makes a good jump, and I enjoy a comfortable one. He always comes to the DZ with his kid (some 10 years old). On the one hand, it is great to see a kid so obsessed by our sport (and by his dad of course), on the other hand, I really wouldn't know what to do with him if his father had an accident...

OK, stop musing, level 3 again with the guy from the first jump. Although he saw himself on video from the previous jump, his body psition is still not good. So I fly behind him, and I give him a good knock on both his knees. The penny drops, and he pushes his knees up, and floeps, the arch is there. I checked it and before my little knock, our average speed was 107 mph, after it was 127 mph: a 20 mph knock-knock: not bad! (You should have seen Sus' face: first a big question mark, "what is he going to do?" and then the ooh shit, when the student accelerated away :-)

Next is a level 6. Another guy from my FJC. I did jump 1 with him, but none of the other levels. He is very nervous in the plane. On exit, he doesn't make a count, can't be out of the plane too fast. And once in the air, it all comes together, and he makes a great jump.

Then there is a level 1. I talk to the man, and he tells me he has over a 100 jumps, the last one was some 20 years ago. He looks a bit timid, he could have negociated a few currency jumps, rather than the full AFF course, but hey, lets just make this jump, and we 'll see about the rest later. I talk him through the differences between then and now, ripcord versus pilot cute, flying characteristics of nowadays canopies, ... His jump is great. A perfect level 1. Until... At pulltime, he looks completely aware of what he is doing, very controlled, good body position, but he holds on to the PC. He doesn't throw it away. And I specifically talked to him about it. Fuck, I should have made him actually do it, instead of mere talking! I hit him on the hand hard, and in a reflex, he lets go. Sus gives me a thumbs up befoe we track away.

Next one is a level 2. It as around 7 pm by now, and when I want to start briefing him, the guy tells me how pleased he is that he can make another jump today. His buddies already went home, and he was planning to leave too, just finishing his beer... Whooo, stop here, "you just had a beer?" Ok, that's it. I 'm having a beer too. We'll jump tomorrow :-)

June 15, 2008


I woke up with blue sky this morning, but predictions for today are not good. And as often when they say on the telly that it is going to rain, people make other plans, and when the weather turns out to be good after all, few jumpers and even fewer students turn up.

I picked up Klara on my way to the DZ, and we arrive late: I am only on load 2, I missed the first load :-) My sit exit really sucks. The jump however is nice: make speed, lean forwards, lean backwards, and so on. Even after well ver 3000 jumps: what a feeling!!

An hour later, on my second jump, the clouds are already starting to build beautifully. Big cumulus mushrooms, with tops already above 13.000 ft. I am sitting in the co-pilot chair, and it is a spectacular flight, zig-zagging through corridors between them. The pilot flies a very good jummprun. He cyrves it, over 90° in all. And he manages to give everybody clear sky for their jump. I fall next to the cumulus that he avoided by this manoeuvre, and it is a big heavy cloud. Thanx!

Third jump. I skipped a few loads before I manifested again. I looked outside, checked the sattelite pix on the internet, hoped for a little luck, and decided to go for it. It is almost completely overcast by now, and a big thunderstorm is visible some 50 km north: a very big and impressive cloud, form of an anvil, I guess up to about 20.000 ft. There will be pictures of flooded streets this evening on the news. But we are lucky, and we have a sunny spot for our jump (the last one of the day, as it turns out). A 2-way sit. Luk still has to fly quiet a bit forward to stay with me, but hey, we stay together, I manage to play a bit with the level, etcetera. Whoooha!!!

There's one more load after this. I am not on it. The plain gets caught up in traffic: the thunderstorm is now over brussels airport, so traffic control has to work hard. Approaches are changed, queues are formed, and the result is our plane is stuck at flight level 110 for almost 15 minutes. No climb, no descent, just stay there. Pilot has to de-ice the wings a couple of times. Finally, they are allowed to come down again.

I am really glad I wasn't on that plane. Yes, I know, I am chicken. I prefer iced beer over iced wings

June 8, 2008

Rained out

This weekend should have been the big weekend, the weekend of our new club record, a 70-way. Briefing at 8 am. Leslie Gale organising (I like her style :-)). But it rained. Hard. All day long.

Everything was in place. Our 3 Caravans, plus a (rented) Skyvan as the lead plane. I really don't like Skyvans, I 'm just plain afraid in them. But I love a tailgate exit. And I was to be the super floater. Hmm, that makes for a nice jump, plus a chance to show off a bit. But we never even tried. When it was still overcast and foggy on sunday around 2 pm, the whole thing was called off. Without even one try. Not even a little formation load :-)

Of course from that moment on, the weather started to clear out, and I still managed to make 3 jumps. They were nice 8-ways allright, but when you were expecting to do a 70-way, well... It is a bit disappointing.

Let's try again next year, hopefully we'll be luckier than.


what we planned

and what we actually did


June 1, 2008


I live some 25 km away from the DZ, south-west of it (and that happens to be the predominant wind direction over here). So after a rainy morning, when it clears out at home, I leave for the DZ, and we (the nice weather and me) arrive almost at the same time.

We are 14 belly fliers in load 1, we quickly brief a 3 point dive, and it really is a fun one. We are done before we reach 7000 ft. Big smiles all around! Next is a sit/stand-up, where I try to follow two other people. I can't match their vertical speed:-(

Jump 3 is a level 3. I don't know the guy, it's his third attempt at this level. But he did a few minutes of tunnel after the previous one. And it shows. He is very tense, but the jump is not bad. We take an hour to debrief and than brief his level 4, and up we go again. I really put on a show in the air to relax him, and it works. Up there, everything is so much easier when you smile! The tunneltime shows: he can't exit, he can't fly forward, turning is not completely under control (after the 90°, he was supposed to turn back, not to throw in a 270°), but his movements are very crisp, his general flying is OK. In a tunnel, they don't teach you altitude awareness: he almost never checks his altitude spontaneously. Only when I give the example, he mimicks me. That will be an extra TLO for his next jump. A good jump, I had fun just being there :-)

So just a sunny & lazy afternoon: 1 FS, 1 FF, 2 AFF's, and a few beers to round it all up...

May 31, 2008

F***ing close

Started the day with 3 FF jumps. I am starting to make those jumps with other people now: 2-ways and 3-ways. And well, is it just me being complacent after so many years of belly flying, or is FF really lots more difficult?

Next was a refresh-level-4 jump. The guy started skydiving in 2005. He totals some 20 jumps now. Only 2 of those were in 2007. Plus he had some blabla about making more jumps and not filling in his logbook. I stopped believing stories like that some time ago.

But (dangerous as this attitude may be) that's not why I want to talk about this jump. There were a lot of newbies and solo jumpers on this load. For the exit, there was a solo jumper (the big guy in a black suit, right at the start of the video), than 3 other solo jumpers, and than it was our turn. You don't see the actual exit of the guy in black, but it is at least 25 seconds before we exit. And yet. After my student pulled, I made a backloop to video his opening, and next thing I see is this guy, under his canopy, straight underneath me. I ducked, tracked, and fell past him at (I think) between 10 end 20 meters distance. I was under canopy at 2000 ft.

He funneled his exit, then tried to sitfly but kept falling over on his back. About 9000 ft, he had enough of it, and went for a good 4000 ft of tracking. All of this straight up jumprun ...

Next a jump with a recently graduated student. I gave his FJC but didn't do the jumps with him. He weighs some 35 kilos more than me and Werner, his instructor, told me he really burns a hole in the sky. A linked exit (his first, beer!). 360° left, 360° right, backslide 2 meter, stop and redock on me. And than a little fallrate exercise. When I started to accelerate, first there was surprise on his face, and then he started to arch some more, and some more, and then finally he started catching me. When I slowed down, he was lost... We averaged 129 mph, and had a fun jump!

To end the day, two level 1 jumps. The first one, a friendly girl, I wanted to turn her into the sun, but the other instructor was determined to keep her on heading. He won (the video lost). Jump went fine. Second one was a guy, talking too much, but hey, nerves can do things to a person, you know. He went through all the mechanics of the dive, but without really knowing what he was doing. I stopped him from pulling at 7500 ft, he made the movement at 5500, but I had to make the actual pull.

7 jumps, lots of fun, one big scare: that calls for a couple of beers!

May 27, 2008


In a few weeks, we are going to try a new club record, a 70-way. Today there are training jumps, 32-way. These are organised jumps (well organised, thx Tom!) with 2 Caravans. On the one hand, they are selection jumps for the last articipants, and they are also for people like me: the last "big" formations I did, was a weekend of 32-way sequential almost two years ago, so I am quite rusty on this.

And it shows: first jump, I start my approach in the wrong sector (I am some 30° off), I am slow, and I am way too conservative. I am almost ashamed when I watch myself on the video, waiting over 5 meters out... Second jump is better. Straight approach, I am a stinger, so I can go to my position and wait there without hindering anybody. I can take up grips around 6000 ft, but break off is at 5500 for us, so there is no more time for the wacker to build behind me. Third jump and I am starting to feel comfortable. There is one guy missing in the wacker behind me, otherwise our site of the formation is OK.

I doubt if we will be able to make the record. A 50-way: no problem. A 60 way: do-able. But a 70 way: that's ambitious for our club. There will be people on the jump who need babysitting, I just hope there aren't too many of them. And of course, if you have 10 people on the jump who can do it 9 times out of 10, you will always need luck to make them do it all together.

In the afternoon it gets cloudy, so we have to cancel jumps 4 and 5. But it is not too cloudy for a quick FF dive!!

May 11, 2008


First is level 2 again with yesrterday's bloke. His fourth try at this level. And at last, he makes it. He'll never be a natural, but it's a good enough dive. I'm happy for him, and also a little bit proud that I helped him achieve this.

For his level 3, he is still very tense in the air, but look at this: I've seen worse, much worse. Maybe yesterday was just a bad day after all.

There is also a tracking jump, in plain trousers this time. I can keep the level, but it is ooh so difficult to make speed without booties. Second part of the jump, the rabbit accelerates, and away he goes. I'll have to practice some more on this.

To end the day, Koen organises a 16 way. He briefs us on an interesting jump, but the dive itself is a bit disappointing. Divers with ill adjusted breaks, going under and having to float back up. On transition a 4-way piece going low, etcetera. Well, it was a nice enough try. Let's have some beers!

May 10, 2008

Level 2

Belgium is the warmest place in europe this weekend (at least, that's what belgian television was telling us yesterday evening). Whatever, it's a beautiful day. I have no plans, no appointments, and I'm not on duty. I can do whatever I want. First thing I arrive, Gert asks me if I want to do some AFF. And of course I say yes :-)

A guy doing his second jump. A level 2 but he didn't pull at his first jump (beats me how you can pass a level without pulling). Exit is good. Next there are a few movements that could be understood as a COA. Practice pulls, three times he panicks, three times I have to grab his hand and guide it to the pull. And that's it. We are at 9500 ft, and there's nobody home anymore. I pull for him.

2 no-pulls in a row. No good. For his next try, I simplify the dive. Altitude awareness and pull is what I want. And it is what we get. His body position is awful, we have to work hard, but he stays with us the whole dive, checks altitude at regular intervals, and makes the pull himself. Waahoo, that's progress!

Next I brief him on a level 2. Awareness, body position and a little turning. And this is a very strange jump. Good exit. COA, I signal legs out, he does that. We are at 11000ft. Then there is a gap. 15 blank seconds. At 8500 he wakes up, makes his practice pulls, 6500, lock on, and an OK pull. That would have been a good enough level 2, but a 15 sec blackout halfway through the dive??? On debrief, he recalls the legs-out signal, and he thinks the practice pulls came immediately after that...

Tomorrow morning we'll start with another level 2. That's a first for me (as an instructor): that will make (at least) four tries on level 2. Maybe skydiving is not the right sport for him, or he may also just have a bad day. Whatever, I have the feeling it's gonna be a long road towards AFF graduation.

In between all this, I can squeeze in 2 jumps. A FF jump: sitfly (good exit!), turning on my legs, just having fun in the air. And a tracking jump. An easy one for me: I still wear my AFF suit, with booties. Most of the others wear freefly suits or pants. But there are too much kamikazes in this dive. I back off some 10 or 20 yards and watch a collision and two funnels in the remainder of the dive. Maybe I'm getting old :-)

Today is the first day for our new bar. Beer(s)!

May 4, 2008

Strange stuff

Things heared at the DZ today:
- "My canopy always opens with a 90° right turn, so I compensate for this by turning 90° left while I pull"
- A 7-way. 3 people floating, 2 in the door, 2 on the second row. The 2 guys on the second row were two big, heavy guys. "Don't exit immediately with us, wait 2 seconds, because you have a higher fallrate"
- A student trying to bribe himself to his next level by offering a 100 € to an instructor.

Level 6 and 7 with Inge. 6 was somewhat awkward, she had to work hard to regain control after a funnel exit, and a funnel salto. But her level 7 was a very good jump. Regaining stability after a funnel salto was smooth, I could see her enjoyning herself and learning at the same time. She had a very good AFF course, a beautiful progression to witness.

There is also a jump with Wesley. He already made 10 jumps since finishing AFF last weekend:-) We go for a 2-way star-exit, me floating, he diving. His timing is off, too late, so I more or less drag him out, but he really works well on the relative wind. Off the hill, hover in front of me, backslide 2 meters, stop, come back and take grips. And again. After that I float up, he follows me up, I accelerate, he follows me down. 5500 ft, 180°, track, wave off and pull. An amazing jump for someone who only graduated last week!! He weighs 52 kilos, I accelerated up to 142 mph, and he was still with me.

Two funjumps and a bit of video editing in between. And beer afterwards :-)

May 3, 2008


Glorious weather, a bunch of visitors camping on the DZ for the long weekend, a first jump course with 12 students: it promises to be a fun day! First take-off at 10.02 (we open at 10.00) and of course I am on it. A bit of backflying, sit and standup to start the day :-)

There's this guy who wants to do a level 6, but his level 5 was over 6 months ago. "The weather has been bad" Yeeaah, sure :-) So we go up for a level three (with Yves as partner-instructor). He is very uncomfortable all the way through, and doesn't pull for himself. We immediately go up for rejump and this time he is OK. It is clear even in the plane that he reconnected with skydiving. The difference is amazing, this is a good jump.

Next are a bunch of first-jump students. First one, all I remember is me and Erik (the other instructor) smiling at each other during the exit, when he is wriggling through his sensory overload. Second one was a girl. She insisted on jumping with what looked like class D hiking shoes ("ankle support"). In the air, she looked a bit like a pancake: completely, strictly 2-D, with arms and legs stretched wide. At pull time she went through the motions, only she didn't really pull. She left the PC in the BOC. But she immediately continued with a real pull, so that's OK. I didn't forget to duck for those monster shoes. Third one really enjoyed himself. Plus he made a good jump, was good under canopy and made a beautiful tiptoe landing.

I was also on the last load of the day. I was back on the ground at 19.51. We have to close at 20.00. By the time I was done packing, two beers were gone :-)

April 27, 2008

What a day!!

I did a level 3 today where I was "out of my comfort zone". Minimum speed was 104 mph: I can handle that. Max speed was 128 mph: I can handle that. But compensating for those speed changes in the same jump, and at the same time having to side-slip, fast... I got out of position three times. No good.

Two jumps with Inge, levels 4 and 5. She really is incredibly cool. Look at her level 5. A spin is scary for a student (even a small one like this). The first time a student really experiences the force they are dealing with. The speed with wich a jump can go to pieces. The helplessness of being out of control. Well, she doesn't make too much of all this. She just picks herself up, and makes a good second part of the jump. Something I don't see very often. By the way, video is an incredible tool to debrief jumps like this one.

Now look again at the video. The last bit. Her pull. I don't know what to think about this. The gear is OK. The pull is good enough. And nevertheless this happened (or, luckily, didn't happen). I didn't see it in the air. During debrief, I noticed that the bridle went through her burble, but only later at home, I looked at a slomo of that part of the video and realised how close this was.

Lets move on to a more pleasant picture. There was also the last jump of Wesley's AFF course. He did a great level 7. And he enjoys it. Just look at that face :-) It's witnessing moments like this that make my day, that make me love being an AFF instructor.

To end the day (and before celebrating his AFF graduation) one more solo freefly. A funnelled exit, but a nice stand-up for the rest of the jump. The feeling of speed and freedom is incredible!

Have a great skydiving career, Wesley. Cheers!

April 26, 2008

Near miss

5 jumps today. 2 jumps with Thomas. He asked me to jump with him and to film his body position and his excercices. First jump I briefed him a linked exit, but apparently he didn't get the part about relative wind. Second jump I tried to explain it a little more, but the result ... Well, look:

Maybe next time I'll just throw him out of the plane and see what happens :-) You don't have to be a skygod to have fun!!

On one of those flights, we had two people exiting at 5000 ft. Just under 5000, the pilot made his 90° turn into jump run, the swoopers exit, and suddenly appears a Boeing. A big Boeing. Close. Very close. Heading straight towards us. It was in approach to land at Brussels airport. It had to abort this landing: TCAS said "climb - climb". That was, apart from (planned) formation flights, the closest I have ever been to another plane in the air. Officially a near miss. Traffic control took over 5 minutes to clear us for the next flight level.

I also did level 6 with Lesley. 6 is my favourite level, and yes: fun for the both of us! The jump itself was not great, but more then good enough. Solo exit OK, back loop not OK, but nicely recovered, in tracking he forgot to de-arch, slight turn to the right in hovercontrol.. But at ease and in control all the time.

In between all this was a 2-way FF. I suck :-(

And to end the day, we quickly briefed a 4-way (with Harry, Sus and Karel). To make absolutely sure there would be brainlock-beers afterwards, we made it something special. Instead of going round, doing points 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and then the same again, we briefed it up-and-down. So that makes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 2, etcetera. We made a good jump, we had fun, and we achieved our beer-goal :-)

April 20, 2008

The season starts

4 AFF jumps today, then it started raining. So plenty of beer time afterwards.

A level 4 and 5 with Wesley. On the first jump, we averaged 134 mph. He weighs a little over 50 kilos, and I had my sweater on, in case we would be going slow... My back aches. I want to show you his level 5. It is a good jump. The problem I had was that in his levels 3, 4 and 5 he never showed me a jump that was OK from start to finish. He showed me everything I need to see to pass him, but I prefer it when they show me at least one jump without shaky bits. In this jump, it takes him over 720° after his (very good) exit. Then there's the good part. Then, when I signal legs-out, he misunderstands this as a second turn-sign. And he doesn't really stop this second turn, and the turning before his pull is not controlled.

The other two jumps were level 3 and 4 with Inge. Level three was a bit shaky (she didn't jump for almost a month) but good enough. Her level 4, she needed most of the jump to sort it all out, but her smile when she is finally flying in front of me says it all.

Under canopy, she is in the right spot at 1000 ft doing her last wind check, but then she flies a circuit that is much too short, so when she is in final, at 800 ft or so already, she realises this is not going to work. She takes a bit of time to decide what to do, and then decides wrong: she starts another circuit, too low. But now that she goes for it, she is determined (and quick) so it works out OK. But her final 90° is (I guess) around 100 ft. Way too low for a student, not something I like too watch. On debrief, she gives a very good account of where she went wrong, and where she lost time. The only thing I have to add is the better way out of her situation: 10 or 15 sec of crosswind flight would have given her all the space she needed.

April 19, 2008

I can't help it

Although the weather was not very good, it looked like it might be jumpable, so I went to the DZ anyway. And yes yes yes, we were lucky: the sun made it through. Just.

First is a level 4 with Wesley. But by the time we go up, the weather is already changing. There is a very high layer of clouds, so above us, everything is white. And there is a haze below us, so we can see the ground straight beneath us, but around us, again only white. What this means is that the student has very little visual clues, orientation in freefall is difficult. Too difficult apparently. I release him three times, and three times I have to stop him turning. Nothing violent or so, but just a steady turn he can't stop. His circuit flying and landing are very good!

By now, the weather is really turning bad, but I want to do one more jump anyway (you know the feeling, I bet). We enter the by now thick haze at about 3000ft. At 11000ft I hear someone in the plane saying that he is going to pull a little higher "to be on the safe side". I suggest that he can refuse the jump, but all he says is "Naaahhh...". At 13000 ft, still only white around us...

Did you ever exit with your eyes shut? I 've done it a few times, and it is really fun. Feel your exit :-). Even though I do not really look around me on a normal exit, it is amazing how much input you lack with your eyes closed... This is similar: just a whole lot of white around me. After a few seconds the plane is gone too. I manage a good sit exit, and a stable position all through the jump, without visual clues from horizon, ground or sky. There are no real clouds, it isn't wet. There's just 10000ft of thick haze and humidity.

I go belly-to-earth on 4000, planning for pull at 3000, and guess what, at 3200 the ground appears. I really liked this jump. It was a long time since I have been so totally alone. And as much as I love to be alone, I also like some good company at the bar...

April 12, 2008

A bit of FS

The belgian army apparently realised (after 14 months) that a bunch of skydivers on their grounds might be a security risk, so we can't use their packing hangar anymore. We quickly clean up our hangar (there is still construction work going on) and after that we have to wait another hour before Brussels traffic control approoves our flight plan. Reason: some governement organisation is photographing Belgium from high altitude and we can not interfere. A bit strange, because it is cloudy today, so what exactely are they photographing? And anyway, why don't they use Google Earth like the rest of us?

Too windy for AFF so we just start funjumping. First jump is a 5-way with a funnel exit, next an 8-way where we loose someone because of fallrate. We just accelerate and fly the 7-way formation towards him: quiet a sight, a 7-way formation docking on a solo flyer :-).

Third is a very nice 9-way, a kind of boogie jump. Standard 8-way exit with an extra diver from behind. First point is an easy build-up. Then a classic transition to the 6-way donut, we did it the long way round. If, to make a right-hand donut, you turn left instead of right it is a very short and quick move. The transition to the box thing is an easy one, but I can't remember doing it before. A first, and a nice formation to fly! The next move is basically to get everybody back in place. The out-facing people leave the circle, the others close the 6-way star and turn it. The three solo flyers turn the other way (or go vertical) and drop in their original slot. Last one home is a pussy :-).

Next is another 8-way, but it is "sub-optimal". In other words: major f***k up. Front floater slips and almost falls of the plane. He takes everyone with him in a big funnel exit. A bit further in the jump, big brainlock: we (7 people) are flying an in-out, with one guy in the middle trying to convince us to make a donut. This goes on for at least 10 seconds. And so on.

I manage to throw in a quick solo freefly before we start on the brainlock-beers.


April 6, 2008

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

When I arrive Sus immediately starts at me, "What are you gonna do today, did you plan anything?" Turns out he wants to get rid of a student. An 18 year youngster, very skinny, only 52 kilo. More in my league then his. Anyway, just returning the favor: last week, I gave him a student of mine, the guy was 30 kilos heavier and 30 cm shorter than me... So I'll be jumping with Wesley today. His father is a tandem master at our DZ. I team up with Luk.

He took his FJC two weeks ago, bur couldn't jump till now because of bad weather. So we take our time for rehearsing stuff and briefing. When we finally go up, it is cold. -22° at altitude, and very humid. Glad I can exit from the inside :-) He makes a good jump. These kids are so flexible, I wish I could arch like that! He completely forgets his legs, doen't react much too our signals, but he goes through the motions, he's altitude aware, he pulls at the exact moment. What more can you want on a first jump? Under canopy, he is OK, apart from the very last moment. He lets the wind push him into a cross landing and then flares much too high, but he PLFs (did I already say he was flexible?) and all goes well.

His level 2 is a very good jump. Better exit, better body position, more awareness, and at the end a better timing for the flare. For me the jump is not so comfortable. I am wearing my camera helmet, which is not a full face helmet, and it is even colder than the first jump. -26° this time. I didn't know that my nose could freeze up that quick.

Jump 3 our exit point is straight above the top of a very big cloud.

We refuse the jump. Turns out the last group to exit before us, went through an icy cloud from 11.000 to 5.000 ft. I signal Pieter, the pilot for a second run, Luk continues spotting, while I talk to Pieter, and I check on the plane's GPS where we are, and I explain it all to the student. After a bit of flying around, we find a patch of clear sky and there we go. He starts out very good, but then gradually slips. In the second part of the jump, he lets go of his legs, the fall rate drops, slowly starts turning. Maybe fatigue, maybe also the effect of the delayed exit. When I look at the jump afterwards, on video, maybe I should have given him more room to make his mistakes, rather than slowing down his turning, but at the time it seemed the right thing to do. I find them difficult, those decisions, but maybe I tend too much towards caution (if that's possible in this sport of course).

Still time to throw in two FF jumps after that. First one is lousy, I can't even hold the positions I want, let alone fly them. Second one is a little bit better.

While my canopy is opening from that last jump, I have a very good view of another jumper, spiralling on opening and doing a cutaway. Since nobody from his group noticed (or cared, they all fly home), I stay with the canopy and the freebag. The guy also lands nearby. It's his first reserve ride, and he 's so full of adrenaline. He makes a downwind landing, with a beatiful slide / roll through the mud. A beer will become him (and me, of course).

March 23, 2008


It's the long easter weekend, and I have only today that I can jump. And I have to be at a family dinner by 1 PM, so without further ado: let's jump!

First is Inge, the girl from last week, for her level 2 jump. I team up with Sus. I exit from the inside, and at the exact moment that I give the "OK" on her check-in, Birky taps me on the shoulder (he is also an AFF instructor, but for this jump he is the camera flyer for the tandem that will follow on us). I look at him, and he starts shouting and gesturing at me, but whatever it is, it is too late. We are gone. It is not a good feeling, exiting and at the same time questioning yourself, worrying what might have been so important as to disturb a student exit. (Turns out he wanted to tell me that they were going for a second run, and maybe we wanted to go on that run rather than now - please don't disturb me with stuff like that on exit, Sus already checked the spot before climbing out)

She makes a good exit. A bit too horizontal for the relative wind, but far better than average on a second jump. It is very cold, -25° C at exit altitude, and the air is very humid. The result is that during our jump, I can see a thin layer of ice forming on her chin and nose. But that apparently doesn't distract her. She is very aware, and makes a really good jump.

On the ride up, I checked her altimeter at pull altitude (5500 ft) and it was some 500 feet off. You can clearly see Sus checking his alti and hers when she doesn't lock on at 6000, and me looking at her alti instead of my own, to give her the opportunity to pull (of course I have an audible).

There is still time for a quick solo jump after this one. Exit on my back. Up to sit. back to backflying. A few 360° on my back (confusing!! everything is the wrong way round). Sit. Push to stand-up. F**k, time is up. I love it!

March 15, 2008

First Jump Course

Since I've been an instructor, I have always started the new season by giving a FJC. Same this year, today. I am at the DZ at 8.30 (yeah, I know, way too early on a Saturday morning), and by 9 o'clock, 6 out of the 7 announced students show up. Because there is still some construction work going on in our hangar, we still have no classroom and no videoroom for the moment, but I can use some of the military facilities next door. (And in a couple of weeks, we will have a beautiful all new and shiny bar :-))

It's a good group to teach. They are all fireman or soldiers, so they all have a basic physical ability, and only one of them never jumped before. All the others have at least a tandem jump and a few static lines. Teaching goes OK, I'm not too rusty on the material, although I completely forget to explain field packing. Instead of tackling it while we are talking about the gear, while the gear is lying in front of us, I have to come back on it at the end of the course, when I am explaining that the jump ends when they are back, not when they touch the ground. Around 3.30 h, we are through, and we can start with the fun bit of the day.

For the jumps I team up with Yves. First to jump is Inge. She is in the military, she just came back from her tour in Afghanistan. She did patrols there that included helicopter flying and she got sick a few times, and now her main concern seems to be that she is afraid of being sick again in the ride up. She is composed and makes a very good jump. Some asymmetry in the legs make for a slow turn during most of the jump, but the important stuff is all there. Yves and I land out (my mistake, I should have called for a second run) but she makes it back easily, flies a clean circuit and makes a good landing.

Next is one of the firemen. He is in his thirties, and I estimate him at some 20 or 25 kilos heavier than me. So it is full weight belt for me, but we have fun. He is good in the air, very aware, obviously enjoying himself tremendously. When Yves signals him to arch harder, he really gives it a go. Our average speed is over 130 mph. We could have released him without any problems. He also flies his canopy very cleanly, and on landing, he makes a beautiful PLF. He announced before the jump that he was going to do it like this, rather than trying a stand-up landing.

Three of the other students made their jumps with other instructors in the meantime, (2 good, 1 nobody-home) but for the last guy, it's too late. Sunset, so no jump for him today. Pity. For him of course, but I also prefer finishing a course on the day. Anyway, how about a beer?

March 8, 2008

8 and 12

For the last few weeks, we have been using one plane for two dropzones. Since it is slow season, that's normally not a problem since the two fields are only some 40 km apart. So it is an alternating routine: climb, jump and then the plane descends to the other DZ. Normally, we shouldn't loose too much time like this. But. Problem today is that on the other DZ, there is a 16-way training going on. In short, I 've been in all the loads on our DZ (all whole four of them :-( ) and I spent way too much time waiting at the boarding area (cold, wind). But hey, 4 jumps is 4 jumps, right?

First jump (after more than an hour of waiting in the cold) is an 8-way. For the exit, I am the middle diver. The next diver, to my right, gives me a pin check on exit. But that's not why we funnel it: one of the floaters goes belly up, so... Rest of the jump is OK. Under canopy, there is more wind then we expected. A bumpy ride, but a nice one!

While the rest of our group wait for each other and for a few newcomers, I quickly throw in another jump. Exit in sit, backfly, push to sit again, f**k why do I fall over when I look at my alti? Using my arms too much, not flying with my legs... bwaah :-)

We are 12 now for the next jump. For the exit, I am front floater, and silly as it my sound, that's my favourite position for this kind of dive. I love the wind, I love the power you need to make a good exit from that position. It is a good dive, but no thanks to me. On the third point I take a wrong grip, and for the rest of the jump I don't recover. Each transition, I have to wait and look what the others are doing, before I know what I have to do: it is one big brainlock... (and a few people noticed: beers are in order :-))

Nice 8-way to end the day. Our standard exit works this time. I am in the same position, with someone else diving to my right. He is also too early in the exit, but I manage to fly through the pin check. It's a kind of a boogie-jump. After the exit we make a star, that we then break into two lines of 4. Each line curls up and makes a 180°, and back to the same star. Next is open accordion, followed by closed accordion, and back to one. One of the jumpers is a young hotshot: hours of tunnel time, completely focused on 4-way. He has a wrong grip on exit, brainlocks each time we do the star-star thing (he releases his grip), and he doesn't build the closed acc from the inside, but just goes for his grips. But he is much quicker and more accurate then I am, that's for sure :-).

First round is on me. After that... Well, who cares anyway!

February 24, 2008

No pull

Only one day of jumping this WE, and lots of things to do before I can go to the DZ. So I get up at 6.30 and I am in Schaffen around 11 am. Weather is cloudy (a thin cloud layer between 3000 and 4000 ft, so no problem there). We are just having a completely crazy winter. It is only February after all!

I start off with another FF jump. I am still not quiet sure when you stop funnelling and start freeflying, but I am definitely getting there. When I am have difficulties sitting, I push into a stand-up. I find it easier to just cut through the air, rather than trying to handle all this air around me and trying to keep track of all my limbs and what they are doing. I often say to my AFF students that I need more "je m'en foutisme" in there jumps. Time to apply one of my own rules, it seems!

Next jump is awkward. A guy with 51 jumps. It took him over 30 jumps and 45 minutes of tunnel time to complete his AFF, so I guess it is safe to say that he's not a natural. But he has the spirit (and the money), that's for sure. Last WE, he went unstable at pull time and that was it. He didn't do anything any more. He pulled no handles. He landed under his reserve after an AAD fire. We talked to him, gave him homework to think about. Stuff like "Can you handle a life expectancy of 4.5 seconds?" (by the way, I love the "point five" bit here. It really contributes to the dramatic affect of the phrase) And now (contrary to what we were expecting) he is back. We left him the option and he took it. There's his determination again. First jump he has to do is an AFF 4, with some additional focus on altitude awareness. During the jump he has to signal me at 11, at 9 and at 7 kft. Wave off and pull is at 5. If he misses one of those by more than 500 feet, this was his last jump at our club.

First I give him the full briefing on altitude awareness and pull priorities. I start by explaining that if he wasn't altitude aware, he is unfit for jumping, and if he was altitude aware and didn't pull, he is crazy and unfit for jumping. I think he got my point :-) Next, when I take him through a refresh of the first jump course, he shows me how he will first open his reserve before releasing his main. He insists this is how he was taught. I don't believe him, but the net result is that the refresh takes a lot more time than I originally planned. When we finally go up, the jump is not bad. He does what is asked of him. But it is a bit of stress for a jumpmaster, when you know that if you fuck up, your student has not-pulled before...

When you look at the video, you can clearly see how he got unstable at pull-time on the previous jump. During his practice pull, as well as with the real pull, he stretches his legs, ups his ass, brings down his head, and his left arm, instead of being over his head, is somewhere under his chin.

Next jump is great. I exit on my back, I feel the speed building up, push myself up into a sit, and for the remainder of the jump, I push myself into a stand-up, back to sit, back to standup, etcetera. Waaahooo!!! My first FF jump where it felt like I controlled it all the way!

Fourth jump is with the no-pull-guy again. This time the jump is about his body position at pull time (and about altitude awareness of course). Just practice pulls, one after the other, throughout the jump. I make a face at him immediately after the exit, and he reacts to it by sticking out his tongue. It is me signalling that I like jumping with him, but at the same time it is a test to check how composed a student is during exit. He passes this test. And his body position is better than the previous jump. He will always be a higher risk jumper, just because of his lack of talent, but my advice to the people who make the decisions is to let him jump again. I sincerely hope I'll never have to regret this decision.

Sunset load to end the day. A simple FF 2-way. Ending the day with a swoop straight into the setting sun. Why, oh why do I love skydiving so much? (well, there is of course the beer afterwards, but that's not the whole story...)

February 17, 2008

4 more jumps

Not much time to blog. 4 jumps today: 1 FS, a 6 or 7 way, I can't remember, 2 tries at sitting and a tracking jump with two former students of mine.

February 16, 2008


It's 4-way time again today. This is good, because I love it, and this is bad because as a belly flyer team, you have to sit in the back of the plane, and it is cold today. -15° at 13.000 ft. Minus windchill, brrrr. There are few skydivers. It is almost eleven o'clock before we have enough people to fill the plane.

First jump we go for a Unipod exit, followed by stairstep diamond, murphy flake, yuan and meeker. Anybody seeing a pattern here? Yeah, right, that's just A, B, C, D and E. Not the most imaginative briefing, but it makes for a nice jump. We start off by funnelling the exit. Sus (centerfloat) and I (backfloat) are on our backs immediately, and we are all tumbling happily through the sky for a few seconds. Once we recover, it is indeed a nice jump. For the yuan - meeker transition Door is the only one who moves, but he turns too much on his chest, rather than around his knee, so while I should just have to flash and retake the same grip, it always opens up.

We decide to do the same jump again. We ask a proper 4-way team how to do this unipod exit, we do a quick re-brief of the transitions, and up we go. This time the jump is really good. The exit works, the jump is clean and quick. As soon as we are back on the ground, we discuss the possibility of ending on a high and starting on the beer, but since it is only 12 o'clock, that would be an even more high-risk activity than skydiving itself, so we just manifest for the next load.

Next is Open accordion, cataccord, bow, donut, hook. You guessed it: that's F, G, H, J, K! Nice jump for Jean, our front diver: his biggest move of the dive (actually his only move) is the few inches he has to come forwards from the open accordion to the compressed accordion. Apparently we are having difficulties with our exits today. Even the (very easy) open acc almost goes wrong. It takes two or three seconds before we can start working, but from there on it is OK. Somewhere in the third round, Jean looses track of the jump. He stops moving at all, and just takes up grips when they are thrown at him :-). Good enough!

We decide not to do this one again, since apart from the exit there were no big issues to correct (well, there is Jean's over-20-seconds-brainlock, but he's beyond hope anyway). Next, we don't go for L, M, N, O, P. We want a nice little block in our jump, so we decide on a sidebody exit, phalanx, cat+accordion - cat+accordion, star. On exit we are in the door for way too long, and when we finally jump, I still don't have any grips at all. You gotta ask Door (inside centre) how he manages to find a way to position himself so that I can not reach either his arm or his leg grip. But the exit is good: I just pick up two grips instead of one :-) The jump is not so good. Randoms are OK, but instead of just turning to do the block, we fly circles around each other. Shame on us!

I have too leave earlier than normal, so this is all we have time for. We decide to start of our next session with a repeat of this last jump and we assign Door to remember this, which means chances are slim...

February 10, 2008


A lazy day. It's almost noon when I arrive at the DZ. The weather is still unbelievably beautiful, sunny and warm. Yesterday was the hottest Feb 9 since they (whoever they are) started measuring those things.

I join a group of bellyfliers for a 6-way. I am front float and i totally f**k up my exit. The rest of the jump is also not good (in Luk's words: "this was definitely a sub-optimal performance"), but that's no more because of me: we all seem to have an off day (or an off jump at least). There's absolutely no wind, so landing is fun!

Next I make a complete-fun-jump: I exit tracking on my back, wobble a bit, make speed, salto-ing to normal track, going steeper and steeper to an almost vertical dive, even steeper, falling over and coming out of this in a back-track once again, and so on. Drop was much too far: I exited last, 1.6 mile past the DZ centre point, and I did my tracking perpendicular on the jumprun. I open a bit higher, I am under canopy at 4kft. I love floating around up there.

Third jump today is a sit. I can't help feeling a bit ridiculous. Everytime I check altitude, I turn at least 180° :-))

There's time for one more jump. Two guys who are training to become AFF instructors, ask me to film their practice jump. So that's my first "real" camera jump: I mean where I am filming other people, rather than just filming the jump I am doing. My exit works out fine: my timing and position are OK (well of course it could be better, but I have seen far worse than this my first attempt). And for the jump, well, what can I say... They handle the exit very well. The guy in black who comes from inside, I have more than a few jumps with. I know he's good, much better at FS4 than I am, and still... The fake student is not doing very much, but a bit of stress, an unusual situation, and in a few seconds the jump goes from OK to complete mess. That's what training jumps are for, and they sure learned a lot from this. They both gave permission to show the video, so here it is:

We all deserve beer after this :-)

February 9, 2008


Some time ago, I bought me a camera helmet. Two weeks ago, I received the wide angle lens I ordered from paragear. And this week, I adapted the helmet for my (old) camera, so now I am ready to do my first ever jump with a camera.

I decide on an easy 2-way to check out the helmet. It is a bit awkward in the plane, I can't find the start button, so I have to take of the helmet again, and so on, but hey, we manage to exit with the camera running. Chantal is floating, I am diving, she makes a good exit, I want to start our routine, but my head is falling aside, this helmet and camera are very present on my head, I feel the weight and the air it takes, I have to pay attention to keep my head up straight, strengthen my neck muscles. But hey, all this takes only a second or so :-). The jump is nice, I don't know how Chantal manages to turn in place, she looks everywhere except at me, but she can do it. So here it is : my first ever video! The camera position and line of sight seem OK, I'm happy!

I immediately follow up with a chute assis. I curse myself all the way down, for not being able to just quietly sitfly. I am definitely better at it than say 10 jumps ago, I feel the air much better, but I still suck big time...

Third is an attempt at a 2-way FF. I funnel the exit, it takes me quiet some time to find out what's up, what's down and what position I'm in, and by the time I get it, Gunther is some 10 metres underneath me. The gap only grows, but at least I can check that I am falling straight (or maybe i just have the same backslide he has ???)...

Then a student from last year comes up to me and asks me if I want to do a currency jump with him. Of course I wanna do that! He has 16 jumps, didn't jump for three months. We brief a level 5, I give him the complete safety briefing again, I give him a refresh on the whole caboodle of malfunctions, and there we go. Please watch my first ever self made student video:

I love his smile a few seconds after exit, when the stress is gone and he remembers the feeling, feels it once again!! Apart from that he was better when we did level 7 than he is now, some 10 jumps later :-).

Last jump of the day (it is still only february, days are short) the weather has completely cleared out. From up there you can see the North Sea, Antwerp and even Zeeland are crystal clear, I can easily make out Middelburg, and although I am not completely sure, I think I can even see Rotterdam. That's about the farthest view I ever had in the 1500 or something jumps I made on this DZ. Wonderful!

The jump is a hybrid. Steven and I are bellyfliers, Nick does a standup, hanging from our chest straps, 6 others are sitflying, trying to dock on us from both sides. Our hanger is swinging all over the place, so it is hard work to stay stable, but we manage not to funnel. Nobody docks, but everybody was there, flying very disciplined, a real nice jump. We had outside video on it, so if it is posted somewhere, I'll link to it here.

So... first ever camera jump, first AFF of the year, first two-way FF attempt: some beers are in order!

February 3, 2008

4 way

At long last, another jumping day. Door, Jean, Sus and I made an appointment for a day of 4-way, so without further ado, let's jump!

First jump is an easy one, with a nice rhythm, just to get going. Meeker, satellite, sidebody, bow, star. Our exit sucks. A meeker is generally considered an easy exit, but the thing we launch is turning quiet a bit, so we need at least 5 sec before we have a satellite. From there on, it goes nicely. There is some winter rust on Door and Jean, I am OK, and Sus is flying (he did the christmas boogie in Empuria, so he is really sharp).

We can go up again almost immediately, so we decide to do the same jump again. Only things to specifically correct are the exit, and the bow, where the two centre fliers were too far apart, so that I (I am rear float) couldn't take both leg grips at once, and had to fly with my arms stretched out. Exit is still not good, but better than the previous one, so that's something at least. The bow also builds correctly now. The overall rhythm is much better than the previous jump. It's really flowing, what a lovely feeling. At one point, Door forgets the sidebody, and goes straight from the satellite to the bow. Jean tries to shake free his leg, Sus knocks him on the helmet, and I have him in a sidebody, so I give him a good shake all over. When we are down, he starts bragging about nobody noticing his tiny little brainlock...

Since this is the off season, we share our plane with another dropzone nearby. This is very cost efficient, but also really lousy if you don't like long waits in between jumps. So with 2 loads and a refuel at the other DZ, it is already past 2 o'clock before we can make our third jump. We decide on something a little more difficult. Exit is a crank. Next is hammer - hammer, and then open acc and diamond.

We are a bit unsure about launching the crank straight, but we try it anyway, and it works great. I am relaxed enough to, in the exit, give a thumbs up to Jean (who is front diving) before we build the first hammer. My first 270° turn in the block is too short. I fly into Sus, rather then present grips to him. Second time round, there's a zap on the centre cat (a loose grip). Third time round and it's better. Fourth time, I hit Sus' helmet with my knee, so that was definitely too close :-).

Fourth jump, we do the same one a second time. Exit is a bit shaky this time, and now my hammer-turns are too wide. Third time we are going around, there is confusion. Jean starts his 270° from the crank. It takes the other three of us a second before we realise what's happening, and then, on the spot we invent a new block move: crank - hammer. The rest of the jump is a bit sloppy...

With all the waiting while the plane is at the other DZ, that's all we have time for today. The jumps weren't spectacularly good, but hey, they weren't too bad either. Anyway, lots of fun, great laughs, and we all enjoyed it. At the bar, we first drink away the brainlocks, and then we just have a few more beers :-)

January 27, 2008


Second no-jump-weekend in a row. Grrrrrrrrr...

January 13, 2008


Once again after a whole week of rain, on saturday it gets better and on sunday, the weather is glorious. Preview for monday and tuesday is stormy. God loves skydivers!

First jump is a two-way with Klara, an ex-student of mine with a little over a 100 jumps by now. We decide on a jump about making turns. We dive a cat out of the door (I exit a bit hard, so I am more like sitting on her back, rather then flying behind her). First while I make my series of turns, Klara stays in place. But she is falling very slow. I have to fly in full Charlie-Chaplin-mode (heels together, feet lined up, O-legs) to stay level, and I can just sort of wobble my knees to turn. Even lying still and staying on level while she makes her turns is a challenge.

Next I throw in a quick sitfly-jump. Although I am a solo freeflyer, I exit first. All the others in the load are newbies opening at 5000 ft, people testing a new canopy and opening higher, etcetera. The last guy to exit is a wingsuiter, who makes a solo-flight. He exits about a mile further then the "normal" jumpers, and although the sky is completely clear, he lands out. On the other side of the DZ! This means he didn't fly a circuit, and he didn't keep his eyes open. He just flew straight through the zone where we were falling or flying. And he didn't look around him while doing so, or he wouldn't have landed out...

Third jump of the day is a tracking jump. We are 6, the rabbit isn't very experienced, but he does a good job: fast but not too fast, rather flat, and just a few changes of direction. Nice jump!

Last jump of the day is another sitfly. I exit on my back, and manage to sit up. I even make a few controlled turns (well, not completely out of control anyway). I am still amazed by the feeling of speed you get with this kind of jump, compared to the "slow" feeling of bellyflying. Apparently, I have a serious backslide when I sit. I can see myself sliding over the group before me. I have to do a bit of tracking halfway through the jump to stay clear .

There were 5 loads today, and I was on 4 of them... Not bad, I deserve a beer:-)

January 6, 2008

Happy new year !

Membership and insurance are paid, the sky is blue and it is not too cold today. Let year 19 of my skydiving career begin!

First jump of the year is to prove we all still love each other: let there be physical contact! It is an 8-way, full of level problems. There is a lot of unintentional hugging and mid-air pinchecks going on. Everybody keeps falling on top of everybody else, I have three collisions with the same guy: lousy jump, big fun.

Second jump is memorable for the exit. From our Cessna Caravan, we try a 7-way open accordion. We launch it straight, 5 floaters, 2 divers. The masterpiece is the super-front-floater. He climbs out and when he is in position, he turns around, with his back against the plane, and from this position he takes a left hand grip on the second floater, and he dives the exit. Guess what: it works!

Next I make two more attempts at sitfly. Slowly (very slowly) I start getting the hang of it. I can stay seated for the better part of a jump now, even manage to stop a slow turning by pushing down a leg. I flip backwards once, it is so quick that I make a complete back flip, rather than just fall over on my back and sit back up again. As soon as I am under canopy, I realise that my ass is freezing off. I have thermic underwear, but it's clearly no wind stopping fabric.

First beer of the year at the DZ... Mmmhhh, tastes even better than last years' :-)