An online skydiving logbook

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).