to sign up for the AFF (Accelerated Free Fall) program. I figured I would
at least try the first lesson, and see if I wanted to continue...So this
weekend, four of us trekked up to Skydance Skydiving at Yolo County Airport
near Sacramento, CA.
The ground school lasted the better portion of the day (from about 8:30am
to 4:30pm). We covered tons of material, and spent a good portion of the
time breaking our backs (read: practicing our arches). The two instructors
did a good job of explaining everything, and drilling the routines into
our heads. At the end of the classroom time, we had a mini-quiz on the
concepts, and then it was time to be manifested.
Our mini-group of four (from a class of 11) was unique in that none of us
were having video shot -- we had all had tapes made of our tandems, and
we wanted to save the cash for videoing the #7 AFF jump :-). We requested
that we wanted to ride together, and, amazingly, all four of us were put
on one planeload! We pretty much took up the whole King Air (I think there
were one or two solo jumpers, also).
The ride up was, for me, the worst time. All day I had been looking forward
to the jump ... but somehow, passing through 7.0K feet, my mind went "why
are you doing this?" This lasted until the first student headed for the door.
Then my mind returned to active duty! Jeannie and Chris were the first two
out. As I watched Chris's exit, I thought it looked a touch strange. I
found out later that one of his jumpmasters had to let go, due to a
fairly bad tumble. He later rejoined, and Chris finished fine. After
Chris and Jeannie jumped, we had covered too much ground for two more
student drops. So we turned around ... and CLIMBED! Headed back for the DZ,
we went from 10.5 to 13.5K feet! Wow! This could be really wild!
OK, so now it was my turn. Head for the door, feet positioned, check in,
check out, prop, up, down, arch -- and we're outta there! No tumble, no
trouble. Got established, found the ground, checked the altimeter.
Check left. Cathy's over there with a big grin on her face. And an
arch sign on her hands. OK, no problem. More arch. Now I get the OK.
Check right. Norm's there, OK given. Time for some practice pulls. I
did all three (during debrief, I was told that I used too much shoulder
turn, but other than that, they were OK), and then was left to stare in
wonder at the altimeter. We were still at about 8.5K! So, time to do another
circle of awareness. Ground, altimeter, check left (arch!), check right.
Now just float and cross-check. Waiting for 5.5K indicated. Flash the
five-five sign. Watch the altimeter. At 4.5K, look, reach, pull ...
check right. Something there. Check left. Something there. The canopy
pops open over my head. But not all the way. The end cells are still
slightly collapsed. But no twists, and no broken lines, and not a streamer!
OK, remember the procedure. Release the brakes and ... gee, that did it!
OK, controllability check. Turns left, turns right, brakes. Good. Now
find the landing area. Gee, there it is right below me! Nice spotting
job, Cathy! So, 3.0K feet, good canopy, landing area in sight. Just fly
the chute. Some turns, watching the altimeter, looking for others. Stayed
near the upwind boundry.
Altimeter reads 1.0K feet, cross checkpoint #1. Proceed downwind. Watch
the altimeter. Turn base (er, crosswind (sorry, I'm a pilot!)) at 500 feet.
Turn final at 300. Looks good so far. Winds are, at best, light to
variable. Basically calm. They told us this makes landings the toughest.
Great! Just what I wanted.
OK, just watch the horizon, don't look straight down. Watch. Wait. This
is, I think, where my time in planes and gliders came in very handy. I've
developed a good sense of where I am relative to the ground, and found
that it worked just as well under the canopy. As I came in, I smoothly
brought the brakes from full-off to full-on, just as my ear-radio was
beginning to crackle with "flare". The result? A stand-up landing! :-) :-)
Wow! What absolute luck! I think I'll retire now ;-). Of the four of
us, we had one flare too late (she did a very nice PLF, which I watched while
coasting on my downwind). We had two flare too early -- one just a little
so, and he basically PLF'd into some cut alfalfa. The other early flair
was not quite so painless. She flared about 6 feet too early, and basically
ran out of forward speed while still about 3 feet up in the air. She sat
down hard, but had no major injuries (pride, maybe?). So, final tally was
two early flares, one late flare, and one stand-up landing (gee, who was
that guy??). But we all basically had a blast, and all passed our level
Summary? I enjoyed the jump far more than I did my tandem. The tandem was
interesting, but, just being a passenger (or, more realistically, a rock!)
attached to the jumpmaster was not all that thrilling. And, in fact, it
was more difficult (read scary) getting out of the plane for my tandem
than it was for the AFF. The primary reason is that on the tandem there
is basically nothing to think about (well, just a little) ... and we stood
in the doorway, staring at the ground for quite a while. On the AFF jump,
I had enough to think about to keep my mind busy. That, and the departure
didn't require me to stand at the door and stare at the ground!! I think
I also liked being in a state of relative control -- it was me (unless I
messed up!) that would pull the ripcord, and it was definitely me that was
flying the canopy in.
All in all, a wonderful experience ... and I intend to go finish the AFF
course! A wonderful public (well, semi-public) thank-you to my two
jumpmasters, Norm and Cathy! A very well-run operation...
-rob "8/10/91 SkyDance King Air Man-O-War 13,500' 1:00 FF/1:00 Total FF"
| 'The head nurse spoke up, she said "Leave this one alone!"; she could |
| tell right away, I was bad to the bone!' - George Thorogood |