By the time I got cleared to solo, I had been up so often (30-plus
jumps) that it was almost routine, but your story reminded me of how
spooky and different it felt, when everybody else in the 182 was already
gone, and it was down to just me and the pilot. I can't find words to
describe the feelings - guess it was a bunch of 'em at once. Nerves, of
course, e***ment, but also the feeling of responsibility I hadn't felt
since my first couple of static line jumps. I also felt relief at
finally being on solo status nearly two years since my first jump. There
was also an "it's about freakin' time!" attitude, too.
Another great day occured the following weekend. Clear, sunny blue
skies, and everybody else on the plane is either a D-license or a tandem
and are getting out over Harvey Airfield. All others get out over
student field 2+ mi away. The cool thing about this was that the Harvey
run was first, and then I was "chauffeured" to the student DZ, alone, in
the massive interior of a Caravan! And it was my first jump out of the
Caravan, too! What an awesome ride that was! Case o' beer.
And the same thing you mentioned happened to me: I was first in the
Caravan one day because I was getting out last, and the tandem student
next to me said "So where's yours?" I said "Excuse me, my what?" "Your
guy, your, uh jumpmaster." "Don't have one. I'm going by myself." His
eyes bugged out, then he said "AWESOME!" and High-fived me.
There has been a thread regarding the AFF vs Static Line debate. Your
testimony lends credence to the idea that AFF doesn't prepare a student
as well as Static Line, IMHO...but I also think that it's because a
static line student will jump more by "themselves" (even tho the JM is
in the plane) right from the start, and so gets better psychological
preparation for solo status than an AFF grad, if for no other reason
than that they've been in the air a lot more than a AFF "10-jump
wonder". I don't think I would have done AFF even if I could have
afforded it, because I'm a cheapskate, and Static Line is far more
economical. I didn't realize that I would get a better skydiving
education out of it to boot...an unexpected added benefit, I think...
> > It is the same for us all, we all come about to that conclusion. When you
> > make a solo, it doesn't matter at what jump it is, you feel how lonely it is
> > with all that space. :^) (glorious space at that!)
> It's funny ... but the whole time I was in student progression, I sort of
> dreaded the day that I would be on my own ... truly on my own ... without a
> jm even watching me in the air or from the plane. When I finally finished my
> long student progression, wrapping it up via AFF, I distinctly remember the
> feeling of emptiness when my JM told me "okay, you're on your own now. Be
> careful. You can spend the rest of your day doing solos ... just manifest
> whenever you want some air."
> I walked away to think about that. It just didn't seem real. It
> couldn't be. "Manifest whenever you want ... " My lord! I don't need to
> wait for a jm?
> For about an hour, I couldn't even begin to move towards the manifest window.
> I just sat there at a picnic table ... in a sort of combined state of extreme
> exhilaration (my God, I really graduated?) ... to one of deep dread (what the
> hell business do I have being up there alone?).
> I passed my time gloating to all who would listen ... "what to hear about my
> awesome Level VII dive?" I was stalling ... trying to put off the
> inevitable. Finally, in his own perceptive way ... I guess he knew I was
> scared shitless ... James gently told me ... "hey, why don't you maybe like
> just shut up and jump?"
> Maybe that's the motivation I needed. I finally picked myself up and got on
> a load.
> That first solo ... strange ... geared up extra careful. Check the straps
> ... check the flaps ... "does this look okay?" I asked a passing jm. "Looks
> fine to me!" he responded encouragingly. "But you can take the radio off
> your chest strap. No one will be talking to you on it. No one's been
> talking to you for the past three jumps anyway." Good point. I put the
> radio away.
> Walk to the plane ... check ... double check. Everything's looking good.
> I thought that ride to altitude would be sheer torture ... slower than
> watching the grass grow. I was wrong ... dead wrong.
> I climb aboard a Super Otter and take my position way up near the front ...
> directly in front of a group of tandems. "Oh, shit! I have to sit here?"
> Now I've got real problems. Can't let the tandems see me scared out of my
> wits. That wouldn't be fair to them. Their first jump ... no one should
> spoil that for them. I'll just have to play this cool ... sit here quietly
> and keep my agony to myself.
> As we are riding to 'tude, a tandem student leaned over to me. She must have
> noticed my student jumpsuit and gear.
> "Who are you with?" she asked.
> "Where's your instructor?"
> That's when it dawned on me. I'm on my own now ... because I *can* be on my
> own ... I have proven the ability to be on my own.
> It was with pride that I told her ...
> "Nope! No instructor. You see, this is my very first solo dive. I just
> graduated AFF this morning."
> Amid reminders not to forget to buy my beer, I suddenly realized that all
> of a sudden ... all the worry and all of the anxiety had just seemed to wash
> away. It was at that exact moment in time that I realized ... I have what it
> takes and can be trusted to do everything in my power to keep myself alive in
> this "high risk" sport. My jm's had confidence in me ... and thus, I should
> have confidence in myself.
> We turned onto jump run, and I watched the others exit ahead of me. As we
> moved closer to the door ... I felt myself smile. As my turn came, I turned
> around ... flashed a thumbs up to my newfound friend ... "Have a blast!" I
> told her. "You are about to have the most awesome experience of your life!"
> With that, and a quick glance at the spot, I spread my wings ... and took
> To this day, my solo dives are among my favorites. I only wish I could
> recapture that moment in time, though ... that special feeling. It is one
> that few people in this life ever have ... and we skydivers are blessed to
> be among the lucky ones.
> Blue skies!
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