Saturday, February 2, 2013

Sunset Hop N' POP skydive

Working is Seattle, WA from 7-3:30 couldn't have seemed any longer today.  The sun has been shining all day after weeks of fog and rain.  Quitting time couldn't have come soon enough as I rush to the freeway only to deal with the inevitable friday afternoon traffic.  My focus is on the sun's position in the sky.  If I can hurry, I can make it to the drop zone before they close up shop for the day.  I make it to Olympia in an hour and a half, which isn't bad for a Friday commute, and the sun still shines over the hills but falling fast.  I don't even bother going home to change my clothes or attempt to clean myself up after a hard days work, instead, I head strait to the DZ.  As I pull in, full of excitement, I see them pulling the plane into the hanger indicating that the day is done.  I'm not convinced for there is plenty of light left in the sky for one final jump and to my delight, they agree to take the 182 out for a Hop N' Pop from 8,500 ft.  I couldn't get my parachute on fast enough as the sun begins to set over the coastal hills.  As we ascend to our jump altitude, I can see Mt. Rainier, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams, Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Hood.  A golden red blanket of sunset is strung out across the sky, coloring the frosty mountain tops and the lower cloud cover beneath our wings.  Time seems to stop as a melodic silence consumes this moment in life.  Even after a long work week in this season's weather, I'm at peace.  By far the best way to begin a weekend!  If only I had a camera to capture the moment for the rest of the world to see.  Its simply beautiful!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Obtaining Your Skydive Class A License

Jump count: 32

What is a Class A skydiving license ? And how do I get one?

-  This skydiving license can be obtained in as little as 25 jumps, given the student completes the necessary AFF or *Accelerated Free Fall class.  It permits a skydiver to legally skydive at any drop zone, it permits a skydiver to fly with groups or formations and registers you as a graduate of the AFF class with the USPA (United States Parachute Association) which then identifies and certifies you wherever you jump.

Class was an 8 hour, hands on run through of all the basic, but very critical, knowledge a person must know and understand before making their first jump.                
                         *(it's not required to make a tandem jump before you take the AFF class)

AFF Class Topics

*Parachute functions including application and location of all 3 pull handles and their purposes
*How to safely load into the aircraft and the steps for proper exiting technique at jump altitude-13,500'
*Proper belly flying positioning for stable flight during free fall 
*Free fall objectives including awareness steps and hand signals 
*Proper pulling sequence for safe canopy deployment
*How to control and accurately fly your canopy including landing methods 
         -and of course-
*Parachute malfunction and emergency procedures 

After completing and passing the necessary 7 instructed jumps, you must then obtain at least 25 jumps in a decently short time period.  It took me 8 weekends of skydiving to obtain my class A license.  Its a good idea to jump consistently to keep the knowledge and experience fresh in body and mind, remember, a free fall is about 60 seconds you are given to learn from during each jump.  That may seem like a quick ride but believe me, time slows down as your riding gravity's saddle and racing to the earth at a minimum of 110 miles per hour.  
Once all jumps have been completed and your experience card has been fulfilled and signed off on all required jump objectives/maneuver/topics, you must take and legally pass a 3 page written test, required by the USPA, which initials air traffic edict, laws and emergency procedures in all aspects.  

I have completed all my necessary jumps, been signed off on all the necessary knowledge reviews, passed the required tests and finally been certified a licensed skydiver :)  Time to spread my wings!

To enroll in an AFF class, contact your local Drop Zone!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

My First Solo Skydive


I just finished my level 7 jump which is the last jump in which an instructor will be accompanying me.  I have officially graduated kindergarden in Sky School and about to head up for my first ever solo skydive!  I can't stop smiling.  Is this really happening?  I put on my parachute as instructors throughout the hanger are checking my gear and "bidding me fair well" as they too know the status of my next jump.  I am so excited to hear the plane approach the hanger to pick up the next load.  The smell of jet fuel excites me we load into the aircraft.  As we make our way up to 13,500 ft, I'm still finding it hard to believe that in my 3rd weekend jumping, I am allowed to jump alone with no one there to turn toward or to take instruction from as in my previous jumps.  I receive a thumbs up or high 5 from everyone in the plane as the green light turns on indicating that its time to open the door and exit.  As I watch the group before me shrink and disappear into the distant air,  I turn toward the inside of the plane to see everyone smiling at me as they wave me off.  Time to go.  Time to make this leap on my own.  Relative to life in that the power of progression starts with a single step and as you continue to take those steps, you will reach a time and place that demands you to take a leap without anyone there to push you.  Without anyone there to push us throughout our pursuits, we can only push ourselves. This is my time, in this plane and in life.   Who I once was, I no longer am.  What I once was, I can no longer be.  Where I once was, no longer exists.  So how do I change?  Accept reality and take the leap.

I am confident and humbled as I jump through a wall of fear, right out of an airplane door over 10,000 ft.  Though the wind rushes by my ears, there is a silence that surrounds me.  I can feel my smile reaching both of my ears and as I become aware that I can hear nothing, I feel myself laughing hysterically.  "Look mom.. no hands" I say out loud as if i'm performing stand up comedy to a listening audience.  The sun catches my eye and with what maneuvers I'v learned throughout my previous jumps, its easy for me to turn and position my body in any direction as I absorb the entire 360 degree, panoramic view of my surroundings.  Frosted mountain tops, beautiful fall colored forests, crisp clean air with a full sky of sunshine.  Its absolutely beautiful.  What an amazing experience made available for us to witness.  I am so glad I'm here and can't wait to return, BUT FIRST.... I'v got to pull my chute now and land this thing.  And as I approach the ground safely, I have already convinced myself to make one more for the day!  Simply amazing day :)

Skydive AFF Jump #7

In only 3 weeks time, I have passed my first 6 jumps and today will be making my final AFF Instructed jump #7 followed by my first ever completely solo exit and flight.  In Sky School, this is like graduating kindergarden.  I have learned the very basics of this sport which are:

*How to properly put on a parachute
*How to safely board and exit an aircraft in proper jump order
*How to maintain a stable belly position during free fall
*How and when to use my altimeter
*How and why to be aware of the jump run during flight
*How and when to deploy my parachute
*How, why and when to cut away and use reserve canopy if necessary
*How to properly execute a safe landing according to the wind

It may not seem like much to learn but the majority of what you can learn in this sport you can only learn a minute at a time for that is the average free fall time while belly flying from 13,000 ft.  Of course you can always visit your local wind tunnel for some indoor air time.  Vertical wind tunnels are great practice for body position wether your just learning to belly fly or your more advanced working on your free fly maneuvers.  I spent 4 minutes in a tunnel the weekend prior to my first jump.  It was such a big help with my skydive in that it introduced me to the air flow in a safe environment allowing me to focus more on how to compose and hold a stable belly fly position, opposed to learning in the midst of your adrenaline rush as you casually jump out of a plane for the first time!

Today's jump involves Tracking which is a horizontal flying position used to direct yourself toward or away from a group or area.  This is a necessary maneuver to learn and prefect if you ever plan to fly a wing suit.

Jump Objectives:

-Observe and identify jump run
-Solo exit
-Find stability and check altimeter
-Make eye contact with instructor, they nod
-Observe and identify jump run
-Turn and begin track for 10 seconds
-Return to regular belly position and check altitude
-Make eye contact with instructor, they nod
-Turn 180 degrees, observe and identify jump run
-Begin tracking for 10 seconds

Depending on your altitude, your instructor may have you continue to track in either direction.

As I get on the plane, I catch a whiff of jet fuel.  This smell triggers certain feelings for me now.  I'v been working on Boeing Airfield in Everett WA.  I see the biggest passenger planes come and go all day long and I often find myself taking a big whiff, closing my eyes and finding myself on a jump plane as the smell accompanies my imagination.  Such a tease throughout my work week but the weekends here and I'm finally on my way up!  Its different to me now.  Its not as nerve racking as it was in the very beginning, though I am still nervous, I am calm and collective.  We exit the plane, I first, followed by my instructor.  Upon finding stability, I turn to my instructor as she nods indicating its okay to begin my track.  I Observe and identify the jump run and slowly bring my hands from in front of my vision, toward my hips/waist with palms down.  I straiten my legs and point my toes and as I do so I feel myself take off like a bullet.  My first track probably looked like a small car driving on ice with bald tires.  (in every direction just to go strait)  I end my track, turn around to check in with my instructor once again and as she nods, I begin my track in the opposite direction.  This time with a lot better traction and direction.  I am so thrilled as I come to the realization that I'm traveling at great speeds horizontally as I descend and can no longer classify what I am doing as "Falling"... I am flying!
This is absolutely amazing.  I can't believe that I didn't start doing this earlier on in my life.

Now for my first ever SOLO jump

Monday, January 14, 2013

Skydive AFF Jump #6

Once again... I'm so FLIPPING excited at this point.  Still riding the adrenaline rush from my previous jump, I can't wait to jump out of the plane unassisted and execute this jumps objectives.

Jump Objectives:

-Solo exit
-Find stable belly postion
-Check altimeter
-Initiate back flip
-Find stability and Check altimeter
-Initiate front flip
-Find stability and Check altimeter
-Initiate left hand barrel roll
-Find stability and Check altimeter
-Initiate right hand barrel roll
-Find stability and Check altimeter
-At 6,000 ft, no more maneuvers
-Wave off at 4,500 and pull

I had to get this one on video!
Check it out-------Click Here for AFF Level 6 video
Its in real time, no editing, no music.  So fun :)

I'm having such a good time in my introduction to the sky.  I'm starting to feel that this sport will become a big part of my life!  My next jump will involve tracking which is a horizontal flying technique.  But after that.... I'm on my own.  I can't wait to have the air all to my self :)

Skydive AFF jump #5

I'v returned for my second day in a row with some time in the sky.  I'm excited for today I will be making my first solo, unassisted exit but first... I must complete this level 5 jump

#5 Jump objectives:

-Make a stable exit while instructor holds my right side
-Find stability and check in with instructor, he gives a thumbs up
-Instructor moves in front, face to face, and nods indicating its okay to begin spins
-Check altimeter
-Initiate left 360 degree spin and stop facing instructor
-Check altimeter
-Instructor nods indicating its okay to begin opposite spin
-Check altimeter
-Initiate right 360 degree spin and stop facing instructor
-Check altimeter

Depending on your altitude, your instructor may have you continue your spins.

After a much better exit than my last, I find stability almost instantly allowing us to begin.  I was extremely aggressive with my spins using heavy pitched arm movements creating very fast turns.  And even in the speed of the spin I was able to stop on target (facing the instructor) each time.  I find that I have a better understanding on how your body affects the air and how the air affects the body.  My belly position is almost natural now and I feel a lot more in control although I'm well aware that I have a lot left to learn.  Like anything, there is endless knowledge available to absorb in pursuit of perfection.

I never even hear a voice speak to me over the radio as I follow the landing pattern down and reunite safely with the earth.  I get a high 5 and am informed that I no longer need a radio on me for my landing technique is fine.  I just have to remember to always be aware of people around me before making any sudden movements, follow the designated landing pattern and land in the designated area according to the winds direction.  The responsibility of properly executing these tasks is not to be ignored for the safety of others around you can be compromised with poor or lazy judgment.

As I return to the hanger, I turn in my radio and am overcome with a lonely feeling.  Even though my last couple jumps have required little or no communication, there is a sense of security knowing someone is there.  But I guess thats growing up in the sky people community :)

Time for some flips and my first solo exit!!!

Skydive AFF Jump #4

The weekend finally came and I am excited to make a few jumps in the lasting summer weather, but I can only make 1 jump today.

Todays jump's objectives are:
-Exit aircraft with only one instructor
-Practice one pull sequence
-if i'm to remain stable, the instructor will let go and move in front of me face to face.
-He nods and i'm to make a 90 degree turn to my left
-Check altimeter
-Turn back 90 degrees to face instructor and make eye contact
-Check altimeter
-Instructor nods and I make a 90 degree turn in the opposite direction
-Check altimeter
-Turn back 90 degrees and face instructor again

If enough time is still available before pulling altitude, your instructor will have you repeat the process.

As we make our way up through the clouds, discussing arm position for responsive turning maneuvers, I'm nervous for its been a week since my last jump and the absence of an instructor on the outside of the plane is leaving me to approach the door first, while the instructor holds on your right side which in jump position is inside the plane.


And as we exit the plane, I feel my instructor dive  down pulling me out of my belly position.  For several seconds we are falling with no control and what your taught to do is ARCH your body the best you can and as I did so, the instructor was able to find us a stable position.  I look at my instructor with eyes of fear and say "woooo."  My instructor laughs, nods, lets go and moves in front as we execute the jump objectives listed above.

I'm nervous as we approach pull altitude because I want to have a successful pull.  Without disrupting my body's position and maintaing a solid heading from wave off to full deployment.  As altitude came (4,500 ft), I was focused as I waved off and pulled.  It was flawlessly executed and as my canopy opened, I yelled with my success! "WOOO HOOOO"

I hear my instructors voice on the radio say "Its all you bud.  I'll correct you if I need to but lets see if you can get down on your own.  Just follow the landing pattern according to the wind's direction," as learned in class and practiced throughout your previous landings.

As I approach 1000 feet, I leave the "holding area" a designated area, depending on the wind, where you want to remain under canopy until you begin your landing pattern.  At 1000 ft, you are to head downwind passing your landing target one either side.  At 600ft, you are to cut across the wind with a 90 degree turn, until your target is directly to your landing side.  At 300 ft, you are to turn another 90 degrees upwind heading you directly toward your landing target.  By pulling both toggles down to your chest, you will feel the canopy slow down and descend with less horizontal travel.  By leaving both toggles all the way up above your head, you feel the canopy speed up with more horizontal travel.

I'm learning and improving and as I make my final approach to the ground, I'm satisfied to know that my landing required no radio assistance.  My exit was bit sketchy but knowing how to improve it leaves me anxious for tomorrow where I will have more time for a couple jumps!  The objectives of the next jump are the same at exit but during free fall I will be executing full 360 degree belly spins in both directions.  And the jump that follows that includes flips and I can't begin to describe in words how FLIPPING excited I am to come back!  Pun definitely intended :)

AFF Level 4 - success :)