Thursday, October 27, 2011

Skydiving Duck: AFF 5 part two

I returned to the drop zone to retry level five (AFF).  As I waited for my instructor, I looked up and saw the plane fly over.   It was tiny- I could have eclipsed it with my little finger held at arm's length.   Little dots- the jumpers- dropped out like clockwork.  It looked like an early video game. 

I was smiling as I boarded the plane, but Fear snuck on after me.

He spent the next fifteen minutes hollering about the door.  I think he doesn't like it.
Getting myself to back out of said door is about as easy as getting a cat into a bath. 

My exit was sloppy, but then I arched correctly.  I couldn't believe I was floating (okay, falling) thousands of feet over the ground, unattached, and able to control my turns.
Freefall makes the "be here now" cliche real.   Body position, the altimeter, and what's happening right now replace everyday worries and nagging thoughts.  Maybe that's part of the appeal?  I'm too new at this to know for sure.

My thoughts after the chute opened:
Yay!  It opened normally..! ...where am I?  Oh... there's the landing area....   Far above me I could see the plane dispensing jumpers.  Below I could see other parachutes.  Cool!  I was in the video game!
Hey Super Mario, my cautious side thought, you're hanging 4000 feet in the air like a *@!! pinata.  Why don't you, ah, check to see if you can flare and steer the parachute before you take in the scenery?

I circled around my holding area until I got to 1000 feet, where I was to start the landing.  The plan is to fly with the wind at 1000 feet, turn 90 degrees (west) at 600 and turn another 90 degrees at 300 so you'll land in the wind.  I had a walkie talkie strapped to my helmet.  Some instructors flew me in with precise instructions.  Others waited until I was near the ground and told me when to flare (slow down the parachute).  I didn't hear anything.
After the 300 foot turn, I noticed I was heading straight for a flag in the middle of the field.
Way to go!  I thought.  The landing area is the size of Rhode Island and you point yourself at a stupid flag.  Now what?  I was too low for any real turns (turning drops you).  Then I figured,

1. If I focus on the flag, I'll hit it for sure.
2. If I focus on the area to the right of the flag, and very subtly pull on the right steering toggle, I'll pass it.

The ground flew closer.  By this time the walkie talkie usually squawked landing instructions.
I didn't hear anything. 
Wow!  I thought. They trust me to do it on my own?!  Okay... I'll just wait till I'm almost down,*  okay, flare to level off...  ... flare all the way...
It worked!  I landed gently (for me).  Just right of the flag.
Later I learned that the walkie talkie wasn't working.  The instructor was trying to tell me stuff, but the walkie talkie wasn't picking up.  So that's how I accidentally landed without assistance.

Here's the video:
*technically this is ten to fifteen feet over the ground, but to me it looks like "almost down" 

Click here to see how level six went.


MikeJD said...

Wow. Great cartoons, great video, great job! I've seen people with a lot more jumps than you who can't turn and stop so precisely.

I think this is your most feelgood post yet. And no matter what was going through your mind when you climbed out, you looked pretty confident to me. And looking good on video is half the battle. ;)

Linda Davick said...

Congratulations, Namo. That is a beautiful video--and such great illustrations--(particularly crazy about #1 and #4!!)

I had a feeling that the walkie talkie might not be working. (OH MY GOD!!!) But apparently you did fine without it.


Chris Warnock said...

Thanks for sharing these experiences with us. Seeing your images and reading the story makes me feel as though I'm right there in the plane with you!

blue skies & soft grass

Namowal said...

Thanks. I think the time I've spent in the tunnel is starting to pay off. Too bad I didn't have my botched earlier attempt on film. That would have been good for laughs.

Thanks for the praise. The first picture was surprisingly tricky- my (otherwise excellent) drawing program, ArtRage, doesn't like making pixelated images. I tried drawing tiny and enlarging the images, but it "helped" by smoothing and blurring the edges.

Thanks for stopping by! (And I like "soft grass" a lot better than the traditional expression.)

booda baby said...

Fantastic! I really have to agree with Chris Warnock - you have quite a knack for taking us on a vicarious adventure. It's oh-sooo-exhilerating. From here.

From there? From where you are in real life? Even after so many jumps and riding along, it's skeeeery. So yay for you. And yay for me for having you do it!! :)

Namowal said...

Funny thing is, it wasn't too long ago that even watching a video of people leaving the planes freaked me out. "How can they DO that?" I thought. "These guys are nuts!"
Thanks for coming along for the ride!

Wolf River Joe said...

Very Nice! Your climbout this time was much more positive than in the level 3 video.
Fear, at some level, will always be on the plane. Use it as a positive. Use to to hone your focus on the jump. Make sure you know the dive plan, go over your emergency procedures, decide who gets what if you go in (joke).

It's also really cool that you understand "Target Fixation" - what you fixate on is where you will go. So don't fixate on things you don't want to hit.

And landing on your own is a great step forward. Did you stand it up? (like in the drawing) A little headwind (to slow your groundspeed) does wonders for a stand-up landing. I know some older guys (sixties) that won't jump unless there's some wind for that reason.

Thanks again for sharing these.

Namowal said...

Thanks for the tips, WolfRiverJoe.
Target fixation is funny stuff. The other day I was reading about a study with golfers. They were separated into two groups and both instructed to putt the ball in the hole. One group was told to "concentrate on not overshooting the hole." You can probably guess which group overshot the most.
As for my landing, it wasn't quite a stand up. My feet hit the ground first but than I sat down. Whoops.

AHoyThere said...

Wow, you've come so far since the first video that I watched. You have so much more confidence in the climb out and during the free fall. You can just see it throughout the dive.
It looks like you're having fun now during the dive.
The clarity of mind that you display while making the turns and checking the altimeter show such great progress.
And talk about nice precise turns. Woot!

Namowal said...

Thanks, AHoyThere,
I think the chance to do level 5 twice helped me ace it. I've also passed level 6 (cartoon in progress but I'm running late) since then but it was a bit less graceful. Tomorrow I take a shot at (I still can't believe it) level 7. That should be interesting.

Anonymous said...

You're my hero :-). This is great stuff!

(from an Old Schooler)

Anonymous said...

I think it's time to demand a Velo 79 :-)