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.
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.