Thursday, October 06, 2011

Skydiving duck VI: AFF 3, Take Two, with a Twist

I was still frightened on the plane ride up.  This disappointed me. Then again, my fear level had dropped a little.  The soul melting terror of my earliest flights had been replaced with a distracting unease.   
Minutes later I was out the door with a whoosh.   You're supposed to arch.   I thought I arched.  I certainly yelled "Aaarrch!"
Alas, the GoPro video (see below) caught my bad form, as did my instructors.
I suppose I could have defended myself with "Gee, I was distracted, falling out of a plane and all."  Instead, I added "Arch right away when you're out the door" to my to do list.

Lucky for me (and the instructors hanging on to me), my form improved.  They let me go.  Would I spin?  Flip over?
Incredibly, I was able to hold still.  Yay!
I kept a sharp eye on my altimeter.  I'd botched my last lesson by not pulling on time.  Nothing was going to distract me.   Not the wind, not the noise, not thoughts, not even a pterodactyl   or flying saucer...
...6500 feet, 6000 feet, 5500 feet, wave off, pull!
I felt the familiar tug of the opening chute.    Ha!  I'd done it!

Then I looked up.  What the ...!?
The lines were twisted like a wrung out  rag.  This wasn't the cute little "X" twist I'd had a few dives earlier.  This was a bad-attitude-"#@!* you!" twist. 
I grabbed the risers and tugged them apart, and kicked out the twists.  The parachute  became much more cooperative.

I kept my eye on the landing area and worked my way towards it.  I almost didn't notice that it was a beautiful day with a gorgeous view- the lake spread out like a flat emerald, the mountains  like piles of brown sugar.   Maybe that's good- one doesn't land safely by sight seeing.
I had radio help for landing.  I currently don't get how the pros know when to start the flare.*
Yes, I get that you're supposed to do it at ten to fifteen feet above ground level.  I get that you should be looking forward instead of down.  Still, as I get lower and see the weeds zipping by, it's tricky to judge.  I look forward to the day when I figure out how to do this on my own.
Well, I passed.   Here's the GoPro video.
See my sorry exit and my recovery (well, the body position could be better but hey, I'm new at this) yourself:

To see what happened on level  four, click here.

*Flare means pulling down on the steering toggles.  When you get to the ten-fifteen feet above ground level, you pull them half way down and hold them.  This levels you off (so you're flying parallel to the ground instead of at an angle.) for a few seconds.  Then the canopy drops and you pull the toggles all the way down, which slows your decent long enough to land you gently.  If you know what you're doing.


Linda Davick said...

Totally, absolutely in awe.

The video is AMAZING. You don't look scared at all; it looks like you're talking and joking around up there. I was shaking my head and grinning through the whole thing. The ground does look pretty from up there.

"The lines were twisted like a wrung out rag." --when I read that, I had a heart attack.

The fear noogie illustration is great.

MikeJD said...

Fear Noogie attack - best character/drawing yet. I love it!

And 'Flare this!' made me laugh. Oops on the twists, but hey - you dealt with them again. Nice one.

Good video too - great job on release, you held your heading and I thought you looked pretty comfortable. It takes plenty of students many jumps to achieve that. I did wonder if your instructor was going to pull for you, but you were like 'Oh no, buster. I'm doing this!' :)

Wolf River Joe said...

Great job on the jump and great drawings too. Thanks.
I love how your "Freak-Out-O-Meter" has come down to the point that it's now an annoying little brat giving you noogies.
Learning how to judge the flare is not an easy thing to do. You also only get one shot at it per jump. So far, you have 4 landings. It will come in time.
And for those watching the video, the "Thumbs Down" from the instructor is a standard signal saying "Arch More". It's not a commentary on how she is doing;)

Namowal said...

Talking? Joking around? I'm a better actress than I thought. It still makes me nervous, especially getting in that @^%!! doorway. Part of my brain still sends the signal "Danger! You're on a ledge!"

I'm not sure how I managed to get that chute so twisted, but I did.
I remember watching the video and thinking "oh no, he's gonna pull for me!" for a split second. D'oh!

Wolf River Joe,
Thanks for the kind words, and thanks for clarifying the thumb signal to viewers!
It's too bad there's no safe, reliable way to launch the canopy from the ground to practice landings. I guess it's back into the ol' airplane for me. :)

booda baby said...

It's all so ... reasonable when you're readingabout it. You know - OF COURSE, you should arch (except in which direction? Me and physics don't hate each other, but we're not going out for cocktails any day soon).

And when do you quit arching?

And what do you do if a bug splats against your goggles JUST when you're supposed to be untangli-

Eeeek. You've really got the super hero stuff in you. Well done!!

AHoyThere said...

This story is GREAT! I've just read through every chapter.

I've been an AFF instructor for many years. This is a fantastic presentation of what so many students experience. But you are able to share it in the most clever and creative way that I have ever seen.

I can't wait for the next chapter.

Anonymous said...

If you're afraid of getting in the doorway, just ride the plane down once. THAT'll scare ya enough that you won't be able to wait to get to the door and out of the plane ;)

Namowal said...

Hi Boodababy,
You're supposed to arch like this. That keeps you from spinning and flopping all over the place.
In my case, I'm supposed to do it until the parachute is open. (Deploying the thing while you're spinning or at a weird angle invites trouble).

Thanks! I started drawing these mostly to amuse myself and my non-skydiving buddies, but I did wonder what fellow skydivers and instructors would think. Would I be accused of maligning the sport with silly duck cartoons? Would I get scolded for taking artistic liberties with the gear?
I really appreciate the positive feedback!

When I first started reading about skydiving, I used to wonder why the plane pointed straight down in some photos!
Then someone explained it to me. :)

Steve in the UK said...

I think both your story and illustrations are superb and - after reading them (all 3 so far..) - decided to move on to AFF which I am doing in March.

I think your honest description of your inner thoughts will be used for years to come to help people get through that door.

Thanks again. You'll be the first person I post to on Dropzone when I do level 1.

Good luck with Level 4 and Blue Skies.


Namowal said...

Steve in the UK,
Thanks! Good luck with your AFF. It may be unnerving but boy, is it worth it! :D

James Williams said...

Line twists are usually caused by body positioning during deployment. It takes several hundred feet for a big student canopy to fully deploy, so the sky has plenty of chance to spin you as it's opening. It's another one of those things that naturally improves as your jump count increases. Don't forget to go back into an arch after you've pulled, this'll help.

Namowal said...

James Williams,
Thanks for the tip about avoiding line twists. I figured sloppy body position was a big part of the problem, and made an effort to arch after pulling when I did level four (working on that post now). Sure enough, the parachute opened normally.

Kevin Grishkot said...

"Flare This" had me laughing out loud!!!

ONe a serious note, that was one of the most perfect hovers I've ever seen. Keep up.