Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Drop, Flop, then Hop & Pop

I still get nervous on the drive to the drop zone.  I still get nervous  on the ride to altitude.  Maybe I need more practice.  Maybe the "common sense" part of my brain still isn't cool with jumping out planes.  Oddly, once I'm in the doorway, I'm ready.  The drop which  onced scared me silly was getting fun.
My exit was a bit floppy.  As usual.  What was I doing wrong?  Maybe I should get a video of the next jump, I thought.
I knew a video would be wise after the landing.  I'd hoped for a stand up one...
 ...but it didn't happen.
 I did take out some weeds.  Maybe a gopher too.
 I was steamed.  What was going on?  I was defiantly getting the next jump videoed.
 And while I'm at it, I thought, let's get that Hop & Pop* out of the way.
 The Hop & Pop scared me.  Exiting at a lower altitude was adding another monkey to the Barrel of What Could Go Wrong?  And my exits were still unstable!  What if I couldn't get myself in the right position by pull time?  What if I got tangled up in the parachute?
Calm down, I thought.  Just tell the instructor about your exits.  If he thinks it will be a problem, he'll let you know.
Soon I was back on the plane for a ride to 5000 feet.  I liked that the waiting time on the plane was shorter- less worry time.  As for my exits, the instructor was confident that I'd be stable in time- and had his camera ready to catch it.
The green light came on.  I dove out and...
 flipped on my back.  Uh oh.
 I wasn't scared(!).  I turned myself over, got stable and pulled.
The chute popped out and I was on my way to the landing area.
Between my recent crashes and the botched landing pattern of the previous week, I figured I'd learn a lot from seeing it taped.  I'd discover all sorts of "I didn't know I was doing that!" stuff.
My touchdown was another crash.
I picked myself up and headed toward the instructor.
"You did great" he said.
 Huh?  His camera was aimed at me, wasn't it?
"Are you kidding?" I said.  "I crashed and had to do a PLF"
"That happens sometimes when there's no winds," he said.
 It turned out that my landing was fine.  The pattern was good.  I flared at the right time, and landed the best I could with the wind.
I couldn't believe it!
I went to the shop and bought a shiny turquoise blue altimeter.
 Next week I returned to the drop zone, ready for action.
Okay, I was still a bit nervous, but I wanted to jump with my new "toy"!
Alas, it was too cloudy and breezy for student jumps. It was chilly too.   I hung around anyway.   There were quizzes to take, the SIM to study, people to talk to, and a nice fire. 

Here's the  video of my exit,  in case you want to see me drop from a plane.  It wasn't as floppy as I remembered it (though I did flip over at some point.) 
I haven't uploaded the landing yet, but check back later.

*in this context, a Hop & Pop is a practice emergency exit where the student leaves the plane at a lower altitude.  It's one of the things required for getting your license.
**SIM = Skydivers Information Manual

Friday, February 03, 2012

Skydiving Duck: Who's the Dummy?

If your jumps go well today, I promised myself, you can buy your own altimeter.  After all, I was more than half way towards my "A" license.  Maybe it was time to start getting my own equipment.
 I was still nervous in the plane.  I still flopped a bit after exiting.   The funny thing was, instead of thinking Oh no!  I'm upside down!  I thought That's no big thing.  I can right myself.  And I did.
My tracking was getting better.
I pulled on time and kept an eye on the landing area.
I remembered how close I'd came to the runway during my last landing.  I didn't want that to happen again!   I made sure my downwind approach was further east...
...downwind, crosswind, final... wow, maybe I overdid it on the "further east" thing.  I was going to land east of the landing area.  Oh well, at least I knew how to do a standup landing now.
I flared, stood up and...
 ...thunk!  Fell forward on my knees, hard.  
Huh?  How'd that happen?  So many of my earlier landings had been so soft.  Was it the new lines on the student canopy?
Stop blaming the parachute and try again, I told myself.  And this time, try to land correctly.  In the landing area, perhaps.
My second jump went like the first one.  Unimpressive exit, improved tracking, pulled on time, etc...  Now to land properly.  
Okay, I thought.  Let's do the downwind leg a bit closer than last time so you don't land in the sticks again.
I went downwind, turned crosswind and...
...Damn!  I was too close to the runway again!
You idiot!  I thought, cutting the crosswind leg short.     The landing pattern isn't that complicated!   Why have you been screwing it up lately?
Then final approach came.  Toggles up, toggles up, don't flare too high, flare half way, all the way... ...hey I was still coming in like a freight train.  I PLF'd hard and came to a stop.

Well, that was train wreck, I thought.
Three other students landed nearby.  As we were shuttled back to the DZ, one of the employees told us he'd like a word with "The person who did a 180 degree turn instead of a normal pattern."
180 degree turn?  I thought.  Ha!  At least someone was worse than me.  I'm glad he didn't get in my way...
But soon enough it became clear who the rogue jumper was. 
Can you guess who it was?

My shortened base leg (to miss the runway) was the 180 degree turn!  My "let's make sure you don't land out again" downwind approach was way too close to the center of the landing area (instead of off to the side, where I belonged).  My error was pointed out politely, but I was furious with myself.  Just furious.
I didn't go home with a new altimeter that day.  I didn't deserve one yet.