Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Elusive A

"You can't skydive.  " I thought, as I drove to the dropzone.
"I've done this before!  Lot's of times!"
"Yes, but that was a fluke.  You can't do this... you can't do this..."
"I'm doing it anyway."
Soon I was in a Cessna Caravan, riding to altitude.  I watched someone fall out for a hop 'n' pop.

"Aaarg!"  the primitive part of my brain squawked.  "Person falling!  That bad!  No want do that!  No, no, no!"
"Calm down," I thought.
 I'd practiced this jump- my second attempt at the Check Dive,  a zillion times in my head, down to watching the altimeter and keeping my fingers relaxed.  I'd kept an eye on the winds and had the landing pattern planned.  This was doable.
"Oh no!  Climb out time!"
I'm not a fan of the float exit (that's the one where you hang from outside of the plane).  It's awkward. It spooks me.  The wind blast fights you as you back out.
Somehow I got in place.  Kick back, kick forward, arch!
Whee!  I was in the air!  But on my back. 
"You know what to do", I thought, barrel rolling into place.  "Now fly to the instructor and dock..."
I flew forward, almost docked, but reached, which pushed me back.  D'oh! 
I followed her up and docked.
  Then I followed her down, and was about to dock...
...but my altimeter was near breakaway time.
"You won't pass this if you don't do a second dock," I thought. "but it's better to break off on time.  You can try again later." I broke off and tracked away.
The parachute opened.
I was surprised how far from the drop zone I was- at least 4000 feet west of the landing area!
How on earth?  I thought.  Had I backslid?  Tracked too far?
I pulled the toggles at half breaks.  Would that help me get back to where I was supposed to be?.  I was getting closer... closer...
...3000  feet.... 2000 feet...
"Hmmm," I thought, "If I keep going straight I may make it, but I'll cross runways low, and may get in the way of people flying a regular pattern.  Better pick a clear spot out here...."
A patch of land to the west looked suitable.  I carefully manevered myself downwind, cross wind, and into the wind...
...Holy Windsock!  this was a completly new "ground" coming at me.  Would I flare on time?
Incredibly, I did, and stood up too.  The wind puffed up the canopy but I pulled a toggle hard to keep it under control.  It fell into a bush and I tried to rescue it as gently as I could.
Dang, was I far away!

When I got back to the DZ, several friends asked me if I passed.
Not yet, I said.  I needed one more crack at it.
Then my instructor gave me the news.  I'd improved remarkably since my previous  check dive.  The fact that I chose to break off on time and land off showed that I understood about safety.  I was getting my A.  An A!
 My card got stamped, as did my forehead.  I did it!  I did it!  After all the fear, the blunders, the goofs, I'd succeeded! 

I still can't believe it.  Me, the big chicken who still gets spooked at altitude (shame!), has an "A" licence?
Now I've seen everything!