Jump 29

Saturday morning I looked at the weather and it was not good. There was a good chance of rain, it was overcast, and the ceiling in Ritzville was 7500-9000 feet. My friend and I were supposed to go skydiving, but the weather made it seem like it might not happen. She called and they said it was still on, so we got in the car and drove up there. Once we arrived, I suited up and barely made the next load, and I’m glad I did. We went through some clouds on the ride up, but directly over the drop zone there wasn’t anything, so that was good. It was getting a little cold, but I was also at the door the whole ride. I was the first one out, and it was a great jump. This time I tried a few things; I tried going feet first, but immediately flipped and was on my head, starting to spin. Then I tried doing a couple cannonballs, which is fun because you go faster and you have no control over how you spin. I also played with some flips and turns and generally doing acrobatics and getting back under control, as well as looking around for other divers and getting awareness. My chute opened fine and I turned to watch the others, who were some still falling for quite a ways, which was cool to watch.

I practiced some riser turns before I unstowed the brakes and made a regular landing, this time standing up and on the grass. I was very happy.

I had some help packing my chute, but I wasn’t fast enough to get on the next load, which was unfortunate because that’s the one my friend was on. I watched her get on the plane and take off. Unfortunately for her, the clouds had rolled in overhead and they could only make it up to 7500 feet before they had to get out.

That was the end of the day, and they rolled the plane in to the hangar. I asked the instructor what he wanted me to do before he felt comfortable stamping my license card, and he was ok with it, so now I officially have an A license for skydiving. woo!

Jumps 26-28

It’s been three years since I’ve been skydiving. Once Richland Skysports closed, I no longer had a local place to dive. It took the desire of a coworker to jump to motivate me to get back into it. I went the weekend before she was supposed to go so that I could take care of all the things I needed to to be able to jump with her the next weekend. After talking to the instructors and getting a refresher quiz, they let me do a hop and pop, jumping at 7000 and freefalling for ten seconds before pulling. It wasn’t the cleanest exit, but I didn’t hesitate to do it. I had no problem jumping out, but I didn’t have the best posture and struggled for a few seconds to get right. It happened quickly enough, though. I had no problem pulling my chute, and was happy playing around under canopy. I was a little high on the approach but still landed on the grass a very happy guy. They showed me a photo of me exiting the plane, and it was very embarrassing how bad my body position was on exit. It was no wonder I struggled on the first jump.

That was enough to satisfy the instructors, though, and they let me jump at 12500 for my next jump. I was excited to practice freefalling, and took the opportunity to do flips forward and backward, a barrel roll, turning, and some tracking. I had good altitude awareness and didn’t have any problem pulling at the right altitude. I landed on the grass again.

I had some help packing my own chute this time, and got back on the plane for the next ride. This time I played around some more with flips, adjusting my fall rate, tracking, and heading control. I had no problem with my opening. The wind changed, and the landing pattern was different; we were going left handed turns, which brought us over the top of the building. I was a little nervous about that and ended up going over the building a little high and overshooting the grass by a few feet. I landed on the dirt and slid to a stop.

There weren’t going to be any more loads, so I paid and came home, ultimately very satisfied with my day.

Jump 24

It’s been over four months since I’ve jumped. It was before I went to Europe even. It’s not like I haven’t been trying, though. For the last couple months I’ve been going to the airport every weekend and wednesday evening, hoping there would be enough people to jump. Most of the time nobody was there. Today, though, it happened. I checked the web camera and saw the plane sitting outside, so I changed and hurried out the door.

When I got there the plane was already loaded and leaving the tarmac. But Larry said I could get on the next load. I got my suit and chute on and practiced reaching for the pilot chute on the bottom of the container a few times just to remind my muscles where it was. The wind was pretty heavy, and there were clouds overhead, so I was a little concerned, but by the time the first load landed and we were ready for the next trip, it was clearer and less windy.

The ride up was uneventful, but pretty. It was sunset, and as we rose the sun didn’t really move because the horizon was changing, so I got the longest sunset I’ve ever seen. At 10500 feet I could see my breath while we were still in the plane. We opened the door and got a blast of cold, waited until we over the right spot, and I dove out headfirst. I definitely need to work on my diving because I ended up doing a bit of a flip, but got control quickly. I touched my pilot chute a couple times just to make sure I could find it, then started practicing my turning. I was having no problem staying stable and making fast and sharp turns, so I then tried a front flip and nailed it. Next was a barrel roll, and that was no problem either. I still had a bit of time, so I worked on tracking across the ground (basically, moving horizontally). I opened my chute at exactly the right altitude and took a couple quick turns to bleed off a bit of altitude. I judged the wind and my descent speed just right and started to set up my landing. I did the textbook landing pattern, and hit the ground just inches away from where I had planned to land before we took off. I even stood my landing; and yes, I put my arms up like a gymnast afterwards.

I couldn’t have had a better jump. I was very happy with it. I brought my chute back in and had to pause a few times while I repacked it to remember the steps, but I got it all right. By the time I left it was dark out. I made the requisite call to mom and left a message that I had jumped, landed, and was uninjured.

Jump 23

I was so close. Inches away from a successful dive. The goal on this one was to jump out right after someone and successfully dock with them. He was to jump out and I was to dive out right after him and catch up to him. We planned a routine to execute once we docked, and both of us thought it was pretty ambitious. When the time came, he jumped, and I was out right after him. I’d never dived out before (I’d always jumped out at a 45 degree angle into the wind, but when diving you jump out, well, at a 45 degree angle into the wind, but with your head pointing down instead of up). Anyway, I dived out and didn’t quite stay straight. I flipped onto my back momentarily, so I wriggled out of that, but then wasn’t sure what my heading was or where the other guy was. I spun around a couple times looking for him before I finally found him below me and a ways off. I started heading towards him, and I arched more to get down to his level. We were getting closer and closer, and so was the ground. For a few seconds I was no more than 5 feet away from him. He looked at his altimeter, I looked at mine, and we were at 5000. He waved off, and we both turned around and tracked away from each other. I pulled at 4000 feet so that I could play around with the canopy and do some more of the requirements for getting my license. The front riser dive, which is where you pull down on the front risers to make the canopy collapse a little and dive forward, was exciting. As I approached the field to land, the tandem jumper who had exited the plane after me were landing at the same time, so I turned a little and decided not to go for the center of the target, instead giving him lots of room to work. I had a standing landing, which was nice. Overall, I got two more things checked off on my checklist. I only have a couple more jumps to go before I can get my license. Woot!

Jumps 20, 21, and 22

Today was fantastic! I got up, checked the richlandskysports.com web camera, and saw that there were already people getting on the plane. I called Larry to make sure, and hurried over to the airport. Unfortunately, I was a couple minutes late, so I missed the first load. Oh well. We’re no longer using the Caravan, which could hold about 15 people. Now we’re back to the Cessna 206, which can hold about 5 jumpers. I made it on the second load, and we headed up. I didn’t feel anything until we got to about 10,000 feet, 1,000 feet before we were supposed to jump. I was to go first, then Larry and the tandem jumpers. Larry said he would put me out a little early so that they would have enough time for the tandems. He patted me on the helmet and I hopped out of the plane. I was stable immediately, so I picked a cloud straight ahead and did a 360 turn left. Then I did a 360 right. I had gotten some advice on doing back flips, so I tried it, and it worked flawlessly. I had a perfect backflip. So I tried it again, and it worked out great. So I tried a front flip for the first time, and that happened without any problems at all. I was doing so well that I thought I’d try for the hat trick with a barrel roll, but I only got half way through it and was on my back. I wriggled out and got back on my belly, checked my altimeter, and pulled.

I looked down and immediately knew I was in trouble. The drop zone was about half a mile away, and even pointing straight at it I was losing altitude surprisingly fast under canopy and there was no way I was going to make it. I started looking for my outs, and had picked one near the end of the runway, but I soon realized I wasn’t even going to make it that far, and I was kind of relieved because I would have had to go over some power lines and get a little closer to them than I wanted. A little behind me was the softball field, and there wasn’t anybody there, so I changed direction and landed perfectly in the outfield, standing the landing like a pro. A truck drove up to the edge of the field and a guy asked if I needed a ride. I said Sure! and hopped into the back of his truck with the chute. I lay on it during the ride so that it wouldn’t catch the wind and drag me out of the truck, and we went back to the drop zone. I walked in the door all smiles and told Larry he had put me out a little early. He had no idea I had landed in the softball fields so far away.

The second jump was much better. I did two 360s, a back flip, a front flip, and this time I successfully got my barrel roll. I was also over the drop zone. Something was odd about my canopy, though. I had to pull down on my left toggle more than I should have to keep from turning right. I managed to land a few feet from the pea gravel, much to my happiness, but not standing. I mentioned it to Larry, who asked if I still had the brake stowed on my right toggle. In retrospect, I think I may have, which would have explained the turning. Oh well. It was one of my closest landings to the pea gravel, so I couldn’t complain.

The third jump was completely different. There were no more tandem jumpers, so it was three of us, and they wanted to do a threeway. I had only ever jumped alone, so this was completely different. We set up a pattern on the ground for how we would jump and move, and I almost instantly forgot it. I doubted we’d be able to manage it anyway. In the air, we prepared our jump, then went for it. It was immediately a mess. We were together, but couldn’t stay stable. For a few seconds we were all on our backs in a ring looking at each other and smiling. Then we tried to right ourselves, but that didn’t work out and one of the guys broke off and moved away. I was still holding on to the other one, and after a couple seconds he and I were sorted out and falling together. I saw the other one below us and arched a little more so that we could drop down to him, but that took the other guy by surprise a little, because he didn’t expect me to be so aware of what was going on or able to adjust my fall rate so easily. We never met back with the third guy, and eventually he tracked away and pulled his chute. The other guy and I broke off, turned 180 and tracked away from each other. Then I pulled my chute and had a very hard opening. Back on the ground I mentioned this and he asked if I was still tracking away when I pulled. I immediately realized that I had been and was probably moving pretty fast when the chute deployed. I had a great standing landing right near where I wanted to be, so I was very happy with how it all turned out.

Larry and I started filling out the requirements for getting the A license. I’m pretty far along and should have my license in only a few more jumps. This was just a spectacular day for jumping, and I really feel like I’ve got it mostly figured out and under control. I know I’m clumsy, but at least I’m doing all the right steps. Grace will come soon enough.

Oh, and I’m completely packing my own chute now. That’s pretty exciting, too.

Jumps 17-19.5

Today was fun. I got to the drop zone about 9:45 and there were already a lot of people there. The little building was filled with people, mostly family watching a few people doing tandem dives, and some were hanging out outside. I brought over the leftover carrot cake I had made the day before, and most of it got eaten during the day, which is good. I got my chute, jumpsuit, helmet, gloves, and altimeter and made the first load. I jumped alone; I really just wanted to practice being in control and turning.

My first jump was solid. I had no problem doing 90 degree turns either way, I was in control the whole time, and I even practiced my technique in turns and turning by moving my legs instead of my entire body. I tried moving forward, too, by straightening my legs a little to push me forward. I was very happy with the dive. My chute opened fine right at the correct altitude. I bled off altitude and worked my way down to 1000 feet before starting my landing pattern. I should have waited even longer because I barely ended up on the field. The wind had died more than I expected and I got a lot more penetration than I thought I would, but I still made it on the field and stood the landing.

The place was so busy that I had a hard time finding someone to watch me pack the chute, and I missed the second load, but I eventually got it all sorted out and packed and got onto the third load. I called Doug right before I went up and he came by with his fancy new camera to take pictures. This time I tried doing 360 turns both ways and was able to do that, though it was a little shaky by the end of the turn. Then I tried a back flip. I got one, then kept spinning around and did another, then kinda floundered a little more until I was back to stable. I really hope I get these back flips figured out. This time I was better about starting my landing pattern lower, but I still overshot a little, and of course since Doug was taking pictures I didn’t stand my landing. Oh well.

I got my chute packed again, even more by myself, and was on the fifth load. This time I tried more of the same. I’m getting really comfortable with my altitude awareness, turning, maintaining stability, thinking while I’m in the air and watching around me, but these back flips are still elusive. This time I only did half a flip and ended up on my back. I tried flipping forward to get back on my belly, but couldn’t manage it, so I flipped backwards the rest of the way. This time my landing was good, and I stood and had no problems.

I packed for a fourth jump, this time entirely by myself (but I did have someone check at the critical steps). It was getting windy, and I was wondering if it would be such a good idea to try. Unlicensed divers can’t jump in more than 14mph winds, and when I got in the plane Larry said it was at 12-14mph. When we got to altitude, they radioed down and got a reading of 15-20, so another student and I couldn’t jump. We spent a long time getting set up for the other jumpers because it was windy and there were clouds. Right after they all jumped, I closed the door, and the plane dropped. For a couple seconds I was in free fall in the plane, which was pretty cool. I moved forward and strapped myself in and enjoyed the ride down. We had some really tight turns on the way down and I could see the ground almost right below me out the window and feel the weight of the turn. That was pretty cool.

I’m a little disappointed I didn’t get to jump the fourth time today, but I’d rather be safe and able to jump another time than injured and out of commission. Besides, it was interesting to take the ride down. I think tomorrow I’ll go skiing. By comparison, it’s much cheaper, and skiing is not cheap at all. Eventually I’ll be licensed and the price will drop dramatically, and I’m looking forward to that.

Jumps 13, 14, 15, 16

Sunday was beautiful. There were only a couple thin clouds in the sky, the wind was very light, and I felt good. It was a great day to go skydiving. I showed up at about 10, but everyone else had partied a little too much for St. Patrick’s Day, so we didn’t get rolling until 11. I went up to 13,500 feet and jumped out first with Larry, the owner of Richland Skysports. I was supposed to work on my left and right turns, but I was still struggling with them. I did get some turns in before the back flips started. I would do one back flip on accident, then two more before I could get things straightened out. Then I’d try turning again and I’d flip all over. Fortunately, I was watching my altimeter, so I wasn’t in any kind of trouble, and I straightened out long before I had to pull, but I was still frustrated that I wasn’t getting my turns right. On the plus side, it’s a lot of fun to do back flips in the air.

The second jump was more of the same, but I was definitely in a lot more control. I still flipped on accident a couple times, but was doing much better at turning, and was a lot more stable. I was still sliding some, but I think I’ve got it mostly under control. I’d like to try a jump where the instructor stays stable and I just try to stay in the same position and maybe even dock with him.

The third one (jump number 15), was a little different. This time I was supposed to flip in between my turns. I did a left turn, then went back, then a right turn, then back, then a flip. Only I was a little gun shy from doing multiple flips in a row, so I broke out of my flip early and ended up on my back. No big deal, I just finished the flip, but still.

The final one of the day I didn’t do any flips. I was in a lot more control as I did my turns. Still not perfect, but I’m getting there, and fine tuning now.

Most of my jumps were stand up landings, and I had no problems finding a spot on the field. On one of the earlier ones I wasn’t watching everyone else as much as I should have and was oblivious to a close call, but he told me and I’m now watching everywhere as I get closer to landing.

I’m also learning to pack. It’s a little frustrating because I’ve been watching them pack all along but as soon as I get the chute in my hands I forget what needs to be done, and I have a long way to go with getting the techniques down so that it’s not so tiring. I did pack my parachute and jump with it and it opened just fine, but I’m definitely glad I have the instructors watching me the whole way.

I’m really sore now, though. I have a couple bruises, and my ears haven’t finished popping, and on one of the jumps one of the risers hit my sunburned neck, but I’ll recover quickly and be back at it again soon.

Jumps 10, 11, and 12

A little over a month ago I jumped from 5000 feet and had about 10 seconds of freefall. I thought it was awesome. Every little step that I make in learning to skydive is fun and exciting, like I’m a baby who’s aware of my progress growing and learning to walk and talk. Yesterday, though, was like the way some people teach their babies to swim; by throwing them in the pool and making sure they don’t drown. That’s not a complaint at all, just a comparison.

When I arrived at the airport in the morning, there were already a few people. Within an hour, there were ten. The weather was absolutely gorgeous. Almost no clouds, beautiful sky, very warm, and light wind. Larry asked me what I had done last time, considered a moment, and then told me I would be going all the way to the top with everyone else and learning to do 90 degree turns. This meant I would be going up to 13,500 feet and jumping out of a plane completely unfamiliar to me, falling for almost a minute, with 9 other people. Needless to say, I was a little nervous. I was going to have an instructor watching me the whole time, and falling 9000 feet isn’t very different from falling 1000 feet, but just the idea was a little mind-boggling.

We all got on the plane and figured out the jump order and opening altitudes and all the important stuff, took off, and made our way up to 13,500 feet. They opened the door and a blast of colder air reminded us we were a couple miles above the ground. The first group went out. I counted a few seconds and followed after them with my instructor and another jumping out right after me.

In short, I thrashed for a bit. I was able to get mostly stable, but it was very tenuous. When I tried to turn, I couldn’t control it, and I would end up flipping over onto my back. I’d right myself and try again, turning a little, then losing it and turning a lot, then flipping again. It was crazy. With only a few thousand feet left before I was supposed to pull, I figured things out a little better and was able to get in control and make small turns. Then I stopped turning for a thousand feet and maintained a stable position with one heading, waved off so others knew I was going to pull, and pulled my pilot chute.

My first reaction after my chute opened was that it was awesome. My second, only a fraction of a second later, was intense pain in my ears. My third, another fraction later, was the realization that falling 9000 feet in a minute must really screw with the pressure in one’s ears. I got things sorted out and took stock of where I was and where everyone else was and where I needed to be. The wind had changed direction, but the people who had jumped before me hadn’t taken it into account, so they ended up landing with the wind. The people who had jumped after me had faster chutes, so they landed before I did and they landed into the wind, so they had no problem. I set up my pattern and made some modifications on my way down and enjoyed the ride and landed only a couple feet from where I had intended to land. It was pretty slick.

In the debrief, it turned out that my arch wasn’t the best ever, which was part of the reason I was flipping. Also, the suit I was wearing was too loose, and I’m a tall and skinny guy, so I was floating a lot, and the instructor had a hard time staying with me. Finally, while my fall wasn’t ideal, it was pretty average for a beginner.

I was immediately ready for my second jump. It was the same drill this time, except I was supposed to not suck. We were the last out. This time I was in a different suit that was tighter and didn’t have any wings at all, so it was better, and I had a better arch, so I didn’t flip at all. But for some reason I couldn’t stop spinning. I was always turning clockwise and I couldn’t figure out why or stop it. I would try one thing and it wouldn’t help, so I’d try something else and I would spin faster. I was really struggling to figure out what I was doing wrong. Then I got into a much faster spin and had to really twist to stop it. When I looked at my altimeter I was already 500 feet past where I was supposed to deploy so I quickly waved off and pulled at 1000 feet below my target. Under canopy I did fine and I landed standing, but I knew it was a bad jump. The instructor talked to me afterwards and said that the spinning wasn’t so bad but that I wasn’t doing the right things to start and stop the turns. However, it was not so good and could have been dangerous that I hadn’t pulled my chute at the right altitude. By falling too far, I was starting to get into the airspace of the people under canopy who were moving a lot slower than I was, so a collision could have been deadly for me and someone else. I wouldn’t be able to jump on the big plane until I showed I could have some altitude awareness.

That’s when we got the smaller Cessna 206 started up. This was the small plane I was used to. We waited for the big plane to go up and drop a load before we went up so we wouldn’t interfere with them. Two other guys, the instructor, and I went up. The two guys jumped at 8000 feet and we continued up to 11,500. This time I jumped out and had a good arch. I maintained my heading fairly straight for a while, then tried turning. I wasn’t in complete control of my turns, but I was a lot better than the previous jump, and I was a lot more aware of where the instructor was and what my altitude was. It also helped that I was looking up at the horizon and looking in the direction I wanted to turn. I waved off at the right altitude, pulled my chute at the right altitude, and had a great stand-up landing. I was happy to end the day with a good jump.

In the end I had racked up a little over 2 1/2 minutes of freefall and learned a lot about controlling myself in the air and watching my altitude. I suppose I could have been a quicker learner and not screwed up that second jump so badly, but I can’t do it over again, so I’ll just learn from all those little mistakes and not do them again. I’m really glad that I’m learning at this drop zone. Everyone here is concerned about safety and making sure you’re comfortable but challenged, that you know what you need to do to improve, and that you have the right equipment and good training.

Jump 9

I arrived at the airport at 10:30. Larry was there, and two guys who wanted to jump. This was not enough, as we needed 5 people to jump, and a pilot. We called everyone we knew, but only managed to round up one other, bringing our total to 4. We called the pilot, and he refused to come over until the Seahawks game was over. We were watching the game at the same time and were dismayed for a few reasons when the game tied and went into overtime. Sadly, the Seahawks lost, but shortly afterwards we got our own game into gear. We decided to split the cost of the 5th person among the four of us, so we could still jump. The pilot arrived, but we had some issues. First, the car with the gas pump wouldn’t start, so we couldn’t go get the plane out of the hangar or put gas in it. Eventually it started and they got the plane. Then they couldn’t find the key for the lock on the gas pump, so they couldn’t put gas in the plane. Then the battery was dead on the plane, so they couldn’t taxi it over to the pump directly. After charging the battery for a bit, they got it started, went over to the pump and got gas, and came back. I wasn’t sure if it was the universe telling us that we shouldn’t be jumping today to have had all these setbacks. It wasn’t until 2pm that we actually got in the air; almost 4 hours after I had arrived at the drop zone. I’m not complaining about all the setbacks. In fact, it was more a comedy of errors that make a great story. I also got to hear some stories from the other guys.

After my gear was on and checked, the jumpmaster told me what I was doing. I hadn’t been diving for over a month, so I wasn’t sure if he was going to make me jump from a low altitude or do an instructor-assisted deployment or what, but he just told me to jump from 5000 feet, count to 10 and pull at about 4000 feet, then told me to get in the plane. This was 1500 feet higher than I had jumped, my first time without a radio at all, and I had only pulled my own ripcord once before, over a month ago, so I was a little uncomfortable.

We reached altitude, got over the drop zone, and I was the first out. My arch wasn’t textbook, but eventually I corrected it and faced belly to earth. I counted to 10, checked my altimeter, decided to fall a couple more seconds, then threw my pilot chute. It was so much fun, surprisingly peaceful and easy, and it felt so natural. At about 3800 feet I pulled my chute, so I had quite a bit of altitude to bleed, and I was on a beginner chute, so it was going to take a long time to bleed it.

Until this point, I haven’t mentioned the weather, mostly because until this point it was inconsequential. There were very few clouds in the sky at all, but there were some at about 4000 feet a couple miles away, so it was neat to be looking above some distant clouds when I jumped. The more important part of the weather, though, was the temperature. It was about 10 degrees F. all day, but I hadn’t been too worried about it. It was very lucky that I had been loaned gloves, because while I was under canopy, the cold really got to my hands. The higher the altitude, the colder the temperature, and under canopy one is traveling ~25mph, so I had a cold breeze going through my hands for the entire time I was in the air. By the time I landed my hands were hurting really bad and I barely had the dexterity to gather up my chute correctly.

It was still a lot of fun, though. One of the guys who jumped out behind me brought his canopy near mine while we were coming down and did a couple tricks in his harness, so that was neat. I enjoyed the scenery and planned my descent, which was a little harder because there was no wind at all. I started my pattern too early and landed a little far from the center of the field, but still on the field, so I was happy with that.

Any jump where I land without injuries is a good one, and since I landed safely on the field and had some freefall and did it all myself, I’ll consider it a fantastic one.

Jump 8

Today was also my 8th jump, and certainly my most interesting. You are supposed to do your first solo rip cord pull immediately after your final practice rip cord pull, so I had to do two jumps today. It was raining lightly as we got in the plane. The wind sock couldn’t make up its mind at all, and the ascent was just as bouncy as before. This time I jumped closer to the drop zone, but not by much.

I exited the plane, counted to 3, reached down and grabbed my rip cord, pulled it out and threw it, and waited a couple more seconds for the chute to deploy. It was a completely different experience from all of my other jumps. Since I didn’t have the chute pulling me from the beginning, I felt myself move forward more so that I was parallel with the ground. It was great. Then once my chute came out I felt it pop as it caught the air and watched it completely deploy. I let out a whoop, grabbed the toggles and made a turn to indicate to the radio on the ground that I had control.

But though I had control of my canopy, I had no control over the wind, which was blowing in an unfriendly direction. I faced directly into the wind and was still being blown backwards. I knew there was pretty much no way I was going to land on the drop zone. I tried a few tricks to reduce my drag, but nothing helped me move forward. I suppose I could have started spiraling so that I would drop faster and not be in the air long enough to be blown back, but it didn’t occur to me at the time.

I started to look at where else I could land. There were some softball fields downwind that I might have been able to make, but there were fences and trees and it would have been a stretch to make it that far. There were a couple parks, but they had trees, and I didn’t know how big they were at 2000 feet. There was a sewage treatment plant to my right, so I knew I had to avoid that area at all costs. Below me was ok. It was essentially light brush, so I figured I’d go right below me as much as possible.

Fortunately, at about 1000 feet, I managed to penetrate and started moving forward. There was no way I was going to make it to the drop zone, but at least I was going to land in really light brush right next to the runway. So I steered myself a little bit and managed to land 50 feet to the side of the runway. I didn’t even bother to try to stand my landing and instead tried to not hurt myself. It turned out that the ground was amazingly soft, but densely populated with ragweed, the incredibly thorny and sharp bush. I wasn’t affected by it, but I was really concerned for the chute, which could easily have been torn by it. It was also starting to rain more, and wet chutes are not a good thing. So I carefully extracted my chute from the weeds and rolled it up. The pilot came and picked me up in the airplane, taxiing down the runway in the manner only a small airport could get away with.

So I have now pulled my own chute and done a solo dive, and boy was it awesome. Now I start getting to do more freefall, going to ever higher altitudes. I’ve also got some practical experience with wind and weather patterns and finding a good landing spot.