Today was jump 7, which was my third and final PRCP (practice rip cord pull). It was an interesting ride up. The weather is getting worse, and it was raining last night. When I was about to jump, it wasn’t raining, but there was quite a bit of unpredictable wind, and some fun turbulence on the ascent. The jumpmaster was new to me, and he didn’t seem to have a full grasp of what was going on. He wanted to take me up to 4500 feet first, and thought I was pulling my own chute, despite being told twice on the ground of the plan. We got it all straightened out, though, and circled around again. When I looked out of the plane, I couldn’t see the drop zone before I jumped. We were being put out far from the landing area, which also made me a little nervous.
The jump went well and I reached my fake ripcord and pulled it out perfectly. My chute deployed correctly, and I tried to make it back to the landing area. The wind was blowing hard, and it was a little bumpy at times. Essentially, I faced almost perpendicular to the landing area the entire descent, facing into the wind so that I wouldn’t be pushed too far downwind and would eventually make it onto the landing area. Fortunately, I did make it, but it was quite a ways and I was amazed that I did. I flared at the right time and had a standing landing. The jumpmaster and another student weren’t so lucky. They ended up a few hundred yards away because they didn’t make it far enough. The wind was really unpredictable, and I started to feel drops of rain on the descent, but it was great practice and a lot of fun.
Yesterday I went to a friend’s house to help him build a roof in the back yard to provide shade over the patio. I was there for an hour, and the wood hadn’t arrived yet from home depot, so I took the opportunity to go for another jump.
In a word, my jump was flawless. I hit my arch immediately, waited a couple seconds, reached down and pulled my fake ripcord and threw it, went back to the arch, and waited until my chute had finished deploying. This was my second practice ripcord pull. The instructor had pulled my real chute as I was jumping, so I was practicing pulling and throwing a fake ripcord.
I descended for a couple thousand feet under canopy, but as I was about to start doing my maneuvers to get back on the ground, the guy on the radio started giving me instruction, and it was nowhere near what I expected. I looked at the windsock and saw that it had changed direction from what I was used to. I immediately knew what was going on and how I was going to end up on the ground. My landing was awesome. I flared at just the right time and was able to stand without even needing to take an extra step. If I had had my hands free, I would have thrown them up like a gymnast after landing.
The next time I go will be my last practice rip cord, and then the same day I have to go up again and pull my own ripcord for real. I’m really excited about that.
To finish the original story, as we were circling and jumping, I kept watching my friend’s house to see if the wood had been delivered. I still hadn’t when I was in the air. I made it back to his place in under an hour after leaving, and managed to beat the wood by a few minutes. We worked hard to get most of the wood up. It was dark by the time we were ready to start putting the plywood on, so we put that off for later.
Yesterday I did my fifth jump. This time I did a practice rip cord pull. This means that my chute is still being deployed as soon as I jump, but now I’m reaching for where the rip cord is supposed to be and pulling out a wadded up rag as practice. A couple more times and I’ll be pulling the real thing.
I also had less help from the guy on the radio below. I basically guided myself down the whole way. I landed on the field, which is good, but I wasn’t happy with how I guided myself. I was way too high when I was getting ready to land, so I tried to bleed off altitude, but I was too low to do it properly, so I made a bit of a mess of things. It’ll take me a bit of practice to get it right, but I’m definitely making progress towards being able to jump on my own.
I’m not sure what I’ll do after I get to that point, though. I really like jumping, but it’s extremely expensive. When I think about how many hundreds of dollars I’ve already spent on this, it not only boggles the mind, but it also makes me feel guilty. There are so many better things I could be spending money on. I could be donating it to charity, I could be saving more towards retirement or a home, I could be investing in the market more. I could even be spending it on a vacation or cruise. On the plus side, it’s not like I’m addicted to crack or hookers. And I’ve got stories that I’ll remember, too. We’ll see what happens.
This morning I went skydiving again. I can’t believe I’m already saying this, but it was a pretty normal jump. I showed up at 10. One plane of students had already jumped, a second plane was getting ready, and there were only two on the third plane, so it worked out great. I wore the same neon green jumpsuit and had the same rainbow parachute, but it’s not about the looks. The weather was gorgeous; even clearer than the first time I went.
I had no problem jumping out of the plane this time. I knew what was going to happen, so a bit of the excitement wasn’t there, but it was still awesome. My exit wasn’t perfect. My arch was fine, but I pushed out of the plane a little aggressively, and rolled a little off axis. The jumpmaster later told me that he had never seen what happened next, but somehow some lines got under my foot. The effect was that I got to watch my chute deploy and then the lines snapped tight and I got rearranged exactly as I should have been. The whole thing happened so fast that I was hardly aware of it.
Once everything was in order, I looked up and watched my canopy finish opening. Then the guy on the radio came on and helped me down. I looked out over the town and enjoyed the ride. As I got closer to the field, I knew I was going to land on the grass, and I could see the guy on the radio hold up his hands and tell me to flare at just the right time. It wasn’t perfect, but I stumbled on the ground and mostly stood. I paid and headed home to make some lunch. It was a good morning.
I think I’m getting hooked. I think a big part of it is that I want to do it right, so I’m going to keep doing it until I don’t make any mistakes. This time there were good parts and bad parts, but more good than bad. The good parts were my exit and my landing. I hopped out right, had a good arch, and was facing straight into the wind. The bad part was that I felt good about it and relaxed, so I lost my arch. Of course, I didn’t know this until the instructor told me on the ground. D’oh. I watched the chute deploy (it’s kinda fun to see. The instructors say not to look at it until 5 seconds after you jump so that you don’t get scared and think your chute is broken, but I like to watch anyway.), and was grateful when it all came out fine. Did the normal maneuvers to bleed off altitude and get closer to the field. I did the flare just right and was able to land on my feet and come to a stop still standing, which was good.
I’m looking forward to going again. I’m going to do a better job next time, but I’m also going to have to rely less on the radio and steer myself for the most part.
wheeeee. I like this sport.