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.