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.