|A Night Jump|
by Chris Whitchurch - email@example.com
Saturday night I got another "first" out of the way--a night jump. The idea sounded good Saturday morning, but as the day wore on, I wasn't sure. But as I showed doubt, multiple instructors and Gene (the owner) all assured me that I had the skills to give it a shot. I was hanging around out of curiosity, and somehow manifested.
As the sun set, a dozen or so of us ordered pizzas and waited for *dark*. The briefing was given by a fella with more night jumps than I have jumps. The little safety tricks were fascinating. In RW, the slowest canopy opens first, straight up. Then all track. Next slowest tracks for four seconds and pulls, next for eight seconds and pulls, etc. Vertical and horizontal separation are optimized. Glow sticks everywhere. Snapped on the way out of the plane to keep your night vision. Strobes turned on after opening - so as to not blind your RW partners.
Photo © 2000 Glenn Rogers
Even attaching a glow stick to your risers - in case you cut away, so it can be seen. Taping a miniature glow stick to your alti from 11-7k vertically, covering it with tape so it only lights into the alti, you can't directly see it, but it lights the face and you can see the important part.
We line up a dozen cars in the approach for landing. Two rows. Like a zipper, facing into the wind 45 degrees. So nobody looses the ground blinded by car lights.
About 10 PM the first load gears up. All stars and a *big* moon.
You can see the glow sticks leaving the plane. Fascinating. Canopies look like ghosts in the air. I wonder how many ufo's were reported.
As folks land, they strip their lights and alti's to share with the next load. Communal property tonight.
I'm on night load 3.
Waiting for the plane, it was like the first jump. All nerves. Trouble finding the seat belt in the plane. It was *dark*. No lights to conserve night vision. No talking either . Like a silent prayer meeting on the way up.
A 2-way goes out. They have 2.5 and 3k. A solo who has 4k takes 5 seconds then goes out. I took 5k. Partly for stress, partly to take the view, partly to have the best view on everyone else. I sit in the door, count 5. Flip on the stobe that's attached by my hip. And heave into the darkness.
Funny, as soon as I left the step. No stress at all. Pure calm.
Fly belly to get oriented. There's the mall. The dz should be this side of the highway. Okay.
Fly my back, as slow as I can, reclining to see the moon and all above me.
With no ground as a reference. No barns to get bigger. Visual altitude cues are non-existent. 5K takes minutes.
Check alti. Passing 5.5. Checking traffic. All clear (all dark) and reach for the hackey. There goes the audible. Pull.
....Ahhhhhhh. The familiar tug. Feels right. The shadow of it looks right. And the view....
I leave the brakes stowed. And fly the risers. With nobody above me, Iím gonna milk this ride. The lights of Columbus, 45 miles away, shine.
The landing was exciting, but thoughtless. It just happened. A no wind-er. I come into the row of lights and slide on the damp grass. A stand-up, until I slip from under myself at the last minute. Cheers and laughter erupt.
I think they're right. The air is different on a night jump. It's "softer."
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