by Clark "Headhunter" Boyd - email@example.com
I am an EX-Whuffo now! WOHOO!! By the way ... whatsa whuffo? Hehe ... Charlie Foxtrot = CF = Cluster Flock. Anyways ... I wanted to share my experience of a first skydive on AFF Level 1.
This past Saturday I attended the all-day class at a DZ near Houston. I felt the class was rather simple and didn't go into the detail I desired. However, when you're 10000 feet in the air doing 120 mph straight down with nothing between you and ground except air and gravity - simple things are good.
During the class, we were shown numerous pictures of the DZ from the air and told how to recognize where we were going. It all looked pretty simple. See the golf course next to the runway ... See the big white X on the runway ... See the other parachutes ... FOLLOW THEM!
Winds were good! We got on the plane up to 13,500 feet and ...
"Ready to skydive?"
"Move into the door..." Both my jumpmasters grabbed ahold like I was their favorite Easter egg in a room full of hungry first graders.
"Ready .... Set ... " ... (leaning forward again to 'GO' thinking 'Holy shit... is that the grooooouuuunnnnddd.......?'
Photo Tony Hathaway ©2000
WOW! What a SWEEEET rush going out the door!!
We finished all the altitude checks and COAs by 9000 so it was time to enjoy view, We spun a time or two in a 360 which was XCELLENT!
6000 feet .... ok... back to work ... I flashed the 5-5 and pulled.
The canopy deployed in a nice timely fashion and didn't take my back with it. A good soft opening. As soon as it seemed to be fully deployed, I was spun in a 720-degree turn in about one second.
Can you say ... adrenaline?? Hehe ... I thought that perhaps I'd best take a look at my canopy as I lightly fingered my reserve pull handle ... Ok ... it's fully inflated, all the lines appear to be fine. My descent has gone from freefall to glide so I'm okay.
I stowed the rip cord in my shirt and released the brakes. Time to figure out where the hell I am and where I'm going. About that time the radio strapped to my chest came to life... ahhh ... a nice considerate Jumpmaster is going to talk me through the landing.
"Ok.. you should be under your canopy now. Take a look at your canopy and make sure it's good."
"Great. Now I need to figure out which one you are. Make a 90 degree right turn." So I make a 90 degree right turn.
"Ok. I think I see you ... now make a 90 degree left turn." So I make a 90 degree left turn.
"Great! There you are. Okay, now fly with the sun just off your left shoulder."
Hmmm ... okay ... I make the turn. I'm looking down and around for the airport and nada ... no other parachutes ... no golf course ... no runway ... just fields and pastures. I'm thinking that perhaps I should do a 360 turn and take a look around, but before I can...
"Keep flying in the direction you're going ... Now let's practice some flares..."
During the flare practice he seems to see exactly what my canopy is doing ... but WHERE THE HELL IS HE??? I'm looking all over for ANYTHING that would even REMOTELY be considered a DZ. I thought I had a good orientation when we jumped. Perhaps that minor 720 spin disorientated me and maybe things just look different when hanging from a parachute. Well ... *HE* can see me so I take some comfort in that. However, the concern is growing as I pass 2000 when the radio crackles back to life...
Photo Monkey Claw © 2000
"Ok... now make a lefthand turn into the wind and get ready to land."
"WHAT??? I'm at 1500 ... and where the hell do you want me to land!?!?"
"Isn't that you over the DZ?"
"OH S***!!! That's not you? [looking] YIKES! YOU'RE WAY OFF!!! MAKE A 180 TURN NOW!!"
I yank hard on the right toggle and wait patiently for my 320 canopy with the performance of a pregnant elephant in labor to comply....
"You're not going to make it back. Start looking for a safe place to land. What do you see in front of you?"
"Couple houses ... a corn field ... a road ... AH! There's a pasture off to the right ..."
I think I forgot to mention that there were also two cars that stopped to watch. I guess they figured that a skydiver THIS far from the DZ was either a newbie or in serious trouble. Either way - the resulting landing should beat Cops from TV for realism. (damned buzzards... but I guess that's human nature 'cuz I woulda stopped to watch too...hehe)
A stream of last minute instructions were coming fast and furious as I was trying to determine which way the wind was coming as I passed 600ft.
Don't forget to radio us when you land and let us know if you're okay."
Geeesh ... what a vote of confidence! I'm not paying attention anymore because I have a field full of cows in front of me, houses to the left, a corn field to the right, two cars of people waiting to see the impact, a power line directly below me, and the wind is strong enough that I'm NOT making ANY forward movement and appear to be coming straight down. Hehe ... Adrenaline anyone? I have lots to spare at this moment....
Think ... think ... think ... Okay ... Winds at 500 feet will be different from winds a little lower. I should miss that power line ... however, low turns are NOT recommended ... gotta slow up or speed up. Well, since the I/E didn't show me where the throttle was - I figured half brakes should move me off the lines ... VOILA!!!
300 feet ... last moment instructions are coming even faster. The people in the car are now standing outside the car for a better look. The cows are chasing the canopy shadow obviously thinking it's farmer Bob bringing hay out for dinner time ... 60 yards from the fence ...
200 feet ... the winds shift 45 degrees and I notice that it appears I'll land on the biggest heffer in the bunch. The cows start moo'ing and they get closer ... 40 yards from the fence [not good] - so I give brakes to slow down but unfortunately drop a little faster...
|100 feet ... the winds shift BACK [thank God] ... 30 yards from the fence ... I start hollering at the cows to GTF outa the way. The people on the road start wishing they had a video-cam...
50 feet ... the cows finally see me and decide that I'm NOT farmer Bob after all and head for the other side of the pasture ... Whew! ... 20 yards from the fence...
10 feet ... FULL FLARE ... PLF ... LPF.. FPL ... ANYTHING!!!
Photo Monkey Claw © 2000
0 feet ... I had a three-step landing ... 2 feet hit at once and my butt took the third step because my feet slipped on something. Not sure what it was ... not sure I wanna know what it was ... hehe...
Anyways ... as I'm gathering my chute I see a little kid about seven years old standing next to the fence 15 yards away. He hollers ... "ARE YOU A POWER RANGER??" I was laughing hard ...
WOW! I was so pumped about my first jump that I was ready to do my Level Two! Unfortunately, that'll have to wait 'til next weekend. I didn't get back to the DZ until after the last load had already taken off for a Hit-n-Chug.
Everything in this story is TRUE! Uh ... maybe I ... uhh ... did ... uhhh ... embellish on the cows a bit... :o)