|What a Rush!|
by Andy - email@example.com
Made my first night jump this past Saturday. What a rush! Day operations ended around 8 pm, after which everyone packed up and got a bite to eat. I even managed to squeeze in time for a shower, so as to remove the remnants of a full day of jumping. Then the anticipation really started to build as the pilot began checking out the plane, spinning it up on the pad, and doing touch-and-go's in the dark. That's when it hit me: we're really gonna do this!
The NOTAM was called in, then we had the safety and planning briefing. Everyone then got their strobes and chem-lights attached, and after a gear check by the S&TA we were on our way to the plane. The ride up was fascinating. I felt like a kid on a plane for the first time. My face was glued to the windows the entire ride up, peering at the lights of West Point, the moonlight splashing across the James river, and the headlights of late beach goers driving down 64. I was bouncing back and forth from side to side of the Otter trying to get as much as I could from as many angles as possible. Then came the time to get serious again. The too-brief joy ride was over and the task at hand lay before us.
The door was open on jump run, and the organizer, the first jumper, and myself looked out at the airport below. The spot was good, and the first soloist plummeted into the darkness. Amazing! A count of five, a glance to the organizer, and I exited. I quickly checked my heading and position over the airport, then turned to watch the plane disappear into the night sky. That was a sight that I will remember for the rest of time. I turned back to my original heading, checked my ground position again, and then checked my lighting accessories to verify that all was secure. Then I began taking in the sights from the ground. The airport beacon. The township lights. The moonlight on the river. Another quick look to see if I could spot the plane or another jumper, but I knew the answer to that even before looking.
Back to the ground visuals. It was simply amazing. And it seemed to last so much longer than a normal RW jump. My planned deployment altitude was 3000 feet, and as the needle swept through the horizontal mark I dumped my pilot chute. There was enough moonlight to actually watch the deployment. It seemed to snivel longer than normal, and gave me a hard diving turn at the end. It seemed like pretty nasty opening, but I think my imagination and nerves magnified the event. All was right with the world when I realized that I had a good canopy and turned back toward the dz and turned on my strobe.
I removed my goggles, exposing my entire head to the surroundings. This is one jump where I wanted to receive every available sensory input. I located the first jumper's strobe, and could occasionally make out the silhouette of his canopy. I looked for the two other solo jumpers behind me, but never did find them. The canopy ride was beautifully peaceful. The landing, however, was less than spectacular. A normal left hand pattern put me on final directly on target beside the van. My turn onto final left me with a significant amount of speed which, coupled with what I believe in hindsight to be a slight fixation on the van and the guy standing next to it, led to a late flare.
The landing wasn't so hard as to require a plf, but I did drill the ground with my knees and slid a little way in that position. Hell, I was so pumped up at that point that I probably wouldn't have felt it if you whacked me with a baseball bat. But it definitely raised the heat rate of the ground crew! We stood close to the van and watched as the rest of the load came in one by one. Everyone landed safely, including the pilot, beers were opened, and stories and great smiles extended into the wee hours. What a wonderful night!