Monday, July 13, 2009

Carpe Diem, Assholes!

It's coming up on a year since my FJC down at RPC and in that time I've had the opportunity to meet some amazing people and have an incredible amount of fun at the dropzone. This was put together from footage shot over a couple of months at the Raeford DZ (and surrounding locales in some cases). Enjoy!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

A couple of firsts this weekend

Yeah, I owe beer. That's gonna have to wait until the next set of jumps. There haven't been too many updates here due to a) laziness and b) a schedule that seemingly doesn't stop.

I was cleared off of AFF and onto self-supervision way back in September (wow! that was a while ago). It's interesting to read through my logbook and dredge up the details of each jump. Some are more clear than others" the last AFF jump with Steve through the sleet while doing front and backflips; watching the wind shift as I turned .for my final and heading all the way down the runway before busting on the tarmac; fighting to close the deployment bag on my first pack job (thanks Liz!).

Along the way I've started to get to know everyone at the DZ. It continues to amaze me what a warm and welcoming bunch they are. The advice they give is invaluable. From Chris', Aaron's, and Lewis' advice on improving my poised exit to Keith and Melissa's (The Flying Majeronis) tips on making it through a thick cloud deck safely to Tony's straight-forward explanation on how land right on target I can't say thank you nearly enough. Of course, as I think through just these few I keep remembering everyone else that's helped me along the way. I think I'm up to two cases owed just right now.

Saturday didn't start out looking too great. Leaving Raleigh it was cold, cloudy, and misty. Not exactly skydiving weather. The situation down in Raeford was, unfortunately, much the same. The weatherman wasn't exactly batting 1.000

Fortunately, it did finally clear up. I hopped on the first load and away we went. I don't know if anyone heard me yell "Happy New Year" on my way out of the plane or my whooping it up under canopy but I don't care. It was good to be back after a 3 week hiatus. The first jump was pretty uneventful. I practiced refining some of the belly flying and tracking techniques I'd been working on in the wind tunnel the day before. Of course, all of that preoccupation with the jump showed up in my landing. My pattern was crap and so was the landing. Tony chewed on my ear about that for a bit.

Jump number 2 was "interesting". I need to do 2 hop 'n' pops (low altitude jumps from 5500'). On the first one the clouds rolled in and there was a pretty solid deck from 3000' to 2800'. My poised exits have never been great and that's what I needed to do for this jump. Combine that with the novelty of the clouds and the fact that it's "low altitude" and my nerves got the better of me on the exit. I pushed up and away from the PAC and almost cracked my head on the rear stabilizer. Then, I pulled before I was completely stable. Throw in a measure of dearch just to make things interesting. The bad body position combined with a subterminal opening gave me a nice set of line twists on opening. It wasn't too bad, though. I pulled apart the risers and kicked my way out of them before the spin was too bad. At 4000' I was under canopy and doing a nice slow spiral downward.

This was definitely one of the most beautiful jumps I've been on. Above me the sky was perfectly clear. It was that perfect deep blue unmarred by clouds or contrails that just draws you into it. Below me was the cottony top of the cloud deck stretching out to the horizon. The sight was just amazing.

The flight through the clouds was something that can only be put into words imperfectly. The whole world collapses into just you. There is no sense of distance, no visual cues. You're flying through a void. The silence is only marred by the light flapping of the slider in the wind.

Eventually I came down from the clouds and setup my pattern. The no wind situation combined with a slightly smaller than usual canopy (I was on a PD 240 -- slightly more than a 1:1 wingloading for me) resulted in my misjudging my target and going short on the downwind leg and then long on the final. Jim managed to catch it on video.

We sat on a weather hold for the next hour or two. Jim hoofed it back to Raleigh and I sat around shooting the shit with the up jumpers. The weather broke and I headed up for my second hop 'n' pop. I was a little better on exit but I dearched and pushed to hard away from the plane. This spun me as I came away so that I was diving away rather than sliding backwards. I still need to work on that.

Tony's advice on hitting my target on landing, though, was just what I needed to hear. I'm sure it wasn't the prettiest pattern to watch as I made the many small corrections needed to hit where I wanted. And I did. Right into the freshly tore up turf. By my count I was the 4th person that day to catch a nice big mound of dirt and go face down into the dirt. So much for dignity!

I hopped onto the second to last load of the day and rode all the way to altitude. The poised exit was better but still not where it needs to be. I'm still dearching a bit but I'm confident that I'll nail it the next jump. I took it easy during freefall and didn't do anything crazy; it was just steady concentration on keeping good positive leg pressure so I didn't backslide, maintaining my hip position so I can move my arms without impacting my stability or fall rate, and keeping an eyeball on my altitude. The wave off and pull at 4500' was solid and I took my time coming down under canopy.

It wasn't quite a sunset load, but it was gorgeous nonetheless. I drank in the view and lazily rode my way down. My final leg was nice and steady and on the flare everything clicked for me -- without overthinking the process I made a two stage flare and ran it out in a few steps. This is something I've been struggling with and was definitely my big personal accomplishment for the day. It's kind of funny; I jump out of a plane several times in one day, something most people don't do once in their lives, and the part I'm happiest about is handling the last couple of feet well.

I have 3 more jumps I need to make before my A License check dive: two hop 'n' pops that can be signed off and my Category H dive. It's so close I can taste it. Cross your fingers that the weather cooperates next weekend.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Jumps 5,6, and 7 are in the book

Yes, you read that right. I transitioned into the AFF program at Raeford Parachute Center with a bang this last weekend and it was an absolute blast.

The weather was looking kind of dicey Friday morning and several other students in the First Jump Class opted to delay until Sunday. Unfortunately, that wasn't an option for me so I made the drive down to Raeford at the crack of dawn. I met Tony, who runs the dropzone, and Roy, who would be my instructor for the day.

Roy and I ran through the basics of the DZ's operation (signing up for student jumps, their AFF progression, signing out rental rigs, etc.) and then dove into the basics. A lot of this was information that I'd covered previously at CSS but Roy was excellent at putting a little more behind each nugget of information and filling it in with details from his own jump s and mishaps. From there we headed over to Paraclete XP for some time in the wind tunnel. After watching a group from JSOC make it look easy I climbed in for my slot. It was definitely a challenge to get and remain stable in the tunnel versus up top but that also forced me to really work on my technique. I felt like I did a pretty poor job in there but Roy and the Paraclete instructor both said I didn't pretty well. Go figure.

The clouds were looking pretty threatening after we got back from the lunch break so I resigned myself to not jumping on Friday. We covered emergency procedures (locate, rip, punch red, punch silver) and how to identify and handle basic canopy malfunctions. The day was rounded up with a couple of practices PFLs.

Since I wasn't jumping I headed back up to Raleigh.

I got back down to Raeford around 9:00 that morning and put my name up on the student board for my A level jump. My instructors Peter (another CSS orphan and all around expert skydiver) and Mike (one of RCP's veteran instructors) ran through the dive flow with me several times. They gave me good marks and even better feedback on my initial exit. I was a little flat and my leg position needed some work. My PHTs were definitely rushed along with the actual pull at 5500'.

This was my first time under canopy by myself and I was really stressing about that. I'd been studying the landing pattern all day but things still look quite different from up high. Controlling my own canopy was an awesome experience and aside from the flapping of my slider it was incredibly peaceful. The contrast from the rush of the wind at 120 MPH just heightened that sensation.

Tony guided me through the landing as I kept a close watch on my altimeter. I did pretty well until the landing. I still need to break some of the tandem landing habits.

The landing pattern for Jumps 1 and 2 View Larger Map

My second (and B-level) jump was with Roy and Chris (Ratboy? Nor sure where that nickname came from). As before we ran through the dive flow and talked about each aspect and in particular how to make a proper turn. My exit and initial arch this time around were better but I was still trailing my legs a little too much.

The turns were interesting. I could have sworn my instructors were helping with the motion but evidently they weren't. According to the logs I had good forward motion, turns, and altitude awareness. Let me tell you, I'm definitely going to be aware of the altitude! At 6000' you have about 30 seconds before you hit the ground if you don't pull chute. Now, if you do you'll spend a lot more time in the sky and I'm pretty sure the landing will be a bit softer.

I flew the same landing pattern as before but I flared way too high (60'!). I ended up doing a PFL but the only thing bruised was my ego. Obviously, my depth perception needs some work.

My final jump of the day was also the last load (number 15!) for the DZ. The sun was creeping low in the sky as we rode up. Sitting in the back of the plane was a new experience. That door was awfully close, especially when we crossed 1000' and unbuckled and opened it up. Wow. I felt the Korissa, another student that was sitting in front of me (and closer to the door) scoot closer to the inside of the plane. Obviously, I wasn't the only person a little unnerved!

The C1 jump is pretty straight-forward: Stay stable. After we left the plane I did a single PHT and two toe taps and then went into my arch. Once I was stable my instructors, Roy and Chris (different Chris) let me go. For about 20 seconds I was on my own in freefall. Awesome!

My last canopy ride down of the day was gorgeous. After some initial disorientation trying to find the DZ I settled into the holding area above the end of the runway and coasted down to 1000'. My landing pattern was a little tight but along the way I practiced my flares and worked to get up and forward in my rig for a proper standup landing. As I came in on my final leg I did my best to concentrate on the horizon to gauge my altitude and made a decent flare. Unfortunately, I didn't realize I was over a ditch and ended up dropping about 10' when I thought I'd be hitting the ground. Oops! My foot took the brunt of things but otherwise I felt great about all of it. According to Peter and Chris I was little wobbly initially so I know I need to work on maintaining my body position during my PHTs and toe taps.

It was a great day and I enjoyed hoisting a beer with the rest of the RPC crew after everyone was down. The ride back home was spent ruminating on my next set of jumps this coming weekend. Too bad we have a maintenance window otherwise I'd be out there Saturday and Sunday! Oh well ...

Blue Skies!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

CSS Dropzone Closed to Civilians

Sad news: The Carolina Sky Sports has closed to civilians. The announcement was made after the 35th anniversary boogie (I wish I could have made it!).

Fear not, though! There's an excellent facility down in Raeford where most (if not all) of the jumpers from CSS will be migrating.

Whit has also gotten some activity going on the CSS Family Google Group to keep all the former CSSers in touch and jumping.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Pure Unadulterated Cuteness

My niece.

I don't mean to gush but she's just so adorable!

Friday, August 29, 2008

An excellent progression

We're going from this:

To this

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Kudos to switchabit

I noticed my switches weren't working earlier this afternoon. After fiddling with them for a bit I shot some feedback over to the Switchabit crew.

About 30 minutes later things started working and I got a followup:
Thanks for the heads up. There was a hardware problem that escaped our monitors. Everything is back online. Let me know if you have any further problems.


So, kudos to switchabit for jumping on the issue quickly and also for responding in such an upfront manner. We need more customer service like this.