What started as a valiant effort to keep constantly updated on here fell by the wayside (wayside? Weighside? The ipad seems to think wayside but I’ve never wrote it before) when the weather turned a bit sour and messed with my routine
Basically Monday through to Wednesday weather turned against us and the AFF students weren’t cleared to jump. If the wind wasn’t too strong, the cloud cover was too much and then when conditions became perfect storms around the country forced London Air Traffic Control to re-route traffic over the dropzone so that scuppered any chance of getting into the air. Monday and Tuesday involved lots of just sitting around and talking to people and maybe wasn’t the best use of the available time. This was righted on Wednesday when we were shown how to pack a canopy and prepare it for jumping. Theres an awful lot of steps that need remembering but its just a case of practising it until it becomes second nature, which we didn’t get a chance to do as the weather cleared enough for a lift to go up but only with tandems in it so we were left watching them in the sky in the meantime
Thursday saw conditions improve enough for me to complete 2 more jumps. The first jump was my level 3 which was my final (If I passed it) jump with 2 instructors by my side. The jump went well, they both let go of me and I had a bit of a right turn but managed to correct it myself as one of the instructors was grabbing onto me again. The second jump was onto my level 4 with just the one instructor and involved being let go of and completing some 90 degree turns. Watching the video back I have a habit of keeping my legs extended when I come out of the plane so thats something I’ll need to work on more in the future, but despite some stability issues I managed to pass the level and progress to level 5 having completed my 2nd sunset skydive
Friday started with my level 5 on the first jump and it wasn’t my most glorious moment. Whether it was down to using a different plane, specifically one that didn’t have a door and no carpet for my shoes to grip on to stop myself moving around easily, or the fact we jumped a lot earlier than I anticipated it wasn’t my best. I struggled with my legs being too straight and a near constant right turn. Level 5 calls for a 360 degree turn one way and then 360 degrees the other way and I managed only one 360 turn and it didn’t look very controlled. Ironically when it came to locking on my altitude my neutral position became perfect and I held it steady and controlled which went to show that when I stopped actively thinking about what I was doing instinct was just kicking in and taking over. So attempt 1 wasn’t perfect, so attempt 2 would have to be better!
Only it wasn’t massively better. Legs were too straight again and my arms were too far forward, there was a lack of control again and if anything I felt I’d done worse than my first attempt. A consolation was that it was my first experience of going through a cloud and said cloud was also at my pull height so that was pretty cool. But under the canopy I was pretty frustrated with myself, it was like everything I’d managed in the tunnel wasn’t translating to the sky. So I was a bit grumpy on the way down, but I reminded myself that even though I wasn’t making the progress I’d imagined I would do that I was still skydiving and doing what I set out to achieve and should really just enjoy that fact rather than allow myself to get annoyed by it all. The weather continued to be good and I managed to get another attempt at level 3 in, third times a charm and all that. I can only assume my talk to myself had had some sort of effect on me as the jump went a lot better than the previous 2, to the point that I knew I had passed by the time I was under the canopy. The turns were a lot more controlled, I felt a lot more stable and I even managed a 3rd turn because I was enjoying myself so much. The canopy ride was great and the sun was shortly to set on an another good day of jumping. Only when I got back to the airfield they were preparing another load and there was space for me to go back up for a 4th jump. I had to run and sort some money out for my account as my rejumps had depleted it somewhat but once that was sorted I was getting ready (Sans altimeter as I’d managed to lose it so had to use a student one) and going up for my 3rd sunset skydive of the week, and it was a beautiful one
Level 6 involves a solo exit from the plane with the instructor merely observing a little distance away, from there you complete a backloop to get unstable and then get stable again before doing a 5 second track. Tracking involves fast forward movement and I refer to it as being like a jetplane as you bring your arms to face behind of you and straighten your legs and you kind of whoosh off as the air flies past you. My exit was suitably acrobatic but I got stable after a couple of flips, my backloop became a weird corkscrew that I got stable from quickly and then i tried my first track. It wasn’t ideal. As in I ended up spinning on the spot. But I was aware of it and went neutral again and had enough altitude to have another go and the second time went a lot better and I actually got the forward momentum I wanted. A turn to the instructor and a thumbs up from him told me I’d done enough and I was pulling my pilot chute and under the canopy in no time with an amazing sunset peaking above the distant clouds. On the note of canopies I actually completed this jump on a smaller canopy than I’d been on so far. Students are generally always on 290 sq ft canopies but as we’d jumped so much there was none ready to jump, so my instructor told me to pick up a 250 and I should be ok on it. That it was just a little nippier. He was certainly right. I figured I would experiment with this smaller canopy and see how it handled, running off the adrenaline off another awesome jump and the difference that 40 sq ft made was noticeable. Pulling tighter turns made me feel more g force and I was swung out at a more prominent angle than previously. This one felt more like a rollercoaster but one that I was in control of. Another fluffed landing (I’m omitting the landings as they’re all suitably dramatic and far from perfect) that saw me noticing everyone was watching me and me screaming out not to watch as I slammed into the ground knee first matrix style. Thankfully no telling injury other than a bruised knee
Saturday came around and the weather continued its niceness, the wouldn’t be many jumps today though as there was a military airshow going on in the afternoon so I hoped to get at least one jump in before that. So it was I was on the second lift of the day for my level 7 jump. Level 7 is much like level 6: solo exit, backloop, track, but with an added set of 360 turns thrown onto the end of it. I remained on the 250 canopy after yesterdays excitement and off I went. My exit was slightly more stable but still involved one roll on exit, my backloop was more of a twist, my track was good and it felt fucking amazing. In fact I enjoyed it so much I figured I’d try turning while I was doing it to see what it was like which with hindsight wasn’t the wisest, I had to explain to the instructor afterwards that it was an intentional movement :p the turns went as good as they had done previously and all was good, the instructor flew over and shook my hand before showing off by doing a breaststroke in the sky before I pulled and went on to fluff my landing again. But it was all enough to pass and I got signed off my level 7. With only my level 8 left to go (hop and pop, leave the plane at a lower altitude and pull within 5 seconds) before my 10 consolidation jumps it basically meant I would be doing the rest of my jumps with nobody else in the sky with me albeit with someone watching me from the ground instead. I was advised to hold off on my level 8 until my exits were more stable as you obviously have less time to allow yourself to be flipping around when your expected to pull in 5 seconds. But as the airshow was picking up I figured I would call it a day, so I had to wait to grab my logbook which proved to be a bit problematic. My instructor had a few entries to fill in so had taken it with him on an earlier jump to fill in, it never dawned on me that he wouldn’t be able to bring it down with him if he was jumping so it ended up in he co-pilot’s seat for the best part of 3 hours. On a positive note though it meant I eventually got the meet the pilot finally and ended up helping him refuel the plane as well as being shown around the cockpit which was all pretty cool
So it was my week at the airfield came to a close as I had to return home and go back to work. I plan on heading back there later this week to try and cross off a few more jumps off my list having paid up for it all up front. Weather permitting I’d like to think that I could get through all my remaining jumps this week but its forecast strong winds later on in the week so I might only get one good day of jumping before I have to call it quits