Aug 31

Jump 78, Swansea

I arrive at the dropzone, the skys blue, a few clouds, but not many, and a little bit of wind, its perfect. I see the next lift is full, so get my name down for the lift after that, and, get on there for a coached jump to start my FS1 training. FS is formation skydiving, like you see teams etc doing where they link up in freefall, and is the minimum you need to be allowed to jump with other people without any special permissions being granted.

Me and the coach are just about to brief the jump and what will happen, when hes called away, and is unable to do a coach jump. Damn. I start talking to another jumper, and i can jump with him, so we go through a routine that we will do, which is what one of the coach jumps actually consists of, then, 10 mins before we are due to start getting ready, a weather hold is put on, and we are moved onto another lift, but, the other jumper has to go and cant wait. Damn.

In the end, I do a solo jump, on the last lift of the day. Second out of the plane, so a forward rolling exit, and after 2 rolls, open stable. I then do a few 360 turns, before bringing my arms and legs right in to my body, to speed up how fast i fall, before extending them fuly to slow myself down, and then i repeat. Looking at my protrack after confirms i was able to speed up to 130mph, and slow right down to 105 mph. At 5500 feet, i track, before slowing down, turning into the wind, and throwing my pilot chute at 3,500 feet.

My canopy does its usual slow docile opening, with my helping to inflate the ends by flaring the toggles. I check all around me, before turning and heading towards the landing area, and turning back into the wind. At 1000 feet i start my approach, but ive gone a little too far down the runway, and i know i wont get back up as far as the cross, so i do the usual landing pattern, but land about 150 yards away from the actual cross and flags, before bundling up my canopy and heading back to repack it, ready for next week 🙂

Aug 22

Jump 77, Swansea

This is going to be the last lift of the day, and, from looking at the sky, theres about 20 minutes untill sunset as we are getting on the plane. Theres going to be 2 passes to let people out, the first at 12,000 feet, for a few new jumpers who have just finished their AFF levels, then for everyone else at a higher altitude.

As the first couple of jumpers are leaving, i see the sun BELOW the plane, and over the sea, its a great sight, we get up to out exit altitude, the first few leave, then im in the door, and roll out. 3 complete forward spins, before opening up stable, and going straight into a perfect backflip. It was that straight all the way through, that i do another one, and then flip over onto my back. I try to do a backflip, starting on my back, but end up going sideways and it just doesnt work for me, so i level out, and do a few 360 turns using only my legs, before facing into the wind, waving off at 4000 feet and deploying my main canopy.

the conopy opens as usual, really slowly, with the end cells closed, but, this time theres also a line twist. the last time this happened, i thought i was going to die. This time i grabbed the risers, calmly, and kicked the twist out, and grabbed the toggles just as i started tipping forward, and flared, which inflated the entire canopy. As im now expecting half a collapsed canopy when i deploy, im primed to react. I practice my cut away procedure before i get on the plane, a few times, while im on the plane, and seconds before exit, just in case though.

After everything is fine with the canopy, i follow the landing pattern, and as i come in on my final approach, the wind drops slightly. I could apply the brakes, but, i know im going to still land close to the flags, so i dont bother, and land just on the edge of the runway. As im used to landing in longish grass, i slightly panic with my flare, and land quite hard, feeling as though ive jumped off a 6 foot wall onto the hard floor, but, its walked off in a few hours

a great end to the day though 🙂

Aug 22

Jump 76, Swansea

After a few hours, the wind calms down, and, im manifested to jump again. Its not going to be a coached jump, but, im going to try and slow fall and fast fall, even though this will be hard to tell if im doing it right without a point of reference like another skydiver, but, ill look at my protrack later to see if it worked or not (which as im typing this, i can tell you that it did).

I did a diving forward exit, into a slightly head down position, and then leveled out, before flipping over onto my back, and trying to get into a sitting position, which instantly failed, so i flipped over onto my front, and tried different body positions for fast and slow falling, before doing a few 360s, and turning into the wind, and throwing my pilot chute at just under 4000 feet.

Thres still a little bit of wind, but, i was able to land uneventfully within 20M of the marker flags, before heading back to the packing area and hoping to be packed in time for the next lift 🙂

Aug 22

On hold

As the winds have picked up a little during the last jump, theres now a jump limit in place, 50 jumps (which is no longer an issue for me) but, no canopies bigger than a 210, and, i jump a 220.

Yes, as ive jumped a 220 enough times i could probably hire the club 190, and get my first FS coached jump in, but, i really dont want to jump a new smaller canopy for the first time in these conditions, so, ill sit it out.

Whilst ‘chillaxing’ and talking about all sorts of stuff, the subject of radios and communications comes up, and, the next thing i know, im on my way to another ‘tick in a box’ and have all the paperwork in front of me for the BPA radio operator rating. Heres where being a slight geek nearly 20 years ago has paid off. I spent a few years growing up on the CB radio, i know my phonetics, my 10’s and a little of the QSK and DX’ers speak as well, so, the written and oral exam was a breeze.

The paperwork was all signed (which i managed to get a look at, and was happy with the 100% score) and now have to wait to get an appointment for the CAA exam for the main license to be authorised (if i pass)

So not a wasted afternoon on hold. The last time i spent an afternoon on hold, all of the briefings for my B license happened, so every windy cloud has a silver lining afterall……

Aug 22

Jump 75, Swansea

Its friday afternoon, I have no kids this weekend, and the suns out, it can only mean one thing. Yep, im on my way to the dropzone 😀

I arrive a good hour before the manifest has opened, and after a while, my names down for the first lift. This is going to be for fun, then from lift 3 onwards, i have spoken to an FS coach and will be doing my first coached jump towards my FS1.

All geared up, and on the plane, and im going to be the first one out, so the plan is some good tracking, some backflips and have some fun.

during the climb, im sat right opposite the door, the coldest part of the plane, and at about 10,000 feet, im now freezing, and wishing id put on a few extra layers, and my thicker gloves, but we are soon at jumping height, the red light is on, the door opens, and i forget all about being cold. Im also looking out of the door at the floor, when the green light comes on. Im given the thumbs up, and i roll out of the door, i open up stable, and track away from the plane for a good 20 seconds before slowing and turning onto my back for a few seconds. Flip back over, do 2 sideways failed backflips, before leveling out and turning into the wind, and waving off and throwing my pilot chute at just under 4000 feet.

Im now so used to the way the canopy opens, that seeing it half inflated is normal, i reach up, grab the toggles and 2 full pumps and the canopy is fully open. The landing area is pretty much directly in front of me, so itll be into the wind all the way back, i pull down on the front risers, which gets me over the runway so the landing area is behind me, and at 900 feet, i start to turn, and WOOSH!!! the wind takes me so fast that the cross has passed me before ive managed a full 180 degree turn, so i instantly start to turn back. By the time im back facing the landing area, im just under 700 feet, so i hang on the front risers a little bit to try and get firther forward, im still going to land within the landing area, i just want to be closer to the path, and at about 100 feet i leave the risers go. im going to land about 10 feet from the pathway 🙂

Just as i come in to land, i flare, and get taken sideways by the wind. I land standing up, hopping to the left and trying to collapse the canopy at the same time.

Something tells me that when i get back to the manifest, theres going to be some sort of ‘wind limit’ in place…

Aug 15

Jump 74, Swansea. Damn its going well.

Sat in the house with my 2 boys, and they say what a nice day it is for a skydive, and obviously i agree, and play the ‘would you like a McDonalds’ card, which works a treat. 5 mins later, and we are all in the car, on our way to McDonalds, via the dropzone, everyones a winner. Get to the dropzone, and am manifested for the next lift, in 15 minutes, damn, this is going well. Get kitted up, get gear checks, and am asked by Kris one of the FS coaches what my plans for the jump are. I reply that im just planning on enjoying the views, and he asks if i mind if he exits a few seconds after me, and swoops down to my level. A jump with an FS coach, without any extra fees, of course i dont mind 🙂 damn, this is going well. A minute later, and another jumper is now going to film it all from above, so the plan now is I’ll exit the plane, followed by a jumper with a camera, followed by the FS coach, also wearing a camera, who will come to me, then we will link up, and then ‘just do some turns and links and whatever’

In the plane, looking at my altimiter, we have passed 15,000 feet (my pro track later showed exit height as 15,300 feet) and when its our turn to leave, the first jumper with the camera climbs out onto the rear step, i wait for him to get ready, i give a nod, then take the pre agreed step towards the door, and dive out, rolled in a ball, before opening up stable, and turning to find him. I see where he is, and look over my shoulder to see if i can see Kris approaching me, as i turn to look over my other shoulder, Adam points and i turn slightly to see Kris drop down just in front and above me. As agreed, i fly over to him, we link up, then break off. From this point, things go up and down on different levels, Kris is giving me instructions, but, some of them ive never seen before, so dont know what they mean, but then i see hes showing me to dip my elbows, which i do, and i drop down and we are level again, just as we approach 6000 feet. Our agreed break off point is 5500 feet, and a few short seconds later, i hear beeping, Kris points away, i turn and track, as i finish my track, i hear my second series of beeps, meaning im now at 4000 feet, check my altimeter, approaching 3500 feet, wave off, and pull.

The canopy opens, and as usual i see the expected end cells closed, i grab the steering toggles, and 2 good hard flares and theyre open. I turn into the wind, and im miles away from everyone else, ive tracked downwind, im dead in line with the landing area, and im almost certain that i wont be following the ‘right hand pattern’ to land, i think this is going to be straight in, from where i am, at 3000 feet. Im trying to work out where im going to land, but, from this height i cannot make out an exact spot. Even though i can perfectly see people and objects on the ground (including my 2 boys jumping up and down and waving like lunatics) i cant pick out a spot where ill be landing, so i pull down on the front risers, to get me a bit further forward, and a little lower without turning and having the wind take me further away. By 1000 feet, it looks like im going to go past the flags and onto the runway, so i put the brakes on for a little bit, and this seems to bring my landing spot closer 🙂 I let off the brakes at around 400 feet, and as im at around 200 feet, theres a little more wind, im giving quite a bit of right toggle to keep straight, and at around 40 or 50 feet, im knocked sideways. I look down, I look up, canopy is still fully inflated, look down again, ready to flare, start to flare, and and now going diagonally to the left, full flare, step onto the ground, then turn to my left, and run (either that, or get dragged over by the canopy) as i collapse the canopy, all within 15M of the marker flags 🙂 Damn that went well

So, i started today thinking i wasnt going to be jumping, and ended up jumping from nearly 15,500 feet,  with an FS coach, getting it filmed from 2 different angles, an opening where i didnt think i was going to die and a landing right next to the flags, all topped off with a McDoanlds with the kids (who thinks daddys extra special cos his parachute opened miles away from everyone else and he still landed in the same place) and a beer while updating my blog. Thats how friday afternoons should be 😀

Aug 03

Jump 73.5, Aborted

After the last jump, i quickly get repacked, checked, and am back on the plane, the plan this time is a solo jump, with my exit being a dive towards the back of the plane, and see if i can get into a stable sitting position.

On the way up, its quite bumpy in the plane, then, as we get to just under 10,000 feet, the plane levels out. This is new, maybe theres heavyy cloud formed above us so we have to jump out lower, a jumps still a jump though, right? 🙂 After a few minutes of circling, its announced that the wind has picked up on the ground, and we are all going back down in the plane.

The ride back down was very quiet, none of the engine noise, just the wind.

The rest of the day was spent watching jump limits bounce up and down from 100-200 jumps, but, due to the size of my canopy, id have not been able to jump again anyway, so spent the day helping out catching tandems

Try again in 3 weeks time, FS1 is calling me 🙂

Aug 03

Jump 73, Swansea

Today i plan to jump as much as possible, so, i get to the dropzone nice and early, and get manifested for the first lift. Its a little bit windy so theres a 50 jump limit in place, i check that its only a jump number limit, and not a canopy size limit, and i then start getting kitted up. Chatting with another 2 club jumpers, we decide to do a 3 way jump. One outside on the step, me in the door, and another to follow out of the door as soon as i jump then the 3 of us link up, what could possibly go wrong……

once the door open and the green light is on, the first jumper climbs out onto the rear step of the plane, im in the door, i give the pre agreed signal, and he drops away as i jump. im quickly stable, and he just keeps dropping away from me, next, i see the guy who exited behind me go screaming past to my left, and stop with the other guy, about 1000 feet below me, and the pair are getting further away. I try the things ive been told to try to get down to them, but its just not happening, this is where FS1 coaching is needed.

Im aware that one of them is going to be pulling at 4000 feet, im pulling at 3500 feet, and im directly above them, so i track away as far as possible, as we were first out of the plane, i know the direction im tracking wont cause problems for anyone else, i then see the pair split and track away from each other, the first guy deploys as im roughly level with him (but miles away) and i deploy 2 seconds after this.

My canopy slowly opens (as its always done) and theres end cell closure on both ends, but, im now expecting to see something like this on opening, so simply reach up, and as the canopy starts to dive forward, pull down on the toggles and it fully inflates. I turn into the wind, and, stop. I look straight down, and im not moving across the ground. I do a few practise flares, and im moving backwards, plus, im inline sideways with where i want to land. I pull on the front risers to try and get some forward movement happening, which works a little bit, untill i get down to just over 1000 feet, then i turn slightly, and wooshhhh, im gone past the landing area, aw crap, so i turn straight back around and line myself up with the cross, i know theres not a chance that ill make it, as im not covering any ground, but, im only going to be about 250 yards short of it, and still within the landing area, just not as close as id like to be, and ive landed further away in the past. I simply hold untill its time to flare, making small left and right corrections as needed, then when the times right, i flare, and, get picked back up and taken backwards. I keep hold of it, as i dont want to surge forwards when im only a few feet from the ground, and get plonked down backwards a couple of seconds later, I roll it off, and collapse my canopy, ready for the walk back 🙂

Aug 01

weather sucks

after nearly 3 weeks of lush weather, but, due to my circumstances i was unable to jump, this weekend was THE weekend where i was planning on banging out my FS1. 3 days, all to myself, planned purely for jumping, and, what happens, my luck sucks, as usual, and the weather turns $H!T. I was hoping to be on as many 15k lifts as possible today, being friday, but instead, im sat here at a keyboard, typing my way through a crate of Denmarks finest 😀

The weather tomorrow also means that there will be no jumping, but, on sunday, I aim to be there for the first lift, I hope to be on the last lift, and to be on as many in between as possible.

FS1 from start to finish in a day, i highly doubt it, but, itll be a start, and my next ‘jumping weekend’ is the august bank holiday weekend. I was hoping to get some tunnel time then do FS1, but as the dates have worked out i wont be able to, so heres hoping that the forcasted ‘august long heatwave’ actually happens