On to my next big adventure!
Melissa and I went out to Lebanon / Warren County Airport early yesterday (May 24th) morning for a day of learning about skydiving and making our first jumps. We have both wanted to skydive for a long time, so what better time than now to give a go!
Well holy smokes it was amazing! We spent from 8am to 1pm in the classroom and outside practicing procedures before actually putting on our gear and heading to the Cessna Caravan.
Once loaded and after takeoff, I was getting a little nervous about my jump. What helped me was that my instructors would ask me what I would be doing at certain altitudes of my jump (whatever altitude the plane was at). Talking about everything helped keep my mind on what we practiced and not on the idea of jumping out of the airplane.
Around 12,500 feet, it was time to go. I was the second to last group to leave the plane, and Melissa was the last. I scooted down the bench towards the door and concentrated on what we had practiced. In hindsight it seems like my mind was pretty numb at that point. I wasn’t thinking about the actual jump, but was only thinking about the procedures we had gone over for more repetitions that I care to count.
I took up my proper door position. Went through my hotel procedures… check in, check out, prop, up, down, FLARE!
In what seemed like half of eternity, I just fell. The wind and the sight of nothing around me was sensory overload. I had both of my instructors with me, and realized that I had things to do. Although, when watching the video (see below), it didn’t seem very long before I started my circle of awareness.
My circle of awareness consisted of checking my heading, altimeter, check with left instructor for hand signals, check with right instructor for hand signals, and three pilot chute practice touches. On my first practice touch, I got my right instructors hand instead, but he helped navigate my hand towards the proper position.
All was fine and dandy. Soon, the videographer zipped down in front of me and filmed as I continued through my short circle of awareness. At 6,000 feet, I locked on to my altimeter with my eyes and watched until 5,500 feet. At that point I waved off twice, reached and grabbed my pilot chute and threw it as hard as I could. It took wind and took out my main chute out of the container and jolted me as we slowed down. All the while my instructors zipped away towards the ground. They had to beat me there so that they could get on the radio and help talk me through the landing pattern and touchdown.
The canopy ride was very nice. A little uncomfortable in the harness, but I managed. I checked the controllability of the canopy by making two 180 degree turns in opposite directions and checked my flare. I was about 3,000 feet when I was just chilling out. I made my way to the landing area easily enough and turned into a long downwind at about 2,000 feet.
I followed a tree line perpendicular to the runway and made my crosswind right turn soon before now running parallel to the runway. Descending quickly I made my turn to the west for the base leg. I was amazed at how quickly the ground came up during the last feet. My instructor was on the radio and helped me with the timing of my flare. My feet hit the ground but didn’t quite know what to do with that entire moving thing and I fell into a slide on my knees.
After the whole thing, my legs were shaking with excitement. It was a gorgeous day for such a fun new hobby. While walking back, I debriefed with one of my instructors. He had all good things to say. I had kicked my feet once or twice when we first left the plane, but he said I did very well and should be very prepared to continue my jump sequence.
So now that we have our first jump course out of the way, the jumps are cheaper from here on out.
The facilities at Start Skydiving are fantastic. One of my instructors had over 10,000 jumps and competes at world class level competitions. The computer manifest stations are very cool, where jumpers just scan their card and select the jump time that matches their schedule. I love the small uncontrolled airport feel as well. The restaurant on the grounds (which I think the chef is the wife of my videographer) was a little kitchen and a grill.
Fantastic experience, though. I can not wait to go out and continue the progression. I know Melissa feels the same way. We paid for a package deal that will get us our AFF jumps at a discounted rate (even more discount because we are University of Cincinnati students). So we are ready to head up and out, again!