It finally happened! After seven months off I got back in the sky!
To get my solo certificate and eventually my ‘A’ license, I had to complete ground school.
Over six hours we learned everything from body position in freefall, to canopy control, to malfunctions and how to correct them. I was encouraged to come back the next day to finish off ground school and get ready for my first solo assisted jumps!!
Day two started at 9am and involved practicing parachute landing falls (PLFs) by jumping off a 7 foot platform. This is an essential skill in case of a hard landing. Jogging up the steps and jumping off the platforms until my instructor was satisfied was a wake up call. I was then hung in a harness from the hanger ceiling and we practiced malfunction responses. I collected some impressive bruises pulling the cutaway handle, plummeting a few feet from the ceiling and pulling the reserve. I also worked on emergency water landings and how to exit the small Cessna plane.
I geared up in an impressively uncomfortable harness! But at least I was strapped in tight.
We got in the small plane that felt remarkably like a tin can with wings. After the caravan last year this plane was nerve-racking. I remember every bump of turbulence on take off. One jumper was doing a hop and pop, so he left low. The door whipped open and cold air blew in. My instructor told me to stick my head out the door, practice spotting and “seeing” how high I was. As I put my head back I experienced the sudden jolt of the plane tipping sharply to the left. Apparently the pilot has to change the air pressure to get the door closed.
Before I knew it, we were at 10,000 feet and I was at the door to climb out. This jump was with instructor assistance to ensure I could remain stable and not lose altitude awareness. Before I knew it I was throwing the pilot chute and pulling away from the instructors. The canopy slowly inflated above me. It was a nice soft opening as compared to my past experiences. I was mistakenly downgraded to a smaller Spectre 230 that is known for slow openings (or I am told). The difference was minimal and my wing loading was still low at 0.7.
I had a good canopy flight and located the dropzone quickly. I did some practice turns and flares then spent most of my time trying to get to the holding area. It was a sloooow flight and at a 1000 feet I made my final turn to the landing pattern. I had radio contact with my instructor and made a nice soft landing on my feet.
My ride up was much the same with someone going low before continuing to altitude. As the plane was smaller it does not go as high, so I only had about 45 seconds of freefall. I was able to practice stability and some turns, but did not get to delta tracking. I waved off and watched my parachute open.
As my luck would have it the winds picked up. My radio instructor encouraged me to go further out and hold until it was time to land. I spent almost 2000 feet battling the wind and making little progress because of my low wing load. Everything felt good until I turned into the wind for my final landing. I had a second of oh s*** I am not going to make the target before I rapidly flew down. I was light and had no ability to penetrate the wind on my huge canopy. Regardless I had a nice soft stand-up landing.
My instructors said I did a good job given the circumstances. There were things I could have done (now I know), but I worked well with my first experience in higher winds.
Great weekend and I cannot wait for next Saturday! I hope you all had an equally good weekend!