This week I am doing a little reminiscing! Today’s post is about the second time I went skydiving. I have already written about my first skydiving experience, and on Friday, I’ll have my third jump up!
Jump 2: December 31, 2006 @ 1:30pm
Location: West Tennessee Skydiving at Wings Field
Altitude: 14,500 feet
Freefall: 60 seconds
My second jump was kind of an impromptu jump. I figured I would be jumping again sometime during the winter, but I didn’t realize I would end up skydiving on New Year’s Eve! My sister, Laura, and her boyfriend, Alan, came in town from Florida and since Alan had never gone skydiving before, we decided that we would take him while he was in town. After much scheduling, we finally got it worked out to jump at West Tennessee Skydiving in Somerville, the same place I did my first tandem jump.
Preparing for this jump was so completely different from the last one I made. When I went in August, the whole building was packed and everyone was busy. This time, we were the only tandem jumpers for the day, which meant we got a whole lot more special attention. Last time I received basically no training prior to the jump, but today our very friendly Australian instructor, Mark, took the time to show us everything. We practiced arching on the floor and making jumps from a fake aircraft just like the one we would be jumping from in the air.
After we got our training, we were introduced to our tandem instructors that would be jumping with us. I was paired with Greg, who I had actually seen the day I jumped in August, but never had the chance to talk to. Greg was amazing. He taught me how the canopies in the backpack work, both the main and the reserve. He taught me how to put on my harness, like what tightens what and why it’s important. He let me wear an altimeter so that I could know how many feet we were jumping from and watch it fall as we made our descent. He also taught me how to pull the rip cord which was, quite possibly, the most exciting thing I did on Sunday! It’s really simple, but such an important detail that I was scared I’d mess it up.
After about 45 minutes of training and suiting up, we loaded into Mike Mullins’ Super King Air. We had to load in the hanger this time because it was incredibly windy outside. We rode on the plane with four experienced jumpers who would be jumping out prior to us and working on some stunts during freefall.
When I jumped in August, I was the first jumper off the plane. This time, I was the last which made the experience a lot different. I got to see other people exit and was able to catch a little bit of their freefall from where I was sitting. It was such a rush watching everyone else flip out the door, knowing I’d be doing the same within a couple minutes! Greg and I chicken-walked to the door again and I actually stayed in the correct position as we exited – arched back, pelvis out, head thrown back. (I can hear you guys snickering. I know what that sounds like!) Greg and I did one front flip before stabilizing in freefall.
During freefall, Greg kept signalling for me to keep checking my altimeter so I’d know our altitude. Each time, I’d look at my wrist, but not really register what I was seeing. This time during freefall, Greg taught me how to make right and left turns in the air. We first made a right turn and then stabilized back front and he pointed to the drop zone, so I’d get my bearings back. Then we made a left turn and made a full circle. I was amazed that all it really took to make a turn was to bring your arm down on whichever side you wanted to make the turn. Making the turns actually made breathing a lot easier for me, too.
At 6,000 ft, Greg made the sign to pull the rip cord. I reached back and on my first try was able to pull the cord and our canopy opened perfectly. He taught me how to check the canopy once it was open to make sure we had a good canopy to fly with. If not, he said we would cut away and use our reserve canopy. Our canopy was good, so he taught me how to steer the parachute. I learned to make right and left turns and partially how to direct myself to the drop zone.
During freefall, I didn’t realize how cold it was in the air because it pretty much felt the same as my freefall in August. With 120 mph wind coming at your face, you can’t tell a difference between 30 degrees or 90 degrees. It’s all just wind. But on our ride down under the parachute, I felt the cold. My hands felt like they were freezing to the handles. I definitely prefer jumping in the summer when it comes to the weather!
As we got closer to the ground, Greg taught me what we needed to do to land which didn’t really involve me doing very much. All I had to do was keep my legs in an L position with my body and pull down as hard as I could on our handles.
We landed in what I thought was a good vertical landing and just as I was about to put my feet down, I felt us start lifting off the ground again. The winds were at about 25 mph and had actually taken hold of our parachute when we landed. It dropped us back down on the ground again, with Greg on top of me this time, and started dragging us on the ground towards the road. I saw a couple other jumpers running at us to get our canopy under control. It was exciting!
Try not to get too excited about the photo of my frumpy butt! Also, anyone else think Greg sort of resembles Patrick Swayze in Point Break?
Now, three days after the jump, I’m still nursing a bruised head and neck, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’m actually toying with the idea of going through the WTS ground school and AFF to get my certification to skydive solo. Just an idea… But as for today’s jump, I can’t think of a better way we could have sent out 2006 and brought in the new year!