Jump 9

January 15, 2007

I arrived at the airport at 10:30. Larry was there, and two guys who wanted to jump. This was not enough, as we needed 5 people to jump, and a pilot. We called everyone we knew, but only managed to round up one other, bringing our total to 4. We called the pilot, and he refused to come over until the Seahawks game was over. We were watching the game at the same time and were dismayed for a few reasons when the game tied and went into overtime. Sadly, the Seahawks lost, but shortly afterwards we got our own game into gear. We decided to split the cost of the 5th person among the four of us, so we could still jump. The pilot arrived, but we had some issues. First, the car with the gas pump wouldn’t start, so we couldn’t go get the plane out of the hangar or put gas in it. Eventually it started and they got the plane. Then they couldn’t find the key for the lock on the gas pump, so they couldn’t put gas in the plane. Then the battery was dead on the plane, so they couldn’t taxi it over to the pump directly. After charging the battery for a bit, they got it started, went over to the pump and got gas, and came back. I wasn’t sure if it was the universe telling us that we shouldn’t be jumping today to have had all these setbacks. It wasn’t until 2pm that we actually got in the air; almost 4 hours after I had arrived at the drop zone. I’m not complaining about all the setbacks. In fact, it was more a comedy of errors that make a great story. I also got to hear some stories from the other guys.

After my gear was on and checked, the jumpmaster told me what I was doing. I hadn’t been diving for over a month, so I wasn’t sure if he was going to make me jump from a low altitude or do an instructor-assisted deployment or what, but he just told me to jump from 5000 feet, count to 10 and pull at about 4000 feet, then told me to get in the plane. This was 1500 feet higher than I had jumped, my first time without a radio at all, and I had only pulled my own ripcord once before, over a month ago, so I was a little uncomfortable.

We reached altitude, got over the drop zone, and I was the first out. My arch wasn’t textbook, but eventually I corrected it and faced belly to earth. I counted to 10, checked my altimeter, decided to fall a couple more seconds, then threw my pilot chute. It was so much fun, surprisingly peaceful and easy, and it felt so natural. At about 3800 feet I pulled my chute, so I had quite a bit of altitude to bleed, and I was on a beginner chute, so it was going to take a long time to bleed it.

Until this point, I haven’t mentioned the weather, mostly because until this point it was inconsequential. There were very few clouds in the sky at all, but there were some at about 4000 feet a couple miles away, so it was neat to be looking above some distant clouds when I jumped. The more important part of the weather, though, was the temperature. It was about 10 degrees F. all day, but I hadn’t been too worried about it. It was very lucky that I had been loaned gloves, because while I was under canopy, the cold really got to my hands. The higher the altitude, the colder the temperature, and under canopy one is traveling ~25mph, so I had a cold breeze going through my hands for the entire time I was in the air. By the time I landed my hands were hurting really bad and I barely had the dexterity to gather up my chute correctly.

It was still a lot of fun, though. One of the guys who jumped out behind me brought his canopy near mine while we were coming down and did a couple tricks in his harness, so that was neat. I enjoyed the scenery and planned my descent, which was a little harder because there was no wind at all. I started my pattern too early and landed a little far from the center of the field, but still on the field, so I was happy with that.

Any jump where I land without injuries is a good one, and since I landed safely on the field and had some freefall and did it all myself, I’ll consider it a fantastic one.

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