Monday, July 20, 2009

there's no such thing as a perfectly good airplane

Can you find me in the photo?

Couldn't keep myself outta the sky. I decided to head on up to the dropzone for AFF Level 2 on Saturday afternoon. I dragged my ever-so-patient "person" (Grey's Anatomy reference) up with me. I can count on my hand the people I could bring anywhere (because they can blaze their own friendships and be comfortable in any new place without needing me by their side the whole time) and she's one of them.

It already feels like a little family there for me. Hugs, hellos, more hugs...I could get used to that. I had called on my way to the dz, and my instructor had answered, saying they'd figure out a way to fit me in around the multiple tandems scheduled for the afternoon. Helps to be a favorite student. ;)

Now, before I launch into much else, I'll have you know that the temperature, by my measurements, was approximately oh, seventy-eleven-billion-and-a-half. Hot by anyone's standards. So any kind of activity is pretty much miserable. Solution: get up to 10,500. It's a little cooler up there.

This lesson was muuuuuuuuch shorter, and consisted of learning some turns and how to fly forward in freefall. To turn, you look over a shoulder and tilt your upper torso ever so slightly, and then recover the turn. To fly forward, arms go back a little, legs straighten, and then you're like superman! Conceptually, I understood, and after some practice on the ground I was ready for some altitude.

We ended up having to wait a while for space on a load, since our little plane only holds four besides the pilot, and until level 4, I have to fly with two instructors. I think we finally suited up around 3 and let me tell you that putting on that jumpsuit in 100+ degree heat was vaguely unpleasant. Add 40 lbs of student rig, and you not only look like a ninja turtle (I flew in Green Bean, the lucky green jumpsuit) but you feel kinda weighed down.

Greg showed me how to do a gear check, and then let me put on my rig myself. Soon enough, it was go time.

We climbed onto the little Cessna and started the ascent to altitude. It takes about 20 minutes to climb to 10,500, so there's plenty of time to visualize everything, and plenty of time to get nervous. The first time, you don't know exactly what to expect, but the second time you remember. And it's kinda scarier!

Greg made me review everything for him, from the exit to the landing, and we practiced hand signals. At altitude, we climbed out (Dave was on my left...he hadn't been on my Level 1 and he's the dz owner, so I wanted to do well...). Hotel check, prop, up, down, arch thousand two thousand three thousand...

And this time I found the horizon pretty easily, checked my altitude, did a quick practice touch and started my turns. Right turn: textbook. So unexpectedly textbook that I didn't feel like I did anything. Left turn: botched. Tried to think about it and ended up totally screwing it up, the realization of which made me lose my arch a little. No bueno. Checked altitude and had enough time to try flying forward, which was pretty easy. Checked altitude again, and...pull time.

Pulled, turn right, turn left, flare...all was in working order. I found my play area and stayed there, then went in for my landing pattern, which I had a little more trouble with than last time and almost ended up short. I flared (braked) about eight feet too high, but still managed to stand it up. Woo-hoo!!

Sarah came out and helped me gather my canopy, and we went on back to the hangar. Greg and I debriefed, and he actually made me feel a little better about the whole dive. I definitely fixated on that left turn waaaaaay too much, so it was good to see it all a little more objectively. And I passed, which means I get to move on to level 3.

Skydiving is teaching me to control anxiousness in light of ambition, something I definitely could use practice in. I want to fly by myself. I want to wingsuit someday. I want to fly more and more and more. But I have to be patient, and I have to pace myself and focus on where I am right now. This minute, this place, this day.


  1. Until my insurance company gets their act together, I'm going to keep my feet on the ground and live vicariously through you!

  2. I can't imagine jumping out of a plane, period, much less doing all of the stuff you're doing. Keep it up, you're one tough cookie!