Confession: I am a control freak with performance anxiety. I like to know what's going on and how to respond to it and how everything works and...well, you get the idea.
Jumped levels 5 and 6 today, and packed four rigs. (Two student rigs, an under-100 and G's wingsuit rig...more later on all that). I was on my way to the dropzone immediately after breakfast and didn't pull in the driveway until after 11 p.m. I arrived at around 10 a.m. and took it easy for a couple hours, watching S pack and trying my best to get into some calculated mischief. We went out to catch a couple of tandems and I managed to get munched on by our friendly neighborhood mosquitoes (they LOVE me) before it clicked why people always talk about their skydiving stuff smelling like Deet. The skeeters come out in full force in the nice green tandem landing area. They leave the student landing area alone cause it's dry and full of pokeys.
Anyways. On level 5, I had to learn to be much more stable in my turns and turn all the way around instead of only a 180 like in level 4. After said jump, I packed the 300 square foot student canopy (which I did NOT fly...waaaaaay too big) with some assistance. Let me tell you, I understand now why skydivers can sometimes--how to put this--have a “mouth” on them. Getting that thing situated with all of its risers (the cords that connect everything) and material and keeping it neat and organized and getting it stuffed into that tiiiiiiiiiny little bag is enough to elicit some choice verbage, that's for sure. A couple of times I had to up and walk away from pack jobs because I was letting my frustration get the better of me. I would calm down and come back later to finish up. I then packed my own student rig.
Somewhere in there, I packed J's rig, which is less than 100 square feet. Smaller square footage = more dynamic performance. It was definitely a change from the gigantic student rigs, that's for sure. Then G grabbed me to discuss level 6's skydive--back layouts and tracking AND a solo exit, meaning I let go of the plane without any instructor assistance, stabilize, and fly. For the whole jump, G doesn't touch me unless I'm going to kill myself. Also I got to try my hand at spotting and having an instructor on my left instead of my right as he has been for all other jumps. Spotting is using landmarks to identify and decide on where the door opens and when the pilot cuts the engine so we can jump out. Of course I managed to screw up that part a little, but that's kind of the point...making mistakes and learning. I put us a little too west, but we were able to get back to the landing zone just fine. G is very good about letting me screw up only insofar as I don't endanger anyone, which gives me a lot of opportunities for learning. Which I am doing plenty of.
The layouts are exactly what they sound like they are--flips--and tracking is flying forward very quickly by flattening out your body. It allows you to move laterally in a given direction. I got into the layouts easy, but had trouble stopping the movement and ended up for the first time losing control in freefall. It sounds scary, but it's really not that bad. It's just a matter of responding to the situation, getting back IN control of your body, and staying where you are so you can do what you need to do. What a great lesson for me, both as a skydiver and a person.
As for the tracking, I was a little funky with my arms for the first go at it, but after I took a break and tried again, it was FUN and came much easier. I didn't monitor my altitude perfectly and pulled a little low, but my opening and landing were fine.
After that, G briefed me on how the jump went and we talked about level 7 which frankly scares the bejeezus out of me. It is a solo jump that combines everything I've been learning. I'm kind of glad I know the flow now so I can visualize and build confidence over the course of the week. I've learned that I am adept at responding to situations but that I suck when it comes to being on the power curve, making the decisions. And I need to figure that out for this jump.
I stayed around to watch G fly his wingsuit so I could watch his canopy deploy since I had packed it last weekend. It worked--he had threatened me with my AFF if he had to cutaway, which he didn't, so I get to keep jumping. In fact, he handed it to me to pack it a second time. It was all I could do to finish that pack job, as I was starting to crash, and bad. I perked up with an Anchor Steam and a lap around the hangar, as well as some vaguely dangerous antics like scaling the hangar door and the like. We all stood around until heading out, this time after dark. We (the young generation of jumpers) met up at our “clubhouse”--J's apartment--where we ate pizza and watched The Sharp End. I doubt I'll ever get tired of that movie.
I'm trying to temper my enthusiasm a bit since I'm pretty sure everyone I know is tired of me talking about skydiving. I can't make any promises, though...so far I'm pretty well hooked. Anyone else wanna try it?