AFF – Level 1 Jump

Monday 23rd July

This is the day I would return to the island of Texel and start jumping. But it turned out I still didn’t feel well. I really thought it was too distracting so I would take the gamble and wait one more day…

Tuesday 24rd July

Every day seems to start by waking up, today was not different.. :) I noticed I still wasn’t my old self but heck, I really want to make that first jump now. Good enough I thought and I grabbed my bags which were still pretty much packed as they were last week.

I got on the road early and drove to the boat. The weather was superb: no clouds, no wind. After the ferry crossing I noticed I started to feel like my old self again, good timing I thought! After a 15 minute drive on the island I arrived at paracentrum Texel once more. It was getting busy but I was put on a flight in the start of the afternoon. I wandered around, got some sun on my skin for a while and waited. The anticipation slowly increased.

I then heard my boarding call over the speaker so I grabbed my helmet and found my parachute again. I geared up. Fastened my chest and leg straps and performed a handle check. I got my altimeter, helmet and goggles and went in line for a pin check. This is a check of your equipment by the staff. They check if you wired yourself in properly, check you pins, your handles and more. I was good to go and received my steering briefing . They explained the wind conditions of the day and the landing pattern. The landing pattern starts at 800 ft.

I found my (main) instructor and we briefly went over the jump again before heading to the plane. At this point I felt my adrenaline starting to take effect but nervousness was under control as I was just anxious to get started. We boarded the plane and sat in rows, our backs facing the pilot. Someone shouted “OK!” and we started to taxi to the runway. Soon the propeller went on full throttle and the plane accelerated and lifted off. For a brief moment I thought of my tandem flight that had my ears popping for half a day after the jump because of air pressure. As we climbed a couple of thousand feet I hardly noticed a thing or it was easy to clear.. pfew. It now also became clear who my secondary AFF instructor would be. We had a quick in-flight introduction, a bit hard to do with all the noise so it was mainly when she smiled, I smiled and vice versa. :)

The plane leveled out, it was time for some static-line jumpers to jump now. Hilarity soon followed when the jumpmaster asked a student if he was ready. Something went wrong in communication here as he replied by asking the jumpmaster if he was ready to jump. Some confused faces were shown and then he fell off the plane, everyone had to laugh at this weird scenario in which things somehow turned around.

Back climbing now. After flying for nearly 20 minutes and reaching 13.000 feet it was time to put on the goggles and helmet. I performed one last gear check and said to myself, this is it now. The deliberately and unnecessarily slow opening rolling door came up.  Some jumpers went out but it was now my turn. I crawled around and waited for the secondary instructor to get in place on the outside of the plane. I then moved in the door and felt I was grabbed on both sides. Okay great, now what I thought. Then I suddenly remembered I had to initiate the exit procedure! So I went: “Check out, Check in, Propeller…  Up.. Down.. Arch (and jump)”.

There we went, I noticed we went a little head down before leveling out. I remembered what to do, and performed my circle of awareness (checking your bearings and height). I yelled it out to my main instructor and got the thumbs up. Okay, proceed with the practice pulls and feel where that handle is at. I managed to grab it and got tapped on the arm to know I actually had the handle in my hands. Two more of those and then another circle of awareness, that went well. I got my first hand signal, extend the legs. I did this a bit and got the OKAY sign after. After this.. no more corrections it I thought? I didn’t see any, okay check altimeter, still high enough. I really started to enjoy it now. I noticed my instructor to the right. Smiling like crazy and making faces. I also pulled some big smiles and crazy faces, this is amazing I thought. I suddenly noticed I was slightly rotating, in other words, my horizon started to move a bit and thought, damn I’m causing these guys to spin. Later on the video however I saw that I was released from grip completely!

Time to say goodbye now. I saw 6000 feet and shook my head to signal “no more work!”. I waved off and reached for the handle. It was still there and I pulled! After you pull you’re suppose to start counting 1001.. 1002.. 1003. In reality however when I felt my parachute starting to open I yelled out “YEAHHHH” in excitement and enjoyment. Man what a rush! I realized I did it! Wait, concentrate.. check you parachute! Was it square? Flying straight? I performed all the checks and all was well! I now did some flares in the air. I always thought flaring was tough, meaning hard to pull the toggles all the way down. It wasn’t that hard though and I noticed myself stopping completely in the air (the wind noise was gone as well).  After this I checked where I was. I was way up north of the dropzone! I came to the conclusion that there wasn’t much time to play around and I should fly back to the right spot right away. Man the view is amazing, I took a couple of deep breaths and looked around. The whole island, mainland and not only one but two different sea’s in view.

Back in to the game now, looking for traffic and getting my ass back to the dropzone. It took quite some effort, flying against the wind but I got there just in time to start the landing pattern. I had it planned out, let’s see how this goes. My second turn to the left was a bit late. My last turn was okay but I slightly underestimated the decent rate when turning so I was going to end a little short of designated landing area but that wasn’t a problem. Okay, final approach. I was surprised at the rate I was going down at the ground. There was hardly any wind to land in against so I dropped fast. Now my instinct was telling me.. BRAKE.. you’re gonna smash any second now! My mind however told me to wait longer. My instinct won eventually and I flared just a little to high, causing me to drop the last bit. It wasn’t high though so I kinda just hopped on my feet, made a step or two and there I was. I smiled like a idiot now, high on dopamine, serotonine .. you name it. It wasn’t after I started grabbing my chute together that I thought: “Wait a minute, I made a standing landing..!” Man, I had to wait a week for it but there it was, my first jump.

Later I checked out the video with my instructor and we debriefed. There wasn’t much to add, it all went to plan so he complemented me with the jump and talked about level two!

In level two I only had to do one practice pull as I had no trouble finding my handle on the first jump. Also since my arch and stability was looking good they would release me again and I was going to use my arms to control my heading and maintain fixed looking at one point in the horizon. If things would go really well he would go fly in front of me and if he moved left or right, I would had to turn to follow him. I was excited! We were scheduled a few hours later..

To be continued!

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AFF – The hold up

It’s about time I posted an update! I wasn’t trying to purposely create some kind of build up towards the first actual jump here, things went slightly different than expected.

So, let me go through the last couple of days…

Wednesday 18th July

We woke up and the routine was to first try and check the weather. The verdict was simple, no chance at all for a jump. We expected to see rain for the rest of the day. When in the afternoon it was indeed still raining and wasn’t going to stop anytime soon we went to the (indoor) swimming pool. That evening we played some chess to keep our minds awake. It was a fun day but there wasn’t any chance of a jump for anyone. The predictions for after Friday were a major improvement. We only had the hotel until Friday however…

Thursday 19th July

This was quite the unfortunate day in multiple ways! First of all, again the weather hadn’t improved enough for us students to jump. Second of all, it turned out I ate something bad the evening before. This left me feeling not too well so I had to take it easy this day anyway. I really hoped I would feel better quickly because tomorrow could be the first day the weather would cooperate.

Friday 20th July

I woke up, and did feel a lot better. Not as it should be but there was improvement. I now faced a bit of a dilemma. I could try and extend our stay for a few more days to further get well and jump, or go home for a few days, get well and go back. If I were to stay I would go from a hotelroom to a dormitory (I wouldn’t mind). Also I was informed that students had very little jumping space because they had to catch up on their tandem jumps.

I went to the dropzone to consult with my instructor and talk to my fellow AFF students. Some of them were now making their jumps! I could probably physically make the jump as well but I also wanted to completely enjoy it and I simply wasn’t on my game just yet.

So I decided to first go home! It wasn’t all that easy though, you start to get to know people quite fast if you spend hours of training together, hanging on racks, doing the parachute landing falls or waiting on the weather. After some conversations it turned out they would probably still be there next week though so I would probably meet them then.

So that was the plan. Go home, get well, and return a couple of days later. I made some arrangements with the hotel to return on Monday the 23rd.

I’m now very ready for that first jump as you can imagine! Fortunately, the weather is looking great for the whole of the next week so if I stay away from bad food I should finally get cracking at these AFF-levels!

I’ll report back here on Monday, stay tuned… :)

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AFF – Day 3

On this morning the weather looked jumpable. So we headed out to the dropzone. There was space for only one or two of us to make their first jump, which they did! I was scheduled for the next flight so I prepared and put on my suit and parachute. Not much later we heard the Dutch airforce held some kind of military practice and we weren’t allowed to go up at all. So I got scheduled to a couple of flights later. So I took my rig off again and waited.

After the airspace was cleared again I started to prepare again but soon I heard the winds were now too strong for AFF. So we had had to play the waiting game again. Slowly the anticipation grew once more, only to hear that the winds and clouds were only going to get worse. They would call us, if by some miracle things would clear up again.

So as you can imagine, the day was a little bit of a roller coaster ride. It went from yes, I’m about to jump now to there’s no chance.

We simply spent the afternoon flying a big kite on the beach. It had toggles so it was as close as it could get for that day (I actually performed a full canopy check under the square kite!). We played some soccer before dark and we called it a day.

Looking at the forecasts, in some mornings it might be possible to jump, but the real good weather is going to be here friday and the days after. I might have to stay here a bit longer than originally booked for but I’m not leaving this place without finishing my AFF course ;)

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