First Jump Course – Day 2

This post starts like you might imagine: I woke up. It was around 8AM and I checked the satellite pictures on the internet as well as simply looking out the window. I figured, if all went well today there’s a real chance of making my first jump. The weather looked okay, a few scattered clouds. Possibly too windy. I got some breakfast and headed out to the DZ. Once again I witnessed planes being pushed out of hangars and everything, still a nice sight.

When the course resumed around nine, it was clear we were now going to be permanently separated from the Danish static-line group. We were introduced to our AFF-instructor Tjalle. He was a familiar face, I made my tandem jump with him last year. So that’s nice! We were now getting AFF-specific instructions. We went with our faces the rolling boards. It was now time to practice the actual free-fall routine. It was divided into blocks, first you breathe.. then check your heading, altitude and shout the altitude to your instructor (Circle of awareness). He won’t actually be able to hear you while you’re falling but at least he can see that you checked your altitude and possibly read your lips a bit. Next up were the practice touches. We would practice pulling the parachute handle in the air to get a feel of where it is. After this another circle of awareness. And after this we would have.. “free – free-fall” time. Until it would be time to pull the parachute.

In the mean time my buddy Ralph arrived to join me on the vacation. He made some pictures.
Next up was the plane exit procedure. We practiced this a couple of times out of a simple plane model.
Now it was time to put on a real parachute and do all the things we practiced again. We simulated the free-fall part and actually pulled our pilot chute to get a feel for it. Now again the plane exit. Ralph later made a picture of me practicing it by myself.

This is what that looked like:

Practicing the plane exit

Then we were hooked up to a rack, hanging on our parachute rig and harness. This was the harness test and we would have to make the right decisions and follow the right procedures. I luckily didn’t hesitate too much or made any mistakes so I was passed to jump. Now we just had to wait, and wait. The winds had really picked up so we weren’t allowed to go up just yet. It wasn’t going to improve, so I left my number if the winds would magically drop again. So we went back to the hotel and played some soccer that evening.

Better luck next day!

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First Jump Course – Day 1

Against all expectations, I fell asleep without too much trouble.  When I woke up around 5:15, I wasn’t really all that happy to go out of bed just yet. I first had to convince myself this was actually the big day. After that started to sink in, I jumped out of bed… and broke my ankle!!! …

Man that would be a bad ending of this blog! In reality I just started my morning routine and put the bags in the car. I waved the folks goodbye and set off. It would be a 2 hour drive to the ferry. The sunrise was great and after an uneventful drive I arrived and crossed the sea (“Waddenzee”). I then arrived at the island of Texel. It was around 9 AM and the course started at ten so I took it easy.

I parked my car at the dropzone (Paracentrum Texel) around 9:15. I went to the hangar and they were starting things up: Rolling planes out of the hangar, performing checks on the planes, vacuuming the hangar floor. The atmosphere was good, everyone was looking forward to a nice day of jumping.  I noticed, however, that the weather turned for the worse now. There was some drizzle of rain. They weren’t worried however, after this one rainy cloud things would clear up nicely according to the radar.

Soon I found some other students dropping in. Soon after, some kind of military force invaded the area as well. It turned out they were a unit from the Danish military that wanted to get their wings. As things moved on, we were placed into classes. It was now pretty busy and they asked if I was okay with an English class instead. I didn’t mind so I ended up in the group with the Danish people along with a few other (Dutch) AFF people. Some of us wondered why the Danish army would come all the way out here to get their wings. It later turned out they just came here because the quality of education and the high safety standards. That’s a pretty reassuring idea I thought.

So, the training started! The group sat in a classroom and the flow of information started and went on for a couple of hours. After a short break we continued and had to go through the canopy check procedure. They wanted the whole group to stand up, do it and say it out loud in perfect harmony like a group of Chinese schoolkids. After a few tries we got this right. I realized there’s a big difference between knowing what to do, and actually doing what you know. You have to translate what you learn into an automatic, muscle memory kind of skill so that you don’t have to think about it. Repetition is of course the key!

We now covered a lot of procedures about how to check the canopy and the reserve procedure. I had a thought that was pretty much like this: “Wow I’m now not just reading this in Wikipedia here or something, this is the real deal now.” This realization made me smile though, because this is the path I wanted to be on, and now it’s here!

After a lunch break we did some PLF (ParaLanding  Fall) training. Then we went out on the field towards the landing area. After getting told where to land and where not to land we standed in a circle and performed the PLF’s in a wave like fashion. It was a fun experience, the sun was now out and it was funny to see all people make their roll one after the other. After this scouting experience there was more classroom time and more and more information. We now had to draw up landing patterns and learned all about steering and flaring. During the day we all had to recite the procedures at random, they really got nailed in.

After a long day of about 7/8 hours of all kinds of training we were done! But.. only for today. This was just the basic training that’s the same for static-line and AFF. We were expected to return the next morning at 9 am for AFF specific training.

I discovered one of the AFF students was staying in the same hotel nearby, as well as the Danish unit. It now really felt like not only this dropzone is about skydiving, the whole area is like a skydiving community, awesome! I returned to the car and checked into the hotel. I had dinner, relaxed and recited my procedures. This was mainly in preparation for the harnasstest we would have to pass on the next day in order to jump. After this I preferred some relaxation in order to process all the information given on this day. I went to bed after that. I was lying there wondering if my anticipation of jumping would keep me awake. I can’t remember anything after that so I felt asleep right after :)

Soon.. day 2!


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Indoor Skydive Training

So there I was, surrounded by a group of chatty, elderly women in the train…

In the last couple of months I was doubting to visit a wind tunnel to better prepare myself for AFF. At first I decided against it, the nearest tunnel was exactly at the opposite end of the country. The Netherlands isn’t exactly a very large country but it would take around 4 hours by train to get there for only a few minutes of flight.

However, about two weeks ago I talked to another pre-AFF student and his experiences were positive. I figured it would give some more confidence had I already experienced floating on air. So I booked myself a couple of sessions at Indoor Skydive Roosendaal.

So back to the train, it’s 12th of July and I’m relaxing in the train. The clouds provided a nice view to stare and daydream at. I got of the train and on the bus. After a couple of minutes walking I saw the building. On top of building I saw this piece of tunnel sticking out and I thought to myself: “No way that the actual diameter of that thing is that big!”
Here’s a picture of the building:

Indoor Skydive Roosendaal

Indoor Skydive Roosendaal

I went inside, checked in and went to the visitors area in the tunnel. It wasn’t operated yet but it was nice to see how the actual diameter was and how high it was. More and more people started to appear and we got our suits and got dressed up. After this, earplugs, helmets and goggles.

The group now went to the instruction area where a video was show about the procedures, handsignals, tunnel entry and of course, body position. After the video, our group of about 14 people went to tunnel area. Just as I wondered who would go first, my name was called out :) I thought, great I’m gonna set the stage here.. If it looks like I’m fighting for my life in there I would probably freak out the rest!

I was soon gonna find out. The instructor stepped in and I were to follow. The amount of wind noise and trust in physics convinced me that I was not gonna just fall flat on my face at this point. So I looked up, stretched out my hands and there I was on this cushion of air. My first thought was: “awesomeee”.. soon followed by: “Arch arch arch!”. Then I received some signals, expected to get the common extend your legs signal but I got the exact opposite. It was hard to really get a feeling for the position of my legs with all the wind pressing against it all. It was over before I knew it.

In the sessions after this I tried improving my body position. I messed around with my legs, often extending them a little too much, causing me to grind my face repeatedly into the wall and the camera that was recording the dvd. How charming! However somewhere between the 4th and 5th session something clicked and I found the right combination of extending my limbs in the right way. I was reasonably stable! I got the signal to make a turn. I gently made a turn, hurray! And another one. It felt great to finally have some degree of control. In the final session I did okay, and the instructor then took my flying up and down the tunnel. At this point I just enjoyed the ride.

Overall I think it was not only fun, but helpful as well!

I put a short movie together of some of my tunnel flying:

Hope you enjoyed!

I am now off to pack my bags! Tomorrow is the big day.. the start of AFF ;)

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