Second jump – Saturday, September 16, 1995

Between the first jump and this jump I had watched some other jumpers’ level 2 videos. In the level 2 jump, you have to do turns and forward movement. I wasn’t confident about my arch, but decided to try my best anyway. As it turns out, this was my best jump. I got to the airport a few minutes late, and found Carl there. He had a level 4 jump (1 JM) scheduled for the same time, so we hoped to be on the same plane. At first, Carl was scheduled to jump out of the Cessna and was nervously pacing about, dreading it. They changed their minds about that and put him aboard the Otter, so we were indeed going on the same plane. We geared up around the same time. My training for this jump was much shorter, a little arch practice, an explanation and then some practice on how to do turns and forward movement using the round table, and the usual rapid-fire quizzing on things. This time I was jumping with Hanne and JJ, which I was excited about, since I liked Hanne a lot as my ground instructor. I got on the plane before Carl, because he was doing a higher level jump. Being next to Hanne in the plane was fun, though it was a bit distracting, especially when she checked my gear (hubba-hubba :-).

At 13,500 feet Carl started taking his position, and I gave him a thumbs up, which he reciprocated. He took his position with a grave expression on his face, making me realize how much more difficult jumping out was for him than it was for me. He lined up at the door with his JM, quickly went through the exit procedure, and he was out! I was next to jump, but they circled the plane for a few minutes to let Carl get far enough away to avoid any possible collision. I lined up in the door, and with almost no hesitation I jumped out.

This time, I had no sensory deprivation and was ready to arch the moment I left the door. I arched as best I could and did my first circle of awareness so early that the JMs were still steadying themselves and couldn’t look at me. It was then that I realized this was going to be a better jump. I repeated the COA and got a “legs out” signal from Hanne. I adjusted my legs — and got a thumbs up! This was a great moment for me, the best moment I’ve had in skydiving. I had the arch! I looked over at JJ, and got another thumbs up. I had it right! I did my practice ripcord touches, and did my second COA, and got two thumbs up! Here I was, still above 10,000 feet, and was all set with the arching! I decided to start my maneuvers. I pushed down my right arm to do a right turn, and actually turned! It worked so well that I was a little nervous about my left turn back, and did a weak left turn. I stablized from the turns, thinking “wow!” and straightened my legs for the forward movement. The wind seemed to increase a bit, but I couldn’t tell that I was moving forward. Still, I was doing what I’d been told, so I figured it was OK. At this point it was about 7,000 feet, so I wanted to get back in the arch position and enjoy the last few seconds of freefall.

When I tried to unlock my knees and get back to an arch, somehow I went too far and my knees buckled. I immediately went unstable, and started bucking severely. Both JMs had to grab on to me with both hands and hold tightly to keep me under control. I panicked a little and my legs went back and forth, but after a few seconds I got back into a stable arch. When I pulled my ripcord, there was vacuum on my back and the chute didn’t deploy. For a split second I was confused at not feeling the pull, and then remembered “oh yeah — the check!” I tipped my head back and immediately felt the pull of the expanding chute. This time, I concentrated on holding on to the rip cord.

My chute deployed without a problem, and I unzipped a little to stow the ripcord. The radio crackled on and the radioman complained that I had stowed my ripcord before getting my toggles, but I ignored him and proceeded with the canopy check. I unpacked the steering toggles but felt that my head didn’t fit well between the risers. I looked up again to check my canopy, and realized that I had line twist! The risers were twisted two or three times and the chute wasn’t fully deployed. I remembered my training, and grabbed the risers, pulling them apart and kicking to untwist. Sure enough, the line twist came out immediately and I reached for the steering toggles again. I pulled hard to flare, then let the toggles all the way up and did agressive left and right turns. The chute responded aggressively, flying me around in circles instead of the gentle turns I had performed in my first jump. The radio man gave me more direction this time, not allowing me to play around as much in the air, but it was still a nice ride.

There wasn’t much wind at all that day, so when I came in for my landing I had a lot of horizontal speed. When I hit the ground I tumbled forward and my head touched the ground, but not hard enough to really hurt. I got up quickly and collapsed my chute, packing it up for the walk into the hangar. I felt strongly that I would clear for level 3, since the only thing I’d done wrong was that short arch buckling at 7,000 feet.

In the debriefing, JJ focused on that arch buckle, asking for an explanation. I told him that I’d just overcompensated coming out of the forward movement and panicked a little, but felt that I had reformed my arch well, even mentioning the vacuum on my back. He wrote up the jump in my log book and cleared me for level 3. I was wildly ecstatic, feeling like I finally had it right. Later, Carl and I went out for dinner and a beer, which I needed to help calm me down from the extreme high. The memory of this jump alone was worth all the time, money, and everything else.

Submitted by Ed Bayiates

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