Time to see if I really got what it takes – what it takes to jump out of an airplane for a second time. Kenny had been saying throughout the winter that he thought he would like to try sky diving too. So every time we got together the topic came up, and always ended with Harry and I trying to talk any one we could into going, and us promising Kenny we’d go with him once spring rolled around.
Harry did his homework. He went to The Ranch and bought a couple of books about the certification process. He went and observed jumpers to identify the best Jump Masters (JM) to go through the licensing process with. Then on a whim he stopped at The Ranch on his way back from a job one day and did his T-2 jump.
I’ll give a little bit of background on the licensing process. You have to complete a minimum of 13 jumps. The first three (T-1 – T3) are tandem. (Harry and I completed T-1 when we jumped for fun back in November.) After your T-3 jump you have to take a 6 hour course. Then the next jump IAF-4 (instructor assisted freefall) you go individually, but your JM holds on to your harness and gives commands. During each jump you have a set of skills that you must demonstrate mastery of before you can move on to the next level.
So we planned for all three of us to jump on May 24 – we were unsuccessful in trying to get other people to do it. When I got there Harry asked, “Have you been practicing for your T-2?” I said, “Huh? I didn’t realize I needed to be preparing.” So he gave me the instruction sheet for the T-2 jump and I started reading through it. Just a little ways in, I had a question about it. Harry started to answer and then said, “Here, I’ll just show you what you are going to do.” He proceeded to demonstrate the skills I would have to perform during the jump. At first, it felt like a lot, but over the next couple of hours I had enough time to get comfortable with it. I went over to the window and paid for my jump. I also got an altimeter for the first time.
A few minutes later Kenny showed up. We had our jump scheduled for 2pm, but we were requesting specific JMs and so the scheduling proved to be a little difficult. It turned out Harry and I got who we wanted, but Kenny did not. Not to slight Kenny, but it was a little more important for us because it is a good idea to stay with the same JM throughout the licensing process.
I got introduced to JM John and he began going over the T-2 jump. We probably spent 30 minutes talking through it. Then he had to go jump another customer. This gave me some time to 1. watch him jump, and 2. prepare for my jump. I really liked John, and I’m so glad Harry got me hooked up with him.
On the ride up John told me to get his attention at 6,000 feet. This was a way to get me looking at and reading the altimeter. At 6,000 I got his attention and he immediately says, “What are we going to do at 6,000 feet?” I responded, “Deploy the parachute.” Earlier during the training he said, “In order to pass the T-2 jump the skills aren’t make or break. To pass all you really have to do are the practice touches; lock-on at 7,000, and pull the chute at 6,000.” On the ride up we went through the jump plan together. Then I had to do it again by myself. We were the second ones to board the plane which meant we’d be last or next to last out of the door. I had to watch everyone go, and then when it was our turn we had strayed too far from the jump zone, so I had to wait for the plane to circle back before we could make our way to the door.
The big question for me is whether or not I was going to go on tilt again when we went out the door (like I did on my first jump). There were a couple of things going on here, the first is that I actually had to initiate going out the door in sync with John. On the first jump you stand at a slight angle but face more directly out of the door, and the JM just pushes you out of the plane once he does the count. For T-2 you actually stand more sideways, almost facing the door jamb. The JM does the count (PROP, UP, DOWN, ARCH) and on ARCH we both had to step (in sync) out of the plane. I am proud to say I did not go on tilt. Our exit wasn’t perfect; we ended up rolling to our left side a little, but it didn’t take long to recover into the neutral fall position. Ideally when you go out the door you arch by sticking your belly out and bringing your head back and you roll forward into neutral.
So once you are in a stable position the JM taps your back which is the signal to let go of your harness. At this point I am expected to immediately begin performing my jump tasks. I can’t remember if I got started right away, but I did not need prompting from the JM to get going. The first thing you do (and this is repeated often throughout the jump) is the circle of awareness. It is comprised of three things: identifying a heading, checking your altitude, and checking in with the JM. When you check-in the JM gives a thumbs up to let you know the task was completed. The next thing I had to do was three practice touches of the rip cord. The first one I didn’t do quite right. You have to move your left hand out and over your head as you move your right hand down to the rip cord. The left hand compensates for the right and keeps you in a neutral position. I didn’t move my left hand exactly right and introduced a little instability. I brought my hands back to neutral we stabilized and I repeated. The next two times were better and we stayed neutral through those. On the third touch you are supposed to really grab the ball and make sure you know where it is.
After you do the three touches you immediately do the circle of awareness. During a jump you should really not go more than five seconds without checking your altitude (you fall approximately 1000 feet during that period). Once you get the okay from the JM he begins giving you hand signals. There were three we had to know: thumbs down – arch; the talking hand – tap your feet, this makes sure your feet are aligned properly; and two fingers extended – extend your legs, this makes sure your legs are aligned properly. The JM can use the signals to help you make incremental adjustments to your body position. In addition, during the T-2 jump this just lets the JM know that you are able to respond to commands and that you aren’t just freaking out.
Once completed you again do the circle of awareness. Next comes turning 90 degrees to the right. In order to perform this maneuver you move your right arm towards the ground to turn right and your left arm to turn left. As I was about to turn right we went into a cloud and I had no way to orient for the turn. I also didn’t move my arm exactly right and the turn was sort of weak. As I was doing the circle of awareness we came through the cloud. I then turned 90 degrees to the left. Wow! When you move your arm correctly you really turn.
I started the circle of awareness, heading, altitude, start to check in, and did a double take on the altimeter. At 7,000 feet I was suppose to lock on to the altimeter. When I looked at it we were hitting 7,000 feet. So I said, “screw checking in,” I’m locking on (it turned out that was the right choice). At 6,000 I waved off and went to pull the chute. I fumbled a little bit with the ball, but I was able to pull the chute before John had to assist me.
Now under canopy, we had to check the 4 S’s – make sure the chute is square, stable, the slider is down, and that it is steerable. I took my goggles off and he began a seminar on flying the chute. There were two sets of handles for controlling it and I helped steer as we did sharp turns, flared the chute (slowed down), slow turns, etc. At about a 1,000 we started our approach to the airport. Moments later I had successfully completed my T-2 jump.
I turned in my altimeter and got a log book. John and I went through the jump and filled it out.
I now have 30 days to do my next jump if I want to continue with the licensing process. I really want to do this, but I’m on the fence because the airport is about two hours away.
Harry completed his T-3 that day, and took the 6 hour course earlier this week. I haven’t gotten to talk to him about it yet.
Kenny seemed to have a blast. We went back to Kenny and Pat’s to watch his jump video and have some champagne. A lot of the family came out in support of his jump and so we all hung out for a couple of hours. Thanks Kenny, for spurring me on to my second sky dive!
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