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I’m back at The Ranch ready to make my third (and hopefully last) tandem jump. I went to watch Harry make his T-4 jump. I didn’t have a reservation and I was just hoping they’d be able to fit me in for my T-3. Due to extenuating circumstances Harry decided against doing his T-4 and opted for another tandem. The Ranch was very accommodating. John (my JM from the T-2 jump) was already paired with somebody; Joe (the head honcho) was kind enough to switch people around so that we could be paired up instead. John had one jump to do and then we were scheduled for the load after that.

This time around I got to learn a bit about winds (speed and direction) and what you need to know to plan your approach to the airport.

The jump was similar to the T-2 with a few differences. First off, I had to initiate exiting the aircraft. We approached the door, and this time instead of holding my harness I had to hold on to the door jamb. I checked in with my JM to make sure he was ready, and I began the count — PROP, UP, DOWN, ARCH. On ARCH you step sideways out of the door and begin the jump. This was my best exit so far. I did not feel any sideways roll, just the forward roll to come into the neutral position. Since I wasn’t holding my harness on exit, the JM did not tap me on my shoulders to let me know to begin executing the jump plan. This time I was told once we are stable just begin. It took a couple of seconds to hit the neutral position. Once there, I immediately got a heading, checked my altimeter, and checked in with John (this is the circle of awareness). John gave me the thumbs up and I did three practice touches of the rip cord and another circle of awareness. He then gave me three hand signals that I had to respond to. Once complete I did another circle of awareness. John initiated a turn to the right, at 90 degrees I had to stop the turn and put us back on our original heading. I checked the altimeter and checked in. Then John initiated a turn to the left, again I had to stop it at 90 degrees and turn us back to the original heading. This time I overshot the heading by a little bit. I realized my mistake and corrected. I checked the altimeter and we were at 7,800 feet. I probably had time to check-in one last time before locking on at 7,000, but I decided to go ahead and stay with the altimeter. We passed through 7,000 then at 6,000 I waved off; reached for the rip cord; and pulled. This time I didn’t fumble and was able to deploy the chute immediately.

Once under canopy, we checked the chute for the four Ss (square, stable, slider, steerable). Once we confirmed we had a good chute we identified the airport. Then John showed me how to tell wind direction. We were crabbing initially (the wind was blowing at our side). We turned 90 degrees into the wind, and looking at the ground it looks like you are floating in place. Then we made a 180 degree turn and now we were really moving forward across the ground. It is crucial to understand winds and your position relative to the airport so you don’t let yourself get blown past you landing target. John showed me how to stay in a holding pattern until we hit 1,000 feet; the point at which we started the approach.

The landing was nice and smooth. John unhooked me and I got up, and helped him up. He immediately said, “We usually don’t talk about the jump until it has had a few minutes to sink in, but man that was awesome, it couldn’t have gone better!”

Now I have 30 days to do my T-4. In order to do the T-4 I have to take a 6 hour ground course where they cover (amongst other things) everything that could go wrong with a jump and how to recover. The T-4 is not a tandem jump. You have your own equipment and you have to execute everything yourself. You have a JM which you are able to talk to on a radio once you are under canopy. During the exit and freefall they hold on to your harness and are right there with you.

I’m pretty sure I am going to continue; I just have to figure out how to fit it into my schedule.

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