MELISSA JAHNKE – ALMOST THERE!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

September 7, 2014 AFF 18

After a long night of trying to digest too many thoughts about skydiving, and how my life is changing, I awake to see the sky getting lighter, as sunrise is just around the corner. I crawl out from my warm sleeping bag and transform my “hotel Jeep Cherokee” back into just plain “Jeep”. I walk out to the target landing area, and I turn to watch quietly as the sun shines for the first time today. The beautiful water droplets clinging to the blades of grass amuse me, how they seem to sparkle and shine when the sunlight reaches them. It is a beautiful morning, and I know that today is going to be grand!

I call my husband and run the concept of check dive past him. We had already planned that I would work really hard and concentrate on my jump lessons this weekend so that I could make a check dive the following weekend. I explained to him that I was on a roll, the weather is perfect, and I just felt this will be THE day. He was excited and we start making plans for him to drive down and witness this grand accomplishment. He has been so supportive of my goal, and I want to share this with him, and my daughter!

I make my way back to the Jeep, and get ready for the day ahead. I drive into town and pick up some tea and a banana. I have no appetite, but can tell that if I don’t eat anything, it will make me weak and I need to perform well. I am on first load, and wheels up at 8:30am sharp, so I make my trip short and sweet and return to the hangar to prepare for my skydive. I am going to be working on my first AFF emergency exit jump, leaving the aircraft at 5500′ and deploying my parachute at 3500′. I am anxious and a little nervous, as I have never left the airplane this low before.

I prepare my gear, perform gear checks and suit up. I fill out my paper work, and go over the landing patterns and jump run. There are low winds forecasted so this will be a challenge for me to succeed stand up landings. I hear Alex announce 10-minute call, and start to gear up. I am ready for this jump, and know that I can do it. We make our way out to the taxiway where the plane is waiting for us, warming up the engine. I make one last gear check, and ask Bo to check the rear of my rig. I perform a gear check also, and then feel him pat my rig. I am sitting right next to the door, as I will be the first one out this morning. Bo is behind me next to the pilot, AFF student Nick is behind the pilot, and Jordan is in the rear facing us. I watch as Bo latches the door, and then we are off and up in the air! It is a beautiful morning, and I am ready to skydive.

I look out at the horizon, and can see the fresh clean air, and bright sunlight shining. Everything seems so awake. It is sacred air space on an early Sunday morning, and I will be the first one to go through it! I smile, and watch my altimeter. At 4000′ I put my goggles and helmet on. I rotate over onto my knees, and ask Jordan for a pin check one last time. I check my handles, feel my pin, and pull on my straps. I check the three rings and make sure that they are routed properly with the cloth loop, and can see the RSL is hooked up. I smile to Bo, watch the GPS and wait. I look at my altimeter and can see 5200′. I know it’s coming, and I take a deep breath and wait. The pilot trims out the plane and slows the motor. Pilot Jeff looks over and nods for the door. I look to Bo for approval to open, and he helps me open the door. I look down at the target at the drop zone and can tell we are in perfect position for jump run. Bo gives me the signal to climb out. I climb out on the strut, and place my foot on the peg. I look in at Bo, and check in. I look forward, and then up, down, and off! I arch and look up at the plane and can see Bo looking out the door at me. I check my altimeter and can feel my speed increasing. I watch for 3500′ and then slowly reach back and pull my pilot chute! My parachute opens and I collapse the slider so that it stops flapping in the wind. “That was quick.” I think to myself. I pull my goggles down around my neck, and perform a few practice flares. I do a few spiral turns to loose some altitude, and then I am ready to enter my landing pattern and begin to maneuver towards the landing target as planned. I fly over the hangar, and follow the taxiway towards Airport Road, and then turn in on my final leg. I can tell that I am gliding further than I am dropping, and over shoot the target. I land on the very outer edge of the target. I trip and slide on my knees, but still smile and laugh. I stand up and gather my canopy and make my way back to the hangar. I am soaking wet from all the dew on the grass that has soaked into my shoes but I don’t care, I just completed my first 5500′ hop-and-pop emergency exit!

I pack my parachute for the next jump, and Alex gives me advice on landing with little wind, and what I should be looking for when I am landing. We decide to start working on my pre-check dive, and Alex tells me she will be taking me up for a practice run! Bo comes into the hangar and gives me a high five and a hug telling me what a great exit that was. He is also excited to hear I am going up with Alex for my pre-check dive. I prepare my paper work, and grab my gear and am ready to rock and roll!

September 7, 2014 (mid morning) AFF 23 PRE-CHECK DIVE

It starts to hit me that I am going to be a licensed skydiver by the end of the day! I try to fight back tears, as this means so much to me! I find myself in a dreamlike state, numb with emotion of pure happiness, and disbelief that this dream is coming true. I center myself, by lying on the hangar floor, and running through my jump plan in my head. Then Alex and I practice the jump from start to finish. I practice my dive out, and imagine swooping to her, and dock. She motions for me to turn left, so I act out a turn, and then dock. She asks me to match fall rate, so I picture I am matching hers, and dock. Then it’s a 1000′ track and 4000′ deployment. I am ready for this jump, and her smile is so encouraging. She tells me not to be nervous, and to enjoy it. “You are going to rock this,” she says with a smile, and gives me a big hug.

Manifest announces a 10-minute call, and I finish getting suited up. I put my rig on and do a gear check. I watch Alex as she inspects her rig and puts it on. I am feeling slightly nervous, but I know deep down that I can do this, and that I am ready. We pause for a moment for a quick picture, and then make our way out to the airplane. It is a beautiful day, and the temperatures are slowly rising. The sun is shining bright, but there is still not much for wind. I can feel that this is going to be a great jump! Just before we get to the airplane, I ask Alex to check my pins, as I check the front of my rig. I thank her, and then we board into the airplane. We are going up with some other licensed skydivers, who are equally excited when they hear that it is “pre-check dive” for me. I am smiles the entire way up, and can’t seem to picture anything less than a perfect skydive!

We begin to rearrange for climb out, perform final gear checks and wait for the correct location on the GPS. I peak over Pilot Jeff’s shoulders and watch the heading and distance on the GPS. I can tell we are close. I start to sing the Katy Perry song, Firework, “Baby you’re a firework, common let me see your colors burst….” And smile to everyone! Its skydive time! We high-five and fist bump, and cheer. Pilot Jeff trims back the engine speed, and nods for the door. “DOoooor” the boys yell, as they open the door. They get into their position and count down, and they are off! I smile to Alex and follow quickly behind her. I am into position for my dive out, and I smile. I check in, and lean forward, lean back, and fall into freefall in one fluid motion. I keep my heading and can see her the entire time. She puts her forearms in front of her waiting for me to dock, and I swoop down to her and steadily move in to dock. I smile even bigger than I already was, and check my altitude. I release, and she signals for me to turn, so I do a spot turn quick and steady. I move in to dock again, quick and steady. We have so much time and am having so much fun! I see Alex smiling so big, and I can just feel that this is going perfectly. I check my altitude, and Alex motions for me to do another spot turn in the opposite direction, and like a game of Simon says, I follow her commands and move in to dock. She adjusts her fall rate and drops below me, and I adjust mine and do the same, and move in to dock. At 5000′ I turn to track away, and pull my pilot chute for a steady deployment. I watch as my canopy open and clap and kick in my harness. I can’t describe the amount of joy that I had at that very moment. I just rocked my pre-check dive, and I knew it!

I fly my canopy pattern as planned. Practicing full flare, and turns the whole way down. I enter the landing pattern and begin my down wind leg. I turn in for my crosswind leg, and wait to see the 30-degree angle for my final approach. I try not to anticipate, and turn in to early, but it is so hard for me to judge with the wind being so little. Alex helps me correct my position, and clears me for landing. I wait, wait, wait, and then flare….

And stand up! “Flare…All….The…Way…Down!” Alex reminds me over the radios, as I have gotten into a bad habit of only flaring half way until I have landed. She had explained to me that the larger canopies are forgiving, but I need to master this and correct it now, or it will hurt me later when I downsize my canopies. I smile, and shake my head, as I know this! I collect my canopy and hook my helmet around my chest strap. I walk over to Alex and give her a huge hug. I can see my happiness is reciprocated in her smile! It is an amazing feeling to have such an amazing, successful woman encouraging me, rooting for me, and helping me along my journey!

We walk into the hangar, both of us still floating from our jump. I take off my gear on the packing mat, and I can see Alex already uploading the video before I can get my gear off! The enthusiasm from everyone is humbling. The curiosity has everyone all gathered around the monitor, squishing for a spot to watch. I am bashful and taken back at the amount of cheering I hear, when they see I rocked it. My fellow skydivers are so supportive, and they are always there with hugs and high fives!

I know it is only a matter of executing one more jump successfully… 3500′ hop-and-pop emergency jump, and then its check dive time! I keep the momentum rolling and check in with Manifest to get on a load for a hop-and-pop!

September 7, 2014 (lunch time) AFF 19

The hangar is full of tandem students and a busload of people are there for a skydive party! The hangar is jamming, and the vibes are good! I finish packing my rig, and wait for my call to suit up. I am a bit nervous for this hop-and-pop. I know I can do this, but doubt lingers in the back of my mind. The “what ifs” start pouring through my mind, and as much as I try to suppress them, they are real, and they are there. Bo tells me there is nothing to worry about, and that I am ready for this. He tells me it will be the same exact thing that I just did this morning, with out a delay. He helps to calm my nerves, and brings it back to “lover not fighter” concept. I feel confident and ready. Manifest informs me that I will be on a jump load with Bo and Milan and AFF student Nick. I go through my gear inspections and when I hear 10-minute call, I suit up and put my rig on. I am ready for this, and can’t wait to show myself that I do indeed “got this”. We make our way out to the plane, and I complete one more gear check. I ask Milan to check the back of my rig. Its skydive time. I am the last one in, as I will be the first one out. I sit right next to the door, and can see everyone in the plane. It is a very quick ride to altitude, and I rearrange my body so that I am on my knees. I look out the windows and glance back at the GPS. I check my gear and ask Bo for a gear check. He pats my rig, and tells me “kick some ass girl!”. I hear the motor trim back, and the pilot nods. I yell “DOOOR” and open try to open the door, but it sticks. Pilot Jeff reaches over and gives it a nudge and it opens right up. I climb out and once I am into position, I look into the plane. I can see both Bo and Milan with the biggest smiles on their faces both giving me thumbs up. I smile back and “check in”, and then up, down and arch!

I instantly feel myself fight. “Oh shoot!” I think. I feel myself roll onto my back, and then immediately I roll back, and correct my position. I see 3000′ and I reach back and deploy my parachute. “Whew!!!” I say as I watch that canopy take its time to open. “What a rush!” It doesn’t feel like I even skydived at all. I barely felt any speed, and just like that I was under canopy. I was so happy my parachute had opened, and that I got the 3500′ hop-n-pop out of the way! I am eager to get to a decent spot on that target, and am trying so hard to tweak my landing pattern in order to land more centered in the target. I watch my altitude, and do the best to judge where I need to be, and where I need to turn in on my crosswind leg. I delay turning in to the final leg as long as I can, but still anticipate and turn in a tad too soon. I over run my anticipated spot, and land on the outer edge of the target, and run out my landing. I gather my canopy and walk back to the hangar. “That was interesting, but I am glad that’s over.” I say to myself as I am walking down the taxiway, feeling much more confident about hop and pops.

I walk into the hangar and everyone is asking how I did. I explain to them that it didn’t go perfectly, but I did it, and still managed to pull at my designated altitude. I take my gear off, and begin to pack my parachute. Shortly after, Bo comes into the hangar and debriefs me on my exit. He says that it is entirely up to me to decide, but would feel better if I did another 3500′ hop and pop with a stable exit. I look at my rig, and look at him. I say with out uncertainty that I will gladly do it again, this time with the rig I just packed. This will be a true test to myself, and my abilities of a skydiver, going from start to finish all on my own! I set my rig aside, and check in with manifest to get on another load.

September 7, 2014 AFF 19(x2)

I am on another load almost instantly, and have my gear check done and my things set aside waiting for 10-minute call. I am put on a load with Tim and Chris and their tandem students. I have even more confidence on this jump compared to all the rest of them to this point. I know that I will redeem my lousy exit from the last 3500′ hop and pop, and am even more excited to rerun that landing pattern before my check dive. I begin to gear up and I am ready and waiting for the tandem instructors to finish gearing up as well. I joke with the students and tell them exactly what they will be seeing me do and why I have to do it. They are intrigued when I tell them that this is part of my training, and I will be hopefully getting my license later! We walk out to the plane together and I ask Tim to check the rear of my rig. He does so and tells me I am good to go. I perform one last gear check, and wait to board the plane last, as I will be the first one out again. It is a short ride, and as it seems we just took off, it is already time for me to get ready. I rotate onto my knees and ask for a gear check. I perform one more gear check, and put my goggles on and fasten my helmet. I wait for Pilot Jim’s nod, and then yell “doooor”, and open the door. I smile to the tandem student that is sitting next to the door as well, and even though he was buckled the look on his face was priceless. I climb out, and place my foot on the peg. I look into the airplane and can see everyone looking and smiling. I check in, and Tim gives me thumbs up. I count down, and then arch! I watch the plane for a second, and keep my heading. I look at my altimeter, and reach back to pull at exactly 3000′! It was a success! I nailed it, and my parachute that I had packed was flying brightly above me!

I was so happy I was clapping and kicking in my harness! I know they must have seen me from the ground. I giggled, and then collapsed my slider. I did some practice flares, and watched for my entry for the landing pattern. I knew I was on my own to land this one, and didn’t want to mess it up. I followed the same approach as the last few jumps, this time adjusting to make up for over running my anticipated landing spot. I watched closely for my 30-degree angle and waited a little longer than the last time to turn in on my final leg. I got even closer than before, but still went a little long. I flared, and stood up! I knew I was ready for The Check DIVE!!

AFF Level I – The Beginning
AFF Level II
AFF Level III
AFF Level III part 2
AFF Level IV
AFF Level V
AFF Level VI
AFF Level VII
AFF Level VIII
AFF Level IX
AFF Level X
AFF Level 11
AFF Level 12
2nd Solo
AFF Level 13
AFF Level 14
AFF Level 15
AFF Level 16
AFF Level 17
Check Dive!

A lady smiles while in free fall during a tandem skydive.

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