MELISSA JAHNKE: MY JOURNEY TO BECOMING A SKYDIVER – AFF LEVEL 10

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

August 14, 2014 AFF 10

I double check with manifest and settle down a little bit from my last jump. Its amazing the natural high that I get from skydiving. It’s not an adrenaline rush, but more of a rush on spiritual level. It’s hard to describe, but it is nothing like I have ever experienced in my life. Once I am centered from my jump, I begin working with Jordan on learning leg turns. I lie on the trainer, and practice my turns while he went up on other jumps. Jordan is an amazing coach and I enjoy jumping with him! He is calm and collected, and has a great sense of humor. He helps to correct my form, and helps me to really visualize my skydive. In order to execute this maneuver, I relate it to that of giving a leg cue to a horse. Instead of leaning into the turn with only upper body, I use my leg to “press” the air to make a turn. I know I got this! And I am ready to jump. Maggie finishes packing my rig, and I begin to do my gear checks. I see that I am on a load with Jordan again, and am really excited to do some leg turns! We gear up and head out to the plane.

I perform another gear check before getting into the plane. I check my handles in order of use, and feel my pin and make sure that the cloth loop is securely at the end base of the pin. I check my leg straps and chest strap. I check my three rings on each shoulder and make sure they are routed properly making the snowman. The RSL is attached, and the cut away cables are stowed through the cloth loops. I test the radios, and double check that I have a helmet on my head, goggles around my neck, and my altimeter is at zero. I have Jordan inspect the reserve pin on my rig. We board up. We have Jon who is doing a “hop and pop”, and tandem student along with Tim. I am first to board, and sit directly behind the pilot. Everyone is in, and ready, and we are off! We all cheer and high five once our wheels leave the runway, and I watch out the window. I love this sport, and my tummy tickles with excitement once we are airborne.

We reach about 5500′ and the pilot trims out. Jon opens the door, and spots for a moment. He dives out headfirst. I know this is one of my AFF jump requirements to perform a “hop and pop” at 5,000′, so I pay extra attention to Jon. A hop and pop is basically hopping out of the plane and popping the parachute after you are clear from the aircraft. It is a must in proficiency in case of an emergency exit with the aircraft. I am also told that they are fun too! The pilot reaches over and swings the door shut with little effort, and we carry on upward. We reach altitude for the tandem to rearrange and get hooked up. I watch Tim as he instructs his student to sit up and turn around. I love the look on their faces! I am also getting prepared, putting my goggles and helmet on, and Jordan checks the front of my gear. Then I turn around, and am on my knees. I do a front gear check on myself and ask Jordan to check my back. The engine lowers in tone, and I know its show time!

The door opens, and Jordan and I look out. I spot the drop zone, and point to it. I watch it as we get nearer to it. Jordan has me climb out and stand on the peg on the wheel. It amazes me every time I do this, no matter how many times I practice in the hangar, it is never the same in the air. I am into position, and look to check in with Jordan. He smiles and nods with thumbs up. I look forward and yell “horizon, up down….” And I step off. I feel myself slightly unstable, and flip to my back. I instantly roll to my front, and complete circle of awareness. Jordan signals to me to begin my leg turns. The first one I perform is with very little leg. I check altitude, and turn to the other side, this time using more leg. I feel my body whip around quicker than the last time. Then I check altitude, and watch for the next cue. Jordan has me perform 2 more turns in each direction, and then at 6000′ I track for appx 5 sec. I try to maintain heading, while gaging where I should be according to the runway. I feel my body buffet a little, but maintain my track. I relax and do a circle of awareness, and wave off and pull at 4,000′.

My parachute opens, and I pull on the breaks and perform a practice flare. I am quite sore from three jumps this weekend, as my body just isn’t used to opening shock yet. I try to sit back in my harness as much as possible, to relieve pressure off the insides of my legs. I maintain my holding pattern, and watch as Jordan begins his aggressive landing pattern below me. I love watching him land first, as I can see his pattern in comparison to what I will be doing. I do some practice full turns. I watch the leading edge of the canopy as I hold a turn. I also practice a few braked turns. Learning more than ever each time I am in the air. I feel that I could spend all day here, and just fly high. I think to myself how lucky and blessed I am to have this opportunity. I near my entry pattern, and I hear Jordan on the radio asking me to do a flare. Then he has me prepare for a right hand pattern as we planned. He helps me make a few corrections, and talks me through what I should be seeing and comparing my landing pattern to. I turn into the wind for my final approach angle, and I am cleared to land on my own. I look out and get the big picture, but anticipate my flare. I flare slightly early, and feel the canopy lift. I know instantly what I did. I hold my flare and as I come back down, I perform another PLF and roll onto my back. I am laughing so hard I can hardly stand up. I must look hilarious! I have landed on my feet on every single landing since my first AFF, and now I can’t seem to get it right on these last two jumps! I make the best of it, and smile as I stand up. I am safe, and unharmed! I gather my parachute, and begin the walk back to the hangar.

Jordan debriefs me on my jump and shows me video. I can see on my exit that I stepped off to the side, and threw off my body position from the start. I am able to correct myself instantly, though, which is praised. My turns are good, tracking is good, but it seems as though I am tracking in the wrong direction, and we clarify what direction I need to travel in while doing a track. I also need to execute my wave off and pull sequence at exactly the planned altitude. We talk about the landing, and he assures me that I am doing ok, and not to get too down on myself. It takes practice, and I am doing ok. I pack my chute with assistance, and am feeling ready to be checked off my packing by the weekend.

I have learned so much on this journey so far. I am making friendships that will last a lifetime. I feel so humbled to be a part of this community, and love every minute that I get to spend here. I have a huge sense of accomplishment and feel that for the first time in my life, I am beginning to have direction. I load up the Jeep, and say my good byes, and collect my hugs. I know my family patiently awaits my return, and I can’t stay forever. I look forward to coming back in two days for the weekend, as I have an unstoppable momentum going now. This was the perfect mid week fix I could have asked for! I am truly blessed.

Blue Skies.

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 11
AFF Level 12
2nd Solo
AFF Level 13
AFF Level 14
AFF Level 15
AFF Level 16
AFF Level 17
Almost There!
Check Dive!

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

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