MELISSA JAHNKE: MY JOURNEY TO BECOMING A SKYDIVER – AFF LEVEL 13

Monday, November 10, 2014

AFF 13

Bo tells me that he will take me up for the next skydive. I am all for it! I keenly fill out my planner worksheet, and Bo helps me to train on the next level skydive. This next skydive I will be working on two things that I have already done, but all together at once. I will be doing “fall rate to dock”, which means I will have to adjust my free fall speed to move in and dock with my instructor! This will be a piece of cake! There wasn’t enough time to pack the canopy that I had just jumped so this time Bo lets me jump a smaller canopy. He feels that I am able enough to handle it, and prepares me for what to expect with this parachute. He reassures me and tells me that I will love it! I perform a gear check, and gear up. I am ready to go! We walk out to meet the plane that just landed, and I can see McKenzie cheering on the target as she lands her jump! I perform a gear check just as the plane pulls up to let us in. This will be a sunset jump; the last one of the day, and Bo tells Pilot Jim, get us up fast! It is a quick ride to altitude, and I smile, as Bo is child-like with enthusiasm watching the sun set out the plane windows. He explains that we are “chasing the sun” and I look out the window to observe as well. I am not at all nervous to jump, and am ready to show him how far I have come since we have jumped together last!

At 12,500′, Pilot Jim idles back the motor slightly, and Bo has me open the door. He asks me to spot and tell him when to climb out. I look down and can see we are directly about the target. I look at the GPS and can see .8 miles out. I wait till I see .4 and tell Bo to go. He nods and climbs out. I follow behind him quickly, and place my foot on the left inside corner of the door frame, carefully hanging on to the outer door frame with my hands. I place my right foot on the step pointing my toes towards the back of the plane. I lean out towards Bo and smile! He smiles back and I “check in”. He nods. I lean back and then push myself out the door and reach my arms out in front of me like I am going down a slide. I feel myself roll over slightly, but instantly correct it and am in a stable belly to earth position. I did another dive out! I have to work on the gracefulness, but I did it! I check my altitude, and I see Bo slightly above me motioning for me to come and dock. I flatten out my body, and “rise” to him. I push my legs back and move forward to dock and reach his arms and grab on! I docked!! I let go check altitude. We try again this time “falling” down to where he is, and again moving forward to dock. I dock again! This is the coolest thing ever. I am moving fluidly, and smoothly, and I feel so confident! At 6000′ I turn to track, and hold a solid 5-second track dead on heading. I can feel how awesome it was as I was doing it! I didn’t buffet or loose my heading. It was perfect! I relax back to stable position, and watch my altimeter for 4500′, and I wave off and pull my pilot chute. I can see Bo continue to drop in free fall for a second. I grab my risers and watch the canopy open nice and slow.

A beautiful unfamiliar red, white, and navy canopy is flying overhead! I pull on my rear risers to make the end cells inflate, and then collapse the slider as Bo instructed me to do on this canopy! I turn into my planned holding area, and am so excited to fly this new canopy. She is so responsive, and moves so much more assertively than the other larger canopies! I love her! I play with a few turns, and practice lots of flares. I am descending so much quicker than with the other canopies I have flown prior, it seems like I am ready to enter my final approach in no time at all. I know I must be doing a good job at flying her because Bo doesn’t talk to me on the radios! I am smiling ear-to-ear, and confident that I can land her alone. I turn in on my final leg, and am ready for landing flare. It seems as the winds have dropped, and that it will be a quicker landing. I bring my feet up and prepare to slide on my butt. I flare and slide in as gentle as can be! I jump up and yell, “Yeah, that was awesome…. I love this canopy!”

I ride to the hangar on the golf cart and share my story of my skydive. Bo gives me a hug and tells me everything was great, except the dive out. I need to start flying and control every part of my skydive right from the start. It wasn’t until then that I realized that very concept. I have much work to do still, and need to maintain heading, not only in free fall, but upon exit as well. I had developed a habit to “let go” a little too much on exit, and not start ‘flying’ until my circle of awareness. I can’t wait to try another dive out and really put my new perspective to work. Bo tells me that I can fly, and that I did really well on my fall rate adjustment, and docking. He noticed a big change in my skydiving, and I can tell he is happy with my progress. I am so excited as I can feel my license is getting closer and
closer in reach.

Everyone is putting the planes back into the hangar, and I watch my video from my jump with Luke. He debriefs me on my skydive with him, and I have him sign my logbook. He too says that I have gotten a lot further in my skydiving, and he says he is confident that I will be licensed soon! I watch Mckenzie’s videos from her skydives and we both laugh at how funny we both look on exit after a dive out. Everyone chats and tells stories for a while, and before we know it, its time to wrap it up and get on the road. It is getting late, and as much as my heart wants to stay, I know it is bittersweet good-bye until next weekend. And just like I’ve awakened from a dream, we are on the road again. On the way home I think to myself of the amazing people I have met! I have accomplished 21 skydives to date, and I can feel myself changing. I feel so empowered, and confident. I love this new person I am becoming, and my spirit feels so awakened. I know skydiving will be in my life for years and years to come! I have less than 10 skydives to perform before I can take my check dive, and for the first time in this journey I can actually feel 100% certainty that it is going to happen. My dream of becoming a licensed skydiver is right around the corner.

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 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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