MELISSA JAHNKE: MY JOURNEY TO BECOMING A SKYDIVER – AFF LEVEL 15

Thursday, December 4, 2014

August 31, 2014 (later that morning) AFF 15

The drop zone is hopping. The new AFF students are working diligently with Bo, and there are a bunch of new tandem students arriving for their skydives. Some of my fellow AFF students arrive; McKenzie, Ericka and Joe are all there ready to jump. We start going over the wind patterns. The winds are variable, and seem to be shifting slightly so we pay extra attention to that, as it plays a big factor in our landing patterns. Ericka and I are assigned to coach Jake and we work together to get equal airtime. I cheer Ericka on as she goes up for her jump, and McKenzie also goes up for hers. We are all around the same jump lessons, and it is neat to compare each other’s experiences and help each other out. We can’t wait to hear how each other’s jumps went after they come back into the hangar glowing with life after their jumps. It is a neat community, and we are sort of a team of freshmen, all learning together from one another jumps.

The time comes for me to gear up, as my name is on the board for a jump. My pattern is all planned out and I know exactly what I will be doing on this jump. I am so close to executing the “dive out” and am confident I will get it right this time. Alex gave me some good pointers and I know that I can do it! I already am familiar with spot turns, and forward motion, and this will be a great jump to focus on fall rate again. I will tie all three maneuvers together and then track away for 1000′ to pull at 4000′! I am ready to get my gear on and notice my husband and daughter walking in the hangar. I am so thrilled they are there to see me jump! I collect my hugs, and can’t wait to get in the air. I gear up and do my gear checks. I grab a radio, hang my goggles around my neck, and tighten my altimeter around my wrist. Its skydive time!

We walk out to the plane where I perform one more gear check before entering the airplane. I ask Jake to check my pins. “You’re good” he says and pats my container. He double checks the front of my rig, and nods again. We board the plane, and before I know it, we are lifting off the ground and in flight. This jump is going to be really neat as I get share the plane ride with our video editor Garrett and his first skydive ever! I ask him if he is nervous, and we tease him a little. I watch the drop zone drift further and further away. We circle and circle higher and higher. I run through the jump plan with Jake again in the plane, and try to visualize my dive out being absolutely perfect. I know I can do this am more relaxed on this jump. I am next to the door, and Jake and I will be the first ones out. I watch my altimeter, and joke around with the other jumpers. They pass around some Tic-Tacs, which I get a kick out of it every time; “Who thinks of these things?” I wonder to myself as I enjoy my mint Tic-Tacs. I can see the drop zone off in the distance, and am starting to visualize where we will be exiting. We are nearing our exit altitude, and everyone rearranges for exit. One final gear inspection, and we are ready to jump. We exchange high fives, and fist bumps, and are ready to skydive! The plane slows engine speed, and the pilot nods for the door. Jake opens the door, and then quickly climbs out. “This is it,” I say to myself, “time to kick some butt!” I am in the door right behind Jake ready to check in. I smile and take a deep breath. I lean forward and say “check in”, and he smiles and nods. I lean out then back and then dive out! I stretch my arms all the way in front like sliding down a slippery slide. I kick my feet over my rear instantly, and can see Jakes face the whole time as he drops below me. Just when I feel as though I am going to flip over, I instantly level out! I just nailed the dive out!!

I am smiling so big! I complete a circle of awareness, and then I adjust my fall rate to Jake’s. I move in for a dock and grab Jake’s arms and dock quick and steady! I check altitude and release. I do a spot turn and then move forward again to dock. I grab Jake’s arms again, and I can see Jake smiling at me and I smile back! I match his fall rate again and move forward for another dock. “I got this,” I think to myself! I release, and check altitude again, and then track for 1000′. I wave off and pull my chute exactly at 4000′! I look up and watch the canopy slowly opening. Once again, the end cells are closed. I say “oh no you don’t”, and pull on the rear risers and the end cells inflate. “That’s more like it,” I say. I adjust my legs in the harness, and collapse the slider that is flapping in the wind. I check my altitude again, and look to match the planned points on the ground. I hear my husband on the radio, and Bo gives him a flirty line to say. I laugh to myself, and then I do a flare to acknowledge hearing him. “Boys.” I say to myself, and the permanent smile on my face for the remainder of the canopy flight. I know they are all watching me again, and I am confident that I can land on my own. I enter my landing pattern, and listen carefully for any corrections on the radio. I know I must be doing something correctly because I don’t hear any advice. I follow my pattern as planned and turn in for landing on my final leg. I look out at the horizon, and take a deep breath. I wait, wait, wait, and then flare and stand up! I turn to help my canopy collapse, and then shout a big “WHOO HOO, that was AWESOME!”

I collect my canopy and walk over to Jake. He gives me a high five, smiles, and tells me my dive out was awesome! It felt so good to finally get it right! We walk back to the hangar talking about the skydive, and my family quickly approaches me for hugs! Jake downloads the video, and everyone watches my last skydive as I take my gear off. I can’t wait to see the dive out, and the rest of the skydive. Jake congratulates me on my dive out, and points out a few minor corrections I can make with my legs during fall rate to dock. He clears my log book for the next level; SWOOPING!

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 16
AFF Level 17
Almost There!
Check Dive!

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

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