MELISSA JAHNKE: MY JOURNEY TO BECOMING A SKYDIVER – AFF LEVEL 17

Thursday, December 18, 2014

September 6, 2014 AFF 17

This week has flown by! I still can’t wait to get back to the drop zone, as I am so close to making a check dive. This weekend I have some emergency jumps to make, and after the emotional overload from last weekend’s skydives, I come to the conclusion that I need to focus 110% on my skydive lessons. My family supports my decision to go alone. If I can accomplish all my jumps successfully this weekend, next weekend my entire family will be there to watch me do a check dive!

I begin my workday at 5am, and run up to the Merrill Airport as it’s Airport Days, and there will be “skydivers”! I get to watch the man who introduced me to skydiving, Joe Heyden, finally jump. Along with two other skydivers, he will be performing 6000′ hop and pops and demo all day at the airport. I sit in on their safety debriefing with the airport safety director, and listen carefully to their winds aloft forecast. I over look their jump run patterns, and sit in amazement as I know one day I will be doing a demo here in front of my home crowd as well. I watch Joe, and the other guys load up and take off. I can see the plane reach altitude and turn into jump run pattern, and just as I can see them leave the aircraft, I say “jumpers away”. I watch as they deploy their canopies, and maneuver down to their designated landing area. The children are looking up in amazement, with the same twinkle in their eyes as I have. They land all perfectly, and gather their canopies and walk in! I congratulate them and high five! It is back to work for me, and in three hours, I will be punching out, and on the road to Jefferson.

The anticipation grows, and before I know it, I am bidding goodbyes to my family, and on the road. I am in good spirits, but tired, as this has been a long summer of driving. Totally worth every mile, and I would do every second of it over again in a heartbeat. I think about my journey, and how I am so close to making my dream a reality. I think about the friendships I have made, and the memories we have shared, and I smile and turn up the radio, and keep on trucking.

The sun is shining and it is a beautiful day for skydiving. I turn onto Airport Road and watch for those canopies. I can make out the target and see people standing outside the hangar. Looks like another spectacular day for jumping! I pull into the parking lot, and park my Jeep. I stretch and walk into the hangar and run over to Alex and give her a huge hug! It feels great to be back! I say “hi” to all the packers, and other skydivers, and Luke asks me if I am ready to jump. I smile and say, “hell yeah, I didn’t drive 3 hours to sit around!” He laughs and we immediately start on planning our next jump: Level 17, swooping to dock. I grab my rig, and other gear and begin going over my gear inspections. I know this level is similar to what I had done on the last jump with Bo, and I am confident that I got this. I am looking forward to it tremendously, and can’t wait to see my name on the board. I work with Luke and we discuss our canopy flight plan and landing patterns. The 210 rig is already being used, so I grab the 240 rig instead. It doesn’t matter as long as I get in to the air! Alex announces 10-minute call, and I get suited up and ready to jump. Once my rig is on, I perform another gear check. Safety is the number one key to a successful skydive, and I don’t want to miss anything.

We walk out to the taxiway to meet our plane. Bo and Jordan will be jumping with AFF student Nick. I ask Luke to check the pins on the back of my rig, and I also do one last gear check. I get into the plane last, help close the door, and buckle up. I am calm, and ready! We take off, and I enjoy the fresh breeze coming in through the pilot’s window. I watch the drop zone as we rise higher and higher. The sun is lower in the afternoon sky and the colors of everything shine with such pure tones. It is a magical time of day, and the few clouds that are in the sky are glowing with life. I look down at the lakes and streams and can see them sparkle and shine. I take a deep breath and can feel the humidity dropping as we climb higher and higher. It is a great gift I have been given, and I treasure this experience every time that I am in the air. I close my eyes for a brief second, and just sit in the moment. Bo asks me what jump this is for me, and I explain to him that it is my 26th skydive including the tandems. I have done 23 AFF jumps, and I explain that after this jump I have 2 solos and 2 emergency jumps to make before check dive. He begins to tell me that I could skip the solo jumps and go right for the emergency jumps. I do the math in my head and that leaves only 4 jumps left before my check dive. My belly does a summersault, and I smile. “Wow, this could happen fast!” I say as I check my altimeter reading.

We begin to arrange for climb out, and I ask Bo to check the rear of my rig. He does so, and pats my rig and whispers in my ear, “kick some ass, Mel.” I smile back and wink to him, and then it’s a bunch of fist bumps and high fives. I watch the GPS and when I can see we are .2 miles out. Pilot Jeff nods to Luke to open the door. I help him push it open, and follow right behind him. I get into position for diveout, and smile! I lean in and gently push myself off, and slide. I correct my heading slightly, with my eyes watching Luke the whole time! I just did a perfect diveout! I start my swoop to Luke, and then move forward for a dock. I grab his shoulders and dock! He adjusts his position, and I once again swoop, and dock. Checking altitude and smiling my face off the entire time, we continue to dock 5 times! Then I turn and track for 1000′, and wave off and pull my pilot chute and look up to watch my parachute inflate. My slider hesitates coming down, so I pull on the rear risers to help it down. It slides all the way down, and I collapse it so that it isn’t flapping in the wind. My canopy is flying full, and looks great in the fantastic sunlight. I look around to see who is near, and at that very moment, I see Bo above to the right of me in the distance opening his chute. I can see Jordan already flying his, and Nick hanging out as well. I see Luke already on his final approach to the target, and I hang out to watch him land. I slide my goggles down around my neck, and do some practice flares and turns. I love being under canopy after screaming 120 mph through the air. It is the greatest contrasting feeling one could ever experience safely in only a matter of seconds. I absolutely love it!

I watch Bo and Jordan’s landing patterns as well, and can see them land. I can hear them talking to the other student on my radios. I check my altitude and plan for my downwind leg of my landing pattern. I turn my canopy towards the hangars and then follow the taxiway. I am still a little high in altitude, so Bo has me do a figure 8 to bleed off some altitude. I turn in for my crosswind, and then I watch for the correct angle before my landing leg. I let my canopy fly full, look all the way up and take a deep breath. I wait, wait, wait, and flare, and stand right up! I gather my lines, and stow my breaks, and then try to wrestle with all that fabric! I take off my helmet and start walking over by Luke. Luke gives me a hug and a high five and tells me how awesome that jump was! He can’t get over how many times we were able to swoop to dock, and tells me I am so ready for a check dive! I feel my tummy tickle, as just the mere thought of it brings so much excitement!

We walk to the hangar, and I can see Rita sitting at the table! I tell Luke, “Oh my goodness, Rita is here!” and I run over to her and give her a big hug! I get my gear off as fast as I can, and then remember that they are having party for her to send her off in style, as she is moving to Colorado. Luke shows off the video, and I can tell everyone is happy for me. It has already been a long day for everyone, and I know tomorrow will be fantastic for jumping. I join in the celebration and decide that this will be my only jump for the day. I watch as the other licensed jumpers go up to play in the sky, after their hard day of packing, and sit back and enjoy the excellent company! Everyone keeps urging me to make my check dive tomorrow, as I am so close. I knew I was getting closer, but I didn’t realize I was THAT close! I could get my license by this time tomorrow! I think to myself, “Whoa, its getting real, and this is going to happen!” Its time for a beer, and some celebration!

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
Almost There!
Check Dive!

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

ARRGH!!! A Pop-Up! (We hate them too)

But this is totally worth it! We won't spam you or waste your time! Sign up to learn more about who we are, what we're about and receive helpful tips to ensure your skydiving experience is the best it can possibly be! We won't waste your time with nonsense... we promise! 

You have Successfully Subscribed!