MELISSA JAHNKE: MY JOURNEY TO BECOMING A SKYDIVER – AFF LEVEL 9

Thursday, October 9, 2014

August 14, 2014 AFF 9

The plan is for everyone to meet at the hangar around 10:00 am. I get to enjoy a wonderful horseback ride on a great little Arab mare I am considering purchasing for my daughter. I help with chores, and then I am off to the drop zone for some more fun filled action. I greet everyone with a smile and a hug, and get prepped for my next skydive. AFF 9 is the first solo skydive that I will make without any other skydive coaches anywhere near me! I am very ready for this skydive. Jordan and Bo help me prepare for the skydive, and can’t stress enough how important altitude awareness is going to be on this jump. I will be in free fall from 12,500′ to 4,000′. I will free fall nearly 50 seconds before wave off, and it is easy to get distracted and think there is more time. We go over wind trends, and plan our exit location. I gather my equipment, and perform my safety gear checks. I absolutely love the preparation of skydiving, and the constant culmination of events that make the skydive so psychologically rewarding.

Bo will be taking Tyler, another AFF student on this jump. Along with a skydiver from another drop zone, and then myself. I go through the safety checks one more time before getting into the airplane, and am so curious what this jump will feel like. I am once again placed in the spot next to the pilot, which means that I get to open the door again! I think to myself as we take off how positively awesome this is! I refuse for one minute to take any of this for granted. I am so eager on the ride up, and overjoyed with pure excitement to actually do a solo skydive. There is absolutely no pressure on this jump, other than to relax, and take the time to feel my entire body in free fall, while maintaining complete altitude awareness! I watch my altimeter, and before I know it, we are rearranging and doing final gear checks. Bo tells me what to look for on the GPS, and approximately when to climb out. I watch the GPS, and look out the window to spot. The pilot trims back the forward speed, and I hear the engine lower in tone. I think to myself, “lets do this, time to skydive!”

Pilot Jim nods for me to open the door. I yell “door” and swing it open. I put my hand out and feel the wind, while looking down toward the drop zone. I watch on the GPS until I see .4. I look at Bo and he nods. I climb out, hanging onto the strut as I gingerly place my foot on the little peg. It is so cold! I make sure to take a deep breath and settle in. I look to my left and Bo is in the door with a big smile shining through his facemask. I yell, “check in” and Bo gives me thumbs up. I look forward and yell “horizon, up, down…” and I let go and jump off! I am stable right away. I watch the airplane fly away as I drop into my free fall form. I do a circle of awareness and find my stable belly to earth position. I watch the altimeter and it seems to move so slowly. I look down at the earth and watch, as I don’t even seem to be moving. This is completely magical! I am flying, not another person in sight! I have tears streaming from my eyes, from the wind sheer, but love every single millisecond of this jump! I do another circle of awareness, and try to really feel my entire body, paying extra attention to my legs, and the slight changes in position, and what it does to my stability. I check altitude and I still have over 5,000′ of free fall before my pull altitude! This is great! I look down. I look around. I look at my altimeter, and I repeat this cycle about 5 times. I watch my altimeter go past 5500′ and watch it drop to 4,300′ where I begin my wave off and pull sequence. I reach back and pull my pilot chute while maintaining my heading. I look up, grab my risers, and watch the canopy whiffle and open nice and easy! I look around and check my altitude with the biggest smile on my face! ‘That was so awesome!!!” I say to myself while clapping. “Whoo hoo!!”

I look around and unstow my breaks. I can see other canopies beginning to open. I am very aware to leave myself space around the other canopies, and my head is on a constant swivel. I see Bo coming closer to me, and he flies right past me, and waves! I wave back and shout “Hi Bo!” I am to hold into the wind, and allow for his right away. I watch him spiral downward, and fly his aggressive pattern to the drop zone. I wonder if I will ever be that confident under canopy. He is truly a natural, and I am humbled to be learning here. I look around and make sure that the other skydivers leave me a space cushion, and I pay constant attention to where everyone is the entire time as well as watching my altitude. I enter the final approach of my pattern, and am listening carefully to the radios to react to anything they say. I want to be ready as I am a little weary of flying with other jumpers. I do just as asked, and then enter my crosswind leg looking for the correct angle. Jordan cues me to turn into the wind, and clears me for landing. I look up, and then for some reason, as I prepare to flare, I freeze up and land in that crazy fashion I was afraid of from the start. I do a “PLF”, which is a “parachute landing fall” procedure. I do a “not so graceful” version of sliding into home base, and rolling! I’m sure that it had to be amusing to watch! My canopy collapses, and I stand up and say, “I guess now I know I can do a PLF guys!” I am not at all hurt, and know that this is all a part of learning. I smile and gather my lines, and carry my chute to the hangar.

I decide before I even get back to the hangar that I will be doing another jump as soon as I can. I take off my gear and set it neatly in the packing area. I go back to talk to Bo and Jordan about my landing, and they describe to me that I was not fully turned into the wind. They show me a maneuver that allows me to level out my canopy with out doing a hard turn upon landing to land with a level canopy in that scenario. I check in with manifest, and begin preparation for the next jump. I will be doing leg turns.

Read Melissa’s entire journey here:

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

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

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