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September 7, 2014 THE CHECK DIVE
It has finally come! I am more ready than I will ever be. Everything that I have learned and worked so hard for has come to this one culminating jump. Its time for an AFF “CHECK DIVE”. This jump will test me on my skydiving skills from start to finish, and determine if I qualify for my A-license. I am over flowing with emotion, and I know that I can do this. My family has driven three hours to the drop zone to watch me and cheer me on. The entire drop zone is happy for me, and encouraging me! It is a beautiful thing, and I am living in the moment trying to absorb as much of this as I possibly can. Alex informs me that Bo is needed on tandems, and that she will be doing my check dive! I am ecstatic! This just tops everything I could imagine to be the perfect day! I know that if I can replicate our jump from earlier, that I will be a licensed skydiver by the end of the day!
I have my rig set aside, along with my helmet, goggles, and altimeter. I perform all my pre-flight safety checks and turn in my paper work. I planned my landing pattern, and showed the jump run to Alex. I lay on the hangar floor, stretching, trying to visualize the perfect jump. I know that I can do this! Alex offers to dirt dive with me, and I gladly accept. I practice from the exit, and we run through the whole jump in the hangar. I know what is about to happen is big, and I have chills. She gives me a high five and says to me, “You got this girl, you are going to rock it!”
We are all set and ready for gear up. We are placed on a load, and I am so excited when I see my name on the board, and “check dive” written next to it! Its official, the check dive is here! I put my rig on and perform a gear check. I ask Alex to check the back of my rig. She does and pats it telling me “you’re good.” I as I am walking out of the hangar doors I hear Katy Perry’s song “FIREWORK” come on the radio. I look over to manifest and see Boman playing it for me. He smiles and says “good luck”! Everyone is cheering for me and wishing me good luck! I can’t help but to smile, and channel all my emotions into this skydive. I am doing it for all of them; everyone who believed in me, and supported me when I doubted myself. My husband and daughter, my two biggest supporters give me a big hug and kiss and tell me “good luck!” and just like that we are walking out to the runway. “This is it,” I say, “here we go!” As we are walking out to the plane, I hear Bo shout, “We love you Mel…. kick some ass!” I look and he is standing at the fence with his arms in the air! “WHOO HOO” they all cheer and Bo rings his bell!
I smile, but try to remain focused. I know this is my test, and I want to nail it. I ask Alex to check the rear of my rig, as I check my handles, pin, and straps. I inspect the routing of my three-ring assembly and make sure that my RSL is hooked up. I test the radio (even though I shouldn’t need it) and make sure that my altimeter is at zero. I feel my goggles around my neck, and fasten my helmet. I am the first one to board the plane, and I high five Pilot Jeff when I get to the door. I guard my main handle as I climb in, and quickly get into that ever so familiar spot behind the pilot where I sat on my very first AFF jump. I fasten my seat belt and wait for fellow AFF student Filip and Alex to load. Alex closes and latches the door, and we quickly turn towards the runway and take off!
I am so excited and start cheering and giving high fives once our wheels leave the runway. I try to soak up as much of the moment as I can, because I know that it is extremely special and doesn’t happen very often in a person’s life. I have worked so hard to get to this point, and know that this dream I had of becoming a skydiver since my first tandem skydive three years ago is about to happen. I watch the clouds out the window and feel a peace in my heart that this is where I am supposed to be. I look down at my helmet that is resting on my knee, and see my Lela’s peacock feather reflecting beautifully in the evening sunlight. I know she is there with me, and cheering me on as well. I smile to Alex, and know this is only the beginning of so many more grand things to come!
We quickly ascend to our altitude, and we begin to prepare for exit. I put my goggles on, and fasten my helmet. I rotate onto my knees, and perform one final gear check. I ask Alex to check my pins, and I check the rear of Filip’s rig. We are good to jump. I take a deep breath and can’t stop smiling. This is so magical, and I am ready. Pilot Jeff trims back the motor, and nods for Alex to open the door. The door opens, and Filip takes his position to dive out. He pauses a second, and then whoosh he is gone. I watch him drop for a second into freefall, and then look and smile at Alex. She begins to climb out and I am right behind her in the door. I place my footing for dive out, and lean out towards her to check in. She smiles and nods, and I lean in then back out, and then drop into freefall. I can see Alex and notice her shoe is untied, and know that I nailed the dive out and kept heading, because I can see her shoestring flipping around! I transform into swooping position and gracefully move in to dock! I can’t stop smiling, and see her smiling back to me. I check my altitude and release. Alex motions for me to turn right, and I spot turn quick and effectively! I move in to dock rhythmically and check altitude. We release and Alex drops below me. With out even thinking, I arch and match her fall rate, and move in for a dock! I check altitude and then release again. She motions for me to turn left, so I spot turn left, and then dock again! Then she slows her fall rate and rises up to me, and I slowly, but effectively match hers and move forward for a dock! She motions for me to turn left, and like a game of Simon says, I spot turn left, quick and smooth, and move forward for a dock. At 5000′ I look down to find the runway and begin my tracking. I am solid, and I can feel my body increase in speed. I relax my tracking position, and turn my heading back to Alex and check altitude. 4000′ and I reach back and pull my pilot chute and remain on heading. I reach up to grab my risers and wave to Alex, as she continues in freefall.
I can’t believe it! I just completed the check dive! I clapped and danced in my harness! I was so excited and happy. I collapsed my slider and unstowed my breaks. I checked altitude, and hung out in my planned holding area. I knew just when to enter my landing pattern as I had been practiced four times earlier in the day. I made my way down the across the hangars, and then down the taxiway. I waited to turn into my final leg, and then committed to a landing spot. I turned in a little early, but still had lots of room on the target. I looked up and got the big picture and took a deep breath. I watched the horizon, and wait, wait, wait, flare, hold, and then all the way down! I stumbled a bit but jumped right up! I threw my hands in the air like I just scored the winning touch down in the super bowl! “YEAHHH!” I yelled to Alex, Steve, and Kiana who were walking towards me! I was fighting back the tears, but was so caught up in the moment that I still had tears running down my face. It was a beautiful jump! I hugged Alex, and thanked her from the bottom of my heart. I turned to meet my daughter running to me, and picked her up in the world’s biggest hug! Her smile was priceless, and she was so proud of her mommy. My husband was also there with a big hug and congratulations! They never had a doubt, and knew that I was going to do just fine!
I set down and gathered the canopy again, and handed my helmet to my daughter to help me carry back to the hangar. We all walked back together, and as we got closer everyone was anxiously waiting to hear how the jump went…. Alex threw thumbs up into the air, and said, “she passed!” Everyone erupted into loud cheer and high fives and hugs! Bo gave me a giant hug and told me he was proud of me! I felt like a super star! I placed my parachute on the packing mat, and took off my jumpsuit! I was shaking and trying to process everything! My husband handed me a bottle of champagne, and my daughter handed me a bouquet of flowers! It was priceless!
Mission accomplished. I am an A-licensed skydiver!
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