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    The Physics of Freefall

    Without an atmosphere we would continue to accelerate during free fall to ever increasing velocities until we impacted mother earth. Without an atmosphere our parachute would of course be worthless. Hence a soft landing on the moon requires retro rockets to decelerate to a soft landing while parachutes have been used to help decelerate the Martian landers in the thin carbon dioxide atmosphere of mars.
    In the absence of atmospheric drag we would experience a linear increase in velocity with time as described by:




    Where ln is the natural logarithm base e and cosh is the hyperbolic cosine function.
    We can now evaluate eqns (10), (11) and (12) for various times over the free fall period to obtain the acceleration, downward velocity and the distance the skydiver falls. These results are tabulated in Table (1) and corresponding plots are illustrated in Figs (1) through (3).


    Eqn (11) was used to calculate the plot in Fig (1). We note that as we exit the aircraft at t = 0, our initial acceleration is 32 ft/sec^2, (gravity rules). As the opposing aerodynamic drag force increases with our increasing free fall velocity, our downward acceleration decreases. We see from Fig (1) that our acceleration diminishes to about half of it’s initial value after 5 sec of free fall and all perceptible downward acceleration has ceased after 15 or 20 sec.


    Our free fall velocity was calculated from eqn (10) and is plotted in Fig (2). It steadily increases over the first 5 seconds of free fall from zero to nearly 90 mph. During the next 5 to 10 seconds our acceleration diminishes significantly as we approach terminal. It is the post 10 sec period of the skydive when our sensation of falling is replaced by the feeling being suspended and cradled by the pressure of the wind.


    Eqn (12) was use to calculate and plot the free fall distance. It is apparent from Fig (3) that we fall only about 350 feet in the first 5 seconds and at least twice that far in the second 5 seconds.
    Beyond 10 seconds the plot is nearly linear as we approach a constant terminal velocity. Fig (3) confirms our often used rule of thumb “we free fall about 1000 feet in the first 10 sec and another 1000 feet for every 5 sec thereafter”. Comparing the distance at 25 sec with that at 20 sec in Table (1) we see a difference of about 860 ft, a bit less than the rule of thumb value of 1000 ft. The 1000 ft per 5 sec of free fall at terminal is only precise for a free fall rate of 1000 ft / 5 sec = 200 ft/sec or 136 mph rather than 120 mph used in this example.


    Hopefully this example and discussion may provide some insight to those who are mathematically inclined and curious about the “whys”.

    By admin, in News,

    The Passing of TOP POP, Lenny Barad

    Lenny Barad passed away March 11, 2001. Lenny was a jumper with the Greater St. Louis Parachute Club in the 60s, at Lobmaster Field, Gumbo, Chesterfield (St. Louis) MO. One day, after Lenny turned 40, he, with great enthusiasm, announced to all the jumpers, in the Club, that he had started an organization he called "POPs" for Parachutists over (Phorty) 40 years of age.
    He told us he was POPs # 1 and "Top POP". The younger jumpers around him were puzzled by the need for such an organization, but we called him Top POP, after that. We didn't realize then, the vision that Lenny had, until some time had passed.
    After some leg injuries, Lenny got into Hot Air Ballooning, and drifted away from skydiving. Lenny was trying for Hot Air Balloon distance records in the 70s.
    Most jumpers, jumping today never met Lenny, and don't know who he is, or that he, in a moment of enthusiasm gave birth to POPs, an organization that jumpers who stay with the sport, will some day be eligible for.
    Lenny's kindness, eagerness, enthusiasm and particularly his vision of the future, will be missed.
    Kim Tucker D-631, POPs # 4271

    By admin, in News,

    The Old Timers of Kansas and Missouri Skydiving

    A background into the history of the sport, at least in Kansas and Missouri.
    I was online reading some of the history comments posted in 2008 and saw mention of DZ's in Kansas as well as mention of Jim Garrison. I have a few additions to the posts I read from 2008.
    I knew Jim through my dad and I was at the nationals as a spectator. During the nationals Jim burned in with a streamer landing on the blacktop runway and broke his leg, as history shows, it didn’t kill him and he jumped again either the same day or the next day with a broken leg in a cast. When I asked him how he managed to live through that he said with a smile “I did the shit out of a PLF” but that incident made him pretty much legend, at least around here. Jim was D 94 and one of the earliest sport parachutists in America as the number shows. As I said, I met him at the nationals at the old Olathe airport around 1962. I started jumping shortly after the nationals in March of 1963.
    Besides a skydiver Jim was a Deputy Sheriff at that time, I knew him through my dad who also worked at the same Sheriff’s Office, Johnson County Kansas. A couple of friends and I decided it would be neat to jump out of a perfectly good airplane, so we met up with Garrison and others at a private strip near 183rd & Mission Rd in Johnson County Kansas. The club at that was called KA MO. The address at that time would have been Stillwell, now Overland Park or Leawood Ks. I made 8 jumps but lost my nerve when a friend burned in at Hutchinson in 1963. My buddies made one or two jumps and all quit.
    Fast forward a few years, around 1968/69 and I am now a Sheriff’s Deputy on Patrol near Desoto Kansas, I see three parachutes pop open a few miles away. I follow them and find the airport which was just off of Edgerton Road West of Desoto and North of K 10 highway. Walla! Jim Garrison now has a DZ on a 1000 ft + or - dirt strip on a farm. I offered to fly jumpers as I was working on my commercial pilots license and Jim accepted so I became one of his pilots at that time his only pilot other than him. That DZ was pretty neat as when you went out you were free falling over or just South of the Kaw River which gave the DZ some character other than farms and Desoto.
    I don’t remember any aircraft other than the 180 Cessna that I flew and I flew for a couple of years hauling jumpers and pulling the glider. The glider went south or rather down after about a year when a kid stationed at Whiteman did what jet pilots do when they get in trouble. For you non pilots they pull the stick back, if that doesn’t work they eject. He did, it stalled and went straight in from about 100 feet or less, demolished the glider, broke both of his legs and ended his career as a military pilot, bad luck but he lived. I started jumping again as I got to jump free being the pilot but I only logged 50 jumps without incident except for a couple of tree landings. It goes without saying that parachutes at that time were not the quality as they are now.

    When I got my commercial license I quit as I was burned out. I spent ALL of my free time at the airport so I quit jumping and continued working on my pilots licenses.
    There were some really good people in those two clubs and some not so good, I have stories. I was an outsider since I was a Sheriff’s Deputy and the 60's clubbing by LEO’s in Chicago caused many of the younger generation folks to hate cops, they tolerated me because they needed a pilot and they had a connection with the SO through me, they called me frequently even after I left. I lost touch with Garrison after that because the DZ was shut down for non payment of rent, if I remember right. Jim was a hell of a pilot and PC instructor. Jim didn’t quit after the Desoto DZ was gone but I don’t recall exactly where he went from there unless he was associated with another DZ located at the Independence Mo airport, seems like he may have gone there but he may also was at Wellsville Ks. for a while. I was there a few years later but he wasn’t around. Jim would be around 81 now if he is still kicking and as feisty as he was he probably is. Last I knew he was living in the KCMO area.

    By EdH, in News,

    The Misty Blues: 100% Female (and 100% Badass) Since 1984

    “Misty” Kim Kanat Talks About the Team
      Guess what? There’s been an all-female demo team kicking ass and taking names since the 1980s. Maybe you’re as surprised to learn about them as I was--or maybe you’re squinting at your screen and wondering what rock I’ve been hiding under--but y’know what? I think we can both agree that that’s pretty damn great.
    The basics are pretty straightforward: The team of 13 women calls Skydive Tecumseh home, jumps hot-pink-and-navy kit and specializes in jumping big honkin’ flags. The details are the cool part: Each one of “the Mistys” can do anything the demo requires, from packing the flags to setting up the smoke--and each is a highly successful professional with a full-time career outside of skydiving.
    When I visited Skydive Tecumseh to check off Michigan for Down for 50, I jumped at the chance to corner Misty member Kim Kanat and pick her brain about the team. During the week, Kim is a mild-mannered (and high-powered) Facility Manager for a real estate company; but, when the call comes, she slips into her pink-and-navy supersuit and smiles for the adoring crowd. Kim’s been at it for four years now, and she shows no signs of slowing.
     
     
    Annette: Tell me about your person intro to the sport. How’d you became a skydiver in the first place?
    Kim: It’s a love story, really. My husband and I were on vacation in Hawaii in 2001 and ended up doing a tandem. It was a life-changing moment for both of us. About a year later, for our 10th wedding anniversary, we took the first jump course. The rest is history. We’ve been jumping ever since. Fifteen years later, here we are.
    A: How’d you get a slot on the Mistys?
    K: I’ve known the current owner of the Misty Blues, Amanda Scheffler, for my whole skydiving career, and known about the team since I started jumping -- Amanda bought [the team] about five years ago from Cindy Irish.
    We were at the dropzone one day and she asked me if I would be interested in doing some demo jumps. I said yes. The next thing I knew, I was jumping at an air show in Maine, so close to the Canadian border that our phones were roaming. It took two flights to get to Maine, plus some driving because there isn’t a commercial flight that goes that far up. It was a very, very small show; we just had a 182.
    I still remember the scariness of that jump. I started on static line; not AFF. So that first demo with the team was a very visceral reminder of being a static line student. I ended up having a minor malfunction with my banner on that jump; luckily, it cleared itself, but it still gives me butterflies to think about it now.
    Honestly, every time I do a demo, it feels just like that first time, because in skydiving anything can go wrong. You just hope that it doesn’t. There’s extra pressure on a demo with the team because the clients are paying for that jump; paying for you to be there as a performer. Sometimes there are issues with the plane; sometimes it’s too windy, or the weather isn’t great, which puts a damper on our part of the show. When everything is conducive to letting us do what we are there to do and it works, it’s magical.
    A: You haven’t slowed down in four whole years. What was it about that jump that hooked you?
    K: Well, the Misty Blues are very crowd-oriented, and that gets me going. It’s so much fun to be a crowd-pleaser with a message. Before and after our jumps, we walk amongst the crowd, pass out stickers and take photos with all these excited kids. We interact a lot. I think that sets us apart a little bit from some of the other demo teams that are out there, and it never fails to inspire me, because we spend a lot of that “crowd time” working the message of empowering women and girls to let them know they can do pretty much anything they set their minds to. We’re all working women, and a few of the Mistys have kids, too, so we’re walking the walk.
    A: What are your signature moves?
    K: When we’re booked for a show, we’re almost always the opener. We open up the show with a very large American flag. The jumper with the flag usually carries a microphone and has a little conversation with the MC of the airshow as they’re descending, which is a reliable crowd-pleaser. When we’re jumping in an airshow context, we’ll often have some of the stunt pilots circle us with smoke while we are jumping in with the flag.
     
     
    We have another signature flag with an enormous smiley face. I love that one.
    A: Do you have a favorite of the jumps you have done so far with the Mistys?
    K: Just last year we had a local businessman book us for a private party. He’s a construction owner that is local, and he throws this huge annual theme party. He got our name and asked us if we could do a demo into it. The theme that year was “America,” and it had a mechanical bull; volleyball courts; a fireworks show at the end. The setup was unbelievable. It was a tight landing area, but everything worked out. Best of all, we got to attend the party after we landed. The guests just thought it was fantastic--so much so that he asked us to come back and do it again this year.
    A: Do you feel like you face additional pressure because you’re an all-female team?
    K: Personally, I would have to say yes. I know there are a lot of other demo teams out there that do more than we do, and some of those guys have more experience than we do, so I do personally feel obligated to put on a better show. I don’t know if that’s necessarily because we are women, but being a woman, I like to be able to nail it. On the other hand, some people want to coddle you more when you’re a female jumper, and I just want to be treated like everybody else.
     
     
    The landscape for women in skydiving is changing, though, and it’s changing fast. A lot of the AFF classes at Skydive Tecumseh have a good number of women in them. Case in point: There are two female Tis at our dropzone. I think that’s awesome. It doesn’t happen everywhere, yet, but I am certain that it will.
    A: The Misty Blues have been around for more than 30 years. What’s the secret to that longevity?
    K: Inclusion. Some people have better skill sets at certain things, but we strive to include everyone in a meaningful way. Over the years, we’ve discovered that inclusion can bring shy and hesitant people out of their shell and end up in them becoming an integral part of the team.
    The owner of our team, Amanda Scheffler, is fantastic. She is willing to show anybody anything, anytime. She does it all. And she’s a great example of inclusion. I don’t know if I would have [joined the team] had they not approached me. I would have never asked. I’ve learned from Amanda that you never know what including someone will open up for them. A lot of times those people in the shadows are the ones who are jumping conservatively, thoughtfully and procedurally and have a tendency to look and observe before they act, which is the kind of person you want on a team.
    I think having other women to show you the ropes helps, too. We have a couple of guys who help us out as ground crew, but we really do it all. For example: If we’re doing smoke and all that stuff, we try to get in there and make sure all the people are informed and all the girls know how to do it. We can all pack the banners, rigs, and flags. Getting everyone’s hands on all of the skill sets is really what makes our team. Everybody can jump in and fill in for each other.
    A: What’s your personal skydiving philosophy?
    K: Feel the fear and do it anyway. That’s what I’ve always said about skydiving. Even to this day, I still get butterflies on a demo. In skydiving and in life, I really live by that--to feel the fear and do it anyway--because you never know what will come out of it. Sometimes it is good. Sometimes it is bad. Always, it is a learning process. “Doing it anyway” can only ever propel you forward.

    ----
    For more info on the Misty Blues, visit the team website at mistyblues.net.

    By nettenette, in News,

    The Mile-Hi Skydiving Center lands a fine

    LONGMONT — The Mile-Hi Skydiving Center has landed in legal trouble.
    The business was fined $500 and ordered to pay $138 in court costs Monday after the company's attorney entered a guilty plea to a third-degree trespassing charge, a misdemeanor.
    The plea avoids a trial scheduled to begin today.
    In August, the company's president Jeffrey Sands, 37, landed his helicopter on a farm to retrieve a cut-away parachute that fell on to the property at 7457 St. Vrain Road, according to a sheriff's report.
    A drop zone staff member got out of the helicopter and told a woman who rents horses on adjacent property that he was retrieving the drop zone's parachute. William Jones, 70, whose wife owns the farm, called the Boulder County Sheriff's Office to file a trespassing complaint.
    Jones said Monday all he really wanted was a letter from the district attorney or sheriff's office telling Sands to stay off the property.
    "A lot of the neighbors have had problems with the skydivers," Jones said. "In the past he (Sands) has had no respect about going on to people's property."
    Jones said he was unsure if Sands received a letter but that "he was told if he comes on the property again, it will cost him some more money."
    Deputy District Attorney Ken Kupfner said he specifically requested that the misdemeanor charge name Sands' business in hopes that Sands and his employees will be more accountable for their future actions.
    Sands said he does his best to be sensitive to the community. To avoid problems, he said his company — operated out of Vance Brand Airport since 1995 — stopped using detachable rip cords in 1998. The company airplane flies double the 800-foot requirement and reduces the propeller's rpm when flying low to avoid noise complaints.
    He said the company policy is for a land crew to seek permission from property owners before retrieving items that inadvertently fall on private lands.
    "I want to be a good neighbor," Sands said.
    He called the August incident of landing a helicopter on private property "a fluke situation" because the woman the staff member got into an argument with had complained about noise before and threatened to steal and damage the next parachute she found.
    He also said that he thought he landed on Boulder County open space land and did not intentionally land on Jones' private property.

    By admin, in News,

    The Loss of Two Legends - Pat Works and Scotty Carbone

    This week saw the loss of two skydiving heavy-weights, Pat Works and Scotty Carbone, in separate incidents not related to skydiving. Both Pat and Scotty were long time members of dropzone.com and legends within the skydiving community as a whole. Pat and Scotty couldn't have been more different in personalities, though they garnered both love and respect from fellow skydivers in their own individual approaches to life.
    Scotty Carbone




    It's difficult to say anything on Scotty that hasn't been talked about already on dropzone.com. In fact, a thread started way back in 2002 sought to bring together both stories and rumors relating to Scotty, titled "Who is Scotty Carbone?", which gathered more than 150 responses including individuals such as Bill Booth who shared his own story on Scotty.
    Although controversial at times, Scotty's brash nature and loud personality was accompanied by a willingness to help others and an unmatched ability to bring smiles and laughter to those around him. He will always be known as a man who followed his own path and didn't allow others to dictate how he should live.
    Not only was Scotty a well known personality in the community, but he was also a skilled skydiver with plenty of jumps behind his name and 'more cutaways than most people have jumps'.
    Scotty Carbone Memorial Thread
    Pat Works




    Pat Works will always be remembered for his contributions to the world of skydiving. He was a key participant in the creation and overall establishment of the relative work (formation skydiving) discipline back in the 1970s. In the 1990s he again played a crucial role in the development of VRW or vertical formation skydiving as it is now known.
    An extremely skilled skydiver with more than 8000 jumps behind his name, Pat sought to share his knowledge of the sport through his writing and authored several popular books, including: "United We Fall", "The Art of Freefall RW" and "The Art of VRW: The Way of Freefly"
    Pat was truly spurred on by his eagerness to teach and was never shy to hop onto the forums and share his knowledge with others. He was also a member of the Skydiving Museum with roles as historian, museum curator, collections and curatorial committee.
    Although he has left us, Pat's contributions towards the sport shall be noticed for decades to come.
    Pat Works Memorial Thread
    We thank Pat Works for his considerable literary contributions to the sport and Scotty for being himself and bringing a smile to those around him.
    BSBD

    By admin, in News,

    The Legend of Roger Nelson

    Roger Nelson: If you're a skydiver, chances are you've heard the name. If you're not a skydiver, chances are you've watched one of the few movies that were inspired by this man. While the tales of Roger's life have been passed around to keen ears, mostly between jumpers, as a kind of folk lore, the words that have been spoken have often been words bound in mystery. The lines between truth and exaggeration, as with most stories passed through word of mouth, can get a little blurry at times. However there is no doubting the colorful nature of Roger Warren Nelson's life.
    Skydiving Career
    Roger began skydiving in 1971 at a dropzone in Hinckley, Illinois. He was always a bit of a rebel and never quite fitted in with the then aesthetic standard that prevailed within the skydiving community at that time. In the beginning of the 70s recreational skydiving was still in its early days, with many of the then participants coming from military backgrounds, and both Roger and his brother Carl stood out from the crowd. It's said that the term 'Freak Brothers' which was given to both Roger and Carl stemmed from their less than ordinary presence at the dropzone.
    As skydivers, Roger and Carl were pioneers. They both laid the groundwork for what is known today as Freeflying. At the time, skydives were done belly down, in a standard practice, but the 'Freak Brothers' threw a spanner in the works when they started what was then known as 'freak flying'. Freak flying was the Nelson brother's own unconventional freefall style, which was described by Roger in 1978 as any body position that saw the flyer's stomach facing up and their back down, towards earth. So while Olav Zipser is recognized as the father of freeflying, the 'Freak Brothers' were already laying the groundwork for unconventional freefall positions years before. In the mid 1970s the brothers started a "zine" called the Freak Brother Flyer, which ran from 1973 until 1976.
    Freak Brothers became more than just a term for him and his brother Carl, after a while Freak Brothers became an organization and a community with thousands of followers around the world. The Freak Brothers Convention was later organized with the help of Jeanie (Roger's wife) and Carl. These boogies were some of the largest around at the time and drew in over 600 passionate skydivers.
    In 1979 the Freak Brothers suffered the loss of Carl, who died in a skydiving accident. From 1986 to 1989, Roger ran the Illinois dropzone "Skydive Sandwich". Later in 1993, he went on to found Skydive Chicago, which is now recognized as one of the world's leading dropzones.
    Roger spent much of the 80s partaking in world records, while spending much of the 90s organizing them. Between the years 1999 and 2002, he won 2 silver and 2 gold medals as Captain of the Skydive Chicago STL 10, in the 10-way speed event.

    The Other Side of Roger Nelson
    What separates Roger's story from the average accomplished skydiver's, is the other side of his life. While Roger was a well loved individual with much support, particularly in the skydiving community, during the 1980s, he was dealing in some rather shady operations, to put it lightly. Roger used aircrafts to smuggle drugs into the United States, while also working as an informant for the US government. After he was arrested in 1986 on charges that included racketeering, conspiracy to distribute drugs and currency violations, his life would become a enveloped in court dates and uncertainty. He pleaded guilty and in 1987 was sentenced to 10 years behind bars, but was released after serving half of his prison sentence.
    After his arrest, Roger called out the DEA on not acting to tips he had provided them, that would have helped capture Carlos Lehder, who at the time was considered one of the largest cartel leaders in the world. Despite the information Roger provided to the DEA with regards to being an informant, the DEA would later shrug it off, saying that Roger had not played any significant role in slowing down the influx of drugs into the United States.
    In 2003 Roger was killed in a canopy collision incident.
    There was more to Roger than just criminal controversy and skydiving, he was also a family man. His eldest of two children, Melissa recalls in a recent piece of writing, how her and her father wouldn't always see eye to eye, but in his death, has come to realize the leadership he instilled in her. She continued to say how her father had taught her to stand on her own feet, and create her own legacy as opposed to living in her family's.
    Sugar Alpha
    This is all but just a fraction of Roger's life and the reality is that it's hard to summarize such an eventful life. Roger and Melissa have authored the newly released book entitled "Sugar Alpha: The Life and Times of Senor Huevos Grandes". A description of the book offers some insight in what to expect:
    "Skydiving and drug smuggling pioneer Roger Nelson lives life out of the box. Fueled by a love for adrenaline and adventure, Roger goes after everything he wants with gusto. But now Roger is ready to retire from smuggling. With a parachute center to run and a family to raise, Roger knows it is time to stop the cat-and-mouse games he has been playing with the authorities for years.
    He and his longtime partner, Hanoi, plan one final run to Belize, where they intend to fill their Douglas DC-3 with enough cannabis to set them up for life. But then Hanoi dies in a plane crash in an attempt to make some "legitimate bucks" flying fish in Alaska while they wait for the growing season to end.
    Left without a partner or plane, Roger remains determined to return to his family for good. To do so, he decides to stay true to himself and follow through with his retirement run. Roger must rely on a colorful cast of characters and the most unlikely airplane for a gig ever-Sugar Alpha, the legendary DC-3 with the secret fuel tanks and not-so-secret paint job-to help him complete the most daring run in the history of smuggling."
    With extremely positive early reviews, this book is a must for any skydiver, though you definitely don't have to be one to enjoy it.
    Get your copy from Amazon.com






    By admin, in News,

    The Last Frontier

    Down For 50 Jumps Alaska, And Annette O’Neil Tries to Rise to the Occasion
    Image Credit: Melissa Dawn Burns When I grapple my way out onto to the float, I notice two things immediately.
    First: It’s impossible to maintain a relaxed attitude while sitting on the pontoon of a floatplane in full flight. My mental image of myself doing this is going to take a major revision in the translation to reality.
    Secondly: My pilot chute has never felt so vulnerable in all my jumps. For almost the entirety of this once-in-a-lifetime skydive, as I keep a resolute smile trained on the camera aircraft flying next to us, a sepiatone clip plays over and over in my head: A pinch of (actually very securely and conscientiously packed) fabric managing to wiggle itself out of my (actually tight-as-a-new-pair-of-jeans) BOC and bolt mischievously between the pontoon and the step, deploying my beautiful new Crossfire one last time as we spiral, nose-first, into Alaska’s forested wetlands.
    But I digress.
    Before we came to Alaska, we were warned.
    “Ah, mosquitoes: Alaska’s state bird,” said one. “They don’t bite you. They carry you home and feed you to their children.”
    “You’re only there for five days?!,” breathed another. “Good luck with that. You should have planned on at least a week. You’ll never get a break in the weather.”
    “A college kid just got eaten by a bear while he was running a half-marathon out there in Anchorage,” chimed in another. “It chased him off the trail and into the forest. He was calling his mom as it was running him down.”
    Since my previous knowledge of Alaska was gleaned almost entirely from the Calvin & Hobbes ‘Yukon Ho!’ collection and a single viewing of Grizzly Man, I’m a receptive audience. I decide not to go for runs.
    When I arrive in Anchorage, I walk through a neighborhood from my airport hotel to a car rental storefront. The gardens, clearly nothing more than a salad bar for the local deer population, have been scrupulously stripped of anything edible. The one with remaining flowers is surrounded by a high fence. A woman crosses in front of me, walking her toy yorkie. She is carrying bear spray. I speed up, having no toy yorkie to cast off as bait.
    Image Credit: Melissa Dawn Burns When I get to the rental place, they issue me a Subaru. Clearly, they assume I’m not messing around.
    And clearly, we are not.
    The next morning, we—myself, my Down For 50 co-adventurer, Joel, and Brett, along for the ride on this particular state’s adventure—are on the road, bound for the town of Talkeetna. Ah, Talkeetna, Alaska: the acknowledged “doorway to Denali,” home to a heterozygous mix of hippies and lumberjacks, a private pilot mecca. The latter becomes evident even miles away, on the long road into town. The traffic overhead, after all, is significantly more congested and varied than the traffic on ground level. I’m glad I’m not driving; I’m transfixed looking out and up, checking out the rush hour trucking over the trees.
    Soon, following the instructions given in a flurry of arranging emails, we wind through a series of deeply wooded roads to arrive at our pilot’s lakehouse/hangar/office/flight school/community hub. The pilot himself, Don, is an affable fellow with a handsome mustache and the air of a man you’d immediately trust with your life. In fact, I do: When he suggests that we head over to the airport to conduct a quick aerial requisition of the available parachute landing areas “in the Breezy,” I immediately offer myself up. We hop in the rough-and-ready fuel truck (okay: the rusted-through blue pickup with a tank of AV gas in the bed) and off we go.
    The airfield is, to put it mildly, a candy store.
    All manner of aircraft sit gamely waiting, lined up as tidily and fetchingly as pretty ladies in an Old West brothel, all waiting expectantly for a pilot. Don and I cruise along in front of their expectant glass faces. Will we hop into the shiny red one? The bare-metal number that looks like it’ll have a sign on the door that says “silk scarves required”? The race-car-faced green-and-white one with its dancing shoes on and the freshly-chamwowed gleam?
    What’s this blue thing?
    As I’m wondering what I’m looking at, we pull to a stop. I take a closer look. This aircraft—I’m finding it difficult to call it a “plane”—is a robin’s-egg-blue latticework of metal with a wing laid across the top. There’s a prop. There’s an engine. There’s a Wizard-of-Oz-style picnic basket strapped in for storage behind an open, park-bench seat. It looks like the pilot is meant to perch on a piece of wood that sits directly in front of that.
    Suddenly, I realize that Don’s walking right towards it.
    Oh. The BREEZY.
    That looks pretty breezy, alright.
    Don hands me a motorcycle helmet and a bib jumpsuit “so he doesn’t have to worry about me.” I sit down on the park bench. I fasten the single lap belt as fastidiously as I can manage. Then, as Don works the engine like a lawnmower, I read the little metal placard fastened to the seat in front of me. It says, “Passenger warning: This aircraft is amateur-built and does not comply with the federal safety regulations for standard aircraft.”
    For some reason, that’s all I need to start enjoying myself. As we taxi out, I’m smiling so hard in my helmet it hurts a little.
    Twenty minutes later, I’ve found Jesus. I’m reeling from the feeling of being in the dead-on sweet spot of everything I love about flying and motorcycling and adventuring, all bound up into one ugly-ass not-quite-aircraft. We rode the river like a track day. We bounded over forested hillocks and gravel outcroppings and one enormous, out-of-place old satellite dish. We buzzed the lakehouse, waving at my astounded companions. As we land, I decide I might not be bluffing about wanting my fixed-wing license anymore. I tell Don.
    “Oh, you don’t need a pilot’s license to fly this thing,” he grins. “I can get you checked out on it this afternoon.”
    I backpedal. Hard.
    When we arrive back at camp, it’s late. It doesn’t look late, but it is late. Don, the pilots and us jumpers congregate on the dock, four floatplanes bobbing cheerfully around us, and go over the flight plan. As it turns out, they want to do our jump as a stacked formation—each of us in our own chariot—with queenly Denali throwing her white skirts around in the background. There will be a photographer (my preternaturally gifted, multi-hyphenate wonder of a friend, Melissa) passenging in a camera plane, ready to capture it. Our flight instructors thrill to the plan. I am assigned the one that’s mostly purple, bedecked with little hippie daisies. I am much pleased.
    After the meeting, Joel and Brett and I trundle up to the room that Don has graciously offered us, with its wide deck overlooking the twilit lake and the visiting pilots trading stories around the fire pit. We (very ineffectually) close the shades. We try to rest. Tomorrow’s a big day.
    Image Credit: Melissa Dawn Burns The night segues seamlessly into the morning. I wake when my sleep mask shifts and the 4:30AM sun sears my eyelids. Brett wakes when I bump his shins, hanging over the padded arm of the loveseat upon which he reclines. Joel is already up.
    Coffee in hand, we meander down to the dock under a cloudless, bluebird sky. There’s a four-month-old Bernese-Blue Heeler mix rolling around the lawn, doing its best to learn how to be a dog, its fur bunching adorably in handfuls, waiting to be grown into. Two chubby golden retrievers stalk fish offshore. Two pigs, wire-haired and curious, wander over and present themselves for belly rubs. We kit up.
    Taking off from water is a new experience entirely. It’s smoother than I think it’ll be, as the glassed-off lake is feeling nary a tickle of wind this fine, blue morning. Before I know it, we’re tooth-and-clawing our way up to six grand.
    “I forgot how pretty it is from up here,” my pilot smiles when we get to around four. I, for myself, had forgotten that most people—especially people around here—don’t blow through four grand like the front door on a cold night.
    Once we’re up at six, we circle, building the formation. Let’s be clear: these are really, really good pilots, but they’re not formation pilots, and there’s most certainly a trick to it when you’re wrangling low-performance aircraft that were made to do nothing of the sort. With the door open, six thousand feet over Alaska at the entrance to glaciertopia, it is cold. The twenty minutes it takes them to get together has me clinging to the back of the passenger seat like it’s a lover returned from the wars. I hope my hands still work when it’s time to get out.
    Image Credit: Down For 50 Which, coincidentally, it is.
    I see Melissa’s plane figuring its way alongside us. I uncertainly stick out a foot and screw it down onto the sandpaper surface of the step. Then I offer my body up to the full blast of the relative wind and lunge for the strut. I get a purchase. I, ungainly, perch. I’m doing it.
    There’s a yoga to staying here, one iron grip around the strut, the other hand “casually” in my lap, my brain stuck firmly to my pilot chute. Most of me aches to tumble into the familiar arms of freefall. The rest of me grabs that part of me by the cheeks and shouts into its face: For chrissakes, woman, pay attention to this and here and now, because it has an expiration date that is less than a minute in the future and this is what you came for.
    I heed it.
    Suddenly, I can see. I see the red and white camera airplane, framed by impossible mountains. Denali, of course; Mount Huntington; Moose’s Tooth; Little Switzerland. I see a sky of a blueness Alaska pretty much never sees, yet here I am, sitting in it. I see Melissa, concentrating behind the winking black eye of her lens. I can’t see them, but I feel Joel and Brett, doing their own pontoon yoga practice behind me and above me. I see so much of what I love about being in this world, hanging here and now in the suspended animation of complete attention.
    And then there’s the landing area below—a cleared construction pad, tucked up next to the Talkeetna airport runway. My pilot nods. I had planned some sort of fanfare for this exit. As it stands, however, all I can manage is a dizzy-eyed smile and a bog-standard hop. My pilot hollers to watch me go. She’s never seen anything like it before.
    When we land, parachutes slung over shoulders, I’m exhausted with the effort of committing it all to memory. I decide to walk back to the FBO and let it all process—Don’s generosity; the force of the community here; the entirely new sensations of flight. It overwhelms my hardware.
    It’s only later, as we hunch over plates heaped with pancakes, that I happen to glance at the collection of grinning pilots clustered in black-and-white on the Talkeetna diner wall. It crystallizes what I’m feeling: The momentum of a long tradition. Those smiling faces, proudly next to their planes, captured over the entire history of aviation, seem to prove that this place—Alaska, the last frontier—was created by and for adventure. Alaska turns energy to adventure like some sort of spiritual chlorophyll. Every single one of these guys grew tall, strong, enduring lives with the force of that alchemy. Alaska pushes out the envelopes of the willing like leaves bursting from ever-lengthening branches. This is its job.
     

    It does it well.

    -----------
     
    Down For 50, the first 50-state skydiving road trip accomplished in a single journey, is happening from May to October of this year. To follow the journey, to check out when it’s coming to your state or simply to help out (thanks!), visit downfor50.org.

    By nettenette, in News,

    The Journey of an AFF Student - Part 5

    This article follows a previous article of an AFF journal submitted by John McDarby. We hope sharing this series of articles detailing the experience of his journey may be able to provide some insight into those looking to do their AFF course, while also entertaining those who have been through the process.
    AFF5 – Saturday 8th August
    What an awesome jump!!
    Got down to the DZ for 8am and was straight onto the manifest - I got on load 2 for 9am – what a start to a Saturday!
    Delighted with myself.
    Got given the same instructor with whom I did my AFF4 repeat with.

    We did the dirt dive and walk through a couple of times and he just kept telling me to relax and I'd nail it.

    I was very cool on the climb - no nerves really - just the tingles of anticipation.
    Door opened and we were second out - I was much faster getting stable than previously.
    Once stable, I performed my first 360 - then awaited the go ahead for the second in the other direction.

    Upon completion, he gave me thumbs up and for the first time ever, I give out a big smile AND gave him back two thumbs up! That’s how cool and calm and together I was. It’s actually starting to make a bit of sense to me now. Has this clicked?

    This was by a mile, the best jump so far – brilliant fun

    Though, I made a total disaster of the landing - haha.
    Winds picked up then and due to get stronger all day - the whole place was on a weather hold, so I stayed and talked to a few people for a couple of hours and left them to it at 2pm.
    Class!
    AFF6 & AFF7 Qualification – Friday 14th August
    Finally, we got there in the end!
    Had a day in lieu to take from work, the sun came out and the club was open - all the stars aligned.
    It was nice and quiet down there with me being the only AFF student - about 90% tandems and about 5 or 6 fun jumpers - and 1 SL student.
    Did my brief for AFF6 and nailed it - really pumped up for spinning out of control and regaining stability - it’s the first time that I had to prove to myself, that I could get it back - delighted with that.

    Then a bit of tracking. I've never really done the tracking properly before so this was a bit unnerving to be honest - but it worked ok - better than on AFF7 actually, where I didn’t do it very well at all.

    Winds were quite strong, which helped with my very first stand up landing! I actually jumped up after the stand up and let out a yelp, I was so chuffed with it.
    I then had about 45mins until AFF7 came around - this was my first time doing 2 jumps in a day – a big deal for me.
    Quick briefing, head first exit and a backflip - bit of tracking and a couple of turns - “keep it simple” was the key of this one. Simple? Head first and a backflip?? Sweet Lord!
    I’d never done a head first exit and had no idea how to do it “pretend you’re diving into a pool – don’t over think it” simple advice and worked a treat – it was really cool and it’s now my exit of choice.

    Stability was very quick – bit of turn and it was fixed, then onto the back flip and just chill for the rest of it.

    Watching the videos I can see I’m not using enough legs and I’m backsliding, but hey, I’m still on AFF here!
    Made a complete mess of the landing pattern though - was too high on entry and then ended up way downwind and wasn’t making progress back - was pretty much sinking straight, over a tree line - I could see I wasn't making any forward motion so at about 300ft I made the decision to pull out and headed down wind towards a big hay field, turned back into the wind and brought it down, mellow enough landing on my butt (boy am I getting used to that), but it was my first ever out so I was really concentrating on PLF and bales of hay more so than a stand up.
    Got back to the hanger and the CCI said he was watching and that I made the right decision as regards giving up and landing out, but gave me a ticking off for being in that situation in the first place - fair enough, I shouldn’t have been there, I just got it wrong.

    Whatever anyway, I got down safe and had the walk of shame back to the hanger - I was obviously the talk of the place for the two minutes as about 15 people (tandems and fun folk) all applauding and laughing at me Haha - not for the first or last time either
    Then as I was laying out my rig for packing, congratulations for me graduating AFF came out over the Tannoy and I got a round of applause from everyone.

    I felt a hundred miles high and my chest was out – I’d done it
    Epilogue and Next Steps
    I took up snowboarding 15 years ago because “that looks like fun” and I have never missed a season since
    Having travelled across Canada, the USA and Europe in search of powder and memories
    Perhaps this new sport can introduce me to warm, sunny, summertime places that I never normally get to see. Everywhere I go is cold and white. It would be nice to wear shorts and flip flops on a holiday for once.
    AFF and jumping from planes has definitely been my second greatest achievement in life, after quitting smoking.
    It really has been a journey for me - I've learned a lot more about what I'm made of - what goes on in both my head and in my heart.
    I don't want to sound like a hippy, but this has been an enlightening journey so far.
    A skydiver I met on a forum mailed me this upon my AFF qualification:
    “I think you will find (as I have) that skydiving is neither difficult nor is it easy. Looking back on the training and the jumps, I think it's safe to state that every nerve in the body is challenged and tested. Much like the game of golf, skydiving does not define character so much as it reveals what is already there.“
    “So, I think you had a lot going for you in the first place. You just did not know it and now you've found it. “
    I’ve never had such lovely words said to me by essentially, a complete stranger whom I know by a web forum alias and first name only.
    Since completing AFF, I’ve gone on to continue with the consolidation jumps and if I were a betting man, I’d stick 10 bucks on me going on to complete my A licence.
    What does skydiving hold for me? I have no idea. I really don’t. I guess I’ll keep going, one jump at a time.
    The skydiving community are a very friendly and welcoming community and there has been no end of advice and assistance at all times from every angle.
    Whatever I do and however far I go, I must pay that back

    By admin, in News,

    The Journey of an AFF Student - Part 4

    This article follows a previous article of an AFF journal submitted by John McDarby. We hope sharing this series of articles detailing the experience of his journey may be able to provide some insight into those looking to do their AFF course, while also entertaining those who have been through the process.
    AFF4 – Saturday 13th June
    Well, that was quite the weekend of ups and downs.
    Failed AFF4 on Saturday (they don’t call it failing as its all learning each time) so repeated it on Sunday and got through, just about!
    Saturday was an odd one - my first proper experience of loss of altitude awareness - total loss.

    I'm down to one instructor now instead of two - we had a perfect exit but then entered into a spin (not a crazy one) which the instructor corrected - as it happened, I was oblivious to it - how? I don’t know, because it looked quite hectic on the video afterwards. My log book entry from the instructor states “John was a little over whelmed on this one”
    That is the understatement of the year, I feel.
    So by the time we were all steady and my instructor came around to the front, we'd lost most of the freefall time - but I didn’t cop it – the dive plan was, once we were steady, he’d come round the front and we’d kick off from there – but by the time we were stable and set, it was too late – for some reason, I seemed to have had that point as my trigger to start work, rather than watching the alti all the way.
    So, I checked my alti now and we were at 5500ft - deployment height - I nearly had a heart attack - normally I’d have seen 9, 8, 7 etc on the way and I’d be well aware that 6 was coming, lock in, 5500ft deploy - this was the first time I missed ALL of that - I deployed just after 5500ft and had a super canopy down - I cursed for the first minute or two after deployment as I knew I’d failed, utterly - I didn’t do one single task for the jump - it was referred to afterwards as a "brain fart" where the brain just shuts down with the overload of tasks to do - there was never any danger as such as I copped it on time and everything was fine - but my instructor said he was giving me another two seconds before he dumped me out himself if I hadn’t done so.
    On the ground as I gathered up my canopy and walked over to my instructor, the two of us just started laughing "Johnny, what the hell just happened there - what were you doing?"

    I had no idea - I just phased out – I can't fathom it - but I was told it happens to everyone at some stage, it’s just a case of when - it’s one of the reasons students have to deploy so high - it gives that margin for precisely what just happened - we deploy at 5500ft whereas experienced divers deploy at 3000ft or so - that gives them another 12 seconds of freefall - so there was never a danger on my jump - it was just a case of "Johnny, get your head in gear"
    There was the opportunity to go again later and rectify it but I really wanted to sit down with a beer and think about what had happened and why.
    I needed to analyse it and make sure it didn’t happen again.
    One of the things I came up with was that my previous "jump" was the tunnel - and that was two minutes at a time - perhaps my brain thought I had that amount of time rather than 45 seconds – I’m not sure - it doesn’t explain the total freeze and lack of one single task being completed, however.
    So I went back the next day to jump again - I couldn’t let that go until next weekend as it would have gotten bigger in my head all week.
    Wonderful jump - loved it and passed it...
    AFF4 Repeat – Sunday 14th June
    I got a different instructor whom I'd never met before - a really nice chap who trains the army jumpers - I told him what had happened and that I didn’t care in the slightest if I passed today or not - all I wanted was to jump and "get back on the horse" and be totally in the zone with my alti – that’s all I wanted.
    He was good with that but at the same time "let’s plan on passing the jump and doing everything we're supposed to do, right"
    So we dived it on the ground, all was good, climbed, perfect exit, a little longer than I would have hoped to get stable but we got there.Then he let go and came around the front, face to face and off we went with our tasks - just a couple of 90 degree turns.
    I have never seen me check my alti so many times! He said I was fixated with it and that I need to find the middle ground between Saturday and Sundays jumps - but boy did I know what height I was at the entire jump.
    I thought I’d failed it to be honest as I didn’t do a 100% right turn but he told me in the debrief that I was good to pass as once I was stable, I was rock solid and the turns were perfect - but I didn’t think so once I'd deployed - but honestly, I didn’t care - I had a super canopy down - couple of spirals again and got myself into the landing pattern real nice - came down a bit fast but not heavy - skidded onto my butt as usual - I can live with that!
    I met up with the usual lads back in the hanger and had about 15mins before debrief - got a cuppa and moaned about how I'd failed it yet again - but that I was just happy to have jumped after the fiasco of the day before - then I was called for debrief and he said it up front immediately that I'd passed - I nearly fainted - and then he proceeded to go through the video and explain why - and he was right I feel, he could have failed me too but it would probably have been a bit mean - either way, I do the same jump again for AFF5 but this time with full 360 degree turns – I’m fine with that.
    My goal for today was just to jump again and be altitude aware - I got that AND I passed, so it was a double bonus and I’m delighted with it.
    I was very comfortable going up in the plane - no willies at all - and I was sitting on the floor again as we were first out - it’s a different position and takes getting used to - when the door opens, you're kneeling right beside it looking down 13,000ft - you truly have to block it out.
    And as you're first out and the plane is making its pass, you can't hang around as the people behind you also need to get out close to the DZ.
    So there really is no hanging about - door opens, assume the position, exit - it all takes about 5-8 seconds - You cannot question it - just do it.
    Which is good too, as it doesn’t leave time for the brain to start thinking “why am I doing this?"
    I'm now really starting to enjoy the canopy - both rides this weekend were great fun - I think my brain said "feck it, you've failed both jumps, just enjoy the ride down" which I really did - nothing too exciting but a couple of spirals and really working out the landing with the wind directions etc.
    What a view when the door opens eh?
    You can see my red runners right beside the door - I had a quick peek down but then looked away - it doesn’t help looking down at that – he he.
    You can see the number of times I’m checking my altimeter - like a watch on my left hand.
    I was all over it this time.
    And you can see, once I got stable, I was very stable - it was just getting there.
    And then I put in a decent left turn - I had time to turn back but I just locked in on the alti and left it at that.
    Loved under the canopy again this time - a real mellow buzz - so much more relaxed than I have been.
    I actually look quite relaxed during the freefall there too.
    Part 5 will be published shortly, keep an eye out on the dropzone.com homepage to follow John's journey through AFF

    By admin, in News,

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