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.
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