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NickDG

Why do some jumpers think its okay I have to be smiling in the jump plane?

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It's one of those days, not really, there all one of those days . . .

It's my 7th AFF student jump today and its a hundred degrees hot. If I'm lucky when this last student is debriefed I'll have a chance to grab a sandwich before the first jump course lets out . . .

The day starts out leisurely enough as we come rolling in about 7:30 AM to have coffee along with the every morning staff meeting. Rocky gives the state of the gear address (I make mental note to avoid tandem rig number 3, and student AFF rig number 9) and Vinny advises us on returning students, who are already signed up, and what levels they are doing. There's a large AFF FJC today so if you don't feel like teaching it's now you try to blend in or outright hide behind somebody else. But, it's Sunday, and I did it yesterday, so like on "Survivor" I'm safe.

"Larry!" It's Vinny handing out slots, "you've got the FJC, and people we've got a huge load of tandems today so Stuart, Marilyn, Steve Clark number two, Manny, Joe, Anne, Peter, and Artie you're all throwing drogues until I need you later for the FJC. Nick, Brett, Tommy, Marta, and Al are doing AFF until I've got to pull you for tandems."

There always a collective groan at this point, no matter how it pans out. "And people!" Vinny continues, "it's gonna be hot as hell today with back to back turnarounds all the way to sunset so stay hydrated, and don't even think of asking, 'cause nobodies getting out of here early today."

"Oh, and Bob's back . . ."

There's always a Bob. He may be Billy or Sammy, or Michael at your DZ but he's the ultimate pain in the ass student. He'll sit around all day trying to screw up his courage to jump and by the time he does he's wrapped so tight when you say hello to him he jumps two feet in the air.

I glance over at my rig. The day before there was a new packer on the DZ. A kid not even old enough to drink and he was getting the bum's rush from everyone, but he's trying to hard to live the dream, so I dropped him my rig. I went over and pulled out the pilot chute to make sure it was cocked. Then I opened the riser covers and pulled the riser out a bit to make sure my brakes were stowed. Anything after that I figure I could handle so I decided to trust him, at least for the rest of the day. But what I really hoping for was fat students so I could wear my shorty suit all day.

First call was still 30 minutes away so I gulped down a fast breakfast in the Bombshelter because as usual I probably wouldn't eat again until tomorrow.

The first student manifest is posted and we all looked at it like college students looking for their grades. I drew Kevin, a 25 year old doing his first Level 4, a single AFF Instructor release dive. I looked at his logbook and he was current and I saw nothing but glowing critiques, but I'd been in this game long enough to know yesterday is nothing and today is everything. We had a chit-chat and I ran him through EPs in the hanging harness. Then we did the level 4 dive flow which he seemed to already have down because he practiced it at home after his last jump. So I let him put the gear on as I watched and while I checked his gear I told him what I was looking for so he could do it himself. I put on my own rig and let him gear check me. He seemed to get a kick out of that.

We walked down to the loading area to wait for Otter number one. Once there I said, "Want to do a practice an exit?" And he said, "Sure." I would have made him do it anyway, even if he said no, but that's how you teach them. After then we sat on the wooden tables as other jumpers filed in. Students, I've found, once they are geared up, are of two varieties. They either don’t pay enough attention to the fact they are wearing a parachute or they are too over cautious about it. Kevin was the latter. "Here," I said, "if you want to look cool just lay back on the table like this." We then chatted about the events of the day, where he was from, and things like that until he said, "Man, there's sure a lot of nice lady jumpers around here." I agreed by only slightly smiling as I wanted his mind less focused on things to come and more on the jump to come. So I asked him to look over his shoulder at the windsock and tell me, "If it stays like that which way would you land?" But no worries, he was on it and got it right. I gave him a second gear check and I let him check me again and we got on the plane.

The ride up was nice and cool and perfectly uneventful except every time I knew the DZ was in the window I asked him to point to it. The ride down was uneventful too. He was stable, altitude aware, and a joy to jump with. I watched him stand up his landing and only hoped the rest of the day would go as smooth. There's a good possibility I'll never see Kevin again, but in some small way, we'd be friends for the rest of our lives.

I dropped my rig off again to the new kid who was now golden in my book and downed some water. Minnie was up next. She was a Level one who got winded the day before. She'd been in the FCJ I taught (always a relief as I know exactly what she knows) and although she was about 4 foot 8 and 90 pounds I didn’t foresee any problems. Except I had to ditch the shorty suit in favor of something with some drag just in case.

For reserve side I had Mike, a young and new but very trustworthy AFF Instructor. Minnie's family was also on hand, being they were all on vacation from back east, Minnie was excited, her family was not. As we walked passed them geared up I smiled and that's when I met Uncle Frank. "We're from New Jersey. Do you know what that means?" I was going to say something about having a long drive home, but my sixth sense made me say, "No I don't, what?" Uncle Frank, a very large man, looked me dead in the eye and said, "If anything happens to my niece, the same is going to happen to you." At first I thought he was joking but he wasn't. And I noticed the rest of the men in the group weren't smiling either. When Minnie and I got to the loading area I took off my rig and switched my Cypress off just in case I needed the room to maneuver. And I gear checked her three time in the airplane. But Minnie did fine and passed onto level two.

And so it went non-stop for the rest of the day. So far I'd done six AFF jumps and one tandem. It's nice when that happens as tandems are physically harder but mentally easier. Back on the ground I noticed Kevin had made two more jumps and Minnie was manifested for Level two. I checked and then went over to Steve Clark number two and said, "Minnie's really head's up and fine, but watch out for Uncle Frank."

I slug down more water and see I'm not on the next load. So I take that as a break and think of hanging with some visiting fun jumpers I know when Vinny corners me. "Can you work a little bit with Bob?"

"Sure, Vin."

It's now five in the afternoon. Bob's been here since eight in the morning and sweating out every minute of it and he's a wreak now. He's stuck on the release dive and this will be his sixth attempt. His logbook says, "Slight spin and needs more altitude awareness, repeat level 4". The private book, the one Instructors see and students never do says, "Spins like a top, doesn’t check his altitude, then spins like a top some more." Oh joy!

We are on a 45 minute call and though I'd much rather lay out somewhere in the shade I figure I better start with Bob right now. I break out a rig and go over it with him. Showing him how the Three Ring works, and teaching him how to turn the Cypress on and off, I went through how to gear check a rig before you put it on, but I was really was just trying to get his mind to relax. But Bob was one of those who couldn’t take anything at face value. He especially freaked, after he asked, and I told him, that the Cypres was battery powered. So I said, "Okay, let's take a walk."

We went around together and I introduced him to some up jumpers who were having fun. This usually works, as they say, "Oh that's great, you're making your sixth jump, good on you," as they pack and fool around with each other as fun jumpers do. But I started to notice that not only was Bob not the automatic jumping kind, he seemed not to be the automatic social kind either. So I went to Vinny and asked him to push us back one load. Then I took Bob across the runway and we sat in the grass landing area. Between loads this is a place of piece and tranquility, like a Sunday in the park, and away from all the hub-bub of the DZ. It was there Bob broke down. Admitting he'd never accomplished anything in his life and this thing, skydiving, would just be another on the list.

Of course I told him no one has to skydive, but if he wanted to I was there for him. I was counting on the next load landing to perk him up and it did. He went nuts over the swoopers and really enjoyed the reaction of the tandems. So I told him look Bob, you're way behind the swoopers, but your way ahead of the tandems. You've jumped six times on your own! It seemed to do the trick and he said he was ready. So we went and geared up.

And Bob did fine all the way to 10,500-feet, except he was gripping and almost cracking my right kneecap, And as much as it hurt, I just let him hang on. I left him alone as much as I could in the airplane, except for going over the dive flow and his EPs. I was hoping he'd gather up and work thinks out for himself. But when I reached over for his final gear check, he grabbed my arm and said, "Nick, I don't want to jump!"

"Okay," and I smiled at him, "We'll just take an airplane ride." There were three other AFF students on board and the rest were fun jumpers. So I said, "I'll take a hold of you but let's slide down as everybody goes and just watch." He agreed to that so I put the seat belt back around him and went forward to tell the pilot I was bringing a student down and to please take it easy.

So with a death grip on Bob's leg strap we slid down the seats as the jumpers ahead of us exited and I actually got him to stick his head out as the last AFF student went. We sat there for a moment and I asked him to show me the DZ, and he did, and then we moved back forward and I belted him in. I told him I was going to reach in and turn off his Cypress and if anything happened from here on in he was to exit the airplane and immediately pull his reserve handle. And so we landed. Some instructors, at this point let their students do the walk of shame, fully geared up, back to the school. But I never do that. I took his rig off after we stopped, and let him walk back on his own. I followed later carrying his rig.

Back at the school the FJC was ready and I noticed I was with Larry who taught the course. That was bad. Good AFF Instructors will always assign themselves to the neediest student in the class, and Larry was a good AFF Instructor. So without even meeting the student I could be sure I would be riding shotgun on a problem child.

By this time, about six 'o clock, the bar was filling with people done for the day and the music was playing. But we, at the school, had another two hours or so and maybe another two jumps plus the paperwork before I’d wet my whistle.

I met up with Larry and his student Cindy. "Nick, this is Cindy, and she's a little nervous about making her first jump." "Hi Cindy," I said trying to look very non-threatening, but very confident at the same time. That's an old instructor trick that takes years to learn. I didn’t bother to ask Larry how she did in class. I've learned long ago no Instructor knows how it's going to go until it goes through the door. And when up-jumpers ask me, "Nick, isn't Instructing boring?" I always say, "No, jumping with the same people is boring. I jump with folks I don’t know who are time bombs."

Larry did all the briefing on the way up and I just sort of rested, and we got Cindy in the door alright but Larry, because he has one peg leg, asked if I minded going main side instead of reserve side. In the Otter that was just easier for him that way and I said sure thing. And despite all our experience Cindy flushed us right down the drain on the hill. I had good grips on her but all I saw was Cindy, peg, Cindy, peg, Cindy, peg. I started wondering when the hell Larry was going let go, as that's what reserve side does when it's not looking like it's going to recover. Just then I saw the peg coming toward me again and I ducked my head but not fast enough. It hit me in the side of head and I saw stars. I had a frap hat on but you know all the good that does.

Then Larry released and as soon as he did me and Cindy had a stable two way going. She looked over at me in horror and I smiled and nodded my throbbing head at her. But she never looked away and didn’t start into the dive flow. My altimeter was on my right hand, the hand I had on her harness, but in the funnel the wrist strap had came loose, and I couldn't read it. It was okay though because I could see Cindy's on her chest strap. We were at about 7-grand and I took a quick look around for Larry but didn’t see him anywhere. So thinking let's salvage something on this dive I released her arm in order to give her the practice pull signal. Then it really went to shit.

Cindy totally panicked and grabbed my around the neck and was trying to wrap her legs around my lower body and of course we funneled again. I knew we were probably getting down to about five thousand feet and I was in big trouble. I tried to peel away from her, then I tried to peel her off me and nothing was working. I couldn't get to her main, we were tumbling so bad I kept missing it, but her reserve ripcord was right in front of me, but that's the very last option in the AFF Instructor playbook. To be unstable and dump a student's reserve is only acceptable if you you're both are about to bounce in a second or two. Of course I was yelling ARCH ARCH, ARCH right in her face and hoping she'd let go. And then suddenly she did. I shot her the finger for the pull signal and she amazingly did. We were a little low, but not low enough that I didn’t track for a while to get as far the hell away from her as possible.

So I landed, and made sure Cindy landed all right. She was very apologetic but I told her it was all our fault, me and Larry's, and I did that because I was sure Cindy would never jump again.

So I dragged myself back to the school and I checked the manifest and yes, there I was. I was manifested for a Level four with Bob, yes, that Bob. And he had specifically requested me. Vinny told me he knew the guy was a flake and I could say no, but I've never said no to a student who I knew not to be outright dangerous as long as they wanted to try.

So there I am sitting in the Otter with Bob again. We were the only AFF aboard with a few tandems and a bunch of free flyers. About half way up I was probably staring blankly into space trying to get up for what was ahead when the kid across from me tapped me on the knee. When I looked up he laughed and said, "Come on man, smile, skydiving is fun!"

I wanted to reach across and rip his wind pipe out. But I didn't because I knew that would have really flipped Bob out . . .

NickD :)

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:o Holy #$@&ing @*#$ Um...DAMN !
I uh...wow SORRY...Tempted to say you've been through hell today, but um HELL would actually be an improvement! You don't just need a few cold strong ones, you really deserve them! If I could I send you few myself, I would. :o
I don't even know what to say after reading that WOW SORRY.
Where exactly does one obtain nerves of steel? I have even greater respect for AFF & Tandem instructors now. Sorry you had to go through all that HOLY SHIT ! [unsure]
I don't feel as stupid as I did before reading this. So far my biggest screw up, as a newbie was a little sensory overload & panic in experiencing an overwhelming urge or need to pull earlier then I was supposed to, on my very last IAF jump. (though I didn't) :$

Blue skies.
And may you NEVER have an experience like that again. Or any instructor for that matter.
:D Cheers
Note to self: Don't even THINK of EVER becoming an instructor down the road! :S:S
It's pretty pathetic when you have to TELL people you're fucking cool Skymama «narrative»This thread will lock in 3..2.. What a load of narrow-minded Xenophobic Bullshit!-squeak

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>> :o Holy #$@&ing @*#$ Um...DAMN !
I uh...wow SORRY...Tempted to say you've been through hell today, but um HELL would actually be an improvement! You don't just need a few cold strong ones, you really deserve them! If I could I send you few myself, I would. :o<<

Easy Bro, maybe you and I need to take a walk and sit down in the grass . . .

NickD :)

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>> :o Holy #$@&ing @*#$ Um...DAMN !
I uh...wow SORRY...Tempted to say you've been through hell today, but um HELL would actually be an improvement! You don't just need a few cold strong ones, you really deserve them! If I could I send you few myself, I would. :o<<

Easy Bro, maybe you and I need to take a walk and sit down in the grass . . .

NickD :)



:D:D
I am NOT being loud.
I'm being enthusiastic!

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:DSorry Nick,
You need to enjoy a few drinks tonight. You can have that talk with me another time I can wait. :D
So new I only have 7 jumps so far. I'm usually not nervous during my jumps. Just really that last one. I think I was reading too much in the incidents forums.
And when I read your post it kind of freaked me out. especially because I had never viewed it that deeply from a instructors perspective. What really got me was the 'cindy' incident. I noticed in the incidents forums so many are quick to jump on 'where the instructor or the training failed' and place the greater part of the resposibility on instructors, training, or equipment & fail to factor in the human error or actions of the student.
A student freaking out as wildly as that wrapping herself around your neck like that, preventing either of you from getting stable & pulling.
I just pictured what the possible outcome could have be, if heaven forbid you had not been able to gain control of the situation in time. It never even crossed my mind at anytime to picture instructor in freefall having to 'peel' themselves off a student, to get stable & pull.
what would happen if a cypress fired during this, struggle seriously?
Thank god I haven't yet personally witnessed something that bad in my training. If I did I really don't think I'd want to jump for awhile. Is that severe a reaction as you desribed common?
How do you keep in control when that happens?
Isn't that NOT good for morale for other newbies seeing that? Doesn't it kind of dampen the vibe? It sure as hell would put a quash on my day at the dz.
I wouldn't want witnessing an incident like that destracting me from focusing on & enjoying my student experiences. Sometimes it hard enough just focusing on getting everything right & safely so, as it is.
I'm laughing now but I don't think I be laughing a whole lot, if I had to
deal with seeing that on or just before any load or jump I'm making. I wouldn't have the heart to make you jump again that day
It's pretty pathetic when you have to TELL people you're fucking cool Skymama «narrative»This thread will lock in 3..2.. What a load of narrow-minded Xenophobic Bullshit!-squeak

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Nick, is the Larry with the peg leg you spoke of Larry Yon by chance?



That's what I was thinking as well. I miss Larry. I miss Vinny, too. Why'd he have to go and move away... :P

ltdiver

Don't tell me the sky's the limit when there are footprints on the moon

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wow... You just set my intentions on being an instructor... seriously, i suddenly know where to set my sights in my career as a skydiver.
I lead and mentor soldiers, and what you wrote made feel proud inside not only as a leader, but as a skydiver as well.
thanks. 'tear'
Fly it like you stole it

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"We're from New Jersey. Do you know what that means?" I was going to say something about having a long drive home, but my sixth sense made me say, "No I don't, what?" Uncle Frank, a very large man, looked me dead in the eye and said, "If anything happens to my niece, the same is going to happen to you."



I don't think that is acceptable. It sounded like a threat. I don’t know how much authority the instructors have but don’t you have a right to ground a student if you feel your safety is in jeopardy?

I wouldn’t be laughing if someone said that to me. I think if this Jersey boy was as hard as he acted, he would be the one jumping.

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I have a whole new respect for ALL THE instructors, and I didn't think it was possible to respect them more than I already did.
But ever be one myself :D:D:D:D:D:D:D:D:D:D:D:D:D:D:D
Not after reading this. I'm sure I couldn't be that patient & helpful, immediately after having been practically strangled in freefall, unable to stabilize & get under canopy. :D:D:D:D:D:D:D In fact I'll have to make it a point to always be at the dz as early as possible & get on the 1st load of the day.
I prefer that the instructor that's 'flying' with me not be some poor guy or gal that's recovering from an 'air assualt' in their last freefall.

I'm funny I prefer my IAF/AFF 'flying' mentor & 'wingperson' to have had at least 72 hours to recouperate after 'the grip of death' applied in mid freefall.
It's pretty pathetic when you have to TELL people you're fucking cool Skymama «narrative»This thread will lock in 3..2.. What a load of narrow-minded Xenophobic Bullshit!-squeak

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