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Eule

Arizona tunnel trip report

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Hello all!

I went to SkyVenture Arizona in Eloy over the weekend of 14-15 Jan, and thought I'd post a trip report.
Hopefully it will be interesting to someone other than myself. :) Caution: long post.

I originally booked the tunnel time right around 31 Dec, because I wanted to get a cheap Southwest ticket
that required 14-day advance booking. My initial attempt was via email which didn't work; calling the
tunnel proved to work much better. I got booked for 30 minutes of time on Sunday afternoon, 15 Jan.

Slight digression: figuring out what you are paying for.

I had read some previous posts in this forum about how paying for coaching vs. getting help from the
tunnel person "on duty" worked, and I thought I had it straight in my head. But when I made the
reservation, they asked me about coaching and I became confused again. I talked to them on the phone
a bit and tried to resolve my confusion by looking at the SVAZ Web site. The Web site didn't help much,
so I ended up booking just basic time. In my opinion, the SVAZ Web site doesn't make it very clear on
the different ways you can get tunnel time, with and without coaching. The stuff on how to do what I
might call a "tunnel tandem" (short fun ride for a first timer) is clear and well-presented, but the stuff for
block time for skydivers or experienced tunnel flyers is less so. The basic pricing (no coaching) is there,
and there is a page with the pricing time plus AZTC or Airspeed coaching, but there isn't really a place
where all of these options are laid out in one place and compared. What I am thinking of is something
like the following - these prices and packages don't reflect reality and are just for illustration:

- Block time, $X/15 min, $Y/30 min, $Z/60 min. Includes earplugs and use of helmet, goggles, jumpsuit,
and pads. Includes assistance from the tunnel person on duty. Video of your flying is available for $5.
Contact the tunnel to book.

- Time with AZTC coach. $N/30 min. Includes gear as in 'block time'. Includes video. Includes assistance
from the tunnel person on duty PLUS direction from an AZTC coach. Includes pre-flight and debrief/
video review sessions with AZTC coach. Contact AZTC/SDAZ to book.

- Time with Airspeed coach. $M/30 min. Includes gear as in 'block time'. Includes video. Includes
assistance from the tunnel person on duty PLUS direction from an Airspeed coach. Includes pre-flight
and debrief/video review sessions with Airspeed coach. Contact Airspeed to book.

Maybe the options vary too much to have something like this on the Web site, but I feel it would help
people, especially those relatively new to tunnels, if this were there. Or maybe I'm just dumb. I did find
that once you are actually at the tunnel, there are various signs/charts posted that make it fairly clear
what the various options and prices are - these should be on the Web site!

End of digression.

I flew out on Saturday evening and met some (non-jumping) friends in Phoenix for beer. I wasn't
exactly sure what we were going to do or how drunk we were going to get, so I hadn't booked a
hotel for Saturday night - I didn't know if I was going to stay in Phoenix or closer to Eloy. We
didn't drink that much beer, so I headed to Eloy and got there about 0130 Sunday morning. I was
hoping to pull a trick that I had successfully used in the past - pick up a free 'travel discount coupon'
book at a rest area/visitor center/truck stop along the way, call a couple of hotels in the book, and
get a reasonable rate. Apparently these books don't exist in southern Arizona. Plan B: go to hotels
directly. There are several in the Eloy area, concentrated around three exits off of I-10. However,
the first three I stopped at didn't have any rooms. The night clerk at the Days Inn suggested that
the Holiday Inn in Casa Grande, a few miles north of Eloy, would probably have rooms, and she was
right - all they had left was smoking rooms but at 0230 I didn't care. Had a quiet, if smoky, night.

Sunday morning I checked out and headed for the tunnel. I was able to see a bit more of Casa Grande
on my way and it appears that Casa Grande is the local "big city" - it is where the big grocery stores and
Wal-Mart are. There are just fast food and quick-mart type places at the exits in Eloy. I had planned a
route, but I also figured that I should be able to see the tunnel exhaust stacks once I got close, and I
was right - you can see them from at least a couple of miles away. I got there and spent a bit of time
checking out the DZ. When I got there at 1300 and heard manifest calling for 'Otter 21' on the PA, I
began to realize that Eloy probably gets just a few more jumpers than Cushing, Oklahoma. :) I did
manage to run into a jumper I knew from Oklahoma - I didn't know he was going to be there, but I
found out he takes an Eloy vacation every January.

Around 1400 I headed for the tunnel and got signed in. The tunnel office is currently a rental trailer,
but the slab for a much larger office/support building has been poured just behind it. When you sign
in, you get a wrist band with your name and tunnel time on it. I think it's free for people who just want
to watch, but they have to sign a waiver down in the office before they can go up to the tunnel. My
time was from 1600 to 1630, and since I didn't think I could do 30 minutes straight, I was advised to
check in upstairs at 1500 to see if I could rotate with the group that was booked at 1530. I went
up to the tunnel and hung out for a while, watching first-timers flying a few feet off the net and
experts launching themselves up to the motors.

I checked in upstairs and there was some confusion; the way it eventually worked out is that I didn't
rotate with other people and flew as much as I could in the 1600 to 1630 time slot, rescheduling
whatever I had left of my 30 minutes. I got my gear; they have Tony Suit tunnel suits, which are a
bit different than the tunnel suits at L1/AAC in North Carolina. The main difference is that the SVAZ
suits have the top grippers on your back, over your shoulder blades, while the AAC ones either didn't
have these or had them on your arms - I don't remember for sure. Otherwise, both of the tunnel suits
I have worn are fairly similar to skydiving suits, except the tunnel suits close with Velcro instead of a
zipper.

James (Punisher) was my instructor. We got in and the first thing I worked on was trying to stay
reasonably in the middle of the tunnel. I didn't feel like I was "falling off the air" when I got near the
edges of the tunnel; it just made it hard to maneuver or maintain a stable body position with body
parts bumping against the wall. After a bit I was able to hold somewhat steady when I didn't want
to turn, and make something like a turn when I did want to. James watched me do this and helped
explain what I was doing (mostly with my legs) that made my turns not quite work right. After
about 15 minutes of tunnel time, it was time for the next group. We got out and I got my DVD back
from the control operator. I was wondering if the debrief rooms were reserved in some way, but
I finally just walked into an empty one and started watching my DVD. I could see better some of the
things that I was doing and how what James wanted me to do cleaned things up. I hung out a bit
more, watching people do 4-way in the tunnel, then got James to sign my log book and went
downstairs to reschedule my remaining time. I got hooked up for 1600 on Monday.

It was about 1900 and I decided I had better organize a place to stay. I knew that you had to reserve
a room in the bunkhouse, but I did not know that this can only be done while manifest is open. So I'd
have to spend another night in town. This was annoying, and the only cure for it was to eat dinner
and then go to the bar and drink beer. :) A dropzone with a full bar... is this a great country or what?
James stopped in at the bar and I bought him a beer; a little later a guy James knew bought a round.
Another guy was playing videos of interesting jumps on the big TV. Good times. I headed back to
town around midnight and didn't have as much trouble finding a room, although the first place I tried
was full. I had asked in Casa Grande if there was some event in town that was filling up the rooms,
and asked again in Eloy, and none of the hotel people knew.

On Monday morning I checked out and pondered what to do. I didn't really have enough time to go
to Phoenix, do something, and get back to Eloy. I found "Picacho Peak State Park" a few miles south
of Eloy on the rent-a-car map and that sounded interesting, so I headed down there. It's a small state
park with several hiking trails around and to the top of Picacho Peak. I could feel my tunnel time from
the day before, but I still went for a short hike. I didn't go all the way to the top, but I did go far enough
to get a pretty good view of the valley. I _thought_ I could see the tunnel off to the northeast, but I
wasn't sure - I tried to take a picture but the results were inconclusive. I came back down, and headed
back to Eloy. This time I was smart enough to stop in at manifest and arrange for a room as soon as
I got there. I went back over to the tunnel and got checked in. While I was hanging out, waiting for
my time, I looked out the window to the southwest and was pretty sure I was seing Picacho Peak,
where I had just been hiking.

This time, Mick was my instructor, and I had 15 minutes, alternating with a family: mom, a son, and two
daughters were flying while dad shot video. Mick started me out lying on the net and I noticed that
the net wires sort of looked like they had the spiral wire around them, as has been discussed here
before. This time I was able to stay in the center of the tunnel a little better, and able to work on
stable/symmetrical body position and doing turns. Sometimes I would un-arch a little and head for
the fans, but as time went on, I thought I was actually flying pretty well. When I got done with that
session, I felt like my flying was much improved and that the tunnel time was well worth it. I hung out,
took some pictures, and got Mick to sign my logbook. I tried to take some pictures of the tunnel at
night, but the moon was behind the tunnel and it wasn't coming out very well. Knowing that I had
a room at the DZ and nowhere to be until Tuesday morning, I headed for the bar again.

At the bar, I met a couple of guys from New York, Hal and (I think) Eric. Their home DZ was the
Ranch, but for some reason, they thought Eloy was a better place to jump in January, and had come
down for a week. We drank beer and talked about jumping and generally solved the world's problems.
When I first got to the bar, there were maybe 20 people there, but as the night went on, the crowd
dwindled. Finally, there were maybe 5 people in the bar, and a guy came in and said that everyone
was partying over by the east landing area. We decided that this sounded like a good idea and so
did the bartender, so he closed the bar and we all went to that party. Turned out it was the Canadians,
who also had some strange hang-up about jumping at their home DZs in January, and had invaded
Eloy. They also brought hot dogs and chips and beer, and had parked a truck nearby for music. I hung
out and drank beer and sang along and generally had a good time. Finally I headed for the bunkhouse
to crash.

I had to get up pretty early Tuesday morning to make it back to Phoenix in time. When I got up I
noticed that the nearly-full moon was now in a better position, and it was just starting to get light
in the east. I tried taking pictures again and got one that came out a lot better - see attached.
Finally, I headed back to Phoenix and caught my flight back home.

This past weekend (21-22 Jan), I went back out to Cushing to see how the tunnel time 'took'. On my
first jump (AFF L5), I didn't pass but my instructor said I was flying better than he had ever seen me
fly before. On the second jump I passed and got cleared to L6. Considering that it took me nearly
40 jumps to pass L4, I think this is a great improvement. So I am happy that I did the tunnel time.

Some general observations about SVAZ:

- It is still something of a work-in-progress. The flying part works just fine, but the building is still
being completed. While I was there, electricians were stringing conduit and hanging lights on the
outside of the building, and as I mentioned, the permanent office/support building is still under
construction. There are heaters in the ceiling of the antechamber; some of them are mounted to
structural I-beams but others are mounted on about 2" square tubing and it looked very much like
one of these had vibrated loose and swung by its cable at some point. It didn't fit exactly flush
on the tubing and there was a carbon mark by the cable entry.

- The outside wall of the tunnel has a couple of sets of big louvers that open inward. I thought they
might be for summer ventilation, but I was told they are for safety - if the side of the chamber breaks
or the doors come open while the fans are on, it could conceivably damage the outer walls - the louvers
provide sort of a pressure relief until the fans can be shut down.

- The control console is a mix of mechanical controls and gauges and a (PC?) monitor. The 'speed'
indicator on the monitor always said 98 or 99 mph, even when the tunnel was clearly being throttled
over a wide range of speeds. I think someone said that this was a known problem with that indicator.

- There is a monitor in the control room, visible from the flight chamber, which shows a countdown of
your time, or "ENTER" and "EXIT". It can also display things like "ARCH" but I didn't see that used very
much, probably because the people in the tunnel aren't always looking right at it. There are also strobe
lights to let you know when your time is up.

Some comparisons between SVAZ and L1/AAC. I have had 30 minutes of tunnel time in each one
and I am by no means an expert, but here goes.

- For someone who's never flown in the tunnel before, I think the enclosed-type tunnel is probably
a little better. If you drift too far from the center, you hit a wall and can push off of it back into the
center and resume flying sooner. In an open tunnel, you fall off into the net and have to get back
on the air, which takes time. I know this will not settle the debate on this topic. :)

- For someone who's flown enough to be able to stay in the center on their own, I think the open-air
tunnel is better. If nothing else, the view while flying is a hell of a lot better. Advanced flyers may
be able to get more altitude in an open tunnel, because there aren't any fans in the way.

- I don't know if I have enough experience to judge, but both tunnels seemed to have enough power
for the simple kinds of flying I am doing. The flow seems even all across the tunnel in both places.
You can still "fall off the air" in the open-air tunnel, but it's not because the air is not as strong near
the edges - it's because there aren't any walls to keep you right over the air column.

- SVAZ is a lot noisier than L1/AAC. When you're walking around the DZ, you can tell when the
tunnel is operating. From outside, I heard about three components to the noise - the higher-
pitched "lots of air moving through a duct" like you hear with a forced-air furnace, a deeper rumble
that might be the fans, and a whistling sound that I think is coming from the net. In the tunnel, it's
mostly the sound of wind rushing past your ears, plus the whistle. You have to wear earplugs, and
you have to shout at each other in the antechamber - some of this is the earplugs and some of it is
just the ambient noise. Wandering around AAC when it's operating, you mostly hear the "air through
a duct" roaring sound. When you're in it you don't _have_ to wear earplugs. You have to shout if
you're standing on the net right at the edge of the air column, but take a step back and you can
have a nearly normal conversation.

- Despite my gritching about the Web site, it seems like SVAZ is set up to handle a higher level of
traffic than AAC is. This has very little to do with the actual tunnel hardware; it's more of a staffing
level and business process thing. Also, AAC may have changed since I was there in the summer of
2005.

So, that's my overly-long trip report and wise (or wise-ass) observations. If you're still awake, I
hope you enjoyed it. :)

Eule
PLF does not stand for Please Land on Face.

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Good thing I've got time on my hands today. What a post! It's great to hear you thought the tunnel time was a benifit. I think the self confidence you got is probably invaluable...in addition to the air skills. It's great you passed L5 this weekend. Congrats! :)
"We've been looking for the enemy for some time now. We've finally found him. We're surrounded. That simplifies things." CP

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40 jumps to pass L4


:o

Way to stick with it. I don't think I would have had the patience. Congrats on passing, now go get your A!
Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so. --Douglas Adams

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40 jumps to pass L4


:o



Seeing that in isolation, it might be a little misleading. I don't mean that I passed L3 and then took 40
additional jumps to pass L4. 40 jumps was about what it took from my very first jump to passing L4.

Quote

I don't think I would have had the patience.



I can be really hard-headed when I want to be. :) In fall 2005 I was determined to jump my way through
it, to the degree that I was somewhat resisting going to the tunnel. Finally I decided to stop being hard-
headed about it and get some more tunnel time.

Quote

Congrats on passing, now go get your A!



When I had 10 or 15 jumps and it was becoming clear that I was a problem child, I used to joke that if
USPA passed out licenses solely by jump numbers, I'd graduate AFF and get my A on the same day.
Now I'm going for my B. :)

Eule
PLF does not stand for Please Land on Face.

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Can you please give me some info about the "bunk house" as far as the difference in price and "conveniences" from the motels. What does the bunkhouse furnish or what would you bring next time? Is it clean, much noise, lockable for your stuff -- and so forth. There will be three of us flying in to Phoneix and renting a car in April for the "5 day camp" and I'm not sure if we should do a motel or ???? The camp starts on Wendsday but we will arrive on Sunday and may try to get into the tunnel a little early so anyone else have any idea's / info or suggestions, please post, as this is our first time going there. (crap, did I say "first"?)

Thanks for the help

Steve M
>^..^<
for me -- SkyDiving is a life sentence -- for it has saved my life.

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Can you please give me some info about the "bunk house" as far as the difference in price and "conveniences" from the motels. What does the bunkhouse furnish or what would you bring next time? Is it clean, much noise, lockable for your stuff -- and so forth.


The bunkhouse is $8.00 per night and includes bedding. You just need to ask for it when you check in.
It is 3 rooms with 10 bunks each. Each bunk has a curtain for privacy and a small light inside.
The common room has a table, chairs, dry storage, cold storage,microwave, TV,VCR and DVD player. Each bunk has a corresponding locker for stowing gear.
The bunkhouse is clean and has a housekeeper that checks the rooms daily. It is relatively quiet.
It does not contain latrines or showers, but the shower house is directly across from the bunk house.
For additional information or reservations contact the manifest office.
jump@skydiveaz.com








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Can you please give me some info about the "bunk house" as far
as the difference in price and "conveniences" from the motels.



Betsy gave the basic info. When I was there, the common room was a
little messy but nothing worse than I've seen around my home DZ after
we've had lunch and dinner on the same table. The sleeping areas were
very clean. The lockers are around 2' wide by 3' tall by about 2' deep
(about 60x90x60 cm). You could easily put two rigs in one and probably
three. When you check in, you get a pillow, sheets, and blanket. In
the room I was in, the bunks were two high, and each one has a curtain
that can be drawn all the way across the bunk. There were fold-out
shelves along the walls you could put your stuff on. I _think_ there
was a socket or two to charge your phone or whatever in the bunk room;
I know there were sockets in the common room. When you check in,
you need to put down $50 cash as a deposit on the linens, which you
get back when you return the stuff in good order. Check-in is at
manifest, so as I said, you need to do it while manifest is open.
There is a little window that is just for getting on loads, and a door to
a long counter where all the other manifest business (like bunk
check-in) takes place - it'll make more sense when you see it. The
bunkhouse was pretty quiet when I was there. You do have to go
outside and walk about 30 feet to the building the bathrooms are in -
it has toilets, sinks, showers, and washers and dryers. You get a key
to your locker and to the bunk house - the door seems to always be
locked, so only people who are staying in the bunk house "should" be
able to get in.

As far as hotel vs. bunkhouse - that's pretty much up to you. One nice
thing about the bunkhouse is that it's right at the DZ and there is no law
against drunk walking to get home at night. :) All of the motels are at
least a couple of miles away from the DZ. There are several chain
motels including Days Inn and Motel 6. If you do get a motel, I would
recommend making a reservation as soon as your plans are firm, so
you don't get caught out like I did.

What to bring? I brought a sleeping bag and a pillow which I didn't
really need. There are little battery lights in the bunks, but I also had
a keychain flashlight that came in handy. There are lights in the bunk
rooms, but it's kinda rude to turn them on late at night IMHO. The
lights are on timers, so they will eventually turn themselves off. If I
was going to be there longer than a day or two, I would have bought
some groceries and used the refrigerator and microwave. If I did this
I'd probably go shopping in Casa Grande, a few miles north, which
seems to have a better variety of stores. For communications, cell
phones seems to work fine, plus there is a pay phone. There is an
Internet cafe, or (pay) wireless Internet.

Random other things... The tunnel is maybe a quarter mile away from
the "main" dropzone area. (I think I read on this forum that this lets
the tunnel be on a cheaper electric grid.) It's an easy walk, but you
can't stroll out of the bunkhouse at 9:00 for 9:05 tunnel time. There
is some parking over by the tunnel so you can drive over there - just
watch out for canopies! Driving down from Phoenix is fairly easy -
during non-rush-hour it takes around an hour to 75 minutes to get
from Phoenix airport to Eloy. During rush hour, allow more like 90 to
115 minutes. I had a 9 AM flight out, so I wanted to get to the airport
at 8 AM, so I left Eloy at 6:30 AM, which was about right. When I got
close to Phoenix, it took me about 30 minutes to go the last 10 miles
to the airport.

I hope this helps! If you have more questions either reply back here
or PM.

Eule
PLF does not stand for Please Land on Face.

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im looking forward to my trip there as well...

going from the 19th to the 26th...already booked our tunnel time...i think its about 10 of us going...should be GOOD TIMES...

im more amped that ill be getting coaching from jeff provenzano...a world class swooper among other things...

ahhhh...eloy i dream about you!

just cant wait..
--------------------------------------------
www.facebook.com/agentlead

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im more amped that ill be getting coaching from jeff provenzano...a world class swooper among other things.....



funny comment in a tunnel thread - must,,,,,resist.....smart ass...... response.....AAAGGGGGHHH

...
Driving is a one dimensional activity - a monkey can do it - being proud of your driving abilities is like being proud of being able to put on pants

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I did the wind tunnel at Eloy a few days ago. For a complete noobie like me it was a great experience. I learned to fly like supa-man... Being all alone is a lot different than going tandem, and it gave me an appreciation for the poor guy that jumped with me (dimi) and how hard he must have been working to keep us stable. ;) It is a much better way to learn than on-the-jump training.

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im new to the tunnel forum so correct me if i say something wrong..


tunnel and
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a world class swooper among other things.....

I think that was the point...

Don't think he swooped in the tunnel... YET... :)

When you see Jeffro, say hi to him from Fish. And a big kiss to Roberta.
scissors beat paper, paper beat rock, rock beat wingsuit - KarlM

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im more amped that ill be getting coaching from jeff provenzano...a world class swooper among other things.....



funny comment in a tunnel thread - must,,,,,resist.....smart ass...... response.....AAAGGGGGHHH



Why, exactly, do you feel the need to make a smart ass remark about his mentioning Jeffro?

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