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  1. I witnessed another incident.... It was about 3 years ago. Two tandem instructors, each with video were falling. Each fell to one side of a 757 (I think it was a 757, could have been a 737) with not much room to spare. Each had video of the other falling past the plane. It was a show! I know because I was on that load and out just before these two jumpers, and saw the plane below me. I believe it was logged with the FAA as ATC or pilot error as the jump plane did make all the appropriate calls prior to jump run, as always at this DZ. The problem is, the most common free fall areas to the drop zone where I witnessed this incident are right the middle of a very common commercial airline decent glide path to an international airport into a very large city. Usually in this area ATC diverts the airliners once they know a jump plane is in the air and jump run is getting ready to commence, but as in this case....and others.... there is a factor that can only be defined as human. Imagine the tragedy, not just to the human lives, but to our sport as a whole if one of us brought down a commercial airliner because of a collision, weather it was our fault or not. You can look all you want before you jump, but if a commercial airliner is approaching at speed from behind your jump plane, at three thousand feet below you, you may not see it until it is either too late, or it makes a very cool but scary video. I really think that the commercial traffic could be diverted, as a rule, around any DZ during daylight hours or posted jump hours, and not just when “jumpers are in the air.”. It is only prudent and really would not be that hard to accomplish. Is this something USPA can lobby for? Am I off base here?
  2. Exited at 1800ft (because clouds made us come back down from altitude and I REALLY wanted to get a jump in) from a 182. Tossed my pilot too soon, only to have it hang up on my heel. Got it kicked off, main deployed in a severe snivel with me pumping up and down on my rear risers as I passed through 800 feet. It finally caught full air shortly there after, I executed one turn and landed right in front of manifest. A few spectators thought it was amazing. Those who knew better thought is was STUPID.
  3. Yonatan and CK Family: I am crushed! I just found out about Sara. As most of you know I am in Afghanistan now and getting info can be slow. I am very sorry for the loss. Sara was a wonderful young woman and was always ready to flash a smile. That and her personality were her best feature. Hang in there you guys. TJ
  4. [could have been a lutz story] What is a lutz story?
  5. Please excuse my ignorance but can you give further information on a Collins system? Is that a Skyhook? Sorry if I missed it in another thread
  6. Thanks to all for your replies. I will continue to monitor for more information but for now I believe I will take Billvon's advise and stay hooked to the RSL and be aware when after successful deployment of the main when it might be a good idea to pull the quick release (as I have been taught). One question though. Will a partially cut away main with one riser not released (especially the non RSL side) cause the RSL to pull the reserve out of the container. God, I think I am going to take a riggers class just for the safety exercise! Thanks again to all! TJ
  7. As a relative newbie with only 3 years in the sport and just over 350 jumps I have a question about my RSL (which is still installed on my rig) and the 1-2 quick cut and pull technique. I am IN NO WAY second guessing the decisions made by this jumper during his malfunction as I was not there, in his rig, faced with the same situation. I need a sanity check on my thought process from some of you that have been doing this for many years with thousands of jumps. I have deployed my reserve due to a pilot chute in tow mal and my biggest concern as I pulled that reserve handle is that the reserve pilot chute would get hung up I the pilot chute in tow. I have never had a cutaway main followed by reserve deployment. I have heard all of the arguments for and against an RSL. This is the third time I have heard of a main riser not clearing the rig after cutaway and the reserve wrapping around the main leading a failure of either chute to fully inflate. I like to think myself situationally aware person (and having been trained and to be so under stressful environments and experienced those environments). In this situation, assuming an AAD is in use, and altitude allows (I habitually pull above 4,000 ft.) it seems to me that locating your reserve handle, cutting away, checking over your shoulder to make sure your main is clear and both risers have released (if not making sure cutaway handle and cables are completely clear and, releasing with hand(s) or knife if necessary/possible), then going for the reserve, is a good course of action. I remember being taught: Locate the reserve handle, cutaway, arch, pull. This sequence is not a quick “1-2 pull” but that is all I have been practicing in the plane and on the ground and all I really see others practicing. I think it is time to ditch the RSL on my rig and begin a different practice procedure for cutaway/reserve deployment. Feed me back please! Thanks TJ
  8. It is now an official tradition for me to travel to south Florida and get some warm weather skydives in during February. Being military and stationed in the Washington-Baltimore for the last three years, by the time February rolls around, I must have jumps where I don’t have to wear polar fleece and I can feel my fingers in the toggles after deployment. I always have the same plan: Fly in to Orlando and rent a car, then drive around and visit a few drop zones. My first stop the last 2 years has been Skydive Space Center and even with the best-laid plans, I have not made it out of Titusville. The DZ, accommodations, facilities, but most importantly the people at that DZ are awesome! I will venture out further someday but I just keep having so much fun at Skydive Space Center Facility: The airport is a light use, general aviation airport and most of the non-jump plane traffic is from small single engine airplanes and ultra-lights. The packing area is adequate and I have never seen a shortage of packers for lazy bums like me. In fact, during my last trip, the packers made sure I was on every load for my last 2 days. Sweet! Five dollars a pack and if you don’t tip for nice openings then bad JuJu on you. There is a nice mock-up for practicing exits and plenty of room to dirt dive. There is a kitchen facility where lunch is served almost daily and other snacks are available on demand. The loft if full service and there to help. I know this because for some reason I have gear issues whenever I get to Titusville. As minor as my issues may be, Kristin who is the Senior Rigger and is also kept very busy as a camera flyer, has always been there to help. I can read her mind though… “God here comes T.J. again. I bet he wants me to tie his shoes this time…..” A small grand stand and picnic tables overlook the landing area and there is usually a few locals checking things out. For those who dare, there is a very small swoop pond in front of the old lobby area (laugh Gregg, it’s a joke). No swooping the pond! The location of the DZ is 45 minutes from Orlando, 15 minuets from the Kennedy Space Flight Center and Cocoa Beach. Although you can no longer jump during shuttle launches, when timed right, you can still jump during other missile launches. Quite a sight! Oh, by the way, although I am a free flyer I noticed that there were regular R/W loads being organized by DZ organizer and other belly flyers. Landing Area: I suggest you pull high your first couple of jumps. There are plenty of outs but they can be elusive unless you are familiar with the area. Anyone who jumps there will be glad to point them out so please do not be afraid to ask. There is a small landing area in front of the hanger but you must have at least 1000 jumps to land in that area and remember, tandems get the right of way (Don’t even think of landing there if you can’t beat a tandem to the ground). Your very best bet is the huge landing area on the other side of the main runway. There is a grass runway so stay clear of it. It is used often and as always planes have the right away on taxiways and runways (and in the air unless you have a death wish). Left-hand patterns are the norm. Planes: Un-fuc***** believable. There are 2 King-Air’s with upgraded engines. These are some bad mo-fo’s. They can get you to altitude (15,000 is standard, 18,000 is a little extra) in about 7 minutes (8-9 min to 18K). Never had the pleasure of riding in Mike Mullins’ King-Air but from what I understand these two are at least as fast and maybe faster. Be ready to exit when you get on the plane and start your gear check early. Before you know it the green light is on. BONUS- If you have a non-jumper in your party, for a minimal fee the DZ will allow them to ride along. I understand the ride down is thrilling. The DZ has also just acquired a Cessna that they are in the process of making jump ready with brand new engine that promises to climb like a cat on fire to allow smaller loads on slow days the opportunity to jump. (Sorry PETA but that is a great visual….. a flaming cat flying to jump altitude with 6 jumpers clinging on it’s back for dear life…I am so retarded I crack myself up). Bunkhouse: What a great place to stay. Your slot (space available) is free as long as you are jumping at the DZ. It is located less than ½ mile from the DZ and includes showers, full kitchen, TV and lounge area, and a screened in porch and all the funny smells of a bunkhouse. If you are not some whacked out, anti-social, scab of a person, you will like staying there. First, it’s free so the price is right. Second, the house brings all the visiting jumpers from all over the world to one place to socialize (who am I kidding, skydivers are reading this… PLAN TO FUC**** PARTY). On both trips I made friends that I am still in touch with. Linens are provided (please do your laundry or make arrangements before you leave). There are plenty of restaurants a short drive away (all different flavors). There is even wireless internet access. (Yea, internet porn…uh…did I say that?) Yes I did….BONUS! Buying a few sundries while you stay or upon your departure is always appreciated (paper towels, toilet paper, condoms, ect..) but not conditional of your FREE stay at the FREE bunkhouse (read between the line Sparky). Weather: Weather is the best reason to come to Florida in February and is obvious to everyone. However, there is a phenomenon that goes on there sometimes that is worth mentioning. When the steely-eyed missile men at NASA were looking for a suitable place to hurl missiles into space I believe they picked Cape Canaveral for a reason. I have seen soup in the skies over Orlando and blue skies over Titusville and the Cape. Strange but true but sometimes the clouds just can’t make it to the coast. Good for launching rockets and jumping out of planes. People: The people are the core of any DZ and are responsible for the vibe. The vibe at SSC is great. I read one review that described “cliques” being the norm there. Well, if there are any cliques there then I am way more cool that I thought I was. I was accepted into every. Everyone made me feel comfortable from day one. Greg, the DZO, shares my infinite love for all things that fly. I really enjoyed talking to him and he seemed to bend over backwards to accommodate jumpers. On more than one occasion I have seen him put up two planes for sunset loads because jumpers were still trying to get packed. I know I am going to forget someone and/or get a name wrong so forgive me now, but the other characters in the cast include (but not limited to): Snorre: The pilot. This is one great guy and a regular at the dinner on the town nights. I have family in South Florida and this man offered to fly me down (in his own plane for a break-even fee), so that I might pick them up to have fun and visit the DZ. What a nice gesture. His spots are great. I never had a problem making it back to the DZ and never saw anyone land off while I was there. Kristin: The previously mentioned rigger and camera flyer. She and her husband Mark Griffon own Griffon Rigging. Need advise about gear? Have a question? Ask them. We spent about an hour one day (while Kristin fixed yet another piece of my freefly suit) discussing my next rig I am planning to purchase. Mark’s side job is at NASA (kidding Mike). It was a blast talking to you Mike and the package we talked about in on the way. Kristin… thanks to you and April for making feel so sexy when measuring me for my rig. Can we take that one measurement again please??? Carolynn: This nice young lady is the packer wrangler (besides being a full time schoolteacher). She always made sure I had nice soft openings, was packed for every load I manifested for, and even let me demo her new canopy. What more could you ask. I owe you one babe…. You name it. Mike X.: The first dude I met on the drop zone last year. Very cool. He gave me my DZ orientation and gear check. After going over my rig, he handed it to me and told me I could not jump it. I was stunned. New gear with a recent reserve re-pack and Cypress…what gives? “Well TJ”, he said laughing, “That is the ugliest rig I have ever seen and we do have standards here….are you color blind or something?” I laughed and assured him I would be able to tell the difference between the red and green light next to the jump door. The best advise he gave me, first jump pull high, enjoy the view and identify the outs we talked about. Sorry to see your heading home soon. Like I said, stop by X-Kyes and let’s jump before you make your run for the border. Mark (“All you have to do is ask and I’ll do a tube jump”). He is the master of the bunkhouse and in charge of a group of juvenile delinquents most nights (I am not talking about skydivers, these are real live little troublemakers that society is expecting a skydiver to have a positive influence in their rehabilitation… Good luck!) Mark C: Tandem master and A&P mechanic. Also shares a love of flying machines. He is funny as hell on the way to altitude keeping his students at ease. Dean: AFF/Coach and Tandem Master. This man is one of the premier skydiving still photographers in the world. If you read Parachutist or Skydiving magazines you have seen his stuff. Very cool dude, not standoffish at all and was willing to answer any question I ever had. Who owes beer? I think was my most asked. Kenny: A true steely-eyed missile man over at NASA. I was very impressed with the dedication this man had for his son (he is a single Dad). It is obvious he and his TEENAGE SON have so much fun just spending time together. I have teenage daughter and I was jealous. Kenny is the DZ Daddy-O. He packs, he opens and closes the facility, and generally makes sure the ground ops run good. Fabian: A world class freeflyer, load organizer, and instructor but most of all world class person. He is always smiling and his laugh is infections. He always makes sure everyone who wants to be is included on a jump. Thanks for everything you taught me! Phillip: Again, another one of the world class Thanks for understanding when I kept calling the other visiting Austrians “Germans” I hope I made up for it by allowing them to call me a Canadian for a day. (Easy there Mike X, you can get me back when you stop at X-Keys and make a couple jumps with me on your way back home). Every time I jumped with Phillip I learned something. Adrian: Another world class freeflyer. The first time we jumped together last year he told me I dropped like a valadi-ball. I said “valadi-what”. I was just learning head down a year ago but he jumped with me more than once and I accomplished my first hand dock with him. What did he have to say to that? BEER! We all have our priorities. Adrian is not employed by the DZ but will always help come up with something fun like leading a tracking dive, a hybrid or whatever. It is always a bonus for him when there is someone doing it for the first time. BEER! Noah: Another fun jumper. I mention him because he is always up to jump! If you are new to the DZ and meet Noah it will most likely be because he said to you “What are you doing this jump?…..Cool I’m in” This attitude is popular at this DZ. This is why I don’t understand the post about the cliques. OK all my new friends at SSC. I am raising my beer to toast all of you ( - this is me making eye contact while we toast… Hummm that really kinda looks like me after margarita Sunday at the bunkhouse) Thanks for a great time and thanks for making me feel instantly at home upon my arrival and throughout my stay. I will see you all soon. I have to get down one more time before Uncle Sammy sends me to play in the sand for awhile. Blue Skies, TJ
  9. Raff was a special guy. I just met him a couple of months but we bonded right away. He helped me introduce my buddy Rick to skydiving. And when early this season Rick got hung up in a tree on his very first jump, he stood under that tree for 2 1/2 hours with John and me while the fire department roped him down. Not one negative thing was said. It was always encouraging and constructive. Thanks to Raff, Rick was fired up and ready to jump again the next weekend. He jumped twice more with him and was scheduled for another on Monday. I informed Rick of the news this evening. He is crushed. I am jealous of Rick, he got to jump with him. Raff and I kept on saying “next load I/you don’t have a student, it’s on!” Never happened, he always had a student. SFC (Ret.) Paul Rafferty was also a comrade in arms, a fellow member of the Army, a band of brothers. Not long after we me he kidded me about my leaving the enlisted ranks as a Staff Sergeant and going to Officer Candidate School. "Hey TJ". Yeah, what's up Raff?" "Did it hurt?" he asked with that toothy grin and those eyes that smiled. "What's that Raff"? "The frontal lobotomy they gave you in officer training?” I had to laugh because he was right. Raff had an exiting and rewarding career in the Army. I know this because he told me, and his eyes smiled when he talked about it. But even more when he discussed his plans for retirement. I never got to give him the 175th Infantry battalion coin I promised him for.... well, I guess for just being himself with Rick when he up in that tree.. Challenge coin? For the non mil-spec folks it is a silly trinket that really means a lot to those of us in boots. There are thousands of different challenge coins out there, just like there are skydivers, but there are a few that are really rare, just like Raff. The one I had for Raff I kept on forgetting to put in my gear bag. I would still like to get it to him and I shall. To a man of substance, passion, kindness, and honor I say farewell. I will miss you every day at the DZ. The blues skies of all must be those in Heaven. Don’t forget to PLF when you get there. TJ Captain T.J. Sullins Commander Company C, 1-175th Infantry