ANOTHER early morning morning…Chris Gay, Chris Warnock, Justin Shorb, Scotty Burns, and myself opened the dropzone for the third morning in a row. Sunrises are beautiful here, but I think I’ve see enough of em’ for a while.
Chris Warnock tests out the Sony MC1 camcorder.
Chris Gay and his team do two-way drills.
Loads were running about the same as yesterday. I’m not sure why they’re slow, but I can’t imagine the amount of fuel burned on the ground. The load is manifested, the people are ready to load, props are spinning…..plane gets half-loaded, and then sits. This morning, it took approximately 10 minutes to switch out one slot. In other words, the plane ran hot for 10 mins on the ground to swap out a 25.00 jump ticket. It’s perplexing because everything else seems to run like clockwork around this particular DZ. Well…except for the internet….It still isn’t up, but my Blackberry tethers very nicely with my laptop.
Scotty Burn is pressed into service as a load organizer.
Loads are all full, we’ve put up a couple wingsuit-only loads. Spirits are high and so are the temperatures. Winds are gentle and breezy, clouds for photos are very cooperative, and the landing area soft. Lots of barefoot jumps today.
Kip works with a group of AFFI candidates.
Load Eight, I went out with Andreea to shoot vid of her first backfly jump. She also had her first “poop” exit (ask any wingsuiter, they’ll explain). She exited well, lost stability, and then flew on her back for a good minute before potato-chipping to the point it threw her like a Gravitron, head down and into a beautiful series of flat spins. She lost altitude like a sieve loses water….FAST. I couldn’t keep up with her entire drop. She tracked out of the flat spin very nicely (BTW, balling up is the last thing you want to do in a flat spin, not the first). She had been balled up several times, but the track is what brought her out of the spin, and she was flying beautifully again by 5K.
The tenth load was fun; we were jammed cheek to cheek. Purple Mike didn’t observe the DZ rule about booties-on before loading, and he put his feet up on someone’s knee. I found myself staring at a size 10 shoe. As soon as the seatbelts came off, one of Mike’s shoes mysteriously found itself tied to a seatbelt. Of course, then he couldn’t move his foot around, and he was attacked by hordes of fingertips pulling out the short n’ curlies on his leg. Andreea’s hook knife came in nicely here.
Wingsuiters boarding the aircraft.
Mike got his revenge; no one in his wingsuit group made it back to the DZ, landing in the golfcourse neighborhood instead. The DZ sent a truck out to pick em’ up.
Justin worked with Skittles and his slow wingsuit turns, it was a fun jump to be a part of. “Skittles” has an interesting name, by the way. He got it because:
A-he always has a bag of Skittles nearby
B-After chugging one too many beers, he spewed a bellyful of Skittles all over the ground at Skydive Chicago.
He was pretty zoomy all over the sky, but the kid has enthusiasm and drive. He’ll do well.
Next jump of the day, Scotty, Justin, Jeff, and Purple Mike set out to do some backflying for a video project we have under way. What a great jump! You can see Justin’s ear to ear grin in this photo.
Not to be outdone, Purple Mike, Andreea, and I did the same thing, albeit less gracefully. We had a blast on this jump as well. It was the sunset load. I’ll publically tell the “Dumbshit of the day story here…”
I was last out, and planned to shoot vid of Doug (and everyone else) exit. They exited, and I leaned out in the door for a second to shoot the exit, and then realized in that moment, I’d chosen to not bring my camera helmet on this jump. I just wanted a fun jump after so many work jumps over the weeks. I began laughing so hard I literally fell from the door, and could barely make it to the “formation” because of my bad case of the giggles.
Mike flopped over onto his back and I docked on his right side. Andreea made it there after a couple of attempts, one of which caused Mike and I to lose our dock. I docked on Mike again, and Andreea made it in there. However, the dock fumbled after roughly five seconds, and I decided I’d had enough. I took off like a rocket, and began doing barrel rolls (bad idea #1, because we had only decided that I would be “everywhere” in the sky, but we didn’t discuss barrel rolls.) Scotty came down to film me doing barrel rolls and backflying.
Bad idea#2 came when I popped out of a back to back barrel roll in a bit of a spin and off heading, and couldn’t see Scotty. Oops…Let’s look around on our back for Scotty….and I see him deploying well above me. Scotty rarely pulls really high, so I looked at my altimeter. And immediately rolled over and pitched, being under canopy by around 1700 or so. I know…for some guys this isn’t a big deal but for me, and me in a wingsuit…I like being under my main not later than 2100.
I realized that I’d been counting on my audible, and that’s a bad idea. Complacency can kill, and more importantly, dependency on a device is stupid. Granted, I was on my back, but that’s no excuse for loss of altitude awareness. I have my own punishment, but damn….this doesn’t happen to me. It was my 1401 jump, and I can honestly say I haven’t gone low for even 1% of my jumps. It didn’t feel low, and I wasn’t worried, it’s that I’d violated my own “norm.” Either way, it heightened my awareness, and humbled me a little. Given that we’ve lost three very experienced members of our community in the past three days, it’s been said a lot, “If it could happen to _______, then it can happen to anyone.”
All that said, we retired to the video room to debrief Scotty’s video, spend a little face-time with Norman and Nicole Kent, and tip a few Corona’s before having a final dinner with Paul and Elana before they left Sebastian for points north. Elana’s sparkling eyes and Paul’s cheerful smile will be missed….
The Mandarin dinner was good food but offered terrific company and was a great send-off for these two wonderful people.
Until tomorrow, good night, and may your tomorrow be filled with blues and puffies…
Rook flies the sunset load