UNDERSTANDING TURBULENCE for sUAS

 

Image result for drone crash, buildingAs sUAV/drones become more and more popular, it seems that more and more of them are striking the sides of buildings, trees, or poles without the pilot understanding why.
“It was flying fine and all of a sudden it zipped up and into the side of the building.” “Everything was great until the drone had a mind of its own and flew straight to the ground.”
“The drone was flying over the trees and all of a sudden it spun around and dropped into the trees.”

Reading forum conversations around the internet suggests this is a common, yet unfortunate and avoidable experience.

First, let’s establish that flying in GPS mode may be ineffective when very close to a building. Signal may be lost, and this could explain a few of the building strikes.

However, far and away more likely in most instances the UAV was caught in a “rotor.” These are also known as up/down drafts, lee waves, or cross-winds, depending on which aviation discipline one adheres to. Needless to say, these phenomenon do exist, and play havoc with any sort of aerial activity whether it’s wingsuiting, parasailing, skydiving, model aircraft flight, swooping, small aircraft, and particularly light-weight multirotors.

Image result for wind turbulence map
These “waves” are indicators for manned aviation and construction crews, yet the principle is
only a matter of scale.

Even when a manufacturer provides a statement of stability in “X” winds, this should not fool a pilot into thinking that the sUAS is turbulence-resistant. Given enough turbulence or infrequency of a wave, the UAV will become unstable.

It’s always better to be down here wishing we were up there, instead of being up there wishing we were down here.

The first rule is to set wind limits. Small quad-craft should stay on the ground at windspeeds of greater than 12mph/5.5 meters per second. Hexcopters should consider grounding themselves at 22mph/10meters per second. Of course, this figure may vary depending on your organizations policy and procedures manual, insurance requirements, or payload on the sUAS.

This video provides some demonstration of the cycle of the wave and how a gyro and accelerometer might cope with the cycles. Notice how all the aircraft are “cycling” in an attempt to maintain altitude and position, even as the waves of the wind rotate?

Truly, knowing about them is half the battle. Staying away from them is the rest of it. Failing the former, being able to manage the craft in turbulence is the next-best step.

A building blocks the wind on one side (windward side) and on the opposite side (leeward side) the wind will pay all sorts of havoc with any flying object. Winds will extend in distance up to four times the height of the obstacle, and two times the actual height.

Understanding Turbulence 2

40×4=160 feet. Therefore, for 160’ beyond the obstacle at ground level, your multirotor is at risk for catching either a down draft or an updraft.

Huh?

OK, say there is a building that is 40 feet in height, and you have a medium wind blowing. Gusting or steady, it makes no difference.

40×4=160 feet. Therefore, for 160’ beyond the obstacle at ground level, your multirotor is at risk for catching either a down draft or an updraft. Either way, the airframe/hull is not in clean air. In extremely high velocities (high winds) the ratio of obstacle/distance may be as great as 15X (of course, a UAS would likely not fly in these winds)!

In terms of height, depending on wind velocity, the UAV may have to climb as high as 80’ to find clean air above an obstacle. yet at 80′ AGL, the winds are likely entirely different as well, depending on the weather and other obstacles in the area.

The air goes over the obstacle and is “pulled” to the ground (downdraft), where it then “bounces” upward (updraft) and tries to resume its level flow.

These phenomena are entirely independent of  sinks,thermal rises, dust devils, and the like.

This also occurs in natural/unbuilt up areas. Trees, canyons, ridges, rock-lines; any large object will incur rotors. Avoid them. It’s virtually impossible to determine exactly where the down draft vs. the updraft may be occurring, and the location of these dirty winds will change with swind velocity.

Understanding-Turbulence-3

FLYING IN URBAN ENVIRONMENTS

When wind flows between buildings, the mass of the air/gas is compressed. This results in an increase in velocity. Think of squeezing hard on a tube of toothpaste, compressing the contents through the tiny hole in the end of the tube. This increases the speed/velocity at which the toothpaste squeezes out. The same thing occurs with moving air between buildings or other solid objects.

Depending on the wind speed, the increase may require as much as 4-10 times the distance before the winds return to “normal” velocity seen before the gap or corner.

Image result for Wind
Image courtesy of Rheologic

Ground winds and winds “aloft” (true winds aloft are beyond the reach of most UAS operations) are rarely equal. Winds at 50′ are rarely the same as winds at ground level in an urban or suburban environment.  Even small berms in the ground can cause jarring turbulence (as shown above) that settle in the low areas. These urban “microclimates” can be very problematic for light weight UAS in required-precision environments.

Turbulence

Here is a more complex example of winds blowing at 22mph in an urban environment.

Complex Winds.JPG

complex winds 2

Compression of the flow due to building dynamics push the wind into more than 40mph in some areas. While the overall winds, and reported winds in the area suggest that the windspeed is perfectly acceptable for most commercial aircraft, turbulence and accelerated velocities within tight areas are far beyond the risk limits of most small UAS’.

Flying from warm sands to flying over water on a hot summer day may also create challenges to smooth and level flight.

DUST DEVILSImage result for dust devil

Dust devils are summertime phenomena that can be very dangerous to humans anywhere a UAS may be flying. If they happen in a city, there is usually ample evidence of their existence, as debris flies high in the “funnel.” These nasty actors can show up anywhere there is hot asphalt, sand, dirt, and if that mass of rapidly moving air connects with a cool surface, they can turn violent very quickly, slinging a sUAS far from its intended flight path.
Image result for dust devil Image result for dust devil

Dust devils in the Nevada desert can be frightening, especially when two or three combine into one vortex.

If by chance a dust devil is seen climbing in the distance, prepare to bring the aircraft home and land. If the dust devil is anywhere near the vehicle, climb in altitude while moving in any direction away from the dust devil. They are usually very short-lived.

Image result for dust devilImage courtesy Washington Post

How do we avoid getting caught in turbulent air? The long answer is “experience.” Flying in these challenging spaces teaches us to find the lee, based on the behavior of the UAS, which will always be slightly latent to the wind.
The short answer is to study environments. Look at the wind indicators that might normally be missed.  Learn to read the environment; it’s not hard once one begins to look for the details around buildings, trees, brush, monuments, chimneys, and other ground obstacles.

Two standard practices that may save pilots from troubles;

  • Always use a windmeter/anemometer, and check the winds frequently in midday flights.
  • Have a corporate or personal policy of a hard-deck/stop speed.  This eliminates wishy-washy/should I/shouldn’t I decisions in the field.  Our cap for teaching students with a Hexcopter/Yuneec Typhoon H is 16mph. If a gust crosses 16, we immediately stop, and wait it out to determine the wind trendline.

Another practice (although not standard) is to put a 5′ stream of crepe’ paper on a stick at eye level or so. This WDI, or Wind Direction Indicator, will immediately demonstrate changes in windspeed or direction, both clues that the weather may be rapidly shifting.

Determine distances from obstacles as accurately as possible prior to flight in order to best understand where the rotors will occur.  Doing so goes a long way to maintaining control and safety when the drone is in flight. With a bit of experience, one rarely needs to worry about obstacle turbulence.

Happy flights!
~dse

 

 

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Skydive Elsinore Wingsuit School Video Guides

 


Wingsuit training has been a dynamic journey in skydiving for the past decade, with a great deal of spread in how the discpline is taught to new wingsuiters.  At Skydive Elsinore, we’ve developed a wingsuit training mechanism very similar to the AFF program.  Using basics of coaching, coupled with input from John Hamilton, Jay Stokes, “Lob” Lobjoit, Jarno Cordia, Robi Pecnik, and several hundred students in the initial process, we’ve developed functional, consistent methods for wingsuit training.
These videos are what we show to wingsuit students at various levels in the coaching process. There are other videos not shared, we’ll make them available at a later date. 

This article is not intended as wingsuit training. It is intended to inform existing and would-be wingsuit coaches about our methodology. A wingsuit coach is highly recommended, and it is equally recommended that a quality coach be sought out, safety record questioned, and methods explained before hand. A 10 minute first-flight course isn’t training. A proper, complete FFC is going to last a minimum of 45 minutes, with 90 minutes being more common. PLEASE SEEK QUALIFIED COACHING** for a First Flight Course and at least a few post-FFC jumps. This is important for your personal safety, for aircraft safety, and the safety of others. Wingsuiting is different from ‘normal’ freefall due in part to the horizontal component, and the speeds at which we can travel, in addition to deployment differences and the potential for higher speeds if instability occurs. 

Each part of  the jump is broken into smaller chunks of manageable  information, which are then combined to complete the jump. Whether it’s the first flight course or a post-FFC coaching jump, every module is broken down into at least two parts. There are at least two modules to every jump.
Currently we offer 10 levels beginning with the FFC and finishing with an introduction to backflying. Most of the levels are supported with kinesthetic and isometric exercises, not unlike the Skydive University methods taught in the USPA Cat G-H coaching jumps for new skydivers.

FFC’s are broken down into five elements/modules;

  • Exit
  • Navigation (with practice touches)
  • Deployment
  • Clearing the Suit
  • Emergency Procedures

The elements/modules are heavily drilled/practiced on the ground, and supported with pre-jump training video.

Often times, we have would-be wingsuiters with exactly the minimum number of jumps required by the USPA BSR, and they may or may not be current. Our coaches use discretion in training, however, low jump number students are often required to do all FFC ground training and a wingsuit-less wingsuit jump (performing all tasks that they’ll be performing when they don the wingsuit) prior to doing a jump with the wingsuit and continuing training.

This is a pre-FFC training jump. The student fulfills all wingsuit tasks without wearing the wingsuit. The student has already been through the ground portions of the FFC.

EXITS:

Wingsuit students often express fear of the horizontal stabilizer (rightfully so) during the pre-course interview. Exits are drilled until the student can confidently exit the mockup with eyes closed. We spend more time on exits than in any other module of the course, as the setup, launch, flyaway, and horizontal stab avoidance are part of every wingsuit jump in the future, and the only part of the jump that is life-threatening for both the student and pilot (and others that may still be in the aircraft after a wingsuiter exits).
We teach a positive-contact exit method that assures closure of the wing; there can be no mistake. This exit method serves every turbine aircraft with a side door, and we train wingsuiters (on request) to manage 206 and 182 aircraft exits. 

NAVIGATION  (WITH PRACTICE TOUCHES)

(Skydive Elsinore provides wingsuits students with a 90 degree turn from jumprun upon coach request. Not only does this practice offer the student a more straight-on flight path, it also ensures that First-Flight wingsuit students are well off the path of jumprun, preventing proximity with tandems and/or other skydivers in most situations). Practice touches are broken down into four components. Note that waveoffs are part of the practice-touch process; waveoffs should be taught in all First Flight Courses.

DEPLOYMENT:

First Flight Students frequently express trepidation about deployment; getting the parachute out cleanly while wearing large surface areas is daunting for even the most experienced skydiver. We drill deployment procedures to the point that students are able to do them with their eyes closed on the ground.  This builds confidence and muscle memory. Kinesthetic reinforcement is very important in this drill. A waveoff before deployment is required of the student. Some coaches do not teach a wave off, citing that it “might be too much information for new wingsuiters.” This is simply ridiculous. We teach waveoff in the FJC, so if  a first-jump AFF skydiver can wave off, so can a first flight wingsuit student with at least 200 jumps. Ingrain the habit from the start. We also may never see this wingsuiter again after the First Flight Course.

CLEARING THE SUIT:

Clearing the suit does not have a supportive video;  it is fairly straightforward, and takes only a few minutes to teach although this part of the training is also broken down into three parts, then assembled as a whole.

EMERGENCY PROCEDURES

INSTABILITY RECOVERY:
We spend a significant portion of allotted time on instability recovery. Many FFC students have been watching YouTube, reading Dropzone.com, or have heard horror stories about the mythical flatspin (that doesn’t occur with properly taught FFC courses).  They are fearful, and often express fear in the FFC interview process.

When coaching, we do not refer to “flatspins” but rather “instability.”  Old school methods teach to ball up; this presents its own problems as students progress into larger and larger suits. The method we train is effective whether in large or small wingsuit, rather than having one procedure for large suits and one procedure for small suits.  We train on creepers with kinesthetics and isometrics, and the student is well prepared to deal with any instability or rotation that may occur.

LINETWISTS:

Linetwists are a part of the Emergency Procedures module. We offer multiple methods for the beginning wingsuiter. There are other methods available; we’ve found these two methods to be quite effective for the new wingsuiter. 

Linetwists occur in a small percentage of FFC’s. Of course there are other methods for clearing linetwists; we’ve found these methods to be very effective for the newer wingsuiter, without adding to their set of training tasks.

FFC/JUMP ONE

Once the FFC has been successfully completed, we move into rapidly advancing skills and confidence of the FFC student while their confidence is high.
The second jump in the series trains a front float exit with start/coast/stop and forward motion control. We teach this immediately so that students understand various methods of slowing down or “stopping” in the event they may be flying too close or too fast towards another wingsuiter in a group setting. We feel this is the next most-important skillset.

JUMP TWO:

Front Float Exit/Start/Coast/Stop skills.
Student will exit front float (coach in rear) and once relative to coach, the student will perform three tasks prior to deployment. The front float exit is arguably the most safe exit for wingsuiting, and it is taught very early. We also use this exit as an FFC with students that are very tall.

JUMP THREE:


Running/Pivot Exit (for Otters, Caravans, Skyvans, other large door aircraft)
Up/Down fall rate skills (performed with the hips, not head, arms, or legs)

JUMP FOUR:

GAINER EXIT (for Otters, Caravans, Skyvans, other large door aircraft)
This is a “rabbit jump” where the student is no longer base; the Coach acts as a base and provides a stable reference for the student to fly to.
(No Supporting Video)

JUMP FIVE:

Students are prepped for barrel rolls. A Front Float exit is common, but students are given a choice of Running/Pivot or Front Float exits. Gainer Exits are generally not appropriate for barrel roll jumps. The purpose of this jump is as much about instability as it is about performing the barrel rolls.  Students that are able to deal with mild instability are generally prepared for beginning backflying.

JUMP SIX

Baton Passes. Student choice of exit.

JUMP SEVEN

Performance Category jump. Student has two options from which to choose.

JUMP EIGHT

Performance Category jump. Student has two options from which to choose.

JUMP NINE

Performance Category jump. Student has two options from which to choose.

JUMP TEN

Running pivot exit. Student will transition from belly to back, backfly for five seconds, and transition to belly for five seconds. This is an introduction to backflying.

Phoenix-fly and Skydive Elsinore have funded and facilitated the development of the training method.  I’m very grateful to them both for making it possible to develop a program for wingsuiters that is sensible and efficient for cross-training AFFI’s, USPA Coaches, and Wingsuit Coaches.  Wingsuiting is still seen as a discipline similar to freefall, and the dedication to creating better, more consistent training on the part of both groups is inspiring and appreciated.

Coaching helps wingsuit students arrive safely at backflying confidence with the entry-level to flying on their back.
Positive-contact exits work very well, offer great stability, and provide a method that assures there can be no tail strike.

Kinesthetics and isometrics play a big role in coaching at Skydive Elsinore Wingsuit School.

**Jump numbers are not what makes for a “Qualified Coach.”  Manufacturer ratings are a good place to start; There are great coaches without manufacturer ratings and there are terrible coaches with them.  

 


Less Weight, Feels Great

Tonfly is well known for their camera helmets. Designed in Italy, built in Slovakia, their carbon fibre helmet designs are a bit different than everyone else.
When Giovanni Suzzi, president of Tonfly,  offered up an opportunity to review his newest helmets,  I was expecting them in the mail in two separate boxes. When UPS dropped the package at my door, I was certain an error had been made due to the lightness of the single package.  I was shocked to find two helmets inside. These helmets weigh almost nothing, but yet are incredibly strong, solid, and as protective as any skydiving helmet I’ve ever worn. 

“The helmets are made from a tighter carbon fiber weave,” says “Sonic” Bayrasli, exclusive distributor for Tonfly in the USA. “This contributes to a marginally higher cost.”

The 2X and 3X helmets are definitely a unique grade of helmet. The exceptional lightweight means less fatigue at the end of a long day of skydiving. This also allows for a thicker padding inside, thus quieting the helmet more than any helmet of the same class.

Both helmets sport an audible pocket over the right ear, made specifically for the L&B Optima, Solo II, or Protrack devices. This unique pocket allows for external access without crowding the wearer’s head. There is also room for a second audible over the left ear, perfect in size for a Flysight (wingsuiter’s tool)  or other standard size audible.

The ladder-strap chin cup provides for a secure mount. However, I discovered that if the chin cup isn’t reasonably centered in the ladder straps/on the chin, the release catches can easily be knocked loose. Equal tension on both sides of the chincup is fairly important for the most secure fit.  As with earlier models of the Tonfly helmets, the 2X and 3X helmets use a carbon fiber chincup covered with a vanity cup emblazoned with the Tonfly logo. This vanity cup is available in many colors to match any custom color scheme a buyer might come up with.

Speaking of custom… Tonfly offers the 2X and 3X in all sorts of custom colors with logos put in place as designed by a buyer. I asked for some unique logos and color combinations and Tonfly was more than obliging. 

Both helmets are designed for mounting a single camera on top. Neither helmet is designed as a helmet for both video and stills; these are made to be as light as possible. A Zkulls mounting ring is provided on both helmets (optional) along with a molded space for the GetHypoxic HypEye camera controller (optional).  The 3X also provides a debrief port for the HypEye control/debriefing system (optional).  This is very useful for team debriefs, viewing video immediately after a jump where a DV, HDV, or AVCHD camcorder is used and an HDMI cable isn’t available. This also means that the AV connector on the camera won’t need to be disconnected, thus saving wear and tear on the camera connector (a common point of failure).

Two very unique features set the 3X apart from it’s brother; the air pump system that allows the base of the helmet to conform to the wearer’s head, and a “crown” that allows the user to quickly shift the angle of the camera by as much as 15 degrees forward or back.

The air pump system is terrific for wearers with long hair; it makes the helmet ‘feel’ like a full face helmet in the way it contains hair. Those with short hair will appreciate the additional quiet that the custom conformation option provides. It takes 4-5 pumps to make the helmet tight against my head, and I have medium-length hair. The small air release nipple next to the pump provides an instant release of air, but in truth, it’s impossible to make the helmet uncomfortably tight, even with the air pumped as tight as the internal bladder allows.

 The slotted  mounting plate allows users to change the camera angle, albeit not instantly. This is very useful for wingsuit pilots or freeflyers. Wingsuiters will like the ability to shift a camera forward (angled more downward) which allows for easier capture of a formation in a vertical slot, and freeflyers will like the additional angles for flying close in small groups.  Changing the angle of the platform requires a slotted screwdriver and a couple of minutes. It’s very easy. However, the screws are also extremely light weight, so use care when turning them so as to not strip their threads.

As mentioned before, the adjustable camera platform also provides access to the video debrief port found on the HypEye camera control system. On a personal note, I’ve found this feature invaluable not only because it reduces wear/tear on the camera AV port, but also because it allows for a very fast connection to both television and computer monitors (if equipped with a composite input).

Wingsuit students use Tonfly Helmets at Skydive Elsinore
Wingsuit students use Tonfly Helmets at Skydive Elsinore. Each is equipped with a custom-color L&B Optima, courtesy of L&B.

Both helmets share the same chincup and ladder characteristics.

What I don’t like about these helmets:

                The screws that hold the camera platform to the 3X are thin metal and easy to strip. Tonfly could address this by including a couple of extra screws/receivers with each helmet (they’re very difficult to find here in the USA). 

                The ladder straps on both the 3X and the 2X don’t hold as well as their older brothers in the CCM/CC1 realm.

What I do like about these helmets:

                Super comfortable on the head. No pressure points anywhere.

                Extremely lightweight (hence the “X” in their name, perhaps?)

                Very strong. I’ve been knocked in the head by several students, one of them wearing boots sharp enough to chip the paint on the helmet, but I didn’t feel a thing. I was also hit by a newbie wingsuiter hard enough to cost me a battery, lens, and destroyed camera; one can only imagine how much of my skull was protected by this lightweight helmet.

                The fit. I don’t know what Tonfly does exactly, but I appreciate the way this helmet fits. Students often comment on how much they love the fit of the helmet too. Mine is a size 59; it seems to be an average size.

                The camera system on the 3X simply rocks. I love how it works, how it feels when I’m flying, and provides the angle I prefer with wingsuit students.

                Quiet. The 3X is the most quiet helmet I’ve ever jumped.

 

More information:
www.tonfly.com
www.tonfly-usa.com

 

Frosted Flakes vs Not (Leaving Israel)

Seven different hotels in 6 weeks…and at the first one I noted that the breakfast offerings included Frosted Flakes and non-frosted flakes ie; Corn Flakes. Yes, I’m leaving Tel Aviv and Israel for the warmth of NYC, SLC, and ONT. And had some extra time on my hands this morning.

Being a Frosted Flakes kinda guy, I chose to make this an opportunity to observe and learn. During the past five weeks, an intense study on human nature, proclivities for sugar, and the effect on the human spirit has been undertaken. This has been an intense experience, occupying all of at least 3-5 minutes per morning/day. You’re welcome (as your emails and letters have demonstrated appreciation for my efforts).

And the results are….

Travelling people prefer Frosted Flakes almost 2:1 over Corn Flakes.

  • San Francisco-Frosted Flakes all the way…
  • In Toronto, the Frosted Flake tube was nearly empty; the Corn Flakes tube was close to full (The Fruit Loops tube was about half way full).
  • In SLC, the Frosted Flakes tube was so empty that I observed the ritual re-filling while lemmings awaited and anticipated a dispensation of sweetness.
  • Mexico City; no comparison. Zero Cornflakes were gone from the tube, while echo could be somewhat discerned in the Frosted Flakes tube.
  • In Playa Del Carmen,…Frosted Flakes scored significantly higher (more empty tube) than Corn Flakes, Raisin Bran, FrootLoops, or Cheerios (this was a VERY high-end hotel)
  • Los Angeles; The hotel didn’t offer cereal at all (which was very odd and I informed them of such. I was told that they were health-conscious, whatever the hell that means).
  • Last but not least,  Tel Aviv. Here in Tel Aviv, I’ve observed the Frosted Flakes tube either less than half full, or so empty that nothing was there but sugar dust. This morning I was a quarter past annoyed when the last full bowl was taken by this Hassidic guy ahead of me in line.  I mean….what was he THINKING? Milk? Sugar? Corn? Is that *really* kosher or was he just faking it?  Fortunately the manager of the restaurant and I had previously had conversations (as part of my research) and she quickly brought more Frosted Flakes.  The thing was…I’d already filled my plate with egg and bagel. I’ll try for Flakes at lunchtime.
    [the above text is grey because I’m told grey has a studious appearance when grasping  for spurious specifics) 

In conclusion…the process of science and logic deduce there is a child inside specially marked boxes (coupons not redeemable).

Give in to him/her; you know you want to (even you, Hammo).

Embrace him/her.  Have a bowl of Frosted Flakes on occasion. You’ll be happier for it.  I was horribly depressed before I began this trip (typical country song; I had surgery, close friend died, girlfriend left me, too much Oban/not enough sleep, cat hissed at me, dogs pissed at me), I’ve not had a moment of depression since this series of travel has begun. Only today, the first day in a long time that I have not had access to Flakes, have I experienced depression (it may just be a combination of the whitefish, leaving Tel Aviv, and jetlag, too. I’m not certain). The Flakes on the Flight to Tel Aviv were different than the Flakes consumed in the hotels.

Speaking of Frosted Flakes, I can hardly wait to get back to Temecula. Frosted flakes stalk the mall there, and they’re kinda fun to observe on the weekdays.  Jeff Greenberg and I observed a red-headed frosted flake on the beach last night. Definitely coated with artificial sugar; her smile fell off as soon as she thought we weren’t looking, and we were -always- looking until she finally brought our food.

See you soon.

In the meantime, enjoy some Zappa serving “Flakes” with no offense intended to friends in California (special appearance by almost-Bob Dylan).

🙂

P.S. To-da to Ben, Smardar, Michael, Eran, Hector, Tal, Yeran, Avi, and everyone else that made the INPUT-NOW conference so much fun.  See you at IBC.

~d

Recovery road: Revisited

It’s been a while since I updated my blog Facebook and other social media sites tend to have that impact,  I guess.
 Two years ago I was involved in a very bad skydiving accident, which is documented as the Recovery Road series here on WordPress.
There was still a procedure or two that I chose to wait to have done: and then a fall in a small aircraft hastened the necessity to get this work done. Rather than write a lot about this experience.  I chose to document it in video form instead. I recently got my hands on a Sony Bloggie camcorder and found it’s a lot of fun to shoot video with the small camcorder that’s built much like a cell phone.

This is a short documentary account of my MCL/Meniscus/Cartilage procedure and experience. No blood n’ guts, just a drug-influenced host.

This short video was shot with a Sony Bloggie camcorder, and given that I just returned from Mexico and having done a road tour for the new Sony VAIO laptop computer and the Sony Imagination Suite 2 software, I thought it might be fun to see how quickly I could put this video together. I hope you enjoy the video more than I enjoyed the experience of making it.
Only time will tell if the operation procedure was a success, but I’m very excited to get back into the sky as soon as possible.  Thanks for all the letters and e-mails of support.
~d

ReGifting Thanksgifting

Sitting between two Sumo wrestlers from the larger parts of Japan, I’m flying from LAX to SLC to spend this holiday with my familyand friends. It’s uncomfortable as hell, but some things are simply worth the hassle.

This is of course, one of them, but I’m planning on holding my expression of appreciation for the hassle until I’m no longer a head jammed between two separate sets of shoulders. Visualize a bowling ball stuck in a very narrow alleyway, halfway up from the street.

I’m actually grateful for the opportunity to be flying home as I was teaching today until 4:00 and didn’t leave for LAX at 3:00 as planned. A student who’d sworn up and down that she wouldn’t be later than noon showed up at 1:30 and we didn’t get into the sky until 3:00, about the same time I’d meant to leave for LAX.  But…I’m also incredibly grateful for the opportunity to teach.  In fact, it means more to me than ever. I’ll never be a world competitor-level skydiver again, and I’ll never be able to keep up with the twenty-somethings that can kick my ass backwards from Monday. But I do love the thrill of teaching, and will do so until the day I’m wormfodder.

Getting to LAX was stressful (LA traffic is usually about as relaxing as dodging seagull poop bombs falling on a busy pier) and true to form, the hurriedier I go, the behinder I get. The 91 freeway North had an accident. And of course, so did the 110. AND the 105. I needed to be at the airport by 5:30 to catch my flight, and at 6:15 I was pulling into the long-term parking lot. Not a good omen.

I’m grateful to a friend for talking me through the drive and keeping me calm while I was contemplating jumping out of my truck and screaming “I’ve got a temper and I’m not afraid to use it!” and hoping that would clear traffic ahead. That could have begun a bad day… Thankfully, my flight was magically delayed and I got through security just in time to catch the flight, even though it had been delayed by 30 minutes. Glad for the “no baggage” thing.

So back to the two Sumo wrestlers and the unmentioned guy across the aisle….

The gentleman seated across from me is having a discussion with his wife about “regifting” and how horrid it is, “how could anyone do such a thing?” What makes this eavesdropping really uncomfortable is that in order to listen in, I’m practically nose to nipple with the oversized man-boob of the 350 pounder sitting next to me. And I don’t want to rile him any (he’s sleeping, or pretending to be. Or maybe his eyelids are simply as overweight as he is, I’m not sure). But…the conversation is one I’d really like to jump into. We’ve all received weird gifts in the past, right? Yet my plane-mate is proclaiming that re-gifting is right up there with cheating at cards, taking the quarters from your daughter’s pile of tip change, or thumbing through Cosmo in the checkout line (it’s a Utah thing….)

Hmmm…I for one, don’t have a lot of use for the gallon of  Old Spice that I received for Christmas one year. And the Chia Pet head of George W. Bush? It’s either gonna get round-filed or handed off to someone as a joke gift, or maybe as repayment for the strip monopoly game I got for my 40th birthday. Either way…it seems a shame to throw away a gift that is still shrink-wrapped. I’d return it, but the day after Christmas, Walmart immediately lowered the Chia-head of the president from 49.99 to 2.99. It  wasn’t worth the gas cost to drive to the store’s return department.

Which brings me to another reason I like re-gifting; Return Departments. Have you ever braved one the day after Christmas?

I’m thinking that the French had a better time of it against the English Armada.
Very Large People In Polyester fighting for space in an area smaller than most corrals,  these anti-regifters sound akin to braying donkeys as they argue with return clerks about why they should get regular price for something they’re returning even though the post-Christmas price is 90% off of whatever it was paid for. It was a gift, it cost them NOTHING! Whatever happened to “It’s the thought that counts?”

Duh…it’s also a new profit program, right? Mark up an item 150% of cost, then discount it by 50% of the retail price, which still engenders a profit margin of 50%, then discount it by 90something percent the day after the holiday and still clear a minimal profit for the fast turnaround.

It’s amazing the crap people will buy in the Christmas buying frenzy. Honestly….how many of your friends really NEED a Ped-Egg, and how many of them are wondering if they have funky feet and you’re trying to be diplomatic with your gift?  When I got a gallon of Old Spice, I found my insecurities wondering if I smelled so badly that only a worser smell could mask the olfactory offensives?  That  24 pack of battery-operated personal fans…let it sit right where it will be the day after Christmas. Honest. I don’t want/need one. Although they could be fun in freefall….Hmmmm….. Silly String is really fun in free fall too.

Back to reality here tho; I am a grateful person. This year, I’ve learned more about life than I had in the previous lifetime. If I were a cat, I’ve used up eight of my nine. I’m gonna make this last one count. I’m grateful for the thoughts sent my way, and I’m grateful for all the love and support sent my way. I’m appreciative of the cards, letters, emails….and I’m gonna re-gift them all. I promise, if you sent me some love, some support, a card, a happy thought, I’m going to re-gift it and pass it along.

Re-wrapped, of course.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours from my very humble trailer in Lake Elsinore, California.

Fear Zero

Hello, let me introduce you to
The characters in the show
One says yes, one says no
Decide – which voice in your head you can keep alive

I dare you to tell me to walk through the fire
wear my soul and call me a liar
I dare you to tell me to walk through the fire
I dare you to tell me
I dare you to

(Shinedown/I Dare You

Some people follow their dreams. I’d rather chase them down and beat them into submission. If that doesn’t work, heavy boots may be necessary for stomping. Embrace life, stand up for what you believe in, and understand that failure is an important component of success. Fear Zero.

I’d like to say more, but I think my new mantra is just that. Fear Zero. I can’t recall having been as frightened as I was going out of the door for the 1388th time. Jump 1387 nearly put me six feet under. Jump 1390 put me in seventh heaven.  Either way…

My pelvis, post surgery

We can choose to fall, we decide to fail, we can choose to succeed and cry in the process, we can dust ourselves off and get back up, and we can be cowards and lie down in our endeavors.  But whatever we do, we own it in entirety. As Dylan said, I will not go gently… I own myself, I own my life, I own my surroundings, and by god, I’ll own my smile. NOTHING you do can take this from me. Clutching my spirit tight to my breast, I dare you to show me. I dare you to walk through fire and come out the other side. I dare you to run. I dare you to be the very best you can be when your ass has been kicked six ways from Sunday. I dare you to make a difference. A good one. I dare you to fail. And when you do, you’ll revel in the knowledge that you know exactly how NOT to do something. I dare myself every day. In fact, some days when it’s particularly hard, I double-dog dare myself. Some folks wonder about my perma-smirk. Maybe this resolves the wonderment?

I musta been stoned.

A friend told me today “I’m not sure how you’re gonna take this, but in all the years I’ve known you, I’ve never known you to be so happy. Yet I’ve never known you to be so broken. What’s up? What is it that changed in you? I think it’s a good thing.”

What’s up? Well….as dramatic as it sounds, death knocked at my door. I treated him like a Scientologist. Middle finger extended, defiant grin, and told him nobody was home.  I kicked his ass. Man, it feels good. I made a series of goals, and have met nearly every one of them. I’m on a great journey. Wanna join me? Pick up your baseball bat, grab a box of attitude on your way out the door, and march with your head held high with a resolute smile. Because we’re gonna win this day. I’ll help you, you help me. Let’s do this thing, OK?

I was told I’d not walk for months. I gave it the finger.

I was told I’d not skydive for a coupla years. I gave it the finger.

I was told the pain would make me scream. I give it the finger each morning.

Fear Zero.

Sitting at about 1000 feet above the planet
Jump # 1388

Embrace the hurt, the anger, the sorrow, whatever might ail you and use it against itself. Let it be the fuel that makes your motor scream at 10,000 rpm as you hurtle yourself down the freeway, exiting only when arriving at the destination. No distractions, no offramps, not even changing lanes unless an obstacle presents itself.

Get the hell out of the way…because I’m coming into my Second Rising….whatever that may mean.

Fear Zero.

Landing, zero winds.
Ready to run it out.