Getting Back into Skydiving- AFF L1

After months of not jumping, and coming as both a skydiving and academic fresher (in my first year for both), getting back into the sport was definitely an experience that exceeded any hype or expectation that led up to it, reminding me why I love what to most of my family and friends seems “crazy”.

Prior to the the jump, I had done 23 jumps through the RAPS progression system from October 2014 onwards, finding that I was unable to progress very far beyond my first four-second freefall; this being down to numerous factors, such as my intermittent switching between Netheravon and Skydive London (Redlands Airfield) in particular. In the end, it simply wasn’t for me; though fellow RAPlings and other student jumpers that I have met in my experience have seen something that I’ve probably missed in that method, so this is likely just my personal taste towards this system of getting an A Licence (RAPS is more than do-able, as you can see from other blogs here). I’ve gotten 12 minutes of tunnel in too, just on the side.

Following our arrival on Friday evening, driving in from Bristol to a packed-out bunkhouse, the groundschool started on Saturday morning, the cold and foggy Devonian airfield quickly beginning to feel like the other two dropzones I had visited prior; more like home, and no longer completely alien. The groundschool was excellent, Dave (our instructor) talking us through each and every aspect of the jump, some of which was familiar to myself already, some of which was completely new, such as the landing patterns and freefall. My fellow students, two of whom were from Bath University, one of whom was a fellow UoB student were really friendly and we all got on well- all of us seemed to be up for the experience, knowing we were in for one hell of a ride the next day. Following the groundschool, I was prepared for the idea that tomorrow, I would make my second freefall, albeit from far, far higher; with little to no clouds and low winds forecast, I was confident it would happen.

The next morning, that good weather that we were expecting didn’t happen- it was nowhere near what was expected from the previous forecast 12 hours earlier, with a cloud base blocking anyone from jumping. A refresher later, and another couple of hours beyond that, and no lifts had gone up. I almost felt consigned to the fact that I would not jump, with the weather change minimal in the following hours, a couple of loads heading up but still no students. This was until the sudden announcement was made that a group of RAPS were to kit up, and suddenly, myself and a fellow L1 student would follow, for my first AFF jump at around 5pm- our last chance for the day.

Finding out that I would jump that day came as a surprise, suddenly being sprung on us after much anticipation that the weather was getting better- it seemed that the wind and cloud had died down sufficiently for myself and Elliott, a fellow Level 1 AFFer from UWE, to head up to 15,000 feet. The excitement and hours of waiting for this moment were incredible- getting kitted up, going over our training one last time, and re-establishing how everything would work before we were loaded on reassured me that this was something that I had butterflies in my stomach for even after my current number of jumps. It felt like it flew by, because within 20 minutes, we were on the Flight Line, and walking out to board our jumpship.

After boarding the Beech, we clambered altitude faster than I could comprehend, a little shocked after jumping from slower/smaller aircraft at Netheravon and Redlands, and at the fact that we climbed well over whatever altitude I had jumped at before, my ears popping frequently as we broke through the wisps of clouds. The feeling of leveling out at 15,000 felt surreal, reinforced by the sports jumpers exiting followed by Elliott and his two instructors, taking a deep breath at it all. It felt very strange, but my training kicked in, as I sat off the bench, getting in the door. Doing almost exactly as I was taught, I checked in, checked out, out, in….and I hurled myself out.

The jump itself was lurching, a little unstable at first, but I went for the arch I had been trained on, the instructor motioning for me to point my toes before I was yelling whatever I could see on my altimeter back to my two instructors, before then going for my three practice pulls. Everything felt smooth with no major hiccups, my ears popping as thousands of feet slipped by, the whole experience leaving me with a massive grin on my face. I didn’t stiffen up as I expected, but kept positive and could only smile at the whole decent, taking the note from my instructor to chill out- something that perhaps in hindsight, was less difficult to do than expected! I was instructed to deploy earlier than expected at 7,000 feet, due to our distance from the DZ meaning I needed to cover more ground with the canopy, and replied appropriately, going for the pull.

The canopy had no problems, and I could only smirk, as I looked on at the distant setting sun, seeing a big, rectangular, damage-free canopy that I could control, and feel it respond strongly to my inputs, reminding myself it was a great laugh to fly the canopy after so long out of the sport. I even got the chance to spiral a couple of times, though looking over where I had made these spirals, I learned quickly that I was not in my holding area, and had to recover by coming back upwind a little earlier- something that in hindsight, was not ideal to do. Apart from having to keep an eye on where I did my spirals, the rest of my canopy ride was great, landing down in the designated PLA without any worries, just as I had done before on RAPS and been taught on the ground school, a good achievement as I’ve never jumped at Dunkeswell before and was a little anxious about landmarks and winds.

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Touching down, I grabbed my canopy as I was taught, and stepped onto the minibus, feeling well and truly on top of the world, back in the saddle. A beautiful red sunset on the horizon, and an awesome group of instructors and fellow students to jump with…it couldn’t be better. The whole experience rekindled my love for skydiving once more, and to be doing it in the presence of such awesome people, not just from the BUSC but from UWE, Bath and Southampton was an amazing experience, with the bonfire and various games of Cards Against Humanity over the nights we spent at Dunks being a good laugh. From here on out, I can tell that the rest of AFF is going to rock; it reaffirmed my already exiteable state towards jumping with the BUSC, and that no doubt, there’s going to be plenty more where that jump came from.

 

Konrad Wysocki

One Response to Getting Back into Skydiving- AFF L1

  1. Łukasz says:

    that’s great Konrad, i need to try this too ! 🙂

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