Two Levels, Tunnel and Other Shenanigans

It’s been a long time since I made my first blog post on Level 1, but since then, a whole heap of things have happened within the club. I thought I’d make one that wrapped up all that I’ve been getting up to in the BUSC, and the various adventures involved. As a skydiving fresher (well, perhaps no longer, it has been over a year since my first RAPS jump course from back at Redlands…), there’s been plenty of goings on, and I’ve tried to throw the biggest ones into here that I’ve seen.

 

Following my first AFF Level, I didn’t jump for a couple of weekends at Dunkeswell, until the 25th of October- when I woke up to a brilliantly sunny morning in the bunkhouse, and by mid-day, was manifested for my Level 2 AFF skydive alongside Adomas, a fellow UoB AFF student doing his Level 1. Going up to 15,000 feet again felt like it was growing more and more on me, and I kept my mind on the task at hand, going over the sequence of the jump in my head. Level 2 was perhaps mentally less demanding, requiring only two practice pulls rather than three, but I would be more responsible for keeping on heading and would be left with one instructor holding on.  Getting into position after Adomas exited ahead of me, and with both instructors keeping a hold on me, I headed back to freefall for jump twenty-four.

Level 2

The jump itself was fine, and I held my arch and heading fairly well, despite losing the strength in my legs. I also gave thumbs up back to the instructor; perhaps in hindsight, seeing the sight of my secondary in move in front of me may have made me feel a little too giddy! After deployment, and coming in for landing, I landed clear and on two feet again, smirking like a Cheshire cat as per usual, going back to the packing hall with a pass and the chance to go onto Level 3 for when the weather was next good at Dunkeswell.

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On another BUSC related note that has happened prior to my Level 2 and Level 3, I’ve attended a number of packing sessions hosted by Skydive UWE; of which many fellow UoB club members have also gone to. Whilst in the foreseeable future (from when this blog post was written, that is) I may not be able to attend them again, they’ve been great fun, and an excellent opportunity to learn how to pack parachutes- a difficult task from my fresher’s perspective, to say the least! Even so, learning how a parachute system works and meeting such a wide range of skydivers, from fellow freshers to graduates among others was great, as well as going to the pub afterwards. Being able to find yourself immersed in a world of like-minded individuals, all of whom share a passion for the sport is wonderful, and you begin to appreciate the diversity and nature of fellow jumpers, many of whom have probably been in a similar position to yourself at some point in their career. There’s plenty to learn at these sessions, and it’s worthwhile going if you have the time.

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My third AFF jump was on the 22nd of November, after a long spell of bad weather had kept almost everyone grounded for several weekends in a row. Sunday seemed to have near-perfect conditions with a few blustery clouds, and being able to finally go back to the DZ after three weeks away, and over four since I had last jumped was something I looked forward to indeed. The DZ was busy, but the lifts were going up thick and fast right from the start. Following a refresh, myself along with Martin, a fellow AFF student further in his levels than I was, were manifested as the first AFF jumpers, going up alongside a RAPS load. It was cold on the ground even with several layers on, but going up to altitude, it felt like I was sitting in a freezer when the door opened again. I got up, got in the door, and with both instructors, left the plane once more for jump number twenty-five.

Level 3

I didn’t even know when I was released after I had performed my practice pull, and for a few seconds, I was on my own, no instructors hanging on; though of course, at the time I had no idea of this. Looking over the footage, I did need to improve my arch, but I held heading and checked altitude, as I was instructed to do so. Deploying at 6,000, I went for a few spirals with the canopy down towards 1,500, and then began my pattern 500 feet later. Coming in for landing, I made my first bad landing of the autumn season, something in particular I was not proud of, even in reflection. Due to the cold and perhaps an error in the timing of my flare, I was late and slightly asymmetrical, the low winds I was landing into offering little respite for this error- so I skidded on my bum for a few meters on the ground, right in front of a group of newly-jumped RAPS students, which wasn’t exactly the best way to make an entrance on landing. While accurate and close to the landing arrow, I knew there was a point to take from this experience, even if the cold I’d jumped through made it difficult to make a clear flare at the right time. My pride took a hit more than anything, as I gathered my canopy up and tried to recover what little feeling I had left in my fingers, before then heading back on the bus to the packing hall. Lesson learned; good strong flares mean less skidding on bums.

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Most recently of all, after my last skydive, I went to Airkix Basingstoke; or a wind tunnel, where skydivers of various degrees of ability can experience freefall in a controlled environment. It’s brilliant for coaching FS and FF along with coaching AFF students- this being the reason I decided to head down on a chilly Wednesday afternoon to Basingstoke on the long train journey down. I had 10 minutes booked with Jack Bradford- an FS coach, and who I can greatly recommend if you’re looking for coached tunnel sessions. Having experienced tunnel time before, it wasn’t a completely alien experience to me- but being the closest thing to getting to jump out of a plane, I couldn’t help but be hyped for it. Going for a quick brief, and after meeting an FS team who were in rotation with me in the tunnel (they would be in for two minutes at a time, then I would switch around with them with Jack), I got setup with all the jump kit that I would normally use- that is, bar a rig and a altimeter!

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Sliding into the tunnel for first two minutes, I was hurled around a little, but found my AFF training had kicked in- and even if I was flat in the legs, I was able to spot this and make the adjustments on Jack’s signals, before then exiting the tunnel a little clumsily, out of breath but with a smile on my face! This aspect of being able to rehearse and observe your movements is particularly great about the tunnel, and even if my first two minutes had not been great, they set a benchmark from which to improve upon.

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Going in once more, I began working on turns, practice pulls and forwards and backwards movements, repeating this again for each of the two minute sessions I spent inside, able to get accustomed to the forces and the movements I could make to move about. I gained my confidence quickly, and turns felt smooth to execute, whilst forward/backward movements a little less so- but something I was beginning to pick up. I had to just take it in and smile; while the same adrenaline wasn’t there as with a skydive, the feeling of being in freefall is as close as it can get, and it felt good to be in a far more controlled environment.  Overall, I was happy with my progress; while I was  flat in places, I was not tumbling (well, not at least everywhere) or unstable, and I was able to do what was required of me for Level 4 and 5 jumps. Watching the FS team before my rotation in the tunnel made for great entertainment; at my current level of jumps, it looks like magic to me from up close, though there is definitely a method to the madness somewhere! I can recommend a single ten-minute session to any skydiving freshers, from freefall RAPS to AFF students just to improve and develop skills in freefall- if you can do two sessions, then even better- it’s a great learning tool beyond the real thing itself, and far cheaper than repeating levels, whilst having a good laugh on non-jumpable days.

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So from here, where next? There’s more jumping to be had for next year (with perhaps a few more jumpable days this year), and plenty more socials too. The hype is palpable….

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