Friday, February 04, 2005
stand up, hook up, shuffle to the door!
finally jumped yesterday! the past two tasks had been cancelled because the rsaf's pilots are humji ( too much wind! too much rain! i just painted my nails! )
i was in the second sortie and as we waddled out to the plane - the 'chute's harness straps are awfully tight around the crotch - we passed some of the first sortie's jumpers on their way back to the admin area and they were looking pretty chuffed. everyone was in good spirits - finally we're jumping! - and my main concern at the point was to make the jump before the wind picked up and get this bloody 'chute off my back - the damn capewells are breaking my shoulders!
everyone cheers as the plane takes off - then the jump door opens - the wind rushes in - awfully strong and frighteningly loud - we're going to jump out into that? and suddenly silence as everyone looks at each other with "oh shit!" expressions.
but it doesn't take long before the enthusiasm returns - we've done the tower jump and everyone says that's more scary than the real thing, don't they? just the same there isn't quite so much chatter - the roar of the wind doesn't help - any more as people start to worry. jumping out into thin air when all your instincts for self-preservation are screaming no? uh-oh.
then the command from the jumpmaster comes - "sortie! prepare for action!" - this is it - and we fumble for our static lines - we've done this a thousand times before on the ground but suddenly i can't for the life of me remember which hand i should be holding the line in.
i'm in the 4th pass and we watch the first 3 passes go out - the jumpmasters push them out, no pause, straight after each other - and i remember thinking, "so much for a positive punch out" because there just isn't time for you to shuffle into position at the door and take the leap before the jumpmasters frantically shove you out. the wind slaps and sucks each jumper backwards, almost horizontally, so strong is the slipstream, as he topples out.
then suddenly its our turn next - it sure as hell didn't seem so fast when we were on the ground watching the first sortie!
"stand up!" - legs a little wobbly as we adopt good-shuffle-step position, chest firmly against the 'chute of the jumper in front.
"hook up!" - fingers have turned to wood and i desperately fumble with the safety pin - damnit, why won't the bloody thing go in?
"check static line!" - yank yank - these are the things which are going to open our 'chutes - they had better work!
"check equipment!" - what the hell is this thing called again? everyone touches each bit of gear in sequence but nobody is calling out the parts as we're supposed to - my mouth is dry and damn i should have gone to pee just now!
"sound off for equipment check!" - the count goes down the line: "6 ok! 5 ok!...1 ok, stick ok!" and i mumble my "3 ok!" while trying my best to ignore my brain screaming "no, goddamnit, not ok!"
then soon we're good to go, just waiting for the green light - i see hdb flats, a bus terminal, the tpe through the port jump door - i'm on the starboard - as the plane banks. the green light comes on - the port side jumpers go, right-left right-left right-left, one by one they shuffle inexorably forward, and soon they're done - this is it - starboard side, my side - the doc goes out, then its alex and oh shit my turn right-toss static line to the side-left then i'm at the door, left foot in front on the sill of the door, right foot behind - then the shout "go!" - the jumpmaster must've pushed me out - i don't feel a thing - and i'm out.
i remember to tuck my chin in - the instructors've regaled us with plenty of horror stories of what happens to jumpers who forget to tuck their chins in, or keep their feet locked tight on landing - whatever it is, they've got a horror story about it. the damn helmet slips down and knocks my goggles down and i automatically reach up to adjust them - so much for hands by the side protecting my reserve. then the sensation of being pulled upwards as my canopy deploys at the end of the static line and for a moment i'm a little stunned. then after a second or two my brain starts working again and i distinctly remember thinking, "right, now i'm supposed to look around" and i do - i'm alone in the sky - no other jumpers anywhere near - total silence and a feeling of total...solitude, for lack of a better word. like you're the only person in the world.
"an amazing sensation. perfect stillness, perfect silence. a fantastic and absolutely magnificent feeling. right out of this world."
then i look to the ground and shit, the wind is blowing me towards the runway - a tarmac landing is bad news and i reach up for the toggles and pull. the instructor on the ground with a loudhailer is yelling "jumper over the runway! pull your right toggle! pull the right!" - that must be me - so i pull my right and the 'chute turns. i later find out he wasn't addressing me - it was chew, behind me, but what the hell, just as long as i land on the grass.
then i'm in position in the middle of the grass - face the wind - the ground is suddenly approaching awfully fast - head down, legs locked tight, toes pointed up, knees slightly bent, elbows in - this is ankle breaking time! hold it there wait for the crunch - and with a sack of potatoes crash i hit the deck and fall backwards in a butt-landing - so much for pushturnrollover like we've practiced millions of times. for a second or two i lie there wondering if i'm ok - the canopy floats down on top of me - i am and i'm feeling great!
n.b. i'm recycling this post so i didn't actually jump yesterday, nor is that picture of a first jump or even of me.