I returned home from my T.I. Course on September 24th. This weekend, October 21st, I finally finished taking 5 experienced skydivers on tandem skydives. It took almost a month for me to do 5 skydives. To be fair, I was out of town one weekend and terrible weather rolled in the next weekend. I finally jumped through the last hoop that was between me and taking first-timers! Well, obviously some paperwork is always the LAST hoop.
How did the jumps go?
TLDR: They went well!
I jumped 5 times with 3 different people. Two times with a T.I. from Orange Skies, 1 time with a skydiver with about half my jumps, 2 more times with another fun jumper with about the same number of jumps as me. All of them had done a tandem at one point in time. Each of them were my size or smaller. All of them were dudes.
(Jumping with only dudes feels like a WSLN-fail on my part. I should have found some women at the DZ. I blame myself. However, I have noticed that there aren’t many fun jumping ladies at Orange Skies who are at the DZ often for large chunks of time. We have a lot of couple-jumps-a-day ladies and I felt bad stealing time away from fun jumpers for fun jumps. I also felt bad stealing time/money/tandem-jumps from the T.I. that I jumped with.)
Tell me more about the jumps please…
At Orange Skies, we jump out of a Caravan with benches, whereas I did my tandem course out of an Otter where everyone sat on the floor. The benches made it easier to tighten the lower laterals (the connection point between my hips and the student’s hips). However, they made it more difficult to get into position to do the seated exit that I was taught. The pilots at Orange Skies also fly the planes pretty fast, so on my first exit, my legs and my student’s legs got blown towards the back of the door, making my exit more difficult. After trying a different trick next time to get seated better, the exits went a lot smoother.
On my second jump, the T.I. that I was jumping with asked if I wanted to try a standing exit, suggesting that it might be easier than getting into that seated position. However, I’m grateful that Angie, my T.I Examiner, made it a point to repeatedly encourage us to stick to what we were taught in the course, until we had more experience. I was tempted to say yes, thinking that maybe the T.I. was right, but I heard her voice in my head. I’m glad I decided to stick to the seated exit, exactly the way I practiced it, for a while. It’s not worth me throwing in something new yet that would make me uncomfortable and more factors of variability.
It was droguefall! The students moved around on me a little but I believe that experienced skydivers have a hard time imitating what a completely inexperienced person might move like in freefall.
I found during the course that my belly training actually worked against me when it came to controlling spins. My arms would move to a mantis position and my legs would try to do knee turns, instead of getting big and using the parts of my body that got the most wind (lower legs and forearms). Each jump, I got a little better at correcting this. I realized I’m going to have to compartmentalize those two skill sets and keep them separate.
Beautiful openings, every time. While I attribute a decent portion of that to the packers, I also am still praising the sky gods for having a weight limit with my students right now. Such a big canopy, lightly loaded, opens like butter. My finger dexterity and agility is getting better with every jump, so I’m fumbling with loosening the lower laterals less with each jump. (Loosening the lower laterals makes the student more comfortable and allows them to ‘sit’ more in the harness which makes lifting their legs for landing much easier. Sorry for all the L alliteration going on there.)
Landing Pattern and Flare
I am very glad I took a local T.I. for my first 2 jumps. He was able to give me a lot of tips about how to set up the landing pattern at our DZ specifically. I admit, it is fun to land in the tandem landing area because it’s a lot shorter walk back to the hangar! I started out flaring just a little high, which meant my first three landings would have been perfectly timed for standup landings. Landing patterns happen lower than my sport canopy; I start my downwind around 800 feet. While that doesn’t sound a lot lower, my brain and eyes are trained to think “Panic! We’re much too low!” at each point of my landing pattern, including my turning onto final and flare. It’s just going to take some getting used to.
A lot of people telling me how proud they are of me, and how awesome it is. I still feel like it’s something anyone can do if they take the right steps and apply themselves. A lot of people ask if I’m excited to jump with new people. I still don’t know. The day I did my last two jumps with an experienced jumper, I started gearing up thinking, “Why am I doing this?” because I was nervous and afraid. But that’s exactly how I felt all through my A license. Which leads me to think that maybe I should have worked through these jumps more quickly. I could have easily done them in a weekend, maybe a day. Maybe I spread this out too far, like I did my A license. But I also told myself, “I have no need to rush. I am doing this for me. I don’t want to stress myself out.” Maybe that’s legitimate too.
Also, all the T.I.s at Orange Skies jump with a handcam. Except me. This means, if the student wants video, we will have to have outside video. At first, I realized this makes me nervous, because the people video flying for me will be the DZO, the S&TA or maybe one of the Ground Ops guys. I worry I’ll feel scrutinized for all my beginning jumps as a T.I. At second thought though, I realized this doesn’t bother me so much. If I follow my training, I will execute a safe and fun skydive for me and my student. Having outside video also alleviates some of the social back-and-forth that tandems and their students have, especially if they do handcam. I can let the camera person do some of entertaining while I focus on safely following my procedures. So, it’s actually sort of a relief.
Real tandems. I know, this is part 4 and I haven’t even taken a tandem student yet, a real one, that is. I’m verbose. You’re the one reading this post so you must be interested.
Anyway, next up, I need to meet with the DZO and the S&TA to discuss how we go forward. I have weight limits that I won’t exceed, for my safety and the student’s safety. I worry about their expectations of me, and the expectations of the other T.I.s for me; I feel like I need to preface my first few days with statements like “I’m going to be pulling high for a while.”, “I take longer to gear up students.”, “I don’t have the stamina to be able to jump my face off when it comes to tandems.” Fortunately, I feel comfortable voicing this. I have faith that they’ll be respectful of my needs as a baby T.I. because my needs directly translate to keeping people safe. (Safety is huge at Orange Skies.)
One last thing: all the T.I.s at Orange Skies jump with a handcam. Except me. This means, if the student wants video, we will have to have outside video. At first, I realized this makes me nervous, because the people video flying for me will be the DZO, the S&TA or maybe one of the Ground Ops guys. I worry I’ll feel scrutinized for all my beginning jumps as a T.I. At second thought though, I realized this doesn’t bother me so much. If I follow my training, I will execute a safe and fun skydive for me and my student. Having outside video also alleviates some of the social back-and-forth that tandems and their students have, especially if they do handcam. I can let the camera person do some of entertaining while I focus on safely following my procedures. So, it’s actually sort of a relief.
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