Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Diving through the air.. PART 1

The sky, the final frontier (sort of)… the idea to take up the AFF course came to me last last year while planning for things that I wanted to do. Skydiving once, sounded nice, but to learn to skydive and travel freely through the air.. was sth that I wanted to keep with me and continue to do.

Finally, after months of searching, managed to hook up with my instructor, D. Lee, who was based in Singapore. Unfortunately, there was no drop zone in Singapore, so the courses were conducted overseas, and as for me, I was to go to Udon Thani. All arrangements made, and I was set to go on the 28th night to Bangkok, followed by another flight to Udon the next morning.

Ok, all packed up and ready to go.. went to CGH for work and meeting till about 5pm, then slacked at CSMC to bout 7+pm. Had KFC for dinner before finally proceeding to Changi International Airport to meetup with “unker” and the rest before chking in.

Unker was waiting with Mike at the airport and another jumper, Yoko and his wife, Christine was there, chatting with Unker and Mike. We were soon joined with Martin (another jumper going for his B-license) and Simon (another AFF student) Time came, and it was time to chk in and depart… we were all ready at the departure lounge at 930pm, when sigh… the flight was delayed.. until 3 am.. oh well.. we’re stuck in the airports . Changi was more comfortable, but Suvarnabhum airport had good and cheap foot massages… mebbe on the way back then. Tried to catch a nap, only to wake up and realized the flight was then delayed to 4 am..

Simon and I at Changi
Ok… finally… we were on our way to Bangkok.. nutting much there.. then to Udon Thani, where the real fun begins. Finally… ready to start the course. Had some food on the plane, so din quite catch breakfast. We reached the Saimun Airfield about 1.5 hrs later, and were all raring to go.
the runway..the plane - cessna 172
Day 1:
The guys – Martin and Mike went up first with Bird, the owner of the place, while Simon and I were given a briefing of what we were going to do. Equipments chk – goggles, altimeter, jumpsuit, rigs, helmets and walkie talkie.. alright.. ready to go..

We started with groundtraining first on the basic procedures of freefall and canopy control. Had some practice on the ground, like how to step off the plane, and the freefall positions to maintain while in the air. A while later, instructor number 2, Kevin came.. and we were ready to go. Me first on the first tandem… phew… scared shit at this time… first jump ever..

Ok.. so suited up.. put on my tandem harness and went on the plane with Martin who was going to jump with us. The engines fired up, propeller spinning,.. and less than 10minutes later.. off we went. The plane ascended, and my heart started to race.. .faster and faster.. man…tried to take deep breaths.. relax relax.. keep reminding myself that I’ll be strapped to my instructor.. so nutting will happen… relax relax… 3,000 ft now.. ok..go through the stuff to do in my head again.. 5500ft.. unker asked what to do… I showed – wave back, arch, reach and pull….alright. Things started to get freezingly cold… by the time we hit 7000ft.. I was shivering.. can’t tell whether it was from the cold or the fear .. ok.. 8000ft…Martin got ready, unker asked me kneel down behind him while he strapped himself to my harness… ok…. Take deeeeeep breaths.. Finally…we hit 9000 ft.. time to dive.. ugh.. Got freaking scared, but hardened my guts.. ok.. moved to the door…. Take breaths, take breaths. Martin went out and held on to the side. Unker followed and signed me to get out too.. ok.. right hand on the railing right foot on the step. Oh no…. left hand on the railing….take a deep breath… left foot out.. oh man.. I can’t believe this.. I’m out on the steps of a moving aircraft at 9000ft!!!! scared shit now.. ok… looked at unker… CHKOUT!!!! .. OK!!! Take a deeeep breath.. look forward… Prop!!! Up!! Down!!! GO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

My voice trailed all the way down.. AAAAHHHHH!!!!!! In that few seconds… I was pale, shocked, all my senses were haywired, ….. but after that.. hmm.. ok.. we’re stable… no more shock anymore.. things were nice, slow, easy,… can think a bit now.. I’m fallin!!!! And it felt … greeeeeaaaaaaaat!!!

But darn,.. before I knew it.. chk alti.. and unker pulled!! Dang… freefall was so darn short….. ok.. the canopy came out, jerked up a bit… one thousand, two thousand, three thousand.. looked up.. phew.. the canopy was there, and it was square.. pulled the goggles down, and unker got hold of the toggles. Steered towards the dropzone (DZ) and did the canopy control checks (CCC). The horizon from here looked peaceful. Chked alti again. Slowly and slowly descending now. Got the landing circuit set in my head, and prepped to land… okay..approching ground.. now everything got faster and faster.. I never really noticed how fast I was moving in the air.. alright.. flare!!! And finally we’re on solid ground again…

Aaah.. man.. it was short.. freefall was short… but I loved it…. I was so scared, but when things stabilized, it wasn’t scary anymore.. which was what I loved about it.. and all I had to do was arch.. hmm..

Okay, took a break and Simon went up… rest rest, while letting my mind come back to me…. Then it was the second tandem with Bird.. din do to well this time… couldn’t find the deployment handle.. dang.. ok… unker said I gotta do 2 more tandems the next day.. he wanted me to pull the handle..which I keep missing… :P somehow or rather… but that was all for the first day.. we were already dead tired by then, and so.. we all deserve a well needed rest…

Dinner was in the resort itself, at the mess hall.. it was good.. Thai food has alw been cheap and good in my books, and ate a feast then… after that, went back to the room, and crashed on the bed.

Day 2:
Another jumper joined us the next day – Paul. An experienced jumper, he, Mike and Martin went on some of the sorties and tried to do some tricks like 3-ways, and accordians. As for me and Simon, we had ground briefing in the morning, followed by our jumps. Ok, the next 2 tandems went ok, missed the pull on the first jump again.. sigh, but pulled on the next one. Alright!! Time to do solo jumps now.. Category C2. Another big step for noobs… the good thing about tandem was that no matter what, the tandem master was alw behind you to do everything.. but on solos, the instructors will hold on to your side.. and will pull if needed… but still you jump solo.

Ok, briefing done.. Another few jumpers came on the scene as well… Diu (Bird’s cio cousin) and Boi (Bird’s bro) and stayed to chat with us. Alright, I’m gonna go up on one of the last sortie of the day .. ok… got my rig on, chked.. and off we went on the plane..

Again… I was nervous shit… first solo …. All the guys were mentioning earlier that you alw remember ur first solo… and this was really gonna be a memorable one….

Ok, plane took off, and as usual, heart racing fast, taking deep breaths, psyching myself up to jump… and cold..we hit 8000 ft in about 30mins later, and got into position. Unker will take the main side, and Kevin, the reserve side. Unker asked….. “are you ready to skydive?” ..hehe.. nervously… I said “Yes!” OK!!

Unker hold on to my right leg harness… and Kevin my left. Unker got our first, and held on to the step.. I followed… Alright… wind blowing through the plane… strong, cold… no time to think about that now… ok… I looked at Kevin… “Chk In” .. ok!! I looked at Unker .. “Chk out”… ok!!!.. took a deep breath.. Looked forward.. Prop!! Up!! Down!! Go!!

Ahh!!!!! Again.. my senses were gone… but returned within a few secs while I arch and try to stabilize.. Both the instructors were holding on to me still.. ok.. do the chks.. Heading.. chk… Alti.. chk… Looked left.. Kevin signaled to arch more and put my legs straighter.. ok… Look right.. ok.. chk alti… practice touching the deployment handle.. ok.. alti.. good height.. practice again.. handle there… ok.. chk left.. need to arch more.. chk right… COA came up… chked alti.. time to pull handle… and pulled

Jerked a bit again as I pulled and canopy was up… great!!! Ok..DZ, chk! CC, chk!!.. time to just land this baby.. hehe… and here was where it went wrong… I tried to stand up during a slide landing and… of all things….. arghh!!! sprained my Right ankle… and fell forwards…. Boo hoo hoo… wah!!!! Sob sob sob!!! Ok..at the time, din notice that the sprain was that bad, so picked the canopy up and headed back to the hangar.. but.. was hopping back la… sigh… pain pain… the golf buggy came by in a short while to ferry me back as I landed quite far from the hangar.. thank goodness for tat..

Put everything down… and felt great… had a debriefing session, and was advised to look up and arch more.. ok.. chk.. will keep in mind the next jump. The guys did another jump before calling it quit for the day as it was already getting dark.. packed the equipments nicely and we were done.

Martin, Diu, Boi and Mike wanted to do the water landing ground training, and so that was next on the agenda. The resort had a nice swimming pool nearby, and we went there. Hehe… unker first demo.. and the rest 4 followed… I sat out on this… cold.. plus my ankle was hurting then… so.. oh well.. but it was fun to see them jump in the freezing waters..heheh..

Ok, time to eat.. This time, we went out to a restaurant nearby to celeb Simon and mine’s first solo jump.. haha… man… it was awesome.. had good food, good company, and a fantastic time.. that nights rest was well worth it too.. except that my ankle was still sore… hmm….

Continue in next post….

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