Depressed after Jump #7

I’m not very good at this. Feeling very down today. The weather was so perfect for skydiving yesterday, sunny with no wind, and I was hoping to make two jumps. One as a tandem and then one on my own if I could demonstrate to the instructor that I was ready to continue with the Student Training Program.

The tandem was a bit of a disaster. You will remember that the big problem last time was my lack of upper body/arm strength. Well, for the past three weeks I’ve been working out with handweights and hanging on a bar in the garage and trying to lift myself up. I’ve been feeling stronger and thought I was ready to flare that parachute. It was not to be. I pulled the toggles to just below my waist, a bit further than last time, but couldn’t get them any further. The instructor had to help me. And they’ve told me that until I can do a complete flare there’s no way they’re letting me jump on my own (and nor would I want to!).On top of that, I made other mistakes yesterday. The instructor told me I brought my legs forward instead of arching as we left the aeroplane, and held them there for at least four seconds. I didn’t finish the list of maneuvers he assigned me during the freefall. I was too slow with the practice touches and turns. I locked on at 6,000′ as I should, but then started the wave-off and pulled too early.

So it was a sloppy freefall. Then there was the assisted flare, as already mentioned. And then I just lost concentration as we headed to the dropzone. The instructor was talking a lot about directions and wind speeds and a lot of other stuff and asking me questions that I was slow to answer. I guess my mind was still on that failed flare. The stuff he wrote in my logbook is embarrassing, but honest.

I didn’t have that wonderful adrenalin rush either yesterday after the jump. The one that lasts for about three days. I felt flat and disappointed, and am wondering if perhaps skydiving isn’t for me. Perhaps I’m too old to train my brain and build up muscle mass? I do, however, have to say that the instructors are all great (I’ve been through six different ones in seven jumps!), but I feel more comfortable with two of them. John thinks I should request them in advance, but I’m a bit too timid to do that.

So . . . no second jump. And the next one will, of course, have to be another tandem. I’ll give it four weeks this time and keep working with those weights. Why, oh why, didn’t it occur to me to try jumping out of an aeroplane 40 years ago?

Car talk

Remember the July 11 post from Colin, looking for historical information on what I thought was Uncle John’s car? Well, good old David has followed up on this. Here’s a picture of the car (not the actual one being discussed, but a picture, nevertheless, so we all know what they’re talking about. And here’s their correspondence on the subject:
From Colin:
My car is a 1952 Ford V8 Pilot Woodie Shooting Brake. I bought it in May 1987 from a small classic dealer Mike Hallowes near Guildford, Surrey. I am not sure how the original log book had survived all those years, but when I bought it he gave it to me. It had all the past owners up until the log book was cancelled in May 1968 when it was replaced by a new green log book, which sadly I do not have. At the time I wrote to all the names in the log book and had a nice reply from a company in Frome, Somerset called Notts Industries, the chairman there was a director at Habershons in Rotherham as well.

J J Habershon I understand were a supplier to Ford’s at Dagenham, which is how they came to buy the car, as new cars were quite difficult to obtain in the early 50s. Habershons kept the car until 1954 when it went down to Notts Industries in Frome where it stayed until July 1960 when it was sold in a part exchange deal for a new van for works use. I wondered if you could tell me if any records or archives exist for Habershons and where I could go to search for any info on my car. I assume they used it for works use, deliveries etc. It’s a miracle it had survived for so long as it’s all wood from the windscreen back, and our climate is not the best for a car made mostly of wood!

(David replied to Colin explaining all about Habershons, Notts and our historical penchant for cars with wooden trim, particularly the Morris Oxford which ended up as a tool shed on chocks in Ronnie Cullen’s garden!)

Dear David,

Its great to hear from you and thanks for filling me in on all the fascinating information about Habershons. I will take the liberty of printing out the email and saving it for the album I am building about the car’s history. I would be more than happy to show you the car at some point, only problem is it is buried in the back of my garage at present stored in an air tight bag, as my pre-cast garage suffers from condensation badly, and at the moment I don’t have much spare time to take it out (or money come to think of it). I have your telephone number and will get in touch at a later date for us to meet up for a chat. If you let me have your address I’d be more than happy to get some photos copied for you if of any interest.

I was very interested to read about Habershons connection with Notts Industries and wonder what they were making for Ford’s in the early 50s? The letter I have which was in reply to a letter I had sent to Notts was Christmas time 1987 I think, and is from the MD there – Mr Peter Yates, have you heard of him? He remembered the car very well, and the colour and that it was bought from Habershons in May 1954. He mentioned that a photograph existed of Notts transport fleet taken around 1956/7 but sadly never did locate it.

I tried to make contact with him again last month through the Frome Historical Society, to be told sadly he had passed away earlier this year. His widow [Pam] said she searched high and low for the photo, but could not find it. I would dearly love to find it but suspect it may have been destroyed long ago. I was very interested to read about your family’s Morris Oxford Traveller, again a very rare car these days and only a handful of survivors. The wooden shooting brake as you know is a forerunner of the modern people carrier. After the war they were very popular for a short time as they could be taxed as a commercial vehicle and run on red petrol when rationing was in force as wood was plentiful and steel in short supply. They could get away with this if they had less than four doors, hence mine has two front doors but only one rear on the nearside to get around this. Peter Yates from Notts told me in his letter they were waiting for up to 18 months for steel deliveries in the early 50’s.

I have recently managed to trace an advert in the Bath Chronicle through the central library in Bath for my car when it was part exchanged through a garage in Bath called Ware’s Motors dated 31st July 1960 when it was offered for sale at £85(!) which I was thrilled to find.

Its been lovely to make contact with you and you being so helpful which I really appreciate and hope we can meet up sometime in the future for a chat.

David replied.

Hi David,

I will contact you at some point in the future for us to get together and for you to see my car. I was amazed that you knew Peter Yates. I did speak to him on the telephone a couple of times and he was very enthusiastic about my car. I did send him some photos and a copy of a feature we did in Classic and Sportscar magazine back in Dec 1994. If you are interested you may be able to pick up a copy on Ebay.

I was very interested to read about the family Morris Oxford Traveller, again a very rare car these days, probably only a handful left. Do you have any photos of it? I would be interested to know what Habershons used my car for as there is not a huge amount of space in the rear, although the back seat was missing when I bought it. It would be lovely to trace anyone from the early 50s that might remember the car but after so long I don’t hold out much hope.

Thanks again for getting in touch and lovely to fill in a few gaps.

(End of exchange)

Sixth jump

Still alive! As I drove to the dropzone yesterday (without John, who has a bad cold) I became increasingly nervous about the upcoming jump, especially after nearly killing myself off last week. As I left Houston I was thinking of lots of good reasons to turn around (too windy, too bloody scared, etc.), but there were too many reasons not to turn around (the jump was paid for, I’d bought them kolaches, I really needed to jump out of an aeroplane, and I’d feel obliged to go into work).There were six students. We went through the Malfunction Junction drills as usual, and then were assigned instructors. I got the one who rescued me on Friday! That was good, because at least he knew my history. We sat down together, and he told me he wanted me to do a tandem jump with him instead of another solo. We’d land in the student area and he would only give instructions that he’d give on the radio. So I was kind of on my own, but with someone strapped to my back. I was so relieved. My heartrate went from about 150 to 100. I had to pay another $29, but it was worth it.

Anyway, the jump went well. The freefall was, as usual, exhilarating. Then when we were under canopy I managed to find the holding area (the dirty pond) and steer the three-sided pattern to the landing area.

There were two glitches, however. When we reviewed the jump afterwards he asked me if I’d noticed anything about the canopy when it opened. “SQUARE and STABLE,” I said, confidently. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. He said that the slider was only a quarter of the way down. That is not good. I hadn’t noticed it. The way to correct that is to flare. Of course, I had flared to check that it was STABLE, and that had fixed it. But sometimes it doesn’t. Yet another mistake, and something to store away in my skydiving mind.

The other glitch was that I did not have the arm/upper body strength do a full flare. The tandem chute is obviously bigger, but it’s something I should be able to handle. I could pull the toggles as far as my waist but couldn’t get them any further. The instructor had to help me out. Talk about a 145 lb. weakling. Anyway, he suggested I work with weights and try and build up more strength. Interestingly enough, almost everyone I’ve talked to today (at both jobs) have said that they regularly work out with weights. I guess it’s time to start.

I may be making slow progress at this and it’s getting expensive (so far five tandems and one solo where most people go straight to solo after two tandems), but every jump is just so amazing (yep, even the one last Friday) and I can’t wait to get back and do another one. I hung around afterwards and watched jumpers landing. The other five students never went up as there was too much wind. After that I went home and then went to take the 4:30 Bikram Yoga class. Great combination, jumping out of an aeroplane followed by 90 minutes of hot yoga. It was a good day! And I’ve got some confidence back.

Next? Well, tomorrow, after some research, I will buy some weights. I’ve set the date of the next jump for October 30th, by which time I’ll hopefully have built up some upper body strength. It’s almost three weeks away, but hopefully I’ll survive the wait.

Cathy. Flare!

My first solo skydive did not go well. I went up there on Thursday as planned but it was too windy for students. Rather than wait around for it to die down, I left and went back early on Friday morning, after calling my boss to see if I could get another day off.

John drove me up there on Friday morning. I was assigned an instructor, and was given about two hours of more instruction. It’s amazing how much stuff there is to go through. Things like calculating the size of the parachute according to my weight, checking every part of the equipment at least three times, drills in “Malfunction Junction,” practice arches and practice pulls on a wooden board that swivels around (not sure what they call that), practice aircraft exits, fill out pop quiz, study landing area and wind direction and draw a diagram of the approach to landing. Everything was covered. When it came time to jump I felt I was ready.We then got into the plane and took off to 14,000 feet. There was another student doing his first jump as well. Everyone else jumped before us. I was last. My instructor and I leaned out of the door. I got an okay with him, he grabbed the sides of my jumpsuit and we were off. EXHILIRATING! I can’t describe that feeling of falling through the air at 120 mph. On the first couple of solo jumps the instructor always holds on to the student to keep him/her stable. If for any reason we get separated I have to pull immediately. This didn’t happen, and the instructor stayed with me until the deployment altitude. I waved off and pulled at 5,500 feet, WITHOUT him having to sign to me to look at my altimeter! Everything was so perfect until then. At pull time, of course, the instructor has to let go and the student is alone.

So, there I was, ready for the next stage. My canopy opened. I looked up. It was SQUARE and STABLE. Just how it had to be. I admired it for a second and then proceeded to begin the next stage. Make sure it’s STEERABLE. To do that, you have to release the toggles/brakes, flare, turn right, turn left. I then made a huge error. I released the right toggle only, planning on following up with the left one. Then the canopy started spinning and I started falling rapidly. I was in such shock. All I could think was that it had been SQUARE and STABLE, so what was happening? Yes, I even yelled “help”! My brain went completely. It wouldn’t tell me how to stop the spin. I then made the decision to follow the malfunction drills; i.e. cut away and deploy the reserve. I looked at my altimeter and, horror of horrors, I’d already plunged below 2,000 feet. Too late to deploy the reserve.

I’m not sure if I was thinking about dying. It was really the first time I’d been in an emergency situation like this. Usually when there’s a crisis I run to John, the love of my life. But he was on the ground ready to video my landing.

Then the radio in my jumpsuit came to life, and a very calm voice said: “Cathy. Flare.” “Cathy. Flare.” “Cathy. Flare.” (flare means to pull both toggles all the way down). I flared. The canopy became stable again. The calm voice then said, “Cathy, you are too far away to make it to the landing area. Find an open space and land there. You are on your own for the landing.”

I looked down and saw two good spots. One was a green field and one was brown. I went with the green one, thinking the brown one could be muddy. It looked freshly ploughed. Steered to it and made a horrible horrible landing. Did not flare in time and landed very hard, flat on my face. Got a mouthful of brambles and grass. Perhaps it’s good that nobody in the whole world saw that landing. I gingerly got up and nothing seemed to be broken. There were high hedges on each side of the field and I had no idea where I was or where the dropzone was. I remembered the instructions on how to pick up the equipment and carry it back to the packing room, but wasn’t sure whether to stay where I was and wait to be rescued. After about 15 minutes an aeroplane flew over and I waved at it to let them know I was okay. Then I picked a direction and started walking. The field was thick with brambles and I was worried about snakes and things. I must have only made it about a hundred yards and one of the instructors came running into the field calling me. RESCUE!

It turned out to be the instructor on the radio who’d told me to flare. Once we’d got out of the field and onto a path, he called in to get us a lift as he’d parked on the other side of the field. Yep, I’d chosen the wrong direction. We turned out to be three-quarters of a mile from the dropzone. He then made me tell him everything I’d done after the canopy had opened. I didn’t know then what had gone wrong, but as soon as I told him I released the right toggle and not the left one at the same time, that was the answer. I was so embarrassed and felt so stupid. A major part of the training manual is on emergencies. One malfunction is a toggle releasing during deployment. The way to correct this is to FLARE. I knew that. But I wasn’t prepared to have a STABLE canopy that turned into a spinning canopy.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, John had taken a video of what he thought was me landing. He knew I had a red and white parachute, but the other student did too. He got a great video of the student doing a perfect landing. (I must find out his email address and send him the video). Then he heard someone say that the other student was still up there. He asked which one. “The woman.” “Cathy,” he asked? “Well there was only one female on the plane.” He then saw me up there under a spinning canopy, and I don’t think it was a good moment for him.

As an aside here. I have no idea how things work behind the scenes, but I get the feeling that all staff are instructed to downplay things and act as if everything is normal. Before I did my third tandem I was watching the students landing. The student landing area is further away and it’s difficult to see who is who. Anyway, that day, one of them landed and didn’t get up. I heard some of the staff saying that they needed to get out there and see if he was okay. Then someone drove out there and picked him up. I asked if he’d hurt himself and someone said, “oh no.” Then later on I heard that a medic had been called to treat him. It was kind of like that after I disappeared into the field. John felt like if they spoke to him they’d have said, “nothing to see here. Check out our new vending machines.” I get a good laugh from that, thinking about it two days later.

Once I’d returned to the hangar the instructor went through the entire jump with me. He had video of the exit and the freefall (camera attached to him) and told me what needed correcting. My arch upon leaving the plane was much too late. He said without him holding on to me I would have tumbled (not good). However, apart from what he called “happy feet,” he said he could have let go of me about halfway through the freefall and I would have been stable. Of course, after the deployment I was on my own. And I did tell him everything that had happened. He gave me a lot of advice (technical and psychological and encouraging) and settled me down. Said that he’d had first-level students get into trouble and then go on to get their licenses. He told me, however, to take at least the weekend to evaluate everything before deciding whether to continue. He filled out my logbook and apologized for recommending that I take Level 1 again. (He was much nicer than that motorcycle tester in Oxford in 1970 who growled “I think you know you’ve failed,” after I’d slid and fallen off in the hailstorm during the emergency stop and then got lost trying to find my way back to the test centre). I thanked him for not sending me back to tandem level! Have to say here that he was a wonderful instructor. So professional and patient. And so are all the others I’ve had so far.

The weekend is almost over, and all I can think about is getting up in that aeroplane and getting it right. I’ll never make the toggle mistake again, so that’s some experience under my belt already. So . . . if the boss okays it, AND if they haven’t banned me from the dropzone, I’ll be back on Thursday for another attempt.

This has been a long and rambling post, but I wanted to get the facts down on paper as soon as possible. I may straighten it up over the next few days. And I will post the video of my freefall soon.

More skydiving

Greetings, Habs. Remember that 60th birthday skydive I did back in March? Well, life hasn’t really been the same since. I have jumped three more times since then and don’t think about much else except when the next jump will be. Now, please don’t think your sister/aunt/great aunt/friend has gone off her rocker. I don’t THINK I have. But that freefall adrenalin rush is difficult to ignore.

I’ve taken this very slowly and have read everything I could get my hands on about the sport. All four jumps so far have been tandem jumps; i.e. with an instructor. On each jump, though, I’ve learnt a little more . . . how to make 360-degree turns, how to track, how to control the canopy (yep, you don’t call it a parachute), etc. Then last Friday night I went to a four-hour ground school and learnt a whole lot more.

So what’s next? My first solo jump! On Thursday morning. HELP! I’ll be doing something called AFF (Accelerated Free Fall). Jump at 14,000 feet with an instructor holding on to me to keep me stable. Pull at 5,000 feet, at which time the instructor flies away . HELP! Then I’m on my own to find my way back to the dropzone and land without breaking my ankles. My heart is thumping just typing this.

So there you have it. I’ll let you know how it went.