Friday, May 06, 2005

Skydive Snohomish

My friend Gail is in town, en route to Vancouver where she will take care of some paperwork for the next few weeks. Since it was a beautiful day, Krisanne was planning to skydive, and invited us out to watch in the mid-afternoon. She planned to do a "hop and pop" or two (these are low altitude jumps with minimal freefall, because you deploy the canopy shortly after exiting the plane).

Skydive Snohomish

I drove us (Gail and myself) out to Harvey Airfield in Snohomish, which we were told is the largest private airport in the nation. Krisanne gave us a brief tour before signing up for a flight. The drop zone was basically a roomy building with furniture all around the edges: couches, TV, videos in one corner; lockers along the wall; hooks with packs and other gear taking up more space; a vending machine; and the administration desk, where the flight dispatch and payment occurs. The center space is used by people packing their canopies.

Krisanne gearing up...

Paul, one of the DZ helpers, drove Gail and me to the east landing field, where Krisanne would be landing. We got there early and had plenty of time to chat with Paul about skydiving - he filled us in on some of the associated costs. It is expensive, but then as a triathlete I can hardly point fingers about expensive gear. ;) Soon, we spotted the plane, and heard the engines cut slightly, slowing the plane down enough to safely allow people to jump out. I saw Krisanne leap out - which from the ground just looked like a spot falling back from the plane. Since this was a low altitude jump, the canopy opened almost immediately and it was easy to see her floating in the sky.


We were standing on the middle edge of the field, watching Krisanne fly down and cut altitude with S-turns, corkscrews, and 360's. It looked like a lot of fun and I bet the view must have been great. As she got closer, Paul filled in some information about the landing pattern: flying with the wind, then a turn crosswind, then another turn into the wind and the landing.


This was actually pretty scary, from my perspective. Not only was she headed towards the edge of the field near a road, she was coming in very fast at a very sharp angle - I thought for certain she was out of control and going to crash. But, a few seconds before touchdown, she flared her canopy and landed while running - stuck her landing on her feet with us as witnesses! (Later at dinner Krisanne said that is called "ground rush": beginners often think they are coming in too fast to land, and wind up flaring the canopy too high - then they fall to the ground and get injured). All I can say it from my inexperienced eye, the proper technique for landing looks way too fast!

Take Me To Your Leader... Or Back to the DZ!

After landing, she bundled up her canopy and met us halfway. We congratulated her and walked to the bus to be driven back to the DZ. On the brief ride back, we were all buzzing over how well it went.

Folding the Canopy, in Only 53 Simple Steps

At the DZ, we went outside to watch Krisanne pack her canopy. It was a slow process, but she is getting faster with more practice.

Checking Lines

First she straightened everything out and checked the lines,

Folding the Canopy

then carefully inspected the canopy while folding and interleaving it,

Squeezing out the air

then knelt on or body hugged the canopy to squeeze out air,

Stuffing into the pack

stuffed it into the pack,

Rubber banding the Lines

and finally rubber banded the lines back and forth. The rubber bands help slow deployment a little - obviously you want the chute and lines to deploy, but too fast is quite jarring. Krisanne also checked the pilot chute, which is what helps deploy everything else.

Krisanne was ready to jump again, so after a few minutes, she boarded the plane while Gail and I headed out to the field to watch again. Unfortunately, the bus was held up by a train, and we got to the field just as she landed - too late to take more pictures.

Check out Gail's blog entry on this day, for more details AND a video of Krisanne landing!

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