Lessons in Life and Canopy Flight

What started out as beautiful weather on waking resulted in an intermittent flux of rain throughout the day. But once the winds moved in, many of the clouds moved out, much to the appreciation of the anxious grounded skydivers and awaiting tandem customers. Didn’t really matter too much to me … slaDE and I had specifically drove here to Skydive Houston in Waller Texas so that we could participate in Brian Germain canopy clinic course. And much of our day was spent in the classroom. The time available that we had to jump as a group was beyond my wind comfort zone for a lot of the afternoon. But once the wind had calmed and settled, I was ready to have lots of hang time playing under my canopy rehearsing a few of the practical exercises Brian had given us.

There were a few students in the weekend clinic who needed to have a coach exit with them for them to participate in the high altitude hop and pops (part of the AFF student progression training). And being a USPA certified Coach, I was happy to off my coaching services to Jodi on her Level 13 jump. The main objective on our jump for the weekend was to pull high and practice our canopy skills. But for her to proceed in the program, we had to combine a working jump from full altitude with our canopy hang time. We had a fabulously successful jump, and when I opened under canopy, everything looked swell until I went to release my brake toggles …. dang it if my slider wasn’t hung up on my brakes! No amount of maneuvering / breathing / yanking / pushing and wishful persuasion would release the right toggle with the slider grommet firmly stuck on top. For over 3000 feet, I battled with my ‘malfunction’ and at 2000 feet I made the decision to keep the canopy and land it as it was. I looked around trying to grasp my bearings, having no clue as to where the airport was. Finding the windline, I sussed out a nice safe landing area — a just-plowed farmer’s field. With one final yank on the slider, I managed to pull it past the toggle stow and safely released my brakes, giving me more control over my flare. Phew! I wasn’t that familiar and comfortable with flaring my canopy on rear risers. Better start practicing :). Having kept my wits about me, I was grateful to have breathed slowly through the whole process and learning a few things with the unexpected. Luckily for my student, she had found the dz up high (thank goodness for super high openings when that far away from the airport!). also landing safely … it was only her 15th jump, and I felt responsible for her being her coach; as it happened, we were the last to exit from the Otter, and I was her only guide for canopy direction. 🙂

An eventful fantastic jump with a positive outcome. A brilliant lesson in the fallibility of a well-thought-out plan. Sometimes the future is out of our control. But breathing through any dilemmas that may come my way, success is a good probability, with a whole lot of skill and a little bit of luck thrown in for good measure.

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