Square Chute/Static Line Course
Paracentrum Texel Island, Holland
13 - 18 Sept 09
The drive from Den Hague (the
Hague) was on 4 lane highway that bypassed Amsterdam and turned into a 2
laner before ending at the ferry terminal at Den Helder...the GPS doing
all the nav for us. The ferry ride across the Marsdiep was short and
uneventful, the ride being less than 30 minutes.
We drive through a number of
small communities enroute to the Paracentrum, knowing that we'll have
more time to get back to them in the days to come.
We arrived at Paracentrum around
1500 hrs and complete our registration process....it is interesting to
finally put pretty faces to names for the first time. The school is very
busy and 10 French police from Paris are enrolling on the same static
line course as us.
We then meet our instructor
Martina. She has been a jump instructor for a number of years, working
in a school on the mainland as well as California. She looks sideways at
me when l suggest that she had followed a surfer dude back to the
states, for reasons that will become much clearer later on.
Martina issues us the jump
coveralls we will wear while we jump...apparently the average European
jumper is a little more svelte than us fine North Americans jumpers and
instead of getting the new 'Gucci gear', we are issued older suits with
some bank's name plastered all over them.
We are given a short tour of the
school...classrooms, where we draw our chutes and altimeters, etc
followed by a visit to the landing zone (LZ). I am secretly hoping that
the aircraft we are gonna jump out of are mechanically 'sounder' that
the bone wagon Martina drives us to the LZ in.
We start our first lecture around
1600 hrs and are done for the evening by 1800 hrs. Told to be back to
the school for 0900 the next morning, we head off to the hotel, drop our
gear off and start exploring the local area. Supper is pizza and vino in
De Cocksdorp and then we head to the lighthouse for a recce. We also
stop in at a restaurant in the shadow of the lighthouse for beers....and
meet a very sassy waitress:)
Classes start at 0900. We learn
first about the prejump briefings, steering briefings and the Pin Check,
followed by how to steer the chute, critical altitude decision points
and landing priorities.
And then we get into the meat of
the training ie chute drills and what us army guys refer to
IAs...Immediate Actions ie what to do when bad things happen. We are
very alert now.
Following are the drills l carve
into my hand:
1. After a/c exit, count 1000,
2000, 3000. Check canopy.
2. Is chute square? Yes, got to
3. No..reserve procedure.
3. Is chute flying straight? Yes,
go to 4. No ...reserve procedure
4. Are lines twisted? No, go to
5. Yes..clear twist and go to 5.
5. Pump twice ie take chute off
6. Is slider down?
7. Are end cells inflated?
Check altitude. Where am l?
We then got into landing drills
and of course, the reserve procedure...ie when you have to manually
deploy your reserve chute. We spent a lot of time here and we are very
Then the review of 'Special
Procedures"....all bad things. More being very focused.
We then practice a/c exit drills,
parachute landing falls (PLF) front/back, and then into the racks for a
review of our IAs. (Note that all of the above are videotaped and l hate
being videotaped....l think l screw up in every 'taping'.)
And 1600 hrs we are done and
Martina has confirmed we are now at 'J for Jump ' stage....all we need
now is the winds to die down and we can jump. Which does not happen for
3 days! Tuesday and Wed are spend exploring....see elsewhere in
Thursday, 17 Sept.
Up early as usual...perhaps 3 am
again for me. l reviewing pictures for a couple of hours, do a little
reading and listen to the light rain outside. At least the flag outside
our window that greets us each morning is not flying at 90 degrees to
the pole as it has each morning since our arrival. We get squared away
and head down for breakfast...there is palpable excitement in the air as
everyone can sense that we might finally be able to jump: some folks
have already had to leave without jumping, and the entire French
continent has to work the next day.
We get to the school and Jim, l
and the French guys are immediately assigned to the first airplane of
the day...the Cessna Caravan's first chock will be entirely static line
We draw chutes and altimeters,
gear up and head off to the Pin Check where the Chief Instructor
configures the primary chute's static line ie with the end of the static
line now attached to my chest strap, which in turn, will be connected by
the jumpmaster to the floor of the aircraft once we board. We then
attend the steering briefing: all winds up to this point required us to
do a left approach to the LZ, but today it is a right hand turn.
Pin and steering check done, we
wait until the Caravan is fuelled and then we begin to load. Jim
and I have long agreed that the 'plane' part of the jump is gonna be the
toughest to deal with and Jim and l want out of there as fast as we can.
Jim will be the first out on the jump, followed by me as quickly as l
can scuttle into the door behind him so we are the last to board. My
french buddy Dwayne is right in front of me. Two French guys will
follow Jim and l on the tail end of our chock. The remainder of the cops
then form chocks 2 and 3 who will have to fly around the circuit at
least once before jumping ...not my cup of tea.
The climb out is fine and l am
sort of absent-mindedly looking out the window...l think part of me is
thinking this is just another SAR mission on 440 Sqn's Twin
Otter....until the jumpmaster slides the door open at 3500 ft.
This gets my attention real fast!
All of sudden there is a lot of
wind noise and buffeting and since l am sitting beside what used to be a
door, there is now nothing that l can steady myself with.....hmmmmm. I
also glance over my shoulder and see all the way from the ground to the
horizon. This is going to be interesting, l think to myself.
So, while the aircraft tracks the
last couple of hundred metres to the drop point, l pointedly stare at my
altimeter to keep from losing focus.
Finally, the jumpmaster looks at
Jim and motions '1' ie jumper one to the door. Jim quickly manoeuvres
into the door and assumes the jump position: feet forward into the
slipstream, left hand on the left door frame and right hand on bottom of
door frame, head twisted to the right and facing the jumpmaster.
She yells 'ready' and Jim replies
'ready'. She says 'go' and Jim is out the door like Jack the Bear.
I quickly slide into the doorway
and assume the jump position, cranking my head around to look at the
jumpmaster....l want to get out of the a/c as quickly as l can and most
definitely do not want to look at the ground until l clear the a/c .
My exit feels good and there is a
blast of noise and wind and l do not remember seeing the a/c but rather
a rush of colour and l can hear myself counting 1000, 2000, 3000 and a
sudden shock as the chute opens. Not a shoulder socket-shearing shock,
but one you certainly recognize as your chute has begun opening.
And then silence.
I start hooting and screaming as
loud as l can ....this is absolutely friggin awesome and l am instantly
hooked for life!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
l realize I am looking north and
can see every inch of the beaches Jim and l have been humping for days,
every road we have been down, every village we have driven through. l am
And forget to do all of my
So l check my canopy.
Hmmmmm...it looks like a big but
slightly rectangular ball and not much like an inflated chute. l
check my altitude and since l have 3200 ft on the clock, decide to
continue with my drills. Am l flying straight? Yes...therefore no
Am l twisted? Oyah....4 twists.
So l clear the twists and
instantly the chute inflates. Yeehah...this rocks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
l hang in the chute, listen to
the wind (just a slight fluttering of the chute material), look around
to see where everyone else is and pretty much just enjoy the ride.
And shit!...gotta finish my
drills. Grab toggles, pump twice and then chute comes off half-brake and
begins to accelerate. Slider is now in position and end cells are now
inflated....hence the odd ball shape on initial deployment.
I quickly confirm l am north of
the LZ, see where everyone else and decide to see how quickly the chute
will turn. The chute certainly does not do fighter-type 360 degree turns
a second, but it comes around reasonably quickly. I quickly acquire the
airfield and start to look for the LZ.
Which is already passing below
Great...since Jim and l were
always first out the door, we always jumped closed to the LZ so that the
last guy in the stick did not jump over water. Add the high winds from
the north and we were already having to think about an upwind leg to the
LZ at 2000 ft....not 300 ft. So l begin to fly 90 degrees to the
LZ but am slowly being blown south of it...the wind is stronger than the
8 m/s forward flight speed my chute does. So l slowly drift past the LZ,
the runway parallel to the LZ, a cornfield parallel the airstrip, then a
road and finally over a farm to the south of the airfield.
Not good....there is no way l am
walking that far back to the meeting point on the LZ. So l immediately
start my upwind final leg as high as l can and start to make a little
progress back to the LZ, clearing the road in the process.
However, there is now a 20 m wide cornfield between me and the grass
runway to fly over and about 100 ft high l decide l am not going to make
it the runway. l set up for my PLF and just above the cornfield ie 3-4 m
(and not the 2 m we have been told to use) l flare....with just enough
height for the wind to catch me and slip me sideways before l can
My landing is not graceful: l
land on my broken ankle first (ouch) followed by hip (ouch) and then
onto my back but l am on the ground safely. Yehhhhhhhhhhhahahh! Jump 1.
Gathering my chute, l get to see
the cornfields that we have been driving by for days, really, really 'up
close'...the stalks are easily 8ft tall and l walk parallel to the rows
until l come to the end of the field and l can walk to the LZ.
Which everyone else has already
left. Thanks guys.
I am the second last one back to
the school....Dwayne comes back from another field by car....and Jim
takes my pic. We do a quick debrief and get ready for jump 2. (We
then learn than the video camera has failed for Jim and my first
jump...only the French guys are taped. The vid used for our jump is
actually our second jump when l am number 4 in the stick).
l land Jump 2 on the runway
beside the LZ...still misjudging the wind, but had an excellent exit and
landed on my feet. Only 3 twists. A French guy tentpegs the ground about
50 m away....he must have slept through the PLF lectures.
Jump 3 was just after lunch. Good
exit, no twists, and landed on my feet on the runway. Darn, 10 m from
the LZ....just a water filled ditch in the way, which l did not think l
Jump 4. Jim and l are lounging
around since it looks like we are jumping with the French guys in a
later stick. Out of nowhere, the master instructor yells at us to get on
the Caravan now packed with free-fall chutists now sitting on the ramp.
We gear up as quick as we can and head to the a/c. we are the last two
jumpers to board.
We quickly take off and head to
5000 ft...the new jumpmaster tells us we will get a longer ride this
time. But as we climb thorough thick clouds we loose sight of the
ground...just something else l have to worry about:(
However the jumpmaster tells the
pilot to head back below the clouds for Jim and I to jump and once we
reach 3500 ft the door slides open and we start our upwind leg to the
Focusing again on my altimeter, l
realize at the same time realize that my static line is still attached
to me, not the a/c. This is a very bad thing...ie jumping out of the
plane and not having my chute open, so l decide to mention this to the
He loudly announces (as it is
quite loud in the a/c) that he would have picked up this small omission
up before l jumped, but Jim later tells me that a couple of the
free-fall folks behind me were quite shocked that he had failed to
attach my static line to the a/c when l first got on.
Anyhow everything was sorted out,
l had a great exit without twists, and followed Jim for almost 3 minutes
of flight before nailing the LZ! I am the man!
Jump 5 was reasonably interesting
as well. I was the fourth jumper in the first stick, with my French
buddy ahead of me. Dwayne probably wasn't enjoying himself much on the
course, and did a lot of walking back to the jump school each jump so l
sort of went for a short walk before each jump to ensure he got on the
a/c each time. And I think he half expected me to toss him out if need
be, but l probably would have knocked him out of the way trying to get
Anyhooooo, as he made his way to
the door ahead of me, l had to scuttle across the open doorway to get in
position behind him, so l started to edge to the opposite side of the
plane to get away from the door until l could approach it feet first as
instructed. However, l ended up with one foot on either side of the
jumpmaster as Dwayne exited...and so the jumpmaster 'sort of' pushed me
backwards to get me into position. Which left me sort of backwards in
the door and my arse hanging over the edge and in the slipstream.
And as much as a backwards exit would have been cool, l got myself
turned around and out the door fine.
However, the chute opened hard
and l definitely feel like l was upside down at some time but l easily
cleared the twists. I followed Jim on the 800 ft turn upwind onto the LZ
and watched from above as jim barely cleared the ditch to nail the LZ
for the 5th time...but l decide that l do not have enough height to get
there and so land alongside the ditch.
Darn, but still nail another nice
landing, again on my feet.
And so it is done. We have done
the 5 qualifying jumps for the Dutch military square chute/static line
course and l hoot for about 5 minutes!!!!!!!!!!
We head back to the school, get
all our papers signed off and we are done for the evening. There is much
partying but the French guys have already left back to Paris.
Back to the school in the morning
to get swag ie Dutch military jump wings, etc, l also have a short
conversation with the Head Instructor regarding the small omission of
his staff to attach my static line properly. It will be dealt
with, he ensures me, and l believe him.
map of my landings...Jim's are
all in the triangular LZ in the middle of the photo.
click on a picture to see a larger
image. hit arrows at either end of the slideshow for more pictures.
Paracentrum Texel...our jump school.