Dutch Military Square Chute/Static Line Course
Paracentrum Texel Island, Holland
13 - 18 Sept 09

13 Sunday

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 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:)

14 Monday

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.

No...reserve procedure

5. Pump twice ie take chute off brake

6. Is slider down?

7. Are end cells inflated?

Check altitude. Where am l? Others? Altitude?

We then got into landing drills and of course, the reserve when you have to manually deploy your reserve chute. We spent a lot of time here and we are very focused.

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 the site

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 jumpers.

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 enthralled.

And forget to do all of my drills.

So l check my canopy. 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 mechanical issues.

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 me.

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 react:(

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 could clear.

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 jump point.  

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 jumping out of the plane and not having my chute open, so l decide to mention this to the jumpmaster. 

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 out myself:)

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.