Here I was, a Sunday morning like any other. Ready to enjoy a relaxing weekend in the sky. This time, though, to add a little excitement I was going to jump a wingsuit.
I knew my canopy was not recommended to be used with a wingsuit especially because of my beginner wingsuit pilot status, but I had already jumped with it before and it didn’t seem like a big deal.
The air was warm and wearing the suit felt like being in a microwave. When the plane finally arrived, it was our turn to go up. I got in the plane and took off; only a few more minutes of suffering because of the heat. Then, at 1,500 feet, someone yells “door!” Promptly, a buddy of mine opens the door and a stream of air blasts inside the cockpit. Best feeling in the world. Now that the heat is not taking over my mind, I start getting that feeling of nervousness that comes every time you attempt to change something in your typical routine jump.
Now I am at 7,000 feet and the plane door is closed once again. Since its summer time, the heat starts to build up again.
By the time we get to 10,000 feet I’m hot and nervous. I check my equipment over and over to avoid forgetting something crucial because of my stressed mental state. Since you wear the wingsuit on top of the legstraps, it is very important to double check those by hand to make sure they are tighten since there is no visual contact. Horror stories of people falling out of their harness at pull time because of mis-routed legstraps are flashing in my head. 12,000 feet: someone yells “door” one more time. The door opens up and I check a few more gears while the rest of the jumpers get out. Now its my turn! I’m with two wingsuit veterans and I’ll be in between them outside the door. They climb out and leave a space big enough for me to fit in.
I look behind my shoulders and I nod my head to ensure the lead flier that I’m ready. I see the count, “ready, set, go.”
We are flying! I finally relax since I know there is no return at this point. The feeling of freedom prevails fear. I think to myself there is nothing I can do now but enjoy the moment and have fun because if something goes wrong at least I had a blast before going in.
We fly next to each other and one of the two fliers gives me some hand signals to adjust my body position. I adjust myself. The flight never ends, it seems like its an endless dream, soaring over the vast desert fields at thousands of feet above earth.
Every dream has an end and I can hear my audible altimeter ringing like an alarm clock reminding me to wake up and come back to the real world. It’s pull time!
Probably the most challenging part of flying a wing suit is pulling. We’re used to pulling for thousands of jumps without a wingsuit, so our brain is trained to do the same movement. However, with a wingsuit, the deployment maneuver is very different.
Put your knees together tuck both your arms behind your back, pull and “pray” cross your arms. Yeah, the canopy its coming out! Oh s***, it doesn’t look good.
I start spinning violently and rack up a good 8 to 10 line twists. My canopy is diving at first but then stops and I think, ”I can handle it.” I had line twist before and had no problem getting out of it, but this time it’s hard and fighting the twist is exhausting me. I stare at my altimeter and continue to fight the twists then back to the altimeter. I know I have to cutaway in time for the reserve to open safely and not let myself ride the malfunctioned canopy to the ground. The canopy stops spinning but landing in this configuration would still kill me. I’m flying backwards and I can’t see where I am going. I turn my head but the way my canopy is flying doesn’t allow me to see anything. I know I’m getting lower. I’m tired of fighting the canopy and my mouth is dry I start feeling nauseous. I look at my altimeter again. Its now time to let go of my main and go for the reserve. I grab my cutaway handle but before pulling I want to give it one more try since I know that if my reserve has a problem I won’t have a third parachute to save me from certain death. One more push but nothing. I can’t get out of it. I need to cutaway. I grab my cutaway handle and think, “I hope the next one works.” I pull like my life depends on it, and it actually does.
The handle comes out softly and I feel my canopy leaving my back. Now, I grab my reserve handle and by the time its in my hands my reserve is coming out and I can feel it inflating. I wait few seconds before I look at it. Then I raise my eyes to the sky and I see my sweet bright orange reserve on top of me flying stable and straight.
I yell, “Yeaaaaaah!”
A feeling of euphoria hits me as the adrenaline pushes in my veins.
I’m alive and I can’t wait to jump again. Maybe this time with a canopy that is appropriate for wingsuiting.