Monday, June 15, 2015

Lessons Learned Jumping from a Plane

 “I jumped from a plane!” reverberated in my head in the days following last week’s jump.  The emotions, the impact and the high from the experience remained within me.  I finally have the time to really reflect on the events and realized the lessons to take away.  Without knowing it, jumping from an airplane is like running a project:
  1. Planning:
    The jump was clearly for Gab’s 20th birthday, something that she had wanted to do.  Along with our friend, James, Debbie and I started the planning process sometime around November.  In planning for the jump, the first step was finding the correct place.  After some research by the seasoned jumper (James), he chose Skydive the Ranch in Upstate New York.  We would go in June, when the weather would be good and James would be visiting from Australia.  Then we decided to make this a weekend event, so that we would have a Sunday as a backup (good to have a contingency plan) for bad weather.  Debbie and I chose a bed and breakfast, called Bernetta's Place , a wonderful place in Wallkill, NY.  The planning phase was complete.  The “project” kickoff meeting? Gab’s birthday!

  1. Identifying the Risks:
    The basic risk – Jump out of a plane at 13,500 feet + hitting the ground at warp speed = No More Wayne.  That is putting it simply.  When we got to the Ranch, we saw a video with Bill Booth, inventor of the 3-ring jump harness and innovator of tandem jumping.  He told us EVERYTHING that can go wrong.  During the presentation, there was a wailing sound peppered with, “OMG’s” and “I’m gonna cry.”  Yes, Debbie was in the room with us.  Gab and I signed the required documents to say we understood the risks and any mistakes were our fault.
3.       Highlighting the Benefits – this is why we do this:
a.       We get to jump SAFELY from a plane
b.      Great bonding experience
c.    Stepping out of our comfort zones

4.       Development (mindset):
Very important on any project that one has in front of them.  If this was software we are talking about, you would have to make sure that you understood the programming language, reviewed the specs and then began the work.  In jumping, you have to:
a.       Get into the right mindset. 
b.      Be 100% open to doing this. 
c.       Excited about stepping out of your comfort zone and having a new experience.

5.       Training
a.       First Time Jumpers – This is a simple tandem jump, which related to Gab, workmates Annie and Ramona and myself.  Tandem jumpers need to be “handled” the entire time, starting with being suited up.  We learn what will happen, how we are attached to the instructor, how to move from the bench to the plane door, jump, free fall and glide to a safe landing.  Time = 15 minutes, then you are ready to jump.
b.      Recertification – This is for someone that has had jumping experience, but has let his or her license lapse after many years of inactivity.  Our friend Clint had to spend a few hours reviewing the process with someone and staring at maps so that he could locate where to land.  Time = 3 to 4 hours, plus jumping with an instructor and 60 days to apply for license and 1 additional jump.
c.       Certified jumper – This is for someone with a license and an up-to-date jump log book.  James just smiled, used the lingo, then suited up.  Time = 10 minutes (to suit up), then jump.

6.       Implementation
a.       Testing

Before you bring a project live you have to do testing (quality assurance, user acceptance testing).  Harness was checked at least three times before climbing on the plane.  On the plane, the instructor I was with checked my equipment before attaching us together.  Then he went through a test of the equipment with me.  There were at least two more checks before the door to the plane opened.

b.      Go-live

The neat thing about live is that you can script out the steps required to bring the project live.  No difference here.  There goes Gab jumping out of the door.  Follow the script:
                                                               i.      Scoot forward on the bench
                                                             ii.      Squat down and duck walk to the door and have toes outside the plane.
Weird, I notice the gray, industrial carpeting that looks like it starting to
       separate from the plane floor.
                                                            iii.      Thumbs up to camera man
                                                           iv.        Head back, rock forward, rock backwards, rock forward out of the plane
                                                             v.        Feet back, wait for tap on shoulders, arms straight out.
                                                           vi.      “Cause I’m free, free falling” (courtesy of Tom Petty)
                                                          vii.      Shoot opens, glide gently to the earth
                                                        viii.      Feet up, land, kiss the ground below my feet

OK – made up that last part, but was happy to see Gab safe and sound and looking happy.  My wife, like the users I have at work, was happy that the execution went as planned and to have her family back safe on the ground. 

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