The following is a bit of text I wrote immediately after my 7-7-02 jump out of a plane, can you feel the excitement?
Skydiving was one of the most incredible things I've ever done. I HIGHLY recommend it!! We drove a few hours to the airport (it didn't have to be a few hours, only about an hour, but we got lost on the way there...) We were greeted by friendly folk, who presented us with lots of legal papers. Basically we had to sign a bunch of waivers that said "Skydiving is an inherently dangerous sport, and you could be seriously injured or even killed." and we had to sign away our right to sue them if we got injured, and so on, all standard stuff for this sort of thing. We presented them with 170$ each, which they happily accepted. We watched a little video on basic skydiving, then an instructor trained us on the positions, and the 'dive flow', the sequence of events starting with the moment we stepped onto the plane, till we were back in the hangar. We got to wear fabulous colorful jumpsuits, and were tandemed up with experienced instructors, connected to their front.
We took a Beechcraft up to 14,500 feet. The plane was packed with other jumpers, my friend and I, and our clipped on tandem instructors, and about 8 other jumpers, all who had their licenses already and were doing solo jumps. When we hit the altitude, the pilot cut the engines, and people just started falling out the door. I was scared out of my mind, but I scooted over to the door, and then with me facing down, and my instructor behind, I fell forward, and we dropped out of the plane.
The instructor had me keep my arms to my chest for a moment, so he could get the drogue out (which is this tiny parachute, about 2 ft in diameter, and spring loaded, so it just pops out of the pack. Its upward pulling force helps the canopy come out straight when it comes time for that part). Then we just went into a freefall for what seemed like forever, but was more like 60 seconds. It didn't even feel like falling. When you first fall out of the plane, it feels like falling, because you are rolling out of something, but once the wind hits you, its more like you are flying, and all the fear goes away. There is no G force sensation of falling, just a 120 mph wind hitting you in the face while you fly like a bird. It feels like there is a huge jet of air beneath you that is just holding you up, like a cartoon character being held up by a gyeser of water.
We spun around a bit, and got oriented, and then at 7000 feet, he had me pull the ripcord, and we got jerked quite abruptly out of the intense whirling winds to a very calm place under a colorful canopy. The world went from an incredibly intense high-speed dive to gentle swaying in the breeze, and we could talk at a comfortable level. Everything looked like tiny models on the ground, it felt like I could just pick up the little buildings and move them around. Billy
, the other person I went with, was tandemed to his instructor, and despite coming out of the plane after me, we saw them zoom past us at a terrifying rate before opening their canopy. They opened up at about 6000 feet, only a few seconds longer before pulling the cord. Its amazing how much distance a second is at that speed.
You can control the canopy very easily by pulling on these toggles by your head. You can fly it just like an airplane. A little pull, and you gently turn, a big huge pull, and you go into a violent spin, which is terrifically exciting. We whipped around a few times in some nice spins, and then directed our flight down towards the landing area, which was equipped with a big huge T shaped rudder on the ground that rotates with the wind, you can look at it, see how the wind is moving, and orient your flight pattern to match. Several minutes later, we were coming down, with the ground rushing up to us, then we 'flared' the canopy, basically 'pulling up' very quickly, and we just sort of plopped onto the ground, staying in a standing position. We disconnected, grabbed the canopy, and walked over to the hangar. I instantly wanted to do it again. I'm planning on doing it again early next month, and starting my training to get a jump license. It gets cheaper and cheaper as you go, because you need less instructor time. After 20 jumps (which ends up to be about 1000$), you can jump on your own for only 18$, or 36$ if you need to use their equipment. Which is a pittance. 36$ for an incredibly exhilarating experience is a great deal. 36$ bucks worth of cocaine won't get you that high. It was very very cool. I'm eagerly awaiting my next chance to jump.
A videographer jumped with us, and gave Billy the miniDV tape, which he is going to edit into a couple little features. The pre-jump stuff is both of us, but most of the in-air stuff is of Billy. It should be a very cool video though. As soon as its finished I'll post it on Cowboys of Justice