When I was cleaning out a folder on my computer last week, I found three documents recording each of the three skydiving jumps I’ve made. Just for fun, I’m going to share them here on the blog this week. Today’s is from my first skydiving experience. (You can find my second and third jumps here.) It’s kind of fun looking back and reading something I wrote over six years ago, but sorry about the quality of the photos. I think these came from one of those cheap disposable cameras!
Jump 1: August 5, 2006 @ 5:30pm
Location: West Tennessee Skydiving at Wings Field
Altitude: 14,500 ft
Freefall: 60 seconds
I’ve wanted to skydive since I held my first parachute in elementary school gym class. It was always a treat when we got to play with the parachute – I loved the way it sounded when we snapped the ends and how it would billow up if everyone worked together in just the right way.
I had plans to go skydiving after graduation when myself and all of my friends turned 18, but an unexpected pregnancy sort of threw a wrench in that plan. (Ha!) Then it kept getting pushed off to the side until this year when I finally got the chance to go for it!
It took a lot of planning and schedule-changing, but eventually we all settled on August 5 for our first tandem jump. (‘We’ meaning me, Cory, my dad, Lisa Marie, and Lisa Marie’s boyfriend, David. My mom and Lexie just came along to watch!) We arrived at Wings Field in Somerville, Tennessee a little after noon. The place was a lot bigger than we expected with a pool, bathrooms with showers, and an extremely large indoor packing and waiting area.
The first thing they made us do was go to a small room on the side of the building to watch a video starring a very old man with an extremely long beard whose name I have already forgotten. (Apparently he is a very famous skydiver who developed the way people jump today.) We also had to sign our consent forms, just in case we died. We paid our money for the jumps and videos and then sat down to wait.
While we were waiting, we would go outside and watch experienced skydivers do special flips in the air and land at the drop zone. It was really exciting and helped everyone’s nerves calm down to see so many successful jumps. After about 4 hours of waiting, they finally called us over to get suited up and run through a short training before our own jump.
My tandem instructor was a guy named Matt. He helped me get suited up and taught me the correct skydiving form and how to jump out of the plane. The instruction lasted a total of maybe three minutes and, of course, I knew I would forget everything he told me the minute we jumped out of the plane. We also got to meet our video guys who would jump out of the plane before us and record us as we fell in freefall.
After standing around in our jumpsuits and harnesses for a good sweaty 15 minutes, we walked out to the plane. We would be flying up to 14,500 feet in Mike Mullins’ Super King Air. This small plane held an amazing number of people: 5 jumpers + 5 instructors + 4 camera guys + the pilot.
We reached our altitude in about 7 minutes. FYI: This feels like an eternity when you’re sitting on your instructors lap about to jump out of a plane for the first time. Myself and Matt would be the first tandem jumpers out of the plane. (This was exactly the way I wanted it, but I think next time I want to go at least second so that I can watch someone else jump out, too!)
When it was time to jump, we chicken-walked to the door of the airplane and stared down. What a rush! I’m not sure, but maybe we counted to three and just sort of fell out of the airplane. Prior to the jump, I had asked my instructor if he would do a few flips with me in freefall and we did two front flips coming out of the airplane. Then we leveled out and started freefalling face-down, and I was right, I did completely forget what form I was supposed to take during freefall, but Matt forced me into the correct position. (Watching this happen on the video was pretty hilarious!)
During freefall, Steve, my cameraman, was right in front of me. They tell you to keep your face up and look at the video guy, but this was nearly impossible for me. I couldn’t keep my eyes off the ground. I had figured it would look like we were getting closer and closer to the ground as we fell, but it looked and felt more like we were flying straight across the sky instead of falling.
It was pretty hard to breathe because of the thin air that high up and the fact that we were falling at 120 mph. Later on the ground, someone told me that if you force the air out of your lungs in freefall that your lungs will naturally fill right back up, but since I didn’t know this, I actually ended up holding my breath for almost all of the 60 second freefall. I figured if I passed out, I wasn’t the one pulling our cord for the parachute so we’d be fine!
After about 60 seconds, Matt opened our parachute and we had a 5 to 10 minute glide down to the drop zone. I had an extremely hard time calming down at this point. This was the part where the ground looked like it kept getting closer and closer. It was really fun to watch everything come into view and see people waiting at the drop zone. My instructor said that most people find the time under canopy to be relaxing, but I was like a kid who just got off their favorite roller coaster. I was ready to do it again!
For the landing part, we were told to force our legs out in front of us and our instructor would handle the landing. The ground felt like it was coming in extremely fast and we sort of slid in. Being the first one to jump, I got to be there to greet everybody else when they got back on the ground. There is a really cool scene on my dad’s video of me running over to hug him as soon as he landed on the ground. :)
When we got back inside, they gave us our videos to watch in a back room. It was a rush of adrenaline all over again watching what we’d just done. After the videos, they gave us our certificates and we headed back home. It was almost disappointing leaving. I had waited to do this for over a decade, and now it was over. When you wait that long for something, you feel like the experience should last a little longer than an afternoon. The entire jump itself lasted less than 20 minutes. Luckily, I’ll be doing another tandem jump in December with my sister, so I don’t have to wait too long to do it all over again!