Or at least I was. Last Saturday I cashed in on a gift my daughter had given me for my 70th birthday. She and I travelled about 30 miles from Denver to Longmont,CO and proceeded to go up in an airplane to 17,000 feet…. and then we jumped out! Seemed to make perfect sense. She is about to be 40 and just about as crazy as I am. The high(no play on words) was incredible. I am still feeling it.
The lead up to the launch was notable not for fear or anxiety but for an incredible desire to do this and do it right. Sure you think about what could happen but not for long. As we entered the hangar area there was an interesting clash. The reception staff and instructors were young and you had the distinct feeling this was more of a love than a job. Perhaps cult like. Shorts and flip flops were the uniform of the day but with an air of experience and business. Quite unusual and it gave one a sense of confidence that they really knew what they were doing. Let’s hope so.
The ride to the staging area on the other side of the airport was unique. We bounced around on benches in an aluminum trailer that could have carried horses or cattle if the sides were higher.Like livestock going to the slaughter. I had long gone past the point of no return so you get with the program. The most interesting part was how many people were doing this either in tandem or solo. Throughout the prep we had to see well over 50 jumpers. Some packing their chutes and others just chilling. And that was just in the noon hour.
Flight suit on and strapped up, we climbed into a King Air twin engine and we were off. My man, Sean and I were close and about to get a lot closer. Just after takeoff he told me he was taking off my seat belt. Huh? He said if anything went wrong we were outta there. Comforting to say the least. As we went into a steep climb I was trying to find the most secure foothold I could to avoid zipping out the side door which had been pulled up…for ventilation of course. I watched the ground get farther and farther away. What the hell am I doing here?
When we got to altitude things started happening and quickly. Sean strapped us together so tightly I thought we were welded at the hip. I got my last few instructions. The yellow jump light flashed and there we were standing in the doorway. I crouched low and then we were off. The initial sensation of just being in midair was mind blowing. You saw the ground far below, you felt the cold air and then it really sank in what you were doing. Once again not so much fear but sheer amazement and a bit of blind faith as we hurtled downward. We did some free falling with spins and turns and then the photographer shot up right in front of us and tells me to wave. I gave her a thumbs up and grinned one of my best. I was beyond relaxed and into it.
After a bit more maneuvering I heard my buddy Sean pulling this and that and lo and behold that beautiful canopy popped and I knew we were home free. The ground was no longer coming at us at warp speed and we made graceful turns over the airport. Not far from the staging area he told me to pull my knees to my chest and put my legs out straight. Then with a final whoosh we came to a stop not on our butts but standing up. The old fart and the young Turk pulled it off.
There was no kissing the ground as we were reintroduced to mother earth but a bit of sadness that the ride was over so soon. It actually takes somewhere between six and seven minutes but it was a blur. High fives and fist bumps around and that was it. My instructor and photographer said a quick good bye and they were off again. They were going to do 10-12 jumps that day and during the summer they might do as many as fifteen. Not a bad life.
When we got back home Megan and I had a long awaited beer. We were jabbering about this and that and Kathy listened patiently. By the way we did not tell her in advance. Smart move, TTG. Our conversation wasn’t braggadocio or bravado but more trying to convey what a cool thing it was. I guess you had to be there.
I have so many things to tell you at a later date. The past few days I have been thinking about innovation, creativity and imagination. That happens to you when you look at the world in a different way. More importantly you feel empowered to look at things you have cast aside. Your freedom of thought is just that. Convention and routine are just not part of your vocabulary right now and I hope not for a long time to come.
I guess what I am really saying is we should think about taking chances. We put such a premium on being right but it is by being wrong that we grow. We have so many situations in our world that need a fresh approach. If one more person tells me “But we have always done it that way” or “ that will never work” I may be forced to reconsider my resolve to get rid of firearms. I really didn’t fall but rather grew up. How very cool.
Ted The Great
Parachuting, or skydiving, is the action sport of exiting an aircraft and returning to Earth with the aid of gravity, then slowing down during the last part of the descent by using a parachute. It may or may not involve a certain amount of free-fall, a time during which the parachute has not been deployed and the body gradually accelerates to terminal velocity. SAY WHAT???
Despite the perception of danger, fatalities are rare. About 21 skydivers are confirmed killed each year in the US, roughly one death for every 150,000 jumps (about 0.0007%)
Equipment failure rarely causes fatalities and injuries. Approximately one in 750 deployments of a main parachute result in a malfunction. Ram-air parachutes typically spin uncontrollably when malfunctioning, and must be jettisoned before deploying the reserve parachute. This actually happened but my man Sean got it figured out and we didn’t have to deploy the reserve.
85% of injuries occur while landing.
All of the above factoids are from Wikipedia. Couldn’t have said it better myself.
Haven’t received the film at press time . May forward later.