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Personal Account of a Sky Diving Experience

  • Category: Culture
  • Subcategory: Holidays
  • Topic: Birthday
  • Pages: 3
  • Words: 1573
  • Published: 12 February 2019
  • Downloads: 16
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A good friend gave me the best birthday gift I have ever received this year. On February 18th, He and I jumped out of an airplane at 11,000 feet. WE WENT SKY-DIVING!!! It was the peak experience of my life.

Here is how it happens: You pay $220 for a full day of training. The training consists of being shown all the parachute gear and how it operates. Next, you are suspended from a parachute harness to learn how to pull levers which control the direction and braking of the parachute as you fall, and what to do if the main chute fails to open. Then you get into a “skeleton” airplane (a cockpit with no wings or engine) with two guides who go through the routine of getting out onto the wing strut and jumping. Then you are suspended from another harness that hangs you parallel to the ground while you practice looking at your altimeter and pulling your rip-cord. You practice these things until they become second-nature.

There are a large number of safety features to significantly reduce the chance of death or injury (you still have to sign a waiver, though, that says in eight different ways that they have no insurance, and that I agree to assume all risks for engaging in an activity that can result in serious injury or death). For example, on your first few jumps, two trainers hold onto you during your “freefall” to make sure you remember what to do while you are falling. Also, the field you land in is HUGE, so there are few trees, roads, or power lines to fall into. A guide speaks to you with a radio transmitter on the ground to direct you to where to land. In addition, your back-up parachute is nearly fail-safe. If something goes wrong with the main chute, there are two or three ways to release the expert-packed back-up. Even if you are knocked unconscious, or are so petrified that you cannot pull your rip-cord, though, there is a device on your chest that automatically releases the back-up chute at 1,000 feet.

I disagreed with at least one of the recommended safety measures, however. One of the trainers said that if, while we are falling, we think there is anything wrong with the main chute, cut it away and go to the back-up chute. I had a problem with that strategy. What if there is a problem with the back-up??? Do I really want to get rid of the main chute if there is only a minor problem, and risk having something major go wrong with the back-upwhich has no back-up??? Oh, well. Almost no one ever has to use the back-up.

Unfortunately, when we went through the training, we were unable to jump at the end of the day because of windy weather. Instead, we had to wait until the next weekend, which was extremely tough on my nerves. It was like a postponement of your execution date in the electric chair, or “walking the plank.” After all the training, you just want to get it over with!!

Finally, the day arrived. My friend went first. I watched from the ground as the small plane released him and his two trainers at 11,000 feet. They looked like ants in my binoculars. She performed nearly perfectly. I was greatly impressed, since my friend is deathly afraid of such things as walking downhill during a hike. It must have taken all of her courageand then someto sky-dive. But like me, she had always wanted to sky-dive, and we are both adventurous enough to do it.

Then my turn came. I suited up (Looking like Chuck Yeager. See photo.) and rather calmly walked to the small Cessna plane on the tarmac. Five of us packed into a plane barely big enough to hold three people. It took us about 20 minutes to get to 11,000 feet, and I found I was less nervous on the ride up than in the waiting over the past week. (It was interesting to watch the landscape below, and relaxing to joke with the trainers.) Finally, at the designated altitude, one of the trainers opens the plane door to see if we are over the jump area. The engines of the plane are temporarily cut off, and the trainer turns to me and yells: “ARE YOU READY TO SKY-DIVE???” You are required to respond very loudly with a confident “YES!!!” so that the trainers know you are not so petrified that you will not be able to function when getting out of the plane. If you don’t respond strongly, they apparently bring you back to the ground.

Later, a friend of mine out west told me of his first jumpa static line dive with a woman friend. When the instructor yelled to her to ask if she was ready, she yelled back: “NO!!” The instructor responded by yelling: “YES YOU ARE!!” and booted her out of the plane!

Next, the trainer who asked me if I was ready gets out onto the strut under the wing. You must then put your feet out on the strut, turn back to the other trainer for an O.K. signal, then place your hands on the wing support bar. You are now in a semi-crouching position out on the strut, as the second trainer gets out onto the other side of the strut (you are now sandwiched between them, looking down at the ground 11,000 feet below, and feeling the 80 mile-per-hour wind that you had earlier thought was going to pull you off the strut).

Everything for the next 60 seconds is a fast-paced blur. You turn to the trainer on the left and say “CHECK IN!!” You turn to the other trainer and yell “CHECK OUT!!” Then, in a rocking motion on the strut, you yell “READY!! SET!! GO!!!!!!!!!” You let go of the wing support and fall away from the plane with the two trainers hopefully clinging onto you (in my case, one of them accidentally lost his grip of me!!) For the next few seconds, I was almost unconscious because of the sensory overload. Regaining my senses, I realized I needed to go through the next steps during the 40-second free-fall (which seemed like it took about 5 seconds). First, you must arch your back and spread out your arms and legs to keep from rolling out of control during free-fall. Then you must check your altimeter and tell the trainer on the right when you are at 9,000 feet, after which you turn to the other trainer to nod that you are O.K. Next, you do your first of two “practice” cord pulls, which involves (1) looking at your rip-cord; (2) simultaneously moving your left hand over your head while your right hand moves to the rip-cord (to prevent you from rolling); and (3) doing a practice pull. You must also look down at your altimeter every few seconds (not hard to remember, since you certainly do not want to fall too far beyond the point where you must pull your rip-cord). During this time, you are also encouraged to look around, smile at your instructors, and enjoy yourself (which is somewhat difficult for a beginner, although I managed it a bit, I was told later). Finally, at 5,500 feet, you flash “five-five” with your hands, signaling to your trainers that you are at 5,500 feet and are about to pull your rip-cord.

You pull your cord, and immediately the chute opens and gently jerks you upright. You look up to make sure the chute is properly opened, and you then begin about four minutes of pure bliss. The chute is rectangular, which gives you incredible maneuverability. You can make turns and complete circles almost effortlessly and with great precision. You look around leisurely at the landscape 4,000 feet below. You feel as if you are in suspended animation. Everything is silent and peaceful. There is nothing anywhere near you. Total isolation and relaxation. The setting sun on the distant horizon was a spectacular bonus. No more fear, as your chute is safely open. You are enormously relieved because you now know that you will not die, and instead have had the courage to enjoy something spectacular that few are able to experience. Twice during this period I said out loudeven though no one was around”this is incredible!!”

The landing was so soft that a two-year old child could have handled it.

As luck would have it, much of my first jump was videotaped (We also took still photos of each other at various stages of training and jumping, as the photos above show. That’s me on the right coming in for a landing with my parachute.)

By the way. A big reason my friend gave me this gift was that I told her last year that a few friends and I almost jumped when one of them was having his 40th birthday (the other friend said no one can turn 40 until they had sky-dived). That fell through, but my friend figured no one should turn 35 till they sky-dived. I told her afterwards I was overjoyed she didn’t let me. What a wonderful experience.

Oh, and one last thing: “If at first you dont succeed, dont try skydiving” (just kidding).

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