One of our good friends recently got a gift certificate for skydiving. A while back we had discussed going skydiving and now that she had a certificate it was time for me to ante up. We got our reservations lined up and now just had to live with the anticipation for a while.
When Sunday rolled around I met Brian and Christine at their house and we set out for Flying Tigers Sport Parachute Center. They are located at the Anderson Municipal Airport in Anderson, SC.
We weren't sure exactly where to go when we arrived. We stopped at the main airport building to ask for directions and one of the guys with Flying Tigers was waiting on us. He said there was limited parking at the hangar so he offered us a ride over to it. When we pulled up the plane was parked in front of the hangar and there were a few people packing their parachutes to get ready for the next jump. We started doing all the paperwork and then Ken, our tandem instructor started going over the equipment with us. After an explanation of all the equipment we went over procedures for exiting the plane and flight.
The flight stuff was pretty simple. Then we walked over to the plane to see how to exit. This plane is pretty small! Sarah, the videographer would step out first and then I had to move up on my knees where she was sitting and Ken would hook up the tandem harness. After that Ken put his right foot out and then I would put mine out on the small step over the wheel. On the ground, this all sounds pretty simple. No problem!
Christine went first and the running joke was I would have to do it now because I couldn't be bested by a girl! Of course, there was no chance of me changing my mind. Christine suited up and headed out for the plane. She was also joined by a fourth passenger who was doing a static line jump on the way up. Brian and I stepped out to the edge of the hangar area to watch for Christine to come back down.
We could hear the plane droning above us, but it was not visible. Several minutes later we could see a couple of parachutes coming down! As they got lower we could hear Christine screaming WOOO! as the parachute was being flown in loops and circles.
A couple minutes later Ken, Sarah, and Christine are all walking back from the drop zone safe and sound. Christine has a huge smile on her face. It feels great to mark something off of your bucket list! After hearing Christine talk about how much fun it was I got even more excited. I headed back to the hangar and started suiting up. The harness is not the most comfortable thing I have ever worn, but it wasn't too bad.
After suiting up and repacking chutes we were off to the plane. We all crawled in and fastened our seat belts, or maybe I should just say belts, because there were no seats. On the way up it was pretty calm. Just watching the ground fall away and listening to the roar of the prop. As we gain altitude you can feel the air getting cooler. In order to see how high we were all I had to do was take a look at my altimeter. At around 7000 feet I looked out and it kind of hit me that I am about to jump out of this plane! I was so pumped at this point I couldn't stop smiling. When we hit 9500 feet the door was flung open and a cold blast of air hit me in the face. Oh my gosh, I am in a plane with the door open at 9500 feet! It just got real!
The air was pretty cold and my heart started racing as the adrenaline floods in. This is it! This is what it’s all about! We climb to 10000 feet and Sarah steps out onto the wheel and waits. I crawl up to the front of the plane a bend down so Ken can connect the harness up. Now it’s time to exit the plane. I scoot over and stick my right foot out of the plane. My foot is blasted with cold air and then I get it set down on the step beside Ken’s. My left knee is right on the edge of the plane and I am hanging on the wing spar! The air is thin and combined with wind blast and an increased heart rate it’s a little more work to breathe. I get the signal and I cross my arms on my chest to prepare for the “departure”. A moment later WOOSH we roll backwards in a full flip! I let out an involuntary scream and almost nothing comes out. The acceleration and fall literally takes your breath away! Now we are falling and Sarah pulls up to take some video and pictures.
It’s all so fast! Sarah pulls up to Ken and grabs his hand and they make us spin around. I don’t have words for this feeling of free fall. Out of all the things I have done, the free fall is hands down the coolest experience I have ever had! After filming, Sarah flies down below and GANK!, we get jerked vertical when the main chute deploys. That gank is why I was instructed to make sure the boys were not under the harness. On the legs it wasn't too bad, but I shudder to think what could have happened!
Now that the chute is out things are quieter and peaceful. Ken has me stand up on his feet and he adjusts the harness to make it more comfortable for the descent. Then we started practicing our landing. When he gives the signal I have to lift my knees up and then the next signal will be “flare”. When he says flare I have to pull the controls straight down to my hips and hold them. When we practiced this I was surprised what happened. You could hear wind rushing by your ears and the when you flared the chute just slows to a stop just like brakes. When you let off the handles it starts to speed up again.
After the landing procedure was practiced we started flying the loops. I couldn't believe how maneuverable the canopy is. Steering was very intuitive and when you kept some hard turning going you would swing up like a pendulum! This was a ton of fun. As we continued to drop it was time to line our landing up. We turned to get setup with the middle of the drop zone. Ken said we would decide if our landing was going to be standing or sliding right at the last minute. Just before we touched down, Ken said it would be sliding, and gently set down on the ground and the ride was over.
We got unhooked and started walking back towards the hangar. I was euphoric! I love this kind of stuff and I just got to spend the day with a friend checking something off the bucket list. Sometimes we build things up in our head and when we get to do them they end up disappointing. I can honestly say that skydiving over delivered. I was not able to imagine that feeling. It’s just something you need to do. Everybody should go skydiving at least once.
What I Learned:
- It takes a lot of courage to step out of an airplane at 10,000 feet.
- Skydiving is a sport that goes from an amazing adrenaline fueled free fall to a beautiful relaxing drift in a matter of minutes.
Psalm 56:3-4 NIV “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise- in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”
When it comes to adventure almost everything has risk of bodily injury or death. That risk is one of the reasons so many people on this planet will miss out on some great adventures. Skydiving obviously has risk, but overall it can be done in a safe manner. With any extreme adventure there is always a chance of getting hurt or killed, but I sincerely believe that I will be here until God calls me home. Short of deliberately ending my life, I will be here until he is ready for me. This belief and faith is what enables me to enjoy activities like skydiving. I know there is risk, but my belief in God overpowers that fear of risk and it has enabled me to experience things like skydiving. Each and every time I take on an adventure that has risk it is an exercise of my faith. Believe it or not, adventure makes me feel closer to God, and as a result I feel blessed and enriched through adventure. When I am in a situation where I could suffer harm or death I know that no matter what, I will be here until he is ready for me. When he is ready for me, it doesn't matter if I am eating breakfast or shark diving, it’s time to go home and that is not in my control. Do you have any activities that test your faith? When you are tested, how do you find comfort?