Date: 2004-02-15 21:51:00
Tags: flying
jumping out of fully functional aircraft
[info]decibel45 has been bugging me for months to go skydiving. I hadn't made any plans to go, but yesterday morning after going out to play in the snow I realized that it would be great weather for skydiving. The sun was out, there was some snow left on the ground, and I didn't have anything else planned for the day.

I left at about 11:30 and by that time the snow was almost all gone. The snow lasted less than 12 hours from first fall to last melt! I picked up [info]snaxxx on the way and we headed down to Skydive San Marcos. I got paired up with Erik who would be my tandem master, so he would be securely strapped to my back for the entire jump.

I had never jumped out of a plane before, and the closest thing I had to compare it to was a bungee jump about ten years ago. I remember feeling apprehensive about stepping off the platform for the bungee jump, and I figured I would have similar feelings when jumping out of the plane. However, I was completely relaxed and felt no hesitation at all on my way out. This surprised me.

On the way out of the plane we tumbled once so I caught a glimpse of the plane quickly getting smaller above us. That's about the only way you can tell that you are in fact falling, as soon as you settle into a belly-down freefall position it feels like you're just hanging there, a mile above the clouds. Except for the wind of course, which was cold up there (the weather report said it was −8°C at 12000 feet, not considering wind chill).

There was still some cloud cover, so we ended up falling through a thin cloud. The coolest part about that was seeing the reflection of the sun. The sun was behind me on my right, so in front of me on my left was the reflection of the sun in the cloud. This looked like a bright spot surrounded by a halo, caused by a similar mechanism to that of a rainbow (internal reflections from water droplets or ice crystals). There were no visible colors like a rainbow though, it all blended together for a white reflection.

Less than a minute after leaving the plane Erik pulled the chute, which was a lot less violent than I had imagined. He had me grab the control lines for the chute and do some turns, and one steep turn that essentially amounted to a spiral dive. I was looking around trying to estimate how high we were, and before I knew it we were approaching the landing site. We had a very smooth landing right on target.

Was it worth it? Absolutely. Would I jump again? Probably; I'd like to try a solo jump sometime. But to get to that point is fairly costly, I can take six or seven glider flights for the price of one tandem jump.
If you buy two tandems at once they'll probably cut you a break; maybe giving you the $100 a piece rate you get if you buy them the same day as your first tandem. They'd probably also give you a deal if you bought 2 tandems and your first AFF jump (which is the first time you'll jump with your own chute). If you pay for your entire AFF up front they give a 10% discount (which is what I did), but that is a lot of cash to plunk down at once.
Tell me at least one engine was on fire or something.
The rear door of the plane suddenly came open during flight!
jump solo,
it's so much more exciting!
may I ask how your partner new when to pull the chute open? Is there a certain amount of predetermined time that you to pull it by or do you just gauge the height you are at while in the sky? I would have been afraid if I started spiralling down, glad you enjoyed the jump.
My "partner" was of course an experienced tandem instructor. Many skydivers wear an altimeter that shows the current altitude, and I'm sure that with experience comes the ability to judge distance above ground. Also, there is an automatic failsafe system that pulls the chute at a certain altitude if the human doesn't.
Greg Hewgill <>