Arc thousand, two thousand, three thousand, four thousand, five thousand, check thousand!!!
Are you crazy or what?. Jumping from an small airplane flying at 180mph and 1000ft up in the air, you nuts?
Yep! I guess so.
My one and only jump so far (Dec 2003) took place the summer of 2001, to be exact July 14, 2001.(Click here to see my first jump certificate). I always wanted to know how would it feel to free fall at 200km/h though the air and one day I said, what the hell! and did it.
I looked up in the internet for skydiving schools here in BC and found three options; one in Abbostford, one in Pitt Meadows and one in Chiliwack. Then, I went for the Chiliwack one because they had the fanciest web site (check it here).
The instructors and the training were both fantastic. Norm was the ground instructor with over 4000 jumps of experience over his 30 years career. The course costs 175 canadian dollars, 100 dollars for 4 hours of intense ground training and 75 dollars for the actual jump itself. FVSD provided all the equipment necessary for the jump.
Before anybody is allowed to free fall for several seconds (jumping from altitudes over 6000 feet) students are required to perform two assisted (instructor deploys parachute as trainee lets go of the airplane) jumps from 3000 feet. If you wish to experience free falling from the first jump, the only legal way is in a tandem with an instructor attached to your back.
My dad and his friend Christina came to watch me jump that wonderful and sunny saturday afternoon. Unfortunately, neither of them remembered to bring a camera so I have no printed proof of my endeavor.
A maximum of three students can be fit at a time on the small Cessna 172. Students are arranged according to weight so the heaviest jumps first and the lightest last. I was the lighter of my batch so I got to jump last and higher at 4000 feet because the female instructor felt like jumping herself and decided to donate me with an extra 1000 feet.
The crucial moment is when you are hanging from like superman from the wing strut and the instructor with her eyes fixed on yours shouts “jump!”.
I hesitated a few seconds before letting go but eventually I reluctantly jumped. When a skydiver jumps there is a specific procedure that he/she has to follow as he/she waits for the parachute to open. Part of the procedure consist on counting up to six (one thousand… check thousand) and then checking whether the parachute has opened properly or not.
At the time of my jump my mind went absolutely blank. Thanks God, their system is extremely secure and even if you don’t know what the hell are doing there is a minimal chance to get hurt.
For the first two jumps the instructor is the person that actually opens the parachute for you. Unlike most people think the main parachute is released by letting go of your hand a mini parachute that pulls the big one. There is a pull ring but it is only used to deploy the emergency parachute. When you pull the emergency ring the main parachute is let go as the emergency one deploys. The emergency parachute is smaller, round instead of square and has no means to steer it so you fall wherever the wind takes you and because it is smaller you fall faster and may get injured easier when landing.
It takes approximately six seconds from the moment you jump to the moment the parachute opens completely. That means that you free fall only about 6 seconds on the first jump. Six seconds may seem very little but it sure feels like an Odyssey when you are by yourself 4000 feet high.
The second thing most impressive besides the first 6 seconds of free falling is the contrast of sound between the harsh, noisy and windy environment while hanging from the airplane strut and the peace and quite you experience when your canopy is fully opened and you find yourself gliding happily through the sky. Not to mention the spectacular view you have as you descent at 1000 ft/min.
Landing seems harder than it actually is. The controls for the parachute, two handles called “brakes”, have a very docile response and are easy to get used quickly.
Just as in the paragliding course I took in Spain, the instructor guides all you movements from the ground via radio. The only drawback of those radios is that they are one way only so a few times you may find yourself talking to no more that the odd bird flopping near by.
I strongly recommend skydiving to anyone that has 175 dollars and a sunny weekend to spare. To me it was indeed an unforgettable intense experience.