Monday, July 4, 2011

The Jump!

Those of us who know me well know how crazy I am about flying and the closest I’ve ever come [apart from the regular travel via airplanes] is the paragliding experience in 2008 at Interlaken, Switzerland. And well ever since then I’ve always nurtured a secret desire of jumping off an airplane –of course in tandem and with an extra parachute. So it was no surprise when I readily agreed to skydive when Nupur informed me of a chance to do so not very far away from where I stayed.

On the day of the scheduled jump -26th of June 2011, before starting for the Waseca Municipal Airport, Debu and I were kidding around on what I could do if the parachute did not open or the type of clothes I should wear so that it brings down my speed of descent. The drive to the Airport was for about 80 minutes and the day being a Sunday I had very less traffic to deal with all along I-35.

We were greeted by the team from Southern Minnesota Skydiving Company upon our arrival at the small Airport. I had to sign some documents and see a video of the safety procedures as part of the formalities before fitting into the harness. This harness would be buckled with the harness that my tandem flight expert –Cory would be wearing. I was also given some last minute instructions on what I should be doing while I jumped out of the airplane.

A small propeller led plane was waiting for us [this plane had just one seat –for the pilot; we had to sit on the floor but with the belts being around it was as safe]. I was provided with another round of instructions from Cory as to where to place my foot out once the door opened at 9000 ft altitude and where would the photographer –Nick be hanging from etc. While all this was happening around I was getting more and more excited for the jump, however when the time to get out of the plane comes nearer and nearer there’s this strange feeling that engulfs you… I wish I could describe what I felt for that tiny miny moment. Just think about it –you’re on your knees and besides an open door at the height of 9000 ft above ground waiting to jump any moment.
So after our small drill we were all packed up and seated in this small plane which took a short half a minute run up along the ramp before it was airborne. As usual I was enjoying the elevation and the view of the countryside from my place at the back of the plane. This Airport was surrounded by farmland and when you look down you get to see various patterns in which the crops were planted… quite a view I would say. While in the plane we were making circles around the Airport to gain altitude and at the same time to keep our drop zone as near to where we took off from.
Cory had a cool altimeter strapped around his wrist which kept telling us how high we were from the ground –the plane also had one thoughJ. When the reading was 9000 ft my harness was buckled to Cory’s and Nick our cameraman asked me how it felt to be jumping out and all I had to say was that I just wanted to jump. I just wanted to jump and feel what is known as free fall.
The next moment Nick opened the door and you have this zig-zig-zig sound that the oh-so-cool air made at that speed [and altitude maybe]. Time started moving pretty fast. After opening the door, Nick moved along the pipe that ran from the base of the body of the plane to the far end of the wing and took up a comfortable spot from where he could video-shoot my jump… he was hanging out there just by his arms while the camera attached to his helmet did all the recording. In the meanwhile [as instructed to me at zero altitude, ground level I mean] I moved forward and saw the green green farms down and felt oh-so-nice. I took my right foot out and placed it on the small extension above the rear wheel and only my left knee was still inside on the floor of the plane.

Cory also had his right foot besides mine while he pushed my left knee out, now only my left foot was inside the plane. This was the moment… just before the jump, this was the moment I had so much wanted to live, I savored it though for a very very little time. The next moment we were virtually out except for our left feet… Cory leaned out and held the beam [on which Nick was hanging] with his left hand and the plane’s body with his right and did one mock stretch and on the next one we let go of the plane. For the next few seconds we were just free falling… I could see the green land then the blue sky and then land again before we stabilized. When I say stabilized I mean the lying-on-your-belly position that is oh so common whenever you see a skydiving video. While we stabilized Nick who had been busy focusing his camera on us came close by and took a few more photos. The sound of the air rushing past was deafening; you’re not going to hear anything unless someone close by screams at the top of their voices. Thanks to the glasses I was able to keep my eyes opened and see the descent otherwise it’s absolutely impossible to keep your eyes open. Due to my face down position every time I was breathing in [during the freefall], there was an extra gush of fresh air into my lungs and believe me you will feel the air against your face and arms… its so strong out there that you have to be a bit steady to chart your own course downwards. This is the best part of the sky diving experience that will stay with you for a long long time to come. While I was falling all that I remember is pure delight, fun, excitement… of how great it felt to be going down at that speed… simply amazing!
After about half a minute or so of free falling Cory pulled open the wings of the parachute and this was something that I had not anticipated. The moment the wing opened up I was pulled up with a lot of power and speed… so much so that the harness that was attached to my legs was so tight that within a few seconds I could feel pins and needles close to my feet. But as the wing opened up our speed of descent was reduced and we were sailing down before Cory decided to do something different. I’m not sure what he did, probably he would have pulled one side of the wing closer so that we started making circles and losing altitude. It felt as if we were in some kind of an invisible merry-go-round in mid air which kept taking us down and down and with every circle our speed increased… When we stopped the circles I did not feel dizzy but its that feeling you get as you step out of the merry-go-round after being there for sometime. This was also a lot of fun.
By this time we could make out the people in the streets… small dots though. Then it was the usual gliding stuff that we did when Cory gave me instructions on how to land –on your feet, just as you step off the stairs. As we came closer to land I realized that our speed wasn’t as slow as I imagined it was and so was the rate of loss of height but at the same time it was smooth… we were easy gliding and then just close to where we had started, Nick was waiting to capture our touchdown. Our landing was easy and perfectly close to where Nick was standing. Yay! I did it! I skydived!!! Just as I landed Nick asked me what the best part was… well it had to be the free fall. Hands down!

And that was all about my sky diving experience. If I get a chance I might want to do it again and this time I might want to jump from a higher altitude and yes I would still do a tandem –I’ve got no idea on the strings to pull to bring up the wings of the chute and would want someone quite experienced to do that while I enjoy the free fall.
I would want to thank the SM Skydiving team, Cory and Nick to have given me such a wonderful experience. I've got the video of the entire jump, enjoy and have fun...

No comments: