I have traveled the world in all different types of aircraft. They have ranged from the huge Airbus 380 to the small Pilatus PC-12. There has never been a time where I thought, “it would be a great idea to jump out of airplane”. All of that changed this past weekend.
I was given a certificate for a jump at Skydive Spaceland Dallas. To say that I was apprehensive would be an understatement. I did, however, want to face one of my biggest fears head on. I tried for three consecutive weekends to accomplish the jump, but the north Texas weather would not cooperate. On Saturday morning, I made the call to Spaceland to check on the weather. It was good to go, so I made the two and a half hour drive to the site.
While the name states that the dive center is in Dallas, it is actually about 90 minutes northwest in the small town of Trenton. As I approached Spaceland, my cell signal was the first to go, while the asphalt roads were next.
As I trekked down the gravel road, I got anxious as I say people literally falling out of the sky. The landing zone was a circle, with some soft material, just outside of Spaceland’s doors.
I hurried inside for my 1230 appointment. The receptionist welcomed me to Spaceland and gave me a packet to complete. The packet included waivers and acknowledgments. I grabbed a seat at one of the tables to accomplish the task.
After returning to the window, I was given the opportunity to purchase a video and pictures of the jump for $160 USD (the same price as the jump). As I was finishing up, a guy came in screaming about a safety briefing (found out later he was a Marine so that was his normal voice). The safety briefing lasted about 17 minutes. It began with some words from the aforementioned fellow servicemember and a 10 minute video.
After the video, the six of us walked out into a holding area. The area contained a waiting area where students are initially held. This is where students affix their nametapes and wait for their instructor. There is a skydive suit fitting area and a parachute rigging on either side of the seats.
My name was not on the board so I sat around and talked to other students. After waiting more than 30 minutes, I decided to return to check-in area to grab some food from the snack bar. I wanted something light, but ended up going with the “special”, lasagna. It was was actually not bad. I will say this, please bring cash because the snack bar’s card reader is touchy.
I even had time to check out the gift shop and smoking area (even though I do not smoke).
After waiting for three hours, it was time to get suited up in the fitting area. I should note that while I was in the 1230 time slot, I jumped with the people scheduled at 1300. It was frustrating, but after waiting for such a long time, it did not matter.
Next, it was time to meet the instructor, Alex. He showed the proper way to wear the harness and altimeter. Alex also gave me instructions on what to do when we exit the aircraft: kneel down, feet halfway outside of the door, hold the chest straps on the harness (which I did not do), put my body in a “banana” position, arms at 90 degrees, chin up, pull the cord on his hip at 6,000 feet, and feet up for landing. Whew, that was a lot to take in.
We were two minutes from boarding the airplane but went into a weather hold because of some nasty clouds rolling in from the east.
I took a quick nap during the wait. The hold was over after about 45 minutes. We waited for the airplane to be refueled and then we were off.
I was “cool” up until the airplane took off. The smaller objects on the ground appeared, the amount of crazy thoughts filling my mind increased. As we climbed, I figured that I could sit at the back of the airplane and land like a normal flight, that was not meant to be. We were scheduled to jump from 14,000 feet, but due to the bad weather, we ended up bailing out at 8,700 feet. I was spacing out until the door opened. The rushing wind and divers falling out of the airplane startled me.
As the only student with a videographer, I was the first student out of the airplane. Talk about pressure. I stood up…shuffled to the door…said a few curse words…and we were out.
We were hauling A$$ once we left the plane. Our speed was so fast that we went from 8,700 to 6,000 in less than 30 seconds. Randy, the videographer, was amazing throughout the experience but his position during our descent was perfect. He caught me in all of my gravity-assisted, “dad bod” glory. LOL.
At 6,000 feet, I reached back to grab the rip cord, but missed. I reached again…and missed. With Alex’s help, I was able to grab the rip cord and deploy the chute. Let me tell you, going from 120 miles per hour to zero takes a toll on your body. Especially as the straps dug into my leg.
It was at this point that all of the worries left my mind. I had fallen out of the airplane, deployed the parachute, and was still attached to my instructor. Score. Alex asked if I wanted to remove my goggles and “drive” the chute, to which I replied, “nah, I’m good”. I just wanted to get back to the ground (so I thought).
The wind was still kicking from the weather system that just passed through so our landing in the circle was slightly off course. If that was not enough, the wind stopped blowing as we prepared to land which caused to plant out butts into the ground. I have experienced hard landings before, just never before on my butt. We both let out an “Ugh!” as we hit.
I was a bit sketched out about jumping out of an airplane. Alex with his skydiving knowledge and Randy with his humor, helped ease my fears. I really appreciated the one on one instruction and constant updates. Skydive Spaceland Dallas exceeded my expectations. Thanks again to Alex, even if I will taking ibuprofen for the next two weeks. #buttlanding2019