Perfectly Good Airplane

Yesterday, I jumped out of a perfectly good airplane. A coworker’s, Mike, birthday was yesterday and to celebrate, we went skydiving. It was Mike, me, two other coworkers, Aaron and Michael, and a friend of Mike’s. Aaron’s wife and later another coworker came to watch. We went to Skydive Oregon in Molalla, which is thirty minutes south of Portland.

First, we filled out a lengthy waiver. It basically said that they had no liability. I joked that they could kill us as long as they used a parachute. I thought it was interesting that the people involved in the actual jump were independent contractors. I handed an envelope contained cash to my tandem partner. We had a short training class which mainly involved being told what to do or not to do. Then, we waited some more while two plane loads went skydiving. One had a formation skydiving group. We could see from the ground them leave the plane as a group and stay in formation until they burst apart and opened their parachutes.

It was our turn. We got fitted into the harness which was like a beefy climbing harness. The harness was pretty snug and hard to walk in. We climbed into the plane, a Twin Otter. For the first 1000 feet, we were belted in. Our partners attached their harness to our harnesses. I was the second group out of the plane. Mike, the birthday boy, went first. He sat on the edge before going maybe to make it easier for the cameraman who had climbed out first. It was difficult to walk to the door and stand on the edge. Partially from fear and partially from being strapped to somebody else.

I didn’t really jump, it was more like falling outwards. We tumbled upside down for a little bit before assuming the belly first position. Freefall is hard to describe. The wind was really ferocious; I couldn’t bend my head down because the wind would get under the googles. I didn’t really look around and was focused on the ground getting closer. I didn’t feel like I was falling or weightless except for the first couple of seconds.

My partner pulled the ripchord and deployed the parachute. There was a sudden sensation of gravity as the harness went taut. A strap that was at the level of my chest came up to my neck and almost choked me. Once we were stable, he released the tension on the strap so it stopped choking but it was still in an annoying position. He handed me the toggles, which are straps to control the chute. I was able to turn the chute to face the field. As we turned, I was able to see five of the Cascade volcanos, from Rainer to Jefferson. I was also able to see the rest of our group circling underneath.

We came in right over the middle the field and skimmed the ground. I was told to keep my legs up since landing the butt is the standard way with an option to do a standup landinge. At the last minute, I was told to put my legs down but we ended up falling over. We were the last tandem group down although the solo jumpers later in the plane took a while to land.

My ears were plugged up for the rest of the day, like from a plane flight. But it was a really fast descent. It was a fun experience and I am glad I did it. I am not sure if I would do it again. A solo skydive must be a very different experience with your life in your hands. A tandem was very much like being a confined passenger.