Yesterday I told the tale of my first skydive with then new girlfriend (and now ex-wife). We both loved our first jump so much we came back a week later for second jump. I wrote the original version of these stories about a year later. The versions here have been slightly revised to fill in some details, obfuscate some names and improve (I hope) the quality of the writing.
So sit right down and you’ll read a tale, a tale of a fateful trip. (And ironically, for those who caught the reference, the round-trip driving time to Hutch is about three hours.)
Tandem Jump #2
So, on August 16, 1997, (our official one-month anniversary of our first meeting) CN and I again made the 90 mile drive to Skydive Hutchinson. This time the weather was much nicer. On our first jump, clouds had moved in during the day, so we were only able to get up to 7500 feet. This time we would get our full 10,000 feet, the normal jump-off altitude!
Little did I know, I was in for more than my money’s worth this time! It turned out that my Tandem Master, Kerry, would have to ditch our main chute and go for the reserve, so I kinda got two skydives in one!
There goes CN with Tandem Master Shawn, on her second exit from a “perfectly good airplane.” Shawn also has become one of our treasured skydiving pals. A font of information and good times. Little did we know this first week how much John and Shawn would change our lives.
John is a truly incredible skydiver, and one of our main teachers in the sport. Over the months, as we’ve struggled, he’s seen us grow and learn and also become one of our favorite skydiving friends.
Falling through the air at about 120 miles per hour is beyond any experience you can imagine. Nothing I’ve ever experienced comes close. In the five or six seconds, you go from 0 to 120 miles per hour. After that, your speed is constant, so you feel no sense of falling at all. Just flying with a 120 mile per hour wind coming up from the ground at you.
Which, incidentally, any time you see skydivers in the movies or TV talking during free fall… Forget about it. That 120 MPH wind makes conversation impossible. Any communication is done with hand signals (or taps or tugs on your body if in physical contact). You could maybe pull it off by screaming directly into somebody’s ear, but not otherwise. A good example of It’s Totally Not This Way is the skydive in Point Break.
Chute’s out, but wait! Something isn’t quite right. The slider didn’t come all the way down the lines. The chute was sort of flyable, and Kerry considered riding it down, but being the crazy guy he is, decided a cut-away would be more fun.
All he said to me was, “Are you ready to arch again?” (Arching, putting your body in a backwards-bow, is what you do when you’re falling belly down. It’s the stable position for basic free fall.)
I said, “Sure…”
When Shawn told CN, “See that yellow ‘chute over there? That’s their reserve,” CN knew at once I was having a GREAT time! And she was completely right!
To make it more obvious that a skydiver has deployed their reserve chute, those chutes are usually solid white or (in the case of tandem rigs, yellow).
Here I am back on the ground with Kerry. You can see the yellow reserve chute on the ground behind us. Kerry joked to the camera that I’d asked what all the handles on his rig were for, so he decided he’d show me.
Because of the extra free fall due to cutting away the main chute, we didn’t make it back to the drop zone’s landing area. We are, in fact, standing in a farmer’s field. The drop zone, and the airport it abuts, are surrounded by soybean and corn fields. The farmers are used to the occasional off-target landing.
John followed us down and landed in the same field, so I got my terra firma picture, but CN’s off at the drop zone. (Amazingly, on the video, you can watch John fly to and grab the tandem reserve’s free bag out of the air! Quite a stunt, and it saved trying to find that small piece of somewhat expensive gear.)