If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you're probably really tired of hearing me talk about skydiving. That's cool. Stop reading. Go watch a movie or something. I recommend “Prometheus.”
I always wanted to skydive, so when a Groupon came through for 50-percent skydiving at “Jumping for Fun” skydiving in Springfield, I, along with my friends Steven French and John Hodge, jumped at the deal. There’s nothing more dangerous than frugal thrill-seekers.
I know what you’re probably thinking: “There’s a skydiving place in Springfield?” I was just as surprised, and while driving up the unpaved road to “Jumping for Fun,” which was located in a tiny hangar on a farm, I wondered if it should be called “Jumping for Idiots” and if we mistakenly just drove into the next “Final Destination” movie.
But my misconceptions were exactly that, and the instructors were complete professionals I would recommend to anyone.
We were instantly “those guys” in the class when we rolled up about 15 minutes late. 30 seconds into the training video when it showed a static-line jumper hanging Superman-style from a bar sticking out from the plane, and Hodge asked aloud, “Ummm ... so you’re telling me that’s what we’re going to do?” and the whole class laughed, we solidified our reputation.
Training lasted about six hours and was often repetitive. Though I normally tire of doing things repeatedly and often pride myself on being an expert at anything (and full of it), I was OK with this. When you’re jumping out of a plane, excessive practice is OK. After the training, we were hit with a wind delay. Total bummer, but yet not so much as the rest of the class left, leaving only the three of us to jump. We all have very busy schedules and this would be the only day this summer they would align.
But the wind delay went on for hours. The instructors executed two practice jumps to test the conditions for us — which really just means they wanted to jump. After the first, they reported the conditions were too windy. At this point, I wanted to take my football and go home. On the second, they said we were good to go.
This is after hours of training and waiting, and yet the moment is a bit surreal when you’re informed you will be jumping out of a plan at 3,500 feet. A weird mix of excitement, shock and fear came over me. Wow, we’re really about to do this. Whose idea was this anyway?
Oh yeah. Mine.
We suit up, and I look ridiculous. Alan, our instructor, hands me goggles. I don't want them. He reminds me that 100 mph wind will blow the contacts out of my eyes. I happily grab the goggles and wear them like a champ.
For the entire day, Hodge, in addition to constantly shaking his head in disbelief, had insisted he would not be the first one out of the plane. So when the pilot informed us that Hodge would go first, then Steve, and then myself, you can imagine Steven and I found this humorous to the point of tears.
We board a plane that Hodge earlier in the day pointed out that two of us could push and take off to 3,500. As we gain altitude, Alan repeatedly points out the landing spot. I say I see it several times, when I had no idea where he was pointing. My determined landing spot was somewhere other than a pond, pool, or tree.
Hodge is first up, and his facial expressions range from “this is awesome,” to “why is this guy forcing me out of an airplane” and are priceless. Steven and I laugh hard, once again. But the dude let go of the bar like a pro, and according to Alan, had perfect form.
I would later find out that there is a crater in Springfield named after John Hodge, the product of a less-than-soft landing.
Steven goes without a hitch, and then it’s my turn. Wow. I start to have this weird suspicion that my shoulder strap is too loose. I tighten it up a bit. I then wonder if it's too tight. This is the nature of my thought process before jumping out of a plane at 3500 feet.
The airplane door opens, I slowly make my way to the bar, eventually letting my feet dangle over 3,500 feet of air. And thanks to profound athleticism, it all looks graceful.
OK, go ahead and insert your jokes here at the expense of a former lineman.
I let go, and drifting in the air felt like 20 minutes, but it was probably five. At one point, I remember even forgetting that I was thousands of feet in the air, as I was so caught up in the Kentucky landscape. But then I snap out of it and realize if I’m too taken by the surroundings, this could end badly.
It's not surprising that I landed about 1⁄4 mile away from their landing spot. Notice that I say “their” landing spot and not “my” landing spot. I hit mine, which, again, was anything not a pond, pool or tree.
My landing was smooth, and I did it standing. But then I remember in training they told us to fall down, which I did. And I looked really dumb falling over for no reason.
The experience was unreal, and I didn’t stop talking about it on the drive home. The days after doing it felt dull because they didn't involve falling from 3,500 feet out of a plane.
I can't wait to do it again. Or something equally insane.
Charlie Cox is the communications coordinator for the Economic Development Partnership.