The tailgate lowers, the clatter of the CASA 212 twin-turbine aircraft intensifies. The light bulb next to the door starts flashing green and in matter of seconds half of the people in front of me are gone. I gingerly step towards the door, prodded along by my instructor, John Lyman. At the door I behold the spectacular, panoramic view of mother earth, somewhat desecrated by two figures tumbling right below me. I curse, for no apparent reason – maybe at myself? I am a little apprehensive, but now is not the time for fear. We count to three, I take a deep breath and we plunge into nothingnes.
Plummetting at 120 miles per hour, I fight for control as the wind howls incessantly. I finish my COA (Circle of Awareness) and glance at the altimeter. I see a needle ticking as fast as the second hand. It reads 12000 ft, I have used up 2000ft of precious altitude. There is a sense of urgency to my assigned maneuvers, 360 degree turns, both clockwise and anticlockwise, by 8000 ft I am done. It is time to find that cheap piece of plastic, the main release handle. I finish two practice touches, and before I can go for my third I hear Lyman shout “Pull!”. Per my last altitude check we are at 7000ft – 1000ft higher than the planned pull altitude – but I keep my head and heed the “Pull!”. I wave, pull and throw, releasing the pilot chute.
In a few seconds I feel a jolt and we stop falling. I look up and see a fully inflated, brightly coloured canopy fluttering in the sky. I always thought man could never match the splendor of nature, but beleive me, when you look up and see a “a fully inflated, brightly colored canopy fluttering in the sky” – its one of the most beautiful sights you will ever see.
Suddenly it’s peaceful and quiet, the clandor of the wind is gone. The air is cool and clean, cleaner than anything I have experienced before. There is a gentle breeze as we float in the sky. I hear Lyman say “Great jump!” and I look up as he hands me the toggles. He asks me to do a “steerablility check” and I fly this baby. She responds gracefully, a tug at the right toggle turns us to the right, a tug at the left toggle turns us back. I try a “flare”, pulling both the toggles all the way down, and we sort of hang in the air – no forward motion. Lyman helps me spot the drop zone and we head towards it. He instructs me to move clear of traffic, and to pull and hold the right toggle all the way down. This makes us spiral down in ever faster, tighter loops and I feel it in my stomach. Soon we are at a1000ft, below everybody else, and we ease into level flight. Lyman flies the landing pattern and brings us down gently.
That’s jump four and I am on my way to getting hooked to the sport. To this point I have made 10 jumps – both good and bad – all very exciting. I now understand what I read somewhere “If riding in a plane is flying … then riding in a boat is swimming”. I intend to fly.
Some pictures of my first jump.