I went skydiving with my buddy Tim yesterday. It's taken a lot of saving and a little patience, but it finally happened.
We started out watching a ten-minute video telling us all the people we weren't allowed to sue if we died, and then we signed waivers getting rid of all of our legal rights. After that, there was about an hour of training.
I've never been in a plane before, so I had an interesting first experience. The thing was tiny, probably only suited for the pilot and one passenger. There were five people on the plane total, so we were pretty much a tangled orgy of arms and legs until the first person jumped out. I spent the ride curled up on my knees. There were people with legs on one another's shoulders. It was pretty nuts. Visibility was low on the plane (we passed through a low strata of clouds) but we could see Harrisburg and we buzzed really close to TMI.
It was five degrees at top altitude, but as cold as I usually am I didn't notice because there were more pressing issues. For instance, the "10,000 foot jump" doesn't sound too intimidating. I know what a foot is. A foot is little. But when I heard it stated as "a two-mile drop," man did I ever get nervous. But the fear itself didn't hit until the door opened on the plane and people started disappearing from the wing.
Of interest: one of the others in the plane was a seventy-five year old man who has jumped over eighteen-thousand times.
There are two phases to the jump. The first mile is spent in free-fall, which lasts approximately forty seconds. The second mile is spent in "canopy" with the chute open. In canopy, you take the controls and steer the thing and do crazy spins and stuff (until landing time when you are given more specific instructions). If you remember your training, this should all go fairly smoothly.
After you jump off the wing, you completely forget your training in favor of "holy shit i'm falling." As a result, the first half of my free-fall was spent tumbling like a rag-doll (which was by far my favorite part of the jump) until my tandem instructor knocked my arms and legs into position. We fell back through the clouds, which turned out to be full of sleet. I thought that was pretty cool.
The canopy ride was fun too. If you're falling on a clear day, you can see Baltimore from central PA (and if you go at night you can see the lights of Inner Harbor). I did lots of spins during the canopy ride, but Tim didn't get to do as many because he felt a little sick.
My landing was a little rocky because I didn't "brake"/flare as much as I should have. Meanwhile, Tim landed on his feet.
All-in-all, skydiving is a great time. Money-pending (all the classes, gear, and jumps are expensive), Tim and I will be starting training in the spring so that we can get licensed to jump on our own. After the training, every jump is only fifteen bucks (since you don't need instructors or rental equipment, you're just paying for the pilot and the gas).
More pictures are here if you'd like to see them.
Set up your own skydiving trip.