Perfectly Good Airplanes are Boring

So I did something really dangerous this weekend--I drove to the airport. Now some might say, "WTF, are you crazy?". Many would even continue with, "You went skydiving this weekend!" To them, I suggest they trust their gear and training and check the statistics: their hour plus daily commutes each week have a higher risk of injury than skydiving every weekend. Your chances of dying in a skydiving accident are about the same as your chances of a fatal car crash driving about 500 miles. And I bet you I'm having a lot more fun.

Now, before anyone gets the wrong idea, this isn't something I do regularly (yet). In fact, it's not something I've done before. But it is something I've been meaning to do for a while and something I'm quite glad I finally did. Suffice it to say that I finally managed to find a weekend with decent (but not great) weather predictions, nothing else planned and time to kill. So, at the recommendation of a friend, I drove out to the Niagara Skydive Centre.

For those who don't know, there are two main ways to try skydiving: tandem jumping (strapped to an experienced jumper) or going through a bunch of coursework and training. Not being the sort to settle for someone else controlling things, I signed up for a course. Waking up to a beautiful morning, I jumped into a 5 hour whirlwind session covering the basics of the sport. With the basics down, I was now ready to jump!

Sadly, that beautiful morning had turned into a reasonably windy afternoon. Given my neophyte status, conditions were just past the safety margin. So I settled in for the long wait and used the time to watch all the experienced and tandem jumpers have fun. Lucky for you, this means I got some nice pictures.

As the day drew on, the chances of actually jumping became slimmer and slimmer. Luckily for me, though, I still had another day. And the drop zone staff were happy enough to let me spend the night hanging out with them. Some food, drinks and a bonfire later and it was time for bed. And for the thunderstorms they had called for all day to make a very brief appearance.

Luckily the rain ended shortly after it began and we ended up with another beautiful morning. And the wind, while significant and predicted to rise, behaved itself enough that it was time to jump!

Climbing into a jumpsuit, I strapped the chute to my back, a helmet on my head, an altimeter on my wrist and a radio to my chest. Since this was my first jump, I was doing what is known as an Instructor Assisted Deployment (IAD): I jump out of the plane while one instructor makes sure my chute gets pulled and another is watching from the ground to help guide me in safely. Minimal free fall but still lots of fun.

So I get in the Cessna, climb to 3500 feet and jump. This means climbing out onto the wing strut of a perfectly good airplane and then letting go, all while the wind is blasting you in the face and making your life as difficult as possible. Quite the rush.

As I let go, the parachute started to open. Ensuring a smooth opening requires arching properly--having done this, the chute opening felt similar to jumping into a nice fluffy bed. Looking up, I had a nice, big, properly-deployed parachute over my head. Loosening the control handles, I now was flying. With the help of the instructor on the ground, I maneuvered in for a clean landing. And I was ready to jump again.

Sadly, the winds picked up before I could go back up. I went through some additional ground training to prepare for the next jump and then returned to waiting. And waiting. With the wind hovering just above safe levels (for a beginner, and even briefly for experienced jumpers), I spent some more time watching and getting to know the other jumpers. Quite cool folk. But then it was time to drive home--the next jump will have to wait.

Big thanks to the Niagara Skydive Centre for a great weekend. I'll be sure to be back soon. Hopefully with more time in the air:).

The plane. Puppies! The airport.
The other plane. Not the only ones flying.
Don't you normally jump OUT of the plane?
Yeah, he's got this. More happy customers.
Touchdown! Planes have parachutes now too?