Deep blue sky, article - 2006.
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The plane flew up with a loud engine roar. While the thin metal bird was ascending towards the skies, figures of people left down on the airport ground were rapidly shrinking. I felt a bit anxious about the whole thing. "I guess this is it, there is no turning back now" – I thought and laughed but then started enjoying the azure vista that surrounded us on all sides. I was ready for my first ever parachute jump.
The bird men
I remember when I first flew in a plane; I was a kid and my father took me as a passenger aboard a plane full of skydivers. I cant remember much of what happened, but I do recollect myself constantly crying and that I did not understand why I was not allowed to go anywhere near the open door of the plane. I also remember how hot it was in the back of the plane and that there were other people there with us, backpacks on their backs, simply jumping out of the plane.
The entire experience made quite an impression on me, so that's when I've decided that I wanted to give it a try one day as well.
My first skydiving attempt was when I was 6 years old. - I have tried jumping off the first story of the building where my grandma lived, using a self made parachute. I was lucky not to get hurt that time, but I did get banged up quite a bit and therefore decided to postpone my great skydiving plans.
More than 15 years had passed since that time, during which I hadn't been in contact with any divers or the parachutes. All of this changed one night when I was in the company of a seasoned skydiver. The atmosphere of the moment was magical. Ten of us were completely entranced listening to the skydiver's stories in the semi-darkness of twilight.
Later on I frequently wondered how it was possible that this old man seemed to be so completely free and how, in contrast to him, we were somehow left stranded on the ground. It seemed to me that all skydivers were somehow transformed, changed by their lifestyle, becoming part birds, living different lives from the rest of us.
A sleepless night
There are basically two ways in which one can jump from a plane (wit a parachute, or without ; you could take a class and get the necessary training or enjoy a tandem skydive. In the first case one has to undergo complete training and preparations for a jump. When you near the end of the training period you make a few test dives and finally you make a free fall dive. The other option is to take an instant dive. All you have to do is listen to 10 minutes of instructions and you are ready to skydive strapped to an experienced diver who will open the parachute for you and control it until you land.
The preparations are easy; the entire thing is done on the airfield from which you will later take off. Your diving instructor prepares you for the entire procedure you will go through from the moment you step on the plane until the moment you touch the ground.
Tandem parachute is bigger and stronger from the regular parachute. It is made especially for the purpose of two man tandem jumps. Both the jumper and the instructor wear special suits that enable them to stay securely fastened to each other. The parachute is located on the instructors back, and the passenger is left facing forward.
Skydiving is a serious thing. The biggest problem was to actually get to the airfield. I slept very little the night before the jump and I dreamt about the entire thing – from getting on the plane to jumping out and into the endless void. The entire thing is a fantastic experience the likes of which you will never forget.
Things look different when viewed from aboard a plane. It was a fresh summer day and scattered all across the blue sky one could see fluffy white clouds. The old instruments aboard the plane, the reflections sun made on the yellow wing of the plane together with the view we had of the fields and of the buildings down below us, all of these things kind-of mixed together and formed a feeling of pleasure and relaxation.
Placed immediately behind me, sitting on his chair, was the pilot. Next to him was the cameraman who was supposed to take a photograph or two during the jump, there was yet another diver sitting to my left and right next to the door. One could feel a stream of cold air coming from the airplane door. Sitting across from me in the tail section of the plane was the man I was about to entrust with my life – my instructor.
He is an experienced diver and a hulk of a man with a solid sense of humor:
"Price? Don't worry about the price; we will negotiate it on the way down!" he said.
We played funny stuff during the entire flight. It seemed to me that all veteran divers must have an inbuilt altimeter because they kept getting more and more cheerful as we reached higher altitudes.
I, on the other hand, got a bit nervous as we got to the point when we had to stop joking around and to actually descend into the multi kilometer depths. Another good thing about making a free fall jump is that you first have to get to the point (high up in the air) from which you will then start your descent, and that turns out to be a first class panoramic flight with an exceedingly dynamic return trip.
All of the sudden things started to pick up the pace. The motor suddenly went silent and the other diver jumped out of the plane. The instructor called me over so we could securely fasten one to other using the special straps.
Before I realize it, there I am standing at the door, above a distant ground (3km in the distance), thinking to myself "My god, you stupid idiot, what have you gotten yourself into?", and in the next moment ............... WOOOOSH!!!
Free fall is a fantastic experience.
The acceleration is so sudden that your adrenalin practically makes you faint. Reality suddenly fades away, as if your brain gets frozen by this unbelievable sense of freedom. There is nothing beneath you, nothing to the left or to the right of you. Everything around you is empty space and you are descending to the ground.
All you have to do is to try to experience it fully with your arms and legs spread wide as if trying to greet the winds rushing in on you.
Both the sun and the clouds quickly fade from the view as you make the jump, your parachute opens with a loud sound and in a second it slows your descent from going 200km/h to going 30km/h. After this you begin slowly floating and finally you make the landing. Now you can start using your unsteady feet to get home.
Tandem jump price wary amongst different countries. It usually goes from 100-1000$ per jump. I guess I have been lucky with only 950 kunas (about 180$). If you want to see how scared you really looked while you were making the jump, you can pay something in addition to the basic cost and the other diver (the one with the camera) will follow you on your jump and take photographs.
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