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  In the fall of 1996, Sheila and I experienced the thrill of free falling when we went tandem skydiving with a group of friends. The photo on the left shows Sheila leaving the saftey of the airplane at 13,000 feet - a moment that she will not soon forget.

Sheila in free fall about to go through a cloud.

Sheila smiling for the camera

Sheila coming back down to Earth


Alan as seen from plane a second after jumping

Alan in free fall

Alan Landing

Impressions of Our Skydiving Experience:

Other than a real life-and-death drama, it is hard to imagine a more emotionally intense and adrenaline charged experience than jumping out of an airplane and experiencing free fall for the first time. For us, the anxiety started building the night before and intensified as we were getting ready the next morning. We ate a very light breakfast - not wanting much in our stomachs - for obvious reasons. A strange mixture of excitement, nervousness and fear hovered just beneath the surface as we drove to the jump zone. Once there we met up with our friends and exchanged greetings and jokes. The group dynamic helped to ease the tension and bolster confidence.

After a very short instructional video ("That was it?"), we were introduced to our tandem guides and fitted with harnesses. Behind us, parachutes were being packed by distressingly young looking teenagers. That is when reality really started to set it and we began to experience a little doubt and fear.

Next came the hardest part.... waiting. We had to wait about 45 minutes for our turn to go up in the plane. We wanted the time to go by quickly because just waiting around and thinking about what we were about to do was nerve racking, but at the same time we dreaded the arrival of the moment. It felt like hours, but the moment came and it was finally our turn. We walked out to the airstrip, received our final instructions and boarded a tightly packed airplane. In all there were nine people sitting together in the plane - Sheila and I were the only tandem rides on this trip up.

The plane barrelled down the grassy runway, took off and began to climb in a steep, tight spiral that would occasionally set off the plane's stall warning buzzer. We were now emotionally wired. It is hard to describe the level of anxiety and tension we felt. Of course, all the seasoned jumpers made the obligatory jokes about parachute failure just to make us feel even better. Halfway up they opened the side door to the plane - and since I was sitting right by the door I could look straight down to the ground - that in itself was an interesting experience. At 13,000 feet, the seasoned skydivers started jumping out and I was able to watch them disappear into tiny dots as they fell to the earth at 120 mph. One of them did a somersault as he left the plane and winked at me as he came around about 10 feet below the door. It was very surrealistic.

Now it was my turn. It is hard to describe my feelings over the next several seconds as we inched our way into position. I was basically outside of the plane, only about an inch of my rear was still on the door ledge - my heart was beating so loud I could almost hear it. Then I took a deep breath waited for the count of three, summoned my courage and...... I was out. I felt only an instant of acceleration and then I was leveled out in the flying position. My emotions instantly changed from anxiousness to exhilaration. I could not believe the 180 degree change in emotional intensity - free falling was incredible. There was no fear, there was no worry, just pure adrenaline pleasure. It was amazingly cool, I felt like I was flying. I was actually disappointed when the canopy deployed and my thrill ride was over. The trip down to earth in the chute was fun too, but in a different way. The view was awesome and I just soaked up the scene, my body still awash in post-adrenaline euphoria. Sensing my comfort level, my tandem instructor put the canopy through some agressive spins and then we came down for our final touchdown.

Once down, I quickly looked for Sheila's chute and went over to joyously greet her. We felt awesome, especially Sheila, who wasn't even sure she was going to go through with it. The high lasted for days. I remember seeing people and thinking: "They didn't jump out of a plane today" or "I bet they've never jumped out of a plane before". Truly an amazing experience. We would have went right back up and ran out the plane - thats how pumped we were. Of course, now that its been a few years, I am sure we would feel nervous again - after all it is not risk free. But if you can justify the risk, I would highly recommend the experience.