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A lot of people have asked me if it was hard to jump out of the plane. Actually, that was the easiest part - I never had to make the decision to jump, just not to fight when Blake (my tandem partner) decided to fall out of the plane!
Getting me *into* the plane took four years and 3 different people though!
Blake told us that the first few seconds out of the plane would be intense - actually, I believe his words were "It's like taking your brain and dropping it into a blender - then pushing the puree button...." He was right - the first few seconds I felt something very akin to panic. I didn't freak out or anything, just the intense bombardment of sensations and experience that my brain had no reference to organize 'reality' from. Then I saw the plane (we almost did a full roll before the drogue caught) and I remember very clearly thinking "There ain't no way I'm getting back in, so I might as well enjoy the trip down...."
Free fall is unlike any experience I've ever had before - tho' I intend to repeat it often in the future! The sinking feeling I've always gotten in the pit of my stomach - the one I associate with falling - was not present. That's because that "sinking feeling" is acceleration (32 feet per second per second, if I remember correctly), up to terminal velocity of around 120 mph - we were going 90 when we left the plane, so there just wasn't much acceleration left to do! Once we hit terminal velocity, the pressure of the wind was like the softest bed you ever laid on - which doesn't come close to describing the experience at all!
When the chute opens, you slow from 120 to 20 in about 3 seconds. I don't remember very much about that, other than thinking that it didn't hurt nearly as much as I thought it would....
Speaking of which, in these pictures you will see the line leading up to the drogue chute. This is used on tandem jumps to slow us down. Not because we're wimping out, but because there is almost twice the weight pushing through the same resistance of air. This would normally speed us up to (ahem) uncomfortable speeds. It also helps stabilize the novice skydiver.
The worst part of the jump actually came after the chute was open. Blake loosened the straps to my harness - to make me more comfortable, 'cause they are tight. He just neglected to tell me! Have you ever seen Cliffhanger? The very beginning where the lady's harness comes loose and she falls into the abyss? Well, 4,000 feet off the ground, my brain played the first 20 minutes for me at *least* 3 times in as many seconds!