Hi everybody, today I am going to be sharing with you on what could be one of the most exciting events in my whole life, and I hope that this will inspire you to follow in my footsteps. I will be comparing two of my greatest sky-diving adventures and hopefully this would encourage you to decide which one you like the most.
Well, I finally did it! I got to go on two tandem sky-dive jumps, and to prove them, I have two official certificates stating that I did my jumps with a certified instructor. No one can deny the fact that I did it! On Saturday, August ninth, 2014, I went to do my first sky-dive, and on Monday, September eighth, I went to do my second jump. I was not able to record my experience on the first jump, except for what happened on the ground because when the instructor put on my harness and tightens the straps, they patted my pockets to make sure I had nothing on my person. I told the instructor I wanted to record myself in free fall, but he said this was something I would not be able to get on tape because of the United States Parachuting Association’s policy which stated that I could only carry stuff with me after my two hundredth jump. I was also not able to afford in buying a video package as well. On my second jump, however, I was a lot more clever. I found a sneaky way to have my iPod touch recording while I was in free-fall, and no one was aware of the fact that I recorded it until long after I had left. I was also able to have my instructor use a GoPro helmet camera to record everything on video. Most drop zones have either a hand-cam or third-person option, but since I wanted to record every possible moment along with my recording, I opted for the former. The class room at the Sky-diving Sports and Adventures over in Estacada we used was quite small, kind of like the size of a waiting room or sitting room. The one in Molalla was a little bit bigger, and the whole building with the manifest area was quite spacious as well.
On the day that would change my life forever, we left the park where the retreat was being held at around nine twenty-five pacific daylight time, and we drove up to the Sky-Diving Sports and Adventures in Eagle Creek, Oregon, which is run by Ralf, chief pilot and owner of the business. I went with two other blind people, all of whom were first-timers like me. Still, I was really glad I had two months notice about what the experience would be like, even though there were a few differences which I will describe as I go through my experiences in order. In short, there were five of us in the car. Three blind people and one visually-impaired staff member and our driver. We came to a stop in the gravel parking lot and we climbed out. The day was nice and clear, perfect for a jump with no wind, save for a cool breeze from the
We all sat down at a pick-nick table, and one of the employees came and told us that every year, there was someone who usually wanted to take a video, and that these videos were a way to record their experience. Only one person opted to pay ninety-eight dollars for a video package while the rest of us just recorded it. I did bring my own pocket camera, and I asked one of the staffers if they could film me doing my landing, so in a way I was partially filmed, although it would have been nicer if I got everything.
After the staff person processed the payment for the person who wanted to take video, he brought us an application for all of us to fill out. Each person was to fill out the forms one at a time, instead of at the same time, which meant that the process took nearly an hour, plus ten to fifteen minutes for the person to read the waver aloud. Since it was quite lengthy, we all had to listen in because he was only going to read it once. The next person got to fill out the form, and soon it was my turn. The form asked for my name, age, date of birth, weight, address and other contact information, including emergency contact information.
This is where I knew the wavers were different. Here, they asked if I suffered from any medical ailments, and one of them was hearing loss or impairment. Over in Molalla they did not ask me about any medical ailments or anything of that sort. I wonder why? I was afraid that if I said yes to the question regarding my hearing, it would prevent me from sky-diving, but they assured me that it was only meant as a way to let them know in advance so that I would be able to hear them and they would be able to hear me. They also asked if I was on any medications as well, and then I had to sign three different pages. I asked if it was possible for them to provide a copy of the waver in a PDF form so that they could send it to people who wanted to jump. They thought it was an excellent idea and they said to me that they would consider it.
The way the wavers were set up in Molalla, as I soon found out was very different. Since Sky-Dive Oregon is a pretty busy place, they set up iPad stands in the middle of the waiting area so people could use SmartWaver to fill out, check about forty different boxes, and sign the waver in a speedy and efficient manner. The bad news was that I was not informed about this, nor was my friend. Had we known they were going to use iPads I would have asked them to reserve a space for me to use an iPad that was not enclosed in a tamper-proof case. The result was that I spent nearly half an hour just trying to get it to work, and after a lot of patience I finally managed to sign the waver with VoiceOver enabled within about an hour. Fortunately it was getting very windy, so we had to reschedule. Normally this would have been unfortunate, but because of how long it took for me to figure out the iPad, it was a good thing that I had plenty of time. To prevent future incidents like this, I am hoping to contact the manufacturer of these iPad stands and ask if they can build cases with key holes so they could press the home button with the crank of a key, or open up a headphone compartment, etc. This is simply policy standard to prevent people from using apps that are on the iPad and to only use it to sign the wavers.
After all of our applications were processed back in Estacada, our instructor came and talked to us, introducing himself individually. He informed us that he had worked with blind people from either the Oregon School for the blind, or from the Portland Commission for the Blind. He told us that he would be guiding us inside a small building which would be where he would teach us how we were to exit the aircraft, which was a Cessna-182, and how we were going to land. There we would also put on our jump suits and wind breaker hats, which looked almost like a helmet,except that it was made entirely of leather.
Over at Sky-dive, I was given an envelope that I would hand to my instructor so he could get paid, and I was lead to another room in the building. There I took a seat near a wall and our instructor started talking to us immediately. According to the web site, it stated that only students who were jumping were allowed to attend the class, yet when I went with my friend, he was allowed to attend the class with me. Maybe this was an exception. I would be putting my jump suit and harness in the loading area, which was further out on the other side of the complex. The aircraft I jumped out of was a Cessna-208.
Over in Eagle Creek, before he started the class, our instructor asked us if we all had any questions, which he would answer as he taught us what to do. I asked about the rodeo sky-dive, where a person actually flipped three times as they fell out of the plane, and they would be falling head-first. I also asked if there were several methods to get out of the aircraft, depending on what kind it was. He could not answer my question about how free fall was interpreted by the brain, so I was left to experience that on my own for me to describe. He told us that the amount of time we were going to free fall would vary on how much we weighed. Since I was the lightest, it would take me longer to reach the designated altitude to where the main parachute would be deployed. On this particular drop zone, the altitude where we would be falling at was anywhere between ten thousand and eleven thousand feet, so our free fall would be between thirty to forty-five seconds. Our instructor told us that we would be falling for about a mile and then we would parachute for about five to seven minutes for another mile.
Over at Sky-dive, the altitude that I would be jumping would be anywhere between thirteen to thirteen thousand five hundred feet, or eighteen thousand feet if I requested that option. I will also state here that either the weight of me and my instructor was more than I thought, or something else, but my fall was no more than thirty-six seconds from that altitude when they said that I would be falling for sixty seconds. To confirm this, I listened to the recording and timed my fall.
After our instructor answered all of our questions back in Eagle Creek, he waited for another person to come back. Whilst waiting, he asked us if we had anything in our pockets or anything else that might fall out. I had no choice but to hand over my iPod to another staff member, who would hold it for me until I did my jump. I must have forgotten to mute my iPod’s VoiceOver, for my instructor heard it talking and this is what promted him to check my pockets. One of the guys was worried that his glass eyes would fall out, and I was concerned that my hearing aids would fall out as well. The instructor took the first person down to the creeper, which was basically a platform on wheels that is generally used to look at the underside of vehicles. When it was my turn, he lead me to the low table and I climbed up on it. He showed me the position we would be falling and to stay in that position so we would not end up falling head-first. When we left the aircraft, our left knee would be on the floor of the plane and our right foot would be on the platform outside of the plane. When we entered free fall, we would have to arch our head and back backwards as hard as we could, and if we needed help, he would put his left hand on our forehead to signal that we needed to keep going back. Likewise, our heels would be on his butt, and if he needed us to go further, he would put his right hand on our knee to tell us to keep it there. Then he demonstrated this by getting on top of me and showing me how to cross my arms over my chest which is called the safety position. You do this both when you leave the aircraft and when you land. After that, I went back to my chair, and then the next person went, and soon our instructor had us practise our landing position, by having our feet out in front of us as far as we could hold them, with our knees bent at a twenty or thirty-degree angle.
Over at Sky-dive, the training was very similar, with the only difference being that we would be sitting down as if we were on a curb, and we would simply lean forward and slide out of the plane. The other difference that I noticed was that my second instructor had me stretch out my arms during free fall when he tapped me three times on my right shoulder. I wonder why he had me do this, but my instructor did not have me do it on my first jump? It could have been the fact that I had more experience, or that the equipment they were using was slightly different. My friend was worried that I would lose my hearing aids, but I reassured him that I already did my first jump so I knew what I was doing. As proof, I showed him how the wind breaker hid them out of sight.
When we got into our jump suits back in Eagle Creek, we got our wind breakers, and when I put them on, they completely covered my hearing aids so well that there would be no danger of them falling out. The instructor asked me if I had glass eyes, and I told him I had real eyes, which was a good thing. The goggles were attached to a string on the back of our hats, and we were supposed to put it over our eyes and tighten the elastic strap on either side to secure it. The instructor helped me with the chin strap because it seemed to be tangled. After we were all set, he got the order of the people in our group who were going to be jumping with him. I was the last one to jump, so I had to wait for nearly an hour and a half before I finally got moving. Before we got into our harnesses, however, our instructor took us outside to where the plane was anchored via ropes and then he opened up the door so that we could explore how we would get in and out of the plane. The door was set up in an interesting fashion. Imagine feeling the bottom side of the plane’s fuselage curving as it went down to the belly of the plane. Close to that was a place where a person could lock and unlock the door. They would pull on the crack that was underneath, and they would keep pulling the door towards them and then they would push it up, like the trunk of a car. This is because its hinges were located towards the top where the right wing was located. To get in, I had to put one of my feet on top of the platform that was located above the right wheel towards the back of the aircraft, and then I crawled onto the floor of the plane and I would be seated behind the pilot’s seat. I ended up riding backwards. Then we got out and he lead us back inside, where our instructor proceeded in putting us inside our harnesses. When I got mine on, I wanted to tie it up myself since I already had experience putting on three other harnesses in the last few days of the camp, but because sky-diving is essentially a vital and extreme sport, only the instructor was allowed to tie the harness for me. I think a person would have to be certified to handle their own harness.
Over at sky-dive Oregon, I learnt a few new things I never heard about before. For instance, I was told to never, ever, ever reach behind me while getting ready to jump, because if I pulled on the wrong handle, my instructor and I would be history. He also told us that he would ask us several times if we were ready, and if we said no, then we would not be refunded. Once I proceeded with the training, I was taken to the back of the classroom and I was given the stuff to put on. The jump suit I put on was a lot different, and I had to take off my shoes to get them on. That was one thing I did not have to do on my first sky-dive. The place kind of felt as if I was indoors and outdoors at the same time; it was very strange. Since this was a bigger plane, and because jumping out of it would be easier, I was not required to use the plane to practise getting in and out. To confirm my suspicion, I asked my instructor if it was true that only the latter was allowed to handle the harness, and he said that it was, and that I would have to take accelerated free-fall training to learn about handling my own harness. One thing I also learnt about from my instructor was how to stay calm when the reserve parachute was being deployed. He told us to always keep our hands in our safety position no matter what we felt, saw, heard, etc.
After everyone was set to jump back at Sky-dive Sports and Adventures, the first of the trio was lead outside while the rest of us sat down in lounge chairs, still inside to avoid too much heat exposure. I dozed off for nearly an hour, and then I heard one of the staffers report that our first member was coming down. When he came back after he landed, we all applauded him and asked him how it was. Then the next member of our group went with the instructor. Both times, I thought I heard him say, ‘Do you want to jump? Do not answer right away. Think about it for a moment, because this is really important.’ That is when I asked him just to make sure I heard correctly if he always asked his clients if they were absolutely sure they wanted to jump, once before they got on the plane, once while they were on the plane, and once before they were about to leave the aircraft. The instructor would also tell them that they were not being pressured to jump, as it would be their choice. You see, the reason they would ask you is so they can give you your money back, or at least some of it. If you said ‘yes’ the first time, but then you said ‘no’ the second or third time, then you would not get your money back. I could not hear what he said, but it sounded like he only asked certain people. I will not go into detail about the waiting process, suffice it to say that a few of the employees handed us water or soda to drink while we waited.
Over at Sky-dive Oregon, there was no waiting, and I was able to do my jump immediately after the class, which lasted about twenty minutes, and began half an hour before the actual time that the class was scheduled to start. I left the complex at around fifteen hundred something, and I walked over to the boarding area. There I was informed that we would wait for our plane, which would taxi to the space for us to get on, then I would climb a metal ladder that had about six rums. I could estimate that the plane was about three or so feet above the ground. The plane’s engine was still running as people started to get on it.
Back at Sky-dive Sports and Adventures, after the first person was out of the harness and jump suit and the second person left, we all headed out to eat. However, since I was soon to leave, I had to wait until after my jump to eat for two reasons. I could get nauseated, and if I threw up, it could blind the person going below me and this would be bad. Second, because I would not have time to finish my lunch. After we were outside for a few minutes, I started to feel light-headed, so I went inside and the others followed me. I sat back down and dozed for another half hour. After a short while the second person came down, and then our instructor went to refresh himself and then he filled out a few things before he told me that we were all set. Everyone wished me good luck, and I took my instructor’s elbow and we walked down to the aircraft. I also got to feel his container, which was like a big back pack that weighed five pounds. I asked him what he meant by the fact that when we left the aeroplane, we would fall at a rate of a hundred seventy miles an hour, but that he would pull out a drogue parachute that would slow us down to a hundred twenty miles an hour for Belly to Earth orientation. He said that because when we left the aircraft, we would experience higher than terminal velocity, which would put a lot of strain on both our bodies and on the parachute. It could eventually be lethal because travelling at one seventy would rip our main canopy to bits and cause us to faint due to the excessive amount of G’s, so the drogue and or pilot chutes would be deployed immediately upon exit. The pilot parachute would also aid the instructor in deploying the main parachute as well. The next thing I asked my instructor was what people did when they fell, because it is obvious that when we lose our balance on Earth, we instinctively reach out our hands and arms to grab onto something. To inhibit this reaction, he told me to grab onto the straps of my harness as hard as I could while having my arms crossed. ‘This way,’ he said, ‘if you feel like you need to grab onto something, just hold on as tightly as you can and let me do the work.’ By that he meant that I should relax, because I would have a lot of adrenaline rushing through my system, though hopefully not a fatal dose or one that would cause me to be paralysed. He assured me that he has not lost anybody yet.
Back at Sky-dive Oregon, I told my instructor about my first jump and I also took note in his demeanour. From what I noticed, my first instructor was more of a no-nonsense person, which made sense because people who did extreme things always made sure to do everything right, and they would not like any irrelevancies. My second instructor was more easy-going, which is what I like best.
Over at Sky-dive Sports and Adventures, we did one last check in which we practised getting in and out of the plane, since the previous time we did it altogether, and therefore we did not have a lot of time for individualised practice. We went inside so he could show me where I would be sitting, which was on the floor of the plane with my legs crossed, and my instructor would be facing me, sort of sideways on the left wall of the plane. In other words, I was facing the tail of the plane, and the door was on the right side of the plane, which was to my left. We got out so that the pilot could climb in and fill out his log book, and then he told us to climb back in. We had to wait for two more people who were diving solo, as I was the only one doing a tandem jump.
Over at Sky-dive Oregon, I could hear the plane approaching the boarding area, and it reminded me of a jet and a propeller plane combined in one. This is because the regular planes have an engine that drives the propeller through a piston, while the ones here use a fan that is driven by a turbine. As such, you have speeds going well over six thousand revolutions per minute. Once the plane was parked I was taken over to the line. As I got closer I could smell the fumes of the jet fuel, which for some reason reminded me of diesel. When I approached the ladder, I started feeling the wind from the propeller, and I told my guide of this fact, and she told me I was safe. The propeller, which was to my left was spinning at fifty cycles a second, (three thousand RPM). The ladder was tilted at a forty-five-degree angle, so I went in as if I was crawling onto the plane. The door was located on the left side of the plane towards the back. When I went inside, I turned around until I was facing the door and I was dragged towards the right side, where I saw a long bench that was parallel to the wall. It felt like one of those kneelers you find underneath church pews, and it was that high above the floor. I sat down in front of my instructor, and he hooked me up to a set of seatbelts onto my harness. I was also riding backwards. For the first time, I noticed how loose the top of my harness was, but I will get to that in a moment.
Back in Estacada, one of the sky-divers asked me where I was from and if I was excited to do my first jump. I told them I was very pumped up, and I was hardly feeling nervous at all. I soon realised why it took so long for people to get up into the air. There was a lot of waiting once I got to the aircraft, so that they could make sure that everything was working properly. I asked what it was like to land in one of those things, and the pilot told me that I did not want to land in them, but that I should jump out of them instead. After that we got seated and the pilot had a few words with the instructor and the other people inside, and then he shouted, ‘clear prop!’ This basically meant that he was warning everyone, such as sleeping vagrants and small children and their pets to step out of the plane’s propellers so that they would not get hit by them. One last thing I asked my instructor was how I would not be hitting the platform of the plane and the wheel as we dived out of the door. He said that he was going to call out, ‘ready, set, go!’ Then he would push off of the step so hard that it would propel us into the air and we would still be moving forward because of the plane’s momentum. This is called forward throw. He also showed me where I would be attached to his harness. It turns out that they can vary, but they are usually between three and five. In this case, there were four, although there could have been a rip cord in case I felt like my instructor was being unresponsive, although there was the automatic activation device. This would cause the reserve parachute to open right away. There were two hooks on the shoulders, and two more down by the waist.
After the pilot made sure no one was standing in front of the plane, he turned on the engine and we started taxiing down the gravel pathway towards the runway. Once he had located and back-taxied on the small airstrip to get as much space as possible, he turned around so as to line up with the runway. The sound of the plane’s engine sounded like I was inside one of those antique cars, or inside a motor boat. When he told us we were clear for take-off, he throttled the engine to two thousand revolutions per minute, and because I was good with perfect pitch, I did some calculations in my head. The propeller blades made an audible sound as they sliced through the air, and this number was thirty cycles per second. I multiplied that by sixty and got the end-result. The pitch of the engine itself was around one hundred twenty-eight hertz. One thing I forgot to mention was that the Cessna-182 was equipped with air conditioning, which was immediately activated when the pilot turned on the engine. It felt strange riding backwards during the taxi and take-off, but it was lots of fun. It felt sort of like when I was taking off in one of those Boeing air-liners, with the difference being that the engine sounded like a leaf blower and the amount of time needed to take off was a lot shorter. Since this was a small plane, it did not take as long to get into the air, which was about five to ten seconds. Flying in one of these was about the same as in a commercial jet. The only time I experienced a sensation of moving, albeit forward, backwards, or sideways was when there were bits of rough spots. I could also feel the wind rushing through a small crack near the pilot’s seat on my right. I assumed that this could have been an emergency exit, or it could have also been the pilot’s own door. One thing was for sure, these Cessnas have been modified for easier jumping. This meant that everyone on board was required to wear a parachute. I should also mention that the inside smelt like it was recently filled with aeroplane fuel, which had the same smell like the gasoline they use to fuel lawn mowers. It was rather hard to talk above the plane’s engine, so whenever I asked my instructor a question, I had to repeat myself, and if he had something to tell me, he would use hand signals if it was a number-based response or he would just speak right into my ear. He told me that we were going to let the first person get out first, and then it would be our turn. At around eight thousand feet, he would have me turn around towards the front of the plane, and then he would have me scoot towards him so that he could hook me up to his harness.
The climb itself took about fifteen to twenty minutes, and we were climbing at a very shallow angle, so I could not really feel it unless the pilot either dropped or ascended quickly. This number is measured in feet per minute, and the speed is usually in nautical miles. Also the way we turned was quite interesting. Sometimes I would feel the plane tilt to one side and then straighten out again. We pretty much ascended in a spiral-like fashion. From the outer perspective, it was hard to know what the plane was doing because of the Doppler effect. After we got to the designated altitude, I had to equalise the pressure in my ears, and my instructor asked me if I could still breathe. I asked him if I could still breathe during free fall, and he assured me that it was not at all like going under water. He also told me that the air was still good up here.
Once everyone was settled comfortably on the two benches over in Molalla, which by the way were covered with a thin cushion, the pilot taxied down to the runway and turned around to back-taxi. Then my instructor told me that we were getting ready to take off. He also explained to me that he would unhook the seatbelt at around fifteen hundred feet, and he would start to attach the lower part of my harness and then at eight thousand feet he would finish attaching the upper part of my harness. The seatbelts were being used just in case we were to crash on the ground. Soon, the pilot opened up the throttle, and we were off. The time it took for us to be airborne was a lot shorter than I had ever imagined, but it made sense because it was a very powerful aircraft, with its propeller spinning at six thousand three hundred RPM (105 HZ). It sounded as if I was in a miniature boeing seven forty-seven along with the sound of one of those electric lawn mowers. The climb also took very little time, especially since we were going to a higher altitude than the one I did in Eagle Creek. It took us about nine to ten minutes to get to the designated altitude.
At ten thousand feet over at Sky-diving Sports and Adventures, the pilot opened the door, something I wondered how that was done, and I felt the cold rush of the wind hitting me. I could hear the sound of the wind, which sounded as if I was in a car with the window opened. if you mix that with the sound of a leaf blower, you would get the same sound. Then I felt the plane jerk to the right, which was an indication that our first jumper had pushed off of the platform and was now in free fall. The pilot closed the door and we went back to the other side of the drop zone, and my instructor told me not to put my right foot forward until he told me to do so. After a few minutes of me kneeling down, my instructor pushed me forward towards the door, and then he told me to put my right foot forward just as the pilot opened the door. I started feeling the wind blowing across my face, and then my instructor had me locate the little platform. Once I had firmly planted my right foot on it, he made sure I felt where his foot was, which was to the right of my foot. Our left knees were still on the plane. We leaned forward so that we were now partially outside of the plane. By this time I already had my hands across my chest, so there was nothing else for me to do except to listen for when he gave the signal that would tell me we were ready. At this moment, I felt relaxed, a little apprehensive, but very relaxed. This was because I fully trusted my instructor and I knew he has done it thousands of times already.
Half way into the flight back in Molalla, my instructor asked me how I was doing, and if I was ready to jump. This was also when I asked him if the top of my harness was tight enough, because I could tell that it was loose. He told me not to worry, that it was tight, and I trusted him. Soon I figured out why. After he told me to lean back on his chest so he could attach me more easily, he told me to lean forward as hard as I could. That is when I realised that he had tightened the top part of my harness by finishing the attachment process. Once we reached thirteen thousand feet, the pilot decreased the plane’s engine speed and then he opened the door. I was sitting behind a fellow sky-diver, so I had plenty of time to explore the container that was atop his back. I started to feel how cold the wind was, and I could also hear the people as they left the aircraft. My instructor asked me one more time if I was ready to sky-dive, and I told him I was. He started pushing me forward on the bench as the number of people grew less, and soon I was on the floor. My instructor told me to put both of my feet out in front of me, and soon my legs were out in the open, and he continued to push me forward until the rest of my legs were dangling off the side of the plane.
Back in Eagle Creek, my instructor called out ‘ready, set, go!’ He pushed us off the platform and I felt myself roll forward slightly, then to the left so that I was now on my left side. My instructor stabilised us and we were falling. The sensation of falling was not like the kind I was expecting. It is not like when we fall in a dream, because that sensation is usually a heavy sinking feeling. You would, however, get this heavy falling sensation if you fell from a stationary aircraft, like a helicopter or a hot air balloon. The air resistance gave me a cushion, and was sort of a reference point that also gave me a sense of weight and direction. This was how I knew that I was falling with my stomach down. When I screamed, a cheer-like shout of joy, I could hear it resonate inside my head, and then I said, ‘I love it! I really really love it!’ It was a good thing I was wearing my wind breaker, because it muffled the sound quality of the rushing wind a great deal. Again, it sounded like if I was riding in a car, except there was no engine sound. I could feel a stinging in my nose as I breathed in the air during the fall. Since I was falling so fast, and because I wore two layers of clothing, I could not focus on how cold the wind was. Also, it felt like I was travelling at fifty or sixty miles an hour, not a hundred twenty.
My instructor back at Sky-dive Oregon gave no warning. He simply pushed us forward until we slid out of the plane, and I was met with a second or two of feeling weightless as he kept leaning us forward. I could not remember the sensation of me tilting, but all of the sudden, I was on my stomach plummeting towards Earth. At first I let go of my harness, but I quickly decided against it. Soon my instructor tapped me on the shoulder and I put my arms out in front of me and to either side. I decided to talk into the camera, but the wind was very loud and it was also hard to breathe during the fall, mainly because we were so high above the earth. Also, it appeared that I was recovering from a cold, so the thin air made my nose run and also made my right ear feel as if I had an itch inside. A few hours later I had some inflammation in my left ear, which subsided in a few days. One thing that I definitely noticed was that I did not roll at all, but I knew when I was turning left or right as we were falling.
I did not keep track of how much time had passed back at Sky-diving Sports and Adventures, although at one point I heard a snap, like a metal clasp being shut and then I was whipped into a standing position and I felt myself bounce and I felt weightless for a few seconds as the parachute started slowing us down to about seventeen miles an hour. It was important that the parachute deployed correctly, because if we suddenly slowed down to seventeen miles an hour, it could hurt us and or damage the equipment. Since I had my knees folded during the fall, the force of the parachute pulling us in an upright position was so strong I did not even feel my feet move downward. It was as if one second I had my heels on my instructor’s butt, and the next second, I was standing on his feet.
We started talking, and I could hear the rustling of the sheets as the wind was blowing it along. I asked him if blind people could sky-dive solo, and he said that he met a few blind people who has done it with an audible altimeter and a two-way radio. I asked if there were ones that vibrated for people who were deaf-blind, and he said that there could be, but they were probably not approved by the United States yet. I forgot to ask him how blind people knew where to steer if they could not see. This could probably be from the instructors on the ground communicating to the person via walkie-talkie. At one point, I felt myself being tugged upward as if a spring was pulling me, and I soon realised this was because my instructor was pulling one part of the parachute so that gave us a feeling of weightlessness. This allowed him to turn more easily rather than just spinning. Also, we had a great sensation of moving forward because the wind was pushing us back, and I could hear the low, quiet
rumble of the wind as it rushed past us. He also pulled on both wings to slow us down, which made us feel as if we were going up and then down. For a few minutes he said it was okay for me to let go of my harness so I could experience what it was like to fly like an eagle. It was very exciting, knowing that I was not attached to anything except a huge pile of sheets which I felt when we landed.
Over at Sky-dive Oregon, I felt a slight jolt as the main canopy was activated and I immediately put my arms in the safety position, and then I said, we did it! I asked my instructor a few times if I was allowed to steer the controls, but he either did not hear me or chose not to respond. He told me he was going to loosen the two attachments down at the waist so it would be more easier for him to manage the parachute’s controls. I leaned back to get a better feel for what the gliding felt like, and also to look up at the sky as I was being filmed.
Back in Eagle Creek, my instructor told me to put my hands in my safety position, and then he told me to put my feet out, just like we practised, and I asked him if we were going to land hard. He said that we were not, since we would be gliding forward and hitting the ground at the same time. I would be landing on my butt while he would be landing on his knees. After I felt the ground hit my butt, the small parachute collapsed, and for a few seconds I thought it was the main parachute, but they told me that they were kidding. They let me feel the huge pile of nylon. ‘Aw, does that feel nice? That is what saved ya!’ one of the staff members of the park told me.
At sky-dive Oregon, my instructor had me put my feet up in the landing position a few seconds after he deployed the main canopy for practice, and I must have thought we were getting ready to land, or he told me to relax. When he told me we were going to land, I put out my feet and bent my knees, just like we practised. Since my instructor was very tall, the landing was very different. We came in nearly in a standing position, so as soon as I hit the ground, I could stand up right away, and I took off my gear. I exclaimed how funny the landing was, and at the instructor’s request, I also gave him a thumbs up for the camera. Both my guide and the instructor were surprised that I did everything correctly. I guess they were expecting somebody to mess up or something, but no, I did everything right! He asked me if it was just as good as my last one, and I told him there were just a few differences.
Back in Estacada, my instructor detached the two of us and I quickly got out of my harness and jump suit, along with the goggles and hat. The staff person who had my camera told me that he was able to get it all on video. After I was out of my suit, I shook hands with my instructor and I thanked him for everything. He told me that he could autograph my shirt once I bought it. One thing I should note, the way they processed the videos was a little bit more primitive, for they had to put it all on a DVD which they would mail to you within seven days.
At sky-dive Oregon, my instructor shook my hand and my guide took me back inside the loading area to take off my jump suit. Once I got out of it, I was taken back to the classroom where I met my instructor, who handed me my first jump certificate along with a bumper sticker, and he told me he would be back with an SD card for me to take home. My friend, whom I invited to come along with me on the trip, congratulated me on my second jump, and I promised him I would tell him all about it.
My final thoughts on these experiences: Since I could not record myself on the first sky-dive, I was able to create a replicated recording of what sky-diving sounded like based on sounds that were in existence. All I had to do was make sure those sounds match the ones I had in my memory, which was easy for me because of my perfect pitch. I had no trouble recording my second jump, and for that I am very grateful.
The instructor never asked me if I really wanted to jump on my first sky-dive, and I told people about this fact. Some of my friends told me that he probably knew that I was extremely self-motivated to learn about sky-diving. There is usually a certain number of people who do not want to learn about it. They simply want to get the experience. One person thought that maybe I did not hear the instructor when he asked me that question, but that sounded illogical because if I did not hear him, I would not have answered him, and this would have been a question that required a response, so he would have had to repeat himself until I understood him. Maybe the first instructor asked me a similar question, such as what my second instructor said that might have been why I was not expecting the same question that I was told I would be asked. Such things can be, do you want to sky-dive, or, are you ready to sky-dive? You get the gist.
The reason I was hardly nervous on both jumps was thanks to a meditation class taught by a former teacher and a friend of mine who was at the camp. He hosted a stress and anxiety-reduction workshop four days before my first jump, and a month before my second. I learnt how to fully relax and calm my nerves by releasing oxytocin, slow down my heart and breathing rate, etc. The bonding hormone has shown to inhibit the fear centre in the brain. I meditated a lot, and the fact that I did it so many times was why I hardly felt nervous, and it allowed me to trust my instructors fully. Also, the fact that I knew exactly what to expect was a major contributing factor. This is because people fear the unknown when they have no idea what to expect, regardless of their motivation and will. All in all, I think this would be something I would be doing for quite a while, and I might start preparing to do high altitude low-opening jumps in the future.
When I showed people this article, many people told me that I had written it as if what happened to me happened yesterday, which lead them to think I was able to remember everything so well. I told them that it all depended on several things. Since sky-diving was something I was passionate about, it helped me relive the memory over and over, looking at every detail, the way you do when you watch a moving picture several times. Another thing that helped me was research. For example, I did not know what the instructor meant by a drogue parachute. When he said it, it sounded like he said a robe parachute. I went on-line to look it up, but I did not find anything on the internet about it. One day as I was reading about sky-diving in general, I came across the same word, and I took note of its spelling. If I forgot something, reading about it on-line would cause those memories to come flooding back. Also, our brains can remember images more easily than words, even for blind people. I imagined feeling the plane’s texture, from the outside in, and this allowed me to remember the words the instructor and the other people said. Of course, there is a lot of speculation that blind people can remember words better than their sighted peers, but it is not always true. So, this is what allowed me to associate things more easily, and I recommend that people do this more often.
In regards to the iPad issue I experienced, I went over to http://www.iPadenclosures.com/ to see what kind of kiosk cases they made. It really surprised me that they had something that was supposed to be accessible to everybody, but current measures or policies prevented them from making that accommodation, or at least, finding workarounds. I was thinking of having them buy several iPads and making room for quiet environments so that people who were blind and or hard-of-hearing would be able to hear and or use a Braille display along with VoiceOver to read what was on the screen. I also recommend that they include an accessibility section on their web site to let other people know ahead of time with the information they would need before they got there to avoid scrambling at the last minute.
Many people who are afraid to jump are actually frightened by the idea and not by the experience itself. That is why it helps to know in advance what a person would be getting into, though I was told that some people do not want to know because it would ruin the surprise for them. Still, I am going to be sharing this to anyone who might be interested, and I hope you can share it with anyone you think might like this as well.