Two summers ago we enjoyed several weeks in Arizona, the land of blue skies, no rain, and few clouds. While pulling near Tucson we witnessed a dozen or more tandem parachute jumps. Kat became inflamed with the idea of trying this. It is immoral to encourage lunacy, yet that crazy streak is one of the things I love about her. We agreed that she should do a tandem jump when the time is right. Now in northwest Arkansas, waiting for warmer weather in Santa Fe and Colorado, the time feels right.
In tandem jumps an experienced skydiver wearing a chute built for two straps himself securely to the customer, who usually has zero parachuting experience. You may recall Bush 41 doing this a time or two to celebrate milestone birthdays. If the Secret Service let that old guy do it, you know it’s safe. It is so safe our 70-something camp host in Cossatot Reefs has already checked this one off her Bucket List. Nothing would have stopped Krazy Kat from taking the plunge with Sky Ranch in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. I resolved to enjoy her joy; for all a jump outfitter has to do to go out of business is to pancake just one customer.
Ground School came first. There were about a dozen things to remember. Free-fall position is knees bent, belly way out, back arched backward, elbows at 90 degrees, both hands tucked into harness loops on the chest. “When I point from side to side, that means bend your neck back and look around for a bird’s eye view. When I tap on your shoulder, it’s time for you to pull the ripcord; reach back, grab the golf ball on my belt and jerk on it to open the chute. When we approach the jump zone we’ll both put our right foot on the landing gear step. We’ll push off that foot to exit the plane and free-fall for seven seconds. Our airspeed will approach 120 mph. In free-fall you hear nothing but wind. Once the chute opens, things get quieter, and we can talk. This is the time to use your eyes: there’s nothing like the view up there.”
And the plane pulled up, Kat and instructor Hoyt climbed in. Off they went. I lost the plane in the sun then found it again at about 5,000 feet thanks to propeller noise. The plane turned into the sun, disappearing this time for good. I should have been able to see it two miles up, but I didn’t see or hear the aircraft or my jumper until somebody spotted the rainbow chute at about 1,000 feet. I hadn’t seen them bail out, but Hoyt took nearly 300 pictures that tell the story best.
Kat’s impressions included “I felt no fear; it was mostly what I had expected. I felt no sense of speed until the parachute opened when it felt like we were climbing. I don’t remember jumping or shouting ‘Geronimo’. I couldn’t find the ripcord so Hoyt opened the chute. It was windy so Hoyt asked the pilot to relocate the jump zone well upwind of the usual spot. After he nailed the landing Hoyt had to tell me ‘Stand up’ because I had forgotten to unbend my knees. Hoyt thought I’d done well for a rookie. Would I jump again? Maybe – I got a long Bucket List.”
Here’s the jump video.
To say Kat really enjoyed her jump is an injustice to the experience. The pictures tell the story. Look at that smile!