Originally appeared on CHW on January 15, 2018.
The sun shines brightly. There is not a cloud in the sky. It is a perfect day to be up in the sky. The flyer stands on a ledge gazing at the miniature trees and buildings on the ground below. He jumps headfirst from the safety of the platform, free-falling at rocket speed toward the earth. He shouts with excitement enjoying the chilly air rushing past him. For 60-seconds he rides the air currents–flipping, twisting, flying!
Former skydiver, Christopher Muss said, “The first time I jumped I was really scared. But, I had a great view of the landscape. I could see for miles around. Once you jump from an airplane, you never look at the world the same again. In fact, the first airplane I ever went on I jumped out of!”
A Little History
Skydiving is a popular modern-day sport. The idea of using a parachute to jump from lofty heights was developed hundreds of years ago by the ancient Chinese. While performing at the palace, acrobats, during the Han dynasty, would achieve falls from great elevations. To pull off this heart-stopping feat, they used something that resembled a parachute. Another notable contribution comes from the famous artist and inventor, Leonardo de Vinci, who sketched the first parachute design in 1485.
The first parachute ever made was a lot different from those we see skydivers using today. Some of the earliest had frames made of linen and wood. In 1797, French aeronaut, Andre-Jacques Garnerin, was the first to make a parachute without the typical rigid frame.
Using suspension lines, he attached a basket to a canopy, that was tied beneath a hydrogen balloon. A century later an American named, Tom Baldwin, made the first jump with a limp parachute, which used a trapeze bar instead of a basket.
Twenty-two years later, in 1919, another American named, Leslie Irvin, completed the jump that would change the sport forever. He used his hand-operated parachute during a free-fall jump. Irvin’s design helped skydiving become the sport it is today.
Initially, the military exclusively performed skydiving to save airmen during emergencies, and to transport soldiers to battle on the ground. After WWII it became much more mainstream when many returning soldiers kept at it and began holding contests.
It was finally declared a national sport in 1952. It received its official name a few years later, when a man named, Raymond Young, began using the term, “skydiver.”
Skydiving is not for everyone. Some people only jump once; others continue experiencing the thrill of fear, only falling through the sky can achieve. Christopher Muss said, “Once I landed I had an adrenalin rush that lasted for days. I couldn’t wait to get back up in a plane. So, I could jump again.”
How It’s Done
Before you jump, you must attend a 15-minute training class where you are shown how to cross your arms over your chest when jumping from an airplane. You are taught how an altimeter works. An altimeter is an instrument skydivers’ wear on their wrists, like a watch, it measures their altitude.
On your very first jump, you board a small airplane. You are attached to a professional skydiver who controls the opening of the parachute, as well as the landing; this is called tandem jumping.
Another important factor learned in skydiving is the weather. A first-time tandem jumper needs a sunny day with an average of ten miles an hour winds.
After this, you are harnessed to a professional tandem instructor and climb aboard the airplane. When the airplane reaches an altitude of 13, 500 feet, it’s time to jump. The instructor will say, “Ready, set, go.” After that, all that left to say is, “LOOK OUT BELOW!”