Today I flew over to Lake Wales Municipal Airport (X07) for a tandem skydiving jump. After a few minutes of ground instruction, we went up to 13,000 feet in a King Air and jumped. I was more nervous about the experience in the plane. Once we jumped, I was fine. We were so high above the ground that there was no real sensation of falling. It felt more like floating.
We got about a minute of free fall, then when my wrist altimeter read 5500 feet, I pulled the ripcord. I felt a strong jerk (no, not the instructor!) as the chute opened. It was like watching a dog try to run past the end of its leash. Then I made my biggest mistake by letting go of the cord. I soon realized it wasn’t attached to anything. That must have been why they told us not to let go of it. It wasn’t a serious problem, but it cost $15 to replace. Maybe as a consolation, the jumpmaster (instructor) let me do a few turns by pulling the parachute strap. I don’t think the student normally gets to do that on the first jump.
After the chute opened, it took another four or five minutes to reach the ground. We flew a downwind, base, and final, much like a plane, and made an ungraceful landing in the grass. Since the jumpmaster was behind me and is smaller, he couldn’t keep us from falling forward once we touched the ground. At least that’s the excuse he gave me- all I was supposed to do was to keep my legs up so that he would touch the ground first. The landing didn’t hurt, but I’m sure it looked ugly. The jump was a lot of fun; I’ll probably do it again. I paid extra to have it videotaped, which I’d highly recommend to anyone doing a first jump.
I think I was the only diver who flew himself to the airport. There doesn’t seem to be much overlap between skydivers and pilots — people seem to be either one or the other.
2018 update: I haven’t skydived again, but I wouldn’t rule it out, especially in a more exotic place like Hawaii.