Installment 5 by Jack Bourque, President of Wireless Careers
Down we float, the farmers’ fields that surround the Ellington Airport coming more into view, and now the backyards and the homes in the nearby village. Over there I can see what appears to be a swimming pool closed for the winter and in another backyard what appears to be a swing set. If there are any people moving in these yards I can’t tell. Is that because I can’t see them from this height or is it because it is a brisk 60 degrees on a late Sunday afternoon and they are firmly on the ground and, unlike me, safe in their homes.
I wonder if they watch the sky and see us parachuting down and have unfulfilled wishes about skydiving as I once did. I know I will never have that feeling again.
While on the ground before our take off, Walt had told me how we would be connected in the jump and that the chute actually would be latched to my harness and he would be latched between it and me. In the airplane a minute or so before we were about to jump, he connected us together by having me sit on his lap as he tighten each strap – I think there were four at least. These were the straps that held Walt and I as we floated and came closer to the ground.
Now we were over the airport and the manifest office of Connecticut Parachutists, Inc. I can see my wife standing near the landing zone waving. I wave back and yell something – probably just a “hi.” Maybe I should have said “I love you” because we still hadn’t landed and from what I had read while parachuting might be the first great thrill, landing is the second.
Jack coming in for the landing...
(Continued in Sky Diving – installment 6)
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To my left and overhead I see the tandem chute with one of my daughters and through the distance I wave and yell “Hey.” The two instructors move us closer together – we nearly touch parachutes together. She says something about awesome and we separate. I didn’t see her again until we landed.
As we float downward, Walt points out the skyline of Springfield about 25 miles to the North; we make out the skyline of Hartford about as far away to the South but partially obscured in an overcast. Between the two cities I can make out the dual traffic lanes of I-91 and the Connecticut River paralleling the interstate.
To the West the sun is setting – it is nearly 5 pm on a mid-October day, and the sky is brilliant red. There are only a few clouds. I try looking as far West as possible to see if I can make out any of the familiar western Connecticut hills where we live. I see the formations but can’t distinguish one area from another.
Maybe if we had more time. But there is no way we can stay aloft for long, Walt says, even though I ask him to keep us up as long as he can. Parachutes eventually have to come down, he says. If we can catch an unusual thermal uplift can we stay up a little longer and that only happens rarely, he says.
Walt asks if I want to hold the cords that direct the canopy and I decline. I am content just to feel the directional changes he makes – though afterwards I am disappointed with myself that I didn’t take control. Next time, and there will be a next time, I will take the controls when offered.
I catch a glimpse of a large lake to the East and wonder where it is and think that maybe I’ll come back to the area and look around at this beautiful eastern part of Connecticut where I have spent very little time exploring.
~ free floating ~
(Continued in Sky Diving – installment 5)
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Jessie, the camera woman who jumped moments before us, catches up to me filming as we drop. She reaches out her hands to me and I take them both and we spin and drop. She waves and I wave. And we drop. The wind is loud. The earth, I realize, is coming closer and closer. And …
Jack's tandem dive - free falling
Then, poof, the canopy opens above us – there is no sudden jerk, it is all very smooth — and Walt says assuringly, “We have a full canopy.” And we begin our float under this rectangular shaped parachute at about 6,000 feet. We had just dropped 8,000 feet in less than a minute (Walt says it was about 58 seconds). And now there is silence.
I apologize to Walt for delaying our jump and not moving both feet at the same time in the plane and he tells me that we couldn’t have waited any longer because one of my daughters who was behind us and the last to leave the plane with her tandem instructor was getting further away from the drop zone. (I really didn’t need to hear that just then — that one of my four daughters who was helping me check off this item on my bucket list might have been in danger.) But now the two daughters who were able to make this jump and I are all floating under our parachutes heading down. I can’t see them but Walt says everything is good.
No longer is there the rush of wind. It is quiet. Peaceful. Beautiful. Fulfilling.
As I am hanging in front of Walt, he points out the airport below, and adjusts one of the harness straps on my right leg to make it more comfortable.
And we float.
(Continued in Sky Diving – installment 4)
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Installment 2 …
Head back, feet curled, is the banana form you and your sky diving tandem instructor will take as you exit into the sky. Can you do that, you are asked on the ground during the pre-flight instructions. “Oh, yeah I can do that” is easy to say while on the ground during the instructions.
But now at 14,000 feet with nothing in front of me, it is quite different. My right foot easily releases from the plane and curls under his legs, but not my left. Something about facing the drop of 14,000 feet and not having anything to stand on. I want to yell something about some glue that is holding my foot to the floor. And then I think: that’s a stupid thing to say.
Two, maybe three times, Walt, my tandem instructor, yells “get your feet under me and off the floor.” Stuck there in a semi-freeze he shakes me and then as soon as the toes of my left foot rise above the floor out we go and into the sky.
The rush of wind in my ears is deafening. Without the goggles provided for my eyes the view would have been obscure, but the earth below is green and filled with autumn colors and we fall face forward. From that height everything below is flat. There are no hills or valleys. And I am thinking; “I am really doing this.” I catch my breath and we continue to fall face down and spin.
- ready to dive
(Continued in Sky Diving – installment 3)
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Standing at the edge of an open airplane door at 14,000 feet above the ground there are several thoughts quickly moving through my brain.
“Wow, am I really ready to jump,” is the first one. I can just make out the land forms, fields, and roads. And then all of the “What ifs,” blur by just as does the land below.
Of course I shouldn’t have been so surprised at the height or of my impending jump. I knew how high we were because as the airplane climbed I could look out the window and see the ground getting farther and farther away. And the altimeter on the nearby instructor kept moving into the jump zone as we climbed. A couple of times in the plane I had to cough, kind of gagging a little, to ensure I was OK.
Sitting on one of the benches that lined the walls of the plane, I looked across to my two daughters who were smiling and giving me a “thumbs up” sign over the drone of the aircraft’s engines. My daughters were here and ready to jump and my wife already had completed her jump and was on the ground. She even had a chance to kiss me good bye before I boarded the plane almost in the same spot on the ground as I kissed her before she boarded her flight 30 minutes before.
Sitting in the plane before the door opened I presumed I still had choices.
But now I am at the open side door at the rear of the plane. The air is rushing by and the tandem instructor attached to my back tells me, just as he told me he would, to hold onto my harness with my hands and curl my feet under me and between his legs so that I will be hanging on him entirely just before we jumped.
- Jack in the plane…
(Continued in Sky Diving – installment 2)
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