Arizona Skydiving

By David L. Gjestson

Why would anyone want to jump out a a perfecting good airplane? Thats a fair question. Three years ago, I rather flippantly mentioned to Laura that I would like to do that on my 80th birthday. Later, I mentioned it in passing to our two sons, Scott and Chris, and Scott said, Lets do it!

Skydiving became a regular answer to friends and relatives when they asked me, Are you doing anything special on your 80th birthday? By the time December 4 showed up in 2019, I really couldnt back out without losing a lot of machismo!

Skydive Marana located 20 minutes northwest of Tucson was selected for the event

Scott flew in from San Francisco, and my good friend and neighbor, Keith Sewell joined us for this thrilling life challenge. Arriving the day of the jump, we were required to fill out four pages of injury, death, and law suit waivers, and watched a 10-minute video explaining that skydiving was extremely risky and reminding us that we could still back out!

Keith (red sweater), Scott (green sweater) and I signed waivers elaborating on the high risk of what we were about to do

Waiver signed and fees paid ($195 to jump and $135 for photographs and video), we met our tandem partner, given a briefing on procedures, and geared up for the jump. The fact that no helmets were issued because they wanted photography to be better, and your hearing maximized for instructor commands during the jump had me a bit nervous.

I had an audience comprised of Laura and friends Andy and Patty Hansen, and Pattys mother, Joan Burt along with about 20 other onlookers

Going to the plane

Scott, Keith and I joined three other jumpers and a single professional who was jumping to keep up his credentials Loaded in the plane

We straddled two parallel benches and the twin engine Cessna droned loud for the take off

No words were spoken as each jumper pondered their pending excitement and fate

My partner gave me last minute instructions as we approached 11,000 feet, our jumping altitude

Goggles on, sliding my feet out of the door was into 120 mph wind!

After a complete head-over-heals flip into space that didnt register in my brain, my partner pounded on my shoulders to cue me to place my arms in goal post fashion for one-full minute of free fall! The view was tremendous but the ground was sure coming up fast! Flying? I felt that we were dropping like a rock!

Enjoying the view

The sudden jolt of the chute opening was followed by absolute silence except for the flapping of the parachute in the wind

A stunning revelation: Seconds after the chute opened, I asked for our altitude and the instructors altimeter read 3,880 feet! We had dropped almost a mile and a half in free fall!

My partner pointed out a nearby mountain formation to orient our position

Here we come!

We floated in space for only about 10 minutes before we started our approach to the ground

Ground view of Landing

Feet up!

The command Stand! Stand! was the cue to land on our feet. The command Slide! Slide was the cue to keep my feet up. My partner said nothing and we just sat softly on the grass!

High fives ended the event. Would I do it again? ABSOLUTELY!