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Flying 9,500 feet above Washington County, a Cessna 182, a single engine plane, roars at around 75 mph. With four others, you sit on the floor crammed in like sweaty human sardines. The only person who has a chair is the pilot.
Suddenly, the door opens letting the wind blast in and the temperature drops to goose bump levels.
Hooked up to an instructor you met only hours ago, you put one leg out, and then the other. With adrenaline racing, he rocks you back-and-forth. This is really happening, there’s no turning back, and you have no control.
3 … 2 … Freefall.
The sensation cannot be described. The wind rushes through your hair and all you can feel is weightlessness as you tumble out of the aircraft. You can’t hear it, but the guy you’re strapped to, whose name is Shawn Barnett, says “arch” and pulls your arms forward as you fly though the air and slice through the clouds.
In just seconds, you’ve accelerated to 120 mph. If you’re going to die, it’ll be in less than a minute, but you don’t even care - this is the ultimate freedom.
Sharon “Sam” Bach and her son, Jamie Morris, have been planning to make the jump for months. For Jamie, 21, the moment was a long time coming. He’s wanted to jump since he was 13. Sam, being the mother that she is, would have nothing of it until last year.
As a Christmas present, she gave Jamie a gift certificate from Jumping for Fun Sky Diving in Springfield.
Eight months later, they fearlessly made it to the drop zone and watched others take the plunge while they eagerly waited for their turn.
Even before his first jump, Jamie was ready for more.
“I want to go big,” he said.
The closest thing either of them had done before that day was a bungee jump ride at an amusement park.
“I just want a big thrill,” Sam said. “I haven’t found a rollercoaster yet that I’ve been scared of or won’t ride and I think this is a step above that.”
Bill Harned opened Jumping for Fun Skydiving five years ago and has been jumping out of airplanes since the 1970s. Although he took a hiatus from the sport during the 1980s, he has accumulated more than 2,100 jumps.
You’ll find that’s the case for many of the experienced jumpers. If you hang around the drop zone and talk with them, you’ll learn some of them have jumped thousands of times and were hooked after their first experience.
One even said he got his start on a dare.
“It’s a different rush when you leave the airplane, it’s not natural,” Harned said. “The freefall may or may not be really relaxing to you, for most people it’s not bad.”
Only around 10 to 15 percent of first time jumpers don’t care for the freefall experience, and he said 30 to 40 percent of people think it’s neat but wouldn’t go again, while another 30 to 40 percent wouldn’t mind trying it again.
He added that 10-15 percent want to do it again while only two or three out of a 100 find that they "have to" do it.
For Harned, who is one of those people who must, one of the things he loves about skydiving is the people.
“You meet some really interesting people,” Harned said.
After the 30 seconds of freefall, Barnett takes your hand and puts it on the cord. Together, the two of you pull. The canopy opens up and you decelerate to 1,000 feet per minute. The sound of rushing wind ceases. It’s quiet, and the view is amazing.
Barnett then places your hands on the controls. You’re driving.
For Jamie, the experience was amazing.
“It was way better than I expected,” Jamie said. “I didn’t even realize 9,500 feet was that high.”
After the parachute opened he said the ride’s a little jerky until they loosen up the straps as you float down.
“It was a pretty cool ride,” he said.
He added it’s something everyone needs to experience and plans on going back to do his first static line jump. Static line is where you jump solo, but the parachute is deployed automatically after leaving the aircraft.
For Sam, no words can be used to describe the experience.
“I mean, it was amazing, you just felt free,” she said. “It’s hard to explain, you’d have to do it yourself.”
She said when she flies in airplanes she has to have a window seat and she really enjoyed the view when parachuting down.
The experience was enough to convince her to do it again in the future. She recommends that if anyone is thinking about doing it but is intimidated, to just go on out Arnold’s airport and check it out.
“It was just a very easy going atmosphere,” Sam said. “And I thought all of the guys were just very fun and they joked around and made you feel at ease.”