Leaving a Perfectly Good Airplane

SkydiveSometimes you miss big family events when you travel. I have tried to minimize this over the years but still regret it all the same.Triathlon1 Two first time events in the same day: Son#2 in his first Chicago Triathlon and Son #3 skydiving. I had planned to take the subway / run to each cheering station for the Triathlon, same as  I did at the Chicago Marathon. Instead, my support came long distance and happy to say that son #2 had his personal best,  finishing the international course in 3:00 hours. It takes perseverance, determination and a lot of pain to be an endurance athlete and we’re proud of him. Next year: The Ironman.

The worried Dad in me wanted to caution the prospective skydiver son about unnecessary risks, but how when his Pop is out spinning airplanes?  So I said nothing and waited to talk about what it feels like to hurtle toward the ground later. While I have worn parachutes, I’ve never actually had to, you know, use one. I know what the view looks like heading straight down after leaving the top of a loop or the moment after kicking in rudder in a  hammerhead. I’ve never cared to think about what it might be like without the protective sphere of the cockpit and wings.

So how does it feel? I imagine a certain level of anxiety as you see the altimeter climbing up, then leveling off at jump height. The tension as you approach the open door until you jump (or are pushed) by the instructor strapped to your back. The PAC750XL plane is at 14,000 feet. (I have always respected two areas of constant parachute activity in Chicago); As a skydiver free falls and gains speed, there is an increase in the air resistance pushing up from below. This force counters the force of gravity and, once these forces are equal, the skydiver no longer accelerates and is said to have reached “terminal velocity” (an unfortunate phrase). A drogue chute is used so that speeds are reduced to 120 mph instead of 200 mph.

I watch the video  in my hotel room and  see smiling, waving, then spinning and then touching hands with another diver with  free fall for a minute  before he pulls the handle at 5,500 feet. They decelerate to 15mph in a few seconds, pulling G’s which, I suspect, might be similar to pulling into a loop. Another five more minutes to glide to earth and lucky enough to drop through a cloud.

“How was it”? I ask, over the phone, a half world away.  “Dad it was very…….. windy.  And awesome”. Like father, like son (s).


6 responses to “Leaving a Perfectly Good Airplane

  1. So—what position did Son #2 finish in the Triathlon? Boy, are you a prejudiced SOB–only write in detail about things airborne, eh?–at LEAST you posted his picture. But that was a mistake too–he’s too well built and handsome to have come from a big lug like you. 🙂

    • Virgil:
      The tone of your comment infers that I failed to honor my son for his efforts. This wasn’t the intention of my post. It was to discuss skydiving. This in no way marginalizes his accomplishments which we celebrated as a family. I have amended the post to reflect this in small measure.
      For the record he finished in the top 2,000 of 7,000 registered (4,200 finished). Competing in a race few of us could even finish, his running time per mile after the swimming and biking was much faster than what I could run in a 5k.

  2. Wilco/

    Easy, it was ALL in jest, Big Guy. Hey, I realized you were concentrating on the sky-diving,-thus my comment about “things airborne.” Just some friendly ribbing–sorry it came across wrong.

    BTW, how long has he been doing the “Tri?”
    I understand it to be sort of like the Marathon–one has only so many good races in one no matter how hard one trains–a matter of the body eventually breaking down–not totally of course, but enough to take the edge off. Back in the mis 80s the super-long distances races (50 & 100miles) were all the rage–seems less so now–used to even run ’em over mountain
    ranges-saw a 1oomi televised one from Nevada (Reno) over the Sierra Nevada’s to Calif. Quite an adventure….AND dangerous besides being a physical test. Running down a steep mountain-side slope at speed can be a quite “edge of the envelope” thing–almost a “controlled stumble” all the way down….

    • VX: Thanks for the clarification. Different folks get different messages from the same communication which continues to be a problem with e-mail.

      My son began participating in triathlons last year. Some say a person will hit peak performance by age 28. Genetics rule and it helps if you have a particular build. However, if you continue training, you can maintain close to the same performance level for the next thirty years. Not sure I’m buying that since I’ve diligently continued training since my sporting days in college and I *am* slower. The ultramarathon’s that continue to be famous are Bad Water and Furnace Creek through Death Valley. Supposedly the heat is so intense that you must run on the painted lines or the athlete’s shoes “Stick” to the road.

      The most amazing superathletes that run long distances and down mountain sides are from the Mexican Sierra Madre mountains. Part genetics; part adaptation to environment, these people are described in the book “Born to Run” by McDougall. This , in part, has spawned a whole new variety of footwear: #2 son is still getting used to them and they look plenty strange.

  3. Funny about the link. I was reading an article just the other day somewhere that was discussing the hi prevalence of foot injuries among modern runners despite all the hi-tech shoes whereas in Roger Bannister and John Landy’s day (I was 10 yrs old then when 4min mile was broken) such injuries were unheard of despite “inferior” footwear. Turns out that, according to this article, man was meant to run bearfoot and points out that everyone in Bannister’s day (as I can attest) ran track strictly on balls of their feet as one would sans shoes anyway. Art, claims that Nike, et al have changed running styles such that cushioned heels encourage style of running man was not meant to do by putting wt & impact forces on heels with running styles dictated/encouraged by shoe design. Hence increasing injury rate despite yearly “improvements” to shoes. Bearfoot runners seldom get such injuries, art claims. THEN I see ad you link to! LOL!

  4. Hey, that’s pretty cool.

    I’ve been noticing that I’ve been in pretty good company lately. And am slowly coming to the conclusion that not only could I do that again, but I just might decide to someday.

    And lest I foget, congrats to both Son #2 and Son #3.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s