Sometimes you miss big family events when you travel. I have tried to minimize this over the years but still regret it all the same. 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).