Fall like a rock, float like a bee - The Explorer: Liven Up

Fall like a rock, float like a bee

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Posted: Wednesday, September 12, 2012 4:00 am

Last month, I traveled with my co-worker, J.D. Fitzgerald, to Eloy to float in the air and fall from the sky.

While in college, I checked skydiving off my bucket list, so I had no intentions of jumping out of a plane. Lucky for me, there is SkyVenture Arizona right next door to Skydive Arizona where one can do some indoor skydiving.

First up for the day was J.D.’s skydiving. He signed his name onto numerous forms of paper and watched a video all saying that in the unfortunate event that he should get injured or die, he nor any of his relatives, could sue the skydiving company – proper protocol when it comes to a business that makes a living from cheating death.

He was paired up with another skydiver and they began suiting up for their jump. Even though my feet were staying on the ground for the jump, I couldn’t help but feel a little nervous for him as strap after strap was looped around his body, while clips and belts were checked and rechecked.

J.D. and a fairly large group of other skydivers took off towards the plane, as I waited on the ground for their graceful return.

Within about 15 to 20 minutes, the tandem duo returned safely to earth. High fives and fist-bumps were exchanged along with a DVD copy of the jump and certificate saying he jumped from 13,000 feet.

We then drove a short distance away to what is essentially a vertical wind tunnel.

As we entered the room, a 13-foot diameter clear and circular room was in the center surrounded by chairs and benches for viewing.

Inside the chamber, a pair of skydivers practiced their routines from rotating simultaneously while in the air to floating head down and then flipping right side up.

I was suited with a blue and red jumpsuit, along with a red helmet, a pair of red goggles and some earplugs. I was given a brief instructional lesson on how to pose my body and, seeing as the winds inside the chamber are around 135 miles-per-hour, and one can’t hear anything, we discussed various hand signals. The signals were used to tell me to extend my legs in or out and when I was doing something right or wrong.

I did have to sign a waiver, but nothing to the extent of the paperwork required for jumping from more that two miles above the earth.

In a matter of minutes the instructor, J.D. and I clad with a camera, went into the chamber and the door closed along with a subtle sound of an alarm and an orange-blinking light.

The four giant fans above the chamber turned on and the pressure inside changed dramatically. I felt the wall that I was leaning on push on my back as my ears popped.

As I learned from my lesson, as soon as the wind hit my face as I leaned face-first into the wind tunnel, I opened up my arms like I was a football referee signaling a touchdown and began to hover in the air.

Learning small and slow corrections are better than big and fast ones took some getting used to, but the consequences reminded me quickly. As the instructor showed flailing and drastic moves will never work, calm and slow moves were the way to go.

I was in the tunnel for about two minutes, when the instructor had me stand and watch him. He showed me exactly what I was doing with my arms and legs that kept causing me to run into the walls. He also demonstrated how to rotate 360 degrees.

With a few more minutes under my belt, I was able to hover without assistance and was able to turn in either direction.

The instructor finished my playtime by grabbing me and taking us both about 35 feet straight up, followed by dropping us straight down, stopping us a few feet shy of the net on the floor only to have us shoot 35 feet up in the air again.

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