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Parachuting Back Down to Earth

The expression “time flies” did not apply when I was in the tiny plane wearing a bulky flight suit and mentally preparing myself for the big jump ahead. I had signed up for this, a leap out of an airplane and a descent into the Champlain Valley, courtesy of the Malone Parachute Club. I paid my $220 fee and trained with instructors on the ground. But I was nowhere near ready. As the plane went up, instructor Dave Swanson showed me the area from the window and told me about the history of a river related to the French Revolution. Honestly, I couldn’t pay attention to…

Sky diving, Upstate New York, Malone Parachute Club

The expression “time flies” did not apply when I was in the tiny plane wearing a bulky flight suit and mentally preparing myself for the big jump ahead. I had signed up for this, a leap out of an airplane and a descent into the Champlain Valley, courtesy of the Malone Parachute Club. I paid my $220 fee and trained with instructors on the ground. But I was nowhere near ready. As the plane went up, instructor Dave Swanson showed me the area from the window and told me about the history of a river related to the French Revolution. Honestly, I couldn’t pay attention to a word he was saying. I was nervous. Hoping to already be high enough to jump, I checked the altimeter; we had reached only 2,000 feet — still 10,000 feet left.

After a few more minutes, Swanson gave me the sign: It was time to prepare. I could hear the clicking of the hooks that would hold the instructor and me together, each click making the latches tighter. “Door is open,” the pilot said, my view now consisting of only clouds. It was cold and windy. “Can I give up?” I thought. It was too late; I was already leaving the minuscule airplane.

The free fall lasted nearly one minute, but it felt longer. I kept my eyes wide open; I didn’t want to miss the experience whatsoever. A few back flips and then we changed position, as we had trained before on land. It was time to do a few 360-degree free-fall turns. I was completely isolated from the world. It seemed as though time had stopped. It was an indefinable sense of freedom. It was peaceful.

THE PLACE

Initially located in Malone, New York, The Malone Parachute Club was the ideal place to take my first leap. The not-for-profit has been in operation for 42 years. As of April 2008, the skydiving facility moved its flight operations to the Franklin County State Airport in Swanton, Vermont — just a short one-hour drive from Plattsburgh International Airport. The Malone Parachute Club is open most weekends from the beginning of April until the end of October, each month providing a different view. October is an exceptional experience, says skydiving instructor Jeff Lambert, because of the changing hues of the leaves. The ground looks as if it’s on fire.

I went in September, but it was close enough to October. The day was sunny, and the wind was brisk — perfect to jump out of a plane. Upstate New York’s picturesque and pleasing landscapes made me less apprehensive on the trip to the drop zone in Vermont. The North Country’s scenic fall views definitely know how to mellow a girl out.

THE PREP

As I was putting on the gear — a large blue jumpsuit and funny shaped head protector — I was watching the skydivers coming back and I was overcome with nerves and excitement. I kept asking them about the temperature up there, and they all gave me the same answer, “Once you get there, you won’t care about the cold.” Indeed, they were right. First-time skydivers take tandem training, which consists of jumping with an experienced instructor who controls the jump from exiting the plane to opening the parachute and landing. It requires no longer than one hour of training; the instructor teaches about the body positions and gives a brief idea about the jump. Swanson explained to me that the shape of the body in a free fall is important, allowing the instructor to execute turns, 360-degree flips and other actions.

THE VIEW

The preparation worked. Once out of the plane, I was able to take it all in. As I was floating through the air and enjoying the silence and serenity of being distant from the ground, I could appreciate the view. On one side was Vermont and on the other, New York. I could see the Montréal skyline. “How is your stomach feeling?” Swanson asked. I wasn’t really sure about the answer. “Let’s try some spins,” he added. I didn’t have time to reply; we were already spinning around. Swanson let me handle the parachute and explained how to manage it as we were approaching the ground and getting ready to land. As I landed, I was speechless and amused.

I kept asking myself, “Did I just skydive?” Lambert handed me my first time skydiving certificate, and that was when I realized I had accomplished that thrilling mission. Skydiving is mind blowing and gives an adrenaline rush like no other sport I have ever tried. Swanson’s enthusiasm and passion for the sport were infectious. Would I do it again? Ask me when the adrenaline subsides.

Issue 5: Summer/Fall 2015

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