The Rush of the Freefall, Skydiving over NASA’s Cape Canaveral in Florida
Published: 03/24/2011 at Clayton Glasco
Skydiving is one of those activities that are almost a benchmark for adventurers. It’s a common question, common bonding topic, and very common activity among the like. It was an activity that I always wanted to do. In college I had the opportunity to take part with some friends. I went to Kansas State University, and there was no shortage of small airports and open fields to land in. I made up an excuse, knowing full well in the back of my mind that I was wimping out. They jumped from about 5000 feet from the wing of a single engine plane. The parachute was opened pretty much upon their release, but they did have the opportunity of going solo, so they steered there way from the sky to the ground. I was there, and it did look pretty cool. Both hit the ground without incident and I have to admit that I was jealous.
About five years later I was approached with another opportunity. It was a group of friends that were going on the request of a birthday boy. This opportunity I wasn’t going to pass up. The spot was an airfield in Titusville, Florida. For those of you not familiar with Titusville, I don’t blame you. It’s about thirty miles east of Orlando and has the claim to fame of being the home of Cape Canaveral, hence the name Skydive Space Center. Boring town, but amazing place to jump out of a plane. There were two options for first timers, 15,000 or 18,000 foot tandem jumps. 18,000 feet is the highest rookie jump in the world (we’re told). What’s 3,000 more feet?
We waited an eternity for our time. It was a pretty busy day for the thrill and we apparently didn’t get up early enough. One of the first sights that we had was a group that had just jumped, and we saw an empty chute floating down. We were told that they apparently had to cut the main chute and pull the reserve. That’s a little unnerving but didn’t deter us!
The majority of our group jumped from 15,000 and we watched a couple of them go first. They had nothing bad to say, except for one that was petrified from the beginning. I was ready. My friend Josh and I were on deck to head up to 18,000 feet. I was pretty confident with my professional that I was strapped to. He probably had a million jumps under his belt and at least six that day, so I liked my odds. We jumped on a rickety old plane with two rows of benches. I just looked out the window as my heart raced. I was the last to go on that trip. At 18,000 feet, even on an 80 degree day, it’s cold! They opened the door and it got real! The first victim stepped up, and that stranger will forever be ingrained in my memory as they stepped to the edge and fell. It’s an eerie thing to see for the first time.
They move you through quickly, and there’s no time to back out. Before I knew it I was at the edge, hanging off and looking at clouds below me. And then we went! It’s an amazing sensation of floating, not falling. We flipped a few times and then hit the face down, palms out form, and the rush of the wind was surreal. We passed through the clouds and just saw ocean, the NASA launch station and ground coming at us fast. Ninety seconds of freefall felt like ten, and then at 5000 feet the parachute opened with a jolt. Relief meets relaxation, until they loosen the straps. You fall three inches to what feels like inevitable death. They don’t mention it; I’m sure for a bit of enjoyment and job satisfaction.
We looped, swooped, and hit the ground nice and easy…18,000 feet to zero in what felt like a minute. The experience is amazing and could likely be addicting! I’d love to hit the skies solo at some point and feel true freedom, but for now I’m pretty happy with the vivid memory of an incredible adventure!